The lost civilization of Red Hills Mississippi

I first heard of the Red Hills community when I was researching an upcoming backpacking trip at the Black Creek Wilderness in southeast Mississippi.  South of the wilderness area there used to be a community known as Red Hills.

MillCreek1The community must have grown up during the boom of immigration to the Mississippi Territory that occurred in the first couple of decades of the 1800s.  Red Hills was situated somewhere near the Old Federal Road, that carried soldiers and immigrants from Georgia and the Carolinas to Mobile and Natchez.

From the map below, it looks like the Old Federal Road must have cut through south Mississippi roughly along the corridor of present-day Highway 84, but…

  • We know that Andrew Jackson, when he traveled the Federal Road toward New Orleans,  forded Cypress Creek in the vicinity of the present day Black Creek Wilderness.
  • Jackson overnighted at Ford’s place in present-day Sandy Hook, Mississippi.
  • Jackson and his army encamped at Love Creek between present say Tylertown and Holmesville.

All three of those locations would put the Federal Road farther south than Highway 84 (or else Jackson wasn’t really traveling the Federal Road.)

SettlementoftheGulfPlains18151830FederalRoad

Hiking Red Hills

Nowadays, you could drive right up to the old Red Hills cemetery on Forest Road 318, but the best way to get a feel for some of what life must have been like is to hike it.

Black-Creek-Wilderness

  • Starting at Fairley Bridge Recreation area east of Wiggins Mississippi, pick up the Black Creek National Hiking Trail going northwest toward Brooklyn Mississippi.
  • Follow the trail for about 3 miles to the 3-way intersection of Forest Service Road 318-B, Black Creek Trail, and the Florida Gas Pipeline.
  • Turn right onto 318-B and follow it for about fifth of a mile (350 yards or so), watching on the left for the cemetery.

img027The Red Hills Cemetery is often overgrown, but someone blazed the trunks of the surrounding trees with white paint. The cemetery contains grave markers for eight people who lived between 1798 and 1898.

The territory is appropriately named because it is very hilly and good hiking!

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