Early History, Hancock County, MS

 

 

   Advance apology to readers by the authors: This comprehensive history of Hancock County Ms deserves to be available on the World Wide Web. Countless hours have gone into its creation and researchers ought to be able to avail themselves to its offering. While it was written several years ago, the authors have moved on to other things and do not have the time or inclination to edit, correct, or rewrite. It is therefore offered as is, “warts and all,” for whatever value one may take from it.

 

September 5, 2016

MG and RBG                                 

 

 

 

 

                                       Early History, Hancock County, MS

                                        …with Emphasis on the Pearl River Area

 

 

 

                                      By Marco Giardino, Ph.D., and Russell Guerin

 

 

 

 

Acknowledgements

 

     As in most undertakings that take five years (maybe more) to complete, there are many to whom credit should be given. In this case, they are far too numerous to list, so we must content ourselves with just the major ones.

     First, there is the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), for the initial impetus for an in-depth study of the beginnings of this little but important corner of Hancock County, Mississippi.

     Next, we shall give equal credit by combining into one our thanks to the Hancock County Historical Society, Hill Memorial Library of Louisiana State University, and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, all of which have been necessary – and therefore essential – to this study.

 

Marco Giardino, Ph.D.

Russell B. Guerin

Table of Contents

 

Prologue – p. 3

Introductions – p. 5

 

Book One

 

Section I – Early History of Hancock County:  Its People and Their Land Claims

Chapter 1: The Deed Search – p. 9

Chapter 2:  French Personages in Hancock County – p. 17

Chapter 3: Choctaw Support of French – p. 25

 

Section II – British Rule

Chapter 4: British Control of West Florida – p. 30

 

Section III – The Spanish Period

Chapter 5: Invasion of West Florida, 1779 – p. 37

 

Section IV – American Developments

Chapter 6: Increasing United States Interest – p. 46

Chapter 7: Spanish Records of West Florida – p. 50

Chapter 8: West Florida Republic – p. 56

Chapter 9: East Pearl Annexation – p. 66

Chapter 10: South Mississippi Involvement in War of 1812 – p. 68

Chapter 11: Post-War Activity – p. 73

Chapter 12: The Choctaws – p. 75

 

Section V – The American Period

Chapter 13: Key Events in Early Hancock County – p. 89

Chapter 14: Tax Rolls, 1818 to 1843 – p. 90

Chapter 15: Probate Records – p. 94

 

Section VI – Nineteenth Century Hancock County

Chapter 16: Analysis of Census Reports – p. 101

Chapter 17: The Industries – p. 104

Chapter 18: Biographies of Prominent Settlers – p. 113

Chapter 19: Slavery – p. 136

Chapter 20: Explorers – p. 142

Chapter 21: Lost Towns of Pearl River – p. 143

 

Book Two

Introduction – p. 152

Chapter 22: Family of Andrew Jackson, Jr.  – p. 153

Chapter 23: Christian Koch and his Family – p. 184



Prologue

 

The East bank of the East Pearl River is high and dry land, built in the Pleistocene period, tens of thousands of years before the present. There is a West Pearl and also a Middle Pearl in Louisiana, but it is in that high terrace on the eastern side of East Pearl, in Mississippi, that merits historic study.

For fifty years it was the international boundary between European colonial powers. Here the British granted land to the officers and soldiers that fought in the Revolutionary War. Here, the Americans drew the boundary line separating the new Louisiana Purchase from Spanish territory. It was on this high land that slave traders of the early19th century found staging areas to import Africans into the New World, after Thomas Jefferson had prohibited this horrid commerce in the newly bought territory.

The East Pearl River empties into the Gulf of Mexico, or it almost does.  It bifurcates around an island at its mouth where the British camped on their way to being defeated by Gen. Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans in 1815. Earlier, Iberville had named it Pea Island, because he lost a sack of peas there in 1699.  The Pearl empties into the Mississippi Sound, protected from the open Gulf by a series of barrier islands with names like Ship and Cat, important to the early Canadian explorers under Iberville and his brother Bienville.

There is ample evidence along the east bank of the Pearl that Native Americans favored the place from earliest times. The land was there during the time of the Paleo-Indian big game hunters, but few artifacts from that period have been discovered. At that time, the Gulf of Mexico was dozens of miles to the south of its currect location, and those earliest archaeological sites are likely under the waters. There are numerous sites dating from the Archaic period, and particularly from the mound-building times called Poverty Point. As early as 1500 BC and continuing until historic tribes like the Pascagoula and Biloxi, Native Americans hunted, fished and navigated the Pearl River drainage, building earthworks and shell middens and leaving a great deal of evidence of their trading acumen and artisanship.

It was archaeology that brought us to the topic of this book. One of the most interesting and well-preserved prehistoric sites to be found in Hancock County, on a distributary of the east Pear River, was known variously as Jackson’s Landing or Clifton Plantation. It is on Mulatto Bayou, one of a number of Sea Island cotton plantations, and was owned for a time by Andrew Jackson, Jr.  His neighbor was JFH Claiborne, the historian of Mississippi.

It is commonly prescribed to professional archaeologists, that they recount the history of a site’s occupation, even if perfunctorily, prior to the immersion into the prehistoric deposits many prefer. As we began this normally expeditious research, we began to encounter family names of national import, like Bienville,[1] Pintado, Jackson and Claiborne. As we attempted the standard deed search, we came face-to-face with the reality of four different methods of land granting and recording: French, British, Spanish, and American.  And, most fascinating, we discovered a treasure of primary documentation, mostly in the form of family letters.

There is good reason that a reader may ask earnestly why a little populated area in the southwest corner of a sparsely populated state might command much attention.  That edge of Hancock County, Mississippi, which borders Louisiana at the mid-point of the Pearl River, is in many ways now nondescript, quiet and forlorn bereft of whatever culture evolved there over the ages.

In truth, very little of what meets the eye is indicative of what came before.  With the exception of Pearlington, which is only a partial reflection of its former self, all the towns are gone.  There is no more Logtown, or Napoleon, or Santa Rosa, or Westonia.  Even the former county seat, Gainesville, can be found only on old maps. Its archaeological remains are now within the NASA Fee Area.

Evidence of once thriving prehistoric cultures of indigenous peoples is familiar, by and large, only to the professional archaeologist.  The remains of what by some accounts was the largest sawmill in the world is a few large blocks of concrete, once foundation for nineteenth century mechanisms that even today would be considered imposing structures.  The people too are gone.  Names that once commanded power or reflected wealth, like Claiborne, Pray, Weston and Favre, are known elsewhere today, but now exist along the Pearl only on tombstones in the Logtown and Napoleon cemeteries. The erasure of these communities was occasioned in 1961 by the federal government's decision to locate the Stennis space facility in this area, requiring that all buildings within a large area be leveled.

It is perhaps in the very nonexistence of these once vital communities wherein their fascination lies.  There is, after all, a certain element of finality to their being, in that, at least for the foreseeable future, they will not, nay cannot, be resurrected.

Besides the physical evidence, including shell middens, overgrown streets, an occasional brick or other artifact, there is a wealth of written testimony to the history of the area.  Prominent in this regard are the journals of Iberville and Father DuRu, Penicaut, and LePage du Pratz.  There are also legal documents left by settlers over the years. The above notwithstanding, for purposes of this study, the most telling documents consist of two collections of letters, surviving from the Jackson and Koch families.

It is in reflecting on the stories told in these letters that one may see a purpose shared with the late British archaeologist Jacquetta Hawkes.  Known for her humanistic approach, it has been said that she “… fascinates because she sustained that early curiosity of the garden dig, the feel of worked flint.  She never lost sight of what was, for her, archaeology's ultimate goal – to understand what it is to be human.”[2]

 

 Introduction (MG)

 

This book began simply. In an effort to improve the interpretation of historical archaeological sites located in southwestern Hancock County, Mississippi, we undertook what we believed was a simple deed search. What we had not anticipated was the complexity of this enterprise, out of which arose the opportunity to tell of a much broader history of the area. In that process, several poignant stories have emerged, as well as historical accounts that have importance beyond the boundaries of the area.

The area under study is bounded on the west by the East Pearl River, which served for more than 50 years as an international boundary. France, Spain, Great Britain and the United States owned this territory as a result of gifts, wars, invasions, treaties and purchases. Consequently, the land titles in Hancock County were purchased, traded, ignored, assigned, granted, and usurped. Further complicating the matter, each Nation granted land parcels in various sizes, using different land measures, surveying protocols, and methods of registering and confirming deeds.

The research on land ownership SW Hancock County during the mid 18th to the mid-19th century is complicated by several factors.  Certainly, the fire in Pensacola, October 24, 1811 destroyed many valuable land grants pertaining to West Florida and dated between 1799 and 1811.[3]  In addition, Vincente Sebastian Pintado, the Surveyor General of Spanish West Florida between 1805 and 1817, took many important documents from the archives of the surveyor’s office relating to West Florida when he moved to Pensacola and then to Havana in 1817 (Hebert 1987:51).

The destruction of the Courthouse in Gainesville, also by fire, in 1853 destroyed many original local land records.  At the time, Gainesville was the county seat, later giving way to Shieldsborough, now called Bay St. Louis.

Hancock County, with Mississippi, finally became a state of the United States on March 1, 1817.  However, even after that time, the Spanish continued to issue certificates of surveys for land in West Florida and in portions of Louisiana (Hebert 1987:51). The United States Congress appointed a group of Commissioners in 1819 when the Adams-Onis Treaty made possible the inclusion of all of East and West Florida into the US territory to adjudicate land claims. A study of these documents reveals the often complex and confusing issue of land ownership in Hancock County.

As we began to unravel the story of land ownership in the study area, we soon encountered a growing list of owners whose historical significance, in many cases, extended far beyond the boundaries of Hancock County. While some colorful characters are most likely to interest only local readers, other settlers are clearly relevant in regional and national history.

Jean Claude Favre (1721-1782), most likely the earliest European landowner on the East Pearl River, was an Indian expert, soldier and a descendant of the earliest French explorers. One Jean Fabre, is mentioned among the “first phase of the peopling of the colony.” He is listed along with Penigaut and others as craftsmen, including carpenters, brickmakers and gunners.[4]

His son Simon, probably the first European to reside along the East Pearl River, was the first official appointed by Thomas Jefferson in West Florida after the Louisiana Purchase.  Like his father, he was often used as a translator and expert informant on the Choctaw Nation.  Spain, France and Great Britain utilized his services and recorded his activities in numerous primary documents. He probably met and assisted several historical figures like Andrew Ellicott, Bernard Romans and William Bartram.

He was the neighbor of two other prominent Indian guides residing just south of him, “Petit” Alain Rousseve and Lusser. Simon was also related to the Boisdores and Collon families, also among the earliest inhabitants to receive grants in the area.

Simon became the patriarch of several Favre families, having fathered children with white, black and Indian women. One of his descendants became the MVP in two Superbowls and will likely end up in the Football Hall of Fame.

John F. H. Claiborne, Mississippi’s most prominent historian, lived in southwestern Hancock County during the middle of the 19th century. The son of Ferdinand Claiborne, hero with Andrew Jackson during the Creek Wars, John grew cotton, traded slaves, wrote books, and spied for the Union during the Civil War. His house stood in the county until the 1960s.

George Gauld, Britain’s foremost surveyor during the second half of the 18th century, was granted land along the Pearl River, just south of Jean Claude Favre. He provided the first detailed maps and charts of the northern Gulf of Mexico for the British Navy, and was a passenger on the trip when the first accurate determination of latitude was finally completed after hundreds of years of effort. He may have been among the very first to employ that new method. His maps and charts of the Gulf are still among the most accurately drawn before modern times. Vincente Pintado, the prolific and colorful Surveyor General for Spain during the first decade of the 19th century also mapped the area and produced lasting historical documents.

The adopted son of President Andrew Jackson, Andrew Jackson Jr., and his family resided briefly in the project area. Their unfortunate stay along the Hancock County seashore is poignantly and thoroughly documented in a series of letters written between family members. His wife Sarah, an educated and proper lady from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, had served as First Lady during the second Jackson presidency. Their son Samuel died a hero at Chickamauga.

Among the other historical personages that lived in the area and whose documents shed significant light on the late 18th and most of the 19th centuries include Christian and Annette Koch whose life and marriage is detailed in numerous letters written during the Civil War. Others include Judge Daniells, early occupant of the Clifton Plantation and prominent figure in Mississippi history; the enigmatic Louis Boisdore, previous owner of Clifton and owner of a huge parcel of land which he apparently never used; Phillippe Saucier, early French settler, descendant of the first French explorers, prominent official during the last years of Spanish ownership and also patriarch of a numerous clan of current Hancock County residents; Joseph Collins, surveyor with Pintado, chief at Pensacola for the Spanish, head of the Militia, and possibly husband or father of Nancy Collins, whose name appears in the middle 1800s on numerous land parcels. Pushmahata, famous Choctaw hunter, warrior and chief, often visited the area, and numerous deeds with Choctaw names are still extant in the Hancock County courthouse.

As we learned about these past citizens of the county, we grew to respect even more those lands in southwestern Hancock County where they lived, worked, fought, and died. The sites of their homesteads, plantations, houses, farms, and stores have become for us critical archaeological sites, to be found, studied and preserved. We are thankful to all of them for writing letters and books, signing documents, registering deeds, and finally leaving on their land the material remnants of their lives for us to conserve and treasure.



Book One

 

 Section I: Early History of Hancock County: Its People and Their Land Claims

 

Chapter 1. The Deed Search

Since this project began with a deed search, it is only fitting that the “smoking Gun” deed to the most uninterrupted list of ownership for one of the most prominent concession, the Boisdore Claim, be introduced first. This document, and those associated with it, provides evidence for possession in Hancock County from the time of Bienville throughout the multinational history of the County. In the process, a number of names will repeat; further in this text, the significance of each will be addressed in separate sections.

The Boisdore family received their deed in Hancock County in 1781.[5] They were related through marriage to the Collon family, and the Favres. Like many French settlers they moved from Mobile to New Orleans to escape the British occupation of West Florida that began in 1763. They took possession of the region upon the defeat of Great Britain and the return of Spanish rule. The name Boisdore still appears on topographic maps, bayous, and in some descriptions of the Ancient Earthwork, also known as the Boisdore Fortification. Many of the early historical characters that would inhabit southwest Hancock County are mentioned in the deed transaction of Charles Souvigny and John Baptiste Roussere (or Rousseve). Among them were Bienville, Diron D’Artaguette, LaLande, Boisdore, Meminger and Collon. We will meet each one and more as we progress through our history.

 

On the 10th March 1788, twenty arpens tract by forty deep, lying on Pearl River, was granted by Stephen Miro to Charles Souvigny. The same quantity of land was granted on the 2nd of June 1788 by governor Miro to John Baptiste Roussere, Roussere having purchased the title of Charles Souvigny. The two grants were united in favor of John Baptiste Roussere by John Morales, on June 21, 1805, William Crawford, commissioner.

The original grant, dated 7 November 1733, by M. Bienville to M. Diron has not been produced, and is not mentioned except for the conveyance from Charles Marie de La Lande and his wife to Joseph Barbant de Boisedore. There is no known evidence that M. Diron was the original grantee. However, de la Lande the first seller appears to have been confirmed to Bienville by D’Abbadie, Director General of New Orleans.   The chain of title from M. Bienville to the present claimant is therefore unbroken.

Confirmed grant given by Miro (Morales), Trudeau survey, grant of Souvigny and Roussere united, 1600 arpens, 7 miles above Pearl’s mouth at Rigolets, bound by land granted to the widow Meminger, late Margaret Collon and other side vacant. Parallel boundaries run back N81d 30 m E (needle declination 8d30ne). Confirms that these grants were made 10 March and 2 June 1788 by Miro, 21 June 1805, John Ventura Morales.

 

The Boisdore claim was still being debated when the area became part of the United States in 1816. Together with their neighbors and successors, the Boisdore, Favres, Sauciers, Rousseve and Collon these families populate the County to this day. Many other settlers, British, Spanish, American and Indians are discussed throughout this book. Their land transactions, personal letters and official documents serve to put a human face on the archaeological and historical reconstruction of their lives and times from the mid-18th to the mid 19th centuries.

It is imperative in historical archaeology, to identify and delineate the land boundaries and transactions of early settlers. Historic maps, deeds, surveys and wills provide the location of buildings and the historical context for dating artifacts and features. In the project area we are fortunate to have the works of world-renowned surveyors.

The systematic mapping of the Northern Gulf Coast of Mexico or the region known as Spanish West Florida began in earnest during the British Period (1763-1781). We will depend on the works of British surveyor George Gauld and his Spanish colleagues Charles Laveau Trudeau and his assistant Vincente Pintado for many of the early plats and maps of the study area. US surveyors like Joseph Collins and Elihu Carver will enter the story as we move from the early colonial period toward the end of the Civil War. .

 

The French and the Gulf Coast Indians

 

Southwest Hancock County had been home for Native Americans for at least 3,700 years. Populating the high terraces that border the East Pearl River’s eastern shore, early Indians fished and hunted along the Gulf and up the Pearl River. They built sizable coastal villages as early as 1500-1700 BC and continued live off the natural resources of the region until the arrival of the European explorers.

 

During the long French occupation of Hancock County, (1699-1763) Native Americans were prominent inhabitants of the coast. The French maintained generally cooperative relationships with the Indians for over 60 years. . The French relied on the local tribes, mostly Choctaw and their linguistic relatives, for directions and navigational routes, alliance in battle and sustenance during times of scarcity. The Acolapissa, Bayougoula, Biloxi and Mobile tribes were the first people the French encountered along the Northwest Gulf of Mexico. The documented interactions of French explorers in the first half of the 18th century are numerous and vivid, but beyond the scope of this work. Still, a brief summary of the early French experience in and along the Gulf Coast is necessary to understand the continued influence of the Choctaw on Colonial European affairs.

From the Mississippi River to the northern Gulf Coast tribes belonging to the Choctaw linguistic group inhabited the levees, marshes and higher terraces. Among the Muskogean speaking peoples of the area mentioned in primary documents, we note the Houma, Mobile, Quinipissa (Mugulasha), Bayougoula, Acolapissa, Tangibahoa and others (Pensacola, Okelusa, Napissa) (Swanton 1922).  The Biloxi, who for a time apparently occupied land on the lower East Pearl (together with the Pascagoula), were the only local tribe that spoke a Siouxan language. Tribes along the Gulf Coast, and the Choctaw in particular throughout Mississippi and Alabama, were generally friendly and cooperative with the early French settlers.

Andre Penicault, a carpenter who spent 22 years in the new French Colony along the Gulf Coast, and who personally witnessed several key events in the earliest French exploration of the area, described in detail the first discoveries of southwest Hancock County:

We found a bay one league wide and four leagues in circumference forming a half circle. We named it Baye de St. Louis because it was St. Louis Day that we came there. This bay is eight leagues west of Fort Biloxi. We went ashore there and found a great quantity of game of all kinds of animals that we killed more than fifty wild animals (as many buffalo as deer; we made no attempt to kill more.) After three days we left that place and three leagues away we found a creek up which the tide ascends [Ed: probably the Pearl River]…Two leagues from there we found, at a quarter of a league from the seashore, a pass or small island called Passe-aux Herons, on account of the great quantity of herons found there. We quit the sea on our left, and three leagues inland we reached an island that we named Isle-aux-Pois because of a sack of peas was left behind there. We departed one hour before daybreak, which was contrary to our usual procedure, in order to avoid the stinging of an infinity of little flies or gnats that the savages called maringouins, which bite till the blood comes. The creek that we had met with flows by that place; and a quarter of a league further on, we found a big lake which M.de Bienville named Lake Pontchartrain.[6]

 

The earliest accounts of the Pearl River were written by Bienville who visited a Colapissa village located four leagues or about 10 or 12 miles above the Pearl River mouth on May 29, 1699 (Higginbotham 1969:24, 28fn translator and editor; 1969 –  “The Journal of Sauvole. His Journal of the Establishment of the French in Louisiana, by M. de Sauvole; Colonial Books, Mobile).  In Penicaut’s narrative of that exploration, he stated that they found a “….river that flows into the lake, which the savages call Taleatcha.”[7]

Iberville, in his journal entry of January 31, 1700, reported that he had ordered M. de Sauvolle “…to go and examine a river that empties 10 leagues west of the ships, to see if it is suitable for settlement.” The following April 25th, he recorded that he “left orders for Sauvolle to go to the Colapissas and oversee the Pearl fishing. (Journal de D’Iberville commandant le vaisseau La Renommee’ dans sur second voyage au Mississipi, December 1699-1700 pg.396).”[8] Previously, Bienville had been given a bag of pearls by the natives

Undoubtedly these were the same kind of pearls described by La Page Du Pratz in his chapter “Of Fishes and Shellfish.” He advised that these are excellent mussels upon the northern shore of the Lake St. Louis, especially in the River of Pearls; they may be about six to seven inches long, and sometimes contain pretty large pearls, but of no great value.”[9]

Also in 1699, Sauvole, in exploring the Mississippi River, reported a visit by thirteen “savages,” including one Choctaw.[10]  Sauvole said that the Choctaws were very numerous, having 45 villages A footnote in Sauvolle’s journal states that they numbered 15 to 20 thousand, and lived in central and south Mississippi.

On the overland trek from the Bay of St. Louis to the Pearl in 1700, Jesuit missionary Father Du Ru and others found the village of the Colapissa. Arriving on April 29th, after three days journey, he described in his journal a small village. He referred to a large village, “five leagues from here…reached only by water. The people of this little village made all sorts of friendly overtures to us and gave us what they had with great generosity. We have sent to the large village to announce our arrival and to have canoes come for us.” The next day, the canoes had not arrived, but “five singers have come on behalf of the chief to sing the calumet of peace to M. de Sauvolle…. In the village where we are, there are only six cabins and the inhabitants are forced to sleep outside to give shelter to the visitors. The ground is sandy and there are few cleared fields. All the savages undertake is to raise enough corn to maintain life. As for hunting, it is hardly worth mentioning. The buffalo and deer eat the crops and the people do not have enough spirit to kill them for food

On May 1st, after two hours on a small creek, they arrived at “…a rather broad river. The Colapissa call it the” Riviere aux Perles”[11] .  At the large village, he estimated five hundred “souls”, including 300 able-bodied men. The chief and other important leaders presented a cross to Sauvolle and extended sincere friendship. Du Ru reported on the next day, May 2nd: “we destroyed the phallic symbol in the middle of their village.”[12]

Later, in his narrative of the year 1705, Penicault recounted the Colapissa living on the banks of the Taleatcha, which McWilliams identified as the Pearl River.  McWilliams equates the Acolapissa with the Colapissa, describing them as being of Choctaw stock.[13]  There were reportedly seven villages of the Acolapissa on the Pearl River.  Penicaut twice mentions the Colapissas settling on the shore of Lake Pontchartrain, where it is known that many Choctaws were living in the 19th century. Neither the Choctaws nor the Colapissa were known to shy away from warfare. When St. Denis went off to make war against the Chetimachas, he engaged 80 warriors, partly from the Colapissas, to join his French soldiers.  For a period of seven years, 1702 to 1709, the Choctaws warred with the Alibimons, at one point combining with others to support 70 French with 1800 warriors.

Besides the cooperative efforts with some groups of Indians, there were of course difficulties with others. In the same period, the Chickasaws were at odds with the Choctaws, said to have a village containing 12,000 warriors. In 1703, according to Penicaut, 35 chiefs of the Chickasaws petitioned Bienville to mediate between themselves and the Choctaws, the latter being the more powerful. In the negotiations, the Choctaws promised always to be friends with the French. For the most part, they were true to their pledge over the years, but proved most deceitful regarding their long-standing enemies, the Chickasaws.

In 1709, 15 Choctaws defeated 50 Chickasaws. The victorious chief, Le Dos Grille, brought 30 scalps to Dartaguette, who made presents of powder and lead.  A letter dated 1729, from Diron to Maurepas, (October 17, 1729, MPA (Mississippi Provincial Archives: IV, Document 3, pg.19-31) mentions that in and around 1725, the Pascagoula and the Biloxi “and the rest of the Indians of the Pearl River went to hide themselves on the other side of Lake Pontchartrain, from which they did not return to their old villages until after the defeat of the English among the Choctaws.”.

The same letter mentions that Regis du Roulette, an ensign, set off from New Orleans with his interpreter “who does not understand the half of the Choctaw language” (MPA: I: .22) under the order of M. Perier (Governor of Louisiana from 1726-1732) to journey among the Choctaw.  Regis was apparently not well liked by Diron.  Regis arrived in Mobile 21 August 1729.  Diron, recounted:

 I continued, my lord, to warn Sieur Regis of what was going on, so that he might say nothing to the Indians that might change their good attitude. But I learned after his arrival among the Choctaws that he had caused the Indians assembled in their council to be told that I had robbed them of their presents and their trade, that I was nothing at Mobile…and the M. Perier would shortly be sending me back to France; that the French of Mobile and particularly I were all thieves, and that we were not Frenchmen like those of New Orleans…Since I do not believe M. Perier capable of having given such orders to Sieur Regis, and since he is on the contrary too prudent to cause me to lose my honor and my reputation and to expose us to the attacks that the Indians will make on us, I was not able to stop myself from complaining about these proceedings and from making the Superior Council of this colony aware of the reasons I had for it: 1. That Sieur Regis is a thoughtless person who has caused trouble from the time of M. de Bienville; 2. That since the arrival of M. Perier in this colony he has been involved in several more, of which M. Perier himself was constrained to send him to the Alabamas; 3. That he came down to this post, which is under my command, without my permission and against the express order that I had given him to stay there, in view of the necessity of the service and the nearness of the English who were there at that time….(Ibid: 22-23).

Perier, through Regis, had apparently negotiated rates for peltry with the Choctaw, costing Diron significant money (Ibid: 26).  On February 27, 1731 Regis wrote to Perier about his mission among the Choctaws (MPA: IV, Document 11, pg.58-64). Perier had apparently managed to install Regis quite firmly despite Diron’s opposition, as on November 6, 1731, he is listed as “sub-lieutenant, absent” (on detachment) carried on the roll of Lusser’s regiment at Mobile.

In 1732, Bienville sponsored the expedition of then Captain De Regis du Roullet to visit the Choctaw villages from Mobile Bay, through Jackson, Mississippi to the Pearl River.  The French captain left three journals describing his trip in great detail.[14] Regis surveyed the entire course of the Pearl River. He apparently camped near the site of Gainesville on August the 6th, 1732. He reported that the Choctaw called the Pearl River “Ecfinatcha” or “White River” (De Villiers 1923).

On August the 8th, Regis du Roullet passed the abandoned site of the Biloxi village on the Pearl River (De Villiers 1923).  The pass at the mouth of the Pearl River, opposite Goose Island, was known as Pass of Dion, possibly a corruption or variation of the governor’s name. On the other side of the Pass (east) he described “a cluster of live oaks and on an island which faces the entrance to Pearl River. This island is called Goose Island. On this day (July 14, 1732) I went and slept on Shell Island…” (De Villiers 1923:149).  Based on the Regis journals, no permanent European settlements were located along the Pearl River.  Salmon echoed Diron’s compliants when he wrote to Maurepas on February 8, 1733, (MPA IV; Doc. 27, pg. 125-128).

Sieur Regis returned with them [Choctaws] to reside at the Eouannes or Yowanis, a Choctaw village where he has remained since that time to the great displeasure of the Indians, who have often complained of his conduct and have earnestly asked that he be removed. They thought that their request was heard in the month of September, 1731, when Sieur Regis returned to New Orleans, but they were greatly surprised to see him return with a detachment of four men under the pretext of going to explore a river that flows down from Boucfouca and comes to empty into the Pearl River (126-7).

 

The problems begun long before between the French and the Chickasaws were exacerbated by the latter helping the escaping Natchez after the 1729 massacre. The culmination of the French-Chickasaw conflict was the battle of Ackia in 1736, in which at least three Frenchmen who may have been the same peronages that are listed in the earliest Hancock County deeds, to wit: Diron, Lusser and Lalande.

The Diron who died horribly at Ackia was Pierre Diron D’Artaguette, the youngest of three brothers. The middle brother was Bernard Diron D’Artaguette, an important French official and the commandant of Mobile form 1728 to 1738. Bernard received a grant of land in the study area in 1733. Of the other two who died, one, named Joseph Christophe de Lusser, is known to have owned land on the Pearl. Whether the third, namely Lalande, was related to grantee Charles Marie Lalande may never be known.[15]

 

Chapter 2.   French Personages in Hancock County History

 

 Diron D’Artaguette

Bernard Diron D’Artaguette was commandant at Mobile between 1728 and 1738. He was 13 years old when he came with his brother (Jean Baptiste Martin D’Artaguette Diron) in 1708 to serve as a cadet, remaining in Louisiana almost continuously until his transfer to Santo Domingo in 1742 were he died the same year (Connaway, MPA: IV, 16 fn2).  Other information that appears relevant, indicates that Bernard came with his two brothers, the third being Pierre, who became commander of the Illinois district. He died along with Lusser while fighting the Chickasaws; he along with 16 others were burned at the stake. This action was before the planned meeting with Bienville and his forces at Ackia,[16] where Captain De Lusser died. It is not clear in Gayarre that both actions were at the same village. Gayarre states: “The melancholy fate of D’Artaguette and his companions produced on the colony almost as painful an impression as the Natchez massacre. In the possibility that these three officers or their descendants were given land because of their service, other officers named by Gayarre at the time were: Lt. St. Ange, Ensigns De Coulanges, De la Graviere, and De Courtigny, Capt. Des Essaarts, Lt. Langlois, and Ensign Levieux. Burned among the sixteen besides D’Artaguette was an officer of regulars and a military captain Lalande.” (Charles Gayarre, History of Louisiana, v. I, pp. 470-510. )

The evidence for the ownership of land in SW Hancock County by Diron is provided indirectly in a documented sale of land from a Monsieur La Lande to Joseph Barabant de Boisedore March 10, 1788 (Report from the Commissioners…1829:143: 5).  Mentioned in the text of this transaction is an earlier French grant for this land, the future site of Logtown, showing M. Diron as the original grantee. The original grant to Diron, dated November 7, 1733, could not be produced at the 1788 sale. However, Bienville, in correspondence with D’Abbadie, Director General of New Orleans, did confirm de la Lande as the first seller of the land originally owned by Diron (Report from the Commissioners… 1829:143-A: 5)

Andre Penicault, in his journal, states that M. de Boisbriant[17] arrived in 1718 on the Duchesse De Noailles and delivered letters giving Bienville commission as Commandant-General of Louisiana. Also a letter commissioning M. Diron, the brother of M. Dartaguet as captain of a company at the Illinois (McWilliams:214, fn 16, 17; page 215 fn 18 for discussion of the Dirons). Mc Williams believes Bernar Diron, mentioned here as being commissioned was the one who eventually became inspector-general of troops in Louisiana. The older Dartaguette was the ordennateur who replaced the scrivener La Salle and left Louisiana in 1711 and was tax collector in the district of Auch in 1723. On page 215, it is reported that Boisbriant took ten boats, 100 soldiers and several officers to the Illinois country. Included were the brothers Diron, one a captain (Bernard), who stayed in the colony until 1742. Pierre Dartaguette, the lieutenant, was the one killed at the battle of Ackia in 1736.

 

Joseph Christophe de Lusser

Lusser was a Swiss captain of infantry at Mobile.  It is recorded that he had “a brilliant colonial career, pursued entirely at Mobile, where he acquired a remarkable knowledge of the Indians of the hinterland.” He was married to the widow Bonille, and had a family of seven children.  In addition to other activities, he opened a tar works in 1724.  With five or six workers under his command, he was assigned in 1726 to the site of Fort Conde, not yet complete. Later, in 1732, superiors found it necessary “to enter a new contract with Lusser…to resume and complete ‘all the works with masonry and earth that remained to be done at the fort at Mobile.’[18]  He was sent by Bienville in 1735 to establish Fort Tombecbe as a forward supply base for the first Chickasaw campaign and was killed in the French and Choctaw attack on the Chickasaw village of Chuckafalaya near Ackia in the Illinois country in 1736.[19] (MPA: IV, doc. 5, pg. 35 fn. 9; see footnote 11.)

 

Joseph Barbeau dit Boisdore and Louis Barbant Boisdore

The Boisdore claim in southernmost Hancock County was contested for 67 years. The Boisdores were apparently old family with properties in Mobile and New Orleans.[20]

There is evidence in the Rousseve and Souvigny deeds from 1788 that Joseph Barbant de Boisdore had attained the deed to the land owned by Charles Marie LaLande. There is no mention of a date.  Joseph Barbeau dit Boisdore was most likely the father of Luis, John and Anthony[21]. He married the sister of Marguerite Wiltz, wife of Jean Claude and mother to Simon Favre, in 1747. But possibly only briefly since two years later there is a record of a marriage contract of Joseph Barland called Boisdore, native of Mobile, and Mary Jean Deslandis, widow of Chas. Rochon[22] in 1749 (New Orleans Genesis, vol. 8; 326-334)

Luis Boisdore was given land by Miro at Mosquitto Village, in fact most of the land south of  Philip Saucier extending to Bay St. Louis (April 1, 1783). Luis also purchased the plantation of Baptiste Saucier, 12 February 1781, which he later transferred to John Chastang for four cows and their calves 7 October 1784.

Joseph may have moved to New Orleans after leaving his plantation to his sons, possibly in advance of the British occupation of West Florida. He (or someone with his name) may be the one living with his wife on the left side of St. Ursulle St. in New Orleans in 1778. At that time Joseph Boisdore and his wife were both over 49 years old, had 5 slaves, and no occupation listed. Ten years earlier Joseph was mentioned in a lawsuit in 1768 (Court case Joseph Boisdore versus Jean Villanave, 1768. In NO Genesis vol. 3, January 1964, no. 9).

The Boisdore family was clearly more allied with the Spanish than the British. When Spain re-occupied Hancock County in 1781, prior French interests were restored. Luis Boisdore, probably the son of Joseph, was granted claim to what was his father’s original claim in the southwest portion of Hancock County.  The area granted was known as Achoucoupoulous and stretched from Bayou of Muschettoe Village to Phillip Saucier, and had been formerly inhabited by Mr. Lussen  (American State Papers 1789-1809, Public Lands 1, Class VIII, page 6). Boisdore wanted to use the land for a plantation and a vacherie or cow pen.

There are at least two Luis Boisdores:  The one to whom Governor Estevan Miro granted a tract of land along the Gulf Coast from Bayou of Mosquito Village (presently Mulatto Bayou) to Bay St. Louis on April 1, 1783 was probably Louis Boisdore, a gunsmith from New Orleans (Swanson n.d.; page 286, Plat).  The other Louis or Luis was Louis Barbant Boisdore, merchant of New Orleans. We find that John and Anthony, his brothers, sell the plantation inherited from his father in St. Louis, north of Mobile 19 July 1759.  Apparently the same year his father left his plantation to his sons, Luis married (Marriage Contract of Louis Barband Boisdore widower of Marie M. Devert, 1759, (NO Genesis vol. 3, January 1964, no. 9).

Luis must have re-married, as after his death in 1788, his widow Marguerite Doussin petitioned both the Spanish and American for confirmation of the Boisdore claim. The same Luis was probably a militiaman in New Orleans in 1770 (From Robichaux, 1973:12).  In a document dated 12 September 1770 we read of the Four Companies of militia of New Orleans. Fusiliers (Fourth Company) and that Luis Boisdore lived in House no. 11, Rear of City: Louis Boisdore. Total 324 signed by O’Reilly. On December 31, 1779, Luis Boisdore is mentioned as city steward in New Orleans (Kuntz Collection, Tulane 1981).

The other Luis Boisdore was dead well before the land claims were confirmed. Luis Boisdore’[23], (possibly a brother of Joseph’s) was a sergeant was killed during an ambush by a party of Chickasaws Indians on August 1, 1754. He fell near Natchez under the impetuous leadership of Sieur de La Morliere. This lieutenant disregarded the advice of the Ofogoulas Indians, members of the party, who were attempting to recover four had kidnapped women. The event is vividly described in official correspondence:

La Morliere “Made impatient by the delay and by the behavior of the Indians in such a case, did not wait for the agreed signal to present himself with his troops. The enemies, hidden in the reeds, singled them out and fired their volley at them. Sieur de La Morliere was the first to be killed by several gunshots. The Indians of our party, seeing their precautions made useless, decamped each in his own direction. The soldiers held out for some time, notably the man named Boisdors, sargeant, who was overwhelmed by numbers, covered with wounds. After the most stubborn resistance and after having used up all his ammunition [he] sold the rest of his life for knife blows.”[24]

 

Clealry boisdore was a prominent citizen in the area. The bayou presently called Mulatto is often also called Bayou Boisdore as seen in documents dated from 1788 and 1828 respectively. (American State Papers, Public Lands, Vol. V, :784-5; Swanson, 1988).  It may be that the Boisdores never moved on the land, even though Boisdore is credited with building the “Claiborne House” in 1800.  Luis apparently died in 1788 (Succession of Louis Boisdore, 1788; NO Genesis, no. 14, 124-132) and his widow would attempt, with marginal success to confirm the original deed first with the Spanish authorities and after with the US officials.  Augustin Mallet is mentioned as the caretaker of the Boisdore claim, in the original deed.

 

 Rousseve, Jean Baptiste, dit Allain

 

An early inhabitant of Logtown was Jean Baptiste Rousseve, dit Allain, who like the Favres, his negihbors, was a fairly well known interpreter of Muskhogean for the French, (cf. MPA IV Louboey to Maurepas November 28, 1738 Page 158 fn. 4. "Little Allain" worked as interpreter with Lusser in 1730 (MPA: FD I, 85). He would have been the son of the settler Pierre Rousseau dit Allain who settled in Mobile as a master edge tool maker as early as 1708 and who appears on the 1726 census with a wife and three children (AC, G1, 464 n.p.) Thus he is Jean Baptiste Allain who appears in the Mobile Baptismal records of October 10, 1732, as "interpreter for the King". From then he appears most often as Jean Baptiste Rousseve or Rouceve (vol. IV Doc. 59, no. 16).

Speaking of him: Louboey, the King’s Lieutenant, to Maurepas October 6, 1745: "He (Rousseve) is a prudent and sensible lad who knows them [Choctaw] all, since he was brought up among them and has a perfect command of the language" Sieur Rousseve “an interpreter for the Choctaw nation, was sent by Louboey on behalf of M. de Vaudreuil to “ask them the reason that is obliging them [Choctaws?] to break their promise” Louboey to Maurepas MPA IV, Doc. 59, pg 233-242.

Sieur Rousseve, the “interpreter of Mobile” sent last summer for M.de Vaudreuil (Louboey to Maurepas February 8, 1746) carrying messages and reporting on affairs of Choctaw during initial stages of the Eastern Choctaw “rebellion” against the French, led by Red Shoe and Mongoulacha Mingo, medal chiefs of the Chickasawhays. (Connaway fn. Pg. 263 “It is clear from the context that the Red Shoe who is referred to here is the famous one, who was chief of Couechitto, not the Chickasawhay. Mongoulacha Mingo was the Chickasawhay medal chief.”).   On October 13, 1745, Vaudreuil ordered in a letter that the peltry trade at Mobile was to be given “to the interpreter Rouceve.”[25]

Rousseve, Interpreter for the King, accompanied M. de Beauchamp to the Choctaws September 1746. Beauchamp’s Journal MPA IV:Doc. 65 pg. 269-297). Journal of the Journey of M. de Beauchamp (dated September 16 to October 19, 1746) knight of the military order of St. Louis, major of Mobile to the Choctaws, carrying out an order of M.Vaudreil, governor of the Province of Louisiana. For the purpose of engaging that nation to give us satisfaction for the murder of three of our Frenchmen, a cadet with anglets, a soldier and a trader, on the fourteenth of August, 1746, by order of Imataha Chitto (Red Shoe), medal chief of that nation who has rejected the French to give himself over to the English in the hope of getting a greater advantage.

Rousseve here is spelled Rouceve. In the journal of Beauchamps there are also several mentions of Pouchimataha, chief of Toussana. Rousseve assisted in extensive negotiation with the Eastern tribes, Alibamas and Chiefs from Sixtown to gain support against Red Shoe. Meetings held in the Chicksawhay village. Kerlerec to Peirene de Moras, October 20, 1757 MPA: V, Doc 51. Mentions Sieur Rousseve, King’s Interpreter at Mobile (page 187).

Rousseve is mentioned in documents that relate the incident that occurred at Cat Island where Kerlerec had placed “a little patrol-boat post…in order to have early warning of enemy scouting and their movements.” (Ibid: 185). There were thirteen men, including one officer, Sieur Duroux, a French sergeant, a Swiss corporal and five each Swiss and French soldiers “enough to row two boats, the first to report the actions of the enemy to me, the second to inform me of the direction that they would take to attack us…” (Ibid: 185). Kerlerec (?) mentions Jean Baptiste Baudreau, settler of the mainland and in the neighborhood of said island. Led a rebellion after being detained for plundering goods from a shipwrecked Spanish ship “loaded with food and other provisions for the Presidio at Pensacola”. Baudreau, with seven Swiss and French soldiers headed for the English territory but six weeks after escaping was captured by some Indians [probably Alabamas] “who were led by Sieur Rousseve, King’s interpreter at Mobile, and some picked inhabitants.” (186-187).

 

  Jean Claude Favre (d1782)

 

Local “legend” mentions the Favres as being among the first cabin boys left by Iberville to learn Indian languages [from Penicaut, Fleur de Lys Chickasaw ask for young French boy, and Iberville gives them 14 year old St. Michel who already spoke well the language of the Oumas “qui est la mesme chose que le Chicachas” (:68 fn 15). [Note 15 mentions that this was one of six cabin boys that Iberville left in Louisiana to study Indian languages so that they could serve as interpreters.] This might account for the Favre’s long service as Indian interpreters, beginning with Jean Baptiste who is shown living with the Apalachies in 1721.

The Favres were owners of one of the earliest, if not the earliest documented land grant, near the project area.  The original deed consisted of 640 acres in Section 37, T8R16W) directly north of the Challon Claim (Jackson Court House District Land Records, 1820-1847: Certificate # 12).  The British Government in West Florida granted it to John Claudius Favre on December 18, 1767

At around the same time, the British granted 500 acres of land along the Pearl River to Jean Claude Favre.  Jean Claude, born on April 16, 1721, was the son of Jean Baptiste Favre, one of the earliest French settlers in Mobile (Heitzman). The elder Favre, who died in 1725, was apparently very familiar with the local Indians. The 1721 census of Fort Louis de la Mobile shows Jean Baptiste living in the village of the Apalachies (Heitzman).

Jean Claude Favre, a new British subject from Mobile, married Marguerite Wiltz (b 1740, d7/28/1805) on June 7, 1759. She was the daughter of Marie Anne Colon. Her sister Marguerite Colon married Joseph Barbeau dit Boisdore, a Canadian on October 13, 1747.  Together with the Favres, members of the Colon and Boisdore families would be the earliest non-Native settlers of the East Pearl River region of Hancock County. Apparently relations between the Favres and Boisdores were not always cordial as seen in a lawsuit brought in 1776 by Luis Boisdore versus Jean Favre. . Louis Boisdore filed the suit against Jean Favre in New Orleans over a slave named “Luison.” This case continued until 1783 when Widow Favre settles with Boisdore. Succession suit indicates that Jean Claude died around 1782. Marguerite Wiltz died 7/28/1802 at 65 (cf. LHQ October 1928, vol. II, no. 4: 668; St. Louis Cathedral Record of Interments (1793-1803) page 115 Act 1019) (11).(This would seem to be more authoritative than above, as record cutting off at 1803 could not include her as dying in 1805, as above)

Jean Claude had served France as translator during a critical transitional the meeting between the French and British with the Choctaw chiefs November 14, 1763.  Minutes of Council with Choctaw, MPA V: Document 81, November 14, 1763. The British Governor of Mobile, Robert Farmar, met with d’Abbadie, Director General and commandant of the French at Mobile “desiring to cooperate reciprocally…[as] stipulated in article seven of the treaty of peace concluded on the tenth of February 1763…we have agreed …for the said articles to be made known and included under the name and territory of the region of the Alabamas, particularly the Kawitas, Abihkas, Chiachas, Kasihtas, and other dependents of the Kawitas, and finally the Talapoosas and Alabamas. This shall be accomplished by several separate assemblies, some for the above-mentioned Choctaw nation only, and the others for those known under the name of Alabamas, observing so far as possible that the above-mentioned Choctaws and Alabama Indians shall not be at Mobile together.” (Ibid :294).The speech was interpreted by Sieur Favre, interpreter maintained by his very Christian majesty, according to his certificate below, to the Indians of the Choctaw nation assembled for that purpose in the presence of the two governors of New Orleans and of Mobile and of the respective officers of the two crowns…” (Ibid: 299-300).

The same year as the Favre grant, an incident is reported of “marauding Choctaws killing cattle of the settlers (Ware and Rea: George Gould); it was said that they attacked from Pascagoula to Pearl River, driving families from the Bay of St. Louis to Cat Island [26].  Perhaps theBritish attempted to quell the Native unrest by sending Jean Claude Favre. Simon, his son, would be a prominent Indian informant and guide for the American, Spanish and British governments.  At the time of the land grant, Simon Favre, eldest son of Jean Claude and Marguerite Wiltz was only 7 years old. It is Simon who is widely reputed to have been the first European settler in the area.  Governor Chester, writing about the land where Favre settled, observed, “The Land here is not extraordinarily high but seemingly fertile upon the Banks and back it is Pine Barren, the Trees of which are large and fit for Turpentine.”

 

 Phillipe Saucier  

 

On the first of May, 1747, Philippe was born to Henry Saucier and Barbe (nee La Croix). The godparents were Jean Baptiste Rousseau and Jeanne Fontanille. (fn. 11 Little Red Church records, Louisiana State Museum). Although one page later (:141) he also states “On March 13, [1748] Cesar Phillippe was born to Francois Saussier and Jeanne Fontaille.

The Phillip Saucier Claim No 21, according to the Land Office, Jackson Court House, August 1923 consistted of:

West half of section 6 in T8 R12W the SE 2 of Section 1 T8R13W SW 2 sect. 31 T7R12W and so much of the NW of same section 800 arpens.

Francois Saucier was a draftsman and engineer. In 1738 he reconnoitered the distance between the Yazoo and Tombigbee rivers for the second Chickasaw campaign; he served in several posts and was engineer at Fort Toulouse, where a daughter was born to his wife Marie Jeanne Fontaille in 1749. He is mentioned as an engineer at Mobile September 25, 1741 (Louboey to Maurepas MPA IV: Doc. 43, 189).In 1751 he was transferred to Illinois to become the architect pf a new Fort Chartres; he died there in 1757 (Connaway MPA: IV: pg 101 fn.1).

Saucier is listed as an Assistant Engineer sent by Vaudreuil to assess state of fort at Mobile October 25, 1748 (Bobe’ Descloseaux to Maurepas MPA IV: Doc.77, 330). Later hs is sent to assess state of fort at Alabamas (November 5, 1748, Vaudreuil to Maurepas, MPA IV: Doc. 78:336). It is said that the Claiborne house was says Francois Saucier built the house in 1800 (Seacoast Echo).

WPA says John B. Saucier in 1712 settled Mulatto Bayou; 1780 Title confirmed by Spaniard. This could have been the Jean Saussier who came early on to the colony after his father’s death.[27]  Another reference is to “a soldier called Jean-Baptiste Saucier or Saussier, a Canadian who came to Louisiana with Iberville and died in 1716. His widow, Gabrielle Savary, “followed the profession of midwife, at the same timecarrying on some commercial activity, and managed to bring up her children, one of whom, Francois saussier, became an engineer, with the help of the Capuchins.”[28]

 

Charles Marie de La Lande

La Lande was a leading early citizen of Mobile with landholdings neighboring the Rochons on the Dog River, which enters Mobile Bay on the west side.  He served as clerk and warehouse keeper at Fort Toulouse for a time after 1722, then as warehouse keeper at Mobile until his retirement in 1747. (Connoway, MPA: IV: 191 fn 6)

La Lande and his wife confer (?) to Joseph Barbant Boisdore land claim they had gotten from Diron.  Perhaps an ascendant of La Lande was Jacques La Lande, who is mentioned in a letter of 1700 as having married an Indian woman in the Illinois settlements. A Jesuit officiated. The statement is made that there was hardly anyone among the first inhabitants of the area who did not marry an Indian.[29]

 

 

 Chapter 3. Choctaw Support of French

 

In the short span of about one hundred years, the Choctaw nation’s status changed from being an essential aide to the French to an enormous problem for the Americans. From the beginnings of French settlement, they were essential as guides, traders, and warriors, and they were numerous and powerful when the settlers were few and barely surviving. But as the French grew in numbers and wealth, an exchange of position took place. By 1813, Governor W.C.C. Claiborne was expressing doubts about their friendship: “Should Louisiana be invaded, the Creeks & the Choctaws will unquestionably be united against us.”[30] And finally, the American sought a 19th century version of the “final solution” by having the Choctaws cede all their lands to the government, leading to their wholesale removal.

In a French map dated 1732, published in 1752, there appears what must have been an Indian path that begins just west of Bayou Caddy, then crosses that Bayou heading roughly northwest, and somewhere north of the Bay of St. Louis, runs north. There are indicated eight very small inlets between Bayou Caddy and Pearl River, about the same number of small waterways showings on current nautical maps. While the existence of such an Indian path may be puzzling, it may have been the land route east from the Mulatto Bayou area. This could have traversed what is now called Point Clear Island but is not an island at all, but land of some elevation running west from Bayou Caddy and separating two marshes. The path might well have included the known Rangia shell midden just north of the mouth of Bayou Caddy on the east bank.

It is evident in Penicaut that as early as 1713, Choctaws were having difficulty with the English. Even though they had been trading with an English trapper, they subsequently turned on him, killing him and stealing his possessions.

As stated above, the Choctaws were essentially loyal to the French, but there were isolated accounts early on to bring caution. Penicaut (in McWilliams) reported that in advance of the Natchez uprising on 1729, Governor Perier “…sent M. le Sueur to the Choctaws, to engage them on our side against the Natchez; in which he succeeded without difficulty. The reason for their readiness to enter into this design was not then understood, it being unknown that they were concerned in the plot of the Natchez to destroy all the French, and that it was only to be avenged of the Natchez, who had taken the part of them, and not given them sufficient share of the booty…the Choctaws at length arrived in the month of February near the Natchez, to the number of fifteen or sixteen thousand men…”.

Between 1745 and 1748, there were two factions among the Choctaws, leading to civil war within the tribe. Red Shoes, “a very audacious, troublesome fellow, and a great rascal” headed one side.  The Chickasaws and the English against the French, refusing to attend a meeting in Mobile where presents were handed out annually and where he French and Choctaws were to pledge continuing friendship, influenced him. With his own hand, he tomahawked a French officer and two French traders. His faction caused considerable problems within the German settlement above New Orleans, killing several settlers. The French defeated his faction in a battle at Bayou St. John near New Orleans, and Red Shoes was subsequently killed. By 1750, only two of the Choctaws nation’s thirty-two villages remained committed the English (Claiborne, Ms as a Prov. 86-88). By the time the French were forced to relinquish their rights to the lands along the Gulf Coast, the Choctaw were a prominent and influential Nation. Transitioning their lands, their alliances and their trade network to the British was a delicate task for the French, and to the Choctaw, it was a very confusing and disturbing event.

After the Treaty of Paris, signed on March 10, 1763, there was a succession of owners of the study area.  France ceded that part of Louisiana east of the Mississippi (except for the “Isle d’Orleans”) to England.  Similarly, Spain, an ally of France, ceded her colonies in East and West Florida to Great Britain so she could retain Cuba, occupied by the British during the war.[31] Pensacola became the provincial seat of British government in West Florida. A British garrison and military government were established in Mobile.

France ended her influence in the New World by ceding her western lands (“Isle of New Orleans”) and other French territory in Louisiana to Spain. This action favored the original French settlers whose land claims in West Florida were generally supported by Spanish officials after the defeat of the British military along the Northern Gulf of Mexico coast.

Spain later fought England, and in 1799 Don Bernardo de Galvez attacked and conquered British forts at Mobile, Baton Rouge and Pensacola.  West Florida, including this seacoast, was thus surrendred to Spain. [32]  The Director-General of Louisiana at that time was Jean-Jacques-Blaise D’Abbadie, who was charged with the obligation to devote “the greatest attention to maintain good relations with the [Indian] tribes and to avoid the problems which a change of domination could occasion.” [33]

 In the short period of D’Abbadie’s administration, 1763-4, he did not have to go out of his way to maintain good relations with the Choctaws. On no fewer than five occasions, the Choctaw chiefs came to him, expressing their inability to become accustomed to the absence of the French, and to assure D’Abbadie of their continued attachment to the French. One visit, on December 11, 1764, is described in D’Abbadie’s journal:

I spoke to the Choctaws in the presence of Chevalier Lindsay, commander of the British squadron, and Messrs. Stuart and Maclellan. My words to the Indians included only a recommendation for peace and union, which must prevail between the redmen and the whites. The savages assured me of their attachment to the French. They extended compliments to the English officers, and they complained bitterly to them about the terrible treatment, which they experienced at the hands of the British traders who call upon them. They beat them with clubs, steal their horses, and debauch their women…they demonstrated their concern over the delay of the presents that the British had promised them…. An elder from this band reproached the British, stating that he had been told by persons who speak the truth that they (the British) were bound to poison and destroy the Choctaw nation.

 

Such problems for the English had not been the intention of D’Abbadie. Troubles for the Choctaws and other nations were inherent, however, in a simple entry in his journal in November 1763. Writing of his visit with the British officer Robert Farmar, who was to take command of  Mobile, he said “…we have indicated how advantageous it will be to our common interests to await the convocation of the Indians which I have set primarily to arrive at an agreement concerning what will be done with them [the Choctaws].” It is obvious that the meeting was not set for the purposes of the Choctaws, but rather for the designs of the Europeans. This one statement was, in a sense, prophetic of the miseries of the Choctaws, and other tribes, for many years to come.

As they were preparing to relinquish their colonial territories, French diplomats were concerned about the Indians for two reasons. First, should the Choctaws, their long term allies against the British, riot, the British would blame the French. If the Choctaws, however, attacked the French, the French would need to partner with the British to stay safe. To this end they took pains to explain to the British their limited ability to control the Choctaws and Alibamas who may not understand what being “transferred” to another “emperor” meant in terms of behavior. The local Indians were still a considerable international power and merited logistical respect. The care and concern for the fate of the Choctaws living in the lands that went to Britain in 1763 is evident in documents from Jean-Jacques-Blaise D’Abbadie, the director-general of Louisiana at that time. As stated above, he had been charged with the obligation to devote “the greatest attention to maintain good relations.”  Unlike their relationship with the French, the Choctaws had a more contentious and aggressive attitude toward the English.

Section II  –  British Rule

 

Chapter 4 – British Control of West Florida

 

The British and their ally Prussia emerged victorious from the “Great War for the Empire” (1754-1763), known in North America as the French and Indian War (1756-1763). Initially, France and Britain fought each other until the French attack on Hanover, and brought to the British side the western German States of Brunswick and Hesse-Cassel.

Spain joined the war on the side of France in 1762 as they invaded Portugal, an ally of England. This war was different from the Seven Years War begun in central Germany in 1756 “over issues having nothing to do with those that precipitated the war already in progress” (Britannica: vol 9, 864).

In the Seven Years War, Prussia and England were allied against Russia, Sweden and most of the southern German states allied to France. The two wars were terminated by different treaties: the Treay of Paris ended the “Great War for the Empire,” and the Treaty of Hubertusburg in Germany ended the Seven Years War.

The Great War started over issue of who owned the upper Ohio Valley, and eventually the entire mid-section of North American.  The North American phase of the War ended when the governor general of French Canada, the Marquis de Vaudreuil, surrendered Montreal and Canada to the British September 8, 1760. In 1762, British and American colonial forces captured Spanish Havana, November 13, 1762   <?> Act of Acceptance of Louisiana by Charles III of Spain (Connaway’s Provincial Archives, vol. V, document 75, page 281). On November 3, 1762, as an effort to restore Bourbon political ties, Charles III of Spain received, as a gift, the Louisiana Territory from his cousin Louis XV of France. The deal was announced in October of 1764, under the Treaty of Fountainbleau, which was secretly signed in 1762 (Huber 1971)

The losers, France, Austria and Russia, had lured Spain into the War just one year before its conclusion. As a result of their military victory, Great Britain acquired extensive portions of American territory through the Treaty of Paris in 1763 (Xv-xvi., Ware)

The King of England, by royal proclamation on October 7, 1763, designated the boundaries of British Florida and divided the newly acquired southern territory into two provinces: East and West Florida. West Florida was bounded on the east by [the Apalachicola River], on the south by Lakes Pontchartrain and Maurepas and the Iberville River, on the west by the Mississippi, and in due course, by a northern parallel drawn from the confluence of the Mississippi and the Yazoo rivers…Spanish Pensacola was preferred over French Mobile as the seat of government for West Florida.”: xvi (Ware).

In 1764 these boundaries were extended from the mouth of Yazoo River to Chattahoochee River, then to mouth of the Apalachicola River, west along the Gulf, through Lake Borgne and Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Maurepas, up the Amite River along Bayou Iberville to Mississippi River and up to the Yazoo River. In 1766 George Johnstone was Governor of West Florida and Brigadier General Taylor, the Commander of the Southern District.

Peter Chester, provincial British governor in 1773, pointed out, “Those tracts which have been applied for since my arrival in the Province, have only been Granted to such persons as gave me the strongest assurances, in Council, of their intentions to Cultivate and Improve them, excepting such as have been granted in consequence of His Majesty’s Orders inn <sic> Council, and in consequence of His Proclamation of 1763, to reduced Officers who had served during the late War in North America.”

 

George Gauld, Surveyor 1764-1781

 

During this time, exploration and mapping of the Mississippi and Breton Sounds became a British military priority.  George Gauld, the Surveyor for the British Government in West Florida (1764-1781), began mapping the northern Gulf Coast in 1768.

