Clarke County, Alabama and Its Surroundings, 1540-1877
by Rev. T.H. Ball
SPANISH, FRENCH AND ENGLISH RESIDENTS
FROM a Spanish, a Portuguese, and a Peruvian chronicler, it appears that a large town called Maubila, or Mauville, from which comes the name Mobile, was situated on the west side of the Alabama river, so near as may now be known, not far from the present Choctaw Bluff, or near French’s Landing. It also appears that a powerful tribe of Indians, called Maubilians and Mobilians, occupied the region of which this volume is designed especially to treat, and that a fierce battle was fought, one of the bloodiest ever waged between whites and Indians, within the ‘present limits of the United States, in October of 1540. It appears, also, from the facts presented in the narratives, that this battle turned De Soto from his proposed plan — actually decided his destiny — and, perhaps, changed for all the future the character of the institutions and the special inhabitants of this South-East.
Taking now a position between the two rivers, the Alabama and Tombigbee, near the Indian Mobile, and where the subjects of Tuskaloosa’s government had their fertile fields and peaceful, populous villages, raising an abundant supply of corn and beans and other vegetables, and feasting on luscious grapes and delicious plums, before the Spanish tornado passed, let us look out into the surrounding wilderness of Spanish Florida and observe the earlier and later European settlements.
These first Spanish invaders had remained within the walls of the burnt and desolated city for eight days, and then had taken possession of Indian huts upon the plain. Foraging detachments sent out by their commander found abundant supplies of provisions in the neighboring villages, and when at length on Sunday, the eighteenth of November, they started for the northern and western wilds, passing over this region, now Clarke and Marengo, they found it “extremely fertile” but “uninhabited.”
Year after year passed away; in Europe Charles V of Spain met with reverses, and in 1556 Philip II, his son, became king, whose life and resources were spent in vain efforts to control the consciences of his subjects in the Netherlands ; Elizabeth began in 1558 her long reign in England ; and in 1560 the civil wars commenced in France; and for almost one hundred and fifty years this fertile region was untrodden by foot of white man. Philip II needed his cavaliers at home, and Spanish adventurers made but slight attempts to colonize or possess Florida. French explorers and settlers were now attracted to the New World, and a French colony led to the Spanish settlement at St. Augustine in 1565. But into the interior their settlements did not advance. That old town on the eastern coast of the Florida peninsula, a few miles south of latitude 30°, is noted as being the first permanent European settlement in the United States.
The solitudes of Alabama remained still unbroken, save as the children of the wilds continued on in their accustomed modes of life; and ere long there were none living who had seen among their towns and villages the long-bearded white men.
In 1693 Spain took possession of West Florida, afterward so-called, founded Pensacola, and commenced to traffic with the Alabama and Chickasaw Indians.
But from the distant North, from the frozen regions of what we now call Canada, along the chain of American lakes, and then down the immense valley of the Mississippi, a different class of resolute, daring, and gallant adventurers were coming, to meet with the children of the forests and the natives of the South.
As early as 1506, the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the coast adjoining had been explored by a French navigator. In 1604 the noted Champlain accompanied a French colony to America, and made the next year in Nova Scotia the first permanent French settlement. By 1668 the French had reached Lake Superior; and in 1673 Marquette, a missionary, and Joliet, a trader, rediscovered the Mississippi river. In 1682 La Salle descended the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico, took possession of the country, and named it Louisiana, in honor of his sovereign, Louis XIV of France, whose long and brilliant reign commenced in 1643 and closed in 1715.
Of the territory bearing the above name the Alabama and Tombigbee river region for some sixty-four years formed a part. In 1699, Iberville, a Canadian and also an officer of the French king, planted a colony on Dauphin Island and at Biloxi Bay. He soon opened communication with the Choctaw, Mobile, and Chickasaw Indians. These Indians had already been visited by missionaries and traders from the Spaniards in Florida and the English in Carolina. In 1700 Iberville brought another colony of Canadians. In 1702 Bienville, his brother, Governor of the Colony, removed his headquarters from Biloxi to a new fort on Mobile Bay, making that the capitol of all Louisiana, removing again in 1711, in consequence of an inundation, to the site of the present city of Mobile, where he built Ft. Louis. At about 1700 then, a few years after the revocation of the edict of Nantes (1685), near the commencement of the Eighteenth Century, we can date the approach of the white man again to the waters of the Tombigbee and the Alabama, Pensacola having been settled by Spaniards in 1693, Dauphin Island by the French in 1699, and the Mobile settlement on the Bay having been niade in 1702. In that year of 1700 there was born at Coweta, on the Chattahoochie, in the limits of the present Alabama, in what was then a part of the French Louisiana, an Indian princess, Consaponaheeso, better known as Mary, whose mother was a Muscogee Queen, her father being a white man, who in 1716 married John Musgrove, in after years a very wealthy Indian trader, which Mary became the firm friend of Oglethorpe and the Pochahontas of the Georgia colony. While thus for one century and a half the wilds of Alabama had been left to their Indian occupants, settlements had dotted the Atlantic coast from Kova Scotia to the Carolinas. French and English settlers had planted themselves on the border of the great northern forests, on the banks of navigable rivers, beside sheltered harbors on the ocean coast, and along the Great Lakes, with the determined purpose of the French and Anglo-Saxon races, to remain and hold the whole broad land. They had met with Pochahontas and Powhatan; had conquered the Pequots, King Philip and the Narragansetts ; and had laid the foundation for those destructive French and Indian “Wars which were to decide whether French or Anglo-Saxon blood should hold the supremacy on the American continent.
