…as reflected in the life – and death – of Ira Cook Kneeland
By Marco Giardino, Ph. D and Russell Guerin
This article deals primarily with happenings outside Hancock County, the predominant area of our research. It is still appropriate to students of our local history, however, and it should be recalled that we too were once part of West Florida and under Spanish domination. Our land grants reflect this, and we were not exempt from the problems of surveying in early times.
An old court case has just been found that dramatically makes this point about one of our pioneers. For anyone who wishes to pursue it further, it is United States v. Boisdore, 52 U.S. 63 (1850).
We may in the future seek further publication in an historical journal. Meanwhile, we feel that this article is a way to call attention to this subject and the vast amount of research that went into it.
A Small Chest
On October 3, 1811, in Pensacola, four men encircled a small, sealed chest containing the earthly possession of Ira C. Kneeland, land surveyor. Pedro Senag, John Smith, P.P. Stuart and Don Jose Barnrdo De Heira broke the seal and carefully examined and listed each item in the chest.
In addition to a few items of clothing, pistols, an Indian looking glass, the chest was full of papers, documents, receipts and letters, the life blood of Ira Kneeland’s surveying business. Subsequently, an inventory was prepared and witnessed by the above-named personages. Smith had been a senator from Ohio, a land speculator and possibly a confederate of Aaron Burr. De Hevia had been the Spanish commander at Pascagoula.
Included was a title to a plantation with the plat and certification by Pintado. There were also many notes and receipts, listings of assets and of debts. Personal items and clothing for the most part were few.
Pintado – Surveyor for the King of Spain
The affairs of the Spanish government of West Florida and of those of its early settlers are brought out in great detail by the correspondence of Vicente Sebastian Pintado, originally of the Canary Islands but now the powerful Surveyor General of Spain, operating out of Pensacola. Between 1799 and 1817, he also served as an alcade and commandant of the militia. Documents from that period have been preserved. According to the Library of Congress, there are “approximately 1,500 items, consisting of correspondence, bills of sale, court transcripts, surveys, notebooks, plats, land grants, petitions and papers relating to his official duties.”
Included in the Pintado papers are hundreds of letters evidencing the problems of his assistant surveyors, one of whom was Ira Kneeland, working in a world of people at once discontented and insecure about their land holdings.
Starting in 1805, Ira Kneeland was the Deputy Surveyor General of the Jurisdiction of Baton Rouge, reporting to Surveyor General Pintado, who remained a major presence in Kneeland’s life affairs even after Ira’s death in 1811. Kneeland was one of a breed of men who braved the wilderness and the near anarchy of Spanish West Florida to survey parcels of land for some of the most prominent personages of the early 19th century. Kneeland and his colleagues worked in a climate of political uncertainty, laboring under an increasingly shaky Spanish rule, while American ambitions ran counter to those of Spain.
Areas of particular concern to Kneeland were those of the Baton Rouge and Feliciana districts, and more specifically Bayou Sarah and Thompson’s Creek.
Concurrent with his work, there were others threatening to overtake Spanish Florida from the north across the 31st Parallel.
Early on, the Pintado papers include letters from his assistant surveyors describing their harsh conditions, sometimes with a minimum of supplies, while trying to please land owners fearful of having their own claims reduced in dimensions. At the same time, their entreaties to Pintado indicated an underlying competition not only between settlers, but also between the government of Spain and the United States. The latter was not often spoken aloud, but was an undercurrent in some of the difficulties.
In addition, there were newcomers who were hungry for land.
Spanish West Florida – the workplace of Pintado and Kneeland
Spain was officially recognized as owning West Florida in 1783. Initially, relations between Spain and the infant United States were friendly. Great assistance to the American cause against the British was lent by Spain’s Bernardo de Galvez, who captured Manchac, Baton Rouge and Natchez in 1779. Galvez treated the residents of those conquered areas kindly, but as it will be shown, there is often resentment against a conquering force.
Most land grants were small, more of the homestead size, and were awarded to retired veterans of the Revolutionary War, Loyalists and other pro-British settlers who were being chased out of the newly constituted United States. Among the early inhabitants were emigrants from England, Ireland, and Scotland, and many persons from the older states as South Carolina, Georgia and Virginia.
Antipathy toward Spanish rule began early. In spite of the kindnesses of Galvez shown to settlers, they did in fact revolt in 1781 against Fort Panmure, later named FortRosalie, at Natchez. It was a brief, aborted attempt, but 200 men had participated. Retribution by Spain was mild, and an amnesty produced 240 people who took a new oath of allegiance.
The Spanish West Florida District in the early years of the 19th century included all the lands south of the 31st parallel, from the Perdido River to the Mississippi on the west, and south to Bayou Iberville called today’s Bayou Manchac. The portion between the Mississippi and Pearl Rivers wasadministered bythe Government of Baton Rouge and included the posts of Manchac, Thompson’s Creek,and Bayou Sarah. During Kneeland’s time, this territory was governed by Don Carlos de Grand Pre’. The area was originally settled by the French but was turned over to Britain in 1762 as a result of France’s loss in the Seven Year War (known in North America as the French and Indian War). From the 1770’s, the British had granted numerous large parcels of land in British West Florida. Records from 1771 show that immigrants poured into areas like Manchac, Baton Rouge, Bayou Sarah and Natchez. Grants sometimes were counted in the thousands of acres, like 16,000 to Elisha Hall Bay, 20,000 to the Earl of Eglinton, and 5,000 to Daniel Clarke; Anthony Hutchins received several large tracts.
The Louisiana Purchase of 1803, as marvelous as it was for the new United States, did nothing to relax tensions in West Florida. Just above the 31st parallel was Mississippi Territory. From the beginning, it was known that there were disputed boundaries, and many felt that West Florida should be a part of the United States. This is reflected prominently in the memoirs of Pierre Clement de Laussat, who was commissioner for France at the time of the retrocession of Louisiana to the United States. In one instance, he recalls that an “opulent proprietor” of Pointe-Coupee “…told me boldly that he has no doubt the western states would one day form a nation independent from those in the east.” Laussat observed, “Their commissioners in New Orleans cast covetous glances toward the Floridas! Before long, the United States will give Spain trouble; the acquisition of Louisiana has increased their ambition.”
The status of the area has been summed up by historian Stanley Clisby Arthur: “That slice of land along the Gulf Coast called Spanish west Florida, stretching from the river Perdido to the Mississippi River, was inhabited in 1803 for the most part by a sturdy lot of Anglo-Americans who resented the fact that this rich land was not included in the Louisiana Purchase.”
The English speaking settlers often challenged and obstructed the Spanish authorities and were among the prominent citizens who supported the Kemper rebellion of 1804 and the declaration of independence by The Republic of West Florida in 1810.