Gauld was on the sailing trip that proved measurement of longitude. This was accomplished as he sailed on the Tartar from Portsmouth for Barbados March 28, 1764. (: 16) “When Tartar arrived at Barbados, May 13, it ended a voyage that was a milestone in maritime history”: 17. One of the passengers was William Harrison, son of Yorkshire carpenter-turned-clockmaker John Harrison, whose work finally made it possible for the navigator to determine his longitude accurately at sea: “the immediate importance of this historic event was not lost on George Gauld, as the records of his subsequent surveys and cartography disclose.” (17) (Ware and Rea)

Gauld describes Bay St. Louis on August 31, 1768. “Toward the entrance to Lake Pontchartrain, Gauld encountered the small compact Bay of St. Louis, which had only seven or eight feet of water. The land was ‘pretty good, especially for pasturage,’ Gauld wrote, but the several settlers had been forced to leave in 1767 because of marauding Choctaws who killed their cattle. About three leagues farther on were ‘Les Isles aux Malheureaux and some others’ two of which he identified on his field sheets as ‘St. Joseph’s Island’ and “Heron Island’…”: (Ware and Rea, page 111) [34]

In August 1769 Gauld recorded only native habitations along the shores of Lake Maurepas. On the British side of the lake he found a village of Pascagoula Indians and immediately south of the Houmas River was a village of the Biloxi tribe: 123 Ware and Rae), cf. Gauld “Field Sheets… and “A General Description…” 5-7

Gauld eventually surveyed, sounded, and charted Lake Borgne, Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Maurepas, the Rigolets, Chef Menteur, Pass Manchac, the Pearl River, Bonfuca Creek, the Lacombe River, the Tickfaw River, the Natalbany River, and the Iberville River (Ware and Rea 1982). Gauld ascended the several branches of the Pearl River around 1769. He noted that all the inhabitants had settled on the right bank of the western branch of the river and, without exception, had chosen the land of the opposite bank for their rice plantations (Ware and Rea 1982). Gauld does not record any settlements on the East Pearl in Hancock County, except for the Farve Claim.

Another priority for the British was the settlement of the area. Up to this time there apparently were no permanent European settlements along the East Pearl in Hancock County. The French had mostly used the area for hunting and as a stopping place on their normal route between Mobile and New Orleans. Regis Du Roulet’s survey had encountered no permanent settlements in 1732 (?). Apparently there were no good maps left by the French. Only evidence of French deed in the area is found in the Boisdore deed of …when the following are mentioned. Phillip Saucier may have been an original claimant. Gauld does not record any settlements on the East Pearl in Hancock County, except for the Farve Claim.  The British Government, intent on populating the newly acquired lands, granted free land to officers and soldiers.

West Florida was formed October 7, 1763, with Pensacola as the Capital.  The first governor was a Scot, George Johnston, who in 1763-1766 provided free grants of land to retired British officers and soldiers. Officers received 5,000 acres; Captains 3,000 acres; soldiers, 300 acres. He changed many of the Spanish and French names on the grants[35]. (Stanley, Arthur C. The Story of the West Florida Rebellion.)

Among the persons granted lands along the Pearl River were Peter Chester,[36] Captain General and Governor in Chief at Pensacola who was granted 1000 acres in 1776 and George Gauld himself. Gauld’s land grant in Hancock County consisted of 2,000 acres “on the Northeast side of the East Branch of the Pearl River about seven leagues the Mouth” (Ware and Rea 1982).

Gauld was very familiar with the offshore islands of Mississippi Sound, the river estuaries, and the settlements on their lower reaches; he was able, as few others could, to make a wise and enlightened judgment of the lands adjacent to these waterways. On May 24, 1776, Gauld submitted to governor Chester and his council a document stating:

 

…that your petitioner having resided chiefly in this province since its first establishment and being desirous of making a settlement on the east branch of the Pearl River…requests that two thousand acres of land may be granted him. Your petitioner begs leave humbly to mention not only his service for the good of the province, as surveyor of the harbours and seacoasts, but likewise several other extra services for which he never had or required any consideration, though executed at considerable expense and trouble to himself. And as your petitioner has formerly made application for very little land in the province, he therefore humbly hopes that your Excellency will grant his request.[37]

 

The land was surveyed on November 7, 1776, by Elias Durnford and granted by Governor Chester on December 12 of the same year (Lowrie and Franklin 1834).  John Payne, Gauld’s assistant and pilot, also secured a 2000-acre grant on the Pearl River at this time.  Payne’s claim was half a mile below the Gauld claim and a quarter of a mile from the Le Favres Plantation. The Pearl River settlements were growing, and other prominent West Floridians were establishing plantations in the rich bottomland at this time (Ware and Rea 1982:192) During the American Revolution, loyalist migration swells population of West Florida, to perhaps twice its pre-revolutionary size (Ware and Rea 1982:202).

It is not known whether any of the British landowners cultivated or improved their land claims. We know the fate of a few of these early owners of Hancock County. On June 20, 1776, John Payne was removed from Gauld’s vessel to serve as the pilot of the H.M.S. Diligence, and took over the West Florida May of 1779 (Ware and Rea 1982: 173,185). Payne was killed on September 10, 1779 during a battle with the Spanish boat, the privateer Morris, commanded by an ex-British merchant, turned American naval officer, in service to the Spaniards (Ware and Rea 1982:212

Bernard Romans

Exploration of the region continued during the late 18th century. Bernard Romans in 1772 explored the area and made a map of West Florida showing the Bay of St. Louis and Biloxi, but no towns along the Pearl (Romans 1962; Sullivan 1985). Surveys were made “about to St. Louis Bay, as well as Horn and Ship islands” (page 146); surveys included the Chandeleurs, St. Louis Bay and the Pearl River’s several mouths; by 1776, surveys  progressed  to Pearl River and Ship island[38].

It is doubtful that the Choctaws would have suspected the duplicity of the French, for honesty was their nature. Bernard Romans, in 1775, expressed his “great opinion of the Choctaws faithfully performing their promises…They detest a liar and show gratitude to a man that keeps his word.” In his travels in 1771, he reported passing through 70 Choctaw towns.

In 1784, Thomas Hutchins, the British geographer, spoke of his 1769 exploration of the Pearl River,  “…which rises in the Chactaw <sic> nation, and is navigable upwards of 150 miles…In the year 1769, there were some settlements on this river, where raised tobacco, indigo, cotton, rice, Indian corn, and all sorts of vegetables. The land produces a variety of timber fir for pipe and hogshead staves, masts, yards, and all kind of plank for ship building.” He mentions that the land is covered “with canes, oaks, ash, mulberry, hickory, poplar, cedar and cypress,” but strangely did not include pine.[39] This omission, along with the mention of the Choctaw may indicate a more northerly area

 

Peter Chester, provincial British governor in 1773

On June 16, 1774, Jerome Matulick on river Mobile, conveyed and released to Peter Chester land west of Bay St. Louis, track was to run east and west containing 1 league in length or about, bounded on one side by a Bayou forming an island, land granted to Mr. Frances Henry du Planty by Messers de Vaudreuil and Le Normand, gov. and ordinat. 1747 to him du Planty sold to Matulick 11 April 1762, 4,659 acres. Item 335, Record of Evidence Filed with the Board of Land Commissioners, 1813-14, volume 202-204.

On May 25, 1779, Peter Chester confered to Alexander McIntosh all that land on seacoast   eight leagues west of Deer Island, eight miles NNW of Cat Island, from Bear Point to Bay St. Louis. Peter Chester, Esq., was Captain General and Governor in Chief at Pensacola.  Elias Durnford was the surveyor.

 

Bartram Visit, 1777

 

William Bartram visited Englishman named Rumsey, who owned place at mouth of Pearl; he also visited Simon Favre (Napier 1985:25).

In 1776 William Bartram explored the mouth of the Pearl River by boat from Mobile with an aged Frenchman bound for his Pearl River Plantation. However, before he could explore the river itself, Bartram became ill and was forced to recover at the home of an Englishman named Rumsey, who lived on Pearl Island, a six mile stretch of sandy plain and salt marshes at the Lake Borgne end of the Rigolettes (Weddle 1995:59-60).

 

(February 1781) Louis LeClarc Milfort

 

From: Memoirs or a Quick glance at my various travels and my sojourn in the Creek Nation. Translated and edited by Ben C. McCary. The Beehive Press, Savannah 1959.

Milfort left to go to Mobile and stayed at Mobile’s fort “ruled” by the French Creole Favrot in the service of the King of Spain.  He went on to Pascagoula, which he described as a town of gypsies and Indians with few French Creole; mostly carpenters He proceeded up Pearl River where French Creoles had plantations,[40] then to New Orleans by way of Lake Pontchartrain and Bayou St. Jean, which had a wooden fort at its mouth built by the French. Cannons were present.  The fort was two leagues from New Orleans (40).  Milfort, who became Tastanegy or Great War chief, writing in the 1780s, described the Choctaws:

 Choctaw were divided into two provinces, north ad south which differ greatly among each other (123). They like to wear bells; their women put rings in their nasal septum as do many other Indians, and they attach to the ring a pear shaped pendant. When one dies, the relatives erect a scaffold 25’ opposite the front door. The person is placed on it in a buffalo blanket and left for 6-8 months. Each morning women go around and weep. Priest then climbs it strips skin with fingernails. Flesh is burned and bone bundle given to relatives. Relatives examine them to make sure none are missing (125) then place them in a chest, and then with torches lit, the closest relative carries the bundle into the burial cabin (family tomb). While the priest is skinning the dead, the relatives cook meat for a feast. Bundle of flesh burned with great cries of joy while body is still on scaffold.

 

Section III _ The Spanish Period

 

 

Chapter 5 –   1779: Invasion of West Florida by Spain

 

One of the last land claims conferred by the British in the study area went to Alexander McIntosh[41]. Only three months following this action, on 1779, August 27, Bernardo de Galvez launched his attack on West Florida. Among the first casualties of this battle was John Payne, neighbor and associate of George Gauld.

Payne left Gauld’s survey ship, the H.M.S. Diligence, and took over the sloop West Florida in May of 1779 with orders to patrol Lake Pontchartrain (Ware and Rea 1982: 173,185). Payne was killed on September 10, 1779 during a battle with the Spanish boat, the privateer Morris, commanded by an ex-British merchant, William Pickles turned American naval officer, in service to the Spaniards.  These years marked the aggressive retaking of the area by the Spanish from the British. (Ware and Rea 1982:212).  In the same year, Don Bernardo de Galvez conquered British forts at Mobile, Baton Rouge and Pensacola, and so West Florida, including the sea coast, came under Spain.[42]

Spain regained control of West Florida in 1781 and held on to that part which eventually became part of Mississippi for nearly forty years, until 1819 when the Adams-Onis Treaty was signed.  British land deeds were reassigned. Capitulation of British West Florida was completed in 1782.The British occupation in West Florida ended officially with the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783.Immediately after the signing of this treaty, the French, with Spanish approval, claimed large tracts of land in Hancock County, abrogating the British deeds, including those to Chester, Payne and Gauld. 

 

 Land Grants in Spanish Period (1781-1803)

The research on land ownership in the lower Pearl River during the 19th century is complicated by several factors.  The area was owned by several nations during its early history.  Each new administration handled land grants and deeds differently and land deeds were changed. Certainly, the destruction of the Courthouse in Gainesville in1853 destroyed many original land records as had the Pensacola fire of October 24, 1811 (Coutts 1980).  In addition, Vincente Sebastian Pintado, the Surveyor General of Spanish West Florida between 1805 and 1817, took many important documents from the archives of the surveyor’s office relating to West Florida when he moved to Pensacola and then to Havana in 1817 (Hebert 1987:51).  The Spanish continued granting land deeds until 1810, and Pintado continued his surveys along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

When the Spanish government recovered Spanish West Florida from the English in 1781, the Pearl River claims of Gauld, Payne and Chester were not mentioned in the deeding of land along the East Pearl. By 1783 Spain encouraged civilizing the coast, especially on the west side of Bay St. Louis.

Exploration of the area continued. In 1798, Andrew Ellicott (1754-1820) explored a section of the Pearl as part of his survey he conducted that would establish the boundary between the United States and Florida, mandated under Pinckney’s Treaty of 1795 (Ellicott 1962).

Another map, drawn between 1738 and 1769, essentially duplicates the above chart, and includes the Indian path. Yet again a later version dated 1795 is probably a copy of an earlier map, but it clearly shows the northern extreme of the path to be the “Road of the Choctaws.” All of these maps identify what appears to be Bayou Caddy as Ouka-taoulou River. It is also known that Highway 604 to Pearlington is built on an Indian trail. For 16 years, (1803-1819) the inhabitants along the Pearl River lived on the international boundary between the United States and Spain, whom they had “served” for the previous 20 years.

 Previous British land holdings along the lower Pearl were granted to relatives of Jean Claude Favre, namely Colon and Boisdore. . Among the early grants, two went to the noted interpreters of Indian language, Rousseve and Lusser.  During the decade of the 1780s, following the conquest of West Florida by the Spanish, several old French families staked claims in SW Hancock County.

 

 George Anthony Meminger

On July 2, 1781 Meminger received a grant for 1000 arpens from the Spanish governor of West Florida Stephen Miro on the Pearl River, (called on the plat “River Mosquito”) six miles from the Rigolets. The decree of concession was confirmed July 28, 1787 on the plat #1802.  On May 20, 1787 Claudius and Valentine Collon, brothers of Margaret Collon Meminger, received 1000 arpens from Miro and on September 6, 1787, they purchased half of their sister’s claim, adjacent to theirs. In 1805, the Meminger claim was confirmed for Mrs. Margaret Collon, widow Meminger, who sells on 5 June 1809 (under her maiden name) the remainder of her claim to Wilson and Claire Carmen.

Margaret or Marguerite Collon had been the wife of Joseph Boisdore and was the sister in law of Jean Claude Favre.

Margaret Collon, widow Meminger  

River Mosquito, George Anthony Meminger, 2 July 1781, Miro to Meminger, 25 x 40 arpens, Miro to her brother Claudius and Valentine Collon, 25 by 40 arpens, 20 May 1785. Ceded to George Gauld 6 September 1787. Trudeau survey, 1802. British Grants

Plat 1820, Margaret, widow Merringer (Memminger?). Claim to Mrs. Margaret Collon, 6 miles from the Rogilets, grant from Spain, 18 June 1805, sold 5 June 1809 to Wilson Carmen who sells to Claire Carman, 5 June 1809.

April 1, 1783  John B. Rousseve, Madam Margaret, widow Anthony Meminger

Rousseve was an Indian guide like the Favres. (From Mississippi Provincial Archives, 1729-1748 French Dominion, volume IV Mention of Rousseve's diary interpreter of Mobile, sent to Maurepas by Louboey February 8, 1746).

The original land claims were made by Charles Sauvigny, Rousseve, Maryanna Mellesair.  Later, these were combined into a single land claim.

Margaret Collon grant (?) sells to Wilson Carman to Claire Carmen (1809).

1600 arpens, Spanish grant 2 July 1788, claim of John Baptiste Roussere. Chalon, 21 March 1813, Don Morales presiding, Roussere present, said Charles Souvigny had transferred grant 20 by 40 at Cabanage Latimer, grant by Miro 2 July 1788 occupied and built upon it. John Baptiste Rousses and his wife Maryanna Mellesar, 10 March 1788. Confirmed grant given by Miro (Morales), Trudeau survey, grant of Souvigny and Roussere united, 1600 arpens, 7 miles above Pearl’s mouth at Rigolets, bound by land granted t o the widow Meminger, late Margaret Collon and other side vacant. Parallel boundaries run back N81d 30 m E (needle declination 8d30ne). Confirms that these grants were made 10 March and 2 June 1788 by Miro, 21 June 1805, John Ventura Morales. 202: Land Claims East of Pearl, GLA Evidence book A

April 1, 1783  –  Large cow pen,  Don L. Boisdore

Achocoupoula from Bayou of Muschettoe Village to Phillip Saucier, formerly inhabited by Mr. Lussen [Lusser], don Carlos Trudeau, surveyor, Augustus Mallis, storekeeper, Widow Margaret Doussion, Pintado map and Pintado mentions grant to John B. Rosseve, Madam Margaret the widow of Anthony Meminger, 1600 arpents each. From Archives. 154 Land Claims East of the Pearl.

April 26, 1783, Governor Estevan Miro granted Louis Boisdore of New Orleans a tract of land stretching along the Gulf Coast from Bayou of Mosquito Village (today Mulatto Bayou) to Bay. St Louis. Area called Achoucoupoulous; Boisdore wanted to use it as for a plantation and a vacherie; notes land was vacant, "formerly inhabited by Mrs. Lucer". Begin at the plantation of Philip Saucier to the Bayou of Mosquito Village, with a depth as far as the Pearl River (1700-1783) Pintado Papers, Book X – Z: 156-70. Boisdore widow, Marguerite Doussin, applied for confirmation of grant to Miro on April 26, 1803. Augustin Mallette living on land to preserve rights of the family; no surveys done due to insects and heat. (From Swanson, 1988, ms.). There were claims that land was in cultivation 1788-1828 (American State Papers, Public Lands, Vol. V, 784-5).  The Bayou is called Mulatto or B. Boisdore

From 1820 Public Lands, Claims East of the Pearl River. No. 322; 16th Congress, 2d Session; No. 322, Land Claims East of Pearl River and in the Town of Mobile. Communicated to the Senate November 17, 1820:

Pp. 399-400, No. 8: Register of Claims to land in the district of Pearl river, in Louisiana, founded on complete grants and orders of survey which from their nature require a special report.

Number 2: Claimed by Do. Of Louis Boisdore, original claimant; Nature of claim and from what authority derived: Do. Ord. Survey; Date of Claim 26 April 1783; from Bay St. Louis to the Pearl River, issued by Stephen Miro, no Survey, Cultivation and inhabitation from 1798 to 1810.

Pg. 400: No.2. This claim is founded on an order of survey issued by Governor Miro in favor of Louis Boisdore confirmed to his widow, Margueritte Daussin, by the Intendant Morales, 4th April 1808. Although a map or conjecture plan of the limits of the above claim made by the Surveyor General Pintado the 30th May, 1810, accompanies the title papers, yet it does not appear to be the result of an actual survey, nor to have been made with geometrical precision, but merely intended for the direction of such persons as might be employed to make the survey; no survey appears to have been made. This claim extends form the Bay of St. Louis to the mouth of the Pearl River, and is supposed to cover several hundred thousand acres.

W. Barton, register; Wm. Barnett, Receiver, Land Office Jackson Courthouse, July 11, 1820. Attest: Jno. Elliott, Clerk.

 

Luis Boisdore was given land by Miro at Mosquitto Village, in fact most of the land south of  Philip Saucier extending to Bay St. Louis (April 1, 1783). Luis also purchased the plantation of Baptiste Saucier, 12 February 1781, which he later transferred to John Castagnat for four cows and their calves 7 October 1784.

Joseph may have moved to New Orleans after leaving his plantation to his sons, possibly in advance of the British occupation of West Florida. He (or someone with his name) may be the one living with his wife on the left side of St. Ursulle St. in New Orleans in 1778. At that time Joseph Boisdore and his wife were both over 49 years old, had 5 slaves, and no occupation listed.

 

1787 Simon Favre during Spanish period

Simon was born May 31, 1760, and was baptized on June1, 1760, the first born son of Jean Claude and Marguerite Wiltz who married in 1759.  Jean Claude and Marguerite had four other children in addition to Simon: Louis (b.1763), Marie Rose (b. 1769), Baptiste and Clara. On March 25, 1801, Simon married Celeste Rochon, daughter of Augustine Rochon, native of Mobile and widower of Marie Jeanne LaPointe and Louise Fievre. Simon Favre became a very prominent and colorful figure in the history of Hancock County. His life on the East Pearl River spanned more than 40 years, during which time this portion of Hancock County was occupied by Great Britain, Spain, and the United States. He died in 1813. His descendants continued to live in the area until today, having fought in the Civil War and becoming prominent lumbermen during the late 19th century. The original Favre deed consisted of 640 acres in Section 37, T8, R16W, directly north of the Challon Claim (Jackson Court House District Land Records, 1820-1847: Certificate # 12).

Simon’s father, John Claudius Favre, was the previous owner who transferred this parcel, possibly the site of the town later known as Napoleon, to his son, who is believed to have built the first house and store at Napoleon, the store eventually becoming the back of the Napoleon Baptist church. According to the WPA, it was near two large oaks and one large cedar tree.[43]  Simon Favre eventually owned at least three sections of land along the east bank of the Pearl River, as well as one on West Pearl. In his will, he mentioned land on the river, “given” to him by the Indians.[44]

At this time, much of this territory, the region known as Spanish West Florida, was apparently unsettled by Europeans.  It was unmapped until the 18th century.” (Hebert 1987:52). Apparently the claims of British military veterans were not improved during the time of British occupation, with the exception of Favre’s. We hear of his house and hospitality in 1777 through the explorer Bartram.

Simon was employed by numerous officials representing Spanish and US governments. His prominence as an interpreter was recognized as early as his days spent in Mobile and the surrounding territories. For example, in 1787, Joseph Favrot, Acting Commander at Mobile, sent Simon Favre to interdict letters written by the Americans to the Choctaw encouraging the Tribe’s participation in an attack on the Tallapoosas (Works Progress Administration 1941).  During the same year, Simon, acting as the Indian interpreter, confirmed for Spain that the Americans and the French were planning to establish stores and a fort two days journey from the Chickasaw (Works Progress Administration 1941).  During the time that he served as an interpreter between the Spanish and Choctaw, Simon Favre was attached to the Spanish garrison at Fort Consideration on the Tombigbee until it was evacuated in 1796-97, moving to Fort Stephen and then on to New Orleans (Lowrie 1834).

Simon Favre owned land in Mobile on Loyal St.  He was associated with other Interpreters, specifically J.B. Roussere and Simon Andry, both inhabitants of Mobile. In document prepared on April 13, 1798 as part of a land exchange between Favre and Andry, Simon describes himself as: “I Simon Favre Interpreter of the Choctaw Nation, now of the town of Mobile,” (From Transcriptions, British, French and Spanish Records, Mobile AL 1715-1812, Volume 1, 1937. In Mobile Library, Historical Collection.). Simon Andry, Favre’s neighbor when he lived on the west side of Tombigbee was also described as an “interpreter of the Choctaw language” (Volume 1, Public Lands: 718).

At the turn of the 19th century, Simon Favre, now 40 years old, was clearly a significant figure in both Spanish Florida and in the newly established U.S. government west of the East Pearl River. From his home along the river, Favre could control inland communication between the two governments. His long service to Spanish authorities made him a focal point for information when, during the first decade of the 19th century, Spanish control over their West Florida territory was seriously compromised by rebels, American traders and marauding pirates.

The Spanish government attempted to hold on to its territory by commissioning several prominent settlers to work for the government. Simon Favre, Philip Saucier and Jean Baptiste Pellerin, Civil and Military Commander of Bay St. Louis and its Coast, representative of the Governor of Pensacola are among those who figure prominently in the Spanish plan. Simon Favre provided intelligence to the Spanish government as rebel troops from the West began to increase their pressure on the Spanish outposts.

In addition to providing military intelligence to Spanish authorities concerning the growing problems with pro-American forces from the west, Simon Favre played in important role in the granting and confirming land deeds along the Pearl River. During this period he is referred to as "Commander of the district of Bay St. Louis for all that may concern the government," From a series of these land transaction from 1810 we derive important information on the European settlements and American Indian toponymy along the East Pearl River.

For example, Simon Favre confirmed the claim of Joseph Cooper on August to establish a Vacherie on a piece of land, 20 x 40 arpents, above a neck called sounp-kug, 202: Land Claims East of Pearl, GLA Evidence book A. Similarly, on 25 March 1810 Favre gave permission to Nathan Smith to settle on Pearl River, at a place called Oussac Cinarous, the claim measuring 15 by 40 arpents.

Continuing, Favre confirmed a grant to William Deen on June 12th for the place of Oucaya, 15 x 40 arpents, on right side of the river and 5 arpents on the left. On the same day grants were made to Hugh McCall, for a place named “Hill of Belle Fountain” (la cuesta de la bella fuente), 5 x 40 on the left side of the river and to Thomas Holmes, for place called Abulequito 15 arpents front, on right bank of the river and 5 on the left. The place called Koutcha on Orico was settled by Jeremiah Henley with permission by Simon Favre (Deed Book A).

The next day, 13 June 1810 Joseph Baker was granted 200 arpents on one of the head branches of Mulatto Bayo [sic], 3 miles east of the Pearl, inhabited and cultivated since 1809, the place being called Quetin-amac in pine woods. A few weeks later, on July 3, 1810, Favre was involved in granting to Elijah Baites, [and] Hilaire Baites (Bets) 10 arpents front to creeks, x 40 arpents on Mulatto creek (bayou des Mulatre) nearly four miles from the Pearl, to continue to cultivate, the land having been inhabited and cultivated since April 1808. 202: Land Claims East of Pearl, GLA Evidence book A.

Other claims that were awarded by the Spanish through Simon Favre and later reviewed by the US Government included the Absalom Johnson for 600 arpents immediately below Cypress Bluff by Spanish Permit, purchased from him 20 August 1810 by John Culpepper; Johnson settled at Belle tarline, about 1.5 miles below Mr. Ford, on 15 by 40 arpents (20 August 1810).  On 4 October 1810, Charles Taylor settled on east bank of Pearl at a place called Chounouc Boue bayou 15 by 40. Favre granted the permit.  Daniel McCall was given a place called Escosesey measuring 5 x 40 arpents on the left bank of the East Pearl River.

Very early in the history of the Louisiana Territory, Governor W.C.C. Claiborne sought to establish communications between the American interests at Fort Stoddard and the newly established posts in Louisiana. Claiborne wrote to Casa Calvo[i] in late February of 1805 seeking permission to cross Spanish territory with Postal route from Washington to Fort Stoddard, through the mouth of Pearl River and on to New Orleans. That east-west route very likely would have to cross through Spanish West Florida.

The strategic location of the Favre property along the East Pearl River is evident in a letter dated June 17, 1805 to the Postmaster General of the United States, in which Governor Claiborne made reference to the Lafon Map, stating, "transportation [from New Orleans] must be by water …either up one of the Branches of the Pearl River to the residence of Mr. Favre, or along another one to a place marked on the map Boisdore,…".

The Federal road was authorized in 1806. It ran along the 31st parallel, but at Ford’s fort on the Pearl, a fork ran south to north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. Sullivan (:39). This was probably the route along southwest Hancock County.

A few years prior to the Battle of New Orleans, Favre’s abilities were utilized to ascertain to what degree the loyalties of the Choctaws were split between the British and the Americans. In 1812, Governor Claiborne wrote a letter to Favre asking that he find out whether the Creeks and the Choctaws had been furnished with military weapons and what numbers of those tribes were under Spanish or British influence. He was also asked to inform Claiborne of the names of the chiefs and whether Tecumseh or the Prophet had been in his area. [45]

W.C.C.Claiborne spoke of Favre in very complimentary terms. In a letter to David Holmes, governor of Mississippi Territory in 1812, Claiborne explained that “…a Number of the Inhabitants on Pearl River, expressive of their great apprehensions, & entreating me, to send into the Choctaw Nation Simon Favre, whose influence with the Indians, the Petitioners believed to be such, as to insure a continuance of Peace.” Unfortunately, while acting as “special messenger” to deliver this letter to the Mississippi governor, Favre informed Claiborne that he had been arrested by Mr. Dinsmoor <sic>, the resident Indian agent of the United States. Claiborne’s letter went on to request Governor Holmes to intercede on Favre’s behalf, ‘…& to recommend him as as honest Man & a worthy Citizen.”[46]

Six weeks later, Claiborne apologized in a letter addressed to Favre at Pearl River, Parish of Biloxi. “Your conduct in the course of the mission confided to you is approved, & to an expression of regret for the injury done you, …permit me to add the assureance of my sincere disposition to be just & friendly towards you.- I have long thought, that the appointment of an Indian Agent for Indian affairs to reside on Pearl River,… & I know of no one more worthy of the public Confidence than yourself.- If therefore you will consent to act in that Character, I will entreat the President of the United States to confer on you, such an Agency.”[47]

Claiborne later wrote to Secretary of War General Armstrong, telling of the arrest and stating that he made no charge against Dinsmore. He further recommended that an additional agent would be in order, and that he should be Colonel Simon Favre, “who resides on Pearl River, not very far from the Chactaw boundary. Colonel Simon Favre was agent for the Chactaws under the Spanish Government, and has more influence with these Indians than any man in existence.”[48]

Spain’s control over West Florida continued to deteriorate during the first decade of the 19th century. Among their constant worries were pirates, American encroachment and the Native Choctaw tribes The Spanish were having difficulty with the Choctaws observing the boundary between the Spanish lands and Mississippi Territory. Having felt betrayed by France in the sale of Louisiana, Spain increased patrolling its remaining borders. In the process, direct conflict with the Choctaws was the result. Not having clear concepts of land ownership or territorial restrictions, the Indians often crossed the 31st parallel, and some were arrested by Spain. According to De Rosier, “the United States acted wisely toward their transgressions. It protected the Indians against the Spaniards, and the result was a greater Choctaw dependence on, and respect for, the federal government.”[ii]

He was also asked to inform Claiborne of the names of the chiefs and whether Tecumseh or the Prophet had been in his area. [iii]

Anticipating some trouble, Claiborne wrote to Favre:

Should you meet with Mr. Silas Dinsmour the agent of the U.S., for the Choctaws, or with Mr. Pitchylynnm or any other person in the nation in the employ of the U.S., you will explain to them the object of you visit, & request their Co-operation.

Favre did indeed run into Silas Dinsmore who had him arrested shortly after Simon delivered the Governor’s “Talk” to the Choctaw chiefs. The text of the “Talk” is quoted in its entirety as a paragon for illustrating the diplomatic language of the times relative to the Muskhogean Tribes, spoken by a man intimately conversant with their language and entirely knowledgeable of the their Native American culture:

A TALK from

WILLIAM C. C. CLAIBORNE, Governor of the State of Louisiana & Commander in Chief of the Militia thereof, to the Chief Head Men & Warriors of the Chactaw Nation.

 

Brothers

 

I salute you in friendship, & beg you to open your Ears, that you may hear my words,- Many of you remember me, when I was a Chief at Natchez, & know that I never deceived you.  My friendly disposition towards you remains unaltered, & since I have been a Chief at New Orleans, I have always been just to the red men.-

Brothers!  When I have a journey to make, I take the nearest path, turning neither to the right nor to the left, but keeping straight on So it is when I send out a talk my manner is to speak plain, & to ease my heart at once, of what I have to say.-

Brothers!  The English who live beyond the big Water have done the Americans much harm;- they have robbed us of our property- compelled many of our people to serve on board of their Ships of War, & spilt American blood.- The President of the U: States, & his head Men have determined upon satisfaction; the Tomahawk is raised & our hearts are cross.- This a quarrel Brothers between white people, & does not concern the red Men; We know well the English, & have no fear of them.- More than thirty years ago -they made War against the U: States.  We were then a young people, & the enemy thought to crush us;- But they found Men & Warriors to combat them,, & returning to their Ships, they left our Country to ourselves, & made peace upon our own terms.

Brothers!  We have now grown up to manhood, & can the better fight our own battles.– I say again this quarrel does not concern the red Men.- Let them therefore remain quiet & join neither side.  Your squaws & little Children will rest undisturbed in their Cabbins <sic> Your old Men will discourse & smoke without fear, under the shade of the Trees, & your Warriors may hunt & dance & be merry until they have an enemy of their own to strike.

Brothers!  During the last War between the Americans & the English, the Cherokees, & the Creeks & the Northern Indians joined with our Enemies.- And what followed?- The Indian Country was often visited by the big knife Men; Towns were burnt & fields of Corn destroyed; the women & little Children had to sleep in the mountains & many a brave warrior was laid low– And what Brothers was the recompense for all these sufferings?  Some trifling presents!  A few shirt Blankets – some kegs of Rum & two or three dozen Medals made of bad Mettle <sic?>.

Brothers!  I have heard some bad news from Pascagoula & Pearl Rivers.- It is said the Chactaws <sic> have committed many robberies & that blood has been spilt.  What does this mean?  Do the English want the poor Indians to fight their battles & are you such fools as to sell your lives for a few goods?  Has the proffet <sic>sent bad talks among you? or has his Brother Ticumsey made you believe that the Northern Indians are strong enough to drive the Americans into the Sea?

Brothers!  The proffet says that he is the Son of the great Spirit, & can prevent powder from burning, & deprive a Ball from a riflle <sic> of its force.  Some of the followers of this pretended "Son of the great Spirit" believed him & made an attack some moons past on the American Army.  But as formerly the powder hurt & the Balls penetrated, the Indians were defeated.- Many were killed & the proffet turned out to a liar.- Ticumsey is a Warrior; But he is a Mad Man & knows not what he says, or what he does.  Beware of him, or he will bring you into trouble.-

Brothers!  Your father the President of the U: S: loves his red Children & wishes him to live in peace,-He loves also his white Children, & will suffer no Nation to strike them with impunity.  He possesses the power to punish his enemies, & the will to do it.- The Chactaws are a small people, & when compared to the Americans are but a handful.- You may make War; But you will soon sue for peace.

Brothers!  I am told that a Council fire is now burning & that white Beads & Wampum are passing between you & the Creeks.- Let this talk be read at the Council, & tell the Creeks to hold it fast.  Say to them in my name, to keep their bad Men at home or evil will fall upon their nation.-

Brothers!  I am told you go often to Pensacola & Mobile.  Listen not to any bad talks you may hear there; But sell your skins & return in peace to your Cabbins or to your hunting ground.  The Spanish Chiefs if they are your friends will give you the same advice; But there are wicked people every where, & if you find such at Pensacola or Mobile, turn your backs upon them- But Brothers I must conclude- Many words are soon forgotten. Take Simon Favre by the hand, & whatever he tells you in my name, believe him, for he is a good Man, & will neither betray me, nor deceive you.

I have nothing more to say Brothers- but to express a wish, that the Tomahawk between the Americans & the Chactaws may long remain buried.–

Signed/ W. C. C. Claiborne New Orleans Augt. 1812 .[iv]

 

Simon Favre was the interpreter between Andrew Jackson and General Hines and the Indian chief Pushmataha. He was reputed to be a personal friend of the chief. Legend has it that he married one of the chief’s daughters [Editor’s note: this is incorrect, Favre married Pistiklokonay, daughter of Franchimestabe, another powerful Choctaw chief. With her (she was also known as Marian) Simon Favre had an Indian family had four children: Mary, Louis, Edward and Celeste.  Clara Favre (Simon’s sister) married Eugene Chastang, a neighbor of the Favres in Mobile.

After Simon’s death, his wife Celeste Rochon married Isaac Graves and they lived in Pearlington. Children from this marriage are listed in the Doby Family History.

Favre is reputed to have been the first white man on the Pearl River. Referenced by Bartram 1777, his residence was one mile north of Pearlington at the Pearl River landing known as the Gin. . The Land grant was a reward for his service as an interpreter. He was also justice of the peace for Parish of Biloxi, in 1810. He died in Mobile in 1813. From Jenkins Pearlington: Church and Community (1991: 4)

Favre is mentioned as translator at Mobile for Indians in Major A. LaCarriere Latour’s Historical Memoir. From a Plat of Pearl River tract is found in Spanish West Florida Records, Louisiana State Museum, Book a, no. 3: 173-4 (see Heizman geneology). These records state that Simon Favre had “two plantations that he inherited from his father, Jean Favre, each one containing 1200 arpents; one is located on the left of the Little Pearl River and the other on the right of the Large Pearl River”. The plantation was “about six leagues up the Pearl River from where it empties into the Rigolets”

1788 Rousseve

The Meminger’s neighbors to the north were the Rousseves and Souvignys. On July 2, 1788 Governor Miro granted a grant for 1000 arpens of land on the future Logtown site to Jean Baptiste Rousseve and his wife, Maryanna Mellesair. The next relevant land grant was given on July 10, 1802 to Charles Souvigny and was located just south of the Rousseve (Report from the Commissioners 1829: 143-A). On June 21, 1805, John Morales united the two grants in favor of John Baptiste Rousseve.  The combined land grant covered approximately 1360 acres.  Early plats and deed descriptions indicate that Rousseve constructed a house in Logtown, possibly at the site of the Wingate/Weston/Otis home.

The original deed reads:

1600 arpens, Spanish grant 2 July 1788, claim of John Baptiste Roussere. Chalon, 21 March 1813, Don Morales presiding, Roussere present, said Charles Souvigny had transferred grant 20 by 40 at Cabanage Latimer, grant by Miro 2 July 1788 occupied and built upon it. John Baptiste Rousses and his wife Maryanna Mellesar, 10 March 1788. 202: Land Claims East of Pearl, GLA Evidence book A

 

The land grant was confirmed by Miro (Morales), Trudeau did the survey, and later the grants of Souvigny and Roussere united. The original 1600 arpens were located 7 miles above Pearl’s mouth at Rigolets, bound by land granted to the widow Meminger, late Margaret Collon and other side vacant. Parallel boundaries run back N81d 30 m E (needle declination 8°30’NE). Confirms that these grants were made 10 March and 2 June 1788 by Miro, 21 June 1805, John Ventura Morales.

 

1788 Charles Souvigny

From Report of Commissioners. East of Pearl River, Mississippi and Alabama 143-A, page 5.

On the 10th March 1788, twenty arpens tract by forty deep, lying on Pearl River, was granted by Stephen Miro to Charles Souvigny, the same quantity of land was granted on the 2nd of June 1788 by governor Miro to John Baptiste Roussere, Roussere having purchased the title of Charles Souvigny, the two grants were united in favor of John Baptiste Roussere by John Morales, on June 21, 1805, William Crawford, commissioner.

Remark: The original grant, 7 November 1733, by Mons. Bienville to M. Diron has not been produced, and is not mentioned except for the conveyance from Charles Marie de La Lande and his wife to Joseph Barbant de Boisedore, no evidence of M. Diron as original grantee, however, de la Lande, first seller, appears to have been confirmed to Bienville by D’Abbadie, Director General of New Orleans, the chain of title from Mon. Bienville to the present claimant is unbroken.

 

On every boundary there were marshes, planted trees and stakes. Survey made 10 March and 2 July, one for John and wife. Charles Souvigny sells to Roussere, 10 July 1802, purchaser in possession since August 1789. Trudeau survey and notes

Rousseve property shows improvements in by 1782. Since D’Abbadie’s tenure was short, 1763-4, La Lande must be selling to Joseph Boisdore during that time, just as the British were taking over.

 

Chapter 6 – Increasing United States Interest

The period 1783-1790 showed substantial increased United States Interest. Not long after the Revolutionary War in America, the southern states of Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina claimed the Mississippi River as their western boundary (Beers 1989:196).  In 1783, Georgia extended its legislative jurisdiction to include the Natchez district and, in 1785, created Bourbon County to contain the district.

In 1798 the Territory of Mississippi was formed to forestall these land grabbing activities among the Southern states. The U.S. Congress asserted its claim to trans-Appalachian territory. By an Act of Congress, Georgia was required to relinquish its claim of the disputed territory on April 7, 1798, and the Territory of Mississippi came into being. South Carolina and North Carolina had surrendered their rights to this region in 1787 and 1790, respectively.  The Mississippi Territory was bounded by the Mississippi River on the west, a line due east of the mouth of the Yazoo River to the Chattahoochee River on the north, and the 31st parallel of latitude in the south.[49]

In 1798, Andrew Ellicott (1754-1820) explored a section of the Pearl as part of his survey he conducted that would establish the boundary between the United States and Florida, mandated under Pinckney’s Treaty of 1795 (Ellicott 1962)

In 1800 Spain held Louisiana until it was ceded it to Napoleon, east to the Perdido River.  Napoleon sold this area to the United States to keep it out of British hands on April 30, 1803. This deal, however, did not include the land east of the East Pearl River, of which Hancock County was a part.  The Spaniards insisted that the eastern boundary of Louisiana was the Pearl River. They occupied Mobile and Pensacola with a strong military force, US could not fight due unreadiness and complex diplomatic “controversy”.

Treaties of Fort Adams 12/17/1801

Many treaties were made between the Choctaws and the United States government. The first was signed at Hopewell in 1786. Historian and translator H. B. Cushman, in History of the Indians, comments on that treaty as follows: “…the Choctaws were never at war with the United States, and never held any citizen of the United States as a prisoner, but always were their faithful allies.

In 1801, the Choctaws entered into the Treaty of Fort Adams, by which they ceded a triangular section of Mississippi land running south from Vicksburg to the 31st parallel. Some precedents were established which would have influenced later treaties of greater significance. These included inducements to those who suffered loss, the establishment of tribal income, and the “pernicious practice of systematic corruption of the Chiefs.”[50]

W.C.C. Claiborne was not one to trust the Choctaws. On December 12, 1801, in the capacity of governor of the Mississippi Territory, he wrote to Secretary of State James Madison, that “the Chactaws…are frequently troublesome, & often commit partial Depredations upon the Cattle &c of the Inhabitants; – At other times they receive spirits from the Citizens, become intoxicated and are abusive & viciously inclined; from these sources disputes arise, and I am looked tup to, as the Arbitrator; hence the necessity, that I should be furnished with an Interpreter, and  feeling sensibly the want of a character of this kind, I hasten to solicit the permission of the President, to employ one.”[51] Later, in a “talk” delivered to the tribe, he gave them some advice, “…to quit drinking whiskey, for it will make you Fools & Old Women.”[52]

 

19th Century People and their Claims   

1803-1817 Mississippi Territory, Annexation and, Statehood

 

The area soon to be Hancock County was not part of the Louisiana Purchase, but the inhabitants of the area apparently wanted to be part of the Union. During the first decade of the 1800, immigrants from Georgia and the Carolinas joined the French and the Tories living in West Florida. On March 3, 1803, the US Government stipulated requirements for land.  Those east of the Pearl River are adjudicated in Washington Co. (Alabama) specifically at St. Stephen on the Tombigbee River (Beers: 202). Residents of Territory of Mississippi as of October 27, 1795, and who had either grant from British Government of West Florida, or Spanish Government Warrants or Orders of Survey, and who inhabited and cultivated lands (by the owner) were to have claims confirmed. On April 30, 1803 the Louisiana Purchase was finalized. Later, the United States would assert in 1810 that the Treaty of Paris gave it the right to the lands held by Spain, extending from Baton Rouge to the Perdido River. On February 24, 1804 the new territory is annexed by Act of Congress to the Territory of Mississippi.  The Lower Pearl River became the boundary between Spain and the United States

Evidence of the concern of land-holders over the British land claims is seen in a letter from D. M. Erskine to Thomas Jefferson, and forwarded by the President to Congress (4/22/1808) where the land owners ask for “remedy against the effects of the Act of Congress, 2nd March 1805 that “hurts British land claims in West Florida.” The Act required all deeds to be registered before the last day of March 1804 (State Papers, 1832, (Vol. 1:594) Lowrie and Clarke, March 3, 1789 – March 3, 1815

 

Kirby report

 

Historian Sullivan has written: “In the period following the Louisiana Purchase, the interest of the American Government in the Mississippi Gulf Coast reached the highest level. Jefferson sent a host of questions to Ephraim Kirby, the American magistrate at Fort Stoddard, located above Mobile on the Tombigbee, requesting information n the coastal settlements. Kirby report dated May 1, 1804. He reported that 30 families between Mobile to the Pascagoula (18 families) and from thence to the Pearl River, about 30 families. He mentions that the French were “few in number but generally honest, well disposed citizens”. The next most ancient group were the Tories and others who had fled Georgia and the Carolinas during the American Revolution. He called these treasonable and “felons of the first magnitude”. : 34   Since territorial status, American immigrants of a more “meritorious class” had arrived: 34. However, the area was economically depressed.

Joseph Challon Deed  

 

On June 21, 1805, John Baptiste Roussere (or Rousseve) transferred his Spanish Land Claim to 1360 acres to Joseph Challon.[53] Don Morales confirmed the grant for the Spanish government after Trudeau completed the survey on June 10, 1805. The land was described as lying seven miles above the Pearl’s mouth at the Rigolets. The Challon claim included all of Section 6, comprising the most historically significant portion of the project area. The Challon name was associated with this land well into the 1900s (Drake 1931). It may very likely be a corruption of Collon, as in Margaret Collon, sister of Claudius and Valentine, widow Meminger who owned land in this same area in 1781. There are various families mentioned in the early history of Logtown whose names are similar. These include Challon, the Callon brothers and a reference to Castillion, who apparently abandoned the claim to the west of Joseph Challon, allowing Mathurin Babin to lay claim to that section (Section 5). Whether these similarities are coincidences, confusions or have genealogical and /or familial significance is not known at this time.

A Joseph Chalon,[54] 35 years old, was listed in the 1770 census of the lands along the Mississippi River below New Orleans (Papeles Procedentes de Cuba, Archivio General de Indias: Legajo: 188-1).  He owned 18 arpents of land, located at Habitation # 21, on the right “shore” of the Mississippi River, below New Orleans. Listed in the census, are his wife Elizabet Duruyseau [probably Des Risseaux], 16 years old; Louis Coinsin, his econome, 50 years old; Etaire Davier, his carpenter, 30 years old.  In addition to the land, the census report, signed by Esteban Trudeau, lists Chalon’s property: “…39 slaves, 24 cattle, 3 horses, 20 sheep, 2 hogs, and 1 rifle” (Papeles Procedentes de Cuba, Archivio General de Indias: Legajo: 188-1:108).  Joseph Chalon, marriage to Isabel Deariusseaux <sic> was recorded July 19, 1768 (James 1962:52).  Other early references related to Joseph Chalon include a 1769 transaction dealing with the sale of a house and lot (James 1965).  In this document, Chalon is listed as a merchant.

On December 1, 1819, Challon transferred 1600 arpens of land to George Sheriff, an inhabitant of Pearl River. The land was referred to as the Cabanage Latanier (or Latineaux) The deed describes the site as being six or seven miles above the entrance of the Pearl, being the same tract that was composed of two concessions made by Miro in 1788, later confirmed by Don Morales, Intendant General of West Florida on June 21, 1805, to Juan B. Rousseve who conveyed same to present seller on July 21, 1805 for $3,600.[55]  The purchase augmented Sheriff’s holdings in the area. On June 27, 1817, Sheriff had purchased 40 acres land from Widow Favre, land that he later sold  to Robert Layton from New Orleans in 1827 (Hancock County Courthouse, Deed Book B: 166). The name Sheriff has remained on local maps into the 20th century although not much is currently known about him. His name does show in the early tax rolls, specifically indicating his ownership of 40 acres, and also showing that he paid tax on “merchandise sales.”[56]  It is unclear whether Joseph Challon, referenced in the deed, was still alive at this time. He would have been 84 years old in 1819.

 

Treaty of Mount Dexter November 6, 1805

Treaties by which the Choctaws ceded land were signed at Mount Dexter in 1805, Doak’s Stand in 1820, and Dancing Rabbit Creek in 1830. The WPA reported that South Mississippi was acquired from Choctaw through treaty of Mount Dexter, 1805 (FWP of WPA Mississippi A guide to the Magnolia State, New York, Viking Press 1938 p.63 figure). Pushmahata was a signee in the 1805 treaty.

It appears, however, that that section of Mississippi which includes Hancock county (lying south of the 31st parallel) was not included in Mount Dexter Treaty of 1805, which ceded all the lands in the southern part of the territory between the Pearl and Pascagoula rivers.  The Hancock County section was taken from Spain by the United States in 1810, and added to the Mississippi Territory in 1812. This transaction was not ratified, however, until several years later. The attached map (include) shows the area south of the 31st parallel as “Coast Addition – 1812.”  If it then came under the terms of the Mount Dexter Treaty, it may account for the fact that many deeds in Hancock County were entered into by Indians as vendors, for unlike the other, and more coercive treaties, Mount Dexter did not require the Indians to leave.

 

Chapter 7  – Spanish Records of West Florida

Captain Joseph Collins and Captain Vincente Pintado

In a letter from Carlos de Grand-Pre to Vincent Folch, August 3, 1804, is found the following: “Captain of Militia Joseph Colins commissioned by you to open the road from Baton Rouge to Pensacola, the plan made by Captain of Militia Cavalry don Vincente Pintado second Surveyor of the Province.” August 1804, Captain of Militia Cavalry, Don Josef Colins Surveyor for Pintado, national archives 7-28; 5-6, official papers 1781-1842; Reels 4 and 5; Folder 9, Reel 6; Hem 19, Folder 16-6.

 

February 20, 1805 – William C. C. Claiborne, New Orleans, to Marques de Casa Cal

 This letter communicated that the American Government projects establishing a post from Washington to take the correspondence to Fort Stoddart and, from there, through the mouth of the Pearl River, until New Orleans, with the idea of establishing communications between that city and the United States.  Requests permission so that said post can cross seventy miles (leagues?) of Spanish territory. In a letter dated February 21, 105, the Marques de Casa Calvo, in New Orleans, granted William C. C. Claiborne's petition to establish a post via the mouth of the Pearl River and cross Spanish territory. On the sme date, the Marques de Casa Calvo, New Orleans, informed Vicente Folch, that he had granted permission to the for establishing a route for the post of the United States from Fort Stoddart until the mouth of the Pearl River, of which there was approval.

February 28-30, 1805 – Spain threatened by Americans

Vicente Folch, to Joachin Osorno, February 26, 1805.

Folch warned his commanders at Mobile and Apalachee to be prepared for an attack.  They were threatened both by the English with whom Spain had been at war since December 13, 1804 and by the Americans.  Folch had more trouble with the Americans in February 1805 when a United States coast guard unit sacked the home of a settler in Pascagoula. It was not clear what the unit was looking for; they may have been looking for smuggled goods.  Folch considered the incursion into Spanish territory as an insult but, as he told Casa Calvo, he had to regard the incident 'with my arms crossed' because he did not have the necessary means to deal with the Americans.

 

Pedro Morin, Bay St. Louis, to Philip Saucier, February 28, 1805.

 

You called me these past days to give you an account of what happened with the people the american corsair: In compliance with your order I have removed to your lodgings without seeing you because of your absence so that I shall detail the event and request that you inform the Senor Governor.

On my return from New Orleans Morin I encountered an American Corsair which fired a canon at me and forced him to stop at his side, they took my musket, my knife and ordered me to anchor under their artillery.  The captain asked if any of the King's ships should pass that way to which I responded yes; he replied that the Maria saw the same the ships of individuals; also the same Captain asked me if I would serve as pilot for the Plaza [Pass Christian?]  Having declined that and saying at the same time that I would be and prepare to continue my voyage.  They immediately pointed a canon at my boat and threatened to fire if I did not do as they asked, I was obliged to promise all that they asked, but in the same night of the same day at three I took advantage of the dark and succeeded in escaping from their hands.  The next day the same corsair came to anchor front of Cat Island and ordered its launch with sailors to the island where they killed various animals of the inhabitants.

[Signed] Philip Saucier

Note: All the events related in the forgoing letter have been committed in the dominion of His Majesty.

 

Philip Saucier, Bay St. Louis, to Governor General of Florida [Vicente Folch], February 28, 1805,

I have just learned from Pedro Morin, inhabitant of Cat island, of the insult committed by an American corsair against that coast. The enclosed letter informs you of what has happened

Regarding the hostilities which have occurred I have ordered the inhabitants to be ready and have respect for their property, and if they attempt to land to throw them back by force.  In the name of the inhabitants I ask you to deliver us from uneasiness and place us to the side of such actions.

[Signed] Philip Saucier

(Translation was done on February 29, 1805)

 Isaac Briggs to Thomas Jefferson dated October 29, 1805 (Schwaab and Bull 1973:49)

This letter tells of Briggs trip from Mobile to New Orleans on horseback:

On the 29th ult (October) we left Tombigbee, passing through the town of Mobile we crossed the Pascagoula river near its mouth, passed round the bays of Biloxi and St. Louis, to Pearl River, about 10 miles above its mouth; from thence we passed down Pearl River through the Rigolets and Lake (Pontchartrain) to New Orleans.

On this part of our route (a distance of 200 miles) we were 25 days.

To give some idea of the difficulties we encountered besides the insurmountable delays in transporting our horses over rivers several miles wide, where there are no ferries. I will mention the progress we made in one fatiguing, industrious and laborious day’s traveling, when entangled among impassably boggy drains which were very frequent, and considerable in length, we encamped at night about three miles from our encampment on the preceding night.

 

September 5. 1805. Bellestre on the Corsair   

Francisco Bellestre, Pascagoula, to Francisco Maximilliano de St. Maxent.  Number 7,

Bellestre was writing from the Corsair.

[Margin not written by Addressee: “Direct the duplicate to Pensacola and replied”< ??>

 

I inform you that There has arrived a the entrance of Horn Island a enemy corsair which has taken four vessels and in one They armed it with canons and many people and they came to attack us. the combat of one part or another lasted an hour and a half exactly, having a black of ours having a musket broken by an enemy ball but fortunately no one killed, almost uncompreherisivible (actual spelling?) being us and few people, without protection. The Truth is that our opposites went to shouting ha' Senor, ha' Senor. and after various landed and finally abandoned the combat and instantly marched to rejoin the corsair.  We have consumed all our cartridges.  I ask of you another box of cartridges you have to put more gunpowder in the cartridges. Then, our enemies made a great fire with their canon but as I said, none of my people died.  I will detail to you more circumstances of said occasion  

[Signed] Francisco Bellestre

[Addition at end of body of the duplicate] “the enemy corsair is here.”

 

Juan Bautista Pellerin, Pascagoula, to Vicente Folch, Number 4, May 2, 1806.

[Margin note] 'SR' <i.e. Sin Respuesta, or No Reply]

 

I have received your official communique in which you command that I deliver the command of this post to Captain of Militia Dragoons don Josef Colins, which-I have-verified the second day of this month, and return Christian on the first occasion.

          [Signed] Juan Bautista Pellerin

 

April 4, 1808 Postmaster to Secretary of Treasury

Postmaster General to Secretary of Treasury, 4 April 1808: shows Mr. Favre agent of this office forwarding mail, he is a Spanish subject. In 1808 Favre, still a Spanish subject, served as Agent for the Post Office, forwarding mail between Fort Stoddard to New Orleans through Spanish territory (Carter 1937:624)

 

February 21, 1809 Vincente Folch, Pensacola, to Marques de Someruelos Number 760

Captain of the Militia Dragoons Don Jose Collins was employed by Folch in demarcation of the road that was opened from Pensacola to Baton Rouge. It had been finished to the eastern edge of Lake Pontchartrain and from Mobile to Pensacola, and while you can transit the central part in the dry season, you need considerable work to finish the entire road.

The same Collins was also employed in the two expeditions against Baton Rouge 1804 and 1807 in charge of which very few could have succeeded like him for his knowledge if the woods near Amite River, likewise those on the eastern part of the Mobile Road work which he performed with considerable knowledge. There has been concluded the connection of the posts when the Americans on the upper Pascagoula proposed to navigate said river in order to ship their product and upon reception of this news, Folch sent Collins to Pascagoula as military commander with the object of convincing them of the risk they were taking as the two governors were deliberating question in order to stop certain violence. For this mission it was necessary a subject who could speak English, circumstances which obliged Folch to elect Collins.

 April 26, 1809 – Doby Claim.

 

A tract of land of an unspecified quantity on Bayou Cauend, also known as Bayou Cowan, was awarded inder Spanish permit 26 in April 1809 to Jean Baptiste D’auby. His name came to be spelled variously as Daube, Dobe, and Doby.  Later records in the family indicate that the land measured two sections, or 1,280 acres.

According to county records and tradition, Doby had come from France before 1796, the year of his marriage in the New Orleans cathedral, to Marie Jeanne Giraud. At that time, he lived in New Orleans and worked on schooners plying Gulf Coast waters, and it is believed that such travels to old Biloxi, Pearl River, and Mulatto Bayou led him to select fertile ground on Bayou Cowan for his homestead. The site was close to Pearlington, which was considered to be a “bustling” community and was easily accessible to New Orleans. He moved there in 1809.[57]

According to Jerry Heitzman, “Jean, with his family, several slaves, and three schooners, immediately built a home and shipping dock on the banks of Cowan Bayou at what is known as ‘Doby’s Point.’ The home was built under the direction of a New Orleans architect with slave labor. Near the home were pecan orchards, orange, fig and cherry trees, as well as the cotton fields. It was cotton, of course, that produced his greatest income. He also successfully raised cattle and hogs for the local markets.”[58]

Doby’s land was certified to have been inhabited and cultivated since 1809, and approved by Pellerin. No survey was made, but it has been established that it consisted of 1,280 acres. (202: Land Claims East of Pearl, GLA Evidence book A)  Early tax records show that the land was kept intact, and passed to son Thomas Doby. Probate records indicate that after the death of Thomas, the estate had to be split in order to make distribution to the heirs of the estate. It is not clear, however, whether the 1,280 acres was then divided. The site islocated in what is known today as Oak Harbor.

 

May 25, 1809 Favre appointed by Pellerin

On May 25, 1809, John Baptiste Pellerin appointed Favre as his representative on the Pearl River (Carter 1937).  Senor Don Simon Favre together with Ambrose Gaines is called as witness to the Claims of Maturin Babin, and Nathan Smith in June of 1810 (Lowrie 1834: 202).

Boisdore claim 1803-1823

This period saw increased activity by the Spanish, leading to reconfirming of claims, awarding numerous new ones, and commissioning the thorough survey of southwestern Hancock County by Vincente Pintado.  Boisdore's widow, Marguerite Doussin, applied for confirmation of the title to Governor Miro in April 4, 1808 or 1803 (Pintado Papers: 156-70), recorded 30 May 1810. The document mentions Pintado's conjectural plan, and testimony proved that the claim was inhabited and cultivated upwards of 40 years. (Report of Board of Commissioners, volume 143A, Report no. 3, 1799-1828). W. Howze could not decide whether to forfeit claim.

Mr. Augustin Mallette had been living on the land to preserve the rights of the family. Surveyors would not visit the land due to the insects and the heat (Ibid). In 1810, the property was apparently owned by Mr. Joseph Baker, under a Spanish permit granted June 13, 1810. The land was described as cultivated between April 1810 and March 1813 (American State Papers vol.3, #18, 1815-1824). These reports conflict with an entry in the Deed Record Book, Hancock County Courthouse (Book A:1l which shows the heirs of Louis Boisdore selling the Mulatto Bayou property to Judge Daniells, who still owned the land when Wailes visited the area in 1852.

