Selma’s history long, storiedPublished 12:15pm Monday, September 13, 2010
The lengthy history of this old river town may be traced not only along the course of the fast flowing Alabama River but also along its upper banks where the city of Selma now stands. Serving as a highway for the Indian warriors and traders of the Mississippi Territory, the Alabama River flows beneath the high bluff where Selma is located. Although there is no proof, it is entirely possible that more than 500 years ago it was the site of an Indian village.
Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto traveled through the territory in 1540. Though his exact route has never been determined, Dallas County was in all probability crossed. At one time, some historians placed Selma on the site of the fortified Indian town of Piachee. This is no longer historic fact, due to the fact that archaeological study of the area found no indication that a walled town had ever been located here.
While it is true that Indian relics have been found close to the juncture of Valley Creek and the Alabama River, the type and quantity did not support this theory. However, on display at the Old Depot Museum, among the artifacts found during archaeological digs by Dr. David Chase of the University of Alabama, is a pair of Spanish muskets, leading to the supposition that they were possibly used during the encounter of DeSoto and the Indian tribe living here, although it is certain that it was not the site of Maubila.
As of today, the location of Maubila is still unknown, although it is certain that there was a bloody encounter there and it is fact that Hernando DeSoto departed hurriedly from there.
After the French settled in Mobile in 1702, they explored the river systems and within a dozen years had built Fort Toulouse at the juncture of the Coosa and Tallapoosa Rivers. Exactly when they explored the site of Selma is unknown; however a 1732 map of the river systems shows the site as Ecor de Bienville (French explorer). Through the years historians and historic societies have placed markers on site of outstanding dates and events.
Tourists crossing the Pettus Bridge have only to turn left onto Water Avenue to note one of such markers.
This earliest recorded site of Selma is indicated by a granite marker on the riverbank at the foot of Lauderdale Street. The marker was placed in 1932 by the Colonial Dames in 1932 in commemoration of the meeting of the Marquis de Lafayette and Ecor de Bienville with the Alibamu Indians.
A short distance west on Water Avenue on the site of the Confederate arsenal there are two stone pillars with tablets denoting Arsenal Place. Located to the left on site of the former Carneal Building the downtown Arts Studio of Arts Revive is almost completed
Thus, another downtown project revealing this old river town’s fascinating history is in place.
Jean Martin is editor emeritus of Life & Styles.