Similar to very recognizable Choctaw and Chickasaw leaders Doaks, LeFlore and Colbert, David Choate and his son, James C. Choate, ran a stand (an inn) on the Natchez Trace near Redbud Springs, now Kosciusko, Mississippi, before arriving in Indian Territory in 1854. They settled in the northernmost part of the Choctaw Nation, near present day Indianola, Oklahoma, on land that later became a community bearing their family name, Choate Prairie, for now, 165 years.
For thousands of years, people have been using the Natchez Trace, today memorialized as the 442-mile Natchez Trace Parkway that winds its way through the states of Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee, providing tourists exceptional scenery and thousands of years of American History. The earliest known people to utilize the forested road, called a trace, were the Mississippi Mound builders, whose culture flourished from about 800 A.D. to 1500 A.D.
These early peoples also built roads, cultural centers and numerous earthen monuments, which were used as burial sites and temples, several of which can still be seen along the Natchez Trace Parkway. Later, the trace was frequented by the Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Natchez tribes who called the region home and traveled upon the trail on hunting and trading expeditions. By the time the first European explorer, Hernando de Soto, came to the region, the path was well-worn and the Mississippi Mound builders were gone. Later, more explorers would use this “wilderness road,” followed by frontiersmen and pioneers.
Some of the best known travelers of the Natchez Trace were farmers and boatmen from the Ohio River regions of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Kentucky who floated supplies down to ports in Natchez, Mississippi and New Orleans, Louisiana at the beginning of the 1800s. Regardless of where they came from, they were collectively known as “Kaintucks.” Other famous figures traveled the Natchez Trace, including Meriwether Lewis, who had previously led the Lewis and Clark Expedition. While making his way from Missouri to Washington D.C. in 1809, he died under mysterious circumstances at a small cabin in Tennessee. He was buried there, where his body remains today. Just a few years later, General Andrew Jackson traveled on the Trace with his troops during the War of 1812.
Many inns, or stands, provided occasional shelter for travelers along the Natchez Trace from the 1790s to the 1840s. As trade and travel increased down the Mississippi River so did stands along the Natchez Trace. Many of these stands were owned by frontiersmen and their American Indian wives. The stands along the Natchez Trace varied widely in size and services offered. Many stands offered very basic food along with meager accommodations. The highlights included ground coffee, sugar, biscuits, bacon, and whiskey. Corn was a staple served to Natchez Trace travelers. Travelers would have the option to sleep on a crude bed, but a cleared spot on the floor was what they expected. Due to cramped and dirty conditions inside the stands, many travelers chose to sleep outside on the porch or yard under the stars.
Shortly before the War of 1812, springs near what is now the public square in Kosciusko, Mississippi, where settlers began to stop for fresh drinking water. French trader and trapper David Choate and his Choctaw wife opened an inn near the springs at the intersection of the Natchez Trace and a cross path that led to the Creek Indian Nation. Choate also began raising beef cattle and sold beef to travelers. During the War of 1812, General Jackson relied heavily on the Indians in the region, not only for military engagement, but also for supplies and support along the route from Tennessee to Louisiana.
Journal documents from the time verify that the Jackson and his men received supplies at the Choate Stand. This would be a somewhat ironic twist of what was soon to happen to those who supported Jackson in battle and in life in this region for in 1830 The Indian Removal Act was signed into law, by now United States President Andrew Jackson. The law authorized the president to negotiate with southern Native American tribes for their removal to federal territory west of the Mississippi River in exchange for white settlement of their ancestral lands.
James Choate with two wives, several of his children, and other family members came to Indian Territory in 1850, following forced removal. Through the land allotment system, several members of the family were allotted land amounting to a large sum of Choate property reaching from approximately one mile east of present-day Indianola, north to the South Canadian river, west to near Ulan and south to the area then called Spring Hill.
It would be James’ son. George Washington Choate, who arrived with the family in Indian Territory at age 13, with most likely clear images of the early Choate Family life along the Natchez Trace, who went on to become a great Choctaw Statesman and for which future stories are needed and planned to be told.
2017 was the 200th Anniversary of Mississippi Statehood and each community throughout the state was asked to embrace a project to honor their history. Kosciusko began the now annual “Return to Redbud Springs” Festival and for the inaugural year erected a permanent Choate Stand replica, which now stands in a park along Natchez Street the route of the Natchez Trace.