 

Chapter 8 – West Florida Republic

Independent West Florida Republic was established in 1810, and the area west of Pearl River was annexed to the Territory of Orleans.  During the Spanish occupation of West Florida, many Americans received land grants. These settlers joined other Anglo-Saxon already living in the areas around Baton Rouge prior to the Galvez victory over the British. After the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, these settlers believed that West Florida should have been part of the transfer to the United States. They resented their Spanish administrators, and in 1810 in a secret meeting, decided to have a 20-member congress which hopefully would have status acceptable to the Spanish government.  It was expected that the congress would appoint officials recognized by Spanish governor de Lassus. One such appointment was that of a militia officer nemed Philomon Thomas to Major General. Thomas, not formally educated but a natural leader, had been a captain, and de Lassus felt that a rank of colonel should be sufficient. Other disagreements ensued, and it became evident to the settlers that de Lassus had called for reinforcements.

The fort at Baton Rouge was defended by only 30 men. Thomas, on being apprised that one section of the palisade was open to the pasture of the milk cows, determined that he could also make use of the gate. He had only 70 men, but the surprise attack was successful. Only two Spanish soldiers died, and none of Thomas’ men were killed or injured. The next day, September 26, 1810, a lone star flag was raised over the fort, and the independent Republic of West Florida was created.[59] On October 27, 1810, Madison declared that U.S. jurisdiction extended to the Perdido River.

According to another report, Thomas’ troops included eighty riflemen, many U.S. army deserters, and a company of cavalry under Captain Depassau, plus a number of followers of Reuben Kemper.  Meanwhile, President Madison proclaimed that the area had in fact been purchased in 1803.  He ordered Governor Claiborne to take possession of the area, and after 74 days, the West Florida Republic ceased to exist. On April 8, 1812, Madison added West Florida to the newly claimed territory, but the bill he signed covered land only as far east as the Pearl River. [60]

However, that part of West Florida lying east of Pearl River and below the 31st parallel, including present-day Hancock County, was not affected. According to McLemore, in A Histroy of Mississippi, “The Americans did not immediately occupy lands east of the Pearl, because of a lack of coordination among them and because of the reluctance of Spain to remove her forces.” [61]

Moreover, any fair reading of the revolution indicates that it was peopled by those who lived in the area which became Louisiana’s Florida parishes. In a petition signed by 410 inhabitants and sent to both houses of Congress on November 20, 1811, the people asked that the new territory be annexed not to the territory of Orleans, but to Mississippi territory. They cited as reasons a “difference of people, language, manners, customs, and politics.” Specifically, they mentioned that Orleans was chiefly French. This indeed sounds like emotions emanating from those of Anglo-Saxon heritage, and not representative of the French heritage of the Gulf Coast community of eastward of the Pearl. Incidentally, none of the names of the signees is familiar in terms of early Hancock settlers. Another petition, dated Janmuary 26, 1811, was submitted by the inhabitants of western and central West Florida, and agreed to be part of Louisiana with the assurance that land claims would be honored. Among the signees of the latter petition was one Elias Russ and a Silvest Russ, as well as John McArthur and James McArthur, who share surnames with later settlers of Hancock County.

Because there seemed to be no involvement in the rebellion by the people of the lower Pearl, a letter mentioning 300 rebels on the Pearl, reported by Favre, arouses curiosity. This letter is dated October 26, 1810, and addressed to Vicente Folch, Governor of West Florida, at Mobile. It reported that the rebels were “marching against the settlement. No inhabitant have joined for the defense. Pelerin retired to Cat Island. Tomorrow he was going to Horn Island as it was impssible to top the rebels.”

It is probable that the foregoing incident refers to what was known as “The Mobile Affair.” This involved one Reuben Kemper, who on October 10, 1810, was made a colonel by the West Florida convention and sent to invite the people of Mobile and Pensacola to join the rebellion. His recruits came from settlements “north of the line” and proved inept. The affair turned into a filibuster and was a failure, favored neither by the settlers of Mobile nor the American government. [62]

Whether settlers along the Pearl and east to the Bay of St. Louis felt that they had been part of the West Florida rebellion is debatable. It is recorded, however, that in April of 1812, Congress awarded to Mississipi Territory the area between the Pearl and the Perdido rivers. On the following August 1, Governor Holmes, by proclamation, made the entire coast one county. It is very clear, reading, “…all that tract of Country lying East of the Pearl River, West of the Perdido, and South of the thirty-first degree of North latitude.” Later, that land, called Mobile County, was partitioned into Hancock and Jackson Counties. Hancock was formally created on December 14, 1812, at which time its territory extended east to Biloxi Bay.

Remembering that the area was still sparsely populated, and keeping in mind that communications were slow and not always accurate, it is nonetheless evident to see that at least the people of the area of the Bay of St. Louis, felt that they were part of the American government. This is borne out in the history of the December 1814 battle of Bay St. Louis, when townspeople took active part in the defense of the city against the British invaders on their way to New Orleans. 

It was not until the Adams-Onis Treaty was concluded between the United States and Spain in 1819 that our study area effectively became part of the United States. The treaty was not ratified and proclaimed until 1821. Of interest to researchers of land titles is Article VIII, in which it was agreed, “All the grants of land made before the 24th of January, 1818, by His Catholic Majesty…shall be ratified and confirmed to the person in possession of the lands, to the same extent that the same grants would be valid if the territories had remained under the dominion of His Catholic Majesty.”

In 1810, at the time of the West Florida revolt, there were just under 20 families located on the east bank of the Pearl River, and about 10-15 French families in Bay St. Louis (Sullivan 1985:34-5). In that period, there was an increasing number of settlers coming from Georgia and the Carolinas. They were hunters and herdsmen, not fond of Indians or Spaniards.  Because mail routes from Fort Stoddert to New Orleans passed through Spanish territory, the Postmaster asked Edmund P. Gaines at Fort Stoddert to give Favre permission to transport food for his family and the Post horses from New Orleans. (Sullivan)

 Statement of Joseph Collins, Pensacola, November 2, 1810:

     Copy, I do certify that on the evening of the 1st November 1810, while I was a prisoner at the House of the Commandant Dn. Francisco Hevia, that Mr. John Hubanks informed me “that all the Settlers on this river were afraid of losing their lands under the Spanish Government; that it was declared at Baton Rouge if the people would take possession of their Country, the Said Government would cease & their acts be null, & while they had power they were determined to secure themselves, which was principally their business here—That the expected a body of Baton Rouge militia on this river near the line with more orders’ –Also /// my being conducted a prisoner with four negroes from my quarter, one of the party Henry Walter observed “ now we have powder plenty” but was stopped from saying more by one of the party, but being dark I cannot say by whom — but it is my opinion that the  lateness of the hour prevented them from taking the public arms & ammunition, lest an Ambush Should be forming.

[Signed] Jose Collins. 

 

Joaquin de Osorno, Mobile to Manuel Salcedo, Number 78, December 10, 1810.

This told of the American goleta Sally which had passed from Fort Stoddart to the gulf, commanded by Jose Collins, with a cargo of cotton and wood.

 

Joseph Collins to Governor Claiborne (not dated? In (Claiborne, Mississippi A Province, Territory and State :305-306)

This related the events that concerned the impact of the “Florida Convention” on travelers. Joseph Rabie was a master of schooner was forced to obtain a passport from one Pierre Nicolet. That the Convention flag flew over Pascagoula river mouth; that a party of forty men had come down commanded by one Sterling Dupree to extract oaths of allegiance from the inhabitants; that they took away schooners belonging to the settlement “which they loaded with plunder and five or six Negroes, stolen from the residence of John B. Nicolet, deceased” that the people along Bay St. Louis were “tranquil, but there was no administration, no officers and no laws since the Spaniards had withdrawn to Pensacola”.  December 2, 1810, Captain Farragut sent to Pascagoula by Governor Claiborne and reports that Dupree is looking for recruits as far as Bay St. Louis.

 

May 7, 1810 – Ambrose Gaines

The deed reads:  500 arpens Order of Survey by the Spanish government, Joseph Collins, deputy surveyor, surveys land on Riviere aux Perles, on bluff called English bluff. Signed by Pintado. Plat begins at red bay tree, then N15d to the E141 11 L to a stake, the south 51d to E141 11L then south 15d to the west of the river bank, then up the river to the POB. William Baites, inhabited and cultivated since 1802. No acres, no arpens.

Ambrose Gaines was probably Ambrosio Gains, who immigrated to the US in 1789. We have found no evidence that he was a medical doctor as stated by Thigpen. Ambrose and his wife Mary had two children James and Jane. Mary is likely the daughter of Matthew Moore of Stokes County, North Carolina. In his will Matthew Moore “lends” to his daughter, wife of Ambrose Gaines, two Negro women named Hannah and Patt “and all their increases during her natural life, at her decease to descend to her children and be equally divided between those that shall be living, to them and their heirs forever.”

 James was dead by 1833 and so apparently was Ambrose (Hancock County Deed Book B). Jane Gaines married William Thompson and gave birth to two daughters Mary Ann and Jane. Jane Thompson married Charles Frazar and they had six daughters and one son (Elizabeth, Eliza Jane, Ann, Harriot, Charles, Roxanna, and Alice). Frazar became a prominent citizen of Gainesville. He deeded land for the Gainesville Courthouse.

Ambrose’s sons-in-law entered into several land transactions. On July 8, 1833, William Thompson sells land at Gaines Bluff “being the one half part of 640 acres, being the share allotted by my late wife Jane Thompson, former Jane Gaines, one of the heirs of Ambrose Gaines, deceased to Charles Frazar for $140 (Book B: 275). There is some confusion concerning Jane’s passing, for on October 14 of the same year, Jane Thompson and her husband Charles Frazar, indenture ot Enoch McFadden 1/3 of 640 acres for $1,150 land claimed by several heirs of the deceased Ambrose Gaines, on NW part thereof, bounding land long known by name of English Bluff, of which Ambrose Gaines obtained right to and by virtue of a treaty entered into and executed by him and a legal constituted body of the Spanish government.”

A deed from December 2, 1833, reveals more Gaines heirs transactions. On this date, Mary Ann Thompson, granddaughter of Ambrose Gaines, daughter of Jane Gaines (whose brother was James Gaines) — all three by this date are deceased— for $1000 “at a place called Gaines’s Bluff, being the same owned and occupied by Gaines my grandfather at the time of his death, and which descended to me through my mother now deceased…together with all my right title and interest in and to a section of land in Louisiana confirmed by my late uncle James Gaines[illeg] and which has descended to me and my sister as his heirs, together with all privileges, etc.”

Another prominent citizen of Gainesville was William J. Poitevent, known as one of the earliest of the Pearl River lumbermen. He arrived in Gaineville in 1836 with the Russ party. Amelia Russ in her diary entry dated Sunday, February 21st, 1836 states:

W. Poitevant ran away with the cart and broke it to pieces it was repaired and started again. We passed through a most miserable swamp. The cart broke down and we were obliged to stop traveled 15 miles.

 

And again on March 7th:

 

… [T]raveled 8 miles when we were obliged to stop on account of the rain parted with Mr. Poitevent[63] and family on account of Aunt Sally’s health which is too delicate to travel

 

By 1840 lumber mills were located in several places along the Pearl River, including Logtown, Pearlington, Napoleon and Gainesville.  Cypress and pine logs were milled into lumber, staves, and shingles after which they would be shipped by schooners and brigs to locations worldwide.

On February 22, 1842 a law was passed “to fix a permanent seat of Justice in Hancock Co.section 1….that the president of the board of police of Hancock Co. shall cause an election to be held at each election precinct in said county on the first Monday of April next…for the purpose of fixing on a permanent site for a seat of Justice; and the place having the majority of all the votes given shall be declared the permanent seal of Justice for said county. Approved February 22, 1842 (Hancock Co. Probate Minutes Book A: April 1853 to October 1861, in Hancock Co. Chancery Clerk Office). On January 22, 1846 the Legislature acted “to incorporate the town of Gainesville in the county of Hancock. Be it enacted…that the town of Gainesville is heerby incorporated, and that the limits of said incorporation shall be as follows: beginning at the junction of Mike’s River with Pearl River running up said Mike’s river to where said Mike’s river crosses the northern line of a section of land owned by the heirs of Dugal McLaughlin, deceased, thence east on said line to the northeast corner of said tract of land, thence due south until it strikes the east bank of the east branch of the Pearl River thence up the Pearl River to the beginning.” Approved January 22, 1846. Laws of Mississippi 1846: pp. 297-301; Hancock Co. Probate Minutes Book A: April 1853 to October 1861, in Hancock Co. Chancery Clerk Office.

Once the Courthouse was located in Gainesville, the town grew rapidly. Hotels, bars, coffee houses, dry goods stores, stables and other facilities for visitors traveling to do business at court were built. Two newspapers, the Gainesville Advocate and the Gainesville Gazette reported the news of this busting town. The last issues of the Gainesville Advocate published May 9, 1846 reported that Gainesville “possesses the important facility of having its products and various articles of commerce transported at any season of the year, in seven or twelve hours to New Orleans, the best market in the South.” The best crops grown there included Spanish tobacco; also rice, sugar-cane and sea-cotton, which “grows remarkably well”. “Hancock claims the credit of having produced the finest specimen of [S]ea [I]sland cotton exhibited in the Liverpool market last year. It was grown on the plantation of Judge Daniells.” The article continues that numerous orchards, figs, peach, orange, lemon, all flourish here “in voluptuous luxuriance… Mr. John Williams is now raising several orchards of peach trees, which will in time yield twenty thousand bushels annually of choice fruit. The same gentleman is cultivating vine successfully. The most important resource “extensive forests of matchless timber of various kinds, has for a long time afforded a profitable investment of capital and labor to a large portion of our citizens…The quantity of timber is almost inexhaustible. For all the various purposes of building timber of the most superior kind may be found here in abundance such as the live oak, pine, bald cypress, and juniper. Also, “…greatest source of wealth…yet undeveloped, untried…the tar and turpentine business, Mr. Skinner has declared as ‘the most profitable application of rural industry at this time in the Union.”

A very detailed and fascinating description of Gainesville was published in

The Gainesville Gazette, No. 1 September 27, 1845, No. XXI.

New Orleans, September 1845.

Mr. Editor: ___

The haste in which I left Gainesville did not admit of my answering your inquiries as to how I was pleased with your town and my tour into the interior. But comfortable with the promise which I then gave you. I have taken this, the first opportunity to tell you plainly what I think of your town and how I was pleased. You remember I arrived about eleven o’clock at night, and therefore had no opportunity of judging correctly of the appearance of your town from the water. But the number of persons collected on the wharf at that time of night, and the number of white houses, magnified by the moon’s misty light, let me to imagine your town more populous and larger than it really was, but these errors were dispelled in the morning. After having enjoyed a refreshing sleep in one of the comfortable apartments of that excellent establishment of mine accommodating host of the Gainesville Hotel, an establishment not less creditable to the proprietor than to your town, I sallied forth in the morning to see your town and vicinity. I admired very much the beautiful front which your town presents to the river, the picturesque appearance of the umbrageous and verdant foliage of the wide-spreading live oaks that fringe the river’s margin and overshadow the waves beneath. Captain Harper’s residence upon a ridge terminating abruptly, sloping either way to the water’s edge, overlooking a rich bottom point and commanding a full view of the river both above and below for about a mile, I think was one of the most lovely sites in the whole vicinity of Gainesville, and susceptible of being made one of the most beautiful residences in the State. I was not aware, and dare say that most people who visit your town are not, that a thin skirt of the woods, not three hundred feet in width, but nearly a fourth of a mile in length intervenes between the bluff and the river. I learned that the proprietor contemplates clearing or thinning it so as to make a woodland pasture of it, and unveil the prospect of the scene above. This improvement when made, besides giving an unobstructed course to the winds from the river above, will exhibit your town in quite a new and much more interesting aspect. Quite a mile of bluff will then be presented to the river, and to the town the serpentine course of the river for more than a mile.

After examining the front of the town I passed to the rear. I found that your town was improving up and back. I suppose this to be because the business comes from above. I had not proceeded more than three or four squares from the river before I unfortunately stumbled over a grave-yard – a town of the dead in the town of the living, a quite incompatible and which I did not expect to find in a southern town where so much care is necessary to avoid sickness arising from the rapid decomposition of decayed vegetable and animal matter, and where the hot sun succeeding heavy rains cause noxious effuvia to arise from any putrescent matter. I thought it also very impolite in the property holders of town to tolerate such a thing in direct opposition to their interests. For there is scarcely one in a thousand but would object to live contiguous to the grave-yard; the consequence then will be that the property in the vicinity of your grave-yard, though in the direction of the town is improving, and would continue to improve but for the tenements of the dead will remain almost valueless; but not only this, it will also deter persons who are desirous of purchasing summer residences from selecting your town as a retreat from the heat, filth and sickness of the Great City. When I reflected upon the infancy of your town I was surprised to see so many graves, which I thought the strongest refutation of the reputed health of your town, but I was afterward undeceived, for I was informed that the grave-yard had for many years previous to its existence, been the common burial place for the neighborhood, and that the proprietor in laying out the town, not being able to appropriate the burial place to any profitable purpose, had continue to inter it and no neighbor had set them the example of burying elsewhere. Alas! What gregarious things are human kind! From the grave yard I proceeded in the direction in which I heard a steam engine. I had not proceeded more than half a mile when I came upon a large steam saw mill, apparently at the confluence of four rivers; the engine was puffing away, and the saw rattling in a most obstreperous manner, that awakened the solitude of the surrounding forest with quite a business sound. Everything around looked like active energetic employment. On the opposite shore was the wreck of an old condemned steamer. Peering above the water on an opposite shore from that the steamboat nearly ready to be launched. I understood that it was to ply from Gainsville up to the Pearl River, and that another boat one hundred and fifty feet long, to run between Gainsville and New Orleans, was to be begun as soon as the one on the stocks should be launched. Some enterprise speaks favorably for your town, you are right, “go ahead”. The city continues healthy, no appearance of yellow fever, citizens continue to return. Business will begin brisk and early this season.

 

 

 

 June 18, 1810 – Mathurin Babin Claim

On June 18, 1810, Mathurin Babin was given permission by the Spanish government to settle on the right of the Pearl River in a place which was inhabited by a man named Castillon (Jackson Court House District Land Records, 1820-1847, Certificate #32).  The land was located east of the Challon Claim (Drake 1931) and consisted of all of Section 5. Parcel A and three quarters of Parcel C fall within this claim.  According to the testimony given by Simon Favre and Ambrose Gaines, the said Castillon abandoned the prospective Babin site three years prior and had gone over to the “American Dominions.”  Babin, living on the land since 1809, received his claim from Pellerin, Civil and Military Commander of Bay St. Louis and its Coast, representative of the Governor of Pensacola, Babin’s land neighbored the Challon claim to the east (Barton 1820).  It is unclear, at this point if Castillion is a corruption of Challon, or a different individual.  No other references to Castillion were found during the deed search.

There is also some uncertainty as to the identity of Mathurin Babin.  A petition by Prospero Casimir Babin, dated April 27, 1804, requests a parcel “on the right (dereche) of the Pearl River, on a place which was inhabited by Castillion.” This document, located in the Manuscript Department, Tulane University, undoubtedly refers to the same claim listed for Mathurine Babin in the Courthouse records.  Prospero, a Lieutenant in the Militia, requested the land from the Spanish authorities, Don Juan Morales, Intendent General. Either Mathurin was a descendant of Prospero, or Prospero may have changed names to reclaim his claim in the newly formed land commissions set up by the U.S. Government to review existing land deeds in the former Spanish territories.

The earliest reference to this deed to be found in the Hancock County Courthouse dates to December 12, 1853.  This entry, showing the transfer of the land from the U.S. Government to Babin is most likely a re-registering of the original deed, following the burning of the Gainesville Courthouse on March 31, 1853.  The next transaction for the Babin Claim is an entry dated January 31, 1854 documenting the transfer of 635 acres in Section 5 from Asa Russ to Christian Koch.  There is no record, however, showing how Russ acquired the Babin claim.

 

W.C.C. Claiborne, Dr. Flood and JFH Claiborne

 

A request was made by Daniel Burnett of the town of Washington, Mississippi Territory, for an additional judge for the area east of Pearl River. This resulted on March 2, 1810 in the approval of Washington County as a judicial district of Mississippi Territory.  (2 Statute 564)

Among the first magistrates appointed by Claiborne was Philip Saucier, from an ancient family in France, a man of mark in his day, with the high sense of honor of the old cavalier, and noted for his hospitality and kindness.

Also appointed was Simon Favre, about whom J.F.H. Claiborne, wrote, “Judge Favre was a man of education, fortune and standing. He had originally lived in Mobile and on the Tombigbee River, but as far back as 1777, he was residing on Pearl River. Bartram stated that in 1777 Favre offered him passage to his house on the Pearl where he entertained him with great hospitality.”[64].

In 1811, there was an important exhange of letters between W.C.C. Claiborne and Dr. William Flood, involving Favre and Saucier. On January 9 1811, Dr. William Flood docked the Alligator at Simon Farves’s farm and reported on instructions given him by Claiborne. In order to quell any violence or civil unrest, the U.S. Government, through Governor Claiborne, sent Dr. William Flood, who in turn sent Judge Flood to appoint Justices of the Peace along the Mississippi Gulf coast. When Flood visited the Hancock area, then part of Biloxi Parish, he appointed Simon Favre of Pearlington as one of the new justices.

This is detailed in the following documents.  The first is the request from Governor Claiborne to Dr. Flood, and then two versions of his reply are reported. The first version is taken from JFH Claiborne’s history, and the second from the governor’s letter books. It may be argued that the latter is the more reliable, but the second could have value simply from the viewpoint of showing the regard JFH Claiborne had for Simon Favre and the people of Pearl River, assuming that the discrepancies were a result of editorializing.

The Request from Claiborne to Dr. William Flood'

New Orleans January 5. 1811.

Sir,

Having understood that the good Citizens inhabiting a tract of Country situated on the Bay St. Louis; the Rivers Viloxy and Pascagoula and the Bayou Batin were in a state of Anarchy, acknowledging no authority, but that of a Commandant appointed by the late Florida Convention, or some individual acting under their orders; I have passed an Ordinance by which the Tract of Country aforesaid is divided into two distinct Parishes, and am desirous to enforce within the same as soon as possible the laws of the Territory of Orleans: You will therefore proceed from hence by the Bay St. Louis, and the Bay Viloxy to the Mouth of Pascagoula.  On your arrival at Bay St. Louis, you will cause the American Standard to be reared; and to be circulated among the Inhabitants, copies of the enclosed Ordinance establishing the Parish of Viloxy.

You have two commissions for Justices of the Peace also enclosed the one for Simeion Favre and the other for Fortesque Coming, which you will be pleased to have delivered.  You have also two blank Commissions, for justices of the peace for Viloxy, which you will fill up with the names of such Citizens as you may find best entitled to the Confidence.  An Elderly Gentleman residing at the pass of Christian has been represented to me as a man of honesty and good demeanor, and if upon enquiry you find such representation correct you will be pleased to present him with one of said Commissions.

From the Bay St. Louis you will proceed to the Mouth of Pascagoula where you will cause to be reared the American standard; and to be circulated among the Inhabitants copies of the ordinance establishing the Parish of Pascagoula. You are entrusted with four blank commissions for justices of the peace in the parish of Pascagoula which you will fill up with the names of such Citizens as (from the best information you can obtain) you shall deem most entitled to public confidence.

To the several Justices of the peace you will administer an Oath to support the Constitution of the United States, and also an Oath of Office; and present to each a copy of the Civil Code and of the Laws of the Territory of which eight copies will be delivered to your Order on tomorrow by Mr. Vassant.

It has been confidently stated to me that a Mr. Duprie styling Major and acting as he says under a commission from Reuben Kemper, styling himself Col: in the service of the Florida Convention, has at its command a body of armed men, principally Americans; and that Duprie has committed depredations of the good Inhabitants of Pascagoula.  It will be advisable that you see Duprie or some of his confidential associates; that you inform him or them that the powers of the Florida Convention are no more; that the people of Pascagoula are now under the protection of the American Government; and that the authority of the Laws will be brought to bear against the disturbers of the public peace, and the violaters of the rights of others.

Commodore Shaw will furnish you with a Boat; and Captain Farragout of the navy will accompany you. He is well acquainted with the country and the people; and may be serviceable as an Interpreter of the Spanish language.

You will purchase on the public account two stand of Colors; and keep an account of all your expenses which shall be remunerated.

 I shall expect on your return a report in writing, stating all occurances of importance; and in which report you will gove a description of the Coast, the Country, population soil and productions.

Wishing you an agreeable voyage and the enjoyment of good health

I am Sir, &c

(sgd) W.C.C. Claiborne

Dr. Flood[65]

 

JFH Claiborne version of Reply

 

Dr. William Flood to Governor Claiborne 25 January 1811

“Governor: In compliance with your instructions I embarked on the Alligator [U.S. sloop commanded by Captain George Farragut], on the 5th and proceeded to Mr. Simon Favre’s on the eastern bank of Pearl river <sic>. He is a planter, owns a large stock, and is educated and very agreeable man. He accepted the commission with pleasure, and will make an energetic officer, and seems greatly to value the respect you have manifested for him. I hoisted the flag of the United States at Bay St. Louis on the 8th, and handed a commission to Philip Saucier, a venerable gentleman of prepossessing manners and with patriarchal influence…They [the inhabitants from the Pearl to the Biloxi Bay] are, all along this beautiful coast, a primitive people, of mixed origins, retaining the gaity and politeness of the French, blended with the abstemiouness and indolence of the Indian. They plant a little rice, and a few roots and vegetables, but depend for subsitstence chiefly on game and fish. I left with all these appointees copies of the laws, ordinances, etc. But few laws will be wanted here. The people are universally honest. There are no crimes. The father of the family or the oldest inhabitant settles all disputes.

On the morning of the 13th I landed at Pascagoula and planted the national flag. Here I met some men who had just come down the river from Dupree;s, who said that he was at home, and that he had taken down the convention flag on the 2nd inst., and hoisted the national colors. Kemper had dismissed his men, informing them that the object of their association had been accomplished, and advised them to strictly obey the laws of the United States. After commissioning Forortesque Coming, I dispatched him up the river to Dupree, to induce him to restore the property he had carried off. Finding no one able to read or write in the Pascagoula settlement, and the inhabitants expressing great confidence in and attachment for Capt. George Farragut, sailing master in the Navy, on this station, I prevailed upon him to accept the commission for the parish. Benjamin Gooden, the other magistrate, resides on the river twenty miles up. Finding that only one family resided in Bayou Batre, I did not go there but entrusted a flag with Mr. Morrison, formerly of the Navy, who promised to hoist it at that point. The population of Pascagoula parish is about three hundered and fifty; of the parish of Biloxi, four hundred and twenty – chiefly French and Creoles. A more innocent and inoffensive people may not be found. They seem to desire only the simple necessities of life, and to be let alone in their tranquility. I am greatly impressed with the beauty and value of this coast. The high sandy lands, heavily timbered with pine, and the lovely bays and rivers, from Pearl River to Mobile, will furnish New Orleans with a rich commerce, and with a delightful summer resort. For a cantonment or military post, in consideration of the health of the troops, this whole coast is admirably fitted.” [66]

 
W.C.C. Claiborne Letter Book version

Doctor Flood's Report.

 

N. Orleans Jan: 25. 1811   

Sir,

In compliance with your instructions to me dated New Orleans Jan: 5. 1811, I embarked on board the Fellucca Alligator and proceeded to Simeon Favre's on the Eastern bank of Pearl River and delivered him his commission as Justice of the Peace in and for the Parish of Viloxy, a copy of the Civil Code of the Territory and the Laws and different acts of the Legislature. From Pearl River I proceeded to the Bay of St. Louis and Pass of Christian where I hoisted the Flag of the United States on 9th Jan: 1811 at 2 O'clock, and filled up a commission as Justice of the peace in and for the Parish of Viloxy for Philip Saucier delivered him a Copy of the Civil Code of the Territory with the Laws and different acts of the Legislature. From the Bay of St. Louis and Pass of Christian I went to the Bay of Viloxy where I filled up a Commission of Justice of the Peace in and for the Parish of Viloxy with the name of Jaque L’ Adner who, can neither read nor write, nor can an Inhabitant of the Bay of Viloxy, giving him at the same time a Copy of the Civil Code of the Territory with the Laws and Acts of the Legislature. From the Bay of Viloxy I proceeded to the Mouth of -Pascagoula River where on the morning of the 13th of Jan: 1811 I hoisted the flag of the United States. At this place I met with several men who a few days before had left Depra, I overtook Fortescu Coming who had passed on before me distributing Copies of the Presidents Proclamation. From Depra’s on the 2. Jan: 1811….  Kemper had dismissed his men after telling them that the object of their association was completed, that they were now under the protection of the United States to which he strongly and impressively advised them to pay due allegiance and respect. .

Conceiving as I did that Dupra could at no future period be so well convinced as at this, of the necessity of returning the property which he and his party had arrested from innocent people at the Mouth of Pascagoula I concluded that Mr. F. Corning was a proper person for showing this necessity.  I therefore declined presenting him with his Commission of Justice of the Peace in and for the Parish of Viloxy, but filled up one for him as Justice of the Peace for the Parish of Pascagoula, presenting him with the necessary Laws, in order that he might proceed up the Pascagoula, and new assurances of the determination of the Government of the United States, to support the people of that Country and by every means of persuasion and moderation to produce a restoration of the property, and correct the misunderstanding which existed among some of the Inhabitants.  Finding no person able either to read or write residing there at the Bay or Mouth of the Pascagoula, and the Inhabitants expressing great confidence in and attachment to Geo: Farragout (Sailing master in the navy of the United States) I persuaded him for the time being to accept of a Commission of Justice of the Peace in and for the Parish of Pascagoula, which I accordingly filled up, and delivered him the necessary Laws.  I also filled up a Commission for Benjamin Goodin living twenty miles from the mouth of the Pascagoula as Justice of the Peace in and for the Parish of Pascagoula, and delivered him also the necessary Laws.

 

The conduct of Kemper in connection with the Revolution of West Florida has been misunderstood by more than one commentator.  He was a patriotic revolutionist and not a brigand. (Editor’s note: This comment is to be credited to editor of Claiborne Letter Books.)

 

My proceedings to the Bayou Batin appeared unnecessary as it is only the residence of one small family. I however put under charge of Mr. Morrison formerly of the United States Navy a flag with instructions to hoist it at the residence of the Person at Bayou Batin and leave it under his care.

The whole population of the Parish of Viloxy-from the best information I could collect may be estimated at four hundred and twenty, that of the Parish of Pascagoula, three hundred and fifty principally french, and Natives of Louisiana, a people more innocent and less offending than I ever say. They seem to regard nothing but the immediate necessaries for the support of life, and are much pleased at being attached to and protected by the United States. How sensibly have I been impressed with the advantages that part of Louisiana which has lately been taken possession of) is to the U. States and particularly to the Inhabitants of the part of the Mississippi.

The high sandy Soil covered with pine and the beautiful Bays and Rivers which empty into the Sea from Lake Ponchartrain to the Bay of Mobile, seem to promise full recompence for the unhealthiness of the Climate of New Orleans (1). It is my Opinion in a military point of view for protection to the Country, and ensuring to the Officer and the Soldier, the Pass of Christian and Mouth of Pascagoula cannot be surpassed nor equalled either in the Mississippi Territory or that of Orleans.

                With great respect &C &C

               

                (sgd) William Flood [67]

 

(Editor’s note: The above version is in line with a previous letter from Governor Claiborne, in which he states that he had already appointed a Justice of the Peace for the jurisdiction of Bay. St. Louis. While the earlier letter does not mention Favre by name, it is apparent from Dr. Flood’s report that he merely “delivered him his commission.” [68]   

 

In that same time period, it is recorded that in February 1811, surveyor Elihu Carver who described the area  as “poor pine and Black Jack Land… poor level pine land.”  Moreover, a Territorial Ordinance of April 25, 1811 established parish boundaries, setting up Biloxi Parish between the Pearl River and the river running into Biloxi Bay. (Historical Records Survey, Louisiana, County Parish Boundaries)

 

 

Chapter 9 – East Pearl Annexation

 

May 14, 1812

After Louisiana was admitted as a state in 1812, land east of the Pearl River, west of the Perdido River, and south of the 31st degree north latitude was annexed by an Act of Congress on May 14, 1812, to the Territory of Mississippi. (Act of May 14, 1812, 2 Statutes 734) An occupation was effected when troops entered Mobile April 1813.  On May 14, 1812, the newly annexed area was organized into Mobile County, which shortly thereafter was broken into three. That part which became Hancock included present day Harrison, Pearl and Stone counties. [69]  Certificates of Confirmation were issued June 30, 1812, thus approving claims by the General Land Office.  A published report by Board of Land Commissioners was delivered to the Secretary of the Treasury, July 3, 1807; in turn, it was delivered to the House of Representatives January 2, 1809.

In 1813, Hancock County became part of the Mississippi Territory. It was in that year that General Ferdinand Claiborne, with concern about the Creek War, secured the cooperation and neutrality of the Choctaws by enlisting the help of General George Nixon, George Gaines, John Pitchlyn,[70] and Simon Favre, all of Hancock County. The General had also invited Pushmataha to his camp.[71]

Governor Claiborne expressed his concern in several communications:  On September 8, 1813, in a letter to the Colonels of the Militia, he wrote, “It is confidently reported that many slaves have escaped from their masters & joined the Indians, & it is feared, the Choctaws if they have not already will soon become hostile”.  On the 16th, he advised Judge Toulmin of St. Tammany, “I feel sensibly for the distress of your frontier. The object of my present visit to this Parish is to take some measure for the safety of the Inhabitants, which will be seriously manaces in the event of the Choctaws join[ing] the Creeks, which seems to me highly probable.”

On September 17, 1813, he stated again that it was “by no means improbable” for the Choctaws to join the Creeks. He thought that the plan of the English was to get the American forces committed to the Creek War, thus drawing attention away from the Louisiana area and allowing the British to eventually take New Orleans.[72]

Chapter 10

 

South Mississippi Involvement in the War of 1812

 

Major Howell Tatum, Jackson’s chief topographical engineer, traveled to New Orleans with Jackson in 1814. He included in his journal a description of the land the day after crossing the Pearl: “On this rout <sic> there are several tracts of land timbered with a mixture of Oak and Pine that appears capable of affording Tolerable plantations, but the lands in general are flat, Piney and swampy, and of small value except for he Timber they afford, which would be very useful to the mill holders if the navigation of the Pearl river was opened.”

At the same time, the British account of the area south of the Pearl described a much more wretched terrain. A British officer, Lt. George Gleig, who chronicled the attack on New Orleans, wrote about Pine Island, which was must be equated with Pea Island, below the mouth of the Pearl River. “It was a swamp, containing a small space of firm ground at one end, and almost wholly unadorned with trees of any sort and description. There were, indeed a few stinted firs upon the very edge of the water, but these were so diminutive in size as hardly to deserve a higher classification than among the meanest of shrubs. The interior was the resort of wild ducks and other waterfowl; and the pools and creeks with which it was intercepted abounded in dormant alligators…we landed upon a barren island, incapable of furnishing even fuel enough to supply our fire.” [73]

The above realistically contrasts with the rich timberland just a few miles away. But if indeed Gleig employed realism in his description of the terrain, his belief regarding the climate evinced some exaggeration: “…independent of the vile air which the vicinity of so many putrid swamps occasions, this country is more liable than perhaps any other to sudden and severe changes of temperature. A night of keen frost sufficiently powerful to produce ice a quarter of an inch in thickness, frequently follows a day of intense heat…”

Gleig’s account of the military action in the area of Lake Borgne and the mouth of the Pearl is dramatic. Telling of the approaches of the British ships before making land below New Orleans, he wrote that they “…began on the 13th (of December 1814) to enter Lake Borgne. But we had not proceeded far when it was apparent that the Americans were well acquainted with our intentions, and ready to receive us. Five large cutters, armed with six heavy guns each, were seen at anchor….It was therefore determined  at all hazards, and at any expense, to take them; and since our lightest craft could not float where they sailed, a flotilla of launches and ships’ barges was got ready for the purpose….The command was given to Captain Lockier….he resolved to refresh his men before he hurried them into action; and accordingly, letting fall grapplings just beyond the reach of the enemy’s guns, the crews of the different boats coolly ate their dinner….As soon as the meal was finished, , and an hour spent in resting, the boats again got ready to advance….and giving a hearty cheer , they moved steadily onward in one extended line. It was not long before the enemy’s guns opened upon them, and a tremendous shower of balls saluted their approach. Some boats were sunk, others disabled, and many men were killed and wounded; but the rest pulling with all their might, and occasionally returning the discharges from their cannonades, succeeded, after an hour’s labor, in closing with the Americans. The marines now began a deadly fire of musketry; whilst the seamen, sword in hand, sprang up the vessels’ sides in spite of all opposition; and sabring every man  that stood in their way, hauled down the American ensign, and hoisted the British flag in its place.” [74] Gleig could not have guessed at the time that the action described would be the last of the glory his men were to achieve in their invasion. It was shortly after that the British found it necessary to transfer their men from the large ships to Pea Island, where they spent many hours in freezing rain, without shelter and with no fires. Some of their West Indian troops, who had never experienced such damp cold, died of exposure before morning.

It was a week after their disastrous defeat at Chalmette on January 8, 1815, that the British were retreating through Lake Borgne, when Thomas Shields, after whom Shieldsborough had been named, achieved some personal vengeance.

 Earlier, on December 15, Shields, a navy purser, and Dr. R. Morrell, a surgeon of the navy, had been sent on a mission under a flag of truce. Their purpose was to obtain information about prisoners on the British gunboats. They met with officers of the British fleet near the eastern branch of the Pearl River. Major Latour reported on their meeting with Admiral Cochrane: “They met the admiral in his barge, who having read commodore Patterson’s letter and the credentials he had given to those gentlemen, returned the letter without any observation, and ordered the tender to anchor at the mouth of the Pearl river. On the 18th, in the morning, the admiral sent for the gentlemen, who accordingly waited on him on the shore of Isle-Aux-Pois. He first inquired what rank they held in the American navy: and next observed that their visit was unseasonable under the existing circumstances; that he could not permit them to return, until the intended attack was made, and the fate of New Orleans decided….On the gentlemen’s expressing a wish to know in what light he thought proper to consider them, the admiral replied that it was his intention to respect the flag of truce, though he thought he should not be reprehensible, were he to treat them as prisoners of war.”[75]

They were indeed kept until after the British surrender at Chalmette. For a full account of the events that followed, Major Tatum’s report is quoted:

 

A few days after the battle of the 8th a flag was received proposing an exchange of

 prisoners…. On this agreement Mr. Shields & party were liberated and returned….Irritated at his detention, Mr. Shields determined to obtain satisfaction for the injury he considered himself to have sustained. While on board the enemy Fleet he had obtained information that Admirals Cochrane and Malcolm were on shore with the land forces, and were expected to return, in barges, about the 16th. On returning to Head Quarters he suggested a plan for intercepting these admirals, on their return, which was approved of, both by the General & Commodore. He was accordingly furnished with a few armed barges at Fort St. John’s properly equipped, and immediately before the day the admirals were to return descended through the pass Chef Menteur, into Lake Bourne, or, as the French call it, Lac Bourgne, where he concealed until barges were discovered; these he pursued and fired on one of them at long shot, but without success. This was said to be Malcolm’s. Cochranes was said to have returned on the preceeding day. On returning from the chace he fell in with and captured one other Barge containing a crew of sailors & a number of Cavalry officers & soldiers, amounting in the whole to, upwards of, fifty, two of which were Commisioned officers of Cavalry, or Dragoons.[76]

 

Additionally, on January 22, “…they steered toward the Rigolets and bagged a transport boat. An hour and a half later they captured a schooner of 110 tons, and still later three more boats. Because of the sandbar at the Rigolets, the schooner could not be brought in and so Shields set it on fire.”[77]

Thomas Shields had had his revenge. The British had had insult added to their injury. Other locals of the region under study were involved in the War of 1812. The 18th Regiment of the Mississippi Militia, Captain Joseph Vellio’s Company, included Major Elihu Carver, several Favres, Sauciers, and Ladners, Cadet Lafontaine, one Mitchell, and a Nicaise.[78]

Chapter 11

Post War Activity

The Pearl River Convention in 1816 at John Ford’s between Columbia and Gainesville memorialized (?) Congress to admit Mississippi Territory to the Union as one state. Delegates from 15 of the 20 existing counties attended.[79]  Ford’s Convention on October 29, 1816 petitioned to join the Union.

On that date, Thomas Anderson represented the citizens of Hancock County at the convention to petition for U.S. citizenship (Rowland and Sanders 1927:708).  The petition, written in English and French, requested that the area be included as part of Louisiana, and that all grants of land to individuals should remain. The members of the Convention added a plea for additional time in registering their claims since the English and the Indians were making meeting those deadlines impossible (Memorial to Congress by Citizens of Mobile, Jackson and Hancock Counties 1816).

Memorial to Congress by Citizens of Mobile, Jackson and Hancock counties. HF: 14th Congress, 1st Session: February 1, 1816 referred, petition to be treated as U.S. citizens as part of Louisiana and the Grants of Land to Individuals should be the same. Plead that Indians and English made making deadlines for claims impossible. Baker (3); Robberts, Goff, Lyons (2), Garrow, Eslava, Haupt, Dolives, Motley, Garnett, Ryan, Grisham, Bilbo, Ward (4), Howell (2), Hall, clement, Boysage,:652-4, also in French. Referred to Committee on Public Lands, House Journal, 14th Congress, 1st Session,: 258;, 2nd Session, :51.

Following the convention, other progress can be identified:

An enabling Act on March 1, 1817 admitted the western part of the territory as a state. Shortly thereafter, the first tax rolls for Hancock County 1819 were promulgated. There were 170 taxpayers listed, of which 48 were in Pearl River area. White men between the ages of 18 and 50 were taxed, but others listed even if they paid no tax. Part of the reason for the tax rolls was for military purposes.  Also in 1819, the Adams-Onis Treaty between the U.S. and Spain finally ceded the land once part of West Florida to the U.S.

March 3, 1819 was an important date in the adjusting of claims east of New Orleans. Willoughby Barton was appointed register at Jackson Courthouse (Feliciana Parish?), He was aided by William Bennett. Report printed August 17, 1820. American State Papers, Public Lands III, 444-55, also in Senate Documents, 16th Congress, 2nd Session, No. 3, Serial 42.

Following the War of 1812, soldiers arrived at Logtown to produce timber needed in the construction of Fort Pike, situated on the nearby Rigolets to prevent enemy entry into Lake Pontchartrain. When Joseph Challon conveyed the rights of his land to W. R. Wingate in 1828, Logtown already had a lumber mill built in 1825 by E. G. Goddard of Michigan.

Chapter 12

 

 The Choctaws

 

It is not clear which treaty, if any, governed the Choctaws of Hancock County. Although there is some attribution to Mount Dexter, this is contradicted by other evidence, as stated previously.  Even before West Florida changed hands, the Spanish were having difficulty with the Choctaws observing the boundary between the Spanish lands and Mississippi Territory. Having felt betrayed by France in the sale of Louisiana, Spain increased patrolling its remaining borders. In the process, direct conflict with the Choctaws was the result. Not having clear concepts of land ownership or territorial restrictions, the Indians often crossed the 31st parallel, and some were arrested by Spain. According to De Rosier, “the United States acted wisely toward their transgressions. It protected the Indians against the Spaniards, and the result was a greater Choctaw dependence on, and respect for, the federal government.”[80]

The Choctaws were generally friendly to the early settlers, but a number of letters of W.C.C. Claiborne written between 1801 and 1812 repeatedly state that the Choctaws committed “depredations” against the white people of the Pearl and other areas. Details of their transgressions, however, indicate that their offences were principally involving cattle and hogs, and in one case four barrels of flour and “a deal of meat.”[81] An earlier isolated account of a Choctaw uprising against the French tells of their attack in 1767 on the settlers of Bay St. Louis area, killing their cattle and causing them to escape to Cat Island.[82]

Pushmataha, the great Choctaw chief, in 1805 signed the Treaty of Mount Dexter, granting lands to the United States.  He also represented the Choctaws at an1820 conference leading to Treaty of Doak’s Stand.

In 1811, Tecumseh the great warrior and orator of the Shawnee [Siouan speakers?] nation came south to try to unite his people of the Northwest with the Muscogee Tribes. In this effort, he sought to improve an alliance with the British, who were intent on backing the Indians against the United States.

Tecumseh spent several weeks among the Choctaws, who allowed him to speak before the grand council. Among the Choctaw chiefs in attendance was Pushmataha, who with a majority of like-minded chiefs, chose not to follow Tecumseh. Thus, the Choctaws continued to display their friendship to the government.

Andrew Jackson said that Pushmataha was “the greatest and bravest Indian I have ever known.” Considered a great warrior, he was also known as wise, eloquent, and always “…under all circumstances, the white man’s best friend.[83]  This did not include the British, however. Pushmataha was one of the three medal-chiefs, and considered to be the “most eloquent speaker in the [Choctaw] nation.[84]  In the Creek war, Pushmataha led 500 Choctaws against the British. General Ferdinand Claiborne awarded him a regimental uniform, “with gold epaulets, a sword, and silver spurs.” He was given the brevet rank of brigadier general in the U.S. Army. He had meetings with presidents Jefferson and Monroe, Secretary of War Calhoun, General Lafayette, and other distinguished Americans. He spoke Spanish and French as well as English, and his only equal in eloquence was Tecumseh. At death, John Randolph of Virginia eulogized him in the Senate. The Congressional Cemetery in Washington contains the ashes of this great Choctaw Chief. He died proud that neither he nor his people ever “drew bows against the United States.”

Regarding Pushmataha, H.S.Halbert[85] had the following to report to J.F.H

Claiborne:

Crawfordville, Lowndes County, Miss. Dec 2

Col. Claiborne

My dear sir. I send you a sketch of Pushmataha which may be of some service to you. It was copied out of an old book. Perhaps every thing contained in the sketch is already familiar to you. If so, no harm done, and no trouble in sending it to you.

In Pickett’s history of Alabama, in the account of the attack on Fort Sinkfield he mentions one of defenders killed, name not recorded. His name however was Stephen Leacey. He was shot through the head by a rifle ball, the ball coming through a port hole. The young man who made the dog charge on the Indians was named Hayden, not Heaton as Pickett has it, full name Isaac Hayden.

There lives near me an old Negro 84 years of age, whom I have known all my life.

This old negro is perhaps the last survivor of the inmates of Fort Madison.

He has a clear recollection of all the events that occurred there and at Fort Sinkfield. He knew Caldas (?), the Negro participant of the canoe fight. He was with the detail under Major Kern that buried the dead at Fort Mims, says that the stench of the dead bodies so intolerable as to induce the most violent vomitings on the part of the men. Says that there was a persimmon tree that stood about ten feet in front of the main gate where the Indians made their first attack, which was terribly riddled with rifle bullets, hundreds of bullets striking that tree. The wagon road coming up to the gate passed by the tree, having the tree on the left coming to the fort. The old man has a clear recollection of all the events of the war which fell under his observation.

I am sorry your book will not be out of press earlier. Times are fresher more than they will be later in the season and agents would have less trouble making their sales. I notice in the Clarion that you may bring out more than a third. Weatherford has many relatives and descendants in Southern Alabama. Would it be a good idea to open a correspondence with him and glean some additional facts about his career and private life?

Very truly your friend, H.S. Halbert

His nephew, Netukacha, who at the time of Indian removal was the chief of the Lower district, succeeded Pushmataha.  Because the Choctaws, as stated above, were loyal to the Americans and having difficulties with the British, it is interesting to read in the British report of the War of 1812 that the Choctaws were their allies.

.

Gleig report

 It must be considered that British author Gleig could have been mistaken in identifying the tribe. For this reason and because the report is valuable for its first hand descriptions of the people and their conditions, a substantial part of the report is quoted.

On this side of the continent our principal allies were the Chaktaws and Cherokees, two nations whom war and famine had reduced from a state of comparative majesty to the lowest ebb of feebleness and distress. Driven from hunting ground to hunting ground, and pursued like wild beasts whenever seen, they were now confined to a narrow tract of country, lying chiefly along the coast of the gulf and the borders of the lakes which adjoin to it. For some time previous to the arrival of the expedition, the warriors of these tribes put themselves under the command of Colon Nickolls, of the Royal Marines, and continued to harass the Americans by frequent incursions into the cultivated districts. It so happened, however, that, being persuaded to attempt the reduction of a fort situated upon Mobile Point, and being, as might be expected, repulsed with some loss, their confidence in their leader and their dependence upon British aid, had begun of late to suffer a serious diminution. Though not very profitable as friends, their local position and desultory mode of warfare would have rendered them at this period exceedingly annoying to us as enemies; it was accordingly determined to dispatch an embassy to their settlements, for the purpose of restoring them to good humour, or at least discovering their intentions.

Whilst the troops were assembling on Pine Island [Pea Island?], a cutter, having proper officers on board, and carrying presents of clothing, arms and rum, was dispatched upon this business. It reached its place of destination in safety, and the ambassadors found very little difficulty in bringing back the fickle Indians to their wonted reliance upon British support. Several of the chiefs and warriors, indeed requested and obtained permission to visit our Admiral and General, and to follow the fortunes of our troops; and a very grotesque and singular appearance they presented as they stood upon the quarter-deck of the Tonnant. But the costumes, habits, and customs of these savages have been too frequently and too accurately described elsewhere, to render any present account of them on the present occasion desirable. It is sufficient to observe that while they gazed upon everything around them with a look expressive of no astonishment whatever, they were themselves objects of eager curiosity to us; and that they bore our close inspection and somewhat uncourteous deportment with the most perfect philosophy.”[86]

 

Perhaps the British had bad intelligence. Perhaps it was a matter of optimistic perspective. In point of fact, before Jackson left Mobile for New Orleans, his army already included several hundred Choctaws and Chickasaws. In a letter of October 21, 1814, written just weeks before the British invasion, W.C.C. Claiborne said, “At present, the Cherokees, Chickasawa and the Choctaws furnish General Jackson with as much Indian forces as is desirable.”[87]At New Orleans, Choctaws fought with General Coffee’s army, and others terrorized the British camp. [88]

 

W.C.C. Claiborne to Simon Favre  

Indeed, in 1812 there undoubtedly had been some questions of the Choctaw loyalty in the mind of Governor Claiborne. At that time, he wrote to Simon Favre a letter, two versions of which are found, a problem similar to that described above in the case of the Flood report. The first to be quoted is from the letter books of W.C.C. Claiborne; the second is from JFH Claiborne’s major work.

New Orleans, August 4, 1812

Sir:

Having received information that the Chactaws of the lower Towns are committing depredations in the settlements of Pearl, Leaf and Checkasaw-hey e Rivers, & had discovered a hostile disposition towards the United States, I have addressed to them a “Talk,” Herein enclosed, & which I commit to your care. – I request you therefore to proceed without delay to the Nation, and after assembling the Chiefs and Head men, you will deliver and explain my address,-and to which you will  add such observations of you own, as you may think best calculated to incline them to Peace and feindship.-Should you meet with Mr. Silas Dinsmour the agent of the U.S., for the Choctaws, or with Mr. Pitchylynnm or any other person in the nation in the employ of the U.S., you will explain to them the object of you visit, & request their Co-operation.-

. During your stay you will make inquiries and transmit me on your return, information on the following points: 1st. Whether the Creeks and Choctaws have been furnished with Military supplies At Pensacola and Mobile- & if so, by whom – to what amount and with what views.

 2d. The number of warriors in the Choctaw Nation, and what portion of them are supposed to be under Spanish or British influence?

 3rd. The name of the town where the Spanirds & English have the most partisans, and the Character of the Principal Chiefs and of these towns.

 4th. Whether the Prophet, had sent talks Among the Chactaws, & whether his Brother Ticumsey had visited them.

You will be pleased to keep an account of your expenses, which together with such reasonable Compensation for your services, as the Legislature of Louisiana shall think proper to prescribe, shall be allowed you.-.[89]

 

The next letter is the JFH Claiborne version. Its date of June 4 contrasts to the first but is not an error on the part of this study; it appears as such in JFH Claiborne’s writing.

New Orleans, June 4, 1812

Sir:

Having received information that the Choctaws of the lower towns are committing depredations in the settlements of Pearl, Leaf and Chica awha rivers, and are disclosing a hostile disposition towards the United States, I have addressed to them a “Talk,” which I herewith commit to your care. I request you to proceed without delay to the Nation, and after assembling the Chiefs and Head men, you will deliver and explain my address, adding such obvservations and urging such means as your judgment and experience may suggest. During your stay you will make inquiries on the following points: 1st. Whether the Creeks and Chhoctaws have been furnished with military supplies? 2nd. The number of warriors in the Choctaw Nation, and what portion of them are supposed to be under Spanish of British influence? 3rd. The name of the towns where the Spanish or British have the most partisans, and the names of the Chiefs and Mingoes of said towns. 4th. Whether Tecumseh or the Prophet have been in the nation or sent their talks.

                   I confide greatly in your tact and experience.

 

Following is the lecture assigned to Favre by Governor Claiborne:

A TALK from WILLIAM C. C. CLAIBORNE, Governor of the State of Louisiana & Commander in Chief of the Militia thereof, to the Chief Head Men & Warriors of the Choctaw Nation.

 

Brothers

 

I salute you in friendship, & beg you to open your Ears, that you may hear my words,- Many of you remember me, when I was a Chief at Natchez, & know that I never deceived you.  My friendly disposition towards you remains unaltered, & since I have been a Chief at New Orleans, I have always been just to the red men.-

Brothers!  When I have a journey to make, I take the nearest path, turning neither to the right nor to the left, but keeping straight on So it is when I send out a talk my manner is to speak plain, & to ease my heart at once, of what I have to say.-

Brothers!  The English who live beyond the big Water have done the Americans much harm;- they have robbed us of our property- compelled many of our people to serve on board of their Ships of War, & spilt American blood.- The President of the U: States, & his head Men have determined upon satisfaction; the Tomahawk is raised & our hearts are cross.- This a quarrel Brothers between white people, & does not concern the red Men; We know well the English, & have no fear of them.- More than thirty years ago -they made War against the U: States.  We were then a young people, & the enemy thought to crush us;- But they found Men & Warriors to combat them,, & returning to their Ships, they left our Country to ourselves, & made peace upon our own terms.

Brothers!  We have now grown up to manhood, & can the better fight our own battles.– I say again this quarrel does not concern the red Men.- Let them therefore remain quiet & join neither side.  Your squaws & little Children will rest undisturbed in their Cabbins Your old Men will discourse & smoke without fear, under the shade of the Trees, & your Warriors may hunt & dance & be merry until they have an enemy of their own to strike.

Brothers!  During the last War between the Americans & the English, the cherokees, & the Creeks & the Northern Indians joined with. our Enemies.- And what followed?- The Indian Country was often visited by the big knife Men; Towns were burnt & fields of Corn destroyed; the women & little Children had to sleep in the mountains & many a brave warrior was laid low– And what Brothers was the recompense for all these sufferings?  Some trifling presents!  A few shirt Blankets – some kegs of Rum & two or three dozen Medals made of bad Mettle.

Brothers!  I have heard some bad news from Pascagoula & Pearl Rivers.- It is said the Chactaws have committed many robberies & that blood has been spilt.  What does this mean?  Do the English want the poor Indians to fight their battles & are you such fools as to sell your lives for a few goods?  Has the proffet sent bad talks among you? or has his Brother Ticumsey made you believe that the Northern Indians are strong enough to drive the Americans into the Sea?

Brothers!  The proffet says that he is the Son of the great Spirit, & can prevent powder from burning, & deprive a Ball from a riflle of its force.  Some of the followers of this pretended "Son of the great Spirit" believed him & made an attack some moons past on the American Army.  But as formerly the powder hurt & the Balls penetrated, the Indians were defeated.- Many were killed & the proffet turned out to a liar.- Ticumsey is a Warrior; But he is a Mad Man & knows not what he says, or what he does.  Beware of him, or he will bring you into trouble.-

Brothers!  Your father the President of the U: S: loves his red Children & wishes him to live in peace,-He loves also his white Children, & will suffer no Nation to strike them with impunity.  He possesses the power to punish his enemies, & the will to do it.- The Chactaws are a small people, & when compared to the Americans are but a handful.- You may make War; But you will soon sue for peace.

Brothers!  I am told that a Council fire is now burning & that white Beads & Wampum are passing between you & the Creeks.- Let this talk be read at the Council, & tell the Creeks to hold it fast.  Say to them in my name, to keep their bad Men at home or evil will fall upon their nation.

Brothers!  I am told you go often to Pensacola & Mobile.  Listen not to any bad talks you may hear there; But sell your skins & return in peace to your Cabbins or to your hunting ground.  The Spanish Chiefs if they are your friends will give you the same advice; But there are wicked people every where, & if you find such at Pensacola or Mobile, turn your backs upon them- But Brothers I must conclude- Many words are soon forgotten. Take Simon Favre by the hand, & whatever he tells you in my name, believe him, for he is a good Man, & will neither betray me, nor deceive you.

I have nothing more to say Brothers- but to express a wish, that the Tomahawk between the Americans & the Chactaws may long remain buried.–

 

Signed/ W. C. C. Claiborne New Orleans Augt. 1812.[90]

 

 Whether the Americans deserved the loyalty of the Choctaws is another matter.  Treaties were still in the making to determine not what may be done for the Indians, but what may be done with them.  Migration to Mississippi was encouraged in the 1830’s by two factors: 1) Indian removal was in progress during this time; 2) the Constitution of 1832, which created more counties, thereby giving more common people additional representation in the State Legislature. The new Constitution was said to be more democratic than aristocratic.[91]

 

 THE TREATY OF DANCING RABBIT CREEK – 1830

 

Because there can be no doubt as to whether previous Choctaw treaties included Hancock County, the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek takes on significance even though it purported to cover an area of central Mississippi.  Article 1 of Dancing Rabbit clearly states, “…all other treaties heretofore existing and inconsistent with the provisions of this are hereby declared null and void.” Article 3. says, “…the Choctaw nation of Indians consent, and hereby cede to the United States the entire country they own and possess East of the Mississippi river….”

Essentially, if any area was left out previously, it certainly was included in this treaty. Dancing Rabbit is also significant because it was perhaps the most exploitative.  As said by Cushman, in History of the Indians “…in September, 1830, the climax of the white man’s greediness as far as the Choctaws were involved, was reached, by forcing that people to cede the last acre of land they possessed east of the Mississippi River.”