One prominent cause of friction revolved around land grants and the resultant necessity to do surveying of those lands. Indeed, it is stated in an article about Spanish land grants by George J. F. Clark: “The problems of surveying the Spanish land grants in Florida are almost continuous with the history of the state….The Land Commissioners of East and West Florida, set up to settle some of the smaller in 1822-23, found the records disjointed, obliterated, non-existent or removed to Spanish territory elsewhere.”
Although revolutionary feelings may have risen up inside the settlers stomachs involuntarily, it is recorded that motives of the United States were not innocent.
Alfred Steinberg, in The First Ten, says clearly that Govs. Claiborne and Holmes had received secret orders to Madison to prepare an insurrection in W. Florida. “Orders were passed out to watch de Lassus’ every move in order to find justification for the next step. Americans carefully read all his mail, and finally in mid-September they found ‘his act of perfidy’ in an intercepted letter to the Spanish governor. This was his request for troops, and it became an excuse for the convention to seize the fort at Baton Rouge and to declare West Florida’s independence.”
Though there was widespread resentment among English-speaking settlers, Ira Kneeland remained loyal to the Spanish government. According to one research document, assistant surveyors “…were required to give a pledge of allegiance to the Spanish Crown.” Kneeland served as Captain in the local militia, and participated in the night raid on the Kempers which eventually netted him one hundred lashes and the traumatic loss of one or both of his ears by the application of a dull knife. Kneeland apparently fled the turmoil of 1810 by joining Pintado in Pensacola but died shortly after his arrival in the Spanish town, reportedly from yellow fever, leaving behind his wife and a young child.
It may be of no provable significance, but one researcher, named Isaac Brumfield, a descendant of someone who had worked closely with Kneeland, poses the possibility that Kneeland had been murdered. This is discussed later in this document.
Kneeland – before Pintado
Not much is known about Ira Kneeland before he came to Spanish West Florida. He reportedly hailed originally from Massachusetts. In 1801 he was employed by George Cochran and John Rhea, partners in a general store selling flour, sugar, tools and rum. They were also active in real estate investments, including a cotton mill.
The first sign of trouble for Kneeland came after he had been hiredto oversee operations at the mill, which was located on land leased in November 1801 from Frederick Kimball Senior and William Miller. The mill included a gin and a warehouse. Within one year of the original agreement, and for some reason still unknown, Kimball demanded that Kneeland be fired and made to leave the mill. Cochran and Rhea refused to remove Kneeland and serious conflict soon ensued.
Disputes continued between Frederick Kimball Senior and Junior against Kneeland who wrote that he “feared for his life.” John O’Connor, an alcade, the judicial officer of the 4th Division of New Feliciana, ordered that the Kimballs be placed on a twelve month peace bond.
Because he could not get rid of Kneeland, Kimball asked that the mill be removed.
The Brent deposition
Morewas revealed about the Kimball problem, when on September 29, 1803, a witness, William Brent, was deposed. When asked at his deposition if William Kimball had malicious intent, Brent replied that he “… had heard Frederick Kimball say that he believed that Robert Cochran was the greatest enemy that he had because of his having Ira C. Kneeland in his employ.”
Kneeland complained to O’Connor that the quarrel between him and Kimball escalated and that Ira’s “life was in danger” from Kimball, Senior, and his son Benjamin. O’Connor, based on the evidence, bound over the elder Kimball and Benjamin to keep peace for 12 months.
Later, Kimball senior complained again, and sold his land to Frederick Kimball Jr. and asked to have Ira removed; if not, the mill would be. O’Connor said nothing could be done in the absence of his constituents, Cochran and Rhea.
It was said that the “matter seemed of such magnitude” that O’Connor suggested to Kimball that he should apply to His Excellency Governor Grand Pre’.
The elder Kimball returned once more to O’Connor and told him that Junior had built a house and that Ira C. Kneeland or the establishment should be moved, adding that “if Kneeland was removed it was all he wanted, as he had no ill towards Cochran and Rhea.” O’Connor said he could do nothing without the Governor’s approval and that Cochran should return from New Orleans in a short time.
Kimball announced to O’Connor that he must burn the brush. At that, O’Connor told him it was too dangerous, and to make sure people were there to protect the mill.
On April 11, 1803 Frederick Jr. set fire to the brush on his property while a strong wind was blowing toward the mill which predictably and purposefully spread to the mill and warehouse and burned 20,000 pounds of cotton and other goods, amounting to at least 1200 pesos worth of damage.
O’Connor, on his way to the Cochran & Rhea store, saw the field, the gin house, the gin and the press all on fire. He asked at the store where Kneeland was, and was answered by the son of Abram Horton who was at the store. He said that Kneeland was not home.
The store was also in danger of being burned. O’Connor had to return to Pinckneyville “taking the round about paths” since the fire threatened the highway.
O’Connor immediately returned from Pickneyville and as he came near the store he saw Mr. Kneeland coming toward his store on his return from Bayou Tonnica.
O’Connor reported, “This deponent and friend recommended Mr. Kneeland to take great care and to be very attentive to the old logs that had seen behind the garden….”
Gran-Pre’, the Spanish governor at Baton Rouge, ordered an investigation on December 5, 1803. O’Connor asked for another alcalde to take over the case since he was seen as biased, in that he witnessed the fire and immediate aftermath.
On December 29, 1803, Cochran and Rhea asked Grand Pre’ to appoint another alcalde since O’Connor would not take any action.
A Larger View of Problems of Pintado and Kneeland
By following the trials and problems of Ira C. Kneeland during the first decade of the 19th century, we more clearly understand the economic, political social and cultural environments of that turbulent period in Louisiana’s history. Kneeland interacted with several important people during his life, people who in many ways determined the history and character of the Florida Parishes. Tracing his brief tenure in the area from primary sources, we acquire a more personal knowledge of the times and a more thorough understanding of how the United States was able to eventually take over all the Spanish possessions along the Eastern and Central Gulf of Mexico.
Land ownership in Spanish West Florida in the early 1800s was a complicated mixture of French measures, British grants, Spanish claims and US aspirations. Consequently, the surveying business was critical to the wealth and well being of West Florida’s inhabitants. They cajoled, entreated, begged, threatened and berated the officials that were charged with issuing the rights to survey aswell as the certificates and the patents that allowed formal recording of land ownership. The men who carried out the surveys were often the focal point for proprietors’ abuse and dislike. And the lands that these men were employed to survey were still mostly wild and uninhabited, often covered in canes, crossed by rivers, bayou and swamps, battered by storms and hurricanes, afflicted by snakes, mosquitoes, panthers, bears and unfriendly settlers.
Ira Cook Kneeland lived and died during the very turbulent times. Among his effects, we find clues to a life filled with stress, danger, adventure, and the intrigues of political and colonial America in the early 1800s. Kneeland was inextricably a player as he surveyed for the Spanish government in the Florida parishes of Louisiana including tracts located in Feliciana, along the Amite, Comite and Tickfaw Rivers, and along the Mississippi River and Bayou Sarah.
