Cheatham Road

From the Northwest Alabamian, July 13, 1969 & January 14, 1988
Articles written by R.L. Shirley, John West, & Bill Tidwell

The fabled Cheatham Road, which ran from Moulton through Winston County and on to Tuscaloosa, was constructed by authority of the Acts of Alabama, 1824. Its builder, Wyatt Cheatham, was a man of strong and colorful personality, with an honorable military record. He served in the War of 1812 as a sergeant with Capt. John A. Allen’s Company of Madison County Volunteers, a unit of the Mississippi Territory Militia. He was discharged April 4, 1815.

In 1824, this man, who was born in 1769, lived in what is now Winston County. He entered land just west of where the present Double Springs-Jasper Highway crosses Clear Creek. He was authorized to build the road by an Act of the Legislature that specified “That a public road beginning at a point on Payne’s Road, about seven miles south of Moulton in Lawrence County; running thence in a direction toward Tuscaloosa the nearest and best way.” The road was to be 18 feet wide, twelve feet clear of all stumps and brush.

Beginning at the county line, the old road went by what is now Mount Olive Cemetery. Then it turned west to what was later called Speegle School House, crossing what is now Hwy. 33. Thence down a ridge and crossed back over Hwy. 33 to the Moreland cut-off road, and then it crossed back over to the west side of Hwy. 33. During the 1930s the C.C.C. boys worked the old road to what is now known as the Payne Creek Road. It then traveled down a ridge to the crossing of Sipsey River at what is known as the Martin Ford, located a short distance above the concrete bridge on Sipsey, where a low pressure bridge, made of wood with mud sills bolted to the rock, was built.

After crossing Sipsey, the road followed along the west side of the present road to the Jim Matt Curtis place or Antioch Road; crossed Hwy. 33 to the east side and went by the Douglas Martin home. It crossed Sandy Creek, then by the James Hadder home to Rock Creek Church. From Rock Creek the road traveled by the Jim Peak, Jr. farm and crossed Curtis Mill Branch. Then by the Bill Blankenship farm and the Will Cole home place; on by where the nursing home and the Dale Hendrix farm is now. It crossed then to the west side of Hwy. 33 and by the transportation office and crossed yet again to the east side. The old road curves around under a bluff and on top of another bluff and then crosses Caney Branch. It crosses what is known as the glades and the housing project. It continues across Hwy. 195 at Nichols Funeral Home, on by the elementary school, and crosses back over 195 at Dr. Blake’s office where the courthouse now stands. From there it goes down what we know as Main Street in Double Springs by Traders and Farmers Bank.

On leaving Double Springs, the old road entered Highway 195 and left it to the east at the Ollie Hunter place, going back of what used to be the Winston County Health Department. It crossed 195 where the Church of Christ is now located going by the Pines subdivision and the old Tildon McCullar place and entered back into 195 at the Will Beard store. Highway 195 follows closely the route until the old Godfrey College Historic Marker. Then the road traveled in a western direction past the site where later Godfrey College was located. The road crossed Clear Creek at Cheatham Crossing. Wyatt Cheatham built his home here on a hill overlooking the road and crossing of Clear Creek. This was one of the toll stations. Mr. Cheatham also established a Way Inn and obtained a license to sell liquor. He also built a low pressure bridge, and the mud sills can still be seen in the bottom of the creek.

After crossing Clear Creek, the road went by where Cecil Nix lived on the Rocky Plains Road by Natis, then by Old Union Church and Cemetery. Then to Holly Grove and Beech Grove to Coal Valley and to Corona. Then through what is known as Flat Woods to Bailey Springs, on to Wyndham Springs, generally following Hwy. 69 to Tuscaloosa.

Apparently Cheatham and his associate, Rep. Joseph Cole, were paid from toll fees collected on this road. The Acts of Alabama listed toll fees as being: four-wheel carriage, 75 cents; two-wheel carriage, 25 cents; every man and horse, 12 and one-half cents each; loose horse, 6 and one-fourth cents; every head of cattle, three cents; and hogs and sheep, two cents.