The treaty did not pass easily. It was not agreed to until the insertion of Article 14, promising 640 acres to any Choctaw family head who desired to remain in the state. But when the time came to file claims, the federal agent grossly mismanaged his office; he was often not available and often drunk when he was available. He allowed only 69 claims, mostly to mixed-bloods of white men’s union with Choctaw wives.  One case in point was that of a half-breed chief named Greenwood Leflore. He was one of the negotiators because he spoke both languages. Like him, other half-breeds were more likely to be conciliatory. He got 1,000 acres.

Still, thousands remained but could not secure land. They took to the land that white men did not want; they attempted to live in areas like Devil’s Swamp and along Bayou LaCroix. In all, it is estimated that 5,000 Indians remained in Mississippi; 20,000 Choctaws were removed. The departure spanned several years in the 1830s. Many died on the “Trail of Tears.”

Not all Americans chose to look the other way. One who did not but chose instead to fight on principle was J.F.H. Claiborne, soon to become a settler in Hancock County. Claiborne had already won national recognition by becoming the youngest member of Congress in 1835.  In that capacity, he had urged the passage of a bill creating the Chickasaw school fund. He was not reelected in 1837, but was sufficiently respected to be appointed president of the Board of Choctaw Commissioners in 1842. The purpose of this body was to adjudicate claims by which the Choctaws may be entitled under the terms of Dancing Rabbit Creek. Greedy speculators had purchased many of these claims, and a bitter fight ensued. Claiborne exposed the schemes, calling the attempts to get rich on the part of the speculators frauds. Influential people were behind the claims, and they employed S.S. Prentiss on a contingency fee of the astronomical fee of $100,000.

Claiborne had written a pamphlet detailing the schemes and placed copies on the desks of all members of Congress. Prentiss then challenged Claiborne’s competency, subsequently inviting Claiborne to a duel. One Forrester issued another challenge of honor, but Claiborne had the good sense to decline both. Nonetheless, there were threats on his life. Finally, he succeeded in having the commission adopt a plan recommended by him, allowing the Choctaws the value of their claims and paying them annual interest on the funds after their removal West.  In the process, both Claiborne and Prentiss were said to be “wrecked in fortune” (Memoirs of Mississippi). In short, “few public affairs in Mississippi have occasioned more bitterness.

 

Choctaw Land Titles in Hancock County Courthouse

 

Records in the Hancock County courthouse reveal that at least fourteen Choctaw certificates were issued for land in our area of study. These were small parcels, usually amounting to about 40 acres, but a few for as much as one hundred or more acres. While the certificates are numbered and the land described in still current township and range designations, little can be gleaned as to why or when they were issued. What is evident is that the listings were entered into the tract books when the parcels were assigned to white settlers. The assignments were dated between 1848 and 1854, most being 1851 and 1852. By and large, the assignees included people known to the area, such as Asa Russ, John Russ, and Robert Montgomery. Other assignees were Mariah Herron (Herrin), john H. Myers, Elijah Spence, Josephine Cuevas, Cornelia Williams, Samuel Hays, James Taylor, and Mary Lampkin. It is curious, perhaps, that a number of these are women (Tract Books 1 and 2, Hancock County Courthouse).

Even though the records contain a column for “purchase money”, they do not indicate any payment for the assignments except in the case of Asa Russ’ purchase. This was for certificate number 588, dated April 1, 1852. The grantee had been Hus Ke Ah Hock Tuk, and the price was 50 cents per acre, totaling $79.84 for the 159.69 acres.

A very interesting aspect of the above purchase is that this land was situated just north of the 16th section on which the “Russ Place “had been located (Now Buccaneer Park, cf. Jackson and Russ chapters). A second listing, in Tract Book 2, apparently for the same parcel, gives a date of October 27, 1854. On the same page is listed Section 16, but with no entries as to ownership. It would seem that Asa Russ was adding to the property that he had already acquired, or was soon to acquire, by lease.

Several of the other assignments were for land in what are now Claremont harbor and the Western extreme of Waveland. Others were for parcels in the Pearl River area, above Napoleon, and in the northern part of the county.

An open question is why the Choctaw grantees “sold” or gave away the rights to their lands. Besides the indication that only Asa paid anything, Simon Favre, in his will, mentions land “given” to him by the Indians. Some possible answers may be found in a study done by Angie Debo. She indicates that in 1845, a delegation including chief Nitakechi was sent from their new home in the west, back in Mississippi, “to induce the remaining Choctaws to join their brethren in the West…The Choctaws were mainly an agricultural people. A few had been slave owners in Mississippi. Some of the leaders who had received special land grants under the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek sold these farms and purchased slaves with the proceeds…A large number of Eastern Choctaws finally consented to emigrate, and the most important removals since 1833 took place during 1845-1847. It was reported that 3,824 joined their western kinsman at that time, and in the Fifties a few hundred more followed them to the new home.” (Choctaw Republic, by Angie Debo).

As noted above, a number of Choctaws remained, but lived in misery. Poor and starving, their plight is amply described in St. Tammany Parish, located just across the Pearl River from Hancock County (get reference in Chahta ima. This is the story of the New Orleans poet-priest Adrien Rouquette, who ran the blockades across Lake Pontchartrain to bring food to some of the dying remnants of the once proud nation.

If any of the early census listings include Indians, it is not obvious. Some few are included, apparently for the first time in 1870. (There is no extant 1860 census.) Six families are identified in the 1870 as Indian; their names are Cparkutabat, Yarba, Taylor, Yakumintwand, Thomas, Yarber, Yarba, Bilbo, Favre, and Chafer. All are listed under Gainesville. Strangely, the 1880 census lists a few with similar names at Pearling ton and Bay St. Louis, but none at Gainesville.

In the 1870s, there were about 12 Indian families living in Devil’s Swamp and Bayou LaCroix areas. They were attended by Father Henry Leduc and a small Catholic Church was built near the Choctaw graveyard. The cemetery is still used by Hancock residents, but the Church no longer exists. Off to the side of the many traditional tombs and graves stands alone a simple but neat granite marker, reading “Choctaw Indian Burial Ground – Many Members of Tribe Buried Behind.”

Section V  –  The American Period, 1820-1860

 

Chapter 13  – Key Events in Early Hancock County

 

Following the inclusion of the coastal counties of Mississippi into the United States, Congress authorized the adjustment of land claims east of New Orleans on March 3, 1819 and received a report by Willoughby Barton, register at the Jackson Courthouse, on August 17, 1820 (Lowrie and Franklin 1834: 444-55).  Another Act of Congress, passed in 1828, required the reconfirmation of land claims in the region east of the Pearl River (Beers 1989). The report that resulted from this Legislative mandate provided much of the initial data on early land claims in SW Hancock County.

In 1819 Elihu Carver made the first known plat of Pearlington; in accordance with resolutions of the Pearlington Company made at their meetings on November 24, 1819; October 16, 1823; December 24, 1823; and February 14, 1825.  According to Napier, one could raise livestock on unclaimed government lands whether or not the settler owned the land. Herdsmen had little incentive before the Civil War to claim land other than their immediate homestead. (14).  In 1820 Lt. Col. Zachary Taylor and his 8th Regiment built a road from Pearl River to the western shore of Bay St. Louis. His medical officer described the bayside strip of homes and summer cottages, three to four miles along the shore at the little village of Shieldsboro (Sullivan).

The heirs of Louis Boisdore sold the Mulatto Bayou property in on November 1, 1823 to Lewis Daniells of Hancock County. The deal included marshlands south of Mulatto Bayou and two small islands, one called Pea Island or British Encampment, washed by Pearl River and Ripley's Bayou. The other, called Long Island, was situated on the east side of Pearl River extending down the said river and the lake and divided from the main land by Ripley's Bayou.[92]  

Following the transfer of the 1360 acres to Challon by Rousseve in 1805, the next relevant land transaction involving a Challon occurred nearly 30 years later.  A Joseph Challon (a likely heir of the original claimant) sold what is apparently the Sheriff claim, to David Wingate in 1828, although the deed was not recorded until June 15, 1847.[93] Certainly by this time, Joseph Challon had died. But on that date, Challon transferred to Wingate the “Cabanage” lot. At the time of this sale, Joseph’s wife was Celes Perez. It is very possible that this Joseph Challon was a son or grandson of the planter listed in the 1770 census. Following the transfer of the Challon claim to Wingate, the history of the Logtown area became closely tied to the growth of the timber industry. Key events of Pearlington history appear below:

1820 – The Pearlington Company incorporated to lay out the town of Pearlington.

1821 – Colonel George Nixon moved from Macon County to Pearlington.

1822 – The town of Pearlington was incorporated.

1836 – According to the Southerner, a New Orleans commercial bulletin, a valuable sulfur spring was discovered on the plantation of Johnson Hutchins near Pearlington.

1844 – The Custom House was authorized to be moved from Pearlington to Shieldsborough.

 

 

Chapter 14   – Tax Rolls 1818 to 1843

 

Early tax collections for Hancock County are indicative of a growing population, along with increased wealth. They cover the period 1818 to 1843. It must be remembered that until 1840, Hancock included Harrison and until late 1800’s, parts of Pearl River county. (Check 1840 date in library copy of tax rolls, as I think there is a mention of 1819 as the year in which Pass Christian was separated off.) It is, however, possible to isolate many of the settlers in the study area simply by name recognition. Some general observations are noteworthy:

Only men ages 18 to 50 paid the tax; older men were included in the rolls, but without being taxed. The list was kept for two purposes, the first of course being to raise funds; the second was for military purposes. Roughly 25% of those on the tax rolls appear to have been residing in the study area.

Taxes were paid on the number of slaves owned, sometimes at a rate higher than for the “WP” (white person or working person) listed, but at other times apparently at the same rate. In one instance, there seems to be a mention that the rate for a free person of color was much higher. This appears in the 1838 roll, wherein the rates are stated as follows: WP – 371/2 cents, slaves – 621/2 cents, free persons, $3.00. On most years, the items listed as taxed included acreage and their value, slaves, merchandise sold, and “lots.”[94] This was not consistent, however, and the formulae could be changed from year to year. In 1838, billiard tables (there were only two), money loaned at interest, and pleasure carriages were added. Another change occurred in 1841 with the addition of bonds and bank stock, watches and clocks, Bowie knives, and cattle. Watches and clocks were valued at anywhere from $5 to $60. Only four Bowie knives were admitted to, one by Sempronius Russ, but settlers claimed 12,164 cows.

The inclusion of cattle in 1841 is revealing, as heretofore there were not many indications that the early settlers were ranchers as well as farmers and timber men. In 1836, there was an inclusion of “meat cattle,” but it did not manifest large numbers. At that time, they were taxed at one cent apiece. The 1842 (?) rolls included the following, believed to reside in the study area:

George Mitchell – 800 cows, plus $100 loaned and a $45 clock

Lewis Doby – 125 cows

Thomas Doby – 75 cows

Augustine Favre – 150 cows, and a $60 watch and a $75 clock

John Favre – 100 cows, and a $50 watch and a $50 clock

James Murphy – 250 cows, plus an $85 carriage

Lott McArthur – 250 cows

Charles Favre, Sr. – 100 cows

Estate of Jonathan Wingate – 185 cows

 

Descriptions of some noted persons who are prominent in the tax rolls follow:

 

J.B. Toulme

Although J. B. Toulme did not live in the study area, it is noteworthy that he owned 1,400 cows. As his home was in Shieldsborough, it is doubtful that his cattle were in the city, but instead were probably kept in a rural area. In 1842, Toulme was taxed on $3,000 of merchandise sold, a comparatively large amount, leading to the speculation that this was in the form of cattle sold. The earliest rolls contain listings of some enormous holdings that may or may not have been in the study area. Because of their possible significance, however, they are included here.

Valery Nicholas   (Note: This name is properly Nicolas Valery, a male. Below references to feminine gender appear incorrect. Cf. new info, Russell Guerin’s book about Villere, etc.)  [further correction: she was female; Probate records in NO Public Library lists her as Valery Marguerite Boisdore, wife of Nicolas. She died in about 1827-28, without a will. Her assets were inventoried in 1828.

In the 1819 roll, Valery Nicholas is shown as a zero under WP (white person), meaning either over age 50 or non-resident. She owned 40,000 acres, shown as a Spanish title, and was taxed at $216. She owned no slaves. In 1822, she paid tax on 80,000 acres, valued at $160,000; the tax was $640, and the property was said to be at “Boderie Point.” In that year, it is indicated that her payment was to cover tax for 1820 and 1821 as well. Significantly, Valerie Nicholas is mentioned in the deed by which Lewis Daniells purchased Clifton Plantation, as the agent of the heirs of Don Louis Boisdore, “late of New Orleans.” She is “of the same place under and by virtue of a letter of Attorney from the said heirs under date of first day of November in the year 1823.” (Simple calculations show that 80,000 acres equates to 125 square miles, or the distance from the Pearl to the west bank of the Bay of St. Louis, times 6.5 miles.)

Edward Livingston

Also in 1819, Edward Livingston paid tax in the amount of $82.34 for 15,248 acres, apparently at what is now Pass Christian. For the years 1820-1822, his tax was $122.28. His land was valued at $30,568 and was comprised of 15,284 acres. Livingston was a prominent member of the U.S. House and Senate and served as Secretary of State under President Andrew Jackson. Originally from New York, he moved to Louisiana in 1803 and practiced law in New Orleans.[95] Like Valerie Nicholas, it appears that Livingston was not a resident of Hancock County, and owned no slaves in the county. Livingston appears again in the 1836 rolls, with 12,934 acres on the “Sea Coast,” and no slaves, taxed at $32.33. (This was the same Edward Livingston who served as Jackson’s Secretary of State from 1831 to 1833.

Lewis Daniells

Lewis Daniells, in 1836, paid the second highest tax at $30.83, to cover his 884 acres, 700 meat cattle, his $200 carriage, and his 41 slaves. The highest tax was paid by another non-resident, the widow of John Ioor (or Joor), with 64 slaves at “Claiborne.” This is an anomaly, as JFH Claiborne did not move to the area until 1849. It is conceivable that the location was noted as Claiborne at a later date. In the previous year, H. John Jore, Sr. [Joor or Ioor] was listed as a non-resident with 3,940 acres and 53 slaves.

Many other incidental facts of possible importance can be gleaned:

In 1829, the “Company Pearlington” occupied 596 acres valued at $1,192, while the steam mill was on six town lots valued at $3.000.

In 1835, the tax computation was 371/2 cents for a WP (either white person or working person), and 21/2 cents per ten acres.

1836 was the first time that Sam Russ appeared in the rolls. In 1840, he had 26 slaves and a $250 carriage at “Mulatto Bay.”

. In 1837, Asa Russ shows for the first time, taxed on 10 cows, a $75 carriage, and 720 acres. In 1843, he also paid tax on $700 “notes or bonds.”

Jean Baptiste Favre’s 640 acres were identified in 1829 as “Hickory Camp.”

In 1843, the year after tax was paid by the Estate of Jonathan Wingate, David Wingate first appears on the rolls, taxed on $5,164 “loaned,” a $30 watch, $15 clock, and 12 slaves, for a total of $22.93, the highest tax for the year.

Analyses of individual ownership patterns during the period for which these early tax collections are available can also be instructive. Some, like Judge Daniells, were consistently engaged in farming with slave help, while others appear to have been land developers, perhaps speculators, without employing the use of slavery. For example, Daniells is shown from 1824 with a low in the number of slaves at 22, and his lowest tax at $16.50. By 1841, however, the number of slaves had grown, with minimal deviation, to 47, and his tax to $43.10.

On the other hand, Elihu Carver is shown with varying amounts and value of land, rising and falling from a low of 515 acres to a high of 5,124, while having in most years no slaves. Only in one year did he have two, and in a few years, one slave. His taxes were usually relatively modest, in most years between $2 and $6.

Sam White owned no land for the first several years in which he appears, from 1821 to 1825, and then only 50 acres for the next four years. But then he began to acquire larger amounts, growing from 920 acres in 1831 to 2,382 in 1841.His taxes were also modest, but grew at a fairly regular rate from $1.55 in 1825 to $12.73 in 1841. In an earlier year, 1821, he paid $8.75 on $4,000 of merchandise sold. He too had few slaves, sometimes none, and no more than six, so it is likely that he did not operate a traditional plantation. He is, however, shown in a few years with amounts of “merchandise sold.” 

Isaac Graves’ operation must have been similar to that of Daniells, in that the acreage was comparable and he utilized a fair number of slaves. Unlike Daniells’ consistent increases in number of slaves and amounts of tax, however, Graves experience was rather level on both counts. His slaves numbered within the 21 to 34 count over the years, and his tax was usually in the $16 to $27 range.

Chapter 15   – Probate Records

 

As with the tax rolls, insights are sometimes revealed with a great deal of clarity from county probate records. What becomes evident is the degree of planning for heirs often exhibited, as well as the cooperation of neighbors and county officials to serve as administrators, appraisers and guardians and in other capacities, sometimes without compensation. Moreover, the same people are often shown as purchasers at estate auctions. It may be speculated that they were bargain hunting, but it is probable that their cash purchases were welcomed by the heirs. The names found frequently elsewhere in this study are repeated over and over in the probate records: Russ, Pray, Daniells, White, Favre, Monet, Toulme, Johnston. There is also ample evidence of the difference between the haves and the have-nots, between the relative opulence which some enjoyed as contrasted with the utter simplicity of other settlers. Witness, for example, the inventory of Jesse Cowand in 1852, running a full 14 pages of detailed items, as against the will of Mary Favre, daughter of Simon Favre probably by his Indian wife, which requests a burial in “a plain and decent manner,” and lists her only asset as a claim as “heir at law of Simon Favre” for land in Mobile which was under suit. She signed her will with her mark, an x.

 

Simon Favre

The will of Simon Favre is treated elsewhere in this study but of interest here are letters of administration given Mary Favre in September 1868, approved by Judge B. Sones. A court document identifies Mary as the daughter of Simon Favre. His date of death was listed as July 21, but the year had been written over and been rendered illegible. Mary claimed that her father died intestate but asserted that she was his legal heir, and listed the asset noted above. She was named as executor of the estate of “Simon Favre Sr.”

Mary Favre’s will was signed July 5, 1871 and probated on December 19. 1871. She named Benjamin Sones, “an old friend,” as one-third beneficiary.  To add confusion, another Mary Favre is buried in Pearlington Cemetery. She died in 1890 at age 84. Her remains may have been moved from the Gainesville cemetery.

 

Russ

Particular care appears to have been given to orphans and other minor children heirs. In 1853, when Asa Russ was executor for the estate of Amelia Russ, his mother, he made a statement to the court as follows: “Heirs to said estate have received the principal of there <sic> shares except a minor John A. Russ who according to the will of the deceased is entitled to double or two shares and I have in my hand five hundred dollars for said minor which I am ready to pay over when there shall be a guardian appointed to receive his share of the estate.”

Luther Russ was the administrator of the estate of Edwin F. Russ in 1859, of Pearlington. Asa Hursey, John Orr, and Thomas Brown were named as appraisers by David W. Johnston, Clerk. Buyers at the estate auction included Thomas Brown, George W. Pray, Asa Hursey Christian Koch, John Orr, and Simon Favre.  Some of the same names can be found in the estate of Cornelia N. Russ in July 1859, and it is apparent that Edwin’s wife died shortly after his demise. David W. Johnston, Clerk, appointed Asa Hursey, John Orr, and Thomas Brown as appraisers. The estate, valued at $7,600, included 12 slaves and the schooner Sea Byrd <sic>, valued at $1,500.

Minor heirs were Samuel P., Marie E., Mary R., and Jane K. When appointed guardian, Luther Russ told the court on October 24, 1859 that he was next of kin, but because of “occupations and other causes” he desired that Leonard Kimball be named guardian. Kimball, believed to have married one of the Russ sisters, agreed to serve without fee. In 1860, he sold, on behalf of the children, the schooner Sea Bird, of approximately 60 tons, to Samuel Gause for $1,200. The court ordered Kimball to hold the cash, and to pay 10% per year into the children’s accounts. In 1862, W. W. Carre’ and Co. receipted a payment by the estate in the amount of $797.82, in payment of a claim of D.R. Wingate against the estate. During the estate administration, taxes were paid on Square #14 in Pearlington.  Other transactions were recorded from time to time, and the estate remained open until 1880, when the last of the children reached majority age. Meanwhile, periodic accountings were made to the court.

John A. Russ, the minor mentioned above in the case of Amelia Russ, was reported in a proceeding of 1858. He was identified as “an infant devisee of Amelia Russ, deceased” and a child of Sepronius Russ. Interestingly, David Johnston, who signed as Deputy Clerk along with Clerk Elihu Carver, was named guardian. The heir was then about age 15 and was possessed of assets amounting to $774, considered by the guardian to be insufficient for regular maintenance and so recommended a school, apparently a boarding school. It is then shown that the following purchases were made: geography book – $1; dictionary – 10 cents; copy book – 10 cents; pen holders – 5 cents; pens – 5 cents.

In 1885, the estate of Samuel P. Russ was administered by his “next friend,”  John A. Russ. (This is a term that appears frequently in the records, apparently to indicate that the closest friend of the deceased was being appointed.) Remarkable about this proceeding was the quantity of real estate being listed. It was in three parts, the first known as the Burrell Perry Claim, consisting of Sections 5-20, 21, and 29, T4 R 18W.[96] If this is correct, this alone constitutes eighteen square miles.  The second parcel was in Bay St. Louis, and a third part in Pearlington. The latter was itemized as the east 1/2 of Square #14, and all of Section 31, T9, S of R15.

 

Butler  

Mary Butler’s will, apparently made in 1845, was probated in 1852. Her son-in-law, Lewis Daniells, was executor.  The document included a list of 30 slaves, 20 of whom were children. The oldest slave was an 80-year old female, valued at $10. Values in the $500-$600 range were males, 13 to 27. The youngest at three months, Martha was worth $50. One seven-year old girl named Ada was priced at only $5; an illegible parenthetical note follows her name, probably indicating an illness or incapacity. An unusual stipulation in Mary Butler’s will called for certain monies to “be applied to the purchase of a young negro woman for each of my grand daughters.”

 

Taylor

Only occasionally did the dread yellow fever visit the Gulf Coast, and in fact the coast was considered a refuge for those who could get away from New Orleans at times when “yellow jack” would call. A greater danger to Hancock County residents was travel to Louisiana at bad times. This was apparently the circumstance that fell to James W. Taylor, cousin to Walter W. Carre, his executor. Taylor signed his will in New Orleans on November 7, 1853. That year was the the time of the worst epidemic in the history of that city, when there were 30,000 to 40,000 cases in a population of 150,000, resulting in 8,000 deaths. The severity is accentuated when one considers that one-third of the population had fled the city.[97] James Taylor was died there, but his will was probated in Hancock County. After almost 150 years, some humor may be found in that document, but it must have been written with terrible seriousness, even bitterness, by Mr.Taylor. After recounting his modest cash deposits, the will mentions that “Arthur Basboren owes me $5, which he borrowed of me a long time ago. Mr. Latting has $10 of my money. Mr. Nelson Keyes has $15 if my money which he took out of my vest pocket when I was taken sick at Mr. Rice’s.” After specifying his desired type of coffin, Taylor then directed Carre, “And I do not want any of my money to be expended towards paying the bill which Dr. Vail may have against me for his attendance during the first five or six days of my sickness of yellow fever…. I owe Mrs. Mead about $7 for board and she has a claim against me for $5 for a buggy ride to the Bay but I do no think she ought to charge me that much.” Presumably the buggy ride was to transport his remains to “Turtle Skin” where his mother and brother were buried.

Probate of the estate of Thomas Doby proves interesting in a number of ways. Thomas was Doby one of two sons of Jean Baptiste Doby (also spelled D’Auby, Dobe, Dobee, Daube), mentioned previously as having settled 1,280 acres from 1809. Both Thomas and another son, Louis, and a sister appear in the early censuses. There is no evidence that Louis ever married, but is shown as living in the same household as his mother, age between 80 and 90, in the 1840 census.  Prior to 1820, the sister married Francisco Netto, the father of Annette Netto Koch.

Brother Thomas did marry, and had seven children. It would appear that he died just before the 1850 census, and that he was a widower. An inventory made by Samuel White in December 1850 included the two sections of land (1,280 acres) that had been owned by Jean Baptiste,[98] plus 224 head of meat cattle, and eight slaves. The slaves and their ages were listed as follows: Paul 35, Teressa 22, Octavine 5, Octave 2, Madaline 23, Mary Ann 2, Washington 16, and Rose 2 months. Also mentioned was a note for the sale of the schooner Elizabeth.[99]

Thomas’ children were orphans in 1853, when the court appointed White to administer the estate. White and Thomas Brown and William H. Brown were required to bind themselves, heirs, and executors to the tune of $8,000 for White to serve.[100] A number of reports were made to the court in 1853. In one of the earliest, White listed seven children: Thomas, Eliza, Estelle, Raphael, Jose, Elizabeth, and Elodie.  Later, in June of 1853, White found it necessary to report information that he had not had previously. It was a “report of the death of two of said to wit Raphael who died in New Orleans some time in the fall of the year of 1850 and Eliza who died of consumption in April 1852 at Madam Gabrail’s near Pearlington.” In addition, he reported “the accidental burning of the slave child Octave belonging to the heirs of said Doby.” It is apparent that Octave died, as a later list includes only the other seven slaves. In an accounting, there is a mention of an item paid J. W. Pendleton who was in “attendance on Octave, a slave burned – $2.00.”

Detailed accounts of debits and credits of the estate were kept, some including amounts of tuition for the children, taxes paid, and “sundry bills.” Guardian compensation was listed as 10% of $465, coming to $46.57. In June 1853, White reported that Estelle had married on the 9th of the month, “and wishes to come into possession of her share…and as your petitioner believes it to be impractable to divide the property among all the children equally and even could such divisions be made would subject the Minors to great expense and inconvenience in managing the same through the guardianship whereof your petitioner prays that an order be filed by your honor for the sale of all the property personal estate that the same may be converted into money for the greater facility and convenience of distribution.” On August 27, 1853, White substantially repeated the foregoing, but added, “…in order that the personal estate may be disposed of according to law to the end that the same may be equally divided among the said heirs and your petitioner in duty bound.”   (Italics by author.)

The sale was completed about that time, David Wingate having purchased the meat cattle for $2,069, and Wm. J Poitevent, E.F. Russ and O. Favre buying the slaves for an aggregate amount of $4,900. Household goods were sold separately, and it is not clear how the land was sold. In any case, White was compensated well, in addition to the guardian fees.

 

Claiborne

The will of John F. H. Claiborne, signed in May 1884 and probated on March 26, 1886, was a relatively simple one, even though his estate must have been large and complex. Martha D., for her lifetime, with the whole passing at her death to their daughter, Martha E. Claiborne. He took pains to explain that he made no bequest to their other daughter, Anna C. Pell, “as she is amply provided for.”

 

Johnston

 

James Johnston wrote his will on the 20th of December 1871, when he was “advanced in years, of weak health and body, but of sound and disposing mind, memory and understanding. It is also a simple will, as he was “possessed of only a small estate, consisting of a few lots of land in the city of Shieldsborough [and] of a United States military patent for bounty lands for 160 acres, in the state of Illinois, my carpenter’s tools and some other personal estate…” He listed his wife and their eleven children and their spouses, name by name, but specified that his entire estate should go to his wife, and that he was “desirous that my above named heirs at law should not molest their mother during her life,” requiring them “to wait with patience until it pleases God to call her to him.”

One reason for selecting this will for coverage is the mention of the carpenter’s tools. While Johnston served in several official county positions, it was he who rebuilt the Andrew Jackson, Jr. house called Sea Song, and mentioned elsewhere in this report.

 

Carver

 

When Elihu Carver died intestate in 1880 or before, a commissioner posted notices advertising the sale of his land four weeks in three “of the most public places” in the county: the front door of the courthouse in Bay St. Louis, the store door at Poitevent and Farve and Co. in Pearlington, and the store door of John Moore in Gainesville. The land was described as the E ½ of SW Q of Sec. 15, T 9 S of R 15 W and the last ½ of SE Q in Sec. 23, T 9 S of R 15, comprising 160 acres. Later, the first part was sold to Mrs. J.N. Seal for $50.

In another document it is stated that Elihu Carver died in March 1877, leaving no will. It is possible that this was a different person, as he was possessed of a “small real and personal estate…worth not more than $200,” consisting of a tract of land on Bayou Cadet, 5 or 6 head of cattle, and a lot in Bay St. Louis.

 

Carre’

Walter W. Carre’ may have been domiciled in Louisiana at the time of his death, as succession was opened in a New Orleans district court. In the petition of the widow, Elvina A. Carre’, claim was laid to a tract “heretofore known as the Challon tract, and now known as Logtown, which lies south of Bayou Boguehoma and bounded north by said bayou, south by public lands, east by lands owned by Christian Koch and heirs of Asa Hersey <sic> and west by Pearl River, together with all improvements consisting of saw mill, wharves, booms, rolling stock and tools belonging to said mill, dwelling houses, outhouses,” etc., all valued at $3,000.  Elvina was named guardian of their minor children in 1878, and had to post a $6,000 surety bond.[101]

 

Slavery as observed in probate cases 

 

The treatment of slaves as property in these records is rather poignant. One observation is how consistently the slaves are mentioned with one name only, with approximate ages, and often precede the listings of cattle and cash in the ranking of assets. There is no doubt, however, about their relative value, as in some cases where slaves are sold or rented by the Administrator. A case in point was a sale to Charles Russ on December 5, 1859 of slave Dick for the price of $1,400. This is perhaps an indication of prices rapidly increasing as the winds of war began to blow. A male slave age 25 brought a price of $500 to $600 in 1851-52; at that time, Christian Koch was renting a slave of the same age for $15 per month. On an annual basis, the rent of $180 was the equivalent of a 30% return on investment. In 1853, John Russ paid $770 for a slave purchase from an estate, and another auction produced $1,100 for each of two male slaves and $750 for “a boy.” At the same time, a woman and child went for $900 in two cases, all seeming to show the escalation toward the $1,400 figure for Dick. Also, in the

Edwin Russ estate mentioned above, a “Negro boy” went for $1,326 and another for $1,210.  Another example having to do with the evaluation of slaves came is an administrator’s report to the court regarding the progress of the estate settlement. Here, the official stated that he was glad to “have the honor” to report the birth of two slave infants – essentially rejoicing in the estate appreciation by two additional assets.

How valuable was a slave?  An indication may be gleaned from a suit brought in 1852 by the administrators of the estate of Lawrence Fayard against Francois Favre. The legal action took at least four years, to December 8, 1856, and called no less than 15 witnesses by subpoena. Some of them were important members of the community, including Julius Monet, John Toulme, James Johnston, John Graves, Stephen Mead, Marceline Favre, Benjamin Sones, David W. Johnston, Mary Favre, and Charles Favre. There are 56 documents in the file. Fayard’s wife had also died, in 1850, and her estate was administered by Asa Russ in March 1854. One witness was awarded $5.00 for having to travel two days. Monet, as attorney for the plaintiff, corresponded with a notary public in New Orleans for verification of a document dated February 4, 1840. When the trial finally went to jury, the jury instructions were detailed, consisting of seven charges. What was the asset of such import? The entire issue was a slave girl age 10 at the time the suit began, who had been sold off from her mother at age 6. Her name was Caroline, and her mother was Lucille. They had, of course, no last names, as though they had never fully existed. But exist they did, and the child was appraised for the court at $600, and worth $4 per month.

 

Land descriptions in Probate Records

Land descriptions are sometimes surprisingly general, while others very specific. Consider, for example, the following report to the court, specific to the point of naming the surveyor’s helpers. It is from the probate of Carlos and Melitte Lessassier (an old spelling of Saucier). The document is dated April 25, 1853. “I, Julius C. Monet, surveyor, with the assistance of Napoleon Monet and Edmund Johnston as chain bearers, have made in the presence and at the request of said commissioners the survey of the premises to be partitioned in the manner following to wit: Beginning at the South East corner of the land claimed by the heirs of Joseph Labat on the beach by the Bay of St. Louis at a point from whence a live oak tree marked xxxM bears North 41 degrees East distant 22 links  and another pine marked  xxxJL bears South 33 degrees West, distant 18 links, Thence running North 20 degrees 2 chains and 93 links or 193 feet 6 inches to a post from which a pine marked xxxML bears South 73 West distant 14 links and another pine tree marked xxxJF…” The report continues extensively.

Section VI  – Nineteenth Century Hancock County

 

Analysis of Census Reports

 

Settlers 1820-1860

After the Treaty of Doak’s Stand in 1820 and Dancing Rabbit Creek in 1830, American migration flooded central Mississippi, leaving the older Lower Pearl settlements languishing, a development marked by the capital being moved to Jackson in 1822. “The Lower Pearl stagnated, only Gainesville, Napoleon, Hobolochitto (today’s Picayune), Pinetucky, Riceville, and Ford’s marking the Old River Road from Shieldsborough (later Bay St. Louis) to Columbia.” (John H. Napier III; Lower Pearl’s Civil War Losses. Journal of Mississippi History, vol. 23, p. 95.)

There is very little hard evidence of mid-nineteenth century interaction between the Choctaws and the settlers of the lower Pearl River area. In all the letters of the Koch Family and those of the Andrew Jackson, Jr. family there is scarcely a mention of local Indians, although Koch did describe local Indians in his diary of 1831-36. The virtual absence suggests that the Choctaws were no longer populous in the area and had little effect upon the lives of the settlers.

 

Patterns of Those Who Settled Hancock County

 

Much can be learned from the study of early census information. In an analysis of what is now Hancock County, it should be considered that until 1840, Hancock included present-day Harrison County, and until 1880 and 1890 parts of Pearl River County. Even though it is not always apparent where any particular family lived, there are sufficient patterns to shed light on the area of this study.

The first census study for Hancock as a United States county was made in 1820. It reveals that there were a total of 1,594 persons, of which 697 were white males and 445 were white females. Male slaves numbered 171, and females, 150. The census contains a separate category for “free coloreds,” and includes 65 males and 66 females. Interestingly, a category of white males ages 16 to 18 is unique to this census; it is thought that this might have been for military availability.

With regard to age brackets, a statistic that is telling, when considering who were migrating at the time, shows that in the middle bracket, 16 to 45, white males greatly outnumbered white females. This seems to indicate that men often came to the area alone, but with the intention to send later for their women. Apropos of this is the diary of the Russ women, treated elsewhere in this text.

A perusal of that document clearly indicates a long trek in 1836 made by single women, coming to find their brothers and uncle who had settled earlier. This was not unlike patterns apparent in other migrations to the United States at the end of the nineteenth century. Among slaves, over 40% were under age 16.

Another unusual listing for the 1820 census was a category “not taxed.” An analysis of this is difficult, but it may have been that the head of each family was taxed for each slave and possibly for himself and any other adult working in agriculture. Free persons of color are listed as separate households, and they are exempt from tax on the same formula as whites.

Some listings are obviously in this document’s study area, as they are names that will become very prominent in later years. These include:

J.B. Favre, a male age 16-26, with another male 45 + and a female16-26.

Sam White, whose household included four males 16-26, two free colored males and two free colored females, all 26-45; all eight persons not taxed.[102]

Isaac Graves, family of 12; 19 slaves.

Cadet LaFontaine, one male 16-26, one female 16-26, one female under 10.

James (possibly Jon) Mitchell, two males 16-26.

Another section of this text deals more completely with early tax rolls, but a partial analysis is appropriate here, because they reveal information sometimes difficult to reconcile with the censuses. Early tax lists included white males age 18 and over, although those over 50 paid no tax on themselves. Taxes were levied on the number of their slaves, the value of their land, pleasure carriages (four-wheel and two-wheel), the value of merchandise sold, and in some years, cattle, clocks and watches. Even though this would seem rather comprehensive, only there are only 170 households listed in 1812 for Hancock County, with only 48 being in the Pearl River area. In 1821, the total was 229, of which 49 were in the study area; in 1823, the total was 178, and only eleven were in the area of the Pearl.

Names familiar to this study do appear often, but not always consistently. In 1819, the tax roll showed Isaac Graves with 2760 acres (more than four square miles) and 25 slaves. In that year, he paid $40.98 in tax. In 1828 he was shown as having 1957 acres and 32 slaves and a two-wheel carriage valued at $100, altogether taxes at $32.53. His land holdings were reduced by 1840 to 640 acres. [Ed. Note: It must be observed that much of his accumulation came about after he married the widow of Simon Favre.]

Judge Daniells’ holdings are also interesting. In 1824, the rolls show no land value for him, and it appears he was taxed only on his 22 slaves. Acreage is later shown at 1500, dropping to 884 in 1836, the year he was also taxed on 700 head of cattle. In that year, he was the most heavily taxed resident in Hancock County, at $30.83. Perhaps ranching was an experiment, as in 1841 he owned only 75 head.[103]

A study of the 1850 census of Hancock County also reveals some interesting statistics. It was the first census to each individual’s place of birth, by state, territory, or country. It is apparent at a glance that the population was comprised of a very diverse group. They represented fifteen countries and eighteen states. Because each child’s place of birth is listed, it seems possible to determine that the trek from distant states, such as the Carolinas, took a year or more. In total, there were 2,478 “free” citizens, plus an undetermined number of slaves.

Particularly interesting is the number born originally in the Carolinas. South Carolina natives number 51, and North Carolina has a count of 26. While the numbers themselves may not appear large, there are two reasons why they stand out. First, it must be considered that there are 31 other places of birth listed, and that many were in fact native to Mississippi. The second reason for taking notice of the Carolinians is that they do seem to comprise an inordinate percentage of the more prominent citizens. This is reflective of those who owned larger amounts of real estate and the higher number of slaves.

A question arises as to whether some of the early settlers of the Hancock County area may have been Loyalists, or Tories, who had fled their previous home areas because of loyalty to England during and after the Revolution. There is no hard evidence supporting this, but the fact that many came from the Carolinas and Georgia raises the possibility. After all, according to Britannica, “about one fifth of the total white population remained loyal to Britain, and some 80,000 Loyalists were exiled permanently.” In the colonies, Loyalists “…were proportionately stronger in Georgia, New York, and South Carolina.”[104]

The Kirby report of 1804 was done by Ephraim Kirby, the magistrate at Fort Stoddard, as the result of a request by President Jefferson for information about coastal settlement. Kirby wrote, “From the town of Mobile to the Pascagoula there are about about 18 families settled along the shores of the Bay and at the mouth of the river; and from thence to Pearl River, and upon the same are about 30 families.” The oldest group, hurricane Katrina, is believed to have been built in the early Kirby said, were the original French, who were few in number but generally honest, well disposed citizens.” The next oldest group was “Tories and others who had fled Georgia and the Carolinas during the American Revolution.” He dismissed them as “treasonable” and “felons of the first magnitude.”[105]

W.C.C. Claiborne felt more kindly to the Loyalists than did Kirby. In a letter dated June 4, 1810, he stated more expansively, “I am aware that among the many settlers of [West] Florida, there are persons who during the American War were disaffected to the United States, & who probably, may feel some uneasiness at falling under the American Government. It may be well to quiet their apprehensions by informing them, that the transactions of that day, will not be remembered to their injury.”[106]

It may well be that Claiborne had reference more to the people of that part of West Florida that includes St. Francisville and environs, rather than that south of the 31st parallel. Nonetheless, coupling this with the Kirby quote, one may well suppose that our project area included a few former Loyalists. This could shed light on why some of the highly pedigreed settlers, e.g. the Daniells and the Prays, chose to migrate. Moreover, it may be wondered that a carryover to a later time of the tradition against revolt may have accounted for the non-secessionist leanings of many of the Hancock residents of the Civil War era. It may be assumed that the Carolinians brought with them something besides money and slaves: they probably also introduced Sea Islands cotton. This was long staple cotton of strong fibers, highly prized in the marketplace.

 

The Industries

 

Cotton Plantations

 

Considering that cotton growing was not one of the major industries in Coastal Mississippi, it may surprise one to learn that there were several Sea Island cotton plantations in Hancock County during the 19th century. There was the Cowand Plantation on the Bay of St. Louis, comprised of 550 acres. The manor house, standing until nineteenth century, perhaps as early as 1803.

Another was Clifton Plantation on Mulatto Bayou, operated by Judge Lewis Daniells after he arrived from North Carolina. It seems to have been a going operation in 1852 when Benjamin Wailes visited. Wailes, the state geologist, described in detail the ginning operation of the plantation:

His ginning operation consists of a large wheel of the usual size, without cogs but carrying a chain in the manner of a band which turns a driver or cylinder, placed horizontally, about ten feet long, and five ft in diameter. Parallel with this cylinder and about the same elevation is a stand or bench on which is arranged five small roller gins, a pair of rollers to each, not exceeding an inch in diameter (rather less) and not more than seven inches long. A small band of cord, is required to each roller, or two to each gin and two persons (generally children) one to feed with seed cotton, the other to receive and draw out the fibre, on the opposite side. When the machinery is perfect and in good order, each gin or pair of rollers may be said to average 75 lbs of cleaned cotton per day, but this is by no means uniform, as in humid, damp or rainy weather the process is much slower and more difficult, and the cotton ginned is inferior, the seed being often crushed. In very clear, warm weather the process is more satisfactory, cotton fine and perhaps nearly 100 lbs could be turned out…A child or small Negro will serve to take out the lint or fibre as it passes through the cylinder, but it requires and efficient hand to feed the seed cotton and to regulate the action of the mill….

 

Wailes also mentioned that Daniells had sold his cotton for 50 cents per pound, and that “it brings upon as average of three times as much as the short staple cotton.” Earlier, in the Gainesville newspaper it was stated, “Hancock claims the finest specimen of sea island cotton exhibited in the Liverpool market last year. It was grown on the plantation of Judge Daniells.”[107]

Commenting on Sea Island cotton plantations, Dunbar Rowland described “the dark mulatto soil resting on its thick bed of pale yellow sand” as being “very fertile where cultivated, and produces large magnolia trees and clothes the great pines and live oaks in veils of ever living moss.”[108]  Daniells’ heirs subsequently sold Clifton to Major Andrew Jackson Jr., the adopted son and nephew of the President. A full treatment of the Jackson enterprise in Hancock County is given in another chapter.

Adjacent to Clifton was Laurel Wood, the Sea Island cotton plantation of J.F.H. Claiborne, the historian of Mississippi. Claiborne did not settle at Laurel Wood until 1853, but the manor house had been built since about 1800. The plantation was highly successful. By 1861, it is said that he was “out of debt and had an annual income of six thousand dollars,” a very large amount at that time.[109] . The June 6, 1858 edition of the New Orleans Picayune included the following article:

 “We yesterday examined the sample of twenty-two bales Sea Island cotton, sold in this city a few days since. This cotton was grown upon the plantation of Colonel J.F.H. Claiborne and Major Andrew Jackson, on Pearl River, Hancock County, Mississippi, and was sold at the handsome price of 35, 40, and 44 cents, 16 bales bringing 40 cents per pound; the whole consignment of 22 bales netting to the enterprising planters something over $2250, after deducting freights, commissions, and all other charges.” [110]     

 

After Wailes departed from Clifton, he visited Asa Russ “on the Lake Shore”. It should be noted that from this and other passages, the “Lake Shore” was considered to extend all the way to the Bay of St. Louis. Early maps show the Louisiana marshes as one large entity south of the Hancock County coast, and apparently Lake Borgne was considered to encompass the Mississippi Sound East to the Bay of St. Louis.

There is no mention in Wailes’ Journal of cotton being grown by Russ, but it is likely that Russ was intending to grow cotton on the sea marsh, which he was attempting to reclaim.[111] This hypothesis is suggested by an 1854 article in DeBow’s Review.

This report says of Sea Island cotton “the soil best adapted to the production of fine cotton is a light yellow sandy soil. It bears well the admixture of salt and marsh mud, with the compost applied to it, and yields, if fairly dealt by, a fine, long, and even staple…The usual compost is prepared in summer by mixing with farmyard, cowpen, and stable litter, salt marsh, marsh mud, and even salt….The variety which is cultivated of the sea-coast was introduced into Georgia first. Removed from the influence of a salt atmosphere, it degenerates, and the staple becomes inferior.”[112]

 

The Russ place was sold to Andrew Jackson, Jr. after Wailes’ visit. As mentioned above, much discussion of Jackson, his family and his holdings will be given in another chapter. In the meantime, it may be observed that young Samuel Jackson, a dutiful son who was to run Clifton, described in a letter to his mother, on March 26, 1857, that on the Russ place “the cotton stalks grow eight to ten feet tall and as large as my arm, the [illegible] were about three inches in diamiter <sic> and sixteen feet tall, there is a marsh, which if once drained, the soil of the richest kind, will be everlasting, and about 200 acres.”  It is evident that Asa Russ had not completed his experiment to drain the marsh. It would appear, however, that he imparted his idea to the Jacksons, along with the deed.

Daniells and Russ were from the Carolinas; Claiborne and Jackson were not, but reflected the influence of the East Coast in that they grew Sea Island cotton.  Surely, those who came in the migration had good reason to come to this undeveloped corner of Mississippi. And indeed, it must have been undeveloped. Wailes reported: “I parted with him [Judge Daniells] the [illegible] in the morning and travelled 14 miles; through a level dreary waste of pine forest, with only two or three widely separated huts….” Describing Clifton, Samuel Jackson complained to his mother, “I do not think you would like this place. Col Claybourn’s family is the only one you would visit unless it was at Bay of St Louis which is eighteen miles distant and at times a wretched road.…”[113]

While it must be acknowledged that settlers had large spaces between their homesteads, the population was on the upswing. The 1830 census shows a total of 1,961 persons, including slaves. By 1840, the figure was 3,367, an increase of 71%. Ten years later, another increase is evident, even though the county was reduced in territory by the elimination of what is now Harrison County. Settlers came from the British Isles, from Russia, Greece, Denmark, and Holland; from Vermont, New York, New Jersey, Maine and Delaware. Some of the settlers were from Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia and may have been Tories who fled their homes during and after the Revolution. They did not always come directly. It is apparent that some spent considerable time at places between their points of origin and their final destination. Some who came originally from the Carolinas, for example, had children in Georgia and Alabama, before settling in Hancock County.

The question arises as to whether the migration was a movement to somewhere, or away from some place. Was it for cheap land, regardless of the mosquitoes and the supposed “fevers” of the southern swamps and marshlands? With regard to land costs, our study is decidedly disadvantaged in that all records were lost by fire in the 1853 fire that consumed the courthouse at Gainesville, the county seat at that time. There is hard evidence that at least some of the land was sold directly from the U.S. Land office at Natchez for $1.25 per acre.[114]

In spite of the availability of low cost land, however, there were discouraging factors. Apparently, there really was some apprehension about illness caused by the terrain. Wailes, in an August comment about Asa Russ, stated, “His family have all been down with fevers, commencing in June, and some members are still sick, which I suppose is to be attributed to the exhalations from the drained marsh and the decayed sod.”  DeBow’s in 1854stated, “This region…has come into cultivation at a comparatively recent period, it having been heretofore considered damp and unhealthy. This impression is fast losing ground, and the cotton planters, deserting the rolling uplands, are fast poring [?] in on the ‘swamp’. Indeed, the impression of the sickliness of the South generally has been rapidly losing ground for some years back, and that blessing is now sought with as much confidence on the ‘swamp lands’ of the Yazoo and the Mississippi as among the hills and plains of Carolina and Virginia.”

Another favorable but curious comment bearing on the above is contained in Samuel Jackson’s letter to his mother of March 26, 1857. He advised, “The greatest objection to the country is the moschitos <sic>, and they are awful, but as Col Claybourn says he would prefer their sting to sickness, the latter they say they never have.” It is difficult to read this in any way without interpreting it to mean that they made a connection between a type of mosquito and yellow fever. It is to be recalled that throngs of New Orleanians – those who could afford to travel – would make an annual exodus to the Mississippi Gulf Coast to escape yellow fever epidemics. The supposition that Claiborne and young Samuel could attribute the cause of a type of mosquito other than the local ones flies in the face of usually accepted history, that being that Walter Reed did not pinpoint the Aedes aegypti until 1900. Even allowing for the fact that Reed was building on the twenty-year-old research of Cuban physician Carlos Finlay, the time element does not reach back to the mid-nineteenth century. While there were earlier observations of unusual quantities of mosquitoes during epidemics, no distinctions were made as to type of mosquito.[115]  In 1848, a Mobile doctor, Joseph Clark Nott, published in the New Orleans Medical and Surgical Journal, what was considered “a fantastic claim,” that there was a possible link between mosquitoes and yellow fever.[116]

Nonetheless, Samuel’s statement stands on his own. It is of course possible that Claiborne, a man of learning, knew of Nott’s claim, and in fact somehow knew that there was a distinction to be drawn between types of mosquitoes.

      In spite of yellow fever being less of a risk in the coastal area, there were in fact occasional bouts with the disease, one hitting Bay St. Louis in late 19th century.

To return to the question regarding whether some settlers were moving away from something or some place, there are some answers to be found in DeBow’s. It is found that in the 1840’s, there was in South Carolina and Georgia a “severe and long drought has cut short the [cotton] crop very considerably.” A comparison is made in DeBow’s of the cotton crop in New Orleans and North Carolina from 1840 to 1849. This shows an average for New Orleans of about one million pounds, versus the cotton harvest in North Carolina at only 10,000 pounds. The high for New Orleans was in 1848 at 1,191,000 pounds; North Carolina in the same year produced only two thousand pounds. It should be noted that Hancock County planters shipped through New Orleans.

It is observed that in 1846, the price of cotton was coming down. This was coupled with the fact that the average field hand in South Carolina was producing less than elsewhere. The average accepted as a standard was 2,000 pounds per field hand, but in South Carolina the average was only 1200 pounds. Some planters were averaging less the 1,000 pounds per hand. At 5 cents, it was calculated, 1,000 pounds per hand yielded only 2% of invested capital. At such rate, South Carolina was “becoming impoverished.” “Depopulation, to the utmost possible extent, must take place rapidly….Our slaves will go first…and that institution will be swept away.” It is stated that for the last twenty years, “floating capital had left South Carolina to the extent of $500,000 per year….The most fatal loss has been owing to emigration.”

Another interesting study contained in DeBow’s is about what was termed as the “natural increase” of slaves. This refers to the enhancement of the slave population by natural birth additions, rather than continuing increase by purchase or other means. Such increase in the South since slavery was prohibited was 30%. In South Carolina between 1810 and 1820, it was a fraction above that rate. From 1820 to 1830, however, it was a fraction below. From 1830 to 1840, it was less than 7%. The number of slaves in South Carolina in the 1840 census was 83,000 “less than it should have been….They had been carried off by their owners to a soil producing 1800 pounds instead of 1200 pounds.”[117]

An analysis was made of the finances of a plantation with good buildings and equipment and 100 slaves, 50 of whom were average field hands. Such place, on rich bottomland, “will produce seven bales of cotton of 400 pounds each, to each hand. At 5 cents per pound, this comes to $7000 but costs running such plantation would come to about $5,250, for a net of only $1,750. This assumed no rent or hire costs.”[118]

By comparison to an era only a few years before, early in the 19th century, “a single estate in Georgia is said to have yielded a crop of 600 bags of Sea Island cotton, worth $100,000 and upwards…The planter in those days who made good crops doubled his capital in a few years…the proceeds of the labor of each worker enabled him to add another laborer to his estate.”

There may have been many reasons why different folks migrated. At the time when many moved to Hancock County, Alexis de Tocqueville was touring the country and he wrote glowingly about Mississippi. In an article about “soil, climate, production etc., emigration prospects etc. of Mississippi,” DeBow’s quoted de Tocqueville: “The valley of the Mississippi is, upon the whole, the most magnificent dwelling-place prepared by God for man’s abode.”[119]

Certainly there was at the time serious unrest in South Carolina. Because of the tariff of 1832, the “nullifiers” were strongly considering secession. The legislature was empowered by the governor to call out the militia, recruit volunteers and to draft if necessary. Robert Remini, in his biography of Jackson, reports that the President “…expected to post from ten to fifteen thousand men in Charleston in ten to fifteen days at the most. If need be, ‘which God forbid’ two hundred thousand men would be marched into South Carolina within forty days.” Long before the Civil War, “South Carolina rang with the rebel yell. Blue cockades with a palmetto button at the center appeared everywhere….But not all were secessionists; chief among Jackson’s supporters was Joel Poinsett, his secretary of War. Remini states, “At the same time the nullifiers prepared for possible combat, the Unionists in South Carolina also armed. Poinsett labored to raise and equip a volunteer force.”[120]

Some of the migrants from South Carolina may very well have not been sympathetic to the cause of the nullifiers. It is noteworthy that in 1829 Governor Brandon of Mississippi said that threats of hostile resistance had “happily settled in a resolution to resist the policy (the Tariff of 1928) alone by Constitutional means.” [121]  Also, the people of Mississippi were committed to national government because of their devotion to Jackson.

Then too there was the economic recession of the 1830’s, which became known as the Panic of 1837 and deepened into a national depression. It is however, difficult to ascribe this as a cause for migration, as the economic problems were widespread. Also, if there was any point of origin, according to Remini, it “…was the collapse of the New Orleans cotton market, and since the company had extensive dealings with the banks, mercantile establishments, and the commercial enterprises, the bankruptcy set off a chain reaction that dragged down hundreds of businesses.” If anything, this fact would seem to have militated against any movement close to New Orleans.

Indeed, in DeBow’s analysis, “No State plunged with a bolder leap into the corrupt banking system of the times, and nowhere did more disastrous consequences follow in the train of either [land sales and banking].…In the crash of 1836, ‘7, ‘8, and ‘9, an almost universal bankruptcy ensued amongst us, and some of the finest portions of Mississippi became partially depopulated.”[122]

While one may continue to guess at the reasons for migration, there can be little doubt that the caliber of some of the personalities that came to Hancock County.  It was during this period that the lumber industry was reaching fabulous proportions. 

Meanwhile, the Gainesville Advocate of March 21, 1846, reported that a bill had been passed establishing Gainesville as an incorporated town, and authorizing the courthouse to be established in that city. On April 4th, it announced the election of the first officers as follows: J. P. Sherwood, President, and Gardner Holcomb, L.Y. Folsom, James Smith, and C. H. Frazar as Select Men (Sherwood was also the editor of the Advocate). The article stated: “Gainsville, judging by the erection of new buildings, increased population, is the most thriving village in East Mississippi. The immigration to Hancock County the past two years has been great.”

Mayes, in History of Education in Mississippi, wrote glowingly about migrants: “Many of these immigrants were from the New England states; many from the Middle States, and nearly all the remainder from Virginia, Maryland, Kentucky, Georgia and the Carolinas. They brought with them full knowledge of Harvard, Yale, Princeton, University of Virginia, Transylvania….” Mayes may not have had the Pearl River area in mind, but…“

 

Lumbering

 

The mills continued to grow until New Orleans capitulated to Union forces in 1862, which resulted in a blockading of the market. It can be seen from the Koch papers that some few struggled with intermittent logging operations through the war, but the Pearl essentially was stripped of its commerce except for an occasional permit.

After the war, lumbering again prospered. In Baxter’s history of his family and of the Weston’s, he tells of the great success of the Logtown mill: “At its zenith the company’s holdings were almost 2 million acres in Mississippi, Louisiana, Mexico, Oregon, and British Colombia. Its markets had expanded from domestic to international with much of its lumber going to South America and Europe. It became the largest lumber mill in the world.  At its zenith it had a capacity of producing 30,000,0000 board feet per year.” It had its own railroad, commissary, and a power station, ice house, livery stable and telephone company.[123]

Lumbering may not have been the primary reason the early settlers came to the area. As Peter Chester, provisional British governor in 1773, pointed out, “Those tracts which have been applied for since my arrival in the province, have only been Granted to such persons as gave me the strongest assurances, in Council, of their intentions to Cultivate and Improve the [land], excepting such as have been granted in consequence of His Majesty’s Orders inn <sic> Council, and in consequence of his proclamation in 1763, to reduced Officers who had served during the late War in North America”.

But Chester also wrote, in telling of the land where Favre settled, “The Land here is not extraordinarily high but seemingly fertile upon the Banks and back it is Pine Barren, the Trees of which are large and fit for Turpentine”.

W.C.C. Claiborne sang the praises of the area as early as 1811. In a letter to Secretary of the Navy Hamilton, he wrote on July 2nd from Pascagoula, “The lands bordering on the lakes Maurepas, Pontchartrain and Borgne abound in Live Oak of the best quality, and near the Florida Shore, and on several islands in this vicinity, it also grows luxuriantly. On the Pearl and Pascagoula Rivers, & the Waters of the Tombigbee, I learn there is an abundance of Cedar, Mulberry and Locust, the Cypres <sic> of the Mississippi is enexhaustible <sic>….[124] In May, 1846, The Gainesville Gazette used the same word to describe the quantity of the timber available as did DeBow’s Review in 1852.[125]

The latter stated, writing about the area around the Bay of St. Louis, “The timber of this region, as well as along the entire sound, is inexhaustible, and the facilities for getting it to market very great…. No section of our coast presents greater advantages for trade in lumber than Mississippi Sound. The lumber is inexhaustible.”[126]

As noted previously, timbers of the Logtown area were utilized after the War of 1812 to construct Fort Pike. The census of 1820 records 153 people engaged in agriculture, another 312 in commerce, and 130 in manufacturing; the latter may be guessed to have been, in fact, the lumber industry. Still, lumbering on the Pearl did not become the primary enterprise until the 1840’s.

Pearl River was at the heart of the success of the lumber industry. In the days of the early settlers, the water was clear, and possibly drinkable. It was navigable but relatively slow, making it possible to “raft” cut trees to the mills. The finished product could easily be shipped downstream to ports like New Orleans and Mobile. Even the fact that the river was tidal must have been occasionally an advantage to vessels going upstream.  Several issues of DeBow’s Review commented on the Pearl’s value; one article considered the need to make the Pearl more navigable in connection with the possible building of a railroad from Jackson to Ship Island.[127]

When Joseph Challon conveyed the rights of his land to W.R. Wingate, Logtown already had a mill. Wingate built a larger one, probably in 1845-1846. It was reported that the Wingate mill was capitalized at $20,000 in 1850 and had a capacity of 5,000 board feet per day. In 1850, there were 14 workers and the monthly payroll was $210.

