Fort Payne is a city in and county seat of DeKalb County, Alabama, United States. At the 2010 census, the population was 14,012.
In the 19th century, the site of Fort Payne was the location of Willstown, an important village of the Cherokee people. For a time it was the home of Sequoyah, a silversmith who invented the Cherokee syllabary, enabling reading and writing in the language. The settlement was commonly called Willstown, after its headman, a red-headed mixed-race man named Will. According to Major John Norton, a more accurate transliteration would have been Titsohili. The son of a Cherokee adoptee of the Mohawk people, Norton grew up among Native Americans and traveled extensively throughout the region in the early 19th century. He stayed at Willstown several times.
During the 1830s prior to Indian removal, the US Army under command of Major John Payne built a fort here that was used to intern Cherokees until relocation to Oklahoma. Their forced exile became known as the Trail of Tears.
By the 1860s, Fort Payne and the surrounding area were still sparsely settled. It had no strategic targets and was the scene of only minor skirmishes between Union and Confederate forces during the Civil War.