This week’s Sunday Sign highlights Jackson’s Military Road in Northwest Alabama. The road plays a central role in the history of Northwest Alabama, from pioneer settlements to rock-and-roll iconography.
The road itself was built by American soldiers under the leadership of General Andrew Jackson, following the Battle of New Orleans in 1815. The military road was completed in 1820 and shortened the distance between Nashville and New Orleans by some 200 miles.
Although the road was intended to support military movements, it quickly became the gateway for settlement of Northwest Alabama and Mississippi.
The road, which is largely still intact, crosses the Tennessee River in Florence and passes through Sheffield at Jackson Hollow. The road continues along what we know today as Atlanta Avenue and Columbia Avenues in Sheffield and enters Tuscumbia on Dickson Street. This log cabin sits across the street from its original location along Jackson’s Military Road and served as a stagecoach stop.
Jackson’s Military Road has always been part of the mise-en-scène of my life. My maternal grandmother grew up in Sheffield near the site where the road entered Sheffield. When I was a child, my great grandparents lived in a small, white-shingled house one block off the original route, which today is known as Jackson Highway. This house is less than a mile from 3614 Jackson Highway, a legendary music destination.
My paternal grandparents lived in a small, limestone rock house alongside the old Jackson Military Road in Franklin County. As a child, I heard the story of the Jackson Military Road more times than I can count. In the early 2000s, there was a dispute in the making over the request of a property owner in the Frog Pond community (where my grandparents lived) to close a portion of one of the county roads that followed the original Jackson Military Road route.
It’s unlikely that anyone who lives in the Shoals area goes more than a week without traveling a stretch of the old Jackson Military Road. Tourists and travelers passing through the area will also likely drive along or across the original route.
Music fans will be familiar with Jackson Highway through the legendary Muscle Shoals Sound Studio®, where artists like The Rolling Stones to The Staple Singers, Bob Dylan, Rod Stewart, Bob Seger and Lynyrd Skynrd recorded some of their most critically-acclaimed work and biggest hits.