For sixty -five years the French held the territory now included in Alabama. The population of their colony in 1712 was about four hundred.
In 1713 officers of Crozat, a rich Paris merchant who had received from the French king a charter of this colony, took possession of the territory. They established trading and military posts at the head of the Alabama, near the union of the Coosa and Tallapoosa ; “at the mouth of the Cahawba; at Jones’ Bluff on the Tombeckbee; at the present site of St. Stephens ; at Nashville, on the Cumberland ; and at the Muscle Shoals on the Tennessee, then called the Cherokee.” The Alabama waters began therefore now to be navigated by Frenchmen, and into the ancient forests French soldiers and traders and adventurers penetrated. The dwellers between the rivers saw the white men come and go, and would be likely to call to mind the accounts their grandfathers had given concerning white and bearded strangers. From that time onward they were to have abundant cause to remember the white man. Says Meek: “The French traders and missionaries were ever bold, adventurous, and enterprising, and it is not extravagant to say that every inch of our territory was trod by their feet, if not watered by their blood,” before 1763.
Ft. Toulouse, the name of the post on the Coosa, was established in 1714; Ft. St. Stephens probably about the same time; and Ft. Tombeckbee, two hundred and fifty miles above Mobile, in 1736. British traders also from the Carolinas before 1714 penetrated these same wilds, and, among many of the Indian tribes, carried on a lucrative traffic. French and British interests here as elsewhere came in conflict. The northern Atlantic colonies had, before the settlement on Mobile Bay, felt the effects of one of those struggles called King William’s War, which was terminated by the treaty of E.yswick in 1697. And these distant traders and remote Indian tribes felt some of the results of that war between England on the one side and France and Spain on the other, called Queen Ann’s War in our colonial history, and in Europe The War of the Spanish Succession, which was terminated by the treaty of Utrecht in 1713; and also of King George’s War ending in 1748, when was ratified the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle.
But the few French inhabitants along the Bay, on the banks of Mobile river, and at old St. Stephens, were too far removed from the English colonies of the coast to enter actively into these conflicts. They loved ease and pleasure; they found a delightful climate and wild game in abundance ; they formed alliances with Indian maidens ; they engaged in traffic with the Indians ; and at length opening plantations, cultivated rice, tobacco, and indigo. These plantations extended up the Tensaw and Mobile rivers, including many of the islands in these rivers. The first island below the union of the Tombigbee and Alabama contained the plantation of the Chevalier de Lucere. Whether any of these French settlers cultivated the soil of Clarke is uncertain. The first Christian marriages were solemnized in 1704, twenty-three girls having been sent to Mobile from France who in a few days found husbands. At the same time came four priests and four Sisters of Charity. The Roman Catholic religion was established, and priests and friars were soon sent among the neighboring tribes. Failing to make money by traffic and discouraged by the hostility of the Indians especially of the Chickasaws, Crozat surrendered his charter in 1717. The French population was now about eight hundred. The French made settlements in what is now Mississippi, at Natchez and upon the Yazoo river. They founded New Orleans in 1718.
The name “Mississippi” became well known in France between 1716 and 1720. There entered into literature after that time the expressive phrase ” Mississippi Bubble.”
John Law, a native of Edinburgh, a celebrated financier, established in 1716 a bank in France, by authority of the king, Louis XV., made up of twelve hundred shares, each share being three thousand *livres. For all public receipts this bank became the office, and in 1718 the Western or India Company, an association chartered the year before to manage the territory of Louisiana, was annexed to this bank, the Company having a capital of one hundred thousand livres. The same year this was declared to be a royal bank, and the shares soon “rose to twenty times their original value.” Many became, as they supposed, suddenly rich, and in Paris and France expensive living and wild speculation naturally followed. But in two years the bubble burst. The bank shares sunk in value “as rapidly as they had risen, occasioning great and widespread financial distress and bankruptcy.” Multitudes were financially ruined, and the distress
* A French livre is equal to eighteen and a half cents. One share, therefore, equaled $555, and after the union of the Western Company with the bank the capital became $684,500.
was felt over all France. During these few years of supposed wealth and prosperity great activity had been manifested in promoting emigration to Louisiana.
Many slaves had been brought from the coast of Africa and placed upon the French plantations. In 1720 two hundred and sixty colonists came for the grant of St. Catherine, near Natchez, two hundred and forty for the grant of Lonore, and in 1721 three hundred came for the grant of Madame Chaumont at Pascagoula, two hundred German emigrants for the grant of Law on the Arkansas, and in June, 1722, two hundred and fifty more Germans came. This vessel brought the news of the failure of that great royal bank. In those days there was no ocean telegraph, and news, good or bad, did not fly abroad with a speed any greater than the wind. During these few years of active operations, by the Western Company, while wealth was supposed to be growing in their hands, more than seven thousand colonists came into various parts of Louisiana; but after the Mississippi Bubble burst this territory for a time was so neglected that the settlers suffered for the necessaries of life.