Among his accomplishments, Kneeland laid out the boundaries of Baton Rouge, including the delineation of Beauregard Town, the failed dream of Elias Beauregard, one of the many personages that Kneeland served and often crossed during his brief time as deputy surveyor general for His Catholic Majesty. Indeed, there must have beenenormous frustration when his ideas were superseded by an outsider. Writing Pintado from Bayou Sarah on December 12, 1807, Kneeland complained that Beauregard “…Declared himself well pleased with the work and after effecting sales of 15,000Dolls, a Frenchman by the name of Lature [sic] filled his brain with an Idea that he could make a Second Paris of it and the [illeg] man abandoned the sale he had made and now refused to pay me any thing for my services.”
The Frenchman appears to have been Arsene Lacarriere Latour, later Jackson’s celebrated chief engineer at New Orleans, but ultimately a spy of Spain against the United States. Intrigues must have been plentiful, in those days.
Kneeland entered the employ of Pintado in 1805. It is not known whether he was a trained surveyor, but letters over the next several years show that he was an educated man, sometimes quoting from literature and history. It can be observed that he had to buy a surveying instrument from Pintado, seeming to indicate that he did not have one and was perhaps new to the business. He complained later that he paid Pintado more for a used one than what he would have bought a new one.
A number of assistant surveyors were active in the period just before the West Florida rebellion, all manifesting similar problems. Among others, there were Bolling, Collins, Marrin, Tegart. Walther, Johnsone, and Morris. Surveys by Trudeau, who preceded Pintado, are also in evidence. There were in fact many problems shared by these men, some having to do with mistakes in laying out claims; recalcitrance by neighbors to already laid-out claims sometimes made it impossible to make accurate measurements.
The apparent high turnover of assistants is indicative of the difficulty of the work, as well as the expectations of Pintado, obviously a hard taskmaster.
One 1802 letter from Thomas Hutchins asked for a correction of “the degrees of the North and South lines.”
The content of the letter invites a reader to wonder whether the author was the son of the famous Thomas Hutchins who initially devised the system of townships, range and sections. That Thomas Hutchins had died in 1789, but had been active in Spanish West Florida and had at one time hoped to be appointed surveyor general to Spain. This Hutchins was an important land owner who is referred to as “Dr.” He was also a colonel of the militia and had supported Galvez in the overthrow of the British.
It is noteworthy that in the 1802 letter, Hutchins was very specific in his assigning blame: “As I am informed that Mr. Bolling your Deputy is not always correct and as this Business is of importance to Government as well as myself – you will much oblige me and [the] Government by having it well executed by some careful, trusty Person.”
Indeed, Pintado had to referee between his assistants and claimants on manyoccasions. Dissatisfaction on the part of the latter often made bill collection an after-the-fact problem. Such incidents also have resultant mentions by surveyors of not being paid by Pintado.
Besides inaccuracies and problems with claimants, surveyors shared other problems. Often they complain of privations, writing “from the wilderness.” Sickness, including occasional “flux,” is a commonly shared excuse for inability to complete a given assignment. This is not assumed to mean feigned illnesses; more likely, causes were the extreme working conditions that caused men to suffer the elements for long periods many miles from warmth and rest. Parcels were often of large dimension, necessitating wading through swamps and marshes in cold weather.
Problems of Surveying, Kneeland et al
Problems of land ownership, titles, surveys, and the like began long before Ira Kneeland measured off an arpent. Almost every problem that pertains to land developed early on in what eventually became West Florida. In 1763, the Treaty of Paris had stipulated that the northern boundary would be the 31st parallel. However, in an agreement dated 1782 between British and American negotiators attempting to end the American Revolution, a boundary was established above the 32nd. This was not agreed to by Spain until 1795, when it accepted the more southerly boundary.
The date of Spain’s acceptance of the 31st might certainly be relevant to the Hutchins letter quoted above. He also mentions the year 1795, in the following request: “Please to be so good as to furnish me with your Certificates of the Surveys (if any) which may interfere with either of these Tracts – The Dates also if you please, whether more early than 1795.”
Meanwhile, years had gone by in which settlers feared that they owned land which eventually was to be given to another country. It did not take a long time for disputes over land ownership to fester. As might be expected, a person who lay claim to a parcel would interpret any dispute in a way that would be to his benefit. Violence resulting over land disputes is an established historical fact. Thus, the history of West Florida in its infancy was to some degree determined by both inside and outside forces.
In a book entitled The Nation’s Crucible, Peter Kastor asserts that the American settlers were frustrated by the difficulty of establishing uncontested land claims, and that this was a force of the revolt in 1804.
Methods of parceling land for the United States and for Spain were not dissimilar. Both had their foundation in the French system used in the early 1700’s. Often, frontage was smaller than depth, varying from two to six arpents by 40 to 80 deep. This was not arbitrary, but was a result of the desirability of land fronting on a navigable waterway. Obviously, this was true for the Mississippi River, but also for smaller bodies, such as Bayou Sarah, Bayou Tonnica, Thompson Creek, and the many rivers of West Florida, including the Amite, Comite, Tickfaw, and Pearl Rivers.
An enormous problem was the one of surveying, and this continued long past the time when West Florida was no longer Spanish. In one very important fact, the two best known surveyors of West Florida – Pintado and Kneeland – absconded with their documents at the Revolt of 1810; it thus proved difficult afterward for some settlers to establish boundaries.
But even assuming that records of the United States were kept in a more unbroken line, the United States Public Land Survey System does not defend the integrity of early history of surveying: “While the original PLSS surveys were supposed to conform to official procedures, some errors were made due either to honest mistakes or to fraudulent surveys.”
Letters from the Surveyors
A reading of the letters from Kneeland and his associates reveals innumerable requests of Pintado for copies of maps and existing surveys so that they can correctly do the job of proper surveying. In this regard, it is noteworthy to return to an observation of the PLSS: “Existing surveys are considered authoritative, and any new surveys must work from existing corners and surveys, in spite of errors in the original surveys and variations from the ideal.”
It is not necessary to assume dishonesty in early surveying to account for mistakes. Indeed, one history of surveying states, “Early surveys were often inaccurate. The iron chains stretched with use. An error of one link (about 8 inches) in 3 to 5 chains was considered normal. The magnetic compass was a major source of error. It is subject to daily, annual and lunar variations in the earth’s magnetic field, solar magnetic storms, local attractions and static electricity in the compass glass….And, of course, no way to re-calibrate equipment damaged 100 miles from nowhere….If a tree blocked a line of sight, a surveyor might sight to the trunk, walk around it and approximate the continuing line…. Other factors contributing to inaccuracy included a lack of supervision, a shortage of trained surveyors, and abundance of hostile Indians, bears, wolves, wind, rain snow, burning sun and rugged terrain.”
No less a personage than William Dunbar told Pintado in 1802 that he was “well aware you will meet with many embarrassments from the extreme irregularities committed by our Surveyors, and I have often lamented we were under of employing mercenary persons who had nothing in view but to get money with as little trouble as possible.”
