BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Saturday marks 200 years since Alabama became a state.
On December 14, 1819, Congress passed a resolution making Alabama the 22nd state in the Union, a little over a year after Illinois became a state and a few months before Maine joined the Union.
However, the area that would become Alabama had a long, rich history before it became part of the United States of America. According to the Encyclopedia of Alabama (EOA), the Paleoindians are considered the first group of people to inhabit different parts of America, including Alabama, toward the end of the Ice Age. Over time, the Mississippian culture of Native Americans began to occupy what is now Alabama and other parts of the Southeast. One remaining piece from that period is the Moundville Archaeological Site in Hale County, which includes mounds built by the tribes of the day.
According to the EOA, the major tribes to inhabit the area before the arrival of European explorers in the area included the Choctaws, Creeks, Cherokees, Choctaws and Chickasaws, as well as the Alabama-Coushattas and the Yuchi.
In fact, it is believed that Alabama was a Choctaw word loosely meaning “thicket clearers,” according to Choctaw scholar Allen Wright, taken from the word “Alba” meaning “thick or mass vegetation” and “amo” meaning “to clear, to collect, to gather up.”
The 16th century is considered by historians to be the first time Europeans, mostly the Spanish, arrived in Alabama. In 1540, explorer Hernando de Soto arrived in Mabila, a fortress town of Chief Tuskaloosa located southwest of Selma. It was here where the Battle of Mabila took place on October 18, 1540, between the de Soto expedition and the town tribe, resulting in the deaths of many on both sides.
In the early 1700s, French settlers began arriving in Alabama, primarily in south Alabama in places like Mobile. By 1780, the Spanish captured Mobile during the Revolutionary War, according to the Alabama Department of Archives and History.
By 1817, Congress split up the Mississippi Territory to create the Alabama Territory. On December 14, 1819, Alabama was admitted as the country’s 22nd state with Huntsville serving as its first capitol.
And, as they say, the rest is history.