The past is the present for future generations who do not know their history

Posts tagged “Trail of Tears

What I know about Tuscumbia Landing…

or more accurately what I have learned about Tuscumbia Landing will follow. Tuscumbia was a thriving little town back in its day. It was a very wealthy town which afforded the rich to send their children away to boarding schools while the not rich’s children attended the public schools. I guess it could be said that there were the 1% and the 99%, then as now.

The Shoals area has most every natural resource to be productive including recreational pursuits. A huge boon to the economy that caused the town to explode with wealth and all that comes with it was the Landing at Tuscumbia.

Steamboats were introduced and helped make Tuscumbia a valuable port for the delivery of goods and products. It also

Historic Tuscumbia Depot

Historic Tuscumbia Depot (Photo credit: jimmywayne)

made the export of products and goods, such as cotton very efficient for the time. What is left of Tuscumbia Landing will have to be searched for by all but those intimately familiar with the area; and who know what to look for. The original Landing at Tuscumbia aided in the removal of the Creek native americans during the 1838 removal of them all to reservations in Oklahoma if they survived the trip. This was the Trail of Tears. The government mandated that all native americans be rounded up and they were marched  forcibly away from their home, culture and way of life. The original landing dated back to the 1820s and as a dock for the steamboats brought great wealth to a number of Tuscumbia and Shoals area citizens.

Tuscumbia Landing, Sheffield is at the confluence of the Tennessee River (Pickwick Lake) and Spring Creek, near the foot of Blackwell Road, west of downtown Sheffield, There is much historical significance attached to the two Landings. Tuscumbia Landing was at the western terminus of the Tuscumbia, Courtland, and Decatur Railway. During the summer of 1838, Cherokee detachments headed by Lt. Edward Deas and Lt. R.H.K. Whiteley attempted to travel from Ross Landing, Tennessee to Fort Gibson, Indian Territory via the “water route.” These detachments floated down the Tennessee River to Decatur. Due to low water and potential difficulties navigating through Muscle Shoals, they rode on the railway west to Tuscumbia Landing and then boarded boats headed downriver. Prior to that summer, numerous other “water route” detachments brought Creeks, Choctaws, and other groups past this spot on their way to Indian Territory. Tuscumbia Landing was also the site of considerable Civil War activity.

One reminder of the second landing  is a historical marker describing Tuscumbia Landing’s role as home to the first railroad, named the Old Tuscumbia, Courtland, and Decatur (TC&D), west of the Appalachian Mountains. The second landing was built to be accessed by the railway system. The marker may be at the corner of Fifth and Water.

Tuscumbia Landing played many roles in the surface transportation system throughout its history. In addition to its role in the removal of the Creeks on the Trail of Tears, Tuscumbia Landing served as a steamboat landing beginning in the 1820s. The original landing was located two miles from the town. Initially connected to the town of Tuscumbia via a wagon road, the Landing became an even more important transportation node when the Tuscumbia Rail Road Company built a railroad and depot that connected the Landing to the town of Tuscumbia in 1932. Perhaps it was then that a

Pier remains of what was once Tuscumbia Landing

All that remains of what was once Tuscumbia Landing are some limestone pilings that once held up the pier.

second landing was constructed up river from the original one.  That same year, the Tuscumbia, Courtland, and Decatur Railroad united with the Tuscumbia Rail Road Company, and the railroad spur to Decatur was completed in 1834. The site’s significance proved to be its downfall when the railroad depot was destroyed during the Civil War.

Remnants of the limestone blocks used for a pier for steamboat arrival and departure are all that remain of the original landing dock. If you did not know what to look for, you may not recognize the landing’s importance in Shoals area history.

Northwest-Shoals Community College’s Tuscumbia Landing archaeological research and planning projects with government funding and with myriad connections to surface transportation, project coordinators were able to assemble TE funds to identify remaining historically significant archaeological features. Perhaps future research might include NWSCC findings. Tuscumbia Landing was named a Certified Historic Site on the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail in 2007.

Historic marker commemorating the first railroad. The Landing of Tuscumbia first serviced steamboats and later a second landing serviced the railway system.

Historic marker commemorating the first railroad. The Landing of Tuscumbia first serviced steamboats and later a second landing serviced the railway system.

Tharp family…

Robert Tharp headstone Osborn Cemetery

Robert Tharp headstone Osborn Cemetery

in Colbert County suffered loss during the War of Northern Aggression and filed a Southern Claim. In this claim file there will be many recognizable names whose descendants remain in the area.

All information for Robert and Sarah has been supplied by Mildred King Enlow, 1010 N Montgomery Ave, Sheffield AL 35660 (1993).

In Dec 1875, Robert Tharp submitted a claim to the Southern Claims Commission Court for reimbursement for items taken by Union troops during t he Civil War. From that application we have this very interesting affidavit: “(During the war) I resided where I now reside…on my own land. My farm contains 320 acres, about 20 acres was in cultivation,

 the balance was woodland.

I was a farmer, part of the time, part of the time I was engaged in avoiding the Confederates, who were attempting to put me in their service, part of the time a refugee in the Union lines, and a part of the time I was engaged as a guide for the Union Scouts of General Wilson’s Army.

