Fort Payne's Fort
A marker in Fort Payne's
downtown City Park tells the
story of the 1838 fort that gave
the city its name.
Site of Old Fort Payne
Although the site of the old
fort is not open to the public, it
can be viewed from the end of
4th Street S.E. in Fort Payne. - Fort Payne's Old Fort, Alabama - Fort Payne's Old Fort, Alabama
Old Fort Payne - Indian Removal Fort in Alabama
Chimney of Old Fort Payne
A stone chimney and associated ruins are all that
remain of the 1838 log stockade.
Fort Payne and the Trail of Tears
Few people realize that the modern city of
Fort Payne, Alabama, had its beginning as a
frontier fort associated with one of the most
tragic eras in American history.

The original Fort Payne was a log stockade
that surrounded a rough-hewn log house. All
that remains of the fort today is a stone
chimney and some associated ruins. The
site is not open to the public, but can be
viewed from the end of 4th Street S.E. in the
downtown area.

Named for Captain John G. Payne, who
selected the site, the fort was built by 22 men
from the Alabama militia under the direction
of Captain James H. Rogers. Payne had
picked this location for a fort because it was
200 yards northeast of a large spring that
would provide good drinking water for the
soldiers, Native Americans and livestock of

Construction of the fort began on April 13,
1838, during the height of the U.S.
Government's brutal effort to remove the
Cherokee Indians from their homes in
Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and North
Carolina to new lands in present-day
Oklahoma. The episode is remembered
today as the Trail of Tears and resulted in the
deaths from exposure, disease and
starvation of thousands of members of the

The Fort Payne area was then the location of
Wills Town, an important Cherokee town and
Christian mission. Because many of the
Cherokee opposed the forced relocation, the
U.S. Army joined with troops from the various
affected states and established a series of
forts to serve as internment camps for Native
Americans not inclined to abandon their
homes and lands. In modern terms, these
forts would be called concentration camps.

Fort Payne was such a facility and is one of
the few forts erected in 1838 of which surface
ruins can still be seen.

The fort was occupied by Alabama troops
from April until October of 1838, when the last
major group of Cherokee was forcefully
removed from the area.
Following the departure of the last group of
1,103 Cherokee people on October 3, 1838,
the fort no longer had military value and was

Early settlers occupied the site and used the
log house of the fort as a home, eventually
building other structures on the grounds of
the fort. It was used as a home throughout
the rest of the 19th century.

Although the stockade itself was dismantled,
the log house of the fort remained standing
until it was torn down in the 1940s. Only a
stone chimney from the structure remains
today, along with some associated stone
ruins that date from either the fort or the later
structures built by early settlers.

A marker to the fort stands in Fort Payne's
downtown City Park. The actual site of the fort
is preserved and fenced, but is not currently
open to the public. The chimney of the old
fort, however, can easily be seen from the
end of 4th Street S.E. just off Gault Avenue in
downtown Fort Payne.
Cherokee Indian Removal
A marker on nearby Godfrey
Avenue tells the story of Fort
Payne's role in the tragic
relocation of the Cherokee to
what is now Oklahoma.
Site of Wills Town Mission
A small Cherokee cemetery
on 38th Street in Fort Payne
marks the site of a mission
that served the Cherokee until
their removal in 1838.
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Copyright 2011 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.