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Michael Wren is a native of Tucson Arizona but grew up in north Alabama. He is a graduate of Auburn University. Mike recently retired from a multi-national company providing tax-leveraged financing for Fortune 500 companies. He and his wife, Elise, have three adult children and two amazing grandchildren. Mike has a lifelong passion for history and has been an active independent researcher for most of his adult life. He has been a committed member of the Trail of Tears Association for many years. Mike currently serves as Chair of Research for the Association.

Identifying the exact location of a Roundup Fort used during the Removal is sometimes easy. However, that is usually not the case. When the Fort was in a County which lost all of its early records in numerous fires the challenge is more than formidable. Exhaustively looking for evidence in every imaginable category and in many unimagined places, is not quick and it is not simplistic. Building a team with the right combination of complementary skills, comradery and mutual encouragement is the basis for successful research. Diligence and persistence will pay off when you least expect it. Not only can you find a missing fort, you end up with a holistic picture of a Removal Fort that was hiding in plain sight.

So this is your charge. Do a reasonably exhaustive search of all available records. You can’t perform a reasonably exhaustive search if you don’t put some degree of effort into identifying and then accessing all available records. Squeeze as much as you can out of the records and evidence you find. Do not limit your search to just one type of record. Build a timeline on the evidence that you see. Evaluate and re-evaluate. Address and attempt to resolve contradictions. Engage in self-evaluation and make sure you are not forcing your expectations and your previous suppositions on the others and that you’re not reading more or less into the evidence that you find. Develop conclusions, but don’t hold those conclusions with an iron grasp. Ask yourself if your conclusion is consistently logical or if it is just a mishmash. It’s a very technical term, mishmash, but be your own toughest critic. Identify any holes in what you’re doing. Write up a site report. Publish if you need to. Seek out honest critique. Ask other people who created the record. Is it an original record? Is it a derivative record? Is it a transcription? Is it a paraphrase? Why was the record created? Did the creator have an agenda? Was the creator looking to enrich or advance themselves in some way? Was the creator known to be biased? Was the creator actually in a position to know what it was they were even talking about? Did the creator have a reputation for truth, for falsehood, for accuracy, for sloppiness? Was the record created at the time of the event, or is the record based on recollection from years later? Are there any unique parameters to correctly interpret the record? So if you’re dealing with a record that was created by Cherokee, make sure you’re interpreting it culturally correctly and you’re not imposing an Anglo perspective into something that it’s not saying. Admit your own limitations. You can’t be all things to all people. Collegiality: build a team of experts. Today, I’m going to talk about a lot of stuff, and I’m going to name a lot of people, some of whom are in this room, who have much more expertise at things than I do. Don’t try to do everything yourself. Partner with people with skills you lack. Educate yourself. Don’t be defensive. Ask questions. Share with others, and sharing is a two-way street. If it’s a one-way relationship, people will figure it out pretty quickly, and you will get cut off and won’t ever understand why.

Don’t expect others to do your work for you.

Review all the literature you can, all the publications dealing with a similar type. If it’s a route, read as much as you can about other routes. How did people document them? Read the footnotes. Read the footnotes. Read the footnotes. Read the sources. Look and see how other people used it. Practical suggestions. Really practical suggestions. Keep a research log. What did you look at? What did you find? If you come to me and ask me for a question, the first thing I’m going to do is ask, “Well, tell me what all you’ve done so far. Tell me where you looked.” Don’t throw the question at me first. Tell me what you did. Utilize the log. Update the log. Review the log. Review any other site reports, site certifications for a similar location or a route. Learn what sources they used and what strategies they used. Read the footnotes. Read the footnotes. Read the footnotes. Cite your sources. Don’t assume everybody knows what you know. Don’t assume everybody will understand what you meant to say. If somebody said something to me and that’s what they said it came from the Jones Report, well, what’s that? What’s the Jones Report or say? Well, I don’t know. It’s just always been called the Jones Report. Well, give me a copy of it. Well, I don’t have a copy of it. Do you have a copy? I don’t know what they’re doing for reporting yet. So don’t assume anything. Be clear. Be complete. Make it easy for other people to go back and find the records you found. Decide it fully. This is the Keyes Map, which everybody has seen. So this is the first information anybody knew about Fort Level. Fort Level was a fort on the north, believed to be on the north side of the Coosa River in Alabama. It was one of the roundup forts, and this was the only information that was known. It showed up on this map, and it assumes that it’s about 114 miles from the agency.

That was it. Now, in this county where this fort is, there is no local history at all about this fort. Nobody remembered the name. Nobody knew anything about it. They knew Fort Payne. They know other places, but this particular fort had absolutely no local history at all. Back in the 2000s, the Alabama chapter did a large report on fort camps, etc., in Alabama, and part of it involved this fort. So we’re going to kind of go through this report briefly and see what did we learn back in the 2000s.

The first document found was from M1475, which is a National Archives microfilm of the removal. I think it’s 1514, 1515, and 1516. This is where the Alabama forts are: Fort Lykins, Fort Level, Fort Payne. So Fort Lykins was said to be near Cedar Bluffs.

And that was it. That’s really what was known.

Now, in terms of collegiality, if you see a map this morning, this afternoon, it was done by Lamar Marshall. So he is a map guy par excellence.

Now, Alabama, every other state in the East, is a state land state. Land was granted by the state governments. Alabama and Mississippi were once claimed by the state of Georgia. Georgia got into a huge problem early in the 1800s called the Yazoo Fraud, and Georgia ceded their claims on that territory to the federal

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