Fred Walther, presumably an assistant surveyor to Pintado, wrote from Sandy Creek and also from the Amite River in 1804, telling of significant measurement problems. With regard to the sketch of Col. Fulton’s land, he said that Power’s survey made rendering the front and rear somewhat difficult, because the Power line “varies at times between 2 and 5 degrees and upwards.”
One can only speculate about the seriousness of resulting measurements. There were, according to Walther, a vacancy of perhaps 800 acres between lands belonging to Powers and Jackson. He asked for advice as to what was to be done “with the Surplus.”
The above study also mentions that to be exacting did not seem significant when land parcels were huge and the price per arpent was cheap. In the case of West Florida, the price was established by His Majesty’s Minister of Finance at $2 per arpent, leaving no room for values to find their own level.
The Problems, in Sequence
An in-depth study of the documents called the Pintado Papers is required for better understanding. Recognizing that a year-by-year, letter-by-letter analysis may produce some duplications, the following sequence is may help to see the happenings unfold.
To complicate the job of the Surveyor General, it seems that Pintado’s duties involved more than surveying. Besides being an officer in the militia,he was called upon to grant titles as well, or at least to use his influence in such matters. This is made clear earlier than the date that Kneeland came on board, as shown in a letter date marked Alexander’s Creek, 29th March, 1802. It was from assistant surveyor Christopher Bolling to Pintado: “Adam Single will pay you very well for your trouble if you can get him the titles for the land he sold Smith.”
In that letter, Bolling also appealed for assignments. On September 23 of the same year, however, William Dunbar wrote from Natchez, apparently to Pintado, saying that he had been requested to forward a survey done by Bolling to Carlos Trudeau to obtain a patent, “because Mr. Bolling had at that time but little credit with Mr. Laveau.”
Another assistant, Patrick Marrin, in 1803 wrote of some of the problems. In October, he experienced flooding at or near River Comite: “When I came to the Cyperus [sic] Bayou I found it swiming [sic]….I discharged the hands and returned….If I proceeded it is a certainty that we run a risk of loosing our Horses provisions instruments etc and I my life for I cannot swim very much.” Nonetheless, they tried again once they thought the waters might recede, but the men and horses were forced to swim, carrying provisions and instruments on their backs. At one point, a raft made of cane was used to ferry the provisions.
Marrin’s difficulties continued into the following month. His next letter is datelined “Out in the Wilderness.” The date was November 17th, and so one may presume that the weather was cool. There is little doubt that Marrin was hungry. His request: “Sir, Send me by the Bearer as much provisions as he will pack together with sugar & coffe [sic] for or in place of our allowance of rum. Please to send fresh Biscuit and good Pork.”
One week later, Marrin wrote a complex letter at once filled with praise and appreciation of Pintado as well as an answer to a challenge of his ability. “Did you, Sir, ever know me to disobey your orders?…You have done more for me than any Man I ever saw since I saw my Father. It is therefore my duty tenfold to obey you as a superior Officer and a Friend in my need.”
Included in the letter was a description of a problem triangle beginning with the Hypothenuse [sic] and continuing with the number of paces between marker trees. Among them are mentioned a gum, a holly, a white oak, a laurel and an ash. Obviously, these kinds of markings may not have been the most exacting and lasting, but there is other evidence in surveys of the day that this was not unusual. This was, after all, not the era of iron posts and metal detectors.
In conclusion, Marrin said the rains were continuing and “everything is swimming….I am becoming I believe amphibians.” To add to his difficulties, he had no paper.
Another letter to Pintado a few days later seems to indicate that work had begun in spite of the rain: “Sir, I promised to give the hands a half Gallon of Rum for working with Me in a storm or bad rain you will please to let them have it; if the proprietors will not pay it I suppose I must.”
Pintado must have not been terribly sympathetic, for between the November letter and Christmas, he must have threatened to fire Marrin, even though he apparently had worked for a protracted time. Marrin wrote, “I will not request or desire to collect any of my share of surveying for any thing I have done even for years until you are satisfied that you are clear of trouble concerning the work I have done.”
The Christmas day letter complained of continuing sickness. Written from Baton Rouge at Mr. Wilson’s, Marrin said that he had been “…scarcely able to arrive at this house, the vomiting continuing all the way and for most of the day; and this morning I am very unwell.” Nevertheless, he proceeded to list and explain five points in his defense. The last one may summarize a problem less of the failure of the surveyors and more one caused by Pintado himself: “I…would strive to be more exact and Accurate if I would not be hurried or driven.”
By February 1804, a Marrin letter seems to show him adjusting to his having been dismissed by Pintado, but expresses extreme bitterness. He was, he wrote, at that point “without pocket Money to pay my travelling expense.”
Meanwhile, another assistant, by the name of Tegart, was having his own problems. He wrote to Pintado, asking for $20 to pay a worker who had not been paid. Tegart complained of his own health, saying he was afflicted with “lax” that “continues to keep me so weak that I am unable to leave the house.” He also requested his own pay, while allowing for Pintado himself to be “straitned,” in order to buy shoes and a big wheel.
Several months later, Tegert wrote that he had the “flux,” which had not yet stopped. This, as well as other similar mentions by assistants seems to show that long term diarrhea was a common problem.
Of simpler matters, Tegart requested some basics, such as paper, wafers, and a tent. He did improvise, once buying venison from an Indian for one dollar. At one point, he indicated that he might not be able to do a survey for Mr. Lynd, “because I can get no liquor here and cannot venture to go out in this weather without some.”
Such essentials were often in short supply.
Inearly 1804, Bolling too was “much distressed.” Not only had he not been paid, but he knew that other surveyors were “out,” and felt that they would not be if they did not have the prospect of being paid. By February 20, 1804, Grand Pre’ was being petitioned by William Cobb, on behalf of Bolling, to grant an attachment of some money due Pintado for the sale of three Negroes, two of them being very old.
In March, Pintado confessed his own troubles, saying, “Your creditors are all after me as if I had the mines of Mexico.” He did however send Bolling thirty dollars for provisions.
Whatever the final mechanics of payment, Cobb issued on May 1, 1804, a receipt to Pintado for eighty-nine dollars on account of the amount owing to Bolling.
Assistants did communicate with each other, though not always exhibiting a spirit of camaraderie. In 1804, Marring wrote to Pintado from Thompson’s Creek to say that Tegart had informed him that “no Man shall make use of his compass” until purchased for $50. Three months later, Tegart signed a receipt for that amount, which had been paid by Pintado. There is perhaps an indication here that even compasses were in short supply, although it may simply indicate that Tegart was no longer an assistant surveyor.
It was in 1805 that Ira Kneeland made an appearance as a surveyor. In March of 1805, he wrote Pintado in passing about surveys for John Lintot and John Baker.
Already Kneeland was in the midst of surveying problems. “This circumstance entirely frustrated out design of tracing out the Corners and thereby finding the true ones to my tract…It appears likewise that the Corners of John Lintot’s land are not fully marked, this prevents John Baker from tracing out his land.”