Did not change my residence, but did change my occupation…I refused to go into the militia….I sympathized with the Union cause. My feelings and language were strongly in favor of the Union. I used my influence and cast my vote on the side of the Union. I did all I could and cast my vote in behalf of candidates for delegates to the Alabama Convention of 1861 (who were) opposed to the secession of said state and in favor of the United States (actually, the majority of people of that district voted likewise, however, when war started many did fight “in defense of the land”. (mlp)

The Ordinance of Secession was not submitted for ratification to a vote of the people in Alabama. I did not vote thereon, but would have voted against ratification if I had had the opportunity. I adhered to the Union Cause and did not with the State after the ordinance was adopted…In 1862 I was arrested by Confederate soldiers on account of my union sentiments, with my father, Hezekiah Tharp and others of my neighbors (Benjamin F Whitlock’s deposition names another as Hiram Osborne) and carried to Columbus Mississippi, where I was kept in prison three months. I was released by taking an oath not to bear arms against the Confederate states. I took this oath under duress and to avoid great injury which was constantly threatened against me.

In 1863 I was taken as a conscript by an officer and squad of Confederate Cavalry–was carried to Tullahoma, Tennessee, and was there put into the Confederate Army. I escaped and on my way home was arrested, and required to take an oath not to bear arms against the Confederate States, under threats of personal injury, if I did not do so. I was then discharged, it not being known I was a conscript. I always regarded these oaths as of no effect because taken under duress and under threats of great personal harm, unless I took them. … I was also arrested in 1864 about the last of April, in company with Martin Tharp, Hezekiah Tharp Jr, my brothers, Reese Tease, and James Pennington (not sure who this was–Lou [John Pennington was husband of Parmlia A Tharp daughter of Hezekiah Tharp]) by a squad of Confederate Soldiers commanded I think by one Lieutenant Russell and belonging to the command of Col Estes of the Conscript Bureau at Tuscumbia, Alabama.

We were carried to Mount Hope, Lawrence County, Alabama. Stayed there about 24 hours, were ordered to be carried across the mountains to Tuscaloosa. Were carried one days travel into the mountains, and at about 9 o’clock in the night were tied together and carried out to be shot all at once. The soldiers detailed to shoot us were brought up in front of us, and fired upon us, killing all of my companions outright, and riddling my clothes and cutting the ropes that bound me. I fell with the others, feigning to be dead. They left after rifling the pockets and taking the hats of those killed, even cutting the buttons from the military uniform of Reece Tease, who was a Union Soldier, belonging to the 1st Alabama Regiment, commanded by Col George E Spencer.

After they had left I arose and departed, lying out in places of safety until General Wilson’s Union Scouts came into the county where I lived. I went with them on their rounds, assisting them in their purpose s as a guide. Went with them to East Port Mississippi in Feb 1865 and went into the Union lines on a Federal steamboat to Nashville. Went from Nashville to Louisville, Kentucky, went to avoid conscription in the Confederate Service to escape injury…I also went to Missouri opposite Cairo Illinois, where I engaged in working on a farm.

I returned home to my family in Alabama about the 10th of June 1865, after the close of the war…In Mar 1862 Confederate Soldiers took one horse from me, I suppose for the use of the army. In 1864 General Hood’s Confederate Army on its retreat killed and used all of my hogs. I have never received any pay for any of said property…On or about April 1, 1863, while that portion of the United States Army, commanded by Col Straight, was on its march in the direction of Rome, Georgia, a large number of Soldiers belonging to said command came to my residence then in Franklin, now Colbert County, Alabama, commanded by officers, and took and carried away the box of Tobacco and the horse. Besides (500 or 600 soldiers) there was present myself, my wife Sarah, Henry Vandever, and Hezekiah Tharp, my father, now dead. I complained to the officer present. He said he could not help it. Said property was taken in the day time at about 12 o’clock, not taken secretly. The horse was about 5 years old, of large size and in very good order. Was worth then and there $125. The tobacco was a good article of manufactured tobacco and was worth $40. Said tobacco was a large sized box of 100 lbs about. I did not see the horse taken, but I know it was taken by said command because it was there when the command came and was gone when it left. … Sarah Tharp, his wife, made an affidavit to these events and said that she did see the troops of Col or Major Straight take the horse…William H Vandiver says he was in the employment of the claimant and over the field close to his house. He saw the said command passing and hastened to the house and found that the Iron gray horse about 5 years old…which was there just before and with which I had plowed was gone, having been taken by said command. On my arrival I found claimant’s wife in tears because said horse had been taken…I saw also that a store house which claimant had, had the door broken down. I knew claimant had tobacco in said store house and that all was gone on my arrival…

A Deposition by Benjamin F Whitlock (cousin of claimant): . ..I lived within four miles of Robert Tharp…I conversed with claimant often about the war–its causes and progress. I was myself an adherent of the Union cause and was so regarded by the claimant. Claimant always declared he was opposed to secession, the Confederacy and the war, that the war was caused by traitors for their own benefit and not for benefit of the people….I knew claimant’s opinions and sympathies to be in favor of the Union cause because he often expressed them both to me alone and also in the presence of other Union Men. His public reputation was that of a loyal Union man and he was so regarded by his loyal neighbors as well as Confederates themselves….

Another deposition by William McCorkle, not related to claimant, says he lived about a mile and a half from claimant, that he saw him once or twice a week, that he conversed with often about the war, and that he, William McCorkle, was an adherent of the Union cause and was so regarded by the claimant.

In Oct 1876, Robert Tharp Jr. was awarded $100 for the horse taken by Union troops, the tobacco being disallowed. I think he must have used the “Jr.” to distinguish himself from his uncle, Robert Tharp.


Robert Tharp was one son of a large family of children born to Hezekiah Tharp and Nancy Colbert. Colonel George Colbert (Chief George Colbert) did not wish his daughter Nancy to go on the sure-to-die-in-transit Trail of Tears. He solved that problem by marrying her to a white man, Hezekiah Tharp.