The seat of government for the colony was removed from Mobile to New Orleans in 1723, when the population there was two hundred, living in a hundred huts and cabins. The French province was then divided into nine civil and military districts. These were “Alabama, Mobile, Biloxi, New Orleans, Natchez, Yazoo, Illinois, Wabash, Arkansas, and Natchitoches.” About this time Pensacola was taken from the Spaniards.
In 1732 the Western Company surrendered their charter to their king. The population was then five thousand whites and two thousand slaves.
Bienville, again Governor under the king, made in 1736 an expedition against the Chickasaws, passing up the Tombigbee with boats of various kinds, and with French, Indian, and colored troops, in all fifteen hundred, and with munitions of war. He was unsuccessful, and returned to Mobile a disappointed man.
Again, in 1752, his successor as Governor, the Marquis De Vaudreuil, formerly governor of Canada, went up the same river with a fleet of boats with French troops and Choctaw warriors against the Chickasaws. He also was unsuccessful, and returned to Mobile, leaving those Indians still unconquered. Some cannon, said to have been found in the Tombigbee near Cotton Gin Port, above Columbus, have been credited to De Soto’s expedition. This is evidently a mistaken conjecture.
Meek says they were thrown there by Bienville on his retreat from the Chickasaws, but Pickett suggests that they belonged to the Marquis De Vaudreuil. The many conflicts of the French with the Indian tribes and their dissensions among themselves do not come within the design of this narrative, except the mention of their destruction of the Natchez tribe in 1732. They crossed and recrossed the Alabama and Tombigbee rivers, crossed the land between the two, but seem to have made no settlement, perhaps to have opened no plantations here. Their traders and the English traders from the Carolinas, and, after the Georgia colony, led by Oglethorpe, was established in 1733, traders from that colony, penetrated the wilds among all the Indian tribes of the South-East ; furnished them with many articles of European workmanship, learned the trails and river fords, and how to cross swift currents in canoes and floats, ascertained the geography of all this region, and formed alliances with Indian princesses and beautiful daughters of powerful chiefs ; thus preparing the way for a future migration from those Atlantic colonies, and giving rise to a class of border men, Indians with the blood of whites flowing through their veins, who became in their day like some of old, ” men of renown,” noted warriors in battle, wealthy traders, shrewd diplomatists, strong friends, and dangerous enemies.
The conflicting French and English interests had reached a crisis in 1753 in the wilds of western Pennsylvania, when George Washington, then twenty-one years of age, was sent by Gov. Dinwiddie, of Virginia, into the disputed territory. In 1754 began in America that bloody French and Indian war, declared in Europe between Great Britain and France in 1756, when commenced the ” Seven-Years War,” which ended in 1763.
This long war, in which took place Braddock’s memorable defeat, the atrocious kidnapping and exiling of seven thousand peaceful Acadian French peasants, settlers in Nova Scotia, commemorated in Longfellow’s beautiful poem, Evangeline, and that grand conflict on the Plains of Abraham, before Quebec when both the noted leaders, Wolfe and Montcalm, fell in this strife, called forth the most strenuous efforts of the sea-board colonies. In after years it was the subject of many a thrilling description, as the aged grandmother would tell the listening children and the stranger guest about the portents in the northern sky before that conflict.
“And how she knew what those wild tokens meant, When to the Old French War her husband went.”
Some of those exiled Acadians are said to have settled in West Florida.
That strife between the French and English and their Indian allies determined the fact that the great nation which was to be, from however many nationalities it might be made up, would be distinctly Anglo-Saxon, however many as individuals might find lovely homes in its broad territories, and as Spanish, French, English, Irish, Welch, Scotch, German, Dutch, Swede, Norwegian, Dane, Swiss, Italian, or Chinese, might promote its growth.
It became evident, after that desperate European and American strife, that the Anglo-Saxon element would rule this broad land, from Ocean to Ocean, from the Arctic Sea to the Mexican Gulf.
The following are the facts concerning Louisiana given in Benjamin Davie’s Geography, a work published in 18i5. Louisiana was discovered by the Spaniards in 1639. They soon deserted it. It was explored by the French in 1682 under La Salle, who came down from Canada. In 1697 the king of France sent Iberville to continue the work begun by La Salle, and he established the first permanent settlement. In 1717 the Mississippi Company was formed in France. New Orleans was founded, in 1720. In 1762 Louisiana was ceded to Spain. In 1800 it was sold to Bonaparte for the kingdom of Etruria. In 1803 it was purchased by the United States from Bonaparte for fifteen million dollars. It comprised the state of Louisiana and Territory of Missouri. Such was geographic history in 1815.
When, in 1763, France ceded to Great Britain her claims east of the Mississippi, except the island and city of New Orleans, which with her territory west of the Mississippi was ceded to Spain, Spain also ceded Florida to Great Britain in exchange for Havana, which had been taken from her by the English. Mobile therefore, the Forts upon the rivers, the plantations under cultivation, and the Spanish towns in Florida, became a part of the British possessions in North America. We may look next, then, for the approach of English colonists toward the region which De Soto left “extremely fertile, but uninhabited.”
