HISTORY OF THE LAND
People have called the Choccolocco Valley home for nearly 12,000 years. Such a long expanse of time is difficult to imagine so it might be helpful to think of this great expanse as different “periods” of time. The “Prehistoric Periods” include the “Paleoindian,” the “Archaic,” the “Woodland,” and the “Mississippi.” These were all intervals of time that passed before there were written records of the people that lived in the valley. They are known to us through their material culture which archaeologists excavate and attempt to interpret. Beginning with the Protohistoric “Shattering of the Mississippian World” we begin to catch glimpses in the written record of the inhabitants of the valley. By about A.D. 1730 we enter the Historic Period when the residents of the valley were ancestors of the modern-day “Muscogee (Creek) Nation.” In fact, the valley is named after the principal town of the Arbeka people who lived here until they were forcibly removed west of the Mississippi River. We refer to the years between A.D. 1840 and 1861 as the “Antebellum Period.” After the Civil War ended in 1865, the valley began to take on its modern-day appearance and we refer to this time as the “Industrialization and Urbanization Period.” Choccolocco Park features an interpretive trail that allows visitors to learn about all of these periods.
The interpretive trail winds through what was once the 19th century Muscogee (Creek) Nation town of Choccolocco. Archaeologists have found evidence that Native Americans began coming to this place about 8,000 B.C. during the Archaic Period. This period covers a vast expanse of time and as more research becomes available, archaeologists will be able to better define human adaptations in the valley during this period. By 1,250 B.C. the Woodland Period people in the valley began establishing more permanent settlements and by about 100 B.C. work first started on the earthen mound at the park. During the Woodland Period, the earthen mound may have been one of several “conical” mounds. However, people living during the Mississippi Period expanded it into a pyramidal platform mound about A.D. 1000. By A.D. 1730, the people living in the region had organized themselves into a type of confederation that would become known as the Muscogee (Creek) Nation in order to speak with one voice when negotiating with the various European (and later American) governments. In the 1830s, the residents of Choccolocco Town were forcibly removed to Oklahoma during the “Trail of Tears.”
During the Antebellum Period, people flooded into the valley and began developing an agricultural economy that was supplemented by the development of some of the earliest iron furnaces in Alabama. During the Civil War, iron furnaces in the valley produced high-quality iron that was shipped to the Confederate Arsenal at Selma. After the Civil War, the industrialization of the valley began in earnest with furnaces entering the production of iron for an international market. These furnaces were first fueled by charcoal. Here at Choccolocco Park, archaeologists have identified several charcoal production pits in which local farmers made charcoal for the iron furnaces in the valley until about 1900.