In 1849, Wingate[128] hired Henry Weston, a young man from Sakowegan, Maine who was working at the Poitevant mill in Gainesville. In 1854, Wingate transferred the mill and the Challon land claim, known at this time as the “Logtown Tract,” to his cousins the Carre brothers and John Russ, as mentioned above. The latter sold one-third back to Wingate, who later conveyed it to Henry Weston.

Subsequently, Weston married, in 1856, Lois A. Mead from Jourdan River. Their home was called the Sunshine Cottage.  In the same year, the mill burned, and was rebuilt in 1870 a short distance from the old one. It was located on the north side of Borgue Homa. It may be guessed that the Civil War delayed the rebuilding, but it is noteworthy that Weston mined salt on “the Lakeshore” during the war.[129]

In 1874, Carre’s ownership was dissolved, leaving Wingate the sole owner.  In 1852, De Bow’s reported that contracts had been made to provide thousands of spars of different sizes to the French navy.[130]

A search of the Hancock County deed books reveals that a number of other, perhaps less prominent, settlers was involved in logging, if only peripherally. In 1853, Asa Hursey sold to Thomas Brown a 535-acre tract and “also our schooner boat lying at the Wharf at Pearlington which is not yet named but intended to be called the Isabella with all her rigging and appointments, also 200 logs partly pine and partly cypress lying at the river at Pearlington.”

Also, in 1853, there was recorded an agreement between G. W. Peoples and Robert Montgomery having to do with a mill with a circular saw on Pearl River. It was stated that Peoples was familiar with the operation and therefore given the “right to operate and the right to profit until September and possibly later.” (Reference). 

De Bow editorialized in 1854 that “the sawing of lumber, farming and distilling turpentine, are now the most profitable kinds of business near the seaboard and out of the city.” A year later, DeBow commented on a proposed railroad that was to run along the Gulf Coast and to Ship Island at the cost of $ 3,000,000. In that article, the New Orleans

Bulletin was quoted: “If the Mississippians would spend $100,000 judiciously, in rendering Pearl River navigable, they would do more for that section of the State than they can by embarking in the proposed railroad experience.”[131]

The output of these mills however, did not yet deserve mention in DeBow’s analysis of the pine forests of the South. The 1856 foreign exports of hewn timber was reported as follows: Savannah – 26,878 tons; Charleston – 3,197 tons; Mobile 939 tons; Wilmington 520 tons; all other ports of the United States 2,733 tons. 

Production along the Pearl seems to have changed quickly in the next few years. Weston and the Carre’ brothers brought the Wingate mill in 1856 or 1858. DeBow reported in 1859 that exports in lumber, wood, and charcoal from Bay St. Louis amounted to $100,000. Seven mills were producing one million feet of lumber annually. Thirty to forty vessels were operating, and it was said that the facilities for getting goods to market were great. DeBow also reported contracts with France to ship thousands of spars of all dimensions for navy ships. It was indicated that lumber was shipped via Mobile.

J.F.H. Claiborne in a letter to the editor of the Mississippian in 1857 stated that the mills located on the margins of the small streams which debouched into the Gulf annually supplied forest products to fifty cargo vessels from all parts of the world. During the latter half of April 1857, lumber, sawed timber, and deals to the value of $28,000 were shipped to England and Australia. “In addition,” wrote Claiborne “our trade in lumber coastwise, that is to say with Texas, Mexico, and the West Indies is enormous,” and “Mississippi pine is now sent on almost every steamer that leaves New Orleans for St. Louis.”[132]

Chapter 18 – Biographies of Prominent Residents

 

Brief biographies of some of the more distinguished settlers follow. In a later section is a more expanded description of the families of two other prominent landowners, Christian Koch and Andrew Jackson, Jr.

 

General George Nixon

A prominent military personality of Pearlington was General George Nixon who moved from South Carolina to Mississippi territory in 1809. He fought in the Creek war and the War of 1812, and served as a state senator. He also was a member of the first state constitutional convention. He died in Pearlington in 1824, his grave and that of his wife being prominent in the old Pearlington cemetery.

According to local tradition, Nixon was an ancestor of President Richard Nixon. While this does not seem to be so, it may well be that he was a collateral ancestor, as there were in fact three George Nixons in the President’s direct lineage, but the general was not one on them.

 

Publius Rutilius Rufus Pray

One of the most celebrated jurists of Mississippi, Pray lived for years in Pearlington. He served in the Mississippi House of Representatives from 1827 to 1829. In 1832, he was president of the State Constitutional Convention. Five years later, he was elected judge of the High Court of Errors and Appeals.

Born in Massachusetts in 1793, he married his cousin Maria Learned of Maine in 1820. Both came from a long line of English settlers in New England, tracing their ancestry back as early as the “second ship” in 1621. In the1820’s, Pray and his wife moved to Pearlington, where he was an attorney. He accomplished much, but died young, at age 46 in 1839.

He and Maria had a number of children, some of whom died early. Of four who survived to maturity, son Rufus Otis Pray married Sarah Hamlin Daniell in 1842. After the death of Publius Pray, Maria married Lewis Daniells, the father of her daughter-in-law. Eugenia Amelia Pray, who married her first cousin once removed, Charles Walker Daniell of New Orleans, son of Josiah Daniell, who was the brother of Judge Lewis Daniell and Robert Daniell of Hancock County.

It was not until 1846 that an Administrator’s Sale announcement appeared in the Gainesville newspaper with regard to the Pray estate. The administrator was Samuel White. He advertised several parcels of land, listing first a tract of 401 acres near Pearlington, known as the “Gin Place.” There was also a half section on the Turtleskin Creek, and another half section on the Irishman’s branch, which were located within four miles of Gainesville. Lastly, there was half a lot in the town of Pearlington.[133]

From the Eastern States Federal Land Grant database we have the location of five Hancock County Federal land grants made to Pray, although strangely they are all dated after his death in 1839, one as late as 1851.  

 

Judge Lewis Daniell

One of the most prominent settlers of Hancock County, Lewis Daniell could trace his lineage to the Norman Conquest in 1066, when his ancestors arrived in England with William, Duke of Normandy. Later members of Daniell’s forebears were active in the politics of both Carolinas.

Like Pray, Daniell came from a long line of early South Carolina settlers, which included Welsh, British, and French Huguenots, some having come as early as the “first fleet” to Charleston in 1670. Most notable of Daniell’s ancestors was Governor Robert Daniell, the first of the family in this country. He received huge land grants, about 100,000 acres in total.[134]

Lewis Daniell was born in Little River, South Carolina, in 1783, his father being Robert Daniell. After his mother, Amelia Lewis, he acquired his given name. His first marriage was in 1813 in South Carolina and produced seven children, including six girls and one boy. The first three were born in South Carolina between 1820 and 1823, and the next was born in 1827 in Hancock County. It was therefore sometime in the mid-1820’s when the family moved to Mississippi.  It may be that there were no longer large amounts of family money by the time that Lewis Daniell was of age. Perhaps this accounts for his move to Hancock County.

On November 1, 1823, Daniell bought Clifton Plantation[135] from the heirs of Don Louis Boisdore. The land included marshlands south of Mulatto Bayou and two small islands, one called Pea Island or British Encampment.[136]  The other was called Long Island. The deed described the land as “beginning at a post on Mulatto Bayou at the Southwest corner of the land of Francois Saucier.”[137]

Daniell successfully raised Sea Island cotton on his plantation, which adjoined another successful cotton plantation, that being Claiborne’s Laurel Wood. In 1846, the Gainesville Advocate included the following mention: “Hancock county claims credit of having produced the finest specimen of Sea Island cotton exhibited in Liverpool Market last year. It was grown on the plantation of Judge Daniell.”[138]

     All of the Daniells children married well, the marriages being performed in the county. One of the daughters, Sarah Hamlin Daniell, married Rufus Otis Pray, a son of P.R.R. Pray. Another married James B. Mitchell, who appears to have been from a local family.[139]

Eventually, Lewis Daniell found that the title rendered to him by the heirs of Boisdore was faulty. In a court action, the final decree dated April 20, 1853, it was found that Andrew Murphy and wife[140] and other unknown heirs of Boisdore had not had a clear title to sell all the land originally deeded, and therefore the “…claim was decreed against and annulled – except for the quantity of 1280 acres…and which original survey of the U. States of said 1280 acres included a previous sale by Boisdore heirs to Francois Saucier of 676 acres and 603 acres of the 4000 acres sold to the complainant.”[141]

Daniell’s first wife died, date unknown. He married a second time to Maria Learned, the widow of Publius Pray sometime after Pray’s death in 1839. Maria Learned Daniell died in 1848.

      Judge Daniell died on February 22, 1856.[142] His heirs then sold Clifton to Andrew Jackson Jr. on December 2, 1856, for the price of $8, 525.[143]

(A copy of the deed may be found in the Appendix.)

The Russ Family

A number of family names of the early settlers of the Pearl River area crop up repeatedly. These include among others the following: Poitevant, Seal, Graves, Leonard, Daniells, Wingate, Favre, Mitchell, McArthur, Nixon, Pray and Russ. It is possible to ascertain certain patterns among those about whom we have the most information. Some of these patterns are socio-economic; others have to do with migration, and at times, even some personal habits may become evident.

The Russ family is worthy of study, but in no way do they represent the “average” settlers. To begin, one family member, Asa Russ, stands out.[144] In 1850, Asa was a brickmaster in Gainesville. Originally from South Carolina, he married a native of North Carolina. In the 1850 census he is shown as 43 years old; she is 39. Their first daughter, age 16 in the census, was born before they left North Carolina. Their second child, age 15 in 1850, was born in Alabama, apparently while on their way to Hancock County. Of nine other children, the oldest was age 13, and she, like the rest, was born in Mississippi. It follows that Asa and family left North Carolina about 1835.  Asa had at least two brothers and two sisters, who all came to Hancock County, but at different times.

The Russes must have been relatively wealthy. They were propertied, in both real estate and slaves. They were also enterprising, as evidenced by their buying and selling property, including a sawmill. When the first representatives of the Russ family arrived on the Pearl is not known. The sisters Amelia and Adeline Russ made their journey in 1836, but it is apparent that their brothers Asa and Samuel had preceded them. It is known that Asa Russ was at least for a time engaged in growing cotton, but it is also evident that some of the Russes were in the lumber business. John Russ[145] had been in partnership with his cousins the Carres as lumbermen. They also had a lumberyard in New Orleans.

Asa Russ owned a significant number of land sections in Hancock County with his son Sempronious, born 1844.   Asa Russ was a member of the Board of Commissioners formed to examine the plans associated with the construction of the Gainesville Courthouse in 1846.

In 1852, Benjamin Wailes, acting as the State Geologist, visited Asa Russ on the “Lake Shore,” located at the site of modern day Buccaneer Park. [146]  Asa Russ owned 14 slaves in 1840. His real property valuation in 1850 was $5,800; only eleven other residents of the county were listed with a greater amount. Although listed as living in Gainesville in 1850, he also owned one of the plantations eventually purchased by Andrew Jackson Jr.[147]

     There he was visited by Wailes in 1852, and was reported to have been actively managing his enterprise. Wailes wrote:

“I parted with him [Judge Daniels] in the morning and traveled 14 miles; through a level, dreary wasted pine forest, with only two or three widely separated huts, and swarming with mosquitoes, and very destitute of water, to Mr. Peter Ioor’s,[148] who was kind enough to ride with me by road leading to Mr. Asa Russ’s on the Lake Shore. Mr. Russ at home and he conducted me to the marshland he is reclaiming. He commenced this a year ago and has a crop of rice, sweet potatoes, corn and okra growing on it. The potatoes and okra are very promising, the rice is indifferent and the corn worthless. He complains of a mineral in the muck which tinges the earth in the bank of the ditches, and the surface in some parts, with reddish, rust like colour, and a similar skim forms in the stagnant water. He says he has discovered iron pyrites in the marsh. He thinks that the very black marsh muck, which lies below the roots of drifted and thoroughly decomposed seaweed. He has been collecting some of it as it is now cast on the beach by the surf, but the quantity thrown up is very inconsiderable, and of a fine grass like, fibrous texture, which becomes very foetid <sic>.”

 

From the above, it may be inferred that Russ, in addition to being enterprising, was also an educated man.

No record has been found of the Russ purchase of this plantation. In point of fact, what Russ would have acquired would have been a lease, as the land is 16th Section, or “lieu” land, which cannot be sold but can be leased for as long as 99 years. His acquisition would have been prior to the 1853 Courthouse fire at Gainesville, and it appears that his deed was never re-recorded.[149]

It is unknown as to whether the house on the property was built during the Russ tenure or prior. It is possible, judging from the Jackson letters, that it might have had considerable age already in 1857. In a letter of March 26, Samuel Jackson wrote to his mother, recommending it as a choice for her residence. He wrote: “The Russ place I think a very prettie one, the house is a very good size the rooms I think to <sic> small they are very little half more than half as large as our place. Their <sic> are a great many prettie flowers, also some very nice fruit trees. It can be made one of the most valuable places in the country. The cotton stalks grow eight to ten feet tall and areas large as my arm….”  This discussion is more fully explored in the Jackson section in Book Two.  Subsequently, the Jacksons undertook what appears to have been a major restoration and enlarging of the house, during which it was destroyed by fire.

Prior to the sale to the Jackson, Judge Claiborne had acted as intermediary, advising Andrew Jr. in a letter dated December 3, 1856, and “Mrs. Russ is willing to sell at $6,000.  She says that will not pay for the improvements. I think the place very cheap at that price…I have said to them that they may consider the trade as made—for I think it a bargain & would be perfectly willing myself to buy it at that rate.”

Not only from the above, it is obvious that Claiborne was well acquainted with the Russ family. A letter in the Claiborne papers written by Russ to Claiborne apparently relates to a political meeting. It is datelined “Point Claire, September 5, 1855.”[150] The context would seem to show Russ as an organizer of the meeting, giving some instructions to Claiborne.[151] As early as 1846, Russ was involved in local politics. This is indicated in the February 21 issues of the Gainesville Advocate, listing Russ as a member of the Board of Commissioners named to accept the newly constructed courthouse.

There are many records of land transfers involving the Russ family. It is interesting to note that a substantial percentage involve other prominent settlers. Indeed, much of the commerce was done within what appears to be an upper echelon of the citizenry.  Of all the land deeds, perhaps the most poignant is one in which Asa and Mary Russ sold to Christian Koch 635 acres and 80 acres on January 31, 1854. The price was $1,000. It may be recalled from above that the Russ family included eleven children. Two of these were twins, Ella and Rosa, born March 28, 1841. In the deed, Asa included the proviso, “I reserve twenty feet square in Section 4 which contains the remains of my daughter Rosa.”

As with land transfers, marriages within the Russ family, as within other prominent families, often indicate a repetition of names in the same social strata. Asa’s sister Adeline married her cousin Dr. Stephen Mead; her daughter Lois married Mr. Henry Weston. Another sister, Mary, married William Poitevant. Another Mary became the wife of Judge Wingate, believed also to be a cousin.

Likewise, business ownership remained closely held. To quote an article from the genealogy section of the Picayune library, apparently taken from a column in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, “Two of Walter Wingate’s grandsons, W.W. Carre and Henry Carre, were lumbermen in Hancock County.…At first they were in partnership with their cousin John Russ. The three purchased the mill owned by their cousin, Judge D. R. Wingate….Russ sold out his interest in the business in 1856 to the Carres and their cousin-in-law, Henry Weston.”

The Russes were people of some wealth before their journey to Hancock County. In the Courthouse is a record dated June 27, 1853, reciting an earlier record that had been destroyed by fire. Asa Russ served as the executor for the estate of his mother, Amelia Russ, and in that capacity sold five slaves and a buggy. Details follow, as best as the old script allows:

Bob to John Russ for $770

Zelpha to R. Witten for $415

Edinborough to Mr. A Mead for $430

Sam to E.F. Russ for $700

Coco to F.E. Russ for $660

The buggy to Mitchell for $38

 

As Asa Russ’s mother-in-law had been a Witten, and Mead married Adaline, it seems that all the slaves stayed in the family. The document continues, stating that all the heirs have been paid their shares, “…except a minor John A. Russ who according to the will of the deceased is entitled to double or two shares and I have in my hands five hundred dollars for said minor which I am ready to pay over when there shall be a guardian appointed…." The Russes took care of their own.

Just before the weddings of the Russ sisters, Amelia and Adeline, marriage contracts were entered into specifically to declare that the slaves of each would continue to be separate property. In one, groom-to-be Stephen Mead agreed with Adaline that he will not “intermeddle” with her rights of slaves George, Charlotte, Lucy and Mariah.

In another court record dated September 7, 1842, Amelia Russ “for love and affection…and in consideration of the sum of one dollar” gave Lois Mead “…one cow and calf one four old year Heiffer one year old heifer all in the mark and brand as follows. A Smth [illegible] in the right ear, a Smooth crop and split in the left ear branded with the letter X on crop together with all the increase.”

In a document in which Asa Russ is appointed trustee of Sister Amelia’s 21 slaves, two inclusions are particularly noteworthy. In one instance, the wording makes clear that all slaves came from their father’s estate. The other is notably similar in wording to the above gift of cows and “the increase.” Here, Amelia’s husband Daugharty Gause desires “…to secure to his said wife all of said property, the same being the slave and their increase.”

Another document of Amelia’s deserves to be included here, that being her diary account of the journey from North Carolina to Hancock County. It is not clear with whom she traveled, but it is believed that she and her party were part of a wagon train. According to one note, it may be that she was accompanied by her mother, also named Amelia, who was a widow. Some familiar names are included. It would also seem likely that they traveled with slaves, as they owned more than a few, but there is no mention of such in the diary. It is apparent that she was preceded by brothers Asa and Samuel, as probably was the case with many of the early settlers. [152]

While somewhat lengthy, it follows here in its entirety.  The transcript housed in the Hancock County Historical Society includes the preface. A diary was written in 1836 by Ms. Amelia Russ,[153] sister of Adeline who later married to Dr. Mead on March 7, 1839. Adeline Russ Mead was the mother of Lois Amelia Mead born December 15, 1839, and married Henry Weston at Gainesville on July 15, 1858.

 

 “A Journal of Our Travel”

Left Shallotte Brunswick County N.C. 18th February at 3 o’clock in the evening and started for the West arrived at Little River half past of 8 o’clock and traveled 16 miles.

Arrived April 14th at brother Samuel near Pearlington.

Sunday February 21st W. Poitevant ran away with the cart and broke it to pieces it was repaired and started again. We passed through a most miserable swamp. The cart broke down and we were obliged to stop traveled 15 miles.

March 7th, traveled 8 miles when we were obliged to stop on account of the rain parted with Mr. Poitevent[154] and family on account of Aunt Sally’s health which is too delicate to travel.

March 18th Passed through Columbia [GA] over the Chatahoocy on a toll bridge paid 175 cts passed thru Sodone met a great many Indians lost our way traveled 8 miles out of the way over hills traveled 19 miles and camped at sunset.

March 22nd Fair cold day crossed Cuthlahooche Creek on a toll Bridge paid 1.00 crossed Line Creek Thompsons Ferry all in good spirits got thru the Indian Nation passed Fort Meggs traveled 20 miles and camped 2 miles from Montgomery.

March 27 Sunday morning very pleasant and passed by a place in Butler County [Alabama] where there had been a dreadful Hurricane in many places the trees were torn up at such a rate scarcely one could be seen standing, made 20 miles. March 28th Traveled 26 miles had a tolerable good road passed through Claiborne and camped near a large Baptist Church 29 and 30 spent at Uncle Wingates.[155]

March 31st, started in the afternoon traveled 8 miles crossed the Alabama River Doles Ferry camped on the Bank of the River.

April 1st traveled hilly road, crossed deep creek made 17 miles.

April 2nd passed thro pine Jackson crossed the Tombecbee.

April 3rd Sunday a rainy day traveled thro wilderness country made 18 miles.

April 4th A clear day traveled 20 miles crossed the Mississippi Line

April 5th passed thro a level barren country our spirits dull crossed Chekasaha (Chickasawhay) River, McKiniss ferry paid $1 passed thro Leakesville in Green County the poorest village I ever saw or heard of we could get no provisions of any kind neither for love nor money.

April 6th Clear warm day crossed Leaf River Moddys ferry paid $1.25 cts provision scarce stopped at a Mr. Dantzlers sent to mill had grinding done made 14 miles camped in a swamp or close by.

April 7th Traveled through the most desolate looking country I ever saw crossed Black Creek Perkins ferry paid 150 cts and camped on the bank of the River in Perry County made 21 miles].

April 8th A pleasant day traveled a good part of the way right thro the woods a good part of the way without sign of a road Provisions very scarce and hard to get caught Gophers made 27 miles got thro the Gopher Nation

April 9th Clear pleasant weather traveled a good road made 27 miles.

April 10th Sunday morning all in good spirits got in sight of Pearl River traveled a hilly road made 20 miles arrived at Br. Asa’s at sunset

11 and 12 spent at Asa [Asa 42 miles from Pearlington]

April 13th All started a crooked Road, crossed Hobolochitto paid $2.25 cts made 17 miles[156]

April 14th Started and traveled 25 miles arrived safe at Br. Samuel’s near Pearlington.

 

Signed

 Amelia P. Russ

Hancock County[157]

 

Amelia’s diary is about the trip from North Carolina to Pearlington. On the same trip was William Poitevant, who eventually married Mary Russ, another sister of Amelia.

They left February 18, arrived April 14th, paying many times for ferries across rivers and streams. Amount paid seemed high for the day. No mention was made of other wagons besides Poitevant’s, and there was no mention of taking slaves with them. While in Georgia, they stayed with Uncle Wingate, perhaps the father of Wingate, identified in Logtown report as cousin of John Russ. Wingate may have been the one listed in the 1850 census of Hancock County; he was born in North Carolina and was about age 60; his oldest child was age 24, born in Mississippi.

Miscellaneous legal documents in Hancock County Court House concerning Russ family include the following:

1840: Amelia gives cow, calf etc. to Lois Mead, born 1840, as a birth present to niece, daughter of Adeline

6-12-1849:  Asa and Mary sell to Poincy land in Bay St. Louis by a church.

4-3-1855: Asa appointed trustee of 21 slaves owned by Amelia.

4-18-1856:  Sheriff’s sale of saw mill for $97, first to Asa then to Macguire for same amount.

4-20-1857: Purchase by Samuel Russ of slaves, price $2,200.

1-31-1854: Asa Russ to Christian Koch, 635 acres, plus 80 acres that was part of sect. 5 and 6. $1000

 

John Francis Hamtramck Claiborne

 

The following is an extract from a bill of sale in which J.F.H. Claiborne bought slaves from the Virginia estate of Gholson, noted below. It is inserted here in the beginning of this section because it is the start of a confusing and complicated picture of the man Claiborne.

Bought in Virginia (Burns County) from Jas H Gholson and Thos. S. Gholson, Executors of Wm Gholson (August 7, 1832) who bargained, sold and delivered, for $15,182 dollars, to J.F.H. Claiborne.

All which…we warrant sound of body and mind with the exception of Amey who is sometimes subject to obstruction in her “menstrual discharges” and Wilson which has a sore leg, occasioned by an injury received from an ox cart, three children without parents” List enclosed, witnessed by Col. Wilson (Molson) in presence of Dupuy, 7th August 1832, Brunswick County, VA.

29 working hands equal

25 efficient hands

19 male working hands

10 female

29 males in the whole

17 females

46 in all

Not one over 50 years of age

7 over forty years of age

2 between 30 and 40 years of age

12 between 18 and 30 years of age

8 between 10 and 18 years of age

17 under 6 years of age.

 

As much as has already been written about John Claiborne, no attempt is made here to completely profile him. What follows is a backdrop of his life and activities in order to understand his experiences in Hancock County, where he moved after reaching middle age.

John Claiborne was born of a famous father, General Ferdinand Claiborne, who had been commander of the Southern wing of the Army during the Creek War and one time Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, John Claiborne was also the nephew of W. C.C. Claiborne, governor of the Mississippi Territory and of Louisiana.

John Claiborne too had ventured into politics, on both the state and federal levels. As a young congressman, he was a member of the lower house from 1835 to 1838. During his tenure, he was in the middle of considerable controversy, and was not reelected in 1838. Moreover, because of his staunch defense of the government and the Choctaws against the fraudulent actions by land speculators, he made many powerful enemies.

Curiously, just before this period, Claiborne had purchased in 1834, with G.W. Martin as partner, 800 acres of land which had been made available by a treaty with the Choctaws signed September 1830. Most such land was sold for $1.25 per acre.[158] One of the assignees in this transaction was one Edward Sims, who had in 1834 failed to answer a subpoena from Congress. <ftnt: vol. 7: 490> G. C. Woolridge, sheriff of Lowdones County, had a warrant for his arrest. He allegedly cost the government between $65,000 and $70,000.[159]

Virtually ostracized from Mississippi, he was forced to take “refuge” in New Orleans. There, as a novice among men of shrewd business acumen, he had ventured in land, cotton and slaves, deriving invaluable commercial experience, but he had lost his patrimony through ruinous endorsements and was taken into custody as a common debtor. [160]  Claiborne, in his letter to Rev. Abbey dated July 12, 1879, remembered his New Orleans experience differently, stating that it was there that “I supported myself by writing and made money by adventures in cotton, under advice of the late Henry Hill.”[161]

Having suffered many disappointments and being in poor health, Claiborne changed lifestyles and in 1849, and bought Laurel Wood Plantation on the Mulatto Bayou, in Hancock County. [162] The manor house, according to some records, was built by Francois Saucier with slave labormin 1800.[163]  The house may have been used in the slave trade. It was razed in the early 1960’s and some local inhabitants of Hancock County still remember what appeared to have been a slave prison under the raised house. Lang, citing a WPA report, states, “… the small house with pitched tin roof was supported by high brick piers joined by iron bars to hold Negroes brought ashore from slave ships in the early days of the century. Slave quarters were located to the rear of the main structure.”[164]

In 1853, Claiborne received an appointment to a government sinecure from his friend, President Franklin Pierce. This resulted from Claiborne’s suggestion that the timber management of the states of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana be combined and that he be given authority over that district. For this he was paid a salary, giving him much needed financial security.[165] In the letter to Rev. Abbey, Claiborne stated that in addition to being a planter of cotton, he was also “an operator in timber.”  It was after this appointment as timber agent that Claiborne moved to Laurel Wood.

Much of his early years at Laurel Wood were spent in writing Mississippi history. In 1858, with Benjamin Wailes, Joseph B. Cobb, and Benjamin Sanders, he organized the Mississippi Historical Society. He published The Life and Times of General Sam Dale, the Mississippi Partisan in 1860. In the same year, he published The Life and Correspondence of John A. Quitman in two volumes.

Claiborne’s enterprise as a planter was successful. By 1861, with the help of 100 slaves, “he was out of debt and had an annual income of $6,000.” [166] His cotton production averaged 800 pounds per acre. Earlier, the New Orleans Picayune had reported enthusiastically, “We yesterday examined the sample of 22 bales of Sea Island cotton, sold in this city a few days since. This cotton was grown upon the plantation of Col. J.F.H. Claiborne and Major Andrew Jackson, on Pearl River, Hancock County, Mississippi, and was sold at the handsome price of 35, 40, and 44 cents, 16 bales bringing 40 cents per pound; the whole consignment of 22 bales netting to the enterprising planters something over $2250, after deducting freight, commissions, and all other charges.” [167]

(Because of its relevance, the foregoing quote is included also in another section.)

Perhaps because of such success, he remained at Laurel Wood during the Civil War, although he sent his wife and daughter to live in Natchez, where Mrs. Claiborne owned a family plantation.

Claiborne was a defender of states rights and evidently convinced of the rectitude of owning slaves. In fact, as mentioned above, he at one time dealt in slaves. The document at the beginning of this section details his purchase in 1832 in Virginia of 46 slaves for $15,182. The purchase from the estate of one William Gholson, and was paid for one-third in cash, balance due in two notes of 12 and 24 months. A meticulous accounting was attached showing 19 male working hands, and 10 females, with 25 others referred to as “efficient hands.” Interestingly, in the dollar accounting, a credit of $450 is taken, comprised of $100 for the “young one” and $350 for Ephraim, who had apparently been previously sold. Another curious entry is the name of one male as “Freeman.” A breakdown of ages shows no one over age 50, and 17 people less than ten years of age.[168]

Another document, dated 20 years later, on February 2, 1852, is an indenture between Martha Dunbar Claiborne and Martha W. Dunbar of Adams County (Mrs. Claiborne’s mother). This consists of a mortgage of a tract previously sold by Francois Saucier, consisting of 640 acres [the document says 6409, assumed to be an error] “on which Martha Claiborne now resides, together with the following slaves….” The list includes 29 names, and the note given by Martha Claiborne was for $4000.[169]  Apparently representing a family formality, the note was not cancelled until October 23, 1871, after Dunbar’s death.[170]

While the above makes the Claiborne position on slavery clear, he was also an avowed non-secessionist. As early as 1832, in a letter to George Poindexter, senator form Mississippi, Claiborne wrote: “I have not and do not accord with your course in the Senate. If I be true that you have denounced General Jackson, and avowed yourself a Nullifier in such a sense of the word, as would destroy the Union or involve us in civil war, to get rid of an unpopular tariff, if such be your position, then I state now as I have heretofore stated, I can no longer be classed among your friends.”[171]

Adding to the complexity of Claiborne’s positions, he wrote an address to the people of Mississippi in 1835, in which he stated, “I am more of a State’s Rights man than many among you who shout Hozannas to Mr. Calhoun.”[172]   Regardless of that stance, it must be wondered whether Claiborne’s eventual move to the southwest Mississippi region may have had to do with his being comfortable with the politics there. Counties in that area had fewer slaves than in other parts of the state, and this may have caused some settlers to have a less strident attitude toward secession. It is noteworthy that in the election of delegates to the state convention in 1861, Hancock County was one of the few southern counties to give a majority to the Union party. Most other southern counties voted for the Democratic States Rights party, which backed secession. The Union party was committed to preservation of the Union.

Aside from his political and philosophical leanings over the years, his mid-life years at Laurel Wood were somewhat idyllic, until the Civil War. As a gentleman farmer, besides cotton, he grew potatoes and other vegetables for market. He claimed that some of his orange trees were 60 years old, certainly possible if the 1800 date is correct for Laurel Wood; their fruit brought ten dollars per thousand in New Orleans. Claiborne apparently did not move full time to Laurel Wood until 1853.Meanwhile, in the 1850’s, he offered his services as a lobbyist in a New Orleans newspaper ad, apparently with some success.

Perhaps as a result of such offering, an interesting letter from J. Calhoun[173]was sent to Claiborne at Pearlington on February 27, 1856. It was marked “Private.” The letter states that there is a matter very important “to our company” and involves bills before the legislatures of both Louisiana and Mississippi “…to confer the power on the Company to sell mortgage bonds for the purpose of finishing and equipping the road to Canton and have good reason to believe that we can borrow two million on the bonds if the bills pass.” It was stated that the Mississippi legislature would pass the bills if only there were someone who could explain it sufficiently. “Knowing from past experience how potent you are in matters, I beg you if you can possibly go that you will come over and see me at your earliest convenience. Be so kind as to say nothing to any body on this subject until we converse about it.”[174]      It is evident that Claiborne had not lost touch with his former colleagues in the legislature. [175]

If Claiborne’ character appears fairly consistent in the foregoing, it was during the Civil War years that he divided his activities, if not his allegiance, between the Union and the Confederacy. Considering his devotion to Mississippi and to a son who fought for and was ultimately to die for the Confederacy, his clandestine support of the Union is surprising. In truth, he walked both sides of the road, and might have been motivated strongly to safeguard his own security by duplicitous actions. For example, he resigned his United States appointment as timber agent, but accepted a commission to administer oaths and acknowledge deeds for the Confederate government in southern Mississippi. This was August 1861. But by the next year, if not before, he was engaged in heavy correspondence with Major General Nathaniel Banks, who commanded New Orleans for the Union. Lang, in his well-researched treatment of Claiborne’s years at Laurel Wood states: “In actuality he was undoubtedly the most active advocate of the Union in southern Mississippi.”[176] But Claiborne was not totally operating in secret, as he may have believed. Captain John Cavanaugh, of the 8th Battalion, Louisiana Artillery, wrote to Lt. General J.C. Pemberton on November 11, 1862, from Pass Christian: “A prominent citizen of Pearlington, Col. J. F. Claiborne, is in daily communication with the enemy and no doubt keeps them advised of all that is going on in his neighborhood. He was, until the state seceded, timber agent for the United States government….”[177]

Entire text of this document follows:

 

Pass Christian, Miss. November 11, 1862

Lieut. General J. C. Pemberton,

Commanding Department No. 1:

GENERAL: Agreeably to your orders I arrived here on Thursday, 6th instant. On examining the cost and the inhabitants thereon I found there had been many families gone to the enemy’s lines and more preparing to go. There has been direct communication carried on between this place and the coast with the enemy for some time. There are also several persons employed in trading between this coast and New Orleans, thence forwarding their goods to Mobile, where they get higher prices than the poor of this coast can afford to pay, and many refusing Confederate money. Gold, silver or U.S. Treasury notes seem to be the only money they want. I find that Pearl River is navigable and open to the enemy’s vessels as high up as Gainesville, and there are persons at that place awaiting the arrival of the enemy’s vessels to go to their lines, and others at Pearlington, seven miles below Gainesville, awaiting the same opportunity. Mr. Trimour, of Pearlington, who owns a sawmill on West Pearl River, has taken several of his Negroes to the mill for the avowed purpose of sawing lumber for the enemy. This river, as well as the whole coast, could be guarded and prevent the landing of their vessels by putting eight or ten launches at different points, properly manned, and under the command of a naval officer, to act in connection with the land forces here or that may be placed here. The mills that may be found sawing for the enemy should be destroyed. The wharves also in front of this place and all others on this coast should be destroyed, thereby preventing the landing of the enemy’s ordnance at the different points. All small boars or vessels should be destroyed except for those in use of the Government. There are at present several hundred runaway negroes on Cat Island who have got away by means of small boats, and are now employed in making charcoal for the enemy. Those families who go over to the enemy go for subsistence, and say they are actual starving. I know of cases where they have eaten nothing but corn bread for weeks. I would suggest the propriety of appointing an officer whose duty it might be to grant passes to those who a re actually in need, and let them take charcoal or wood and bring back provisions for their own use, he preventing any speculating. That officer should be appointed immediately.

      Steps should be taken to prevent general intercourse with the enemy or this coast will be entirely demoralized. Those escaped slaves now on Cat Island can easily be retaken if we had launches. I am informed that there are two launches on Pearl River belonging to the Government. The balance could be easily built, and with small expense, at or near Gainesville, or at Chateau Beuf, near Pascagoula. There is a cost of 100 miles to guard, but ten launches properly manned would do it, supported by 1,000 land forces. The three coast counties have large numbers of cattle and sheep which will fall a prey to the enemy’s marauding parties if this coast is unprotected. A man by the name of Brown, living at Handsborough, took two Government launches, with two brass pieces, to Mobile and sold them, apparently without authority. There are two trading vessels expected in. I shall await them here and report in my next. There are a number of conscripts on the coast, all seafaring men. I would suggest detailing them to be under the command of the naval officer whom you may appoint. I will inquire more minutely and report in my next. A prominent citizen of Pearlington, Co. J. F. Claiborne, is in daily communication with the enemy, and no doubt keeps them advised of all that is going on in the neighborhood. He was, until the State seceded, timber agent for the United States Government. The cavalry under the command of Maj. A. C. Steele I find very efficient and if properly equipped would be of considerable terror to the enemy.

Respectfully submitted

John Cavanaugh,

Captain, Eighth Battalion Louisiana Artillery

 

In the summer of 1862 Claiborne wrote Governor John J. Pettus to deplore the starving condition of the inhabitants of the seaboard counties, as well as the depredations of Yankee invaders. Affirming his own fidelity, he wrote: “We are now proving our loyalty by starvation – by the tears of our women and the cries of our children for bread!!” and begged permission to import essential foodstuffs from enemy-held New Orleans in order to preserve the lives of loyal supporters of the Confederacy living along the coast.”[178] A few months later, however, in a memorandum to Banks, Claiborne did not speak kindly of his neighbors: “Few of them can be addressed through their moral sense or convictions of duty. They are essentially animals…. When Civil War broke out they eagerly volunteered…with the hope of plunder. But the mortality that has occurred among them…has disgusted them with the service. Most of all, they feel the pressure of want in their families…They are now subsisting on sweet potatoes; that crop will be exhausted by 1st Feb…. The Union sentiment is spreading…A vigorous exclusion would bring this whole seaboard to its allegiance in 3 months."[179]

In other correspondence, Claiborne told Banks that he was “confiding in the U.S. military authorities for the protection of my property” and that he had “maintained confidential relations” with Union officers at Fort Pike. Further, he stated that he was “surrounded here by armed men, mostly of desperate character & fortunes, my person in danger and my property liable to be plundered, I have been compelled to be circumspect. But I have neglected no means to further the cause. I have created a strong Union sentiment, which is rapidly developing.”[180]

Perhaps in a continuing effort at circumspection, Claiborne bought thousands of dollars of Confederate bonds during the war.[181] Claiborne must have known that the protection he sought from Banks and the officers at Fort Pike did not come gratis. He reported the twenty wagon loads of salt sent to Confederate General Joe Johnston; he told of fortifications built at Mobile; his information detailed smuggling between New Orleans and Mississippi coastal towns involving the schooners Alice and Venus[182] and other vessels “that regularly bring out contraband.”

He named names: “Arrangements are making to run the blockades to Havana from two point on this coast. The parties engaged in it have all been in or are in the Confederate service. They have two men in New Orleans – a Capt. Dane or Dean & one Asa Weed…employed to give them information about your movements…. Dane and Weed communicate with one of the parties here, by means of a schooner (The Venus) which makes a weekly trip from the city to Toomer’s Mill near Fort Pike, and the information they give is duly sent to Jackson. Weed of Dane, or both of them are soon to visit your camp at Port Hudson.” [183]

Names he might have mentioned but apparently did not were those of Poitevent, Toulme and Smylie. One month after his report to Banks about Weed and Dane, Major Smylie wrote a letter to J. V. Toulme. (J.B. Toulme was mayor of Shieldsborough in 1860.) It was dated April 28, 1863, and may have been part of a similar operation. It is contained on copy form in Claiborne’s own papers; if he did not report it, perhaps the reason would be that he must have been on very close terms with the addressee, Toulme as well as Poitevent, who was mentioned in the letter. The former was a leading citizen of Shieldsborough, and the latter of the Pearl River area. The letter reads as follows:

 

“I have the authority from Richmond to carry our cotton, see Capt. Poitevent and let us go in with him. I think arrangements can be made with some parties on the other side to carry cotton to Havana & from there I care not where it goes. I have full authority to carry our cotton from any port in our possession to any place New Orleans and Memphis excepted. See Capt. Poitevent and let him know what can be done, I am in for it and will be with you. Send a runner up (if we go in) regardless of expense. I will risk all, loose or make something.”[184]

 

The fact that this letter found its way into Claiborne’s hands suggests that he may have been the instrument of cooperation “with some parties on the other side.”

Within a few days of the above letter, Claiborne was able to obtain a pass from Union Admiral Farragut allowing him to transport cotton through the lines. As he had continued to grow cotton during the war, this included his own production as well as cotton bought from growers along the Pearl. To complete the arrangement, he had become, representing the Confederacy, the purchasing agent for the Belgian consul in New Orleans. Secretary of State Judah P. Benjamin subsequently became aware of the trade which was “evidently illegal, and is, in point of fact, a trade with the port of New Orleans covered up under the disguise of a trade with neutral vessels.” Nonetheless, he cautioned that in order to take action to break up “this illegal traffic” it would be “necessary to have the papers now in the possession of M. Claiborne proving the assent of the enemy’s officers to the shipment of the cotton.”(Need footnote. I think the source is War of Rebellion,)

Claiborne was not always comfortable about his arrangements. On July 27, 1863, he wrote to General Banks, “My position here is very precarious & the registered enemies in Mobile are doing their best to have me arrested.”[185]

If the assessment of Claiborne as a spy who played both ends against the middle is too harsh, there are those historians who have been too gentle. A case in point is found in the Foreword of Claiborne’s major work, wherein it is written, “Claiborne was no proponent of secession; so he sat out secession and war at Shieldsborough and at times was reported to the Confederate authorities as being a bit too friendly with the Yankees, to whom he reputedly sold cotton.”[186]  On July 26, 1865, Claiborne took the oath of allegiance to the United States.

After the war, Claiborne sought favor with the carpetbag governor Adelbert Ames,[187] who interceded in Claiborne’s behalf for the federal government to compensate him for the losses at Laurel Wood.[188] In return, Claiborne wrote articles defending General Grant and supporting him for a third term as president.

Claiborne continued to live at Laurel Wood until 1870, when at the death of his mother-in-law, he inherited Dumbarton Plantation and moved to Natchez. He continued to hold his Gulf Coast lands, but after 1870 his visits to Laurel Wood became less frequent. His last prolonged visit occurred in 1876, when he was invited to speak at Bay St. Louis during the centennial celebrations on July 4. He indicated in the 1879 letter to Rev. Abbey, cited above, that he retained his interest in the Gulf Coast, and continued to spend half his time there. In fact, an 1872 article quoting the Bay St. Louis Gazette was evidence of his continued success with Sea Island cotton. That article follows:

 

The cotton grown by J.F.H. Claiborne last year (1871) at Zoma <sic> plantation in this county on … prairie land without fertilizer is pronounced to be the finest long-staple ever exhibited in New Orleans, and has just been sold by Messrs. Claiborne and Co., 59 Carondelet St., for 50 cents a pound.

Had it been ginned on rollers instead of a saw gin, it would have netted 75 cents.

Col. Claiborne’s crop of the previous year, grown on hammock land, was shipped to Liverpool a few months since and netted 32 cents sterling.[189]

 

In the Rev. Abbey letter, Claiborne made a remarkable defense of his ability to deal in cotton during the war. He told the reverend, “I lost my negroes, of course, but being within the Federal lines I made some money in cotton.” In Claiborne’s defense, Napier considers that Union forces had captured the Gulf Coast.[190] However, this is not the conclusion that is rendered for the project area by a reading of the Koch letters,[191] and one must be charitable to ascribe Claiborne’s misapprehension of the geography of Hancock County to senility. (He was then 74.) But then again, in his younger, wartime years, it must be noticed that he had a convenient syllogistic fault when he made decisions involving his own well-being.

His letter also lamented the loss of his “only son, an officer in the ill-fated Confederacy.” He rejoiced in mentioning his daughters, and then said that he and his wife were growing old together.

Perhaps Claiborne’s position during the Civil War is best summed up by a passage in his Mississippi history in which he defended the Loyalists who fled to West Florida during the American Revolution, and whose course paralleled his own:

“It has been the custom to denounce those men as…enemies of their country. Such censure would be proper when applied to men who drew the sword against their countrymen, and waged upon them a savage and relentless war. But the same sentence should not be pronounced on those whose sense of loyalty and of duty forbade them to fight…but rather than stain their hands with kindred blood, renounced home, comfort, society and position…The right of conscience and of opinion is sacred, and at this distance of time these men, once generally condemned, may be properly appreciated.” (15-16).

 

Of himself, he said in the letter to Rev. Abbey,

 

I am still a temperate man; I have a glass of wine, beer or toddy but never enter a grog shop and was never on a spree. I have never been inside a race track. I never learned cards, dice, billiards, or any other game. I never bet on or buy lottery tickets. I never swear. Never wore weapons. Never belonged to a society or club. Never attended but one public dinner. Have not been in a theater or ballroom for forty years. Never learned the use of tobacco. Have never sued or been sued (for a debt of my own) and thank God, I am at peace with all mankind.

 

In his last years, Claiborne wrote prolifically. It was in 1879 that he published his first volume of Mississippi as a Province, Territory and State. His manuscript for volume two was unfortunately lost in an explosion of a Mississippi River steamer.

The dedication of the book reads as follows: To the young men of my native state, and to the widows and daughters of those who died in its defence, these volumes are respectfully inscribed.  Claiborne died a few years later, in 1884.

 

The Legend of Jean Lafitte on the Mississippi Coast

 

omeone named Jean Lafitte lived in Shieldsborough. He owned property there, and original deeds to several parcels are preserved in the Hancock County courthouse. Perhaps, also, he was associated with the famous Pirate House in Waveland. He was married to Clarisse Lafitto, who survived him and whose original will is in the county probate records.

Was this the same Lafitte as the notorious pirate who kept the upper crust of New Orleans supplied with silks, jewelry, and other sorts of contraband including Negro slaves, and also was for a while a hero of the battle of New Orleans? Could the man who settled with little fanfare in early 19th century Shieldsborough have just a few years before been the admiral of the pirates at Grand Terre Island, the governor of Galveston, and in those parts the local equal of W.C.C. Claiborne and General Andrew Jackson?

Perhaps.

It is probable that, because of the dynamics involving the slave trade in late 18th and early 19th centuries, contraband blacks were being smuggled into Louisiana through the Mississippi coastal waterways. Indeed, there exists primary evidence to this fact in extant Spanish papers. Consider, for example, a letter from Joseph Collins, then the administrator of Pascagoula and the Bay of St. Louis, written on October 17, 1806, regarding travel to New Orleans. It mentioned the “…frequent invasion of Boats and Launches of the enemy corsairs that sail for these passages.” Another letter of December 4 of the same year, from and official of Spanish West Florida, stated: “As per the part of Benito Garcia master of a small Ship of traffic and commerce on these coasts, has formally denounced to me, that in the post of Pascagoula, will be disembarked twenty-one blacks of contraband….”

The Waveland and Bay St. Louis coasts, and Pearl River, because of their proximity to the back door of New Orleans through Lake Borgne and Lake Pontchartarin, must have been ideal locations for the transport of “black ivory” in that period. There is also little doubt that Jean Lafitte and others of his ilk knew these waterways, but the written evidence of a Jean Lafitte living in this land does not become evident until later. Is it possible that he was very familiar with this area in earlier years and returned here to “retire” later on? A researcher can only speculate on this possibility.

About the Pirate House, discussed below, there were arguments of long standing which may well have a basis in fact regarding its connection with contraband slaves. It has been contended over the years that the Pirate House of Waveland was built about 1803 by a wealthy New Orleans merchant with whom Jean Lafitte fenced his pirated goods. Another legend of long duration is that the pirate actually owned the house.  There are no less than five deeds showing real estate activity of Jean and Clarisse Lafitte, beginning in 1825 and going through 1850.

Besides those romantics who pursue legends lacking in historical facts, there are some who have sought factual connections between Lafitte’s holdings and the Pirate House. The key to their support for this relationship seems to lie primarily in an 1850 deed, in which Clarisse (Jean is believed to have died) sold 40 feet of her land to Jean Defour. In that document, a chain of title traces the original ownership to one Mary Parish. The latter, according to a certification in 1852, had been awarded 639 acres by the United States in 1833. Joint owners were James Johnston and Eleanore Johnston. The land wherein the Pirate House stood can also be traced to the same three. Moreover, land purchased by Jean Lafitte in 1833 had been owned by the Johnsons. The problem comes about in observing that the Lafitte purchases were well east of the Pirate House location, some butting the western shore of the bay, whereas the Pirate House was approximately three miles down the beach. The latter constituted lots 4 to 9 of Section 36 of the Fremaux Tract, traceable to Mary Parish, but measuring only one acre of the 639.

Researchers have been influenced by a 1940 article in the New Orleans Times-Picayune that makes much of the several real estate purchases by Jean Lafitte, beginning in 1825.The article also ties this man to the pirate by way of different spellings of the name. In truth, the documents use a variety of spellings, including Lafitto, Lafito, Laffiteaux, and Laffito. The article claims that Stanley Clisby Arthur, an eminent historian, said in his book Old New Orleans that the “…buccaneer invariably spelled his name Lafitto,” the same way the documents were signed. The problem here is that Arthur wrote no such thing in his book, neither in the modern printing nor the original 1936 edition. What he did say was that the pirate himself used the spelling Laffite.

Another consideration to the contrary is that there were other men of the same name. One, according to Louisiana Census and Militia Lists of 1770, compiled by researcher Al Robichaux, was Jean Lafitte or La Fitte, a lieutenant of the 2nd company, residing at #3 Chartres in New Orleans.  Another, or possibly the same as the lieutenant, is to be found in the 1770 census as Jean Lafitte, a ship captain between the ages of 13 and 49, the son-in-law of Henry Roches. As it is generally agreed, the buccaneer was born circa 1780, and came to this country from the Caribbean, and so he cannot have been in the 1770 census. This entry, however, suggests that the pirate may have found it convenient to “borrow” the name of an established sea captain, who may even have died by the time of the buccaneer’s arrival.

Besides Jean, Shieldsborough had other Lafittes. There were Auguste and Marie Laffitte, also property owners, who fathered at least three children in the mid-1800s. They were Catherine Almaide, Marie Athenais, and Marie Josephine, all baptized in the local Catholic Church. There was also a slave of Auguste named Polomie, whose son was baptized in the same church and was named Victor Laffitte. Mrs. Lafiteau – whether this was Marie or Clarisse is not known – had a slave named S Rosine, who fathered a child also christened in the Catholic Church. She named him Jean Wilfrane Lafiteau.

It should be noted too that some of the supporting arguments are based on Jean Lafitte’s Journal, a document that purporting to be in his own handwriting and showing that he lived many years beyond his usually accepted year of death. However, it has gained no serious acceptance, and is considered at the level of a hoax or a forgery. Jack C. Ramsey, Jr., in his book, Jean Laffite, Prince of Pirates, says, “The journal of Jean Laffite is a document with no real value to the serious researcher and is of interest only to the antiquarian.”

Most historians seem to agree that Lafitte died about 1825 or 1826. Alcee Fortier says that he died at Silan in the Yucatan in 1826 and “was buried in consecrated ground.” The “Handbook of Texas Online” states that Lafitte “abandoned Galveston early in May 1820 and sailed to Mugeres Island, off the coast of Yucatan…. In 1825, mortally ill, he went to the mainland to die.” Lyle Saxon wrote in Lafitte the Pirate that he died of fever and was buried at Silan, Yucatan, in 1826. He cites several letters as evidence, dated in 1838 and 1843, written by people who made no claim to first-hand knowledge of the matter.

At first blush, the most convincing argument is to be found in a book published in 1843 and written by an American explorer. This was John L. Stephens who hacked through Mayan jungles in the Yucatan for some time before the publication date. The objectives of his travels had nothing to do with pirates in general and certainly not Lafitte particularly, and it is for this reason that any evidence that Stephens gave might be considered trustworthy. In short, he had no axe to grind.

Stephens reported that the Isle of Mugeres had been Lafitte’s home, where he was well respected by the townspeople. In the area, he met a local patron who had been a “prisoner” of Lafitte for two years. It was suspected that he actually had served with him in his piracies, as he was certainly fond of his memory. He told Stephens that Lafitte had died “in his arms, and that his widow, a senora del Norte from Mobile, was then living in great distress in Silan.”

After journeying to Silan, Stephens sought out the local padre, who did not know whether Lafitte “was buried in the campo santo or the church, but supposed that, as Lafitte was a distinguished man, it was in the latter.” But the grave was not found in the church, and so the padre inquired of some of the locals who had been there at the time of Lafitte’s burial.

It is here that Stephens’ testimony, while believable, curiously lends to the possibility that Lafitte may have mysteriously vanished. It is therefore in order to quote directly the passage:

The sexton who officiated at the burial was dead; the padre sent for several of the inhabitants, but a cloud hung over the memory of the pirate: all knew of his death and burial, but none knew or cared to tell [italics by the author] where he was laid. We had heard, also, that his widow was living in the place, but this was not true. There was, however, a negress who had been a servant to the latter, and who, we were told, spoke English; the cura sent for her, but she was so intoxicated that she could not make her appearance.

 

And so, a new question arises out of Stephens, and causes one to ponder whether Lafitte’s death and burial may have been faked, thus allowing him to continue his life elsewhere and without notoriety. History records that after Lafitte left Galveston and went to Yucatan, he was still hunted by both American and Spanish officials. It is not out of the realm of possibility that a man growing older and less adventurous might have returned to close ties made many years before in a little populated area like Shieldsborough.

To add to the mystery, Stephens reported that in Yucatan, the pirate was known as Monsieur Lafitta.     If Lafitte died about 1825, it may be only coincidental that the first Lafitte purchase in Shieldsborough was made in the same year.  The 1825 deed, written in French, seems to describe the same land listed in the will of Clarisse Lafitto. That original document has been found in the earliest of the deed books in the Bay St. Louis courthouse. A careful translation has revealed a curious contrast in the titles given to the signees. Charles Nicaise and Noel Jourdan, both respected men of the community, are referred to as Messieurs, or “Misters,” whereas La Fito is called Sieur, translating to “sir” or “lord.” The distinction cannot be overlooked. It does not prove that the purchaser was the pirate, but it does cause a doubt that he was the younger man for whom there is no other evidence to show him as a person of rank.

Clarisse’s will was signed on October 31, 1857 and probated on February 22, 1858. She signed with her mark, which was witnessed by James Johnston. The property, measuring “three hundred feet deep and the same width as that of John Fayard,” contained a house, and was sold by the estate executor for $650. She also willed three slaves to her friends, who apparently were also her neighbors: John and Louis Fayard, Melanie Dufour, and Mekail and Albert Fayard. Her personal estate was auctioned for $29.65. Two bedsteads were bought by Fayard for $5.00, and Antonio Tomas (the executor) paid $6.50 for an armoire. Debts of $388.50, including legal fees of $300 (“an act of R. Seal for professional services rendered in said estate”), were satisfied by the sale of the land.  If Clarisse was the widow of Jean Lafitte the pirate, she had little to show for all the fabled wealth he derived from his adventures on the high seas.

Since assembling the above facts, legends, and guesses, an item has been found in the index of the 1820 census. It is for someone whose last name was listed as Fito. Upon close examination, that person is listed in the original line item as John la Fito. Whereas what came before may cause one to have come to the possibility that it was Lafitte the pirate to have lived in Shieldsborough, this new information should add another doubt, thus coming full circle. This is because our Lafitte, or Lafitteau, or Lafitto, or Laffite, or Fito would have been only between the ages of 16 and 26 in 1820.

But even here there is contrary evidence found in the 1830 census. An examination of the entry for John Lafiteaux shows, as expected, a resident between ages 30 and 40, in line with the 1820 entry of 16-25. But now an older male appears as part of this household. He was between ages 40and 50, the right age for the pirate.

But for all of the merits of the above speculation, a serious historian must find little to tarry on, as it is known that in the picturesque little village named appropriately Lafitte, the famous corsair has rested peacefully for years. There, at the confluence of Bayou des Oies – Goose Bayou – and Bayou Barataria, under ancient moss-hung oaks, a little promontory holds three old, whitewashed tombs, containing the corporeal remains of Lafitte, John Paul Jones, and Napoleon Bonaparte. For authority, one must just travel south from New Orleans and ask any of the oldtimers along the bayou.

Chapter 19    –    Slavery

 

In January 1861, the State of Mississippi adopted the following resolution:

 

DECLARATION OF THE IMMEDIATE CAUSES WHICH INDUCE AND JUSTIFY THE SECESSION OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI FROM THE FEDERAL UNION.

Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery – the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of the commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.[192]

 

Although the early settlers of Hancock County required fewer slaves than those of other areas, some of which included the huge cotton plantation of the Delta, the area of study was in fact part of Mississippi and accepted slavery as an institution.  An article printed in the Gainesville Advocate April 8, 1845, testified to that truism. The article is called, “Hints on the management of Slaves,” and contains the following suggestions:

Never threaten a Negro – but if you have occasion to chastise him, do it at once.

Never show passion before them.

Always keep your word to your slaves.

Have no favorite.

Do not be betrayed, by a source of good behavior.

Negroes have very inferior minds and brains.

The Negro is sadly deficient in conscientiousness.

In pursuance of the plan of our publication, we shall take care that       our readers have more on this important but much neglected subject.

 

The Advocate appeared to presuppose the general attitude in the county toward slaves and the institution of slavery. However, analysis of the population brings into question whether many settlers owned any slaves. Moreover, the occupations of the settlers as listed in the census reports indicate many were simply workers, lumbermen, sea captains, etc; these were pursuits which did not require ownership of slaves as necessitated on large plantations. Gainesville at the time of the article’s printing was Hancock County’s seat of government.

The available information regarding slavery in the 19th century Hancock County is somewhat confused. The 1820 census totals 1,594 persons, of which 1,168 were white and 452 were slaves or “free coloreds.” The census of 1830 shows the total population of 1,961, including slaves, but does not break out the numbers. More details are given in 1840, indicating 2,239 white, 74 free coloreds and 1,054 slaves.

The foregoing is for the county as it was then constituted; in 1841, what is now Harrison County was broken off and so it is difficult to measure growth of present day Hancock County. However, it would appear that the white population alone had grown to 2,478 by 1850. Unfortunately, no calculation was made for slaves. While in the 1850 census contained a column to indicate color, in no case is that item completed. It must be assumed that only whites were counted.  It is probably a safe assumption that the ratio continued roughly at two to one. More importantly, it seems that the families in the area under study for this report, owned a relatively small number of slaves, with a few exceptions.

Claiborne is reported to have had 100 slaves at the start of the Civil War. They averaged only 800 pounds of cotton per acre, and so they were probably not all field hands. It is not known how many Jackson had,[193] but it was probably less than Claiborne’s number. When Jackson’s debts were mounting in 1860, wife Sarah wrote  to son Andrew III that they had to sell 16 slaves the previous year, and…”the expenses of the year will make it necessary to sell as many more this fall.”  It is evident from the 1830 census that Lewis Daniells, previous owner of Clifton, had   36 slaves; ten years later, he owned 62. Asa Russ also is listed in the 1830 census, with 14 slaves; Samuel Russ had 29.

The 1840 census indicates that most of the other owners had fewer slaves. Of those in the Pearl River area, almost all slaveholders were from the Carolinas: Jacob Seal had 3; William Seal 6; A.S. Leonard 32; Asa Russ 14; Samuel Russ 29; Sempronius Russ, 2; Poitevant 13; Wingate several. Other slaveholders in the county with fairly large numbers were Cowan with 32, Isaac Graves with 38 and John Toulme with 12. Asa Russ was also trustee for 21 slaves owned by his sister, Amelia.

