Fort Bainbridge

Fort Bainbridge Located on the present-day county line of Macon and Russell Counties, Fort Bainbridge functioned as a service stop, mail route, and post office on the Federal Road near the location of Lewis's Tavern, operated by Capt. Kendall Lewis and his father-in-law, Creek chief Big Warrior. The fort was built as one of many military outposts during the Creek War of 1813-14 and enabled supply wagons to travel between Fort Mitchell and Fort Hull in one day intervals. Maps of the Federal Road locate Fort Bainbridge about 25 miles west of Fort Mitchell. Although nothing remains of the fort, it's presumed location lies in the unincorporated town of Boromville, or Borom, in present-day Macon County.

During the Creek War, federal troops built several supply forts along the Federal Road, including Fort Bainbridge and nearby Forts Burrow, Decatur, Hull, and Mitchell and Forts Claiborne and Deposit toward the west. Under the command of Gen. Joseph Graham, a North Carolina militia constructed Fort Bainbridge in March 1814. Graham named the fort for U.S. Navy captain William Bainbridge, who served under six presidents and commanded several ships, including the notable USS Constitution. Built in the style of a bastion fort, Fort Bainbridge was built in the shape of an eight-pointed star with a bastion at each tip. It was surrounded by a large ditch filled with pickets, was defended by a drawbridge, and had a blockhouse for additional defense situated in the center. Fort Bainbridge was garrisoned by 100 to 300 members of the Tennessee Militia until July 31, 1814. The war ended with the Treaty of Fort Jackson in August 1814, when Gen. Andrew Jackson forced the Creek Confederacy to surrender more than 21 million acres of land in what is now Georgia and Alabama.

After the Creek War, Fort Bainbridge served as a stop on the mail route along the Federal Road and would later house a post office. During the Creek War, mail service was frequently interrupted, but after its conclusion, mail service became more routine. In 1816, Capt. Kendall Lewis, his Creek wife, and her father Big Warrior established Lewis's Tavern to cater to travelers along the Federal Road. In April 1818, Congress ordered a postal route established from Fort Mitchell to St. Stephens, with stops at Fort Bainbridge, Fort Jackson, Burnt Corn Springs, and Fort Claiborne. By June 1818, Fort Bainbridge was included on Route 229, which carried mail every Tuesday and Friday from Coweta on the Chattahoochee River in present-day Russell County to Whetstone Hill. Fort Bainbridge largely functioned as a service stop along the mail route until a formal post office began operating in 1828. The Post Office Directory lists a Bainbridge Post Office in Macon County from 1841 to 1851. But this likely references the location of the house used for the post office in the Macon County settlement.

In 1820, English merchant and abolitionist Adam Hodgson travelled through Fort Bainbridge on his North American tour. In his writings, Hodgson described the fort as a "small, stockaded mound post." To form a stockade, trees from the surrounding area were cut down and sharpened so their trunks could be sunken into the ground close together. Hand-hewn logs were most likely used to build Fort Bainbridge, like those used for the nearby Lewis's Tavern and stagecoach stop, approximately 400 yards from Fort Bainbridge. Capt. Kendall Lewis had served under John Floyd during the Creek War and was a leader of scouts under Indian Agent Benjamin Hawkins. On April 1, 1825, Marquis de la Lafayette stayed at Lewis's Tavern during his first night in Alabama. After Lewis's death in 1824, the tavern operated under the care of his widow until 1836.

There is little historical record of Fort Bainbridge after 1828 and even less about nearby Forts Burrow and Decatur and of Hull, outside of its role as a supply base during the Creek War. Although Lewis's Tavern is often described as "Lewis's Tavern at Fort Bainbridge," the physical fort likely fell into disrepair before the tavern closed in 1836. Writing about Russell County in 1932, historian Peter Alexander Brannon, who led the Alabama Department of Archives and History from 1955 until 1967, located Fort Bainbridge less than 1,000 feet from the Macon County line, noting that Ayres S. Turpen, the postmaster at the time, likely lived over the county line. According to Brannon, the local Key family erected a square-columned mansion on the site of the fort around 1857. The mansion was deserted at the time of his 1932 visit, when he noted that Fort Bainbridge "had long since been leveled." Descendants of the Key family recalled the stockade fort. There were only remnants of the mansion at the time of a 2012 report on the Old Federal Road for the Alabama Department of Transportation by the University of South Alabama Center for Archaeological Studies. Boromville, which grew up around the site of Fort Bainbridge, continues to exist as an unincorporated community.

Further Reading

  • Christopher, Raven M., and Gregory Waselkov. Archaeological Survey of the Old Federal Road in Alabama. Mobile, Ala.: Center for Archaeological Studies, 2012.

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