The English government divided Florida, that part of the early unknown region so called, which had remained until 1699 under the control of Spain, into two provinces, called East and West Florida. The northern boundary of East Florida seems not to have been well defined.
The northern boundary of West Florida was the line of latitude 32° 28′, or from the mouth of the Yazoo river due east to the Chattahoochie. This line crossed the Tombigbee a little south of the spot where now stands Demopolis, and it crossed the Alabama just below the union of the Coosa and Tallapoosa. North of this line was then the British province of Illinois. So that at the close of the Old French War Illinois and Florida bordered on each other.
The present railroad from Vicksburg to Montgomery runs near this line. The eastern boundary of West Florida was the Chattahoochie, and then, as the name changed, the Apalachicola. The western boundary was the Mississippi; and the southern. Bayou Iberville, the connected chain of lakes including Ponchartrain, and the Gulf. The present limits of Clarke, therefore, were included in West Florida, and so remained, in fact, till 1799, although nominally a part of the United States alter 1782. Pensacola was made the seat of government.
After English control was extended over this province, the Natchez region and the western part of the present state of Mississippi attracted many settlers. They came from the Atlantic colonies in considerable numbers. A small German settlement had been made upon the Pascagoula, a river in the south-eastern part of Mississippi, The Mississippi river and its eastern tributaries seemed to be at first the most attractive. From the Atlantic colonies, first from Roanoke in North Carolina, as early as 1764, then from South Carolina, from Georgia, from Virginia, and New Jersey, large num- bers came, either in boats down the tributary rivers, or cutting a pathway through the wilderness, and made settlements extending some twenty miles east of the river. Scotch Highlanders came from North Carolina and settled thirty miles east of Natchez. In 1770, and again in 1778, many immigrants came by the way of the Ohio river from New Jersey, and Virginia, and Delaware.
Immigrants also began soon to come from Great Britain and the British West Indies.
In 1767 a colony of French Protestants, in number two hundred and nine, made a settlement upon the Escambia river north of Pensacola, having received from King George the Third a large grant of land, and having been conveyed across the ocean at the royal expense. They built white cottages among the live oak groves, and erected a church building with one simple, village spire. This colony was not long afterward desolated by the yellow fever, that scourge of the tropics.
It does not appear that in these years many additions were made to the settlers on the Mobile and Tensaw rivers. The plantations opened there must, however, have been productive, and business enterprise was evidently not stagnant, for in 1772 the exports from Mobile and Pensacola were, according to Pickett, “indigo, raw-hides, corn, fine cattle, tallow, rice, pitch, bear’s oil, tobacco, tar, squared timber, indigo seed, myrtle wax, cedar-posts and planks, salted wild beef, pecan nuts, cypress and pine-boards, plank of various woods, shingles, dried salt-fish, scantling, sassafras, canes, staves and heading hoops, oranges and peltry.”
The cultivation of cotton had also commenced, and some small machines had been invented for separating the lint from the seed. The French planters had some machines by which, it is said by Captain Barnard Roman, in his “Florida,” “seventy pounds of clear cotton can be made every day.”
Whitney’s Cotton Gin was not invented until 1792.
Pensacola, the capital of the province, contained in 1771 about one hundred and eighty houses, which were built of wood. This, as the seat of government, was to become the first place of traffic for the coming settlers of Clarke. The French houses of the wealthy in Mobile were of brick.
It is now 1775. The Thirteen United Colonies, containing a population of about “three millions of people,” extending from New Hampshire to Georgia, are entering upon that great conflict with the Mother Country, which is called in history The American Revolution.
Into this conflict West Florida did not enter. Here was, therefore, a secure retreat for those called Royalists, in the Carolinas and Georgia, who held themselves still loyal to the king of Great Britain. The banks of that river, then called *Tombeckbee, became attractive to this large class of adventurers and refugees.
The existence of Fort St. Stephens during so many years of French occupancy, the friendliness of the Choctaw Indians within whose limits these lands lay, and thu proximity of the plantations on the Mobile river, made this region a natural and favorite resort.
It seems impossible now to ascertain who were the first white settlers in either Washington or Clarke.
If, as is stated by Meek, the French established a trading and military post at St. Stephens, some French settlers would be likely to locate on the west and even on the east side of the river. And Pickett mentions that some French farmers lived upon this river in 1792.
It is possible also that some of those adventurous and enterprising colonists in the Carolinas and in Georgia, who having come to a New World, loved to seek the most remote wilds, had reached the banks of the Alabama before the commencement of the colonial struggle for independence. But records of these seem to be wanting.
