Pickett’s History of Alabama was originally published in 1851. Two-thirds of its nearly 700 pages cover the history of the state prior to 1800, and the remainder extends only as far as 1819, the year of Alabama’s statehood. When the Webb Book Company was readying a reprint edition of the Pickett work, it asked Thomas McAdory Owen to prepare a collection of annals to bring the work up to date. Owen’s Annals of Alabama, 1819-1900, including a subject and name index of more than 5,000 entries, constitutes the final hundred pages of the opus.
During the colonial period, Alabama was settled by the Spanish, French, and British–in that order. These Europeans would encounter a sizable indigenous population upon their arrival. One of the strong suits of the consolidated History of Alabama is the emphasis on the Native American forebears of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana–the Mobilians, Chatots, Tohomes, Taensas, Choctaws, Chickasaws, and, of course, the Cherokees. Other chapters discuss the French and Spanish footholds in Alabama and Mississippi; the establishment of the Louisiana Territory–of which Alabama was a part–with its first capital at Fort Louis (Mobile ); the role of France’s India or Mississippi Company; the Jesuit presence in Louisiana; conflicts between the European rivals and between the settlers and the indigenous population; and the hardships endured by the settlers. Later chapters set the stage for British and, ultimately, American hegemony in essays on the French and Indian War, Alabama in the Revolutionary War, the Treaty of Paris in 1783, the Louisiana Purchase, the Yazoo Land Sales, establishment of the U.S. Territory of Alabama, and the wars between the indigenous peoples and the U.S. government before, during, and after the War of 1812, culminating in Alabama statehood. Owens’ Annals, which takes the volume to the end of the 19th century, touches on the political high spots from statehood through the Civil War and Reconstruction, lists state and federal officials up to the time of publication, and provides the researcher with a bibliography for further inquiry into Alabama history, the arts, travel, and more.
Although it was published a century ago and suffers from the prejudices and myopia of a bygone era, Pickett’s History of Alabama is still a rich survey of pre-20th-century Alabama life and culture, one that will assuredly provide valuable context for researchers with Alabama forebears.