Kneeland appealed to Pintado for a solution to some of the problems he was discovering. “Would it not be in your power and Consistent with your business to obtain an order of government to have them generally resurveyed and oblige the proprietors to pay the expense.” Perhaps showing a bit of unfamiliarity with the feelings of the landowners, Kneeland advised, “If this could be done I think it would be generally agreeable to the people.”
Another unrelated but telling part of this letter is that Kneeland too was having trouble with Cobb, who was being represented by the pastor of Natchez: “Father Brady who has undertaken for Cobb says if I do not settle as he pleases he will have [me] ordered out of the country.”
It is evident that some of the problems crossed the 31st parallel.
A major traumatic event that crossed the 31st occurred in this period. The Kemper brothers probably were still feeling the sting of their failure to take over West Florida in the 1804 rebellion. On the night of September 3, 1805, a group of armed settlers from the Spanish side crossed into Mississippi territory at Pinckneyville. They raided the Kemper house and took prisoner the three brothers, capturing them in their beds. The Kempers were taken across the line and turned over to the Spanish militia. Subsequently, they were freed, and did not wait long before taking revenge. Although many had participated in the violent kidnapping, the Kempers’ focus was directed at Ira Kneeland. He was given one hundred lashes by Reuben and Samuel Kemper, and then one hundred more for the absent sibling Nathan. They cut off one or both of his ears; it is said that the knife used was a dull one. The ears were for a time displayed in a jar of alcohol at the Kemper tavern in Pinckneyville.
It seems that Kneeland was officially contracted by Pintado in 1806. It was also the year when Kneeland married the former wife of Cobb and bought his plantation.
Kneeland’s difficulties were not resolved by having become Deputy Surveyor. In March of 1806, he reported to Pintado, “By what little I have seen I am convinced the surveys made in this quarter by phantom and Morgan are very carelessly and inaccurately done.” Mention is made of a plat and certificate for Dr. Hutchins for four thousand arpens of land, as well as two thousand “surveyed for myself, for which I have the governor’s orders.”
The March letter also contains a cryptic comment about “our lands,” seeming to indicate that Kneeland and Pintado owned some property jointly.
It is at this time that Kneeland has been able to obtain a compass from Mrs. Teggard, causing speculation that possibly he was hired to replace Teggard. He had to pay sixty-five dollars for it, even though it was no better, he complained to Pintado, than the one Kneeland had sold to Pintado for thirty-six dollars.
An undated document, possibly from this period and from Dr. Hutchins, states flatly, “Mr. Bolling, your deputy, is not always correct.” There is mention in the March letter that Dr. Hutchins “has paid me no fees.”
May of 1806 did not come with any solutions for Kneeland. One letter shows that he begged Pintado for assistance: “I am much at a loss and perplexed for want of a General plat of the Country. The governor is granting orders of survey every day. I tell his Excellency I am at a loss and know not what to do, he says I may survey if people employ me and if it is not right, it is not my fault. I do not like this and would cheerfully pay any reasonable Compensation for a plat of the survey already made….I must beg you would furnish me with a plat of the Country if you think it Consistant [sic] as I am obliged to a great deal of trouble to ascertain vacant land and then people grumble at paying me for any extra expense as is the case with respect to Mr. George Mather who refuses to pay me for surveying the adjoining tract to ascertain the quantity of vacant land which by the by we agreed to leave to you whether I had the right to charge him for the surveying….”
Meanwhile, Kneeland was having trouble with the expected wording of his documents. He was expected to make his certificates in Spanish, but did not speak the language. There had been a delay is acquiring a Spanish grammar and dictionary, but nonetheless, Kneeland hoped that his next report would be in Spanish.
Kneeland was one very busy surveyor among a large group of anxious claimants. “I have not had one hour leisure time since the first of April last, and at this time I have a pile of orders for surveys as large as the Dakotas family Bible laying beside me….The people would mob me unless I did something for them for they are in every sense of the word land mad.”
Again, he declared “the absolute necessity of my having a personal map of the former surveys here….”
By August 25, 1806, the people were still “in every sense of the word Land Mad.”
It would seem that Kneeland was making at best approximate surveys, even while 150 orders from the governor lay along side of him. “I have not interfered with old Claims but I have taken every possible [sic] means to be accurate that I Could. I can assure you the want of a general plat of the surveys embarrasses me in such manner that I cannot tell what to do. The people curse me and you and every one else, that they cannot see the plat of the old surveys without going to Pensacola. Whenever I make surveys …they may be void by interfering with prior claims which is impossible for me … without a general plan.”
One month later, the government and Pintado and Kneeland were far from coordinated. Kneeland, writing from Bayou Sarah, reminded Pintado that no lands were to be surveyed without his knowledge, but Grand Pre’, the governor at Baton Rouge, was issuing survey requests daily. It is here that Kneeland first mentioned Beauregard, saying that the latter showed him surveys certified by Dunbar in 1794. This was to cause him not to interfere, as he had been accused.
Trouble of a different nature arose at this time. Pintado had informed Kneeland that he was not likely to get land on “the Chefuncte.” Moreover, he reported having been “very sick of a fever.”
Eventually, Kneeland’s difficulties might have been given an unexpected respite. A letter datelined Pensacola, Dec. 5th, 1806, from an unidentifiable Spanish official representing the King was addressed to Kneeland. “I wrote you a letter in Spanish acquainting you with the order of the Intendant General of this Province…to suspend all surveys, measures, estimations and appraisements…until further notice….By a second official letter dated 27th ultmo the Intdt. Gen. informs me amongst other things relative to lands, that in consequence of his Majesty’s order dated 31st March last past, and the decisions of the Council of Finance on 22nd of November last the price of [the] vacant lands that have already been petitioned for by way of purchase, or those that may be solicited hereafter, will be two dollars per arpent and in both cases to be sold only to foreigners (not being Anglo-Americans) that are settled in this province, who may prove by certificates from the government that they have lived in the country the necessary time have taken the oath of fidelity and have been taxed and reputed by the government good and faithful subjects of his Majesty and in case of having particular reasons for granting any lands by head rights, the same exception will be made until his Majesty determines otherwise – all of which I communicate to you for your information and fulfillment.”
Assuming Kneeland read the last words, his anxiety at his profession must have spiked. He would certainly have wondered that if surveyors were the ones to determine those eligible for land, this indeed would be a cause of the dislike by those declared ineligible. In effect, a surveyor could be the proverbial messenger who brought the bad news.
On December 23, Kneeland commented to Pintado on the above letter from the Spanish official, expressing confusion about the governor in Baton Rouge continuing to order surveys. “And if his orders and the surveys made under them are to be nul [sic] and void I dred [sic] the Confusion that will ensue.”
