My grandparents, Weaver and Fannie (Castle) Smith spent their honeymoon in Waterloo, Alabama, visiting Grandpa’s relatives there. Ninety-five years later my brother and I visited Waterloo on their wedding anniversary, June 29. I know my grandmother enjoyed her trip there—the only real vacation she ever took—because I heard a lot about Waterloo when I was growing up. On our trip my brother and I remarked again and again that we wished we had just put her in the car and driven her back to Kentucky and Alabama. She would have complained but we should have just taken her anyway.
|Ella Smith Beckham?, Fannie & Weaver Smith|
Waterloo, Alabama, 1919
Waterloo is a quiet little town with a population of about 200. It is located on the Tennessee River in the far northwestern corner of Alabama. It was incorporated in 1832, one of the oldest incorporated towns in Alabama. According to a historical marker, the town was an important port on the river during the steamboat era. “Following a disastrous flood in 1847, the town was moved from its location on the riverbank, now under Pickwick Lake, to present higher ground.”
|Historical marker, Waterloo, Alabama|
In the 1930s the town was affected again when the Tennessee Valley Authority built the Pickwick Landing Dam just north in Hardin County, Tennessee. I can’t help but think of my very favorite movie ever, O Brother, Where Art Thou? when Everett says, “The fact is, they're flooding this valley so they can hydroelectric up the whole durn state. Yes, sir, the South is gonna change.” I wonder how much Waterloo has really changed since my grandparents were there in 1919.
Waterloo is known, if it is known at all, as the “End of the Trail of Tears.” Another historical marker on the edge of the river tells that at Waterloo the Cherokees were put on boats to make the final leg of the Trail of Tears. The marker says: “Thousands of Cherokee Indians passed through Waterloo in the 1830s when they were forced by the U.S. government to move West on the Trail of Tears. Most came by boat from Tuscumbia and camped here to await transfer to larger steamboats. During the encampment several births, deaths, and escapes occurred.”
|Trail of Tears marker, Waterloo, Alabama|
My great-grandfather Smith followed his Mansell in-laws to Waterloo from Troy in Pike County, Alabama, in the 1870s. His mother-in-law, Elizabeth Simmons, and her children were supposedly Cherokee, and it was from Waterloo, in the 1890s, that Stephen and Fannie Smith moved to Indian Territory and applied for Cherokee citizenship.
In one of the applications Elizabeth Simmons Mansell Cotton made a deposition stating that she and her children were Cherokee. The deposition was dated 1894 and made in Cleveland County, Oklahoma, which used to make me wonder if Elizabeth died and is buried in Oklahoma. However, on my last trip to Waterloo some Mansell cousins showed me the place in Mount Olive Cemetery where “Granny Cotton” is said to be buried. After a long drive out into the hills outside Waterloo, I showed my brother her purported resting place. According to our Mansell relatives, Elizabeth may have come to Indian Territory with the Smith family then returned to Waterloo with some Mansell/Webb family members who came back to Alabama.
|Elizabeth Cotton's grave?, Mount Olive Cemetery,|
And, again, the Smiths were traveling from Alabama to Oklahoma. After a stop at the Shiloh Battleground we were on our way home.