Alabama Coasting 2019 - Page 30

FROM MASSACRE ISLAND TO SUNSET CAPITAL The History of Dauphin Island When your history stretches back in time as long as Dauphin Island’s, there are a lot of stories that can be told. For a complete immersion in the history of Dauphin Island, check out DauphinIslandHistory.com where historian and island resident, Jim Hall has archived a treasure trove of books, maps, images and more. You should also stop by the Little Red Schoolhouse which serves as the Town’s Welcome Center and houses a rich collection of Island history exhibits and information. What follows are just a few of our favorite nuggets from the Island’s history that we pulled (mostly) from Jim’s Dauphin Island History site. THOSE WHO CAME BEFORE The first documented European visitor was Spanish cartographer Alonso Álva- rez de Pineda, whose expedition in 1519 charted the entire northern Gulf Coast and apparently stayed here long enough to map the island with remarkable ac- curacy. It wasn’t until 1699 that the is- land was again visited when French ex- plorers Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville and his younger brother, Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville began a settlement. Many historians consider Mobile – and Dauphin Island in particular – to be the birthplace of French Louisiana. From Bienville’s arrival in 1699 until 1718 with the founding of New Orle- ans, our little island was the heartbeat of the entire French colonial efforts in this part of the New World. While the Island’s long French settlement is its most recognized, Bienville and his band of brothers (literally – there were four of them) were not the first visitors. Upon coming ashore in 1699, the French ex- plorers discovered a huge cache of hu- man bones which led them to name the place Massacre Island, incorrectly judging this to be the site of a vicious battle. Later historians determined that this was rather a ceremonial burial place which had been disturbed by one of the areas frequent hurricanes. While the identities of the skeletons were never confirmed, clues to their background do exist in Shell Mound Park. Apparently, Native Americans of the Mississippi- 30 ALABAMA COASTING’S DAUPHIN ISLAND LIFE an nation were the island’s first “snow birds” migrating to the beach each win- ter from villages up the Mobile Delta. While here, they would fish and roast oysters, drying some as future insurance against failed crops. Archeologists date the Shell Mounds from 1100 to 1550 AD and by Bienville’s arrival, the Mississip- pians appeared to have largely moved away. Indian Shell Mound Park is one of 13 stops on the Alabama Indigenous Mound Trail, a program administered by the University of Alabama Center for Economic Initiatives. On March 30, the University and the Alabama Depart- ment of Conservation and Natural Re- sources will unveil an educational mark- er at the park to draw public awareness to the Native American heritage of the island. GHOSTS ON THE ISLAND Not surprising given its long history, our Dauphin Island is home to a fair number of ghosts or at least ghost stories. Make sure your senses are highly tuned as you visit these spots across the Island. INDIAN SHELL MOUND PARK This ancient site of Native American winter harvesting and oyster roasts still retains its celebratory essence. Legend has it that late at night you can hear the voices of Indian maidens singing to the beat of tribal drums and flutes. Given the protective nature of the tribe’s war- riors, its probably best to keep on walk- ing rather than invite yourself to the party. Arial view of Fort Gaines. 2019