In the year 1777 an English botanist, William Bartram, visited the settled parts of West Florida. He found on the Tensaw river many well-cultivated plantations, on which settlers were then living. His route both going and coming seems to have been on the east
* I fiud in earlier and later writings the name of this river written Tombeckbee, Tumbeclibee, Tombikbee, Tombeckbe, Tombeckby, Tombickby, Tonibigby, Tombigbee. I prefer for its earlier name the orthography Tombeckbee, and for its present name Tombigbee.
side of the Alabama. From him, therefore, nothing is learned concerning settlers on the west side. When near the northern boundary of the province and still beside the river, his party met with some Georgians — a man and his wife, some young children, one young woman and three young men, packing their goods on a dozen horses — who were on their way intending to settle upon the Alabama river, a few miles above its union with the Tombeckbee. And these “are believed” says Pickett, “to have been among the first Anglo-Americans who settled in the present Baldwin county.” That some such settlers had already reached the Tombeckbee is quite certain, so that we may safely place the commencement of what became permanent American settlement as early as the year 1777.
Meek says: “As early as the Revolution, large bodies of unfortunate adherents of the British cause had fled from South Carolina and Georgia, through the dense and pithless forests between, to the shores of the Tombeckbee and Mobile Bay. They laid the first foundations of American inhabitancy in the counties of Clarke, Washington and Baldwin.” It is poetic to call these mighty forests ” pathless ;” but we should remember that from Carolina and Georgia traders had been coming for many years to all these Indian tribes. As early as 1735 hundreds of pack-horses brought out from Charleston to the Chattahoochie and westward, merchandise for the Indians ; and in 1745 Lachlan McGillivray married the beautiful Creek Indian girl, Sehoy Marchand, and settled with her and established a trading house on the Coosa, four miles above where now stands Wetumpka. And Bartram, the botanist, found in 1777 the road from Tensaw, near the present Stockton, up to the Tallapoosa, narrow, but “well beaten.” Wagon roads were not ; but trails for pack- horses were, before the Revolutionary War, well trodden through all those mighty forests. Before, however, many settlers of any class had trodden Indian trails and reached the Tombeckbee, West Florida changed rulers. The Spaniards captured the forts and took possession in 1780, except of Pensacola, which they took early in 1781, and in 1783, in January, Great Britain confirmed to Spain, by treaty, all the province of East Florida. But Great Britain had previously, in the preliminary Treaty of Paris, in 1782, acknowledged the independence of the United States, and recognized the Southern boundary to be the line of 31° north latitude, from the Mississippi river to the Chattahoochie, down the Chattahoochie to the mouth of the Flint, from that point east to the St. Mary’s river, and down that river to the sea. A conflict of claims of course arose. Spain claimed by conquest and treaty, and held by possession, as far north as 32° 28′, or all the former British province of West Florida. Thus at the close of the War of the Revolution, when there was existing in the Carolinas and Georgia so much ill-feeling toward the royalists, to whom the Whigs, so called, attributed very much of their suffering, these distant Tombeckbee settlements, under Spanish rule, afforded still to the royalists a secure retreat. Many, therefore, came and settled upon Spanish grants, or opened plantations along the river under Spanish rule.
The following names of some of these early settlers have been rescued from oblivion : Below Mcintosh’s Bluff, Bates, Lawrence, Powell ; above, on the river, Danley, Wheat, Johnson, McGrew, Hacket, Freeland, Talley and Baker. These were found as settlers in 1791 by a small company of new settlers, whose names were, Thomas Kimbil, John Barnett, Robert Sheffield, Barton Hannon, and three young men, brothers, by the name of Mounger. They arrived by way of Tensaw Lake, where they found residing families named Hall, Byrne, Minis, Killcreas, Steadham, Easlie and *Linder. The new settlers with their horses had crossed the creeks and the two rivers upon rafts. The horses had brought upon their backs some plows and axes. They found St. Stephens garrisoned by one Spanish company, under the command of Captain Fernando Lisora. The Choctaws called St. Stephens Hobuckintopa. At this time the commandant’s residence, the Catholic church and the block-house, were good ” frame-work “buildings, made tight with ” clay and plaster.” Cypress bark covered the other houses, some of which were large. Some French farmers, then living on the rivers, dwelt in clay huts, while the Americans built pole-cabins.
The chief industry here seems to have been raising indigo, then worth two dollars and a half a pound.+ Further down the river the Spaniards made quite a business of burning pine to collect tar.
On Little River, at this time, were living ” many intelligent and wealthy people,” who were of mixed blood, Indian and white; who for some years had been raising large herds of cattle. Of the settlers now
* Captain John Linder was a native of Switzerland, had been in Charleston as a British surveyor, and was aided by General McGillivray to settle with his family and a large number of colored servants at the Tensaw lake during the War of the Revolution. Part of the settlers at this time were royalists and part were Whigs.
+ After the ” Yazoo freshet,” in 1791, so complete was the destruction caused by that overthrow, that the Spaniards abandoned, to a great extent, their indigo and rice plantations.
named near St. Stephens the Wheat and Mounger families are considered by some now living to have been the first Whig families that settled among the Royalists. It is probable, however, that there were at this time other settlers loyal to the new United States, although then out of its jurisdiction.
Nathan Blackwell, from North Carolina, came, it is said in the traditions of Clarke, in 1790, a pioneer among Indians and Spaniards. Members of this family are yet residing in the southern part of the county, grandchildren, probably, and great-grandchildren of this early pioneer. The many interesting events in the life of Nathan Blackwell, and the time and place of his death are to the author unknown.
