- Grant Recipient
Legends & Lore®
- 11470 Carlton Rd, Jackson, AL 36545, USA
- 31.3517556, -87.8558708
Clarke County Historical Society
Deep in Clarke County, Alabama, just north of the convergence of the Tombigbee & Alabama Rivers, lies Hal’s Lake. The lake is named for an enslaved man who escaped and, according to legend, discovered the isolated body of water in the early 1800s where he created his own ‘kingdom’ comprised of escaped, formerly enslaved people.
As the legend tells it, the lake was surrounded by a thick foliage of cane, trees and vines and full of wildlife including alligators and bears. Making it even more inhospitable was its location at the merging of two rivers, an area prone to flooding which would create marshes and swamps. Hal, a fugitive from a plantation in Mississippi, discovered the lake while on his dangerous journey to freedom. He originally considered the lake as a hiding spot for himself and the small group with him, but after seeing the benefit to the secluded spot, he decided to invite others seeking freedom to join him there.
Over time, Hal made contact with other enslaved people and persuaded them to escape to the lake. Soon around 20 freedom seekers were residing at the hide out. Hal ruled the group as its leader and demanded unquestioning obedience. As a result, it became known as his kingdom. They built two cabins along the lake and sold animal hides to locals to generate an income. Some believe that this money was used to purchase guns and ammunition since they were already in the process of fortifying their modest community.
A five year period of peace for Hal and his people followed, but sadly Hal’s Kingdom would not last. There is some debate as to what ultimately led to its collapse. Some believe that Hal’s subjects began to steal local livestock for food and that angry townspeople captured a man by the name Joshua who revealed the location of the Hals’s Kingdom. Others claim that an exiled subject, bitter about his expulsion from the kingdom, betrayed the community and revealed its secret location. The Literary Register provides additional detail about the incident: A group of slave owners headed to the lake. They attacked the escapees and conquered them. Three were shot, including Hal, who died from wounds sustained in the battle. Some managed to escape, while those captured were returned to their plantations.
Regardless of the outcome, the remote lake, now known as Hal’s Lake, leaves behind no visible trace of the former settlement. Stories about the enclave known as Hal’s Kingdom have survived, predominately through oral tradition, to this day. Many historians are convinced that Hal’s Lake served as a stop on the Underground Railroad.