Archaeologists have identified significant remains from Woodland (1000BC–AD1000) and Mississippian (AD1000–1550) prehistoric native cultures, including the AD1100 Indian mound. An adjacent low circular midden ring was the location of Mississippian or Creek Indian houses. (A midden contains waste products from day-to-day life.) While these native occupations are significant, the site received National Historic Landmark status for French Fort Toulouse (1717–1763) and American Fort Jackson (1814–1817).
The French built Fort Toulouse in 1717 to serve as the eastern-most outpost of the French colony of Louisiana. The French intended to secure the friendship of the Creek Confederacy and make French policy known, while keeping out the soldiers and interests of the British Empire. The Alibamu Indians, who were part of the Creek Confederacy, invited the French to build the fort. To bargain with the British and the French for better prices in the deerskin trade, most Creek villages remained neutral..
Between 1717 and 1763, the French built three forts in succession as the relentless Coosa River washed the first two forts away.
French marines brought their families building some of the area’s first "European" style farms. Sons and daughters of the marines married creating large extended families within the garrison. The largest family, the Fontenots, raised 12 children at a farmstead next to Fort Toulouse. During the 46 years of the fort, the sons in these families grew up to become French marines. Descendants of these marines visit the park today. Located near the French fort and community was the Alibamu Indian village of Pakana. French and Alibamu children played games between the fort, farmsteads and village houses while their parents farmed the rich bottomlands surrounding the area. The Alibamu became a close ally with much of the tribe following the French to Louisiana in 1763.
British and French rivalries came to a head in 1754 with the outbreak of the French and Indian War. The war was the North American conflict that was part of a larger imperial conflict between Great Britain and France known as the Seven Years’ War. With the French defeat, the 1763 Treaty of Paris ceded Louisiana to Britain and Spain. French marines and their families moved west of the Mississippi River to live among the Spanish in the area of Opelousas, Louisiana.
After the French and Indian War, the British occupied the region, but did not take over the fort. Creek Indians used the grounds of the former French post as part of a village.
The noted naturalist, William Bartram, visited the area in 1775. Bartram saw traces of the old fort in a few thriving apple trees planted by the French and pieces of artillery buried in the ground. He wrote, “This is, perhaps, one of the most eligible situations for a city in the world; a level plain between the conflux of two majestic rivers...”
During the War of 1812, fought between the United States and Great Britain, American forces became involved in fighting the Red Sticks , a faction of the Creek nation, thus turning the Creek civil war into a military campaign designed to destroy Creek power. The final battle of the Creek War of 1813–14 ended at Horseshoe Bend in March 1814 with the defeat of the Red Sticks. After the victory, General Andrew Jackson established Fort Jackson at the site of the old French fort. The treaty ending the Creek War was signed there on August 9, 1814. In August 1814, the Treaty of Fort Jackson ceded over 23 million acres of Creek land to the United States government opening much of Alabama to American settlers. Five years later, Alabama became the 22nd state.
American troops occupied the fort until 1817 when it was decommissioned. Its brig (jail) served as the jail for Montgomery County’s first county seat, Fort Jackson Town. By 1819, the county seat moved to Montgomery and Fort Jackson Town fell into disuse. Today the only remnants are a sparse series of drainage ditches that parallel the town’s orientation.