It cannot be ignored that some of the settlers were already disappointed in the outcome of the insurrection of 1804. Perhaps the winds of war were being fanned, giving recalcitrant land owners good reason not to pay fees. On March 10, 1807, Kneeland is again concerned about land that Kimball, who gave him trouble earlier, does not, in his opinion, deserve. In asking for Pintado to use his influence, Kneeland says that Kimball predicts that Americans will soon get the country anyway.
At this time, Kneeland was not in good spirits. “I am far from enjoying my health. As soon as possible I will send an accounting. The order of his Majesty that all lands should be sold at $2 per arpent has occasioned great confusion. The people murmur and refuse to pay fees. The alcade of the 4th district which is Robert Percy and an English Pentioner [sic] is very violent; he called the people together in his district and mounted a stump and Harangued them… he would not pay fees and as Alcade the would not make other people pay, not even if they had given their notes for [?] live recd; that he would see my and Pintado Damned before he would Pay.”
Percy was said by Kneeland to owe for a survey of 7,000 arpents in Bogue Chitto. “Now the people say if Percy pays we will but if he is exempted why should we pay and I have not received 30 Dollars for 3 months past….I have not Received one Cent for all the lots I have laid off in Baton Rouge – I will send you a plan of the whole as soon as Posible [sic] but I am much engaged and very unwell and I have been for six months past – I have a suit with Bouregard [sic] for five hundred Dollars for laying off lots – he talks of appealing to Pensacola.” The letter continues with a complaint against Mather, who also has not paid “one sous, nor will he until [sic]” we have your opinion. Depend on it I had a severe time of it, up to my Waist in Mud and Water and think I ought to be paid.”
It was at this juncture, in a letter dated December 12, 1807, that Kneeland reviewed the history of a contract with Capt. Beauregard. The agreement was to lay off a town on his land in Baton Rouge for a fee of $490. When Beauregard refused to pay, Kneeland appealed to Folch, governor of West Florida. “Folche would not give his Decree while he was here but Carried all the papers with him to Pensacola so it remains. I have no acquaintance in Pensacola but you and must therefore beg you will adjust [?] me in this affair. I have empowered Mr. Alston to attend to it.”
During the time period studied, surveys were being made at places other than Thompson’s Creek, Bayou Sarah, Baton Rouge and the close-by assignments of Ira Kneeland. Some others were being made in the land bordering the Gulf of Mexico, and it may be instructive to examine briefly those reports in order to see if Kneeland’s complaints and problems were of his own creation.
What we find is that Jose Collins was the man most called upon in those areas. When he wrote to Pintado on July 22, 1808, he explained that he had gone for provisions out of the Village Maringouin and Chicapoula areas because “we are all but starving here.” Besides the privation of food, he also reported, “Not a sheet of paper for sale in Mobile or this place.” As for other necessities, he had left his compass and chain and another surveying instrument at Pascagoula.
By July 26, Kneeland confessed a “sincere desire to relinquish altogether” his surveying business. He even suggested a replacement, a Mr. Matthew Flannery. He also informed Pintado that since the price of land was fixed at $2 per arpent, he had not been able to make any collections for past services, and “the Governor of this Jurisdiction has decreed that the people in this Country cannot be compelled to pay until [sic] the Intendant will agree to grant them their lands on the terms they were expected when surveyed.”
In August, matters were made worse by the indication that many letters between Pintado and Kneeland were never delivered. Kneeland seemed suspicious of Pintado’s claims of non-receipt, prompting from Kneeland the statement, “I am unable to account for miscarriage of letters to you…. In three I have begged you to appoint another person to act in my place.” Outside of the dispute about who mailed whom, Kneeland took an opportunity to sum up: “…the people are so superstitious and so much opposed to resurveying and so fearful of losing their land or some part of it that nothing you can say will satisfy them.”
And he pointed fingers at his fellow assistants: “I am certain that Bolling has been in many Instances knowingly wrong in his opperations [sic].” Others are not spared: “I think the surveys of Kelsey, Nash, Favrote and Anderson are all faulty.”
The Montesano Development
In the same long letter described above, Kneeland also went into detail regarding an apparently highly political subject, that being the proposed “Montesano.” Kneeland took pains to separate himself from criticism of the government: “It is far from my wish to cast any reflections of the Conduct of Govr. Grand Pre’ because he is a man who I respect and venerate not only as Governor of this Jurisdiction but as a Just and good man, but I have often with astonishment beheld him led away and imposed upon time after time by designing, artful and Intriguing men.”
This new concern involved several property owners, including Mr. Herries, the founder of the intended city of Montesano, and adjacent owners Roach, Ponsetti and Russ. It involved an order from the governor to resurvey Herries’ land and to include
some part that had formerly been surveyed for Jesse Roach. The latter “…suffered himself to be terrified and wheedled out of his pretensions to this land.” Herries then presented another order to include more land. When Kneeland was given a third order from the governor, asking him to include land that belonged to the Russes, he said he could not as they had “positive and ancient patents” to the land. “Mr. Herries raged at my refusal to execute the orders of the Govr threatened me with his influence and Consequence with the Governor and in short lodged a complaint against me.”
Kneeland continued with a conclusion about Herries: “Thus this man becomes my violent enemy. This man to whom it seems the Gov. listens as to an oracle.”
Kneeland then followed immediately in the same paragraph to answer a question that may have been posed by Pintado rhetorically. “This is answering in part another interogatory [sic] of yours ‘why there exists so much disaffection to me.’” This not being sufficient Kneeland listed a few others of his enemies, highlighting once again the character Robert Percy. About him, he recited once more that Percy “mounted himself on a log, as the ancient Romans used to their Rostrums, and delivered a lengthy oration on the State of the nation….”
By the year 1809, Kneeland was still not allowed to retire. He evidently was still working as a surveyor for Pintado, on lands in Bayou Sarah and Thompson’s Creek and other ordinary assignments.
In March, however, a new side of Kneeland surfaced. Writing from Bayou Sarah, he said, “Nothing now detains me but a boat to ship my cotton in, to obtain which I have had a great deal of trouble, and as my Cotton is all at the Landing and the water in a few Inches of covering it. I dare not have [leave?] it but wish to see it shiped [sic] before I leave house.” This was the first time that Kneeland indicated that he had another business besides surveying, and the revelation seems to confirm earlier suggestions that he was a man of some means, not simply dependent on surveying.
The words “before I leave house” were perhaps indicative of his moving away from the area where he has experienced personal problems. Pintado answered, “I will endevour [sic] to do something in your business at Bayou Sarah.”
Another March letter, dated the 23rd, is believed to be from Pintado to Kneeland. It advised that Governor Folch is “gone.” From this, it may be concluded that an undated letter was exchanged between Folch and Pintado sometime before this. Its significance is that Folch had taken very seriously another flaw of local surveying. He wrote that he has been told that two people have used the same survey for land at Manchac and demanded to know how this was possible. “Inform me of whatever you know. Guard yourself against that man that so easily violates the order.” He ended with a request for Pintado to come to Baton Rouge.