Of course many residents were not farmers. Their occupations were often listed as simply laborers, sailor or merchant.   According to Hickman, slave population was relatively small due to the fact that the soil in the pine forests was not of the richness to support large plantations. Blacks outnumbered whites in none of the pine counties. He states, “The great majority of black laborers in the Piney Woods from 1840 to 1933 were employed in lumbering, and a sizable number were naval store workers.” One of the naval stores was operated by Francis Leech and I. B. Ives at Napoleon before the Civil War.[194]  A Francis Leach is listed in the census of 1850. [195]  Similarly, Napier has written that most farmers (63%) owned no slaves, while the great majority, about 78%, owned land.[196]

It is believed that at least one large landholder, Christian Koch, who had more than 500 acres owned no slaves. It is further asserted that Koch was a militant abolitionist. This does not quite square with a document that has surfaced in which he donates “my Negro boy Joseph whose age is about fourteen years” to Celeste Jane and Isaac Francis Graves, children of James and Florentine Graves. This was done on January 16, 1851, “in consideration of the natural love and affection which I have and bear for my well beloved friends. Although the document is listed as a Bill of Sale, no amount of money is specified. It is not known how Koch acquired Joseph, and it may be significant that he gave the boy away.[197]

Letters exchanged within the Koch family over many years are studied in another part of this text. It is evident in these letters that the work of farming Bogue Homa was done by wife Annette, their children, and hired hands, some of which were probably relatives. 

Even after considering the above anomaly, it was apparently out of principle that Koch farmed his spread without the benefit of owning his field hands.  It appears that he had less compunction, however, about renting a slave. In a Probate Court accounting of credits for the Doby estate, it is recorded that on June 4, 1852, Koch paid $125.50 for the wages of Paul from August 4, 1851 to June 4, 1852. Paul is listed in the Doby inventory as a male slave, age 35; he was subsequently sold by the estate to Wm. J Poitevent for $1,130.[198]

Renting slaves at a daily rate was apparently not uncommon. In the same document described above, it is shown that Luther Russ also employed Paul for “one month, less two days” for $14.00. Another Russ paid wages for Washington in the amount of $45.00, after deducting for “loss time and absence” at the rate of $10.00 per month. Washington was only age 16 at the time, but later was sold to Poitevent for $1,355.00.

The will of Marceline McArthur indicates that long-term leasing of a slave was also done. She directed, “The Negro man slave named Piere (sic) shall be hired out from year to year until my said youngest child shall be of age, and that the proceeds of his hire shall go toward the support, schooling, and clothing of my children, and I do wish that he not be hired out of this county and state, and I do not wish him to be hired to go upon any water craft.”[199] It is perhaps worth noting that Mrs. McArthur was the fourth largest landowner, according to the 1850 census, with real estate valued at $35,000. She was the mother of Elizabeth, called Lizzy by Annette Koch and identified as the widow of Moody, killed by the citizen’s committee during the Civil War.

A document dated June 20, 1839 made Asa Russ trustee on behalf of his sister for her slaves. She, Amelia P. Russ, had become engaged to Daugherty Gause, and together “…they entered into a marriage agreement in order to secure to the sole use & benefit of the said Amelia, his intended wife, certain slave property & the same were to remain to her separate & sole use and entirely exempt from any will liability on his part….” Twenty-one slaves were then listed, with their names and approximate ages. Twelve were age ten or less. It was mentioned that they were all slaves “…coming from said wife’s father’s estate.” One dollar was paid for Gause’s consent, after which the agreement purported to “…grant bargain sell & deliver unto Asa Russ & his assigns the afore mentioned slaves In Trust …that he is to hold said slaves & their increase for her sole & separate use & benefit and that he is to have the hiring of them out to the best interest of Amelia P. Gause or to put them on a farm should it be desirable…. The said Asa Russ is only personally responsible to Amelia P. Gause for such sums as he may receive on account of such slaves.”[200]

Legends involve two important sites with regard to slave trading very early in the 19th century. These were the Pirate House in Waveland and the house that later was to be occupied by Claiborne as Laurel Wood.

Although there is no hard evidence to support these stories, the coincidence of some details lends credibility to the legends. In the case of the Pirate House, it is believed that the house was built about 1803 and involved Jean Lafitte or at least his patron in the importation of slaves. The story would perhaps be more believable if it did not include the persistent assertion that a tunnel ran from the sandbar to the house. What is known is that a small bayou leads from open water to a pond that is located to the west and behind the original house. The pond and bayou still exist, much as they did according to some of the earliest plats in the Hancock County courthouse.

The Claiborne house, said to have been built around 1800, unfortunately was razed in the 1960s. However, observers have recorded that under the raised house was a “slave block” to effectively imprison slaves; in one reference it was described as having iron bars, forming giant cages.

A fact of the time that is difficult to ignore involves the prohibition by the United States government of the importation of slaves into Louisiana. This took effect in 1804, fully four years before Congress legislated the same for the rest of the United States. In fact, the Congress was known to be incapable of legislation regarding any management of slavery because of Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution. It reads, “The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand, eight hundred and eight.”

Jefferson had attempted to include in the Declaration of Independence language that was decidedly anti-slavery, but was thwarted by the Continental Congress in the final draft.[201] It appears that what Jefferson could not accomplish for the thirteen states, he was able to do partially for the Louisiana Purchase. This was because, at Jefferson’s recommendations, Congress established the government of Louisiana on the basis of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which outlawed slavery. Obviously, there was still some compromise, as Louisians slave owners were allowed to keep their current slaves. [202]

The Mississippi Gulf Coast, especially secluded inlets such as the Pearl River and Mulatto Bayou, surely could have afforded cover for the furnishing of illegal slaves to neighboring Louisiana. In his work on W. C.C. Claiborne, Joseph Hatfield points out that the Spanish colonial authorities, just prior to the Louisiana Purchase, had permitted settlers to traffic in slaves, and that  “…during the three-week retrocession of Louisiana to France three French ships delivered 463 African slaves into the territory. “ He further states that Claiborne made no attempt to interfere with slave importation until the 1804 ruling.[203]

Charles Gayarre also reported on the problems created for W.C.C. Claiborne by the above changes. “Another source of tribulation to Claiborne was the necessity of soon preventing altogether that slave-trade to which the ancient population was accustomed, and which could not continue under the new regime. It was a task which, had he been so disposed, it would have been impossible, for the present, to perform strictly and effectually. Negroes were daily smuggled into the territory through the Spanish possessions by way of the lakes Borgne, Pontchartain, and Mauepas.” Quoting Claiborne in a letter to Jefferson dated November 25, 1804, he states, “The Searcher of all hearts knows how little I desire to see another of that wretched race set his foot on the shores of America…. But, on this point, the people here are united as one man. There seemed to be but one sentiment throughout the province. They must import more slaves, or the country was ruined forever.”[204]

Primary evidence regarding the treatment of slaves can be gleaned from the Jackson family letters. The same names crop up often, as these were apparently trusted, long service hands; occasionally, family members appear to communicate messages between servants in different locations. There are anecdotes bringing out the human connection between master and slave, such as the treatment of Samuel’s abscessed tooth and the effort to save the dog from snakebite.   In one incident, Samuel, on hearing of small pox at another location, vaccinates all his young slaves; of course reflections of human kindness in this occurrence must be tempered with the awareness that slaves were valuable property.

In the several years covered by the Jackson letters, only one happening of a serious nature is narrated. This involves a runaway who is captured twice by Samuel. The first time Samuel was ready to kill him, but succeeds in having him bound to the house. He is then guarded for the night by two of Samuel’s servants but is able to free himself from his bonds and escape. Naturally, it must be questioned whether the guards were complicit in his getting away. Samuel then sends off for bloodhounds, and a search continues through the day without success. About a week later, Samuel wrote, “Billy just called me out and I found the negro waiting to see me. He says the mosquito’s are so bad he cannot stand them and begs me to take him to his master…I am glad he has come in for I had determined to kill him at first sight”.

Letters in late 1860 reveal anxieties about the changing economics and politics of the time. Sarah wrote to Andrew her son on September 3rd, “there are a good many places for sale, at this time, land negroes, stock, &c…abolitionism is I think alarming the negro holders, and many of them are anxious to realize a large sum in cash for them now, while prices are high.”

Similarly, Samuel in a letter to his mother on November 13th expressed growing panic. He wrote from Clifton: “Pa and I went over to the city on last Friday expecting to start up to the Ark. River & other places but on arriving in the city and hearing of the election news & finding so much excitement found it necessary one of us to return. We met several members of the court of Hancock County and they told us they intended putting in force the law requiring every owner of slaves to have some one to overseer or be on the place themselves or they would be subject to a heavy fine or other penalties.”

It should be noted that in their sojourn in Hancock County, the Jacksons did not appear to have hired an overseer; instead, young Andrew seemed to have been given that responsibility.

 

 Chapter 20 – Explorers

 

Benjamin Wailes Visit – 1856

B.L.C. Wailes visit to the subject areas figures prominently in many parts of this text, particularly those describing Gainesville, Napoleon, and Pearlington, as well as the plantations of Andrew Jackson, Jr., and Asa Russ, and Judge Daniells’ Clifton Plantation.

Wailes visit to the latter is important from an archaeological view. In his log, he described " the shell bank at the landing on which a house is now standing…[It] is about 15 feet above the highest tides and another triangular Mound is formed of a considerable mixture of Shell." (Williams, 1987:64). Wailes described the site as a parallelogram encompassing 1/4 of an acre, about a 1/4 mile SSW from the embankment (Williams 1987:66). This is presently the area denoted as the Jackson Landing or the Mulatto Bayou site.

Apparently there were other mounds extant at Jackson Landing in 1856. Wailes noted that “In front distant pr <sic> one hundred to 150 yards from the wall are seven small mounds, three to the west are in a line the others irregularly dispersed the mound nearest the road to the East being much the largest & contains considerable shell about 8 feet high & 100 diameter" (Williams 1987:67) This last structure is most likely the extant pyramidal mound. Wailes concluded that the mounds were the work of "aboriginies" based on the size of the oaks and magnolias growing on them.

 

Hilgard Visit of 1860

While the Jacksons owned Clifton, E. W. Hilgard, State Geologist, visited the Mulatto Bayou area and left us vivid descriptions, including important archaeological information. The Clifton Plantation, together with nearby Indian sites, had been occupied by Native Americans for nearly 4,000 years [205].

Hilgard recorded, "On the Mulatto Bayou, near Col. Claiborne's and Maj. A. Jackson's Sea Island Cotton plantations…soil is extremely sandy…in the marsh near the new residence of Maj. Jackson, where clay crops out on the beach."  The soil that was most esteemed was along the coast; he commented on oyster and Gnathodon shells, Indian artifacts; charcoal. He said that the soil is dark tint, to 6-10 inches [and] sandy; lime (???) loving trees and shrubs. "Shell banks and hammocks occur, to a large extent, on the western shore of the inner Bay St. Louis, inland from Shieldsboro” (These were chiefly the "clam" or Gnathodon…used to pave streets of Pass Christian.)

From that area, wrote Higard, he met with no more shell banks or hammocks up to the mouth of the Pearl River; there, on the Sea Island cotton plantations of Col. Claiborne and Maj. A. Jackson, he found several extensive deposits. The soil was very light and easily worked, of a dark "mulatto" color; its color did not vary sensibly for 18 to 20 inches in which depth there underlay a pale yellow sand.

Hilgard continued:

It bears a magnificent growth of Magnolia, the latter being almost the predominant tree, then sweet gum, bay, white oaks, ironwood, sassafras, hickory, pitch pine, french mulberry, hercules club, prickly ash.” [No shells on the surface] save in two localities, viz: one about three hundred yards long by ten wide, on the very banks of the Mulatto Bayou, at the south end of the tract (on Maj. Andrew Jackson's plantation): and another rather smaller one, farther north, on Col. Claiborne's land.

      The former, which is about 10 feet high, where it adjoins the Bayou consists altogether of the "clam" shell of Gnathodon, and has been largely drawn upon for the purpose of improving roads and streets at New Orleans: and although there is but very little earthy matter mixed with the shells, the cotton thrives finely on its very summit.  The other shell bank on Col. Claiborne's plantation consists almost exclusively of oysters: it has been greatly spread and leveled by cultivation, and much soil is mingled with the shells. This shell deposit is at some distance from the present channel of Mulatto Bayou, but it is on the verge of a broad, deep ravine, in which there is but little water at present; but as it connects with the present bayou, there can be little doubt that it was once a navigable channel.

 

Hilgard further mentioned ravines fed by springs and said that the growth differed very little from that on the hommock. Trees included gum, magnolia, live oak, Spanish (red) oak, water and laurel-leaved oak, pitch opine, hickory, cassina staghorn sumac, persimmon, Spanish mulberry, wild plum and grape vines that produced corn at the rate of forty bushels per acre (clay hommocks).

 

Chapter 21 – The Lost Towns of Pearl River

 

Gainesville

 

This town was located ten miles north of Pearlington and two miles east of “Old Spanish Trail.” The Spanish land grant for what was to be Gainesville was issued to Dr. Ambrose Gaines in 1810 for 500 arpents on the Pearl River. The grant was issued by John V. Morales and confirmed by William Crawford, U.S. Commisioner. Gaines appears in early tax rolls of the county as having 500 acres by a Spanish grant. In the years 1819 to 1821, according to those records, he had one slave.[206] 

Gainesville was a thriving community during the early and middle 19th century. It received its own post office in 1840. In 1846, a bill was introduced in the Mississippi Legislature to move the Hancock County courthouse from Shieldsborough to Gainesville, a reason being given that “Gainesville citizens have to travel 25 to 30 miles over a bad road.”[207] While it served as county seat, an unfortunate fire destroyed the courthouse and its records in 1853. The seat was moved to Shieldsborough in 1857.

In its heyday, the town shared early Pearl River trade with Pearlington and Logtown. On two days of the week, steamers visited the towns. Mail delivery was by the Northern Mail, which arrived “…every Sunday evening by 5 o’clock, and departs for New Orleans and Mobile, via Pearlington, Shieldsborough, and Pass Christian, same evening.”[208] The steamer M. A. Moore, of 200 tons, plied the Pearl River every two weeks.[209] Floating barrooms across the river on the Louisiana side served the town workers.

The Gainesville Advocate was published from April 8, 1845 to May 9, 1846. A cursory reading reveals a city bustling with business. Ads for hotels, stores, a dancing school, and various services are in evidence.

In its final edition, the editor did not shy from pointing out the merits of the area. “This is a section of Mississippi which has been much overlooked and greatly underrated by those abroad, and superficial observers at home. Its geographical position is enough at once to establish the value of its importance, both for agricultural and commercial purposes.” He boasted of “…the finest of fruit, such as the fig, the peach, the orange and the lemon, all of which flourish here in voluptuous luxuriance…. The extensive forests of matchless timber of various kinds, has for a long time afforded a profitable investment of capital and labor to a large portion of the citizens. This application of industry may be pursued to an indefinite extent, as the quantity of timber is almost inexhaustible…. There are in the trade between this place and New Orleans, three fine steamboats running regularly for the transportation of passengers and produce. The country on Pearl River, with its mild and salubrious climate, offers its beautiful villages convenient and helthy (sic) retreats to the inhabitants of the city, during the sultry and sickly season of the summer.”[210]

Benjamin Wailes passed through Gainesville in 1852. He observed a very large steam sawmill, commenting that the site was at the head of tidewater. The courthouse mentioned above, he said, was a very poor frame building, and other buildings were “indifferent.” Overall, he thought the town “not as handsome as Napoleon, three miles below.”[211]

But perhaps the Civil War caused a decline in Gainesville, where there had been some military action. The New Orleans Daily Picayune reported on May 13, 1866 that while there was no hotel, but there was a boarding house, two or three coffee houses, and a restaurant “well kept by a freedman and his wife.” A new newspaper, “spicy and well edited,” had been started by Capt. W.G. Stovall.

Decline came in 1883, when a new railroad missed the town by ten miles, but absorbed much of the shipping traffic from the river. Moreover, the area’s timber had to a great degree been cut down, proving more exhaustible than many had thought. By 1900, the population had dropped to 229. (Dunbar Rowland, v. 1)

Some interesting facts about early Gainesville, derived from the Gainesville Advocate from September 27, 1845 to May 9, 1846 are listed below:

Gainesville Hotel mentioned.

Capt. Harper’s residence “on ridge terminating abruptly” commands full view of river above and below.

3 or 4 squares beyond river are the graveyard. Cemetery for many years prior to Gainesville “forming” was burial place.

½ mile on steam mill at confluence of four rivers, on the opposite shore was a wreck of a steamer.

Gainesville Hotel north of Public Square, new addition and stable.

August 1, 1845 – coffee house at the corner of Centre and Water Sts.

May 20, 1845 – Billiard Room attached to coffee house.

March 18, 1846 – Gainesville Hotel built addition to house courthouse officials.

August 1, 1845 – Stable, Coffee House at the corner of Centre and Water Sts. "where he will keep a generous assortment of Spirituous and Vineous Liquors”

March 1, 1846 – apartments needed for officers of the Court, newly established at Gainesville.

March 28, 1846 – proposal to open Dancing School (Mr. Olmstead Haynes).

April 4, 1846 – Immigration over last 2 years in area has been “very great.” Store at no. 3 Centre St., W. J. Poitevent. Dry goods, groceries, saddlery, hardware, provisions, boots, shoes, hats. Sold or exchanged for hides, skins, furs all kinds of Country Produce or Mill Logs. Graves and Brooks will keep open a 10-pin alley attached to the bar that serves liquer (sic) and groceries.

April 28, 1846 – Dr. Montgomery at Mr. Batte’s Hotel.

December 27. 1845 – Gainesville races at Chalk level course.

May 9, 1846 – Pearl River House, south side, Public Square, stable.  Ten pin alley attached, liquor and groceries.

September 20, 1845 – Gainesville Advocate moved to new office opposite the store Hart and Wilson, opposite Public Square, on Centre St.

“Moffat’s Vegetable Life Pills and Phoenix Bitters.”

 

Logtown

Originally owned by Jean Baptiste Rousseve or Roussere, the site was later owned by Joseph Chalon who received a grant in 1788 from the French for 1200 acres. The site was known as Cabanage Latanier.  Logtown became the location of the Weston sawmill, according to some the largest sawmill in the world. Horatio Weston had two mills built with slave labor and employed 1200 men. The first mill, begun in 1845, was in operation for almost a century.

Judge David R.Wingate owned the mill, before Weston. It stood at the confluence of Bogue Homa and the Pearl. Wingate sold this enterprise in 1854 to John Russ and the Carre’ brothers, who eventually sold their shares to Weston. It eventually became the largest mill in Logtown.[212]

The town was located three to five miles north of Pearlington. Parallel to the main road leading into the community was Bogue Homa, a bayou that separated the white area from the Negro section was called Possum Walk.  At its peak, the area contained a population of about 3,000. The town boasted of a hotel, a swimming pool, a large commissary “which sold everything from ladie’s hats to coffins.” In its later days, Logtown supported an eight-grade school, a grocery, two churches, a Masonic Lodge, a post office and its own telephone exchange.[213]   At the junction of the main road and Pearl River is a large Indian midden, covered elsewhere in this text.

The Koch home, also described in a separate section, was located near Logtown. Dating back to about 1840, the original rooms were made of logs. The kitchen floor had timbers thirty inches wide and several inches thick. The source had been a flat boat that had come down the Pearl.

The Weston mill closed in 1930. Like Gainesville, it suffered the loss of its timber, once said to be inexhaustible by important people like W.C.C. Claiborne and by DeBow’s Review. Before Logtown was closed down, less than 25 families remained. Still in use and a lasting memorial to the town is the Logtown cemetery. It is beautifully maintained by the former townspeople.

 

Napoleon

Named for the brother of Napoleon Bonaparte, this village lay six miles north of Pearlington. It was first settled in 1798 by Simon Favre, who received a grant from the Spanish government. This was a smaller community compared to Gainesville and Logtown, and like the latter, it is survived by a lovely cemetery. When still a town, its people also engaged in the timber industry, and practiced agriculture and stock raising as well.

Benjamin Wailes, not one to bestow idle compliments, considered the town “handsome.” He wrote in his journal that it was first called Pearltown.[214]  The first printing press in Hancock County was located here.[215]  According to a legend involving Napoleon, his brother Jerome came to America to enlist help in rescuing the Emperor from exile. Supposedly, Jerome had landed at Waveland; the story includes a tale of buried treasure somewhere around Napoleon.

 

 

Santa Rosa

This was the Mississippi part of Honey Island swamp, the refuge of notorious pirates.

Westonia

This sawmill town, named for Horatio Weston, was some distance from the Pearl River just east of Gainesville. It had no post office, mail coming through Logtown.

 

Pearlington

Unlike the above towns, Pearlington still exists as a town. It remains picturesque, its ancient oaks lining the main road, but only a shadow of its nineteenth century vitality. While it differs from its neighbors up the Pearl in that it is an extant community, it has shared their fate in other ways. William J. Orr, writing of his ancestors of Pearlington, states, “The surrounding area, once covered with thousands of acres of towering virgin yellow and long leaf pine, is now covered by second and third growth pine and hardwood trees. The only remaining virgin pines are those that once graced the yards of old time residents.”[216]

Referring to early nineteenth century as “in those days,” John Claiborne compared Shieldsborogh to Pearlington. The former was “but a small village with no commerce, resorted to merely as a summer retreat.” Pearlington, on the other hand, “…was the commercial point. It had been laid out on a metropolitan scale, covering, I believe, near a section of land, and it had been visited by the legislature, then sitting in Columbia, in 1821, who were sumptuously entertained, and went away with the most favorable impressions.”[217]

Pearlington was founded about 1819, the land being acquired at that time by General George Nixon from Isaac Graves. The latter had received his title from Celeste Favre, who had settled there in 1812. It was the first high ground encountered when ascending the Pearl. It was platted on a formal basis, a grid with five main streets and ten cross streets. These encompassed 55 squares and 550 lots.

According to Christian Koch, Pearlington of the early 1830’s was “a small, insignificant town.”

The only trade is in wood and cotton with New Orleans. There is no church so there is service only twice a year when a Methodist preacher comes from another town and holds services for three or four days. The town is situated on the north side of the river in the midst of a large pine forest owned mostly by the government. Although everyone can cut as much wood as he likes, still it is pretty expensive. Marriages are always performed by the sheriff, who is the only officer in the place. The Negro children are never christianed, and there is a big fine for teaching one of them to read. Some of them preach to others, but it is always some terrible nonsense.”[218]

 

In 1852, Wailes observed two large steam mills being erected, and noted an academy for boys and girls. Mixing his critical sensibilities with practical appraisal, he said of Pearlington that it was “a scattering and dingy French looking village on another bluff within eight miles of the mouth of the River, with the salt marsh on the opposite side and extending down to the lake. This is said to be the best and most accessible harbour in the State, with a fair depth of water.” [219]

Other sources indicate that in 1852, there were already eight mills in operation. In addition to its lumber industry, Pearlington was also known to be a major cotton depot in pre-war days. It was sometimes called “the Gin,” referring to a cotton ginning operation at Simon Favre’s farm.[220]     

Today, Pearlington is a pleasant village, with a few remnants of its older houses and churches. Unfortunately, it was severely devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Like the other towns, it too has a well-kept cemetery. In evidence are some of the oldest graves and tombs along the Pearl. Until taken by vandals, an 18th century gate stood at opening. Reading the markers is like going through a litany of the saints of Hancock County.

 

Book Two

 

 

Two Families as Revealed by their Letters: the Jackson and Koch Families of Hancock County

 

Introduction

There is a rich history of the early settlers who made their homes along the lower reaches of the Pearl River in Hancock County Mississippi.  From the beginning of this undertaking, it was determined that as much information as possible would be assembled from primary sources. Some documentation can be assembled from official records, including deeds and probate records, in spite of the fact that the courthouse at Gainesville burned in 1853. Names that evoke the historian’s interest, like Jackson and Claiborne, are found here in deed searches. Others, like Favre, Seal, Russ, Poitevent, Graves, Gaines, Carre, Nixon, Weston and Baxter jump off the tombstones of cemeteries at Pearlington and what used to be Logtown and Napoleon.[221]

But deed searches and probate records, while valuable, cannot give a good understanding of the day-by-day attempt at living that was the experience of the early settlers. Happily, there are writings that have been preserved from two families in particular that are in sufficient volume as to create a virtual dialogue within those families about conditions before and during the Civil War.

These are the Jackson and Koch families, who through their letters are revealed in a more intimate way than any amount of arduous research could accomplish. Such letters surely constitute primary evidence.

This study would not have been possible without the cooperation of the Ladies’ Hermitage Association on the one hand, and Hill Memorial Library of Louisiana State University on the other. Researchers at the Hermitage, particularly Ms. Sharon Macpherson, kindly provided transcripts of the relevant Jackson family letters to the Hancock County Historical Society, of Bay St. Louis, MS. Originals of those letters are either in private collections or housed in the Tennessee State Library Archives. Hill Memorial provided access to dozens of boxes of Koch family effects, including the letters, essential to the depiction of that family during the Civil War.

Even in Hancock County, little is known by most residents of these two families, but a great deal is known about another settler, that being John Francis Hamtramck Claiborne. The enigmatic Col. Claiborne is introduced here because of his close relationships with the Jackson and Koch families. Much is recorded by Claiborne himself, considered by some “the historian of Mississippi.” In addition to his writings, Claiborne left a wealth of historical papers now housed in the archives in Jackson, MS. But it is in the fact that Claiborne served almost as a foil to Andrew Jackson, Jr. and Christian Koch that it is necessary to review his character and personality, thereby giving insight into the other men.

This study will reveal on the one hand a man and his family who bore a great name, for which they were given extraordinary advantages but nonetheless ran hell-bent to failure. On the other hand, an immigrant sailor from Denmark persevered through years of adversities and raised a family about whom descendants can be justifiably proud.

The Jackson letters predate the Civil War; the Koch family exchanged most of their writings during the war. Not only in observation of chronology, but also because of the Claiborne connection, Jackson is treated first. And with respect to timing, it is probable that this story began long before the1850’s, perhaps on the battlefields of the Creek War in Alabama in 1813. 

As described in detail in the Biographies section above, J.F.H. Claiborne was born of a famous father and was nephew of the governor of Mississippi Territory. His father, Brigadier General Ferdinand Claiborne, was commander of the southern wing of the army during the Creek War, serving with Major General Andrew Jackson. His uncle, W.C.C. Claiborne, was appointed first governor of Louisiana by Thomas Jefferson.

J.F.H. Claiborne had a multi-faceted life. An educated lawyer, he was at various times a United States Congressman, orator, editor, historian, slave dealer, defender of Choctaw lands, grower of Sea Island cotton, anti-secessionist, buyer of Confederate bonds, spy for the Union, and father of a Confederate officer killed in battle.

Without question, Claiborne’s father and Andrew Jackson, Jr.’s adoptive father knew each other; any reading of the Creek War will attest to this fact. As will be explored, there were other connections which were not likely merely coincidental, and it is probable that John Claiborne and Jackson, Jr. also knew each other at a time previous to the latter’s move to south Mississippi. What is known for certain is that Claiborne was the instrument of at least two purchases by Jackson in Hancock County, and that he offered his hospitality to the family during their transition. He also continued to be friendly and helpful to young Samuel Jackson, left by his father to oversee the plantation neighboring Claiborne’s.

It is an unfortunate detail of history that not long thereafter, Claiborne would be a party to a suit against Andrew Jackson, Jr.

Chapter 23  The Family of Andrew Jackson Jr. 

Relevance of Andrew Jackson, General and President

There must have been some serious changing of minds in Hancock County between 1856 and 1861, especially involving J.F.H. Claiborne, Asa Russ, and other locals, as well as W.R. Adams of New Orleans. Claiborne was instrumental in bringing down to the county the adopted son of President Andrew Jackson, and helping him to invest widely throughout the area. He was also the one who gave written references to his suppliers so that Jackson Jr. would be readily accepted financially. W. R. Adams was to appear just a few short years later as the chief creditor in the suit in which all of Jackson’s land was sold in sheriff’s sale.

To understand the financial problems of Andrew Jackson, Jr. and his family, some background information is necessary.  Rachel Donelson was childless throughout her marriage to Andrew Jackson, but the wife of her brother Severn had twins, one of whom was welcomed from early age into the home of Andrew and Rachel Jackson. According to one story, his biological mother was sickly and could not care for twins. While this may not be factual, it was accepted that the Jacksons would adopt one and raise him as their own. He was even given the name Andrew Jackson, Jr.

The foster father cared for several wards, and even adopted a Creek infant during the war. It happened that he was orphaned in one of the battles in which the Creeks were nearly annihilated, and the general, on hearing the crying of this child, asked that he be given to another Indian woman. On being told that there was no one who could care for any more than she had, the enigmatic soldier took the baby to himself. His name was Lincoyer, and he was raised fully as one of the family and educated, but unfortunately, died in his teens of tuberculosis. But none of the others were treated as actual sons as was Andrew Jr.

Among the several wards, it appears that Andrew Jr. was accepted fully as a son. History records that enormous amounts of love, affection, and privileges were granted to Andrew Jr. from the beginning. In simple terms, it should be said that he was overindulged, especially when finances were involved.

The President himself had enormous money problems through much of his adult life. While strong in character and of a resolute disposition, he allowed Andrew, Jr. considerable slack. This was the cause of most of the President’s cash difficulties, which remained in evidence until the President died in 1845. While he had assets consisting of the Hermitage, its slaves, and other real estate, he had no money. He borrowed $2,000 not long before his death, raising his total debt to $26,000. In 1840, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans, he agreed to attend the celebration in New Orleans in spite of his declining health and advancing age. The reason: to borrow some much-needed cash from some of his loyal friends, including Gen. Plauche.

Andrew Jr.’s pattern of spending grew into a habit from early age. As a student, he accumulated a debt of $309 to his clothing outfitter in six and a half months. He bought a new wardrobe, including a ten-dollar hat, a $26 suit, and silk hose at $1.50 a pair. He had his own horse, his own body servant and imported kerchiefs.

In 1834, at age 26, he repurchased Hunter’s hill (which was adjacent to Hermitage and had been lost by forced sale by Jackson many years before) for $10,000. He signed one and two-year notes but could give his father no copies or details for nine months. It was a gross overpayment and the contract allowed the proceeds of cotton sales to go directly to the seller. Typically, he had overestimated the cotton crop. The following year, when the second note was due, there were seven late frosts, killing half the crop. Still Jackson, Jr. was optimistic.

The Hermitage had a disastrous fire during Jackson’s second term, and as he was busy in Washington, it fell to Jackson Jr. and his wife Sarah to supervise the reconstruction and furnishing of the new Hermitage. The cost was four times the estimate. This was in 1836, after the President had written to his son: “Our real wants are few, our imaginary wants many, which never ought to be gratified by creating a debt to satisfy them.”

In 1838, the President paid $7,000, mostly to satisfy the obligations of Andrew Jr. who had endorsed notes of others.  Among Jackson Jr.’s bad investments was the purchase of Halcyon Plantation for which the President had to pay the first note in 1839 in the amount of $5,176. In the same year, he refused to pay a two-year overdue note amounting to $550 for a carriage; his son had lied about the purchase.

In 1840, Jackson found it necessary to restructure the obligation for Halcyon Plantation. In the same year, ill after his return from New Orleans, the father wrote to his son “Recollect my son that I have taken this trip to endeavor to releve <sic> you from present embarrassments, and if I live to realize it, I will die contented in the hopes that you will never again encumber yourself with debt that may result in the poverty of yourself and the little family I so much love.” 

However prophetic, the above admonition had not solved the son’s credit problem, for in the same year, the President found that what he had been told was a $6,000 debt turned out to be a $12,000 obligation. To make matters worse, Jackson’s political enemies, the Whigs, made political hay of the situation.

Payment was made on the above debt in August of 1840, but it had risen to $15,000 by the following January. Defending his son, Jackson blamed $10,000 of the debt on “swindlers” who had taken advantage of his son. At this time, the slaves of Halcyon Plantation were cold and hungry, and the plantation overseer sought legal means to recover back wages. Jackson resorted to selling off his saddle mare; he sold beef from the smokehouse. At this time, Jackson had another ward that was suffering with terminal cancer; money that had been saved for a visit had to be spent. By 1844, Jackson Jr. was again endorsing notes for others, one for his cousin.

The following year, Jackson, now an invalid approaching death, was informed of a new $6,000 debt. Before his death, he resisted the advice of others with regard to the disposition of his estate, still favoring Andrew Jr.

 

Andrew Jackson Jr. and Hancock County

 

Eleven years after the President’s estate was settled, Andrew Jr. had resumed the patterns that would continue for the rest of his life. His debt had increased to $48,000, being the same amount which the State of Tennessee paid for the Hermitage, along with 500 acres, in 1856. It seems that it was with this money that Andrew Jr. went on a spending spree in Hancock County, Mississippi.

Andrew Jackson, Jr. was probably in one of his heady moods of extreme optimism when he made his new start. But other changes, of a national nature, were on the verge of affecting life as he and many others in the South were accustomed.

 

May 1856

Charles Sumner, the senator from Massachusetts and an outspoken anti-slavery man, gives a vituperative speech against the pro-slavery elements in the Senate. Three days later, as Sumner is sitting at his Senate desk, a South Carolina representative, Preston Brooks, beats Sumner with a stick. It will be three years before Sumner fully recovers, but he is regarded as a martyr by Northern abolitionists – while many Southerners praise Congressman Brooks. In Kansas, late in May, pro-slavery men attack Lawrence, center of the anti-slavery settlers, and kill one man. In retaliation, a band of anti-slavery men, led by the fiery abolitionist John Brown, kill five pro-slavery men at Pottawotamie Creek.

John S. Bowman, The Civil War Day by Day, p. 17

 

Andrew Jackson the General and President had been enormously popular in Mississippi. He had of course been the hero of New Orleans as the general who led the defeat of the British in the decisive battle at the end of the War of 1812. He was therefore very close to the hearts of the Gulf Coast people. In his presidency, he had favored Indian removal in Mississippi and elsewhere. Through a number of treaties with Native Americans, millions of acres had become available for $1.25 per acre. This allowed someone with $100 to purchase 80 acres. Jackson even favored a reduction in the minimum to less than 80 acres.

Mississippians surely would have welcomed Andrew Jr. and his family, but it is apparent that only part of his reputation preceded him.  Why Jackson Jr. would choose the southwestern corner of Mississippi to make a new start is not in evidence. As stated above, Col. J.F.H. Claiborne was instrumental from the beginning in Jackson’s procurement of his first purchases in Hancock County. It may have been that they had known each other previously, possibly through the documented acquaintance of their fathers.    Letters between the fathers of the two men are included in the J.F.H. Claiborne collection in Jackson, MS. They manifest a certain cordiality between Generals, and indeed Gen. Claiborne addressed Gen. Jackson as “Esteemed General.”[222] Also, Ferdinand Claiborne was active in politics, having served as Speaker of the Mississippi legislature.

J.F.H. Claiborne may also have known President Jackson. Claiborne was listed among twelve “managers” on an invitation to a ball given in honor of the general in January 1828. The ball was sponsored by leading citizens of Natchez, and was held at the Mississippi Hotel of Natchez.[223] Also, Claiborne was elected to Congress during Jackson’s second term. His election was by a large majority, and at that time, he was the youngest member of that body. Another connection might well have involved his uncle, W.C.C. Claiborne, the first governor of Louisiana.[224] He was a younger brother of Ferdinand, and like his brother, entered  politics. Having moved to Tennessee at an early age to practice law there, he was elected to Congress at age 22. Probably not coincidentally, he was to complete Andrew Jackson’s term. It is perhaps noteworthy that he married a Nashville native, Eliza Lewis.[225] In a letter dated March 15, 1813, to General Andrew Jackson, Governor Claiborne wrote, “The friendship which I formed for you in early life, is still ardent and sincere….”[226]

On the other hand, it is known that Gov. Claiborne resented Gen. Jackson’s authority prior to the battle at Chalmette, and Jackson is quoted as saying that Claiborne was “…much better qualified for great pomp & show, & courting popularity – quiet life – in civil walks – than military achievement amidst peril danger.”[227]

Moreover, a third brother of John and W.C.C., Nathaniel Herbert Claiborne, in his book about the war, does not make any significant connection between the Jacksons and the Claibornes, other than the service by the two generals in the Creek War. There is no mention of an intercession by Jackson when W.C.C.  succeeded to Jackson’s Congressional seat; instead, Nathaniel attributes the happening to “friends.”  Indeed, he does devote a short chapter to Gen. Jackson, but in the process shows little familiarity with the general. The book was published in 1819, when Jackson would have been only 53 years old, but the author stated that “he is at least sixty.”[228]

Why John Claiborne extended to Jackson, Jr. assistance and warm welcome might simply have been his willingness to be neighbors with the family of the beloved hero. His help in Jackson Jr.’s purchase of the Clifton Plantation appears to have been clean of any ulterior advantage, as Clifton under the Daniell family had been a successful venture.

Adjacent to Clifton was Laurel Wood, the Sea Island cotton plantation of John Claiborne. He did not settle there until 1853, but the manor house, according to some records, had been built about 1800 by Francois Saucier with slave labor.  Also in 1853, Claiborne received an appointment to a government sinecure from his friend, President Franklin Pierce. This resulted from Claiborne’s suggestion that the timber management of the states of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana be combined and that he be given authority over the district. For this he was paid a salary, which together with the successful plantation, made for a comfortable life.

Judge Lewis Daniell had purchased the Clifton in 1826 from the heirs of Don Louis Boisdore.[229] By 1836, he was paying the second highest tax in the county, to cover his 884 acres, 700 meat cattle, a carriage of $200 value, and 41 slaves. In 1846, The Gainesville newspaper reported, “Hancock claims the finest specimen of sea island cotton exhibited in the Liverpool maket last year. It was grown on the plantation of Judge Daniells.”[230]

Clifton was visited by the state geologist, Benjamin Wailes in 1852. He noted in his journal that Daniells had sold his cotton for fifty cents per pound, saying, “…it brings upon an average of three times as much as the short staple cotton.”

Having received the payment from the state of Tennessee in 1856, Jackson Jr. made his first purchase in Hancock County in December of that year. This was the Clifton plantation, for which he paid $8,525. It was comprised of 647 acres, a working plantation next to Judge Claiborne’s Laurel Wood Plantation. The heirs of Judge Lewis Daniells, who had died earlier that year, sold Clifton.[231]

Not only did Claiborne act as intermediary in the sale, he also promoted the purchase of a second plantation, that being 318 acres “on the Lake Shore” owned by Asa Russ. Claiborne was obviously anxious for Jackson to move down and in fact offered his own house until the latter could get settled. He also recommended his own suppliers and had written them letters of introduction for Jackson. He offered his personal endorsements and those of Mr. Russ. Again, whatever their prior relationship, Claiborne could not have been intimately knowledgeable of Jackson’s business dealings.

A letter dated one day after the Clifton deed was executed is excerpted as follows:

 

Pearlington, Mi, Dec. 3d, 1856

My dear Sir,

We have bid off the Clifton plantation for you at $8,525, 1/3 to be paid immediately, & the balance in 1 & 2 years at 6 per. cent. ….

It is all important therefore, that you should be in New Orleans forth with. And your team should be here at work, as soon as possible. The land should be turned up immediately. Your plows, grubbing hoes & axes should be at work….

If you wish to buy anything in New Orleans, & have no merchants there, I would refer you for hardware to Sam. Locke. For provisions to Boyle & Crone 102 Tchopitoulas Street, now F.A. Boyle & Co; and for grain to I.W. Wilder, 5 New Basin. Groceries—R.W. Adams & Co. These are my merchants, & if you apply to them you will find that I have written to them & you will meet with friends….

Mrs Russ is willing to sell at $6,000. She says that will not pay for the improvements. I think the place very cheap at that price. She says you can have it, at that price, or on the same terms; or if you prefer it you can take possession, at any time you choose to make the first payment. They will keep it til the 1. Dec. next when you can make the first payment, or if you choose. I have said to them that they may consider the trade as made—for I think it a bargain & would be perfectly willing myself to buy it at that rate.

Hoping to see you soon, I remain

                          Truly Yours,                            JFH Claiborne

Our best regards to Mrs Jackson.

PS. You must consider my house your home until you are settled—If you need endorsers here in any of your arrangements Mr. Russ & myself will with pleasure endorse for you.[232]

 

In quick succession, Jackson bought the two spreads described above, and about the same time as the purchase of the Russ place he bought the Mitchell Place.[233] While the price of the third site was less than for the others ($2,760), it was the largest at 1920 acres, fully three square miles. The seller was James Mitchell, who had married one of the daughters of Lewis Daniells and had participated in the December sale of Clifton. In addition to these three major sites, Jackson bought two minor properties, one of 40 acres and the other of 80 acres.   As in the transactions for Clifton and the Russ place, Claiborne was intimately involved. On March 17, 1857, he receipted the draft and two notes tendered by Jackson, with the commitment that they would be handed over to Mitchell upon the completion of an agreement. (Hermitage, ADS. Thi. SM. Apr 97)

For a good description of the larger pieces, the following is excerpted from a letter of young Samuel Jackson to his mother, Sarah, wife of Andrew Jr. on March 26, 1857:

I will endeavour to give you a description of the three places, beginning with the Dannial <sic> place you know now days all the attraction in this world is money, on that account and for that reason I am pleased with the place, I expect to make this year About $10,00 <sic> in cotton. [the land] was filled with sedge grass, which makes it very difficult to get it to the propper <sic> state for cultivation we will not have quite two hundred acres this year, we should I think cultivate about three hundred and fifty next year. we never get less than $120.00 pr bale, so you see it is quite a money making place, but as a Residence I do not think you would like this place. Col. Claybourn’s family is the only one you would visit unless it was at the Bay of St Louis which is eighteen miles distent <sic> and at times a wretched road The house is a very old one and in quite a delapidated <sic> state. It is about three miles distent (sic) to the gulf and between the house and the gulf is mostly marsh. The Bayou which you heard Pa speak of is little to the right of the house we can get to one place on it, that is at the landing[234]. we have a very nice road leading down there, on eithe <sic> side of the bayou is long grass or rather rush as I believe it is called there is some large trees at the landing which makes a very shady place for fishing I have been several times but have been as unsuccessful as I generally was in Tennessee. We have very fine large Magnolia trees, [illegible but probably “sweet”] Bay the Live Oak and any number of Pine and others not worth the while to mention It is sayed <sic> that this place was at one time noted for its fine fruits, but the orange and lemmon <sic> trees are ded <sic>, excepting those orange’s that are in the [illegible], but we have the finest fig orchard in the country, the cabins are situated in a row which are also in bad condition, and will have to be torn down next fall. the greatest objection to the country is the moschitos <sic>, and they are awful, but as Col Claybourn says he would prefer their sting to sickness. the latter they say we never have. [235] Mitchell place has been cultivated but little. there is but little land that can be cultivated with out it is the pl[illegible] which will have to be drained, and then we will have about 1,000 acres in one field of the finest soil, but it will take a great deal of labour (sic) to drain it. the improvements are not worth any things that are on it and I do not think there is a prettie building site on. The magnolia joins it but I have not seen it, but from what I ear I do not like it, it has no timber on it. The Russ place[236] I think very prettie one, the house is a very good size the rooms are I think to <sic> small they are very little half more than half as large as our place. their <sic> are a great many prettie flowers, also some very nice fruit trees. it can be made one of the most valuable places in the country. the cotton stalks grow eight to ten feet tall and as large as my arm. the <sic> were about three inches in diamiter <sic> and sixteen feet tall. there is a marsh, which if once drained, the soil of of <sic> the richest kind, will be everlasting, and about 200 acres. it is quite dull in the winter season, but pleasant in the summer season, and very few moschitos <sic>, to what there is here. I do not like the [Poor] place…their <sic> was two deed given me by Col Claybourn which he told me should be recorded. one of them was given by Mr. James Mitchell the other one held by a Mr. Russ was given also, which I sent by an old man by the name of Gallender to have it recorded at Gainsville <sic>

 

The Daniell Place was known as Clifton Plantation, and the Russ Place eventually became Sea Song.[237]

A large volume of letters like the foregoing was occasioned by the fact of the family having been split between the Hermitage at Nashville and the two of the locations listed above. Another reason was that Andrew Jackson Jr. seems to have had a penchant for traveling back and forth to New Orleans and other parts of Louisiana, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky.

From a perusal of the letters, there emerge vivid character studies of Jackson Jr., his wife, Sarah Yorke Jackson, and the second of their sons, young Samuel, only nineteen at the time of the writing of the letter noted above. Already Samuel was running the day-to-day operations of a large plantation with many slaves. It is evident from his many letters that he is a loving, dutiful son; also in evidence is a picture of a rather solitary existence on a mid-nineteenth century plantation.

In addition to personal traits already described for Jackson, Jr., the letters make clear that he is usually absent, that he changes his mind easily – almost whimsically – about important things, and that he cannot be counted upon with regard to his commitments.

Sarah Yorke Jackson was a well-bred Philadelphian who had served for a time as First Lady in the White House during President’s Jackson second term. [238] Prior to her marriage to Andrew Jr., she and her sister had been orphaned when their father died, leaving them with limited means, having just lost two ships at sea. [239] A patrician who stayed at the Hermitage for a protracted period after the purchase of the Hancock County properties, she was devoted to her family, some of whom remained in Nashville. [240] She seldom if ever counters her husband’s bad decisions, and often supports his walking away from obligations.

The person who comes across as one with real strength of character is Samuel: respectful, usually optimistic, intelligent, long-suffering and courageous. Even when aware of his father’s inadequacies, he seldom complains. Though often lonesome, he was apparently too shy to accept a Christmas dinner invitation form Judge Claiborne (letter reference).

 

1857

Samuel Jackson at Clifton Plantation

 

In March 1857, the Supreme Court decided the Dred Scott case, which declared that Scott, a black slave, is not a citizen with the right to sue in Federal court. As a result, it is claimed that claves are chattel, and therefore the property of their owners wherever they are. Northerners and Republicans react in protest. – John S. Bowman, The Civil War Day by Day, p. 17.

 

Dred Scott was not as important for Samuel as a bad toothache.  While his father was engaged in heady financial transactions, Samuel was having a severe toothache, first mentioned in a letter to his mother on March 13, 1857. In the March 26th letter, he asked his mother for money to go to a dentist in New Orleans. He said that Pa had promised to send him some money but he had not received it and had only “…two dollars to my name…I have not the means to have it attended to Pa told me to go to Col Claybourn when I was in need of any, but I do not like to do it.”

On April 10, he reported that he was relieved. He had written “a few lines to Missers MacGregor and Co. to send me the amount I thought would be sufficient, which was $30. I dont <sic> know whether I did right or not. I was in such pain both night and day that it seemed impossible for me to wait till I received a little from Pa it was a few days ago I wrote them, but I have not yet heard from them. But the way I got relief Billie [apparently a slave] found an ole Pair of tooth drawers in the garden with the point broken off. I made [Canser?] file them so he might draw with them I then got old Ben to pull it out for me which of course relieved me. And I am now as well as ever.”

 

Samuel was still growing. In the same letter, he mentioned that he was “out of shoes and boots and all of my summer clothes are too small.”

Already, Andrew Jr. was allowing his enthusiasm for Clifton to wane. In a letter to his sister, Rachel Lawrence, dated May 22, 1857, Samuel wrote that Pa had returned, but “does not like this place as well as he did at first.” He spoke of going to see a place near New Orleans…the prise <sic> of the place is $30,000. I told him I would not think of buying it. I would keep this place, three or four years any way and then if I sold and bought I would try to get our old home.”

Although his father was subject to swings of highs and lows, Samuel was normally positive, sometimes to the point of exaggeration. He advised his sister: “We have a very good stand of cotton, better than any I know of, much better than Col Claiborne.” He proudly announced that he had been selected as a “deligate <sic> to the state convention to elect officials for the state,” a seemingly mature duty, but also asked that his sister give Miss Martha Jones “my best and duble <sic> twisted love.”.

Financial problems were reflected as early as July 2, 1857. In a letter to his father, Samuel wrote from Clifton: “You told me to say to Judge Beasley you would take the 80 acres[241] next to Mr. Bass. Judge Beverly told me you had bought when you came down the last time And wrote to me to know if I had received a check from you he sayed <sic> you told him you should send it as soon as you arrived at Nashville. And he is very anxious to receive it, And has been expecting it every day since you left.” On a positive note, Samuel continued: “The cotton is doing finely, Henry counted 125 forms and 15 boles on one stalk yesterday. Old Man Gallender…says we will make 150 bales if we have no storm to blow it out.”

If accurate, the expectation of 150 bales might give some indication of success. A bale averaged 400 pounds, and therefore 150 bales would total 60,000 lbs. At 40 cents, this would bring $24,000. A good field hand was expected to produce 2000 pounds, indicating about 30 slaves as field hands.

No mention was made in any subsequent letters to give figures of total production. However, on August 16, 1857, Samuel wrote to his mother that it had rained for nearly four weeks, ruining some of the cotton. “The servants don’t think now we will make more than 50 bales. I don’t think we will make near that much the boles are rottning <sic> and the shapes falling off. I had no idea it could be injured so.” He continued along a more positive track: “You seem to think I am in a most horriable <sic> place. I am living as well as I could wish. I have irish potatos <sic> rise  And (sic) tomato every day. when my hams give out it was some time before I could get use (sic) to midling but every morning I eate (sic) half a plate of middling four buiskets (sic) two cups of coffe (sic) and some nice honey…. As to my health I never had better health in my life, my dinner and supper are the same as my breakfast…I don’t think Pa could have done better never mind where he bought. I firmly believe a person can make a fortune here.”

Samuel was in a place renowned to this day for its density of mosquitoes. The area could not be surveyed in 1857 due to the severity of the problem <reference>.

As often as Samuel and his family complained of mosquitoes, it seems that they were never concerned about the possibility of yellow fever in their area. Certainly, they were aware of the dangers of the dreaded “yellow Jack” in New Orleans and on travel down the Mississippi River. This is brought out in a number of letters.  The reason for their lack of fear for the coastal area may be evident in a letter from Samuel to his mother on March 26, 1857, It seems truly a remarkable indication that people of the time had made a connection between yellow fever and a certain kind of mosquito, being other than the kind that normally afflicted their own area. Samuel’s words were, “The greatest objection to the country is the moschitos <sic>, and they are awful, but as Col Claybourn says he would prefer their sting to sickness, the latter they say they never have.” It should be mentioned that a scientific identification of the culprit as the Aedes aegypti mosquito was not made until 1900. That discover was made by Dr. Walter Reed, building on a twenty-year research of Cuban physician Carlos Finlay. [242] Obviously, that time measurement does not reach back to mid-19th century. [243]

I have to stay in the house the most of my time, as the mosquitos are so bad I can scarsely (sic) go out side of the door they are worse now than they have ever been. in riding out  you could scarcely tell what colour the horse is.” He worried that his mother will not like the place (she arrived in October): “I don’t think she will like this place. there is no pleasure or comfort for the mosquitos, and never any preaching…she would have to learn to eate old bacon and [chicken].” There were ants, and roaches and heat. The mail service was poor; a post office nearby served only the Claibornes and Clifton “…for no other persons on this side of Purlington has any correspondence.”

 

By October 1857, Sarah had arrived at Clifton. She had gone through Memphis and then to New Orleans by boat. From there she took the mail boat to the Bay (Shieldsborough) where they arrived at 7:00 pm. Sarah then walked to a boarding house. It is likely that Mrs. Claiborne and other prominent wives met her. Earlier, in an August 16th letter to his sister, Samuel had noted, “…Mrs. Claiborne and all of the ladies at the Bay are very anxious to see her….”

The next day <> Sarah took the six-hour horse-and-wagon ride to Clifton. On the way, Sarah  “saw all the BEAUTIFUL beach, pine forest, waving moss, &c &c &c…” and when she arrived Tuesday afternoon at Clifton she “found Sammy upon our arrival sitting on the poarch <sic> …reading his news paper…the Negroes are well, and all delighted to see us….”[244]

In the evening Sarah walked toward Mulatto Bayou and later provided interesting observations of Mulatto Bayou shell bank and the Clifton plantation, five years following the visit of Benjamin Wailes to Judge Daniells, Clifton’s previous owner. “I walked down to the shell bank last evening, and was surprised to find a stream of water much larger than Stones river even when full of water. a beautiful stream, but the way to it is rough and disagreeable, and some mosquitoes, but not a great many – the house we are in is very open and very old but much more comfortable than I expected to find it. I have visited all the houses on the place Gin house, Smoke house, chicken houses and mill house & in fact every thing in the inclosure [sic].…”

 

1858

The Russ Place

Some time prior to February 1858, Samuel and his father had been away from Clifton for an extended period, presumably on a trip to the Hermitage. When they returned in that month, Samuel reported that it had taken them thirteen days to come from Nashville after a brief stay in New Orleans. They had hired a schooner to take things (possibly furnishing from the Hermitage), to go to Mulatto Bayou. Samuel’s homecoming was marred by a disturbing event.  Sometime before his trip north, Samuel had taken in two puppies. Although he found them well on his arrival, he presently heard one of them, named Bounce, barking. A snake, probably a rattler, had apparently just bitten the other dog, Dash. Samuel called Ben (the omnipresent and therefore probably senior or most trusted slave) and together they gave Dash some brandy “but he commenced swelling very rapidly and in half an hour he was dead…I feel lonesome and lost because I cant <sic> see him. I feel as if I had lost an old friend.”

This was by far not the worst tragedy to befall the Jacksons in 1858, just as they were preparing to settle on the Gulf Coast plantation referred to as the Russ Place. After recounting his loss to Sarah, Samuel advised his mother that Andrew Jr. would probably be back in Nashville before the letter arrived. He had spent only two or three days at Clifton before going to Mobile, with plans to go to New Orleans after that. Before leaving, Jackson had sent some of his workers to the Russ Place, with the intention of renovating the house in preparation for Sarah’s move there. Although Sarah at one point had said that Clifton was better than she had thought, by now they clearly wanted to live elsewhere. Andrew Jr. had been “distressed” at Clifton, and it may be that the move to the Russ Place had always been in the plan.

On March 30, 1858, Col Claiborne sent very distressing news to Samuel. From his place at Laurel Wood Claiborne had seen an eerie glow to the east and learned that the Russ Place was on fire. The next day, Samuel wrote first to his sister, telling of the destruction of the Russ place. “Col Claiborne had the kindness to send me word to day of the entire destruction of the Dwelling on the Russ place by fire last night, The repairs were just compleated (sic). the Carpenters had finished their work, and the painters would have finished to day. The painters bearly (sic) saved them selves. they awakened as the roof was falling in, and escaped by jumping from the window in their night clothes. their paint clothing &c burned up. Some persons attribute the fire by accident, but it was no such thing.” 

In fact, Samuel explained, two slaves, Uncle Ben and Creasy, who had been staying, according to them, in the outbuilding that Russ had used as a kitchen, reported that a French-speaking man had been seen prowling around the property over the last two weeks. At one point, the man set his dog on Old Ben who had “to run to get out of his way, but he watched him so closely he could do nothing, so the man left about day light.”

Samuel related to his sister the story told him by Uncle Ben concerning those last hours before the Russ Place burned to the ground:

Uncle Ben was again disturbed last night by the dogs. and went out but could see no one, he went to bed again. and was the second time aroused by the dog, went out but could see no one. he waited out there till, he supposed eleven oclock (sic), and again retired. the third time the fire awakened them. the whole side of the building urupted (sic) in flames, and part of the roof falling, and the flames shooting through the whole building. Col C—awakened and seeing a large light, awakened Mr. Berry, a preacher staying with him. they ran down as quick as possible (sic) and passing Dr. Whitters called to him. all three went down, but it was too late. being a fat fire it burned like tar. Mr. Berry told me to day, that he never saw any one so much affected as Col C—was. Mr. B—had to hold him up, and sayed he cryed (sic) as if he would break his heart. and old Uncle Ben and Creasy cryed like children.

 

Samuel expressed his sorrow and anticipated the great pain that the news was to bring to his parents, who were still en route from Gainesville to Nashville:

Words cannot express my sorrow,” he wrote to his sister, “I will try and cast all into forgetfulness. And try and [illegible] to disperse the dark and threatening cloud that seems to o’re hang our fortune. All my labor last year proved fruitless. This year may be the same but I will not look on the dark side of the book of ffortune <sic>, but will buckle on my armor and battle my way through this broad Universe.” Samuel then spoke of ripe strawberries that he ate two weeks ago, and how well the potatoes, radishes, lettuce peas and corn were doing.

 

A few days later, Samuel communicated a similar account to his older brother, Andrew Jackson III, a graduate of West Point. In that letter, he mentioned that the parlor and dining room had been made considerably larger. Earlier he had sent his father a diagram of the house, giving him the dimensions of each room. (This did not accompany the letter sent by the Hermitage to the Hancock County Historic Society). Samuel also related to his brother news about his plantings, and mentioned that there had been a case or two of smallpox twenty-odd miles from Clifton. He had therefore vaccinated all the little children on the plantation, numbering twenty-five or twenty-six.

Samuel may have been reticent to break the news to his father, as that task was done by Claiborne. Even though his parents had just left the coast and were possibly still waiting for their transportation from Gainesville, Samuel explained to his brother that Colonel Claiborne had telegraphed the news to Nashville. There is no record of a letter concerning the fire written from Samuel to his father or mother.  It was Andrew Jr. who broke the news to Sarah that their waterfront home had been consumed by fire in two very tragic letters dated April 7 and April 8, 1858, written from New Orleans. It is not clear why Sarah had not accompanied him. His letters are remarkable in illustrating the depths and heights of his mood swings.

