The area of today's Washington County was long inhabited by
various indigenous people. In historic times, European traders
encountered first Choctaw and later Creek Indians, who had moved
southwest from Georgia as early European settlers encroached on
Washington County was organized on June 4, 1800 from the Tombigbee
District of the Mississippi Territory by proclamation of territorial
governor Winthrop Sargent. It was the first county organized in what
would later become Alabama, as settlers moved westward after the
American Revolutionary War. Washington County is the site of St.
Stephens, the first territorial capital of Alabama. In 1807 former
U.S. Vice President Aaron Burr was arrested at Wakefield in
Washington County, during his flight from being prosecuted for
alleged treason (which he was eventually found innocent of).
Even though the U.S. government removed most of the Choctaw and
Creek to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) west of the Mississippi
River in the 1830s, some Native Americans remained behind and became
state (and U.S.) citizens. They struggled to maintain their Choctaw
culture through years during which the U.S. government imposed a
binary system of dividing people into white and "all other" people of
color (blacks and Indians). In 1979 Alabama recognized the MOWA Band
of Choctaw Indians. Its members are concentrated along the border of
Mobile and Washington counties.