In 1717, Fort Toulouse served as the eastern-most outpost of the French colony of Louisiana. The French intended that the fort secure the friendship of the populous Creek Confederacy and make French policy known, while keeping the soldiers and interests of the British Empire out of the region. The Alibamu Indians, who were a part of the Creek confederacy, invited the French to build the fort here. Most Creek villages remained officially neutral so they could bargain with the British and French for better prices in the deerskin trade. British and French rivalries came to a head with the outbreak of the French and Indian War in 1754. With the French defeat, the 1763 Treaty of Paris ceded Louisiana to Britain and Spain. French soldiers and their families moved west of the Mississippi river to live among the Spanish at Opelousas, Louisiana.
Between 1717 and 1763, the French built three forts in succession as the relentless Coosa River washed the first two away. As French soldiers brought their families here, they built some of the very first farms in what is now Alabama around Fort Toulouse. The sons of these families grew up to be French soldiers during the 46 years of the fort’s existence. Sons and daughters of French soldiers married, creating large extended families within the Fort Toulouse garrison. The largest family was that of the Fontenot’s, who raised 12 children at a farmstead next to Fort Toulouse. Many French soldier descendants visit the park today.
The Alibamu Indian village of Pakana was located adjacent to the French fort and community. Bilingual French and Indian children played among the fort ramparts and villages while their parents farmed the adjoining bottomlands around the fort and villages. The Alibamu became close allies and friends with the French, with much of this tribe following the French to Louisiana in 1763.
William Bartram, a well-known botanist, visited the site in 1776 making notes and drawings of the area’s plants, animals and Native cultures.
With the outbreak of the Creek War phase of the War of 1812, American forces built a fort over the old site of Fort Toulouse. In May of 1814, Andrew Jackson came here to the forks of the Coosa and Tallapoosa rivers with United States Army regulars and militia units from Georgia, the Carolinas, and Tennessee after the bloody battle of Horseshoe Bend, where the power of the Red Stick faction of the Creeks was broken. In August the Treaty of Fort Jackson signed over 15 million acres of Creek lands to the U.S. government, which soon opened much of Alabama to American settlers. Alabama became the 22nd state five years later.
After Fort Jackson was decommissioned in 1817, its brig served as the jail for Montgomery County’s fist county seat, Fort Jackson Town. By 1819, the county seat moved to Montgomery and Fort Jackson Town quickly fell into disuse. Today the only remnants of the old town are a sparse series of drainage ditches that parallel the orientation of the town.