Hiram Mounger coming in 1791, bought a Spanish grant, including a part of the Sun Flower Bend, one of the three grants now known as having been situated on the east side of the river. He died about 1867, and his wife died a few years ago between ninety and one hundred years of age.
To the family names recorded here may be added that of Denby, a brother-in-law of Mounger, and Peter Beach.
All these settlements were around rather than within the twelve hundred miles of territory, within which stood the old Maubila, But few if any of the pioneers destined to occupy those creek bottoms, and broad plateaus, and fertile hill sides, had as yet arrived. This soil was never occupied by an American colony, it was not yet an acknowledged part of the new United States, although its southern limit was thirteen miles north of latitude 31° ; and those who were to take possession as American citizens were then, for the most part, boys and girls in Virginia and Kentucky, in the Carolinas and Georgia, acquiring tne strength of muscle, and the qualities of mind and heart which would fit them for their future work.
Of the actual life of the settlers here during these Spanish times few memorials can be found. Laws were few, restraints were only self-imposed, or such as necessity and self-preservation laid upon them, and they, no doubt, enjoyed the wild freedom of the rivers and the woods. A characteristic feature of this whole region was the residence in every Indian town of any size of a white trader. During these hundred years the eighteenth century drawing, at this date of 1792, near its close, all these Indian tribes of the South-East had become familiar with the white men. The sight of white women and children was more rare. But these traders had penetrated all the wilds, and occupied very many fine locations for inland commerce and for intrigues among the tribes. Many of these traders became wealthy; but it has been observed that “all property acquired in a commerce with Indians” generally leaves the owners in old age. One of these traders, an Englishman named Clarke, who called his Indian wife Queen Anne, used seventy pack-horses to transport his goods and furs. The common pack-horses used were small but hardy, and were accustomed to carry on their peculiar pack-saddles, three bundles of sixty pounds weight each. Two bundles were swung across the saddle so that one was on each side of the horse, and the third bundle was placed upon the saddle. Over the whole was thrown a covering of hide or fur to protect from the rain. Poultry was carried in a similar manner, and also liquids, on the backs or sides of these ponies. On the routes of travel one pack-driver had charge of ten ponies. About twenty-five miles each day was the average rate of travel. The ponies at night gained their own subsistence from the grass and cane. A well-beaten trail led up from Pensacola, with many smaller diverging pathways to the Tennessee river. Nashville, on the Cumberland, was then the southern limit of white settlement. But from the Wabash river, far north, Vincennes having become a trading-post as early as 1702, French traders had for years, previous to 1780, carried on an extensive traffic with the Indians near the present towns of Tuscumbia and Florence. Southern and Western forests during the eighteenth century were anything but pathless.
The presence of these white traders throughout all this southern Indian country had its influence on the Indians as well as on the white settlements, so soon as these settlements were made.
A noted descendant of one of these traders having spent most of the winter in the settlement on Little River went to Pensacola, and there died in February 1793, the year when commenced in France those terrible times known as the Reign of Terror.* This was Alexander McGillivray, son of that Scotchman already named, who in 1745, so near as is now known, Meek says 1740, married Sehoy Marchand. The father of this Creek maiden was Captain Marchand, a Frenchman who was at one time commandant at Ft. Toulouse and was killed there in 1722. The mother of Miss Marchand, the grandmotlier of Alexander, was a Muscogee,
* Such were the commotions of this year among Indians, Americans, Span- ish, and even among French emissaries in the South-East, that Picliett says : ” It appeared tliat the evil one himself was stalking through this wild region.”
or Creek, of full blood, of the tribe of the Wind, the most powerful tribe of the Creek nation. Alexander and his sisters were, therefore, of Indian, French, and Scotch blood united. One of his distinguished nephews was William Weatherford, whose bloody deeds will be long remembered. Alexander was educated at Charleston, acquiring a knowledge of Greek, Latin, and of Polite Literature. He delighted in boyhood to read the histories of European nations. He returned to the Indian wilds, took control of the Creek nation, was an ally of the British during the Revolutionary War, receiving from them the rank and pay of a British colonel. After that war, in 1784, he went to Pensacola, and as Emperor of the Creeks and Seminoles, made a treaty with Spain. In 1790 he visited President Washington at New York, made a treaty there, was appointed Agent of the United States, and received the rank of Brigadier General, with twelve hundred dollars a year salary. Afterward a Spanish Monarch appointed him Superintendent General of the Creek nation, with a salary of two thousand dollars a year, adding to this in July 1792, fifteen hundred more. He was thus agent for Spain with a salary of thirty – five hundred dollars, for the United States with a salary of twelve hundred, a member of a wealthy commercial house, and Emperor, so called, of the Creeks and Seminoles. Pickett, who studied his character closely, considers him the greatest diplomatist, and possessing the most marked ability of any man born or reared on Alabama soil. He was buried in the grounds of William Panton, in Pensacola, with masonic honors, and the Indians deeply lamented his death, feeling that they had truly lost a great chieftain.