In June, there was another indication of Kneeland’s life besides surveying. It is a part of a letter which is very difficult to read, but for the first time there is in evidence the subject of slaves. He appeared to be appealing to Pintado: “I return tho [sic] Documents respecting the arrangement [sic] of the Negroes again and take them out of my hands.”
The meaning is unclear, but may relate to difficulties of a business arrangement between Pintado and Kneeland.
Letters of late 1809 reveal that Kneeland was still surveying. In one, there are cryptic comments about Kneeland having a suit against Percy, as well as a desire to see the decree against Beauregard. It may be assumed that Kneeland has won his case against both of these men. If this was so, it demonstrates once more the character of Kneeland as a man willing to stand up on principle against people of a high level.
Over the years, there were a number of disputes in which Kneeland seemed to side with the underdog, further delineating the caliber of the man. One isolated incident involved a man named Duggins. Kneeland had reported to Pintado that he finished surveying some land in the fork of Thompson’s Creek, “except of part of what was supposed to be Miners.” [Editor’s note: apparently a proper name.] Kneeland continued, “Duggins is settled on that which Miners Claim will not cover and begs me to mention to you, that if possible he hopes to have the privilege of Petitioning for said land as he is a poor man with a large family and has settled there about Seven years, and says he settled by permission of the Government with a promise of the land if it was vacant and would now have applied for the land but was informed it was within Miners Claim. I mention this because I believe Duggins an honest man; you will however instruct me on this point as you think proper.”
January 1810 found Kneeland still trying to mediate problems brought on by the relentless pursuit of land. “Mr. Vardeman has just been with me to see if his Patent has arrived. He says he has the money and is very impatient to see the patent as some people have settled on his land and cannot get them off without the titles….I am informed that Bogue Chitto and Pearl River are lined with Inhabitants from the line of Demarcation to the lake. They flock in and settle without a lease or license.”
The same letter reviewed the Percy affair. “I asked the Governor respecting the papers on the suit of Percy and myself. He says he sent them to the Governor General as it was an affair of justice. You will confer a favor on me by examining the office of the Governor to see if this affair Cannot be dispatched. I make no collection of fees nor can I expect any until [sic] this affair is determined.”
Four months later, similar problems persisted. He wrote that Dr. Hutchins “was not able to pay me one cent…. I hold his note for $2400 for the payment of fees….I have not been able to Collect one Cent for any services in surveying and Dividing the lands of Baton Rouge….I had great trouble and expense I was obliged to hire hands and furnish Provisions at my own expense.”
Once more there was the threat to quit. “Wish you to inform me if you can come to Baton Rouge to settle with me if not I will come to Pensacola as soon as possible for to Continue Surveyor under these circumstances I cannot. I hope you will pardon this Resolution as I assure you I have good Reasons. Governor de Lassus has sent back the affair of mine with Beuregard without practicing [?] any thing on it to my knowledge. I am informed that he has made some Decree thereon but I do not know what it is.”
The letter again concluded with mention of sickness. “I have been sick first with the Influenze [sic] and then a severe attack of the Pleurisy. I must beg you to pardon this letter both for bad Diction and Mistakes as I assure you I am scarcely able to hold my pen.”
Republic of West Florida
A letter dated September 13, 1810 is addressed to an unknown person, but sent “by Mr. Neeland.” It was probably meant for Pintado, and informed the reader that “Compleat [sic] change has taken place in the Order of things in this part of the Province. All the Commandants, Civil and militia Officers, are displaced and their places filled by Others.”
A successful military action ensued and the lone star flag was raised over the new republic.
Afterward, Alexander Bookter at Springfield did not seem to be fazed. He was more concerned about his schooner not having returned when he expected.
But nothing more was heard from Kneeland.
On December 6, 1810, his wife wrote to Pintado, expressing her concern: “I have heard from different sources that my Husband Ira Kneeland after his arrival at Penscola was [?] with yellow Fever and died what credit to attach to it I cannot say but am doubtful of it being the case from his never writing me since his arrival at that place. Should this unfortunate news be true I Sincerely beg of you as a favour [sic] that never shall be forgotten, that you will let me know immediately, and that you will take charge of his papers and effects in that place and keep them until [sic] some safe opportunity is [illeg] offer to have them sent to me. Since writing the above I have thought it prudent that [illeg] to Mr. Charles Mc [Micken]….”
It was signed by Susanna Kneeland.
Yellow fever in the winter may not be impossible, especially in the warmth of Florida swamps. There is from at least one quarter speculation that Kneeland met with foul play. Given his having created so many enemies in his time, both before and after his surveying days, it is not impossible to contemplate.
The Brumfield research cited above mentions Kneeland’s “bitter enemy” being nearby when Kneeland died. This involves a letter from Reuben Kemper written to Rhea from Fort St. Stephens, located about 60 miles due north from Mobile. That letter is quoted as follows: “James Horton left Mobile about 10 days ago for Pensacola and all his Negroes Kneeland died at Pensacola about two weeks since with someone else from Bayou Sarah with the yellow fever Kneeland’s worth is not to be doubted.”
The curious thing about this letter is the mention of John Horton and his slaves.
James Horton and several slaves of Abraham Horton were, according to testimony of Reuben Kemper, among those Kemper could identify of the group that attacked and kidnapped him.
Nonetheless, it was not Horton who died. According to Brumfield, it was his ancestor, Isaac Brumfield, who died. He had worked closely with Kneeland in the granting of land. Brumfield had been agent for the American Land Speculators.
Although at least one source (Brumfield manuscript) says it was the first week of November, 1810, Ira Kneeland must have met his demise either is late September or early October, 1810. The letter quoted above and sent “by Mr. Neeland” of September allows one to suppose that Kneeland was still alive on that date. Only days later, however, John Rhea, president of the State of West Florida, on October 6 signed a resolution that includes the following:
“…all French and British Patents for lands lying within the Commonwealth, which said lands have been conveyed by Spanish Patents, shall be void, and shall never be received as evidence of such claims in any Court of Justice within this State.
“Whereas Ira C. Kneeland, late Deputy Surveyor General of the Jurisdiction of Baton Rouge has clandestinely left the said Jurisdiction, and carried away all the public papers belonging to his office, to the infinite prejudice, as it is presumed [?] of the good people of this Commonwealth…heretofore on the motion of Mr. Johnson, seconded by Mr. Leonard, Resolved that the whole estate real and personal of the said Ira C. Kneeland be sequestered and kept in Secret [?] until the Convention can investigate the conduct of said Kneeland.”
It might be noteworthy that before the revolution, Rhea was an alcade and appeared to be friendly and helpful to Kneeland.
If death was any rest for Kneeland, his respite did not last long. By March of 1811, Pintado was met with a demand for the box of effects by Elijah Adams, who presented himself as the executor of the estate. He stated that Mrs. Kneeland was not satisfied with the will and might protest against it.
