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Story Archives: What to see from Greenville to Washington, 1808; Carradine, British settler
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|What to see from Greenville to Washington, 1808; Carradine, British settler|
In late August 1808, after spending the night at a tavern in old Greenville, Mississippi, Frotescue Cuming continued his journey southward to Natchez.
Cuming, who kept a diary of his three-year trip from Ohio to New Orleans and back, spent several days in Natchez country going and coming. He wrote about his adventures in "Sketches of a Tour to the Western Country."
Although the town of Greenville no longer exists, it was once the county seat of Jefferson County and located along the Natchez Trace. Cuming primarily followed what he described as "the lower Natchez Road," which ran along the Mississippi River, and occasionally intersected or ran near the Trace road.
Cuming left Greenville on a southwestern course and a mile down the road crossed a deep ravine which was watered by a spring well. The site was a place where people came to wash clothes.
From there the road "was well opened, but hilly, through the woods." Two miles farther, he crossed a dried up "water course" and "rising a hill, I had a view on the right, over the extensive plantation of Colonel (Cato) West, who has upwards of two hundred acres in one field in cultivation."
West was a native Virginian who after living a while in Georgia moved to Natchez country when it was under Spanish rule. He received a land grant from the Spanish in what became Jefferson County.
West was among several men who opposed the administration of Gov. Winthrop Sargent, the territory's first governor. In 1802, during Gov. W.C.C. Claiborne's term, West was appointed secretary. He replaced John Steele, who served the position under Sargent. West also served briefly as acting governor.
Cuming said the soil on West's plantation was thin like Greenville's, yet the field of cotton and corn "looked luxuriant, from the wetness" of a violent late August thunderstorm which may have spawned a tornado. Several trees throughout the area had been blown to the ground due to the high winds.
Two miles down the road, Cuming passed Parker Carradine's plantation, which he said was "delightfully situated." Carradine came to Natchez country during the 1770s during British possession and was active politically, opposing the Spanish regime and later opposing the administration of Sargent.
Carradine and other men who settled in Natchez country under British rule had undergone many hardships through the years. They came here to develop land grants provided by the British governor from the West Florida capital in Pensacola. Natchez was then the most western community of the province and was little protected.
Men like Carradine, who had served the British armies in the French and Indian wars, were living in South Carolina when the American revolution came about. They didn't wish to take up arms against either the British or the Americans. They felt closely attached to both.
So they did something quite amazing. They left their homes and farms and uprooted their families to journey into the wilderness of Natchez country, which though isolated remained important to many nations because of its strategic position on the Mighty Mississippi.
Their neutrality led them to Natchez for new lives in a region that they thought would remain far away from the hostilities back east. But they were wrong.
When the Spanish took the American side during the revolution and sent an expedition up the river from New Orleans to capture British posts, men like Carradine were in a bind. Only recently had the scoundrel James Willing and his American misfits pillaged and plundered the region, including the homes of Col. Anthony Hutchins in the Kingston area and William Dunbar, who then lived at Baton Rouge.
Willing was an unsuccessful merchant for a brief period under the hill at Natchez. He drank too much and eventually returned to the United States. When he came back to Natchez on an American mission with a boat load of men, his primary goals were to obtain an oath of neutrality from the British settlers at Natchez and to bring back some supplies for the Continental Army.
But he spent much of his time terrorizing British settlers and trying to personally profit from the venture. In the process he created little good will for the American effort.
When the Spanish later took Fort Panmure (Rosalie) on the bluff, men like Carradine retook the fort on the belief that the British navy would soon come up the river to their aid. But that didn't happen. Instead, more Spanish forces came and Carradine and others were put in chains and imprisoned in New Orleans. Eventually, they were released and their confiscated property returned.
This was the story of Parker Carradine whose "delightfully situated" plantation Cuming's saw in 1808.
Carradine's plantation, said Cuming, had "an excellent dwelling house, and good apple and peach orchards, with the south branch of Cole's creek, winding round on the right below, and which I crossed soon after. The soil however is very light, and is soon washed off, and worn out, where it has been cultivated a few years, on the whole tract between Greenville and Natchez."
The area, said Cuming, "is well opened and inhabited to a little beyond Uniontown, which is a small village of three or four houses in decay, about a mile beyond Carradine's."
The road then turned southwest and "led us through a wood along a high ridge a little broken by hills, descending abruptly on each hand at intervals, with only one small settlement in the six miles to Sulserstown (Selsertown), which is a village of ten small houses, three of which are taverns. After passing it, I observed to the N. W. an extensive cotton plantation, with a good house in a very picturesque situation, occasioned by an insulated hill near it, with a flat plain on the top, cultivated in cotton, supported on every side by a cliff, clothed with wood, rising abruptly from the cultivated plantation below, which beyond the insulated hill, was bounded by a range of broken higher hills, cultivated to near the tops, and crowned with woods."
This little town had its beginning in the early 1800s when George Selser opened an inn along the old Trace road. Other families eventually settled there, but it was never more than a stopping off point.
Six miles down the road, Cuming said the country became more populated. He had arrived in the territorial capital of Washington, a place "tolerably well inhabited..." He stopped at Hill's tavern, where he found the owner working in the front of structure while in the back "Mrs. Hill and her daughters lived in a detached building..."
Before supper, Cuming strolled through the small village. He counted 30 houses there, all scattered about, including one store, one apothecary's shop, three taverns and a jail "all in one street on the Natchez road." The ladies in town, he said, were dressed "tasty and rather rich."
As he walked about, he learned that the water was supplied by wells 40-feet deep. About a quarter of a mile "from the east end (of town) is a delightful spring, near the bank of St. Catherine's creek" where there was a place to enjoy "a hot and cold bath." The cost to bathe there was "three-eighths of a dollar." Wines, liquors and spirits were available.
There, he saw "three or four companies of males and females" lounging in the late afternoon shade. They were seated beneath "spreading forest trees" and "enjoying the cool transparent water, whether pure or mixed to their taste."
Cuming was informed that Washington "was a fashionable resort," favored by Natchez residents. Each evening a stage coach arrived from Natchez and returned the next morning.
Before sundown, he heard the beat of drums and learned that the sound was coming from nearby Fort Dearborn, an American military base. He was listening to "the evening roll call of three or four companies of foot, at a barrack a little beyond the baths."
On a plantation near town resided Robert Williams, the governor of the territory. Williams was born in Virginia but later lived in North Carolina, where he was well educated, became a lawyer, served in the state Legislature and was later elected to Congress.
President Thomas Jefferson appointed Williams to serve on the land commission for the western portion of the Mississippi Territory, headquartered at Washington. In 1805 Jefferson appointed Williams the third governor of Mississippi, a position he held until 1809. He died in 1836 on a plantation near Monroe, Louisiana, where he is buried.
(Next week: Cuming continues to Natchez.)
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