Benjamin Durant, of Huguenot descent, from South Carolina, had married the beautiful and talented Sophia McGillivray, a sister of Alexander McGillivray, and had cultivated Durant’ s Bend on the Alabama as early as 1786; and Mrs. Sophia Durant appears to have been living on Little River in 1790, when, by her authority and resolution, she saved the Tensaw settlements from a threatened massacre by the Creeks. Her son, Lachlan Durant, was in 1851 a well-known resident of Baldwin county. Lachlan McGillivray, the father of Mrs. Durant, who had married Sehoy Marchand; who as a Scotch boy of sixteen, had left a wealthy home in Scotland to see the wonders of American wilds; who had landed in Carolina with a single shilling in his pocket; who had joined the Indian traders, and on the Chattahoochie, about 1735, made his first trade, exchanging a jack-knife for some deerskins; who saw for the first time the young Sehoy, when she was sixteen years of age, “cheerful in countenance, bewitching in looks, and graceful in form ;” spent as Indian trader and Georgia royalist nearly half a century in these wilds of America, which had so excited the imagination of his youth; then leaving his Indian children, his plantations, and his colored servants, he embarked with the British when they left Savannah, probably in 1782, and sailed for his native land. Before embarking he had “scraped together a vast amount of money and movable effects.” He was still living at Dunmaglass, Scotland, in 1794, when a letter was sent to him announcing the death of his son Alexander, and asking his care for a grandson and two granddaughters.
Still another of these white traders may be here named, whose noted son became closely connected with scenes of strife and bloodshed, as the white settlements advanced. This trader was Charles Weatherford, also a Scotchman, who married a half-sister of General McGillivray, the daughter of a chief, and of pure Indian blood, who in 1778 had been married to Colonel Tait, a British officer at Fort Toulouse.
The principal residence of General McGillivray was near the mouth of the Coosa, but his brothers-in-law had their plantations and various homes along the Alabama river, as far as to its union with the Tombeckbee. At one of these residences on the east bank was born, about 1780, William Weatherford, whom the settlers in after years had cause to remember. Other white traders had more or less influence upon the surroundings of Clarke.
Other noted frontier or border men, men of bad renown some of them, were along the Alabama or its tributaries.
On Little River, as already stated, wealthy and intelligent families of mixed blood resided, who kept large herds of cattle where the frost never killed the grass or cane. Farther north, near the Alabama, lived in 1790 and earlier, “Milly,” a white woman who had fled into the wilds with her husband, a soldier deserting a British regiment. After his death she married an Indian, and kept cattle and ponies. Near her lived William Gregory, a white man with an Indian family, who kept cattle and horses, and who has left the reputation of having been where there was no law around him, a kind-hearted, generous, upright man. Abram Mordecai and James Russell, traders, had their headquarters not far away ; and on the Tallapoosa was ” Savannah Jack, called “the most blood-thirsty, fiendish, and cruel white man that ever inhabited any country.”
A yet more noted resident for a season upon the Tallapoosa was William Augustus Bowles, a Maryland boy, who, as a young tory, entered the British army as a soldier, fought for a year against the Americans, sailed to Jamaica as an ensign in 1777, came to Pensacola, flung his uniform into the sea, and in company with Creek Indians left for the wilds. For several years he remained by the Tallapoosa, and learned very thoroughly the Muscogee language. He married a chief’s daughter.
“His elegant and commanding form, fine address, beautiful countenance of varied expression, his exalted genius, daring, and intrepidity, all connected with a mind wholly debased and unprincipled, eminently fitted him to sway the bad Indians and worse traders among whom he lived.”
In 1781, with Creek warriors he aided General Campbell to defend Pensacola. He went next to New York, joined a company of comedians, and sailed to the Bahamas. There he acted comedy and painted portraits. The governor of the islands, Lord Dunmore, selected him as an agent to establish a commercial house on the Chattahoochie in opposition to the interests of William Panton, of Pensacola, and Alexander McGillivray. Bowles was soon at work among the Lower Creeks.
But Milfort, the war chief, the French general, was sent to the Chattahoochie with a stern order for Bowles to leave the nation in twenty-four hours. He returned to the Bahamas, was sent by the governor with some Creek and Cherokee Indians to England, received valuable presents from the British court, returned to the Bahamas and became a pirate, having taught his Creek dependents to navigate the Gulf, preying especially upon the vessels of William Panton. His piratical success, having had with him “an abandoned set of white men from the prisons of London, together with hosts of savages,” increased his popularity among the Creeks. He endeavored now, advancing into the heart of the nation, to destroy the power of McGillivray. The latter withdrew to New Orleans, and Bowles declared that he would never again show himself upon the Coosa. But the Scotch-Indian was too shrewd for the Maryland tory boy, and he soon arranged at New Orleans for the capture of Bowles, who was brought to New Orleans in chains and sent to Madrid, in Spain, as a captured pirate. This was in 1792. From Spain he was transported to the island Manilla, in the Pacific ocean.