Apparently little was done for months, as in August Pintado was beseeched by Charles McMicken of Bayou Sarah “for all papers and money you have in your possession belonging to the estate of Kneeland.” This letter also called attention to a suit by Pintado’s attorney having to do with a mortgage that Kneeland had given Pintado.
A September letter seems to be from Pintado’s attorney, Thomas Butler, who had referred to him a mortgage by Kneeland of “his land, Negroes, etc.” An inventory was called for.
Finally, an inventory was done, dated October 3, 1811. It included, among other things, the order not to survey from Governor de Lassus dated August 29, 1810; a file of 34 letters from Pintado; various notes and receipts; personal items. The letters from Pintado would certainly make interesting reading, but they are not in evidence.
John O’Connor threw a new light on the claim of Pintado, one that favored Mrs. Kneeland and her child, at least in so far as she had understood it. He wrote Pintado to the effect that he heard that Elijah Adams and Charles McMicken had made little progress as executors of the estate, and follows with this statement: “I have mentioned your mortgage to the Widdow [sic] and Ex. who answered the mortgage was only confidential lest any accident may offer to him and through your means to secure so much for him and family.
However the Estate is considerable if well managed [illeg] is carefull [sic] [illeg] will depend whoever she is married to….”
O’Connor’s letter was dated October 22, 1811. There is not an exact date in a document of Feliciana Parish, Louisiana, but the year was 1811 when “Susan Thompson,
widow of the late Ira C. Kneeland and now wife of Jason Thompson” sought “to recover her personal property….” She claimed that at the time of her marriage she had received substantial property from her father, including land and animals, and three slaves named Little Dick, Will, and Anthony, and that Kneeland “had very little property of his own.”
widow of the late Ira C. Kneeland and now wife of Jason Thompson” sought “to recover her personal property….” She claimed that at the time of her marriage she had received substantial property from her father, including land and animals, and three slaves named Little Dick, Will, and Anthony, and that Kneeland “had very little property of his own.”
It may be recalled that first Susanna was a Cobb, then a Kneeland, and later a Thompson.
The day after O’Connor wrote his letter, Elijah Adams sent word to Pintado that he was very happy that Pintado had agreed to an amicable settlement but expressed concern that there had been no sale of cotton. He hoped that Pintado would show some dignity [?] toward the widow and her child.
Next, the story has moved to the Territory of Orleans Jurisdiction. The date was April 2, 1812, and Pintado sought to recover from the mortgage by Kneeland of land and nineteen slaves, which had secured a loan of $4,030. A counter by Susanna and husband Jason Thompson claimed that part of the property was hers.
It appears from a July 4 letter that McMicken, as executor, settled with Pinado for $5,077 less a credit of $1047, for a net of $4,030.
The matter was not yet settled. Pintado had never surrendered the papers among the effects. Adams was still demanding hem, but by December Pintado stated that no one had ever shown that he had the legal authority to be given the documents. He further stated that when anyone so qualified would apply, “they shall be delivered without delay.”
Finally, on February 9, 1813. John Smith gave a receipt for the inventory, including money, papers, and effects.
The following June, in the 4th District Court of the Parish of Point Coupee, the Executors of Kneeland vs Pintado was heard by Judge J P. Hampton. A petition by Pintado was answered that the estate was not indebted to him and that it is in fact insolvent. The judge noted that the estate had already been sued for $25,000 plus costs, and that he had made a public sale of part of the estate, including three Negroes, raising $5,179. There still remained other parts of the estate.
A complicating factor was noted by Judge Hampton in his decree. It states that he named himself and his wife as tutors of the infant son and only heir of the said Ira deceased. That had been done on July 25 of the previous year. It is not known why Susanna was not included.
Much information about various notes, properties and sales of slaves is available. Its pursuit would require a very patient accountant and would accomplish little. One thing that comes out in this detail is a reflection on the character of Mr. Pintado. It seems that in an 1806 sale of slaves to one Wilson, Pintado understated their ages. Quoting that document, “Old Fanny stated at 55 has 80 years…Rebecca stated at 38 has 50 years… Dick sold as 26 or 28 has 34.”
Vicente Sebatian Pintado had been called to Havana. He had taken his papers with him.
The following letter needs no explanation to show that the problems of surveying lands in West Florida continued long past the death of Kneeland and the absorption of the republic by the United States. In addition, it further delineates the character of Pintado.
Philadelphia Dec.r 9th 1818
Dn. Vicente Pintado
Hearing of the departure of a Gentleman of this city for the Havanna I am induced once more to trouble you with a letter.
In the month of August last I made the Endeavor through a Gentleman of this city who then to the Havanna, to obtain a copy of the papers in your office relative to my tracts of land in West Florida, but he had returned and informed me that you were absent from Havanna during his stay there, so therefore I am disappointed again.
Will you be so good, to grant me this favor. I wish to have now merely the copy of the plat that Mr. Kneeland deposited in your office, which may be forwarded to me through the bearer of this letter, Mr. S Israel – or by any vessel [balance of letter missing]
Forward to Present Day
Today there is a lonely, seemingly uninhabited, 24-mile road that runs from Woodville, MS on Hwy 61 to what used to be Pinckneyville. Current phone directories of the area show no Kempers.
The solitary grave of Oliver Pollock is ignominiously nearly hidden from view.
Herries – Landowner and one of the participants in the plan to develop a port town on the bayou of the Monte Sano plantation
Fred Kimball – Property owner with large interests who at one time complained that there was “no money” in West Florida. He often criticized Spanish officials but publicly praised them in order to gain favor. In 1807, he wrote, “I now float nearly as high on wings of the Spanish government as any man in it.”
Jose Collins – Among the Loyalists who had fled the war on the Atlantic. He became official of Spanish government, with duties out of Pascagoula as Captain of the Military Dragoons.
Cochran and Rhea – Partners in a general store at Thompson Creek. In 1802, John Rhea was said to be a merchant, planter and alcade for Feliciana; later made the president of the new republic. Cochran died during the period studied.
John Smith – A senator from Ohio and a land speculator in West Florida and Louisiana. Tried for treason because of complicity with Aaron Burr’s plans; not convicted but had to resign. He claimed his only interest was to sell armaments. Prosecuted by John Q. Adams and defended by Francis Scott Key. Forced into bankruptcy, he moved to St. Francisville, where he died in penury in 1824
Kemper brothers – Settled in Feliciana after 1800. Expelled over land titles, they returned in 1804 and declared West Florida to be independent. Defeated, they returned home, only to be captured by Spanish forces, including Kneeland. In later revolt they participated with the victors in forming the Republic of West Florida in 1810. Reuben Kemper had been commissioned a colonel and was sent to recruit settlers in Mobile and Pensacola. Later praised by President Madison, he represented other settlers in their claims for compensation against the United States government.
Daniel Clark – One of richest men of New Orleans, he was a friend of Thomas Jefferson. Encouraged the president to buy New Orleans and West Florida. Held the title Commisioner of Commerce for the United States. Identified by Napoleon’s envoy Laussat as “a merchant and planter of great means.”