If a traveler tried to evade payment of the toll fee by going around the collecting point then “he or she would forfeit and pay to the said Wyatt Cheatham triple the amount the toll would have been.” Acts of Alabama, section 6, stated Cheatham should not charge citizens of Lawrence, Tuscaloosa, or Walker Counties traveling the road “to visit neighbors, on business or to and from court.”

The Cheatham Road was built along part of what is now Highway 33 and cut across from Gum Pond and by what is now Double Springs and by the old Godfrey College. It is said Double Springs was built where it now stands because of the Cheatham Road. The first mail was carried over this road in Winston County in 1829. Also, legend has it that Wyatt Cheatham and Matthew Payne (Revolutionary War veteran) were the first known white men to “discover” the twin springs after which Double Springs was named. They were riding their horses in the area and stopped to get a drink and found the springs.

Bridges on the Cheatham Road were something to build and maintain in those pioneer days. Legend has it Wyatt Cheatham, Sr. kept the bridge on Clear Creek, in the area where he entered and owned much land; Wyatt D. Cheatham, Jr. looked after the bridge on Lost Creek near Townley; and Matthew Payne looked after the one on Sipsey River. Building these bridges cost more than the toll income, according to legend, and Cheatham had to ask the state for “relief.”

At one time, R.L. Shirley, Mr. Pearson, Mr. Walker, Judge James E. Shotts, and two descendants of the famous Wyatt Cheatham, Mrs. Lois Martin of Jasper and Gilder Cheatham of Carbon Hill Rt. 2, assembled at Scott Graveyard, four miles east of Carbon Hill. Pearson and Walker obtained from the federal government a marble military marker which was placed in Scott Graveyard to mark the passing of Wyatt D. Cheatham, who died in 1856. The tomb was placed between the graves of Cheatham’s son, Wyatt, Jr., and his daughter. The tomb, incidentally, “manufactured” by the Cheatham family and particularly H.H. Cheatham (as were dozens of other tombstones throughout this section of Alabama) contained vital statistics.

Wyatt Duke Cheatham, Jr., was born on March 5, 1807; he joined the “Baptist Church of Christ” in 1844 and died February 19, 1884. He was a Mason. The real burial place of the Cheatham Road builder is on Clear Creek in Winston County, but the exact spot long ago was cleared off for farming. A former owner of the Cheatham farm, the B.P. Rowe family, said that two simple markers were at the Cheatham gravesites, but they were removed and the graves were plowed over.

Wyatt D. Cheatham and Elizabeth Ingle were married November 19, 1835. His second marriage was to Ellen L. Brazeal, a widow. Cheatham died September 21, 1856. Cheatham deaths: Marcus LaFayette Cheatham died Aug. 16, 1857 at age six; Martha Jane Cheatham died Aug. 15, 1857 at age ten months; Elizabeth Cheatham died Nov. 8, 1858 at age 38; Mary Ann Cheatham died May 13, 1864 at age 14; Peter H. Cheatham died April 24, 1883; James Wyatt Cheatham died July 28, 1909 at age 72.

Brigadier General Grenville M. Dodge, writing in Athens, Ala. had this to say about the Cheatham Road: “Cheatham’s Road, the direct [route from] Moulton and Tuscaloosa, runs due south from Courtland to Tuscaloosa, is hilly and mountainous and forage scarce but is not what might be called a bad road. The first mountain is pretty hard to ascend, but the balance of the road is fair.”

Acts passed at the 9th annual session of the General Assembly of the State of Alabama, began the third Monday in November 1827 in Tuscaloosa. These words (in part) are recorded: “An Act for the relief of Wyatt Cheatham; Whereas by Act of incorporation of Wyatt Cheatham’s Turnpike road, said Cheatham is required to bridge the Sipsy Fork of the Black Warrior river, Loss [Lost] Creek and such other streams as may enable travelers to pass said road. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives, State of Alabama, in General Assembly convened, that Wyatt Cheatham be allowed two years after the erection of his gate, to bridge such creeks as may be necessary, except Sipsey River and a creek called Black Water.”