In February, 1797, he was ordered back to Spain, but escaped at Ascension Island on the way, reached Sierra Leone, returned to London, sailed again to the Gulf in a schooner, and became again a pirate, and was wrecked on Fox Point in September, 1799. He advanced once more into the Creek nation, declared his hostility to both Spain and the United States. He commenced depredations, and both American and Spanish authorities determined to remove him from the Creek country. A large reward was secretly offered for his capture. A great feast was prepared on the Coosa river, to which he was invited. At this feast he was suddenly seized, pinioned, placed in a canoe sur- rounded by armed warriors, and conveyed down the river. Stopping on the shore over night, while his guard slept he gnawed the ropes from his arms and escaped. But Indians were on his track. His trail was found, and before many hours he was again their prisoner. He was taken down the Alabama to Mobile, was sent to Havana, and died in a few years in the dungeon of Moro Castle. Thus ended his wild and varied career.
In 1797 a ferry was established by Samuel Mims across the Alabama, and one by Hollinger, an old resident among the Indians, across the Tombeckbee. The route of travel crossed the Island called Nannahubba, below the cut-off.
But a change for the settlers under Spanish rule was near at hand. Arrangements were made by the United States Government to have the line of latitude 31° established.
In 1798, March 29th, the Spaniards evacuated their fort on the Mississippi, and Colonel Andrew Elliott, one of the commissioners to mark this boundary line between Spanish and United States territory, marched his troops and corps of woodmen and surveyors to a dense swamp on the coast of the Mississippi, where it was ascertained that the line left the river. He was soon joined by Major Minor and Sir William Dunbar, Spanish commissioners. Spain also furnished troops. The advance along the line resembled the movement of an army. The trees were blazed along the line, and mounds of earth thrown up at the end of each mile. This line struck the Mobile river “six miles” Pickett says, ten miles it now appears to be, below the union of the two rivers. It was now April 1799. The surveyors overcame the difficulties in crossing the rivers and swamps, and passed beyond the Tensaw. Passing through the Creek lands the party met with obstacles and opposition from the Indians, and also from the Spaniards. They marked the line only as far as the Chattahoochie, but the surveyors passed across to the St. Mary’s, and in February of 1800 established the point on that river of the line of 31° in the presence of Colonel Elliott and Major Minor. This spot was marked by a large earth mound. The United States had now, after the death of Washington, early in 1800, a recognized southern boundary line.
In presenting the fact that this special region has been under the control of France, of Great Britain, and of Spain, a flowery writer says: “The flag of the silver lilies, and the banner of old Spain, once the most famous, long floated here, the symbols of sovereignty, chivalry, and the faith of Christ.” Also: “The blood-red cross of St. George, which for a thousand years has never been disgraced, once stood here, the representative of dominion and civilization.”
But with his characteristic indomitable spirit the Anglo-Saxon-American was now, in 1800, beginning to take full possession.
The Mississippi Scheme of France, begun in 1716, closed in 1723. “Of all the wild speculations which have first duped and then ruined men, this ranks among the foremost. “There had been, about a hundred years before, a remarkable fever of speculation in Holland, known as the Tulip Mania.” It began about the year 1634, and, like a violent epidemic, it seized upon all classes of the community.” “In the year 1636 Tulip Marts had been established at Amsterdam, at Rotterdam, Haarlem, Leyden, and other towns in Holland.” “Nobles, citizens, farmers, mechanics, seamen, footmen, maid-servants, even chimney-sweeps — all caught the fever for tulips and gold.” “The learned and the ignorant, the cautious and the eager, men of all classes and all temperaments were infected; it seemed as if the commerce of the world were henceforth to run in one exclusive channel — the sale and the purchase of tulips.” A few tulips brought at the height of the speculation 100,000 Dutch florins. When the bubble burst, “every town in Holland felt the blow.” “The trade of Holland was prostrated for a time, and some of its merchant princes never recovered from the shock.”
A similar spirit of speculation and passion for gold, pervading all classes and leading to like disastrous results, swept over England, known as the South Sea Bubble. The stock of the first company was sold at a premium of 1000 per cent. “The original South Sea Scheme branched out into eighty-seven cognate speculations, each of which was eventually a fountain of misery to multitudes.”
It is said of Law, the originator of this Mississippi Scheme, “He first ruined a young English lady and then slew her brother in a duel, for which he was obliged to flee from his native county, Amsterdam, Venice, and Genoa, became in succession his asylum. From each of these, however, he was banished as a dangerous adventurer, and after fourteen years of friendless wandering,” he reached Paris and secured the favor of the Duke of Orleans, Regent of France, about 1716. Such was the man who became connected with a Paris speculation which gave such notoriety to the Mississippi colony and name. Fifty thousand shares at first were issued in this wild scheme, and for these there were about three hundred thousand applicants. Three hundred thousand additional shares were then issued by the authority of the Regent. It is said that “for a time even the gayeties of Paris were suspended; and all the energies, the earnestness, and ardor of its people, were turned into one absorbing channel — the passion for gold lying buried, they believed, in the lands around the mouth of the Mississippi.”
Property suddenly rose to twelve and even fifteen times its former value. Multitudes supposed themselves to have become suddenly rich. Alliances with the titled nobility were purchased. But when this bubble also burst, as all such must, “to all the golden visions of France, there succeeded a period of confusion, of bankruptcies, of beggary and ruin, deep and piteous in proportion as the excitement had been high.” But for all this Mississippi was not to blame, nor the French colonists, nor the mighty river that all unheeding swept on into the Gulf.