Lowndes County, in south central Alabama, is the site of a well-known story involving one of Alabama's most famous and colorful Indian chiefs, Red Eagle. Red Eagle was a half-breed, having a Scottish father and a Creek Indian mother. He was known as William Weatherford to the white settlers who knew his father. His leadership role in the massacre of white settlers at Fort Mims in Baldwin County on August 30, 1813 was the precursor of the military encounter in Lowndes County from which the story arose. The encounter took place at a site called the Holy Ground, or Ikanatchaka in the Creek Indian language.
After Fort Mims, Red Eagle's warriors gathered at the Holy Ground, a high bluff on the Alabama River which the Indians believed was impregnable because it was surrounded by creeks, swamps, thickets, and the river. They were followed there by troops sent from St. Stephens under the leadership of Brigadier General Ferdinand L. Claiborne, the brother of Louisiana Governor William Claiborne. One of the supply points General Claiborne established during this campaign was Fort Deposit, the name of a thriving Lowndes County town to this day. On December 23, 1813, Claiborne's troops and Indian allies attacked the Holy Ground. They completely routed the Creeks and burned the village the Creeks had established there. Claiborne's men drove the Creeks out of central Alabama.
In recognition of its historical significance, the Lowndes County Courthouse was named to the National Register of Historic Places on June 24, 1971. This courthouse had been the scene of speeches leading up to the Civil War in the 1860s as well as trials involving the civil rights movement in the 1960s. Also, a relic from the past is still in place at the courthouse. The main courtroom contains a small triangular holding cell in the rear southwest corner. There are no other cells visible in any other courtroom in the state of Alabama. This cell is no longer being used because of its prejudicial effect on a jury.
The courthouse renovation of the 1980's cost approximately $1 million. The building was made handicapped accessible, needed restroom facilities were added, and more usable work space for the county was provided. However, maintenance remains the major problem now. Moisture and mildew have caused yellow-green blemished on the exterior walls. And, in 1993, a newspaper article reported that court proceeding had to be halted and the main courtroom closed because of bats hanging from the ceiling. Such problems can be expected in a historic structure located in a rural setting.
Lowndes County is not as prosperous as in the antebellum days. More people lived in Lowndes County in 1840 than today. Still, the citizens of the county have a unique government building in their courthouse. They should take all steps necessary to preserve the third oldest courthouse in the state of Alabama.