Old Indian road evolved into busy business district

Published 7:37 pm Tuesday, June 13, 2023

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In 1981, Ann Snell wrote a historical article on the Three Notch Road and it’s early origins.

Three Notch.

Dianne Smith

Dianne Smith

You know it as a street lined with various businesses, traveled by many people every day.  But during the 1800s, Three Notch was simply an Indian trade trail winding through a wilderness.

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Troy was once a ridge covered by beautiful woodlands where the Indians hunted and fished.  They cut many trails  through the woods, but none were large enough for settlers and soldiers driving wagons loaded with supplies.

Quartermaster Gen. Thomas E. Jessup issued an order April 12, 1884 to construct a road from Fort Barrancas at Pensacola, to Fort Bainbridge, southeast of Tuskegee.  The road was needed to transport troops and supplies.

The letter from Jessup said, “You will make a road to admit with facility the movements of carriages, carts, and wagons, etc….”  Capt. D. E. Burch, assistant quartermaster, was to supervise the operation.

A common way to mark roads then was to  cut three notches in the trees along the way.  Scouts of the U. S. Army followed an Indian trail and enlarged it.  They also cut three notches in the tree trunks on the way to Fort Bainbridge from Fort Barrancas.  The road was then called “Three Chopped Ways.”  Now it is called Three Notch Road.

According to Peter A. Brannon in The Papers of the Pike County Historical Society, part of the road from Pensacola to the Chattahoochee River was cut by Gen. Andrew Jackson.  Three Notch is the only road in the southern states that Jackson had a part in constructing.

Brannon reported the road was 233 miles long and cost $1,138.78 to build.  It was called Military Road Number 6 by the U. S. War Department.

Trade flowed easily through Troy because of Three Notch and many businesses were established along the road.  Mrs. Ann Love bought the Monticello Courthouse and the public square at an auction for $200.  Her son moved the building to Troy, and they rebuilt it as an inn situated on the southwest corner of the square.

John Hanchey, John Coskrey and Nathan Soles owned stores on Three Notch Road.  They made trips to Pensacola on the road in covered wagons to get supplies.

The citizens of the counties were required by law to maintain public roads.  All men ages 18 to 45 had to work on the roads up to 10 days per year and use their own equipment or pay $10 per year.

Specifically, Three Notch Road began in Pensacola at Fort Barrancas; ran south of the Conecuh River, the main branch of the Escambia River; by River Falls; through Monticello; and on to Fort Bainbridge.  There it joined the Old Federal Road and continued to Fort Mitchell in Russell County.

     In Pike County, the road ran through the present Village of Henderson, Troy and Monticello.  Because it was the best road in the county, the county seat was moved from Monticello to Troy.

According to Frank G. Harris in The Escambia County Historical Quarterly, Three Notch Road was kept up by the men of the county.  Harris was the overseer of Three Notch from Fort Henley to the state line.  He said the supervisor determined the number of days each man worked.  The men worked together to keep up the road until the State Department relieved them of the job.

Many settlers came to Pike County from the Carolinas, Georgia and Tennessee by way of Three Notch Road.  Because of the pioneer spirit of these settlers and the accessibility of travel by Three Notch Road, Troy has slowly grown into the urban, industrialized city you enjoy today.

All of these articles can be found in previous editions of The Troy Messenger.  Stay tuned for more.  Dianne Smith is the President of the Pike County Historical, Genealogical and Preservation Society.