The Alabama Legislature recently provided the Alabama Cooperative Extension System with $250,000 to develop a plan for enhancing economic development in the counties near the Old Federal Road in Alabama.
The Economic & Community Development Institute (ECDI), a partnership of Auburn University and Extension, is administering this mini-grant program to support worthy rural development initiatives related to the Old Federal Road. Dr. Richard Guthrie, dean emeritus of the College of Agriculture at Auburn University, is director of the joint effort. Dr. Joe Sumners, director of ECDI, developed this new initiative, which was modeled after the Institute's successful Rural Alabama Initiative (RAI) grant program.
Eleven projects have been approved for individuals and teams representing Auburn University, Auburn University-Montgomery, ACES and others. Projects include documenting the route of the Old Federal Road and historic sites along the road; identifying tourism, recreation and economic development opportunities for sites along the road; creating strategies to take advantage of economic opportunities on sites along the road; and educating tourists, local citizens, legislators and economic developers about the Old Federal Road. All of the projects will enhance collaboration among university faculty and local partners in rural development activities in counties along the Old Federal Road.
"We appreciate the Legislature entrusting Extension with this worthwhile project," said Dr. Gaines Smith, director of ACES. "I am pleased at the response shown for the Old Federal Road Initiative and believe that the 11 projects selected have tremendous potential for the state, economically and historically."
With construction beginning in 1811, the Old Federal Road was built to connect Fort Stoddert, located at the Mount Vernon Landing on the Mobile River, to Fort Wilkinson near Milledgeville, Ga. The road successfully connected Ft. Stoddert to the Chattahoochee River. At that point, it was merged with an earlier postal riders' horse path that linked Athens, Ga., to New Orleans, La.
The road developed into a major military road connecting early American forts in the Creek Lands and the Mississippi Territory. This path quickly became a major travel route for thousands of pioneers moving to the area once known as the Old Southwest. The road contributed the dramatic increase in Alabama's population between 1810 and 1820, with Alabama's population growing faster than either Mississippi or Louisiana. The road also contributed to the removal of the region's Creek Indian population from their native lands following the War of 1812 until their forced emigration in 1837-38.
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