Andrew Jr. wrote to Sarah on the 7th that the letter that he was to write was “a very unpleasant and melancholy letter,” announcing “a great misfortune … our beautiful Little Residence there is all Burned down and lies in ashes…alass, alass—what will become of us It is a hard case—well it is done and it cannot be mended—let us never despair – but hope for the best — I shall go I shall go on tomorrow to Clifton –& there deposit all our Furniture until we can arrange things to suit us better…but alass—alass—alass—what shall we do.”  The letter, obviously written very extemporaneously, then laid the blame for the fire squarely on the carelessness of the servants Ben and Creasy whom he suspected of lighting a fire while surreptitiously sleeping in the house. Here he ignored the story that Ben and Creasy had told to Samuel, if indeed he had heard that story, or had contrary evidence. He continued, saying, “my god it is too bad—there seems a [illegible] hanging over us—what shall we do—“.[245]

His depressive outlook continued in a second letter to Sarah, written on April 8th: “My God – how dreadful and apaling <sic> it is – what is the matter and what is to become of us – it seems our heavenly Father intends to punish me for my sins – of that his rod may now cease – and that we [I] may alter the course of my life – if spared a Little Longer.” Then, in the very next lines, his spirit turned apparently optimistic and positive: “I shall go to Clifton — & do the best I can – I intend to put Ned and Phill – with a good carpenter – Mr. Johnson – and rebuild – this summer and hole by the Smiles of Providence – to have all ready for us – by the Fall – say by November or the 1st of December – so cheer up – never desp[air] I trust all will come out right yet.” He then advised Sarah to remain at the Hermitage till fall. [246]

On May 4, 1858, Samuel wrote to his mother to say that his father was making arrangements for the building of the house. He also mentioned that he expected the cotton crop to be a good one, although his estimate had become more realistic. “The cotton looks beautiful and we will have a splendid stand. It looks a hundred percent better now than it did this time last year, and a better season of cotton, I have never seen. I hope and trust a large crop will be the reward for our labour. I have about fifty acres in corn…I am eating every kind of vegitable <sic> and have been for some time. I have a fine mess of strawberries very near every day. We will have any quantity of figs, grapes, and at the Russ place peaches, plumbs, and one or two trees filled with nectorns.”[247] As usual, there was no indication of concern over the changing national politics in the Jackson household.



 

June 1858

Abraham Lincoln is nominated by the Republican Party of Illinois. In his acceptance speech, he states, “I believe this government cannot endure half slave and half free.”

Bowman, The Civil War Day by Day, p.17

 

Cotton Production at Clifton

Even though the Jacksons had experienced great misfortunes, their cotton production and that of Claiborne were doing well. In June 1858, the New Orleans Picayune reported enthusiastically, “We yesterday examined the sample of 22 bales of Sea Island cotton, sold in this city a few days since. This cotton was grown upon the plantation of Col. J.F.H. Claiborne and Major Andrew Jackson, on Pearl River, Hancock County, Mississippi and was sold at the handsome price 35, 40 and 44 cents, 16 bales bringing 40 cents per pound; the whole consignment of 22 bales netting to the enterprising planters something over $2250, after deducting freight, commissions, and all other charges.”[248]

Another bad season of mosquitoes was described in Samuel’s letter of July 18th to his mother: “If Pa were here now, I think he would have some excuse to return, and pay me a very short visit. Since I am to think of it he has never seen them at their worst stage.” 

Samuel went into detail of the capture of a runaway slave belonging to another master. After the Negro was apprehended and tied hand and foot, he escaped overnight. Samuel then employed bloodhounds in the search, but without success. The runaway then returned voluntarily, begging Samuel to return him to his master, because the mosquitoes were so bad.

The same letter narrates an amusing story about Samuel’s mule. “I do wish I could get me a fine horse when I was at the Bay or rather at Col Claibornes I rode my mule and she stopped and I could go no further. I whipped her for an hour, and finally had to cave in from exhaustion and return after being laughed at by ladies and gentlemen. I was wriding <sic> along some week’s ago with three or four gentlemen up at the Bay and she threw me about ten feet over her head so I declared never to wride <sic> another mule as long as it can be avoided. I have her now for sale, I ask two hundred and fifty dollars.”

Andrew Jr. addressed Andrew III, a young officer in the Army of the United States and a recent graduate of West Point, in a letter dated September 7th. A perusal of this letter may well suggest to the reader that Andrew Jr. may have been reading Hamlet, specifically Polonius’ advice to his son Laertes. Andrew Jr., who had himself been cautioned many times by the President, his father, was eloquent in his advice to his son:

“My Son I may not see you again for a long time – I therefore [earnestly] address you a few words of admonition as a Father – you are now going out into the world young and inexperienced – the artful cunning hypocrites will take every occasion to [?fleece] & to lead you astray – be not deceived—some will profess great friendship – at the same time stab you the 1st chance if you have Money – you will have a host of friends – but beware there is but little real friendship to be found now a days – Self and Self interest is the first principle in our nature – the study of mankind now a days seems to be how to cheat – defraud—and slander – the honest and upright man – therefore beware of too many companions of too Liberal kind and generous – every advantage will be taken of you – you will be kept as poor as a church mouse – and no thanks for it – be kind and ?Liberal? to a certain extent – but firm and unyielding Learn to say — the Little word no – emphatically positively – and by so doing – you will soon be found out to be honored – respected and beloved – by your Officers above you…Lay up a little for a rainy day.”

 

Andrew Jr. continued his advice by saying that if young Andrew wished to leave the army, he could “fix you off with a farm and hands to make you comfortable.” He then reported that they were having a fine crop of cotton, and that if all went well he would be totally out of debt and have enough to build the new house.

The letter from Samuel to his mother dated December 1, 1858, contains a cryptic comment about someone named “John M.” who is by Samuel’s reckoning a “grand scoundrel.” [249] In that regard, Andrew Jr. seems to have gone to Memphis, and Samuel hoped “he may be successful and every thing may be arranged satisfactory to him.”

Perhaps related to the financial problems stated above was the incident, sometime in the year 1858, when Andrew Jr. had separated a slave named George from his wife, selling them to different owners. The new owner of George was one Dr. John Donelson Martin, possibly a relative of Rachel Donelson Jackson, Andrew Jr.’s adoptive mother. In order to reunite the pair, Martin bought George’s wife from Nathan Bedford Forrest, a highly successful slave dealer.[250]As noted previously, John Martin was one of the beneficiaries in the suit against Andrew Jr. in 1861.

Samuel also reported that the new building was progressing and that he was ginning the cotton well with the old gin. The new one, however, was giving trouble. It is likely that this was the same gin as described by Benjamin Wailes in his 1852 visit to Judge Daniells.[251]

Samuel was still optimistic about the crop:  “Our cotton I am confident will bring the first price…” Other problems existed, however: “I am now giving my hands potatos <sic> instead of meal. I have but little corn and consequently have to be paring with it. And most of the mules look thin and badly they need high feeding to get them up for spring plowing. I wish Pa could send me some corn, as quick as he can…” He then requested of his mother that she sell the “ugliest” of his ponies as he is very much in need of clothing: “I am almost coatless, pantless, vestless, &c.” A year earlier, we are reminded, he was still growing.

On December 26th, Samuel was happy to inform his mother of a surprise visit to Clifton by his father, his brother and Dr. Lawrence (his brother-in-law, husband of his sister Rachel). It was, however, a short visit. A comment about Andrew III’s military status is curious. “I thought brother of course had resigned, when I saw him, but there is but one thing that will cause him to resign, and that you know.” It may have been that already loyalty to the government of the United States was beginning to wane.

After inquiring about his mother’s Christmas, Samuel wrote that he had been invited to “take my dinner with judge Ogden but did not accept the invitation, they had a dance there also the same night. Willis Claiborne and my-self dined together at his house. Col C—invited me to dine with him on new years day but I don’t know whether I shall go or not. The Negroes are dancing and enjoying them selves.”

The cotton ginning was progressing, with the help of the new gin. Samuel had baled ten bags averaging 300 pounds each, expecting to make a total of 50 or 55 bales. The new gin could do two to three bales per day. The women were “taking the yellow cotton from the white.”

1859

Sea Song

On February 19, 1859, Sarah had just arrived at Clifton, along with Andrew Jr. and her sister Marion.[252] She wrote to Andrew III, telling him that they had brought down 20 more Negroes, and that Samuel was building cabins for them. New plans were being made. “We expect to remain here until the last of May, and hope your Pa will then be able to employ an overseer, and that will enable Sam to go up with us and to retain until fall. Pa has promised to give Sam the Kentucky mines, and with them to purchase a place for him on the Hiwassy River, in east Tenn. if he likes it, and to establish a stock and grain farm there. This will determined on in the summer then Sam says he will expect you to resign and to come there to his mountain home and live with him.”

Andrew Jr. had expected the new house at the Russ place to be completed the previous fall. Sarah stated in this letter that it was not near finished. “Your Pa thinks it will be completed in one month, but I think there will not be sufficient time in three months…I like the building very much. it presents a very [pretty] fine appearance from the Bay, and I think it will be very comfortable and convenient, and the large balconies will make it cool – if it is not too expensive for the means that can be counted on, I see no fault with it.” She then commented on a sale that Andrew Jr. hoped to make on a trip to Memphis, but it is not clear what was for sale. In any event, a “great deal depends upon it.”

The sale does not appear to have involved the Hermitage, as in the same letter, Sarah expressed her regret that Congress had declined to accept the Hermitage “I do not know what will be done with it…I begin to realize that I am soon to loose it.”

On June 13, writing from Clifton, Sarah finally communicated to Rachel that the building was now ready.[253] Samuel had gone for six weeks, and Sarah was concerned about his returning at a time when yellow fever would be a consideration. “The Bay it is crowded all up the coast –not a house or room vacant, and many more could be rented. people are flying from the city, and many of their plantations on the river have come down to the coast. it never was as much crowded. a sickly season is anticipated if Saml. has not already started it would be imprudent for him to travel on the river now.”

It appears from the same letter that Sarah was very depressed, stating, “My heart sinks until it can find no lower depth to rest upon.” While she felt that “every thing depends on this crop,” it is also indicated that they had put Clifton up for sale. “Your Pa has had two letters respecting the property for sale –which he has replied to, inviting the gentlemen to visit the place and judge for themselves – Col C- says he would not take less than 50$ an acre for his – it is thought the ship island terminus[254] will be at the Bay of St. Lewis – if so it will increase the value of the property there as well as all through this portion of the state.”

Sarah’s letter of July 27th to Rachel was written from the new house. Except for the heat, she seemed fairly content.

We have a good deal of fruit, peaches, grapes, figs &c, and soon will have shrimps…we get very good beef every other day, have tongues, corn beef, ham & a few chickens this is our bill of fare. we also have plenty of milk, in all its varieties, pies, preserves, &c—the weather here is too warm to kill mutton, or any thing to keep on hand more than one or at farthest two nights. consequently every day has to provide for itself – money is very scarce. We can procaure <sic> any thing and every thing if we had plenty ready cash. Our city folks, and old resident live like nabobs…I have two good dairies built under the house which I shall find a great convenience. They are airtight, and I think will be cool.”

 

Again apparently expressing contentment, Sarah wrote, “You perceive we have as yet found no name for our place. We can not all be pleased with the same one. I proposed as yours was bird song ours should be sea song, but Saml did not like it—Pa says Ocean Wild, Saml. Ocean View, I Idle Hall with many more I wish some of you could settle it for us.”

 

October 1859

John Brown, with a group of armed men, seizes the Federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry.

 

On October 23, Samuel informed his mother that he had cast his very first vote’ (He had turned twenty-one the previous year, having been born June 9, 1837.) He had to ride 20 miles to the Bay to do so; Willis Claiborne was elected to the House of Representatives. It is a brief letter, but he manages to convey something very personal: “Miss Fannie Ogden looks as sweet as a pink. So you must not be very much ‘disprised’ if you see me come driving up in a ‘Cabroushe’ one of these cool winter evenings.”

By November 27, the date of another letter from Samuel to his mother, the cotton crop should have been finished, but it must have not been sufficient to pay all the debts. Samuel advised that Logan [?Sovit] & Co. seemed to be “very uneasy, and write they can not and will not wait any longer. I think they have heard of his changing his house. Mr. Russ has been here spent one night with me and sayes he can not wait any longer on Pa that he has borrowed money on very short time and is compelled to have it. Mr. [Lenard] has also written and sayes his merchants have also written him Pa had failed to settle some business matters with them early in the Fall…Tell Pa I have not a grain of corn on the place.” In spite of the financial problems, it appears from the letter that Samuel is expecting his parents to move down soon along with the furniture and Negroes.

Apparently, Sarah remained at the Hermitage while Andrew Jr. traveled. On December 5th, he wrote from the steamboat Daniel Boone near Vicksburg, telling Sarah that he had transacted  “a littl business” in Nashville, and “my business partly in Memphis – with a promise to have it all [fixed] in a few days and sent to me – if they will do so, all will be right – but I doubt it very much – now a days there is Little or no confidence to be placed in most of mankind — &c. &c.—“

 

1860

The Winds of Hurricanes and War

 

April – May 1860       

The Democratic Party holds its convention in Charleston, South Carolina. When the pro-slavery platform is rejected, delegates from eight Southern states depart.

Bowman, The Civil War Day by Day, p. 18

 

On January 1, Samuel’s short letter to his mother stated that Pa had made two visits to Clifton since he left her, but remained only a day or two each time. Samuel had saved about one thousand oranges, but “Pa sayed he could not take them up, and they were rotting. I give out great many of the negroes christmas and very near all the rest to Mrs. Claiborne.” 

Andrew Jr.’s letter of February 22 contains a dateline “Sea Song — Bay St. Louis, Shieldsborrough.” It appears that they had finally moved to the gulf coast location.

By July 16, Sarah was enjoying living on the coast, and so advised Rachel in a letter from Sea Song:

 “…today the white caps are rolling beautifully. We have such a splendid breeze. your Pa has built a very fine, large bath house, and a wharf 600 feet long…. We have a great abundance of splendid peaches of every variety, cut stewed, in pies & fresh from trees…the late rains have benefitted <sic> the crops very much, both cotton and corn… the cotton is opening very fast… your Pa hopes to make a fair crop… the peas…are splendid, more than waist high. some cotton he put in here as an experiment surpasses any thing he ever saw, both in size and in the number of bolls. he regrets very much this whole place is not in cotton.”

 

On July 27th, Sarah again wrote to Rachel, indicating there were some reports of fever in the city, and that the weather was “favorable to the spread of yellow fever.” She told again of the fruits and vegetables, and also of the turkeys, ducks, chickens and geese. She wrote that the sea bathing would be of service to all.

If Sarah were satisfied in late July, things must have come to a head financially by September 3rd.  In a letter from Sea Song to Andrew III, she expressed a willingness “to abandon it, and move elsewhere.” Before detailing the financial troubles, however, she exhibited the stress that must have been felt by many having to do with the divided loyalties between the Union and the political realities pressing upon them. She first acknowledged his last letter, “written in camp on the Arkansas River,” saying,

I have great solicitude about you, and your situation and profession is one of my sorrows. Your Pa is very much dissatisfied with this country. He has been sinking money ever since he purchased here, nothing has been made. Some disaster befalls us every year. He has been obliged to sell negroes, and to buy [illegible] meat and corn; and nothing to do it with. Consequently debts are incurred at high interest rates, and we never know what it is to have peace of mind. Last year he sold about 16, and was nearly free; but the interest on the remainder with the expenses of the year will make it necessary to sell as many more this fall. He is very much cast down and discouraged, and he is resolved to sell out. If he cannot find any purchaser at private sale he will put all up at auction this fall and sell for whatever he can get. I think he would do better to abandon it, and settle elsewhere…I will return to the Hermitage until something is determined upon. Samuel has secured it of the state for two years…I know I will find it very disagreeable there now for I will be considered as a hireling and all who visit there will look upon it as belonging to them. You know the feeling my dear Son of a certain class of people who have been in that neighborhood for some time, and who will be gratified to see the change in our condition but I have made up my mind to it, and will endeavor to bear my cross with submission.

 

Unfortunately, it was no longer the right time to sell. She continued “there are a good many places offered for sale, at this time, land, negroes, stock &c…. abolitionism is I think alarming the negro holders, and many of them are anxious to realize a large sum of in cash for them now, while prices are high.”

Sarah wrote from Sea Song on September 8 to Samuel, who had been away for some time. She stated, “Your Pa is well also, but troubled about his affairs. He is anxious to sell and purchase higher up in the country.” She also informed him of some bad news about a friend: “Mrs. Ogden has had more trouble. Her little Cornie is dead he was afflicted in a way similar to [?Leanmer’s] baby. We passed there on Wednesday evening and them all walking out. The baby was with them perfectly well, and last evening (Friday) we received an invitation to his funeral. He was taken with convulsions on Thursday evening and died on Friday morning, to be buried to-day.”

Besides the financial problems, the Jacksons had experienced adversity from many natural causes: mosquitoes, freezes, heat, rain, lack of rain, ants, roaches and snakes. A new experience – in fact, three new experiences – presented frightening times in the summer and the fall.

History records three hurricanes very close together, one having been August 10 to 12, 1860, which made landfall between Biloxi and Pascagoula. Another struck the coast just a month later, September 14-15, and its eye passed directly over Bay St. Louis. A third storm went inland west of Grand Isle, LA on October 2, but was felt also along the Mississippi coast.

Sarah wrote to Rachel from Sea Song of her horror on October 1, apparently describing the second storm:

You have no doubt e’er this received our dear Saml’s letter giving you an account of his journey…as well as his happy escape from accident or injury during the storm, to which he was exposed on the lake. it was truly terrific you cannot form any idea of it by any description I can give you on paper. the wind was blowing most fearfully, from the north, but notwithstanding its violence was not strong enough to counteract the influence of a more awful storm out at sea, which was causing the waters from the Gulf to roll in upon us until we were almost surrounded. the waves were dashing on each side of us within eight feet of the house like a sea and in front they were inside our gate, and nearly meeting in the rear. if it had continued to rise for half an hour longer, as they had done for some time we would have been in the midst of a roaring sea. the water was higher than our fence. sometimes the tops of the palings could be seen when a wave would roll back with great force and break over some thing that would divide it. and worse than all we were all alone. Your Pa had gone to the plantation a day or two before, and we had to try to comfort each other, all so much alarmed we were almost afraid to speak or could scarcely do so for our voices were tremulous with fear. at last after about twelve hours of suspense he came, astonished and almost confounded. he had no idea of any thing of the kind. the wind was blowing at the plantation but in the direction to remove all fear of the rising of the water, and he did not know any thing of our situation until within about two miles of this place he then had to swim his horse in several places, in water so deep he could not touch the ground.

 

Not being familiar with hurricanes, Sarah probably knew nothing of their counterclockwise circular motion and therefore perceived the storm that Pa and Samuel experienced as being a separate storm from the one she knew. With the eye passing over Bay St. Louis, she may have received the worst of the winds and tidal surge, whereas on the lake (probably Lake Borgne) and at Mulatto Bayou, the winds would have come from the north, blowing the water out.

Even as Sarah wrote her letter, another hurricane was about to enter coastal Louisiana west of Grand Isle. This was the third hurricane of the 1860 season; it made landfall on October 2.

Sarah’s letter continued, “it was a fearful time…but the storms are not over. last night the wind commenced blowing again, and continued with great violence until about nine this morning it subsided a little but still looks very threatning <sic> I am very anxious to get off.” If all the other adversities had not yet convinced Sarah to leave Hancock County, she was now resolute. “I am very anxious to leave this place, and no earthly power will ever induce me to return to it. I will break rock on a turnpike road first. I have lived in dread since the eleventh of August, the time of the first storm.”

Great tension must have pervaded the politics of the country in 1860. Senator Jefferson Davis of Mississippi had proposed resolutions in February to the effect that the federal government could not prohibit slavery. In April and May, delegates from eight Southern states walked out of the Democratic convention when a pro-slavery platform was rejected. The presidential campaign aroused fears in many citizens, and some Southern leaders predicted that the election of Lincoln would surely result in secession.

 

November 1860

Abraham Lincoln is elected president with a clear majority of the Electoral College votes but only a plurality of the popular votes…. For the first time in its history the United States has a president of a party that declares that “the normal condition of all the territory of the United States is that of freedom. Within days of Lincoln’s election Southern leaders are speaking of secession as an inevitable necessity.

Bowman, The Civil War Day by Day, p.19

 

Samuel’s letter to his mother, written on November 13th, reflected the growing anxiety about the tensions. “We met several members of the court of Hancock County and they told us they intended putting in force the law requiring every owner of slaves to have some one to overseer for them or bye <sic> on the place them selves or they would be subject to a heavy fine or other penalties…When you write let me know how the election was taken, & what the excitement is are the people for seceding? Do they favor the South Carolina movement? That is all the rage here every one wears the blue Cockade. Miss Marther is making me one. I have no apprehension here at all, of the negroes.”

The rest of the letter dealt with the anticipated sale, which was to occur on the 15th of December, apparently of Clifton Plantation. The bales of cotton and hay were to be shipped the following Friday. Andrew Jr., in spite of the troubled times, was looking to buy another place, hoping to “get it payable in cotton.” Samuel seemed certain of the impending sale: “We will be able to sell this place without any trouble I think there are good many that are anxious to purchase the shell bank].[255] Pa’s price is ten thousand dollars, cash.”

Samuel as usual, did not express doubt of his father’s judgment, but commented that others urged caution. “Pa and I went over to the City on last Friday expecting to start up to the Ark. River & other places but on arriving in the City & hearing the election news & finding so much excitement found it necessary one of us should return….So I returned and left Pa in N.O. Mr. Nelson, Mr. Woodlief & others advised him not to purchase at present.” One week later, writing from Clifton, Samuel advised his sister of their status.

We went over to New Orleans two or three days after the election but found Lincoln was elected and so much excitement we thought it prudent for me to return. I left Pa in N.O. not knowing what he would do, but we are compelled to leave this place and seek one where we can make a living, it is impossible to stay here another year…I hope he may succeed in Ark. I would prefer having a cotton farm, for I don’t think we would be able to pay for a place in town but by buying a cotton place, we would be able to make the payments and purchase the Hermitage…The Russ place or rather Sea Song looks beautiful it is surrounded by an entirely new fence. I hope Pa will be able to sell it to our advantage I think he will have no trouble in selling this place, the shell bank will make it sell.

 

In a postscript written perhaps several days later, Samuel said that his father had arrived unexpectedly: “…he has been up on the bayou [illegible] in the upper portion of Louisiana and says it is the finest country undoubtedly in the world and there is a place for sale containing 800 acres, I expect he will buy it.”

On November 25th, Samuel communicated his excitement to his mother regarding the prospects of the farm on Bayou Macon, near Delhi, Louisiana. “This place is offered at $35 per acre payable in four years….the land is as rich as it possibly can be.” It is evident in the letter that Clifton had not yet been sold; nor has Sea Song.

Another letter, dated December 3rd, advised Sarah that Andrew Jr. had been in New Orleans attempting to trade one of the plantations for the one on Bayou Macon. In the postscript, Samuel enclosed a clipping from a New Orleans newspaper, with the comment, “You can judge by the prices of the hard times in New Orleans and how cheaply things can be bought.”  

Probably the last letter Samuel wrote from Clifton was dated December 13, 1860. It is evident that Andrew Jr. has bought the place on Bayou Macon, and has hired an overseer. Still optimistic, Samuel wrote: “It will be necessary to make a very large crop the first year…it is the general opinion Cotton will command a better price next fall than this.” His final paragraph, however, tempered his optimism with realism: “Pa will not be able to sell either of his places until financial affairs are easier. Consequently cannot meet his engagements either here or at Nashville as he anticipated. S.O. Nelson and Co. have suspended payment….I know his creditors are very uneasy and only waiting to see him to pounce upon him.”

It was a little later in that month, on December 20, when South Carolina voted to secede from the Union.

Even though the Jacksons had failed, John Claiborne was progressing handsomely. It is said that by 1861 he was “out of debt and had an annual income of six thousand dollars,” a very large amount at that time. [256]

 

 

1861

On April 12, 1861, on the orders of General P.G.T. Beauregard of Louisiana, a Confederate cannon at Charleston fired the first shot at Fort Sumter.

 

Epilogue

 

On the first day of May 1861, the Circuit Court of Hancock County rendered judgments against Andrew Jackson Jr. totaling $36,727. Among the petitioners were Asa Russ, John Toulme, and  J.F.H. Claiborne. The largest debt was to W. R Adams, in the amount of $28,980. [257] The Civil War having intervened, Jackson’s properties were not offered for sale until the first Monday of February 1870. Four parcels, including Sea Song and Clifton plantations, were auctioned to the highest bidder at the courthouse door. Roderick Seal purchased the first for $1,000, and the second for $3,650. Seal also bought the other parcels, one of 40 acres for $50 and the other of 80 acres for $100.[258]

Samuel would never know whether the place at Bayou Macon would be paid off in four years. He died of wounds received at the battle of Chickamauga, in his beloved Tennessee on September 19, 1863. He was a 26-year old Captain in the Confederate army. [Cf. Appendix]

Col. Andrew Jackson, III, commanded a Confederate artillery battery at Vicksburg during the war. [259]  On April 17, 1865 at Hermitage, Jackson Jr. died of lockjaw, caused by a hunting wound.[260]   After the war, Sarah was able to have Samuel’s remains returned to the Hermitage, where he is buried near his father and grandfather.

Under a special arrangement with the state of Tennessee, Sarah continued to live out her days at the Hermitage as a “tenant at will.”[261] She died in 1887, and is also buried at Hermitage.  Samuel’s brother, Col. Andrew Jackson III, survived the Civil War. He spent ten months in a prison camp in the North before returning to the Hermitage. He was the longest resident of the Hermitage, remaining until 1893. He died in 1906.

Though the Jacksons’ difficulties are an unfortunate part of history, the little corner of southwest Mississippi where they lived represents more than the brief presence of folks who bore a great name. It also harbors the residuals of a family who strove mightily against natural and financial adversities.  Some of their dreams and ambitions were surely left on this place. 

 

Chapter 24  –   Christian Koch and his Family

 

The Koch Family at Bogue Homa

 

About the time that the Jacksons were moving to Louisiana, almost oblivious to the omens of war, Christian Koch was busy raising his family on a mid-size farm and tending to their other interests, including a modest logging operation. Their home was on a small bayou that today is usually dry, but in the 19th century was a tributary of the Pearl.

Born in 1811 in Denmark, Christian Koch is shown in Danish records as having been baptized in November of the year of his birth, confirmed in the period 1825-26, and vaccinated against small pox the following year. A Danish Sea captain, he visited the area around Pearlington in Hancock County, Mississippi in the early 1830s. In 1831, Koch, in his diary, described Pearlington as a small, insignificant town, where the only trade was in wood and cotton with New Orleans. He commented that it was situated “…in the midst of a large pine forest owned mostly by the government.”[262]

In 1841, Christian married Annette, the daughter of Jane Netto of New Orleans.  She was only 15 years old.  They made their home at Logtown, on land purchased from Asa Russ in 1854.[263]  Their farm was called Bogue Homa, the original – and current – name for the bayou that bounds Logtown on the north.  The Bogue Homa estate was a sizable homestead, which had a lake, fruit trees, and beautiful gardens (Baxter 1991).  Koch sent back to his home seeds that he collected during his numerous travels as a sea captain.

Far from being in sympathy with the Southern views on slavery and secession, the Koch family and their descendants were very prominent in furthering the welfare of African Americans in the Logtown area.  Koch and his family were vehement abolitionists and even encouraged their eldest son to defect from the Confederate Army. The Koches were instrumental in providing land parcels to many African Americans.  In these transactions, however, Koch stipulated that the recipient could not sell or lease “their” land without his permission.  Examples of these transactions are recorded mostly in 1880 in the Hancock County Courthouse and include: Christian Koch to Edmund Christmas for about 2 acres (Deed Book L, 38); to Charles Christmas for 2.25 acres (Deed Book N, 104); to Willis Vaughn, 25 years old, his wife and infant son, ¾ of an acre (Deed Book N, 572) and to Sam Butler 2 acres (Deed Book N, 104).  The Christmases are listed in the 1880 census as laborers and were heavily involved in the local lumber business for decades.  Willis Vaughn may have been a descendant of Usan Vaughn, a slave blacksmith from Pearlington, who developed the high wheeled wide tread “carrylog” that greatly facilitated the logging of wetlands.

Continuing his father’s initiative, Emil Koch donated land to the Niro Light Lodge, Knights of Pithias #235, 13 October 1906 (Deed Book B6, 53), to the Trustees of the Logtown Colored School, April 14, 1919 (Deed Book D1, 141), and to the Bogue Homa Baptist Church on 29 July 1898, land situated on the west side of the public road running between Pearl and Gainesville (Deed Book A1: 158). On March 2, 1959, Koch’s descendants, the Bierings and Lutkens, donated to the Hancock County School Board the lot originally given to the Baptist Church (Deed Book M1, 158).

Christian and Annette Koch lived out their long lives at Bogue Homa. He died after his wife, in 1893, and is buried next to her on a small, serene knoll just west of the original homestead. The cemetery here is in two sections, one smaller but older than the other. They are on high ground, just before the terrain drops off into ravines, and not far from the site of the Koch house.

The Koches were letter writers. Christian wrote letters, Annette wrote letters, and the children wrote letters. Even cousins and other friends and relatives were letter writers. Remarkably, hundreds of these letters have been collected and preserved. The Koch family left a large volume of family papers, now housed in the Hill Memorial Library at Louisiana State University. These afford much insight into 19th century life in general, but particularly about the effects of the Civil War.

Using one short period as an example, one may note that  from October 20, 1864 to the end of the year, no less than 16 Koch family letters are preserved.  These report various actions of the Confederate cavalry. Some letters simply mention its presence, often expressing fear for the safety of sons Elers and Emil, and also for Christian. Other letters tell of the killing of Mrs. Blackman at Bay St. Louis by drunken cavalry (December 7th), their disorderly conduct at a Negro dance held in Bay St. Louis (December 7th); and catching of 25 men at Wackia Bluff (November 14th). Another said also that six cavalrymen had been at John Claiborne’s for whisky.

The letters give much evidence of desertion. This, together with Christian Koch’s repugnance to the war and Claiborne’s disloyalty to the South, may give pause to today’s proud sons of Mississippi.

 

The Omnipresent Mr. Claiborne

 

It is information contained in such primary evidence that serves to correct the record in some cases. This is particularly true in the case of John Claiborne, whose name appears often in the Koch papers, sometimes confirming that his neighbors were aware of his outside dealings. The letters demonstrate a cordialness between Koch and Claiborne in the early part of the war, but as the war years moved on, Koch developed a decided animosity and distrust for him.

 

The Rebels of Hancock County

 

It must be considered that Hancock County’s support of the Confederacy was far from unanimous. To begin with, in 1851, Hancock and Harrison Counties were two of the few southern counties in which the majority voted for the Union party, devoted to preservation of the Union. Most southern counties, incuding Jackson, Marion, and Pike, all near to Hancock, had voted for Democratic States Rights, which ultimately backed Jefferson Davis and secession.[264]

Also, it should be noted that counties in southwest Mississippi had less slaves than most other parts of the state. Hancock’s settlers, by and large, were small farmers and lumbermen, with only a small minority having more than a few slaves. By 1861, “there was considerable opposition to secession particularly in the Piney Woods,” according to Bettersworth. “For non-slaveholders in the Piney Woods, the status quo…was sufficient. Secession might bring war and eventually with no attraction…to poor whites, whose main concern was that of sitting under their own vines and fig trees, of remaining in the slaveholding South but not of it.”[265]  In the election of October 7, 1861, both Harrison and Hancock Counties voted overwhelmingly against Pettus, the secessionist governor.[266]

While the Koch letters often allude to deserters, and in fact indicate their social acceptance, there are other indications that many served – and died – for their state. Moreover, many of the deserters may not have been local. As Napier points out, “After Union forces captured the Gulf Coast and New Orleans, Confederate and state authorities virtually abandoned the Piney Woods, concentrating on defense of the strategic railroads and rivers of Central and North Mississippi…As a result, the Lower Pearl fell prey to pillage and robbery by deserters from both armies, draft-dodgers, jayhawkers, and other scum washed up by the war.”[267]  This fact is graphically borne out in the Koch papers.

Statistically, the young men of the Lower Pearl responded like the rest of the state to the early calls. In 1861, four companies were enlisted from the area. Of  931 eligible males from Hancock and Marion Counties, 367 enlisted, or 39.4%. While it is true that the desertion rate of Hancock and Marion was higher than the state as a whole (24.7% vs. 14%), almost one of five who served from the lower Pearl region died in the war. By the end of the war, 43.7% of Marion and Hancock County soldiers were still with their units.[268]

This intense cavalry activity probably reflected Confederate orders from earlier in the year to clean out the Pearl River area. Orders that possibly originated on April 25, 1864 from Lieutenant General Leonidas Polk,[269] and came through Thomas M. Jack, Assistant Adjutant General. They commanded J. S. Scott and Colonel Lowery to move against deserters and conscripts, to picket crossings of the river, and to prevent “all persons between the ages of seventeen and fifty from passing across the river….” They were to “…ferret out the skulkers, and you will see that such young men as have good social positions and have hitherto evaded service be not spared…and if you are resisted by force of arms you will not hesitate to punish the offender with death upon the spot.” Interestingly, the orders included an observation that “…the country which is the theatre of this campaign has been sadly demoralized and none other than the most vigorous and decisive measures will serve to impress its inhabitants with a sense of their duties to their government and to bring it back to sound and healthful moral condition.”

Three companies of the 9th Louisiana Cavalry Battalion were posted near the mouth of the Pearl River to prevent escape to Fort Pike.[270]

 

 

The Koch Letters and Other Writings

 

Together, the letters tell a narrative wonderfully revealing the lives of these early settlers of the Pearl River area. They cover from the prosaic to the tragic, from the mundane facts of farming to the ugliest tales of the Civil War. The lives of the Koch family are intertwined with other important settlers covered in this study.

Besides the fact that the letters reveal several fascinating personalities and happenings, they are themselves fascinating in a number of ways. The sheer magnitude is a case in point, as is the period covered from 1829 to 1883. Moreover, the directness of the information exchanged during troubled times is remarkable. So too is the fact of the letters crossing back and forth across Union lines during much of the war.

For the purposes of this study, the more important letters are dated from the late 1840’s to the end of the Civil War. In addition, other interesting documents include Christian’s diary, his daybook containing calculations of his “nett profits” during the war, and his final will.

Koch’s diary paints a good word picture of Pearl River and Pearlington during the 1830s and so the following parts are presented verbatim:

 

Pearlington lies about seventy English miles from New Orleans, eight miles up Pearl River which flows into Lake Borgne and is connected with Ponchartrain <sic> by a small sound. As far up the river as Pearlington the banks are low, without woods, and over grown with tall grass or reeds and cattle live here.

In the spring fire is put to the grass and it is a very beautiful sight in the night to see the dry marsh burn. The vegetation is so strong that in a few days’ time it is again covered wirth dry grass. Above the town the country is still very flst, but thickly grown with woods.

Strange about this river are the so-called “bayous,” small streams with quiet waters which are connected with the river. They are no wider at the mouth than at the source; are often three or four miles long, and very deep….

The soil in the woods is very poor, but higher up the river there are some cotton plantaions. At last we got our load of wood and sailed lagain to New Orleans.

We had several Indians with us, who brought deer hides to town. They dressed in skin trousers and moccasins, and all had woolen blankets to wrap up in instead of shirts. The women and men dressed alike, only the women had long hair. They are not so handsome as the Soouth American Indians, but look more intelligent and savage, but they never had any money until they sold their skins, so they left their guns as security. They all have guns except the children who had bows and arrows.

 

It was sometime after writing the above that Christian decided to settle in the Logtown area. Because he traveled extensively as a sea captain, they corresponded frequently and in detail. Even though he was raised in Denmark, his English was excellent. Annette was the daughter of Jane Netto of New Orleans, [271]and it appears that Annette and her sisters also wrote well, grammatically and with good spelling. Presumably they had been educated in New Orleans. Many of the letters are folded in such a way as to have been made into envelopes and then sealed with wax.

One need not peruse the letters long before evidence of the hard times of the 19th century becomes evident. In May 1849, Annette received word of the unexpected death of her grandmother, and although the cause of death is not given, the presence of cholera in New Orleans is mentioned.

One month later, on June 29, 1849, Christian Koch wrote from Denmark, apparently commenting on the news he had received from Annette. In his letter, he mentioned many deaths in Pearlington: “It is else a terrible lot of opeople there is dead since I left you, if they continue to die thus, will there be nobody left in Pearlington when I get back. It was a terrible history, that about the [illegible], I have never heard of such a thing before; What kind of animall <sic> can it have been? It could not have been a panther because it would have killed the baby with one stroke of the paw.” Obviously, the many deaths mentioned were not caused by the “animall,” but may well have been attributes to cholera.

In September, Christian wrote to Annette from Hamburg, Germany, and expressed concern for the health of son Elers, their first-born who would have been age 5 at the time. “I am quite anxious about poor Elers….I know you will send for a doctor if you find anything serious the matter with him, although I expect you are as good a Doctor….Oh if I could only fly home.” It is at the same time that Christian expresses concern about having the children vaccinated.

Christian Koch’s letters often mix business concerns with personal matters. In the same September letter, he requested that Hursey postpone making arrangements for the hauling of lumber, and suggested that Hursey furnish family provisions in lieu of payment of note.[272] This is evidence that Koch was already engaged in lumbering, as well as pursuing a profession as a sea captain.

Letters from the 1850s contain a mix of positive and negative commentary. One very negative letter, dated June 18, 1851, is from a friend, A. L. Howard of New Orleans, to Annette; it is noteworthy if only for its modern idiom: “…this is not the place it’s cracked up to be.” I n February 1852, Christian was worried, while en route to Denmark, about Elers learning the multiplication tables.

Two years later, in April 1854, Christian was being delayed at Nassau to testify in court about a shipwreck; he took the opportunity to tell Annette that Hancock County is a “great deal better place than here,” that sponges were Nassau’s only export, and that “all they have for sale in the market would not feed us for a week.”

Meanwhile Annette again heard from Howard that New Orleans was continuing to have problems. Although there were a few cases of cholera among whites, it was prevalent among Negroes, and there was much scarlet fever, mumps and whooping cough.

On July 4, 1854, Koch’s letters from Denmark reveal concerns about his logging business. He had believed that someone named Dawsey (not listed in the census) had rafted all the logs on the Poplar Branch before he left, and only had to deliver them to Asa Russ. He instructed Annette, “You know he had already got paid for 60 logs – The old scamp, you tell him, that as soon as I come home, I shall sell the land to the first man who will buy it.” On July 14th, Koch again expressed disappointment with Dawsey, as he told Annette that he had depended upon that money to pay Asa Russ.[273]  He now supposed that it would take “all we have at Bogue Homa to pay him.”

The Koch family finances had improved by September 1854 in only a miniscule way. Annette wrote that they were in debt, and that she only got “$30 dollars” for logs cut on the Asa Russ land. “I cannot help being frightened when I think what a long time it will take to get out of debt … you will know by this time that the schooner has been laid up and we had to go still more in debt to get things to live on as I have no money at all what little I had I had to pay out to get some wood cut and it was cut on J. Russ land and he had hauled it off without telling me anything about it. He has payed me for what logs he could get which was 92 for which he paid me $30 and there is only nine more in the bioue…Thank God for one thing and that is that I am not in a family way.”

Much of the commerce of the Pearl River area was connected to New Orleans, about 40 miles away by water.  In between was situated Fort Pike at the Rigolets, a pass opening into Lake Pontchartrain.

 

1861

 

Fort Pike: a Pivotal Point in the Koch Lives

 

Soon after the fall of New Orleans to the federal navy in April 1862, the lives of the settlers along the Pearl were drastically changed.  Fort Pike, which guarded the pass to New Orleans from the Pearl River, had been taken by the Confederacy on January 14, 1861, twelve days in advance of the Louisiana legislature passing an ordinance of secession.  On February 2, General P.G.T. Beauregard wrote to the Louisiana Military Board from New Orleans, calling the Mississippi River "our most vulnerable point," and suggesting that "the guns, chassis, and carriages of Fort Pike, where they are not required at present ought to be sent at once to two forts on the river."[274]

A document dated April 20, 1861 at Montgomery, signed by Major and Chief of Ordinance, C. S. Army, J Gorgas, lists armaments at Fort Pike as follows: 24-pounder guns – 18; 24- pounder howitzers (flank defense) – 9; total 27; 5,600 pounds of cannon powder and good supply of balls, strap shot and cannister.

 

1862

Fort Pike having been substantially disarmed, its occupation probably was not a major task for federal forces after Farragut bombarded the two forts mentioned above by Beauregard in April 1862.  On April 27, Union Forces recaptured Fort Pike.  On May 1, Union troops occupied New Orleans.

On the same day as the recapture of Fort Pike, General Benjamin F. Butler arrived in New Orleans as Commander of the Department of the Gulf.[275]  General Butler, during his stay in New Orleans, had the inscription placed of the equestrian statue of Jackson, "The Union Must and Shall Be Preserved," probably echoing Jackson's words when South Carolina threatened Secession in the 1830's.[276]

Fort Pike thus became the outpost marking the strategic eastern extreme of New Orleans, and separating Louisiana from Mississippi.  By November of 1862, General Butler had tightened restrictions in and out of New Orleans. On November 8, a decision was made in Washington to replace Butler with General Nathanial Banks, who continued and possibly augmented such restrictions.

It is probable that it was during this period that Christian Koch began to have difficulty continuing to operate his schooner and to get passes to go home to Bogue Homa and environs, thus necessitating communications by mail when possible.  This would account for the paucity of letters prior to September 1862.

By the time of the fall of New Orleans, it was evident that the Koch family had become intimately involved with the daily workings of a war of which they would have preferred to have no part. By this time, Koch was engaged in the sailing of his schooner, the Experiment.[277] He wrote to Annette from New Orleans on September 10, 1862, urging his sons to avoid military conscription.  It must be remembered that Koch was Danish and had no sympathy for the Confederate cause. (He had mentioned in a letter dated July 15, 1854, that there was more liberty in Denmark than in the southern states.) It is not surprising that he was working with the Federals. Nevertheless, he reported that he was unable to get a pass for two or three days, and then it would be only to Toomer’s mill, which was at or near Fort Pike, in the Rigolets. That too was in Union hands, but no matter how close the villages on the Pearl River were, they were off limits without a pass.

Meanwhile, Confederate authorities were expressing keen interest in the area along the Pearl.  A review of the letter from Capt. John Cavanaugh to Lt. Gen. Pemberton dated Novembver 1, 1862 may be in order at this point. It deals in details with the dealings of the people of the Pearl River area. (The entire letter is reproduced in the Biography section, above, specifically in the study of John Claiborne.)

Koch expressed grave concern for his children in his September 10th letter mentioned above. By this time, his eldest son, Elers, was 18; the next was Emil, who was 16; among others, there was also Lucy, about 3 years old. Koch reported that he had written to Union Col. Bridgeman, and begged him to send medicine for Lucy and to deliver the letter. It is apparent that the colonel complied, but it is also evident that Koch not only trusted the Union colonel, but also banked on his letter not being intercepted by those of Confederate sympathies. His concern for Lucy was innocent enough: “If Lucy’s eye is [illegible] put out, all the medicine in the world will not restore it….” He was referring to the injury reported earlier that was done by some kind of an “animall.” While no follow-up letters were found to tell of Lucy’s accident and subsequent healing, family tradition has included information to the extent that Lucy lived the rest of her life with a disfigured right eye.[278]

But his advice regarding his sons is at a minimum desperate. “If they have not yet taken Elers, send him for God’s sake —– let him stay in the swamp with J. Parker. I think Emil had also better keep out of their way as I hear [they] take boys from 16 years.” This is the first recorded urging of many to follow in which Koch advised his sons to avoid military conscription.

In the same letter, Koch reported that his schooner the Experiment had been seized by the Federals, and that he expected to be paid $15 per day for its use; he feared that it would be sent to dangerous waters, and estimated its value at $3,500. Because he could not get a pass, he was unable to accept the $600 offer to transport “registered enemies” out of the area. Meanwhile he indicated that he was able to send supplies via J.F. H. Claiborne.

 

1863

Sometime before April 3, 1863, Elers was conscripted. On that date, he wrote from Camp Johnson at Monticello in Lawrence County, Ms. that there was not much to eat, amounting to perhaps ½ lb. of bacon and some flour per day. The townspeople helped by giving potatoes and molasses. He indicated that for a five day period “coming up” they had “nothing to eat but what they brought.” He also mentioned that a steamboat had exploded, scalding 22 men from Brookhaven.

On April 8, 1863, Christian Koch stated that the Experiment was again seized by the Federals. A few days later, he wrote that he had taken women and children to Madisonville under a flag of truce. In a second letter, dated April 13, he sent money that he owed the Lotts, amounting to $30 plus $2.50 in Colombian money. He also cursed the “rascals” who started the war, and asked his wife to share their supplies with friends.

Annette wrote on April 16th, announcing that George Parker had been taken. On the same day, her husband sent a letter stating again that he expected $15 per day for the use of his schooner, and that he was sending home supplies on the Cloud to be picked up at Claiborne’s place.

Elers again wrote to his parents, on April 20, 1863, from Camp Jackson: “There is no such thing as furlough anymore. They are pretty strict here they make a fellow tow the mark they drill us from 2 to 6 hours a day on horseback, we have not got any tents only 4 tents in the company…We get enough rations just to make out by buying some things are pretty scarce to buy though. We have enough for our horses to eat barely, when you write to me leave some plank paper for me to write back again. I have no need for anything yet I have spent only $15, 10 of them on a bridle.”

The next day Annette sent word to Christian and informed him of still more privations. They had not had meat and coffee since he had left except for one sheep. She mentioned “Old Jacks,” sometimes referred to as “Jacko,” who had been doing some work for her having to do with boards. She stated: “Old Jacks, as long as he is here I will try to feed him and his family. They are poor, poor. Mary looks like an old woman…Jacko will never get done with the boards…Got little meat and coffee from Charly. Luther very kind. Wrote up to Johnson for more corn; Clarisse needs food. [Need] Muscheeto bar for Stanley’s bed.” She further reported that “The Federals have taken all your lumber that was at Weston mill, perhaps they will pay you for it if you ask them at the Fort.”

Regardless of how dire their circumstances, all in the Koch family from time to time manage to convey some pleasant news. On April 24, daughter Laurentze, then age 17, sent word to her father that the roses covered the trees.[279] She also proudly announced that she had “fixed up the school house garden again,” and that she was teaching school. She had learned the song “Prairie Flower,” to sing to her father.

Annette’s letter to Christian of April 29 injected for the first time another ugly part of the war: desertion. She related Eler’s statement that the officers are very strict and that there were many desertions. Also mentioned for the first time was the subject of substitutes. She told Christian that Sam Favre had put in a substitute and Luther’s substitute was dead. Of Favre she said, “you think truly of S. Favre, I do believe he is a mean man and not to be trusted, but how many since this war began we have found out to be two-faced.” She then advised that since he was so apt to tell the truth he should be silent. The letter went on to say that the Yankees burned all the schooners on Mulatto Bioue <sic> and that they had done much damage to Gainesville and “nearly broke Poitevent up, Monette also and some other families. There is talk that the government will take all the cattle, they put price down to 10 cents pound and if not ok, government will take anyway.”       Jacko was still not finished with the first set of boards.

Annette continued to describe a litany of problems. Wagons passed by with cornmeal, cloth, chickens for the Bay, 70 miles away. (In this case, “the Bay” would have been Mobile, not Bay ST. Louis.)  Emil’s trip to Johnson took three days by yalle boat. Henry would not take Confederate dollars. Trees were hard to find; they got them out of Duckman’s place. There was a big hill in the swamp. Birds caused corn to be replanted four times. Pepper tea for worms, which were bad, but it did not work. The hogs filled the place with fleas.

But there was also pleasant news. “I do wish you could see the flower garden; you never saw the likes of the roses…poppies, larkspur, large red verbinia.”. Laurentze had gone with Marselline[280] to get dewberries at the Jackson Place.[281]

And the war continued, not just at Jackson and Vicksburg, but in their yards and inside their homes. Emil took to the woods. A Yankee with a cocked gun asked for Henry’s room key. “N. papers don’t tell all that the Yankees done to Gainsville <sic>.” Annette needed city money, not Confederate; corn was down to 1 ½ bushels, “but we have to give $4.” “We had very little school, as all the children help in the fields.” “You say you are sorry that Emil run away when the Yankees came up here, but if you had been at home, and heard how mad they were and making conscripts of all such lads as he, and all the Negro men they could catch.” George (probably Annette’s brother) was over in the swamp. “He has a miserable time of it dodgeing about and scared to death all the time.”    

May 8th was a brighter day, at least for the Koch family. The government had again chartered the schooner to carry out registered enemies. They were to be taken to Madisonville or Mandeville and had to leave by the 15th. Christian wished the Yankees would take the country so they would know to whom they belonged. Again, he could not get a pass to go home and did not know why. A few days later, the quartermaster “promised that when he was done with me he would give me a recommendation to Gen. Banks to get a pass.”

When Koch read in the paper on or about May 11th that Grant was marching on Jackson, he told Annette “…Elers may get into the fight. If they do, I hope to God, they may be beat, and dispersed, so they all can run away and come home, which I suppose most of them would do.” In the same letter he mentions that his schooner, the Exposition [282] would be sent to dangerous waters possibly near Berwick. Also, the Alice and the Venus[283] were carrying lumber for the government; Mickel was one of them.

He instructed Annette to borrow $200 Confederate from Luther to pay Henry. He mentioned General Banks and Captain Bridgeman, and said that the papers had reported Grant was marching on Jackson.

Two days later, Annette was able to send a letter to Christian by way of the Alice. She reported that a letter she had received had been opened. Nervous, she burned some letters and questioned him as to whether his letter was sealed. Felton had brought news and carried a letter to Elers for her. She also engaged J. Graves to go to the dock to get a letter arriving on the Alice.[284] 

Again wishing that Elers would desert she comments: “So many have come home that it looks like it is no shame but that they just do right….” A letter of May 14 from Christian to Annette indicated that his schooner was sent to the forts to carry water from the Pearl River.[285]

 

In April, 1863, Banks…issued severe orders, telling registered enemies of the Union to leave the territory within 15 days, requiring the Oath of Allegiance of all who remained, and promising the death penalty to all who gave supplies to the Confederate Army.

Garvey and Widmer, Beautiful Crescent, p. 148.

 

May 15th saw major changes. Christian communicated to Annette that Elers had been sent to catch conscripts. Christian announced that he could not come home, for he had taken the oath. He admonished her not to tell anyone, as he was worried that people would disturb her and not think he was a “good Southerner.” Possibly in the same vein, he asked that George have Justice of the Peace J. Favre “make out a deed for the 20 Acres of land so I can sign it as soon as I get home for fear that they might confiscate my property.” In the same letter he mentioned that Confederate dollars can be bought for 40 cents on the dollar, and that St. Tammany currency is worthless in New Orleans. Apparently in answer to something Annette had said, he assured her that the Yankees did not steal their cattle for they would have done so openly.

Charley White had been sent to Mr. White to ask Charley Sherwood about Elers.  Christian had heard that fifty cavalry had taken French Leaf and Jim Miller would be turned out of office. Men were coming home all the time: G. Brown, J. White, John Bradford were in Gainesville.

May 18th, 1863   Seige of Vicksburg begins

 

On May 16th, L.E. Parker sent word to Christian that Nettie had given birth to another son at 9 a.m. He weighed 12 pounds.[286]

A few days later, Annette confirmed the birth of their son, who was blond and blue-eyed. She added that Jim Graves had just come in from Gainesville and said that the Yankees had taken Jackson, but that Elers had not been in the fight. His cavalry outfit was “scattered between here and Monticello” She again wished that Elers would desert.

Letters of the next few days contain no acknowledgement of the message regarding the birth. Christian does discuss Claiborne, the Alice and the Venus, however, without any indication of suspicion of intrigue. He wrote: “Claiborne must indeed have a good deal of influence… or he never could have got out so many things.” He further reported that Claiborne had sent about $4000 of goods to Confederates. Each vessel leaving the Basin[287] was to get between $300 and $600 to carry registered enemies. There was also mention that the Alice came over with Mickel to Fort Pike, and that Mitchell would let him take the things Christian had bought for Nettie. He said he would ask Capt. John of the Venus. Christian regretted “not getting the load to Claiborne” feeling that he could have run the Pearl River all summer [288]

As previously stated, Gen. Banks had issued a stern order in April 1863 requiring the oath of allegiance to those who remained in New Orleans. He also made supplying the Confederate army a capital offense. This order must have been known by Claiborne, making the $4,000 of goods to the Confederates an audacious move, one that he could not have made confidently without his agreements with Banks.

On May 19th, Christian wrote Annette that he was taking registered enemies to Pascagoula for $300, but “will not make much of it…my pass will nearly cost me $100 and then I have to buy [illegible] and handline and provision, I will not make over $100….I send you 20$ in gold and 55$ in paper. Use the Louisiana Bank money as it is not considered any good here.” He then stated that he had been discharged by the United States.

May 21, 1863, Seige of Port Hudson begins.

 In the next few days, daughter Laurentze apprised her father that there was cavalry in Napoleon, and that Emil had gone to check on the schooner there. At her request, he inquired about Elers and found that he had been in the Jackson fight, which lasted five hours, although the story of the fight was said by some not to have been factual.

Christian wrote to Annette on May 22, explaining that he wanted to return to the United States Quartermaster department because he was in debt, and expressed fear of returning home because of the cavalry. He had sent stuff for her on the Venus and was disappointed he had not received a letter from Evans and Claiborne. Claiborne, he wrote, made Evans leave in a hurry because of the Cavalry.

The following day, Christian reported that Claiborne had hurried his vessel off for fear of the cavalry. Also, he expressed worry that he had not heard anything of the baby. This indicates that he had not received Parker’s letter of the 16th nor the letter of May 20th from Annette, saying that the baby was blond and blue-eyed and she would like to call him Peter.  In an earlier letter, Christian seemed to mention that Elers was home. He now stated that if it was not for the oath he – Elers – had taken for the South, Christian would encourage him to “take to the swamp.”

A few days later, Christian informed Annette that he could not get a pass yet, and was afraid to return home until he heard it was safe. He said there were many rumors, especially for the safety of Capt. John of the Venus; the lighthouse keeper of [illegible] Island. Someone had told him to stay out of Pearlington as the Federals had laid a trap. [289] He reported having heard that the Confederates had whipped the Yankees at Jackson and Ship Island was taken and all the people were killed.

On May 27th, Annette told Christian that Toomer’s was the place from which letters leave. She reported that Frank Netto had come home and was very tired; he had retreated from Vicksburg, leaving five months pay behind. Netto said that nearly the whole company had come to the Bay. Having left the army in great confusion, he expected that the Feds already had Vicksburg. A note in the margin seems to read “deserter.”  The Venus had come by and Jim Graves brought letters. In another report that Claiborne thought that the cavalry was after his vessel, she mentioned Capt. John. The connection between Claiborne and the Venus and Capt. John is unclear, but again she could not understand his concern because the cavalry was not in the vicinity. She mentioned that Capt. Miller was in Jackson, and so concluded that Elers was there. However, some said the Yankees had taken Miller, and she therefore worried that Elers was captured too.

Once more in the letter of May 27th, Nettie mentioned that the baby had been born. Other news included that nothing was heard from Ship Island, and that John Kinmore and Joe Bates were deserters.

On June 17, more news had been received about Elers. He is stationed with Horatio Weston, who has written of skirmishes on the Big Black. Jim Graves had brought the letter.

Emil also wrote to his father to explain that Mr. Weston had brought the letter to Annette to read. In addition, he reported on the “ploughing” of the turnip patch, saying that they had “commenced to make potato ridges.” He had gone coon hunting; they had caught a possum and ate it. Frank Pape and John were ploughing.

In mid-June, several letters told of the possibility that Christian would return with a load for Claiborne. He feared that his schooner would have been confiscated had gunboats caught him leaving the Pearl. It may be wondered whether Christian’s boat was allowed to pass because he was serving Claiborne. Other reports indicated that the State of Louisiana’s currency was no longer acceptable, and that wounded soldiers were coming from Port Hudson.

One letter to Annette revealed that the custom officer at Fort Pike had confiscated a letter. It may be inferred from the same letter that the Koch’s family finances had improved, as Christian had paid $28 for a piano for Laurentze.

A letter from Christian to his wife on June 26 asked, “If you should see O. Favre, ask him iof he will sell that [illegible] timber that he has in Pearlington and at what price.” Shifting to war news, he said that The Confederates were trying to take the Opelousas Railroad, that 100 “guerilla” Confederates out of 500 had been killed, but they were holding out well at Port Hudson. He believed that passes would be discontinued until after Port Hudson falls, and wished that the Yankees would take Vicksburg.

On June 27th, Annette reported to her husband that Col. Claiborne thanked him for the papers. She indicated that they were unable to get many items for people because of difficulty in getting a permit. “I am afraid if they won’t give any pass till they take Port Hudson that it will [be] a long time as they say over here that the Federals will never be able to take it.” She wrote also of the heat, the planting of watermelon between the corn, and the fact that “The negros wont cut wood for the confederates at all and they wont cut for less than four bits in city money.” Almost incidentally, she advised that everyone in the family has the Cholera Morbus.[290]

Christian wrote on the following day that he could not return because of guerrillas, but inquired of the family’s needs because “those who have taken the oath can send anything.”  On July 1, Annette wrote that the chickens and beans were all stolen, but the guerrillas had left. She stated again that she would like Elers to desert. Christian had said the same thing in a letter about two weeks before. On a number of occasions the context of their previous statements seems to be that they would wish that he would desert, but because he had taken the oath – the Confederate one – they were reluctant to so advise. 

 

July 4, 1863The Confederates formally surrender Vicksburg, Mississippi, to the Union army, and nearly 29,000 men under Pemberton’s command march out of the city. It is hoped that news of this Union triumph will hasten the end of the Port Hudson siege and that the entire region of the Mississippi will soon be under the control of the Federal army.  John S. Bowman, The Civil War Day by Day, p. 120

 

On July 4th, Emil and Laurentze went to Napoleon for a baptism. John Orr[291] and Stanley hunted three coons. Emil helped Mr. Phillips at the blacksmith shop.

On July 6, Christian wrote to Annette, quoting General Emory's[292] order regarding a curfew.  It is recorded that on that date General Banks left Port Hudson and “…caught a train for New Orleans.  With him rode the 52-year old Brig. Gen. William H. Emory, whose health had failed in the field. … In New Orleans, Banks gave Emory the task of defending the city with a stripped-down garrison left behind by Thomas Sherman." (Foote, p. 394-5). General Emory's order forbade the gathering of more than three people and set a curfew at 9 pm; he thought the order was passed because secessionists were in high spirits because Port Hudson had not fallen.

