Madison County, Alabama Indian Reservations

A research document contributed to the Madison County Records Center
website by Michael D. Wren and Terry D. Lee and used with permission.

  First one needs to understand that under Cherokee law and custom land (Real Property) was owned by the Nation in Whole. Individual Cherokee could own the Improvements to the Real Property. This would be cabins, houses, barns, fences, cleared fields, etc. Their "ownership" was a possessory right only. If they abandoned an improvement it was "fair game" after a certain period of time. Obviously they could also own personal property.

   Under the Treaties of 1817 and 1819 the Cherokee ceded to the United States large sections of land. For example, all of their land to the north of the Tennessee River was ceded under these treaties along with other lands in Georgia and North Carolina. Cherokee who were residing on the lands had several options: (1) They could seek reimbursement from the U.S. for their lands and improvements and move west to Arkansas (i.e. the Old Settlers), (2) they could move themselves to unceded lands but could not receive any compensation from the U.S., (3) stay in place and take their chances against U.S. settlers, or (4) file for a 640 acre Reserve (Reservation) of land.

  To get a Reserve required several conditions. They had to be the head of a Cherokee family. They had to reside on the land they were requesting. They had to be willing to give up their Cherokee citizenship and become a citizen of the U.S. They had to be willing to reside on the land for the remainder of their life (in most cases). There were a few limited special cases of specific individuals who were granted "Fee Simple Title" to their Reservations under the 1819 Treaty. Most of the Reservees had grants as "Life Estates" in the land. They had to meet all the conditions of the Treaty and never move or sell any interest in the land. At their death their Life Estate converted to Fee Simple with their widows (if applicable) holding a dower interest with the land descending to the heirs.

   Many people who registered for Reservations under the Treaty were actually invalid as Reservees under the Treaty. They were not heads of families. Some didn't reside on Ceded Land but within the unceded portions of the Nation. Some decided to not take up their Reservations but to move west. Some abandoned their Reservations. Some never lived on the land. Some attempted to sell their interest. Many were forced off the land by intruding whites. The state of Georgia was an original colony and claimed all of the Cherokee land and would not accept U.S. title to any of that land so those Reservees were bought out. The state of North Carolina (which already had prior treaties with the Cherokee) set up a Commission to purchase Reservations within its boundaries and those were recorded in the county deed books. Tennessee (also a "state land state") accepted by statute the U.S. Title to Cherokee Reservations though some were subject to sale by Tennessee. Only Alabama, being a Federal Land State, left the Reservees alone.

  The list of who actually had Surveys done for the Reservations they Registered for is in the U.S. Serials Set - Public Land Series. Serial 625, 20th Congress 1st Session: List of Persons Entitled to Reservations of Land Under the Treaty with the Cherokee Indians of February 27, 1819. This List is a list of Surveys done by Houston & Armstrong.

  The actual original surveys are found in either National Archives microfilm A22 (Houston-Armstrong Surveys) or in the Tennessee State Archives Collection of Cherokee Material. There is some duplication between the two but not much. Neither of these collections contain any Surveys for any Reservations in Georgia.

Those Reservees who were granted land in Madison Co., Alabama were:


William Wilson (married Peggy Doublehead - daughter of Chief Doublehead)
Reservation # 128
On the Flint River adjoining the Madison County line.
Surveyed on 11 - Dec - 1820 with Giles McAnulty & Aaron Armstrong being the chain carriers.

Thomas Wilson
Reservation # 131
Located on the north side of the Tennessee River near the old Cherokee boundary line and the Hurricane fork of the Flint River.
Surveyed 7 - Feb - 1820 with Horace Houston & Drury Armstrong the chain
carriers. (NOTE this was one of the Fee Simple Reservations specifically
granted to specific individuals under the terms of the 1819 treaty.)

Giles McNulty / McAnulty (married Alcy Doublehead - daughter of Chief Doublehead)
Reservation # 132
On the Hurricane Fork of the Flint River adjoining Thomas Wilson.
Surveyed 9 - Dec - 1820 with Aaron Armstrong & Campbell R. Eaton being the chain carriers.

Challenge or Konoluske / Conaleskee
Reservation # 137
On Mouldins branch and the Flint River (in todays Sharps Cove).
Surveyed 9-Dec-1820 with Aaron Armstrong & Campbell R. Eaton being the
chain carriers.
Note: This Reservation was involved in a lot of litigation, some of it ended up in the Alabama Supreme Court. The case was reported in 4 Port 141 (4 Porter page 141 --- pages under the original pagination) as Kennedy and Moreland vs McCartney's Heirs.

Land records involving these Reservations may be found at the Madison County Records Center.