Annette again sent a letter to Christian aboard the Experiment on June 16th, and said that Charles McArthur was taking a letter to Elers. She also mentioned that Mikel was to leave and go in the swamp.  One month later Annette said that she had learned there was a company in Bay St. Louis trying to catch deserters.

 

Devil’s Swamp: a Refuge

 

On July 22nd a letter from Christian said that he thought Elers must have left the Confederate army. He also advised that there were guerrillas near Claiborne.

It would appear that within the next week, Elers had returned, as Christian on August 1st told Annette to watch out for guerrillas and to tell Elers to hide out in the swamp. He also expressed a desire for Emil to come to him if things got bad; he had seen the Jefferson Davis proclamation ordering out all under 48 years.

Twice in early August, there were comments that the Venus had not left yet. Then, on August 5th, apparently in a letter from son Stanley, Christian was told that the Venus was to take her last trip.

Also on August 5th, Emil wrote to his father to say that three cavalry passed by the stable coming from Uncle Luther’s. They took the cattle, went to Luther’s to brand them and ran when Elers met the Yankees at Luther’s. It is not clear whether these were Confederate cavalrymen who ran at the sight of Federals or whether they were simply Federal cavalry who ran when they encountered Elers. A day later Christian feared that Elers had been caught.

On August 9th, Annette explained to her husband that the cavalry made them pen up the cattle to take, except for the oxen and the milk cows, and that the way they found out how many head they had was to see in the records how many were taxed.

It appears that Elers had not been captured. Between August 14th and 16th, his father wrote to Annette: “Elers writes he is going to see Dawsey about telling about my trading with the Yankees. It is no use; it is only the truth and it is not worth while to mind anything he [Dawsey] says. The less we have to do with him the better.” It should be noted that Christian had been feuding with Dawsey for a long time, an incident having been referred to years earlier in a letter of July 4, 1854. He also reported that a Negro had been hung at Wabash Bayou, and that a man he had met who had been taken by guerrillas in Texas said that two of his colleagues had been hung by the foot until they died. He indicated that Capt. John said that the cavalry paid for the cattle they took.

It is evident that regardless of all that is going on, the Koches are still able to do some lumber business. On September 3rd, he informed Annette that he was transacting some business involving both Carre and Weston, who owned and operated local mills. He also spoke of “dangerous mosquitoes” and said “… mosquitoes in woods will protect Elers against Confederate cavalry better than anything else.”

 

1864

Why Annette and Christian Koch were so concerned about their sons can well be understood from a reading of the following letter:

Headquarters, Demopolis, Ala. April 25, 1864

                             Colonel Lowry

COLONEL: The lieutenant general commanding directs me to say that he has received your several reports of you operations with great satisfaction, and conveys to you and your command his thanks for the prompt, efficient, and vigorous manner in which you have conducted your campaign. The impression made by it has been felt, not only in the army but by the whole department, and must tell favorably upon the success of our cause. I am instructed by him to say that he desires you to push your operations down the Pearl Rover toward its mouth; to deploy your troops so as to move upon Honey Island and clear it out, driving such men as may have sought refuge there over into Louisiana. You will enter upon a new campaign against all absentees and conscripts found in East Louisiana and Southwestern Mississippi. In this campaign you will have the cooperation of all the cavalry force under the command of Col. John S. Scott, commanding that district, and the desire of the lieutenant-general is that you make such thorough work in your operations as not to require them to be repeated. The lieutenant-general’s orders to Colonel Scott are that he direct Colonel Dumonteil, commanding cavalry regiment, now in Copiah, to move eastward to Pearl River and to deploy it down that river so s to cover all the crossing as low down as the head of Honey Island, which will be about the point at which your right will rest after crossing that river. He will this be in position to prevent their recrossing above that point. He will, at the same time, post three companies of the Ninth Louisiana Cavalry Battalion, under Captain Amacker, near the mouth of the river, extending across it from Shieldsborough to Mandeville. These companies will prevent the escape to Fort Pike on the lake shore. From Mandeville he will order four other cavalry companies, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Hill, to picket along the lakeshore extending westward from the mouth of the Amite. From this point the regiment of Colonel Powers will be posted up the Amite, so as to picket it above Port Hudson. This line will run generally parallel with the Mississippi and within 7 miles of the river at Baton Rouge. Upon Colonel Powers’ extreme left Colonel Scott’s regiment will be posted so as to extend to the river below Bayou Sara. A cordon of pickets will thus be established down Pearl River to its mouth; thence along the lake shore to within a short distance of the Mississippi River; thence northward of that river to the Homo Chitto. This cordon will prevent the escape either to New Orleans or west of the Mississippi. After crossing the Pearl River with your command you will deploy your troops so as, in conjunction with the cavalry which will close in and co-operate with you, to drive the men you are pursuing northward and make their escape impossible. You will give instructions to arrest every man capable of bearing arms from seventeen to fifty, and to concentrate them at Jackson for organization and distribution. As you pass on up the river you will keep well on to the Mississippi, so as to clear out the bottoms and as far as possible the villages along its banks. In the prosecution of this campaign you are allowed to exercise a sound discretion in the execution of its details. You will nevertheless bear in mind that the country into which you are now sent has been sadly demoralized, and none other than a vigorous and decisive measure will serve to bring it back o a sound and healthful moral condition. It is of the utmost importance that the movement should be made without a day’s delay. You will therefore proceed to its execution immediately upon the receipt of these orders. You will keep yourself in immediate and constant communication with Colonel Scott, so that the co-operation shall be understood. You will keep me advised of the progress every day by telegraph and by written communication by courier more fully every three days. You will also keep an accurate account of all arrests you make.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant

Thos. M. Jack

Assistant Adjutant-Genera

 

The significance of the above letter did not have an immediate effect on the families of the lower Pearl. The Koch letters of the early months of 1864 reflected only incidental happenings. An item of possible significance was included in a letter of April 6th in which Annette asked Christian to send a letter by Colonel Bridgeman at Fort Pike, because the Federals were reported as being at the mill. This would seem to reinforce that Toomer’s Mill was not at Fort Pike, as well as the fact that Bridgeman was again disposed to help the Koch family.

Indicative of another privation is a letter written on April 18th, written on a scrap of paper with writing on all margins.  On April 24th, Annette informed her husband that “Black Jim Mitchell” was forming a U.S. cavalry company. She reported that “… Black Jim Mitchell is making up a company to stay here on the coast, but I don’t think he will get many to join him.”  This was possibly James B. Mitchell of Hancock County who had cast his lot with the Yankees; he was the son-in-law of Judge Daniells and sold the   1920-acre Mitchell Place to Andrew Jackson Jr.

In the same letter, Annette complained, “Times are so hard, and it seems, we have more than our share of callers, for every day of late there has been some one here at meal time.”

Christian wrote to Annette again on April 27th from New Orleans instructing her to pay out city money and to save the greenbacks, stating that the Bank of New Orleans currency was worthless. He further advised her to sell tobacco plugs for no less than $1.00, and to hide cattle from the Confederate cavalry.

On May 9th, Annette wrote to Christian, saying that she heard that he was to be discharged by the government and given a pass to come home. According to her letter, he was now operating the Venus. It may be that it had been confiscated because of the intelligence reports of Claiborne.

Elers, obviously moving safely around the county, told his father in a letter of June 6th: “went down to BSL [Bay St. Louis] last Sunday you must not think hard of me for my sweet heart lives there Miss Nixon, the best girl in the Conf. States.” The letter was sent “Politeness of Mr. Orr.”  The Orr family, according to the censuses, lived very near the Koch farm; Rebecca Nixon was the granddaughter of General Nixon of Pearlington.

The Koch papers contain a premium notice from Mutual Benefit of New Jersey. The premium was due June 16, 1864, in the amount of $112.50; the insured was Christian Koch. The policy number was 2071.[293]

Bad news sometimes did not relate to the war. On July 4th, 1864, Laurentze wrote her father, saying: “Mrs. Pierce’s little boy has got the lockjaw…he was expected to die soon, he stuck a nail in his foot last week.”

Two days later, a letter believed to have been written by Laurentze told the story of deserters’ families coming to Pearlington:

The deserters families all still coming to Pearling <sic> all the poorest kind of people and they say there is a great many more to come yet if there is they will have to take the church house to live in…Two poor women here who were sick they are going up the country they have been over in town to see there <sic> sons they came in here to get some corn bread and milk for her sick husband who was on the road and could not walk to the house…they have been striped of everything they had, it is hard to be traveling in such weather.

 

On July 7, Elers wrote to his father, mentioning the refusal of ladies to attend the July 4th celebration at Fort Pike.[294]

Annette wrote Christian on July 19th, and discussed farming matters. She also advised that anyone going to Fort Pike was reportedly to be killed by Confederate cavalry: “We hear all sorts of rumors about cavalry and yesterday C. Litchfield told me that there was 100 in a Bayou by Kimballs and that they come up the river to kill anyone that they catch going to the Fort, but I don’t believe it.”

In September 1864, Christian appeared to be still operating out of New Orleans. He speculated on the possibility of having to start a new home elsewhere. To Annette he wrote that he planned to leave family provisions and things for neighbors at Nelson’s Mill, at the Rigolets.

 

Nathan Bedford Forrest

 

A letter written September 28 from Annette to Christian informed him of hardships caused by feeding Nathan B. Forrest’s Confederate cavalry.  General Forrest was perhaps the most important cavalry leader of the Confederate army.  Shelby Foote writes that he was "a natural genius," "born to be a soldier." He reports that Forrest had “… thirty horses shot from under him…. and he killed thirty-one men in hand-to-hand combat." (Civil War, Burns: 1990, p. 270).

His exploits were mythical.  Near Tupelo, Ms in June of 1864, outnumbered two to one by 8,000 Union forces, his men accounted for 2,400 enemy dead, wounded, and missing, and in addition captured most of their cannon. (Burns, p. 346).

Prior to the above battle, Forrest had a conflict with his superior, General Braxton Bragg.  Having sworn that he would never again obey Bragg, all of Forrest's men were taken away, and he asked for a transfer.  Confederate President Jefferson Davis approved that request on October 23, 1863.  Forrest was assigned to north Mississippi, where he had authority "to raise and organize as many troops for Confederate service as he finds practicable." He was then an independent commander in a region he knew well." (Foote 1986: p. 820).

By January 1864, Union General William T, Sherman was planning to go through Jackson to Atlanta, crossing the state of Mississippi.  It was said that he had three problems, one being Nathan Bedford Forrest.  By then, Forrest had attracted a considerable number of recruits. (Foote, p. 922).  On April 25, 1864, it is known that Forrest was headquartered at Jackson. (War of Rebellion, Series I, vol. 32, p. 821).

Considered a hero in the South, Forrest was also known for his brutality. Born a son of a blacksmith, he had become a millionaire before the war, partly in the slave trade. (Burns, p. 96) In April of 1864 at Fort Pillow, Forrest and his men butchered some 300 disarmed defenders, black and white.  One witness reported, "I saw four white men and at least 25 Negroes shot while begging for mercy." (Burns, p. 335).

In the end, Forrest accepted defeat and, to his credit led his former soldiers back to the Union. (Burns, p. 346) The war over, in 1867, he became the first Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, but “… quit when his members grew too violent even for him." (Burns, p. 407)

For purposes of this study, it is important to note historical records that show Forrest in and around Mississippi in 1864.  He is known to have been in Tupelo on July 14, in Memphis on May 21, and in Verona, MS on September 16.

 

Vigilantes and Jay Hawkers: the Citizens Committee

 

Letters in September were descriptive of new war terrors. Elers was the first to describe citizens from Columbia arriving in the area to find and murder men involved in cattle theft. Later, Annette deplored the arrival of Confederate cavalry to assist a citizens’ committee in catching thieves. Because of fear of Federal revenge, the citizens asked the cavalry to leave: “I hear that there have been 7 or 8 men already shot and they are still haunting for them; there was some cavalry to help the citizens catch three robbers but they persuaded them not to join them as it might get the Yankees down on them.”

On September 20th, Elers wrote to his father at New Orleans and Fort Pike, defending the citizens’ committee for the murder of nine men: “They will not give passes just now on account of this shooting scrape over here they have killed nine men since they commenced allmost <sic> every body joins the citizens company but I will not join as long as I can help it, although I think they are doing right.”  On the same date Laurentze told her father “…scary times over here, the people are shooting one another down like dogs.”

Christian expectedly did not approve. On July 26th he told Annette that he would prefer Elers to be a conscript than to join the cavalry of murderers. It is apparent that he meant the citizens committee.

Once more, Annette had reported that the Confederate cavalry was seeking conscripts, causing constant excitement and personal fear.  On or about September 28, Elers complained that the cavalry was “pretty thick” and eating all that they have; he hoped that Mobile would be captured and stated that no more “Jay Hawkers” were caught.  On the same day, Christian wrote home from Nelson’s Mill, “Tell me all about it and whom they have killed. Mead tells me they have killed Charles Moody, if they would kill him, they would kill Elers also.”

In an undated letter, Koch urged his son to take to the swamp or go to Fort Pike rather than get picked up by the cavalry. He stated that the cavalry keeps citizens in constant fear by seeking conscripts, exacting money for release, demanding food and lodging, stealing clothing, tobacco cane, logs, cattle, horses and behaving disorderly.

On October 3rd, Annette told her husband that she resented feeding the Confederate cavalry while her sons were forced to hide; she commented tha the wickedness of people was probably caused by war. She continued: “…16 cavalry came by and the boys had just enough time to go into hiding.” She had to feed them all supper; next morning, 6 more came for breakfast; fed horses too. She reported that Jourdan Stuart <sic> and Jess Young were shot “…over the Bioue…on Stewart <sic> they found letter from Charles Moody that he would steal cattle and deliver them to him at a certain place for 5 dollars a head….Lizzy McArthur is wife…she came down to see about having his body taken up and buried at home but she was persuaded to let it stay for some months first. They are buried just where they fell, on that road that we go by Whites just on the side of that hole we go around in the branch.” [295]

Annette’s letter continued, stating that “Old Mike” (Mikel of the Venus) had been freed at Fort Pike by the Colonel. She also related tension caused by the Citizen’s Committee: ““the citizens, in each beat had to choose a Capt., and be ready…and Father Elers has joined them after they had got the Coll. at the Forts approval, They must give the criminal a trial, and must have positive that he is guilty then if the crime is sufficent <sic> for death he is to be shot…I had a scene described to me by an eye witness, of a father and son who was shot close to Mr. Kimballs, how the son told standing by his father that he led in wickedness by his own father and that he had always been bad and he told his poor mother not to grieve for him but now that she would have he whole control of the other children to try and bring them up right and she was hardly out of hearing when they were both shot dead.”

In a separate letter of the same date, Elers defended to his father his personal membership in the Citizens Committee: “You said you did not want me to join the company that has been got up by the citizens to put down these robbers that pretend to be acting under Federal Authority. They are robbing citizens upon there <sic> own hook, I have joined the company…and think it no more than every good citizen should do, you think that Charles Moody was a harmless man, but he had stolen a lot of cattle up the county which he owned when he was sentenced to be shot. George Holloman is Captain of our company, he got permission from Col. Hall through Col. Claiborne’s hands, You think them a lot of cowardly murderers [illegible]. Some of them are but if they should have come and robbed you of every thing you had you would want to shoot them to <sic> .… one of the robbers confirmed before he was shot that they had made a plan to rob every house between Bobichito and Pearlington in one night.”

Remarkably, Elers then changed the subject and reported on the gathering of hay. He then resumed his defense: “They killed Jourdan Steward and Moody that is all that you know the rest was from Jones County[296]….There was 13 of Gen. Forrest’s cavalry here last week the fellow that you sold your Yankee coat to was one of them… I wish they would stay away because it makes The Yankee Hostile to us by being here and we cannot help it, I would set the Yankees on them mighty quick if I have a chance, It would do me good to catch them."  Also on October 3, Laurentze dutifully asked her father’s permission to teach a few pupils; she included information about George Brown’s sister, who was teaching school up river for $25 in silver and board. She also discussed a Negro dance in Bay St. Louis and proudly mentioned that she had learned a Yankee song “Vive l’America.”

October 12th was Christian’s 53rd birthday. Annette wished him a happy birthday. She said that Elers had not attended Citizens Committee meetings. Although he was a member, she deplored the killing of robbers by the committee.

On the same day, Elers wrote to describe his intention to haul 50 logs on each side of the branch. He expressed Northern sympathy and reported that the committee had frightened Bill Favre about some mules. The committee had held three meetings, which he had not attended. Having gone to Gainesville to get his teeth “plugged,” he met one Yankee on the trip, Jim Howze. Elers wrote, “ I am not only one around here…although pretty scarce.”

Letters throughout the month of October continued to express fear of the Confederate cavalry’s frequent visits. At the same time, the Koch family maintained activity in their logging business, sometimes writing about the possibility of their logs being confiscated by Federal gunboats. Trading through fort Pike and Nelson’s Mill continued, but on November 10th and 11th, Christian said that Colonel Hall of Fort Pike probably had been reported by Mitchell to the U.S. Provost Marshall for allowing people to pass the picket line. For this reason, he was unable to get a pass to return home.

On the latter date, Elers sent a letter to his father, to say that Asa Hursey may replace Dawsey. Emil’s concern about having to take to the swamp because of so many cavalry around was considered. Also stated was that they rafted 11 sinking logs.  Three days later, on November 14th, Annette announced that the sons were in fact in the swamp, after Elers was almost caught in the hammock. She conjectured that the cavalry did see the sons but did not want to take them. She fed 10 cavalrymen that day.

 

Elers and Emil Take the Oath

Letters on November 22nd and 26th are confusing as they seem to indicate that Elers had been taken, but that Nettie was able to bribe the cavalrymen into releasing him. There seemed to be another mention that he may have been with his father on board of the Experiment at the time. On the 22nd, Christian reproached his wife for having to pay so much to the cavalry; on the 26th, he expressed his fear that his sons may contract smallpox. He thought that Claiborne prevented his getting a pass, and resented Claiborne having contradicted Nettie’s statement concerning the payment to the cavalry for the release of their son. The same letter indicated that Colonel Hall had already sent for both Elers and Emil right after they had taken the oath.[297] Christian was sorry she did not keep Emil, as “Mitchell has arrived from Toomer’s and tells me that the cavalry has gone, and has not taken any body at all.”

It is evident that Nettie had not yet received the above information, as she wrote Christian on the 27th to tell him that Elers had been captured. On the 28th, the boys wrote to their mother, saying they had taken the oath upon arrival at the Provost Marshall’s office in New Orleans. They expressed love of their home.

On December 4th, Nettie related to her husband that she planned to send a turkey to Colonel Hall at Fort Pike for Christmas. She also described disorderly conduct of the Confederate cavalry at a Negro dance at Bay St. Louis.

On December 7th, Christian wrote to Annette while traveling on Lake Pontchartrain. He regretted his financial inability to purchase an album for Laurentze’s Christmas; he had paid 2-½ % income tax on all the money received from the schooner since July, amounting to $65. This indicates that his gross income for the period was $2,600. Again, Christian had hard words for Claiborne, stating the Claiborne has permission to carry out many things, referring to him as “ old double traytor <sic>” who can get provisions across but can’t even carry out a letter; he stated that Claiborne could get him a pass, but he hates him too much to ask.  In another letter dated December 7th, Emil advised his mother that he had enrolled in the Louisiana militia, but that it would not be called out except in the case of danger.

A December 16th letter from Laurentze to her father related that she had gone to Napoleon for a baptism in the river. There were about 100 people, mostly ladies and Negroes, but included also about 20 men, nearly all deserters. She wrote: “School at Liberty has broken up; the girls are all coming home. They were about to starve up there. Liberty was 50 miles southeast of Natchez. In 1863, Federal troops destroyed the college building and burned the town.[298]  On December 17th, General Sherman gave a permit to Christian Koch to carry his own personal property, eggs, butter, potatoes and clothing on the Experiment.[299] 

An undated letter believed to have been written by Christian in 1864 blamed Claiborne for Koch’s misfortune in starting a business on the Experiment; he also expressed fear of Orr, in whom he had confided. He states that the Alabama[300] has burned eight ships lately, and the Federal policy was to burn everything in order to starve the South. He was afraid that Orr’s schooner would be confiscated because of the likely difficulty in proving Union sentiments.

 

1865

 

On January 22nd, Annette’s brother Charly and his wife Bella wrote to Annette to explain charges they made to Christian. He said that they had had hard times and that Colonel Claiborne was assisting by giving him a job of writing, and that his pay would be in provisions, and that Claiborne had promised to write Sherman for a permit for Charles to go to Fort Pike. He stated that the usual fee for carrying letters was $5 and $10 but he had not charged Koch anything. He reported that he was once fired on by a gunboat and had to stop; he got off by telling a lie: ““Had things for you without permit, pickets kept me several hours but got off by bribery…With all my hard work, did not make over $20 per month, took all that to feed family…The Col. Told me that he would write a letter to Gen. Sherman in my behalf and try to get me special permit to go to the Fort when I pleased…Bella and Annette send love. Good bye, Sister.”

On February 6th, Annette sent a letter to Christian at New Orleans and Rigolets. She informed him that the cavalry had stolen a horse, two guns, a keg of powder (?) and clothing from Claiborne, on the same night as Old Bill was taken (Koch’s horse). She understood that fifty bales of cotton coming down the river could be bought for 50 cents per pound and 50 barrels of tar at 25 cents each. She stated that citizens at the Jourdan River were killing each other and that the cavalry was stealing and killing too. She heard that G. Mitchell was only giving 25 cents a pound for cotton at the mill, and complained that John Orr was not earning his “victuals.”

Emil wrote to his mother on February 17th, mentioning one case of smallpox at the mill. Emil was at Nelson’s mill at the time; his father had written Annette on January 12th advising that the children should be vaccinated against small pox. Emil also mentioned that he considered Becca (Nixon) an (illegible – selfish) woman.  The same day, Elers wrote to Laurentze to say that he planned to marry Becca. He expressed surprise at seeing George Brown wearing a Federal uniform. Also on February 17, Christian reported an interview with General Sherman, who said that no one could grant a permit except General Harlbut.[301]

On March 14th, Elers writing from Lake Pontchartrain promised not to marry until he could support a wife.  Three days later, Christian stated to Annette his desire to move so that Elers would forget Becca. Possibly related to the obvious difference in feeling was Eler’s letter on January 12, 1865, in which he said that he believed that letters by Becca were taken.  Christian writing from Nelson’s Mill to Annette on May 8th said he received a permit to carry 100 bales of cotton from Nelson’s but thinks Claiborne got the cotton. Price of cotton had dropped from 55 cents to 35 cents per pound.

An April letter from Christian, probably to Nettie spoke of the surrender of Lee and Johnson; he was elated at the success of the Federals.  In the balance of the year, there were a number of friendly letters within the family, but the wartime fears and horrors are conspicuously absent.  Although not mentioned in any of the known letters, Elers married Rebecca Nixon on November 23, 1865.[302] 

 

Peace Returns to Pearl River

1866

 

Post war letters reflect routine activity. Laurentze had been living in New Orleans, where she wrote on February 15th telling of a wedding she had attended where three brides’ mates wore red, white and blue. She had visited the Girod Street cemetery where her Uncle Charly was buried. She confided in her mother that she regretted that she could not return Asa Hursey’s love.[303]

On May 16th, 1866, Elers died on the Experiment. There are no known letters describing why. In truth, the letters seem to have stopped at this time. A document called Letters of Administration was filed with the Judge of Probate Court of Hancock County in July of 1866. That notice called for an inventory of all of Elers’ “goods, chattels, rights and credits,” and an accounting of his debts, naming Rebecca V. Koch as administrator. There is one letter from 1868, written by younger brother Stanley, in which he reported that he would like to visit Eler’s grave. Stanley was living in New Orleans at the time.

Christian continued to prosper at Bogue Homa, as indeed it seems that he even prospered during the war. His Day Book of 1860- 1865 contains an itemization of the expenses and income of the schooner Experiment for that period. His bottom line is recorded as follows:

Nett <sic> Income for 4 years 5 month of —Experiment $4,579.00

Cost for Experiment                 $1700.00

Totall <sic> Income $2,879, being at the rate of $52.45 per month.

His long division may not have been totally accurate but it was close.

Christian Koch emerges from the letters as a loving family man who cared deeply about others. It is also apparent that he was single-minded about some things, and very meticulous in his ways. In addition to his professions as farmer and sea captain, he was an official weather reporter for the government.(Marco: fill in any correction re weatherman.)

All along, he participated in the area lumber business. An account book begun in 1845 recorded in great detail how many cords of wood were cut on each day of the month. It also listed for whom the wood was cut, how much was the charge, and when it was paid for. Some of the wood was gathered on “publick school land,” and some amount came from the land of S. White. In these accounts, names of Wingate, Peter Russ, Dick Russ, and Esau Russ are prominent.[304]

Another notebook, undated, contained formulae for the measuring of wood products. Some of his entries are as follows:

To measure lumber

Multply the side and the edge together and multiply by the length and divide by twelve.

To find what a log will square – Multiply the diameter into itself and divide by twentyfour.

To find the quantity of lumber a saw log will make

Multiply the diameter into itself, divide by twenty four and then multiply by the length.

When the mills bur logs, they deduct one fifth from this product

To find the contents of round timber. Multiply the length in feet by the square of one fourth

 of the girth in inches, and divide by one hundred and forth-four. The result is the quantity in

 cubic feet. The girth is usually taken at one third the disance from the longest end.[305]

 

 

Koch made certain that his will would do as he wished, revising it a number of times over the years. In a way, he seems to have attempted to micromanage his estate, even to the extent of limiting the cost of transporting his body to his grave to $50.00. It is herewith replicated in its original form (INCLUDE COPY OF THE WILL). ( I have  copy in my “to-do” file; not transcript, but handwritten copy which might copy better in library if I try again.)

 

The Death of Samuel Jackson

 

The following is extracted from The War of The Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Fred Ainsworth and Joseph W. Kirkley. (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1901)  Vol. 30, part 2, pp. 456-473.

It is from the report of Brig. Gen. Bushrod R. Johnson, C.S. Army, from Hq, Chattanooga, dated October 24, 1863.

Saturday, September 19

We did not advance exceeding 700 yards when the enemy opened fire upon us and we became hotly engaged. The enemy had planted a battery which struck about the center of the Forty-fourth Tennessee Regiment, and which opened upon our advancing lines, throwing in rapid succession grape and canister, and supported by infantry, whose fire of small arms was heavy, well directed and disastrous….In this engagement the Forty-fourth Tennessee suffered heavily, sustaining a loss in killed and wounded.

A portion of Robertson’s extreme left (Texans) and part of the Forty-fourth Tennessee had been driven back, but about two-thirds of the Forty-fourth crossed the road.

Here Lieutenant-Colonel McEwen, jr., 5 company officers (Captain Jackson one of the number), and 50 men were wounded and 6 were killed, among the latter Sergt. T. A. Johnson, color bearer, one of the bravest of the brave.

The Forty-fourth Tennessee Regiment had Lieut. Col. John L. McEwen, Jr. commanding, a gallant and able officer, who has rendered faithful and efficient service in ou army,  and 5 company officers wounded and 1 (Capt. Jackson) mortally. It lost about 50 men wounded and 6 killed.

Captain Jackson, of the Forty-fourth Tennessee Regiment, has since died of his wounds. Known to me long and familiarly in youth and manhood as Capt. Samuel Jackson has been, I feel unable to do justice to his many virtues, his pure and admirable character or his merits as an officer and a soldier.”

 



[1] Bienville served as governor of Louisiana three times; 1702-08, 1717-26, and 1732-43.

[2] Christine Finn, A Rare Bird, Archaeology Magazine, January-February, 2001, 43.

[3] Brian E. Coutts, The Cuban Papers, Louisiana Genealogical register XXVII, December 1980, 354-68.

[4] Marcel Giraud, A History of French Louisiana, translated by Brian Pearce, vol. 2 (Baton Rouge and London: Louisiana State University Press, 1993) 124.

[5] From Report of Commissioners. East of Pearl River, Mississippi and Alabama 143-A, page 5.

[6] Andre Penicaut, Fleur de Lys and Calumet: Being the Penicaut Narrative of French Adventure in Louisiana, translated and edited by Richebourg Gaillard McWilliams (Tuscaloosa and London: University of Alabama Press) p. 12.

[7] Andre Penicaut, p.16.

[8] Pierre LeMoyne d’Iberville, Iberville’s Gulf Journals, translated by Richebourg McWilliams (Tuscaloosa and London: University of Alabama Press, 1981), 139.

[9] Even today, among the small Rangia clamshells of the middens may be found pieces of much larger shells. In the Bayou Caddy cemetery, one grave is decorated with such large shells.

[10] Penicaut. McWilliams equates the Acoapissa with the Colapissas, describing them as being of “Choctaw stock.,” 100, footnote.

[11] Ibid, 66

[12] Ibid, p 67

[13] Ibid.p.100

[14] Journal of Regis du Roullet, Paris Hydrographic Archives, v. LXVIII, No. 14-1 portfolio 135, Doc. 21. from Mobile to the Choctaws, April to August 1732.

[15] For a more complete description of the battle of Ackia, see Addendum.

[16] Presently the site of Tupelo, MS

[17] Le Page du Pratz, The History of Louisiana, Edited by Joseph G. Tregle, Jr. (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1975) 62.  Pierre du Gue de Bois-Briant was lieutenant of the king, who once commanded the French settlement of the Illinois. The Illinois was later commanded by Pierre D’Artaguette.

[18] Giraud, vol.5, 361-375

[19] MPA : IV, doc. 5, p. 35 fn 9.

[20] April 26, 1783, Governor Estevan Miro granted Louis Boisdore of New Orleans a tract of land stretching along the Gulf Coast from Bayou of Mosquito Village (today Mulatto Bayou) to Bay. St Louis. Area was called Achoucoupoulous; Boisdore wanted to use it as for a plantation and a vacherie; he noted land was vacant, "formerly inhabited by Mrs. Lucer." Begin at the plantation of Philip Saucier to the Bayou Of Mosquito Village, with a depth as far as the Pearl River (1700-1783) Pintado Papers, Book X- Z: 156-70. Boisdore widow, Marguerite Doussin, applied for confirmation of grant to Miro on April 26, 1803. Augustin Mallette living on land to preserve rights of the family; no surveys done due to insects and heat. Claims that land was in cultivation 1788-1828. In 1810, Mr. Joseph Baker apparently owned the property; under a Spanish permit granted June 13, 1810 the land is described as cultivated between April 1810 and March 1813 (American State Papers vol.3, #18). Mulatto Bayou (American State Papers vol. 3 1815-1824)

#18 Joseph Baker from original claimant Joseph Bake, Spanish Permit, June 13, 1810, 5 x 40 arpents, issued by John B. Pelleny; cultivated April 1810, March 1813

These reports conflict with an entry in the Deed Record Book, Hancock County Courthouse (Book A:1l which shows the heirs of Louis Boisdore selling the Mulatto bayou land.

[21] Inventory of Property of Sr. Boisdore and his wife Medaline Devert, 1759; New Orleans Genesis, vol. 3, January 1964, no. 9

[22] Charles Rochon, along with Joseph-Christophe de Lusser, was active in the production of pitch in Mobile in 1724. Giraud, op. cit., vol. 5, pp. 344-45.

[23] Spelling includes accent on “e”; if this is the father of the settler, he preceded the Acadians. Glenn Conrad, First Families of Louisiana, 2 volumes, vol, 2, p. 161

[24] Kerlerec to De Machault d’Arnouville, September 15, 1754 (MPA,1984, Document 34, pg.142-151)

[25] The Vaudreuil Papers, edited by Bill Barron, 380.

[26] Charles L. Sullivan, Mississippi Gulf Coast: Portrait of a People (Northridge, California: Windsor Publications, Inc., 1985) 23. Sullivan gives the year as 1767.

[27] Giraud, vol. 2, p. 124

[28] Ibid, vol. 5, p. 274

[29] Ibid, vol. 1, p. 244

[30] Claiborne, Official Letter Books of W.C.C. Claiborne. 1801-1816, edited by Dunbar Rowland (Tennessee State Library Archives) vol. 6, p. 246.

[31] West Florida extended from Apalachicola River to the Mississippi bounded at north by 31-degree latitude, and imaginary line drawn midchannel through lakes Pontchartrain and Maurepas and the Rivers Amite and Iberville (Manchac).

[32] J.F. H. Claiborne, Historical Account of Hancock County and the Sea Board of Mississippi, an address delivered by Claiborne to citizens of Bay St. Louis, July 4, 1876 (New Orleans: Hopkins Printing Office)

[33] Jean-Jacques-Blaise d’Abbadie, A Comparative View of French Louisiana, 1699 and 1762, translated, edited and annotated by Carl A. Brasseaux,  (Lafayette, Louisiana: University of Southwestern Louisiana, 1981) 87.

[34] The last two names would probably equate to the modern place names of St. Joe light and Heron Bay.

[35] Tyng, Edward 1776 May 24, 1776 (date of petition) Tyng, Edward, granted May 24. Lib. A, No. 3, 193 Record. Microfilm, in National Archives, British Land Grants: Abstract of British Grants of Land in West Florida, 1766-1767, volume 15.

November 29, 1776. Edward Tyng, a reduc… Suballora, 2000 acres, $0.00, 178, E. branch 7-8 leagues from the mouth. Date of petition May 24, 1776, granted May 24, Lib. A, No.3, 193 records. Microfilm, in National Archives, British Land Grants: Abstract of British Grants of Land in West Florida, 1766-1767, volume 15.

George Gants

December 12, 1776 George Gants East Pearl River, 7 leagues from the mouth, 2000 acres, $0.00, 177. Microfilm, in National Archives, British Land Grants: Abstract of British Grants of Land in West Florida, 1766-1767, volume 15.

John Meyer

December 12, 1776 John Meyer, east side of east branch of Pearl River 11/2 miles below, 2000 acres, a redu…. Warrant officer, $0.00, 178. Microfilm, in National Archives, British Land Grants: Abstract of British Grants of Land in West Florida, 1766-1767, volume 15.

[Some confusion in footnotes #31 to 34?]

[36] November 22, 1776. Peter Chester Esq. 1000 acres, $0.00; Just Rents Commence Michael 177 E. Side of E. branch of Pearl River, about 7 leagues from the mouth. Microfilm, in National Archives, British Land Grants: Abstract of British Grants of Land in West Florida, 1766-1767, volume 15.

Land Grants 1777-1819, MF 31.

[37] Original petition, Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery, San Marino, CA; microfilm in P/K Yonge  Library of Florida Hstory, Gainesville, FL.

[38] Robert S. Weddle, Changing Tides: Twilight and Dawn in the Spanish Sea, 1763-1803; Texas A&M Press, 1995.

[39] Thomas Hutchins, Historical Narrative and Topographical Description of Louisiana and west Florida, reproduction of the 1784 edition with introduction by Joseph G. Tregle, Jr., p.63.

[40] This must have been West Pearl, where Gauld mentioned there were several plantations.

[41] Peter Chester confers to Alexander McIntosh all that land on seacoast 8 league west of Deer Island, 8 miles NNW of Cat Island from Bear Point to Bay St. Louis. Peter Chester, Esq. Captain General and Governor in Chief at Pensacola, 25 May 1779. Elias Durnford, surveyor

[42] Claiborne, Historical Account.

[43] WPA report, Hancock County Library, Bay St. Louis, MS.

[44] See appendix for will.

[45] Claiborne, Historical Account

[46] Official Letter Book of W.C.CClaiborne, 1801-1816, Letter dated September 29, 1812, Vol. VI, p. 182-3. Editor Rowland mentions that Dinsmore was “arbitrary in his official acts.”

[47] Ibid, letter dated November 16, 1812, p. 200-201.

[48] Ibid, letter dated April 14, 1813, p. 233-35.

[49] Beers, Henry Putney (1989) French and Spanish records of Louisiana: A bibliographical Guide to Archive and Manuscript sources. LSU Press.

 

[50]Angie Debo, The Rise and Fall of the Choctaws Republic, p.34

50  Claiborne, Letter Books, vol. 1, 12-13.

[52] Ibid, 68.

[53] This would probably have been the son of Joseph Chalon mentioned below. When Joseph the elder died in 1783, the son was less than 21 years old. Edna B. Freiberg, Bayou St. John in Colonial Louisiana 1699-1803, 256.

[54] Ibid, 256 and 358. Joseph (Jose) Chalon was a New Orleans merchant who married Marie Elizabeth (Maria Isabel) DesRuisseaux July 15, 1768; they had three children, including Jose Jacinto. In 1774, the Chalons purchased the Langlois plantation on Bayou Sst. John, which was sold to Almonester in 1781.It is suggested that Chalon was much involved with Oliver Pollock in the American colonial cause. When Chalon died in 1783, Pollock served as the executor of the estate. .

[55] Hancock County Deed Book B, p. 163.

[56] Hancock County Early Tax Collections, Strickland and Edwards, editors, rolls of 1818-1823.

[57] Unpublished notes by Jerry Heitzman, Hancock County Historical Society, Bay St. Louis, MS.

[58] Ibid.

[59] Charles L. Dufour, Louisiana Yesterday and Today (Baton Rouge and London: Louisiana State University Press, 1996), 32-34.

[60] Leroy E. Willie, West Florida and Its People, 81-82.

[61] Robert G. Scharff, Louisiana’s Loss, Mississippi’s Gain, (Lawrenceville, Virginia: Brunswick Publishing Corp., 1999) 91.

[62] Leroy E. Willie, West Florida and Its People (Baton Rouge: Sons of the American Revolution, 2000) p. 60.

[63] William Poitevent settled at Gainesville and eventually married Mary Russ, another of Amelia’s sisters.

[64] Claiborne, Historical Account

[65] Ibid

[66] Claiborne, Mississippi: a Province, Territory and State (Spartenburg, South Carolina: The reprint Co., 1978) 306-7.

[67] Claiborne,  Letter Books, vol. 5, 132-34.

[68] Idid, p. 59.

[69] Sullivan, The Mississippi Gulf Coast: Portrait of a People,  37.

[70]Claiborne, Letter Books, vol. 1, 162, footnote. John Pitchylyn was an interpreter for the Choctaws near Natchez in 1802. He is identified as “a son of an English officer who died in the Choctaw nation. He was adopted by the tribe, married among them, and was very influential.”

[71]Claiborne, Mississippi as a Province, 328.

[72] Ibid, vol. 6, 265- 270.

[73] If Pea Island exists today, its identity is not certain. There is the possibility that it is what is now designated Malheureux Island, which translates from French to mean “wretched.” On the other hand, Latour’s map clearly shows Pea Island to be island currently known as Pearl River Island, the lazy-S shaped land just below the mouth of the Pearl.

[74] Robert Gleig, The Campaign of the British Army at Washington and New Orleans, 1814-15, pp. 140-41.

[75] Major Arsene LaCarriere Latour, Historical Memoir of War in West Florida and Louisiana – 1814-15, pp.  74-75. Major Latour was Jackson’s principal engneer.

[76] Major Howell Tatum, Major H. Tatum’s Journal, as found in Smith College Studies in History, pp.. 133-34.

[77] Robert V. Remini, The Battle of New Orleans, (New York: Penguin Group, 1999) 181.

[78]Dunbar Rowland, Mississippi Territory in the War of 1812, p. 213.

[79] John H. Napier III, Lower Pearl’s Civil War Losses, Journal of Mississippi History, vol. 23, pp. 94-103

[80] Arthur De Rosier, The Removal of the Choctaw Indian, p. 32.,

[81] Claiborne, Letter Books, vol. I,  60.

[82] Hutchins, 63.

[83] Sons of the South, p. 39.

[84] Claiborne, op cit, p. 328.

[85] Claiborne collection, Archives, Jackson

[86] Gleig, The Campaign of the British Army at Washington and New Orleans – 1814-15. pp. 143-44.

[87] Claiborne, Letter Books, vol. 6, 283.

[88] Remini, op. cit., p. 124.

[89]  Claiborne, Letter Books, vol. 6, 138-139.

[90] Ibid, 153-155.

[91] Sullivan, Mississippi, the Land and the People,

[92] Deed Book A, pp. 1-7, Hanccock County Cpourthouse. There is possible confusion regarding the date of purchase, as the indenture is dated Septmeber 5, 1826, but mentions a previous “letter of attorney” bearing the earlier date. The fact that Daniells first appears on the tax rolls in 1824 would seem to confirm the 1823 year of purchase.

[93] Deed Book B, p. 65, Hancock County Courthouse.

[94] These are assumed to be town lots, as Pearlingon had already been subdivided into lots. However, the Congressional Ordinance of 1785, which divided every region into townships of six miles square, ordained that each township was to be divided into 36 lots, which we now refer to as sections.

[95] Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol.   , p. 414.

[96] This land was located somewhat northwest of our study area. Its location is perhaps an indication of why the diary account of sister Amelia shows Samuel’s home as being many miles from that of Asa Russ.

[97] John Duffy, “Pestilence in New Orleans,” The Past as Present, New Orleans 1718-1968, edited by Hodding Carter,(New Orleans: Pelican Publishing, 1968)  110.

[98] The land is said to be known as the Doby Claim, “located between Bayou Cowan and Papes Bayou, branches of Mulatto Bayou, also    ?    the 80 acres adjoining said location including the Point     ?     .”

[99] Probably named after Thomas daughter. In a footnote in the Claiborne section, an incident is described having to do with a schooner named Elodie, probably named after another daughter. In both cases, John Favre was involved with the schooners.

[100] In the Wilkinson probate, White, William Brown and Rebecca Nixon were “bound to the State of Mississippi in the penalty of $15, 000,” for White to serve as guardian of two orphaned children.

[101] The posting of bond was not unusual, even when the guardian was a parent. Sometimes as many as three different people had to commit to the bond, even though only one was guardian, and often the bonds were for substantial amounts.

[102] Major Samuel White accompanied Wailes through part of his visit of the Pearl River towns.  Wailes identified White as an “old Collegue of mine in the Legislature in 1825.” White was the representative of Hancock County at that time.

[103] Hancock County, Mississippi, Early Tax Collections, editors Strickland and Edwards..In 1836, the year in which Judge Daniells was the highest taxed resident, two others paid higher amounts, but apparently were not residents: John Joor (also spelled Ioor), with 64 slaves and 3,000 acres at “Claiborne,” for $48.90 tax; and Edward Livingston, who owned 12,984 acres on “Sea Coast,” taxed at $32.33.

[104] Loyalists, The Encyclopedia Americana, 1997 edition, Vol. 17, p. 820.

[105] Sullivan, Portrait of a People.

[106] Claiborne, Letter Books, vol. 5, 33.

[107] The Gainesville Advocate, May 9, 1846

[108] Dunbar Roland, The History of Mississippi, the Heart of the South (Chicago: S.J. Clarke Publishing Company –1925):38.

[109]Herbert H. Lang, J.F.H. Claiborne at ‘Laurel Wood’ Plantation, 1853-1870, Journal of Mississippi History, 4.

[110] New Orleans Picayune, June 6, 1858.

[111] Wailes mentioned that Dr. Williams, who had a small plantation near Judge Daniells, had tried “the marsh muck and thinks it is not beneficial.” Wailes’ Journal, August 19, 1852.

[112] DeBow’s Review, 1854, 5993-5

[113] Wailes’ measurement of the distance to the Russ Place, now Buccaneer Park, is about right. Moreover, the distance of 18 miles figured by Samuel is substantially correct even today to measure from Clifton to Bay St. Louis. It is assumed that most of the travel would have been on present day Lower Bay Road, also known earlier as the old Pearlington Road.

[114] The area that now encompasses Clermont Harbor was bought from the Federal Land Office at Natchez in 1837 for $1.25 an acre. Subsequently, after part of that land was forfeited for non-payment of taxes, it was sold for 5 cents per acre. Papers in private collection of author.

[115] Duffy, 113.

[116] New Orleans Times Picayune, December 12, 1999, p. 12

[117] DeBow’s Review, vol. 3, 1846, 24.

[118] De Bow’s,  vol. 1, 150

[119] D.C. Glenn, “Mississippi,” DeBow’s Review, vol. 7, July, 1849.

[120] Robert Remini, Andrew Jackson (Baltimore and London” John Hopkins University Press, 1984) vol. 3, 27.

[121] Cleo Hearon, Nullification in Mississippi, Publications of Mississippi History, Vol. 12, p. 41.

[122] Glenn, De Bow’s

[123] Roy Baxter, unpublished manuscript, Hancock County Historical Society.

[124] Claiborne, Letter Books, p. 286.

[125] The Gainesville Advocate, May 9, 1846.

[126]J. G. Harris, “Climates and Fevers of the Southwest,” DeBow’s Review, vol. 27, p. 596

[127] “Railroad Progress in Mississippi, Florida…,” DeBow’s Review, vol. 18, p. 260.

[128] Listed in the 1850 census is David R. Wingate, a 30-year old lumberman with a real estate value of $3,000. He was born in South Carolina. One of his sons is named as Robert P., probably after his grandfather, found in the census as a 60-year old farmer from North Carolina.

[129] Roy Baxter, Sea Coast Echo, Jubilee edition, May 28, 1978

[130] “The Harbors, Bays, Islands, and Retreats, of the Gulf of Mexico,” De Bow’s Review, November 1859, vol. 27, p. 596.

[131] “Railroad Progress…,” DeBow’s,  p. 260.

[132] Nollie Hickman, Mississippi Harvest: Lumbering in the Long Leaf Pine Belt, 1840-1915, p. 33

[133] The Gainesville Advocate, February 7, 1846.

[134] Garry Earl Daniell, A Short Summary of Daniell Family History, 1995;  John Cook  personal communication, November 10, 1999.

[135] La Tourette map of 1845 identifies site as being owned by the Honorable L. Daniells.

[136] See Major Tatum’s description, p. 39.

[137] Deed Book A, p. 1, Hancock County Courthouse. An interesting detail of this deed is that it was the first to be re-recorded after the Gainesville courthouse fire of April 1, 1853. The original was witnessed by P. Rutilius Pray. The deed also mentions that the land was surveyed by Elihu Carver, Esquire.

[138] Gainesville Advocate, May 9, 1846.

[139] It was Mitchell who sold Andrew Jackson Jr. the tract of 1,920 acres, which Samuel Jackson did not think was good land. Cf. Jackson letters.

[140] Mrs. Murphy was the heir of Don Louis Boisdore.

[141] Deed Book A, p.4, Hancock County Courthouse.

[142] Obituary in New Orleans Daily Picayune.

[143] Deed Book B, p. 524, Hancock County courthouse.

[144]  Asa Russ was born June 1, 1807.

[145] One of Asa‘s older brothers, born March 10, 1805.  John R. Russ is listed as having served in the 3rd Infantry, Company E, in the Civil War. There was also a John A. Russ in the Mississippi cavalry, 17th Battalion, Company D.

[146] Many references to the “Lake Shore” are found in Wailes and other documents, clearly indicating that the shoreline all along the coast west of the Bay of St, Louis was considered to be the shore of Lake Borgne. One map of the period has the name Lake Borgne inscribed across the entire expanse of water located west of the bay and north of the Louisiana marshes. Those marshes undoubtedly were much more substantial at the time, giving the impression of  enclosing the lake.

[147] Later, this was named “Sea Song” by Sarah Jackson. It is now Buccaneer Park in Waveland. Cf. Jackson section.

[148] Peter Ioor (sometimes spelled Joor) and wife Charlott Withers purchased in 1852 an undivided one-half of 440 acres from Maria Herron. This site is part of what is now Clermont Harbor, just west of the Russ place. Private papers, Estate of Wilfred L. Guerin, collection of the author.

[149]Gainesville Advocate.  In the May 20, 1845 edition of the newspaper, it was announced that school lands were to be leased at the courthouse door in Shieldsborough on July 7 (first Monday), 1845. However, property descriptions listed did not include this section. The Gainesville Advocate, May 20, 1845.

[150] Latour’s map from his memoirs of 1814-15 seems to indicate Point Claire to be just to the east of the mouth of Pearl River. In modern times, Point Clear Island is a marsh island running west from the mouth of Bayou Caddy. Nearby is another marsh island called Russ Island, on which there was an old house that was washed away in the 1947 hurricane; it may be inferred that it was from such site that Russ was writing to Claiborne.

[151] Claiborne Papers, Archives, Jackson, Ms.

[152] Confer 1820 census, indicating young men greatly outnumbered young women, probably because the men came first to do the arduous initial work of the pioneer, and then sent for the women.

[153] Born 1814, Amelia Patton Russ married Westly Coke Asbury Daugherty Gause, born 1815.

[154] William Poitevent settled at Gainesville and eventually married Mary Russ, another of Amelia’s sisters.

[155] Probably related to the Wingates of the lumber industry in Hancock County. One reference indicates that Wingate was a cousin of John Russ.

[156] The crossing was probably at what became known as the Old Kimball Place. One of Amelia’s sisters married a Kimball. The location is the present site of the Crosby family.

[157]Copy in Hancock County Historical Society, Bay St. Louis, MS

[158] Mississippi Department of Archives and History, List of Land Purchasers 1834, p. 395.

[159] Banks Papers, Essex Institute, Salem, Massachusetts

[160] Lang, p. 2.

[161] Journal of Mississippi History, vol. 6, no. 1, 8-50. In 1943 the original was in the possession of Dr. B.L. Magruder, of Starkville, MS.

[162] James A. Cuevas, in an article in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, May 7, 1922, is quoted as saying that Claiborne, in 1849, had a plantation in Waveland called “Sea Glen,” where he raised Sea Island cotton. “He had another plantation farther down the coast, what is now Baldwin Lodge, on the Louisville and Nashville Railroad. The Jackson place also was a fine plantation. Each place had its own gin.”  It should be considered, in assessing the accuracy of names and locations that Cuevas was going by memory of 1849.

[163] Sea Coast Echo.

[164] Lang, 3, citing Federal Workers’ Project, Mississippi Gulf Coast; Yesterday and Today, Gulfport 1939, p. 116.

[165] Ibid, 2-3

[166]  Journal of Mississippi History, vol. 6, no. 1,  48-50, edited by C.E. Cain.

[167] New Orleans Picayune, June 6, 1858.

[168] Claiborne papers, Archives, Jackson, MS

[169] The names of the slaves are not the same as a later list of Claiborne’s slaves, suggesting a continuing dealing in slave trade.

[170] Hancock County Courthouse, Deed Book A, p. 121.

[171] J.F.H. Claiborne, Mississippi, as a Province,…, p. 397.

[172] Claiborne Papers, Archives, Jackson, MS.

[173] This was not the John Calhoun of national political prominence. The sender of the letter was another John Calhoun, identified in the 1856 New Orleans city directory as the president of the New Orleans, Jackson and Great Northern Railroad Company, with offices at 45 Carondelet Street, and a depot at Calliope corner Solis.

[174] Claiborne papers, Archives, Jackson, MS.

[175]Though he had made enemies in government, his oratory was still respected.

[176] Lang, J.F.H. Claiborne…,10.

[177] War of the Rebellion, A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Conffederate Armies, published by Brig. Gen. Fred C. Ainswoth and Joseph W. Kirkley (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1901) Series I, vol. 52,  388.

[178] Lang, J.F.H. Claiborne…,10.

[179] Ibid.

[180] Letter to Banks, December , 1862.

[181] Lang, J.F.H. Claiborne…,9.

[182]  Confer Koch section for numerous mentions of the Venus and the Alice.

 

[183] Lang, J.F.H. Claiborne…, 3.

[184] Claiborne papers, Archives, Jackson, MS. 

[185]Lang, J.F.H. Claiborne vol. 18, p.13. See also letters between Christian and Nettie Koch of May 23 and May 29, 1863, commenting on Claiborne’s expressions of fears.

[186] Claiborne, Foreword to Mississippi…

[187] Ames was the son-in-law of General Benjamin Butler. As governor of Mississippi, Ames lived for a while in Bay St. Louis.

[188] It may be that Claiborne sought to support others who wanted compensation. This is suggested by an original document in Claiborne’s papers which purports to be an affidavit attesting to the destruction of the schooner Elodie, by federal troops under the command of General Butler. The action described took place on Mulatto Bayou in the spring of 1863. The affiant was John Favre, who was sworn before the United Sates Commissioner for the Southern District, and who testified that William Stovall brought his schooner, the Elodie, to Mulatto Bayou for repairs, and who wanted Favre to take charge until the return of peace. Favre further stated, that in the following spring, in April, 1863, it was burned “with all her tackle, appurtenances, and furniture.” The value at the time was $1,000, but “…would have commanded at the close of the War not less than $1,300.” Claiborne papers, Archives, Jackson, MS.

[189] Summit Mississippi Times, April 8, 1872.

[190] John H. Napier III, Lower Pearl’s Civil War Losses, Journal of Mississippi History, vol. 23,  100.

[191] Confer Koch section.

[192] Journal of the State Convention and Ordinances and Resolutions, Adopted in January, 1861. Published by order of the Convention, Jackson, Miss., E. Barksdale, State Printer, 1861.

[193] By one estimate, he had 55 in 1860. Coastal Environmental Study, p. 24.

[194] Nollie W. Hickman,  Black Labor in Forest Industries of the Piney Woods, 1840-1933, Mississippi’s Piney Woods: a Human Perspective, Noel Polk, editor, University of Mississippi Press, 1986.

[195] He was a distiller of “Spit T” – probably indicating turpentine. From Ireland, Leach was 36-years old and owned real estate valued at $600. His wife was from South Carolina.

[196] Napier, Piney Woods Past: A Pastoral Elegy, p. 20.

[197] Deed Book A, Hancock County courthouse, 636.

[198] Probate Records, Hancock County, microfilm, Hancock county Library, Bay St. Louis, Ms.

[199] Ibid, Will book.

[200] Deed Book B, Hancock County courthouse, 351-52.

[201] Joseph J. Ellis, Founding Brothers, p. 88.

[202] Encyclopedia Americana, vol. 21, p. 34.

[203]Joseph T. Hatfield,, William Claiborne, Jeffersonian Cetunion in the American Southwest, (Lafayette, Louisiana:  University of Southwestern Louisiana, 1976), 177

[204] Charles Gayarre, Charles, History of Louisiana (New Orleans: Claitor’s Publishing Division, 1974) vol 4, 33.

[205] E. W. Hilgard, Report of the Geology and Agriculture of the State of Mississippi   (Jackson: E. Barksdale, State Printer, 1860) 378-384.

 

[206] Hancock County Early Tax Collections, Strickland and Edwards, editors.

[207] Gainesville Advocate, February 21, 1846.

[208]Ibid, May 6, 1845 edition.

[209] Ibid, September 1854 issue, p. 321.

[210] TheMay 9, 1846.

[211] Journal of Benjamen Wailes. It may be noted that Wailes was critical of other areas, such as Pearlington and Shieldsborough. About the latter, he opined that the new Catholic church was “…of a mongrel, frenchified, gothic style.”

[212] Pearson and Saltus, Underwater Archaeology on the Lower Pearl and West Pearl Rivers, p. 27

[213] The Historian, Newsletter of Hancock County Historical Society, May 19, 1994.

[214] Like the town of Pearlington, Pearltown undoubtedly was named because of the presence of a large clam that could be found in the river and which sometimes contained pearls. Penicaut, in Fleur de Lys and Calumet, wrote of the river called by the Indians “Taleatcha,” “…which in French is Riviere-aux-Pierres; in it we found some of those shells, or cockles, about which I have already spoken, with which the savages scrape their boats after they have been burned. In these cockles, pearls are found. We gave two dozen of them to M. de Bienville, who was with us.” (McWilliams edition, p. 16) In his History of Louisiana, Le Page du Pratz adds to the description, thereby distinguishing this size of the shell from the ubiquitous rangia clam; he wrote, “There are likewise excellent mussels upon the northern shore of the lake St. Louis, especially in the river of Pearls; they may be about six or seven inches long, and sometimes contain very pretty pearls, but of no great value. (Bicentennial Edition, edited by Joseph G. Tregle, Jr.) (Marco: I know that we have some document in which the early settlers were told to search for pearls as part of their mission; do you remember where?)

[215] Stennis Space Center Historical Office

[216] Willians J. Orr, The Orrs of Pearlington, Mississippi, unpublished Manuscript, Hancock County Library.

[217] Claiborne, Historical Account….[217] Stennis Space Center Historical Office

[217] Willians J. Orr, The Orrs of Pearlington, Mississippi, unpublished Manuscript, Hancock County Library.

 

[218] Christian Koch Diary, 1831-36, Hancock County Historical Society. Koch’s appraisal of Pearlington as an “insignificant town” may be taken in a different light when it is considered that Koch was a Danish sea captain, who had seen other developed port cities in Europe and America.

[219] Wailes Journal, August 15 and 16, 1852.

[220] Pearson, 25

[221] These towns no longer exist. They were erased as required in the creation of the Stennis Space Center.

[222] Letter from General Ferdinand Claiborne to General Andrew Jackson, from the East bank of the Tombigbee, 12 November 1813; cordial letter regarding the pursuit of the Creek War. A similar letter between the same parties from Fort Stoddard dated 11 November 1813  exhibits same cordiality. Claiborne papers, Archives, Jackson, MS.

[223] Rowland, Dunbar, Mississippi Territory in War of 1812, 152.

[224] Remini, Andrew Jackson, vol. 1, W. C. C. Claiborne defeated Wm. Cocke for the unexpired term in the House of Representatives in 1797, when Andrew Jackson was elected to the Senate. It is known that Jackson favored Claiborne and got into a dispute with Cocke, almost resulting in a duel.

[225] Elizabeth Lewis was the daughter of William Terrell Lewis, a prominent Nashville leader. She died, along with her three year-old daughter of yellow fever on September 27, 1804, in New Orleans. Another Lewis, apparently not related, was William B. Lewis, who was Andrew Jackson’s closest neighbor when Jackson married Rachel. The latter Lewis also married a daughter of William Terrell Lewis, that daughter being Margaret, a sister of Elizabeth. At the time of that marriage, Eliza would already have been deceased several years; nevertheless, the connection between the Jacksons and the Claibornes seems inescapable. The latter Lewis also received several high-ranking appointments during the Jackson administration.

[226] Claiborne, Letter Books, vol. 6, 214.