Who do you think should manage Ferriday water?|
Story Archives: Gov. Sargent's 'handsome brick house;' goats on the lawn, estate of 'taste'
- 2013 - 300 articles
- 2012 - 856 articles
- 2011 - 635 articles
- 2010 - 1276 articles
- 2009 - 1591 articles
- 2008 - 1763 articles
- December 2008 - 148 articles
- November 2008 - 147 articles
- October 2008 - 183 articles
- September 2008 - 128 articles
- August 2008 - 150 articles
- July 2008 - 143 articles
- June 2008 - 120 articles
- May 2008 - 148 articles
- April 2008 - 147 articles
- March 2008 - 143 articles
- February 2008 - 146 articles
- February 28th, 2008 (Thursday) - 23 articles
- February 27th, 2008 (Wednesday) - 18 articles
- February 25th, 2008 (Monday) - 1 articles
- February 21st, 2008 (Thursday) - 17 articles
- February 20th, 2008 (Wednesday) - 12 articles
- February 18th, 2008 (Monday) - 1 articles
- February 14th, 2008 (Thursday) - 25 articles
- February 13th, 2008 (Wednesday) - 13 articles
- February 9th, 2008 (Saturday) - 2 articles
- February 8th, 2008 (Friday) - 1 articles
- February 7th, 2008 (Thursday) - 32 articles
- February 6th, 2008 (Wednesday) - 1 articles
- January 2008 - 160 articles
|Gov. Sargent's 'handsome brick house;' goats on the lawn, estate of 'taste'|
On Thursday, August 28, 1808, Fortesque Cuming awoke early in his room at Mickie's Tavern in Natchez, dressed, saddled his horse, and toured the town, which then consisted primarily of what is now known as downtown.
Cuming was traveling southward from Port Gibson to Fort Adams. He visited the sites along the way and stopped and talked to many people.
After visiting downtown Natchez, he reined his horse southward where about two miles down the road he came to the home of Gov. Winthrop Sargent, who served as the first governor of the Mississippi Territory from 1798 to 1801. Born in Gloucester, Massachusetts, on May 1, 1753, Sargent later joined the Continental Army and served during the Revolutionary War under Gen George Washington. Even though he served as governor of Mississippi Territory, he was most often referred to in Natchez as "Colonel."
Cuming kept a journal and he later wrote: "Proceeding southward from Natchez, I passed some tasty cottages, and deviating a little to the right of the main road, in two short miles I came to colonel (late governour) Sargent's handsome brick house. The road led through a double swinging gate into a spacious lawn, which the colonel has formed in the rear of the house, the chief ornament of which was a fine flock of sheep."
Sargent's home, Gloucester, named after his hometown, was located on his plantation, Gloster Place. The home can still be seen today along Lower Woodville Road, which passes through what was once that spacious lawn Cuming saw 200 years ago.
As you travel southward along this street, Gloucester is on the left of the road and the small family cemetery is on the right. While there is a headstone there for Sargent, it is not believed that his remains were buried there. Sargent died aboard a steamboat near New Orleans in 1820, and it isn't likely his body was brought back to Natchez for burial although it remains somewhat unclear.
Sargent, 45 when he arrived in Natchez and 67 when he died, spent much of his life on the frontier of a young America. He set up the first government in the Mississippi Territory, a system we still follow in this region to some degree today.
Back then, the President named his own man as governor with the support of Congress, and there was some opposition to Sargent's appointment. But he was President John Adams' choice and got the job. Sargent arrived in Natchez in August 1798, weary and ill. Soon, however, he recovered his health.
Talking about rough politics, you should have lived in Natchez during the early days of American government. There were political factions whose disagreements sometimes resulted in fist fights and duels. Sargent had many harsh critics and was lambasted as being a dictator. In those days, the governor appointed everyone but the judges. Elections were still two years away.
During the first months, Sargent called upon the military to provide law and order. One man, Zachariah Cox, complained that on Saturday, Aug. 18, 1798, seven days after his arrival in Natchez, he was arrested on Sargent's orders and "brought to the blockhouse at Fort Sargent (Rosalie) and ordered to ascend through a trap door to the loft" where below "six or seven horse thieves" were imprisoned.
Cox said he was kept in the "miserable situation" of the loft for 10 days and 10 nights "without being allowed, during the whole of that time" to leave. He said that as his health began to fail that he was allowed to walk briefly in the day time but with this exception "was detained in the same close confinement for thirty-nine days and nights."
That definitely was harsh, but the fear of Sargent was that Cox was among many land speculators, well armed and with supporters, who were up to no good. He may have been right. While these tough measures may have sent a message that law and order would be maintained, it also made many people angry and such incidents created great ill will toward the new governor.
When Sargent arrived at Natchez, just a few days before Cox came, there was no American governmental structure. The Spanish had an efficient government, but it was ruled by a King. You paid no taxes, but you had little say in your future. Democracy was new idea to Natchez and it took a while for the American government to deliver it.
Sargent didn't have a desk, a place to live, a place to operate. He only had himself. For quite some time, he paid for many of the government needs out of his own pocket.
Sargent was actually a pretty good governor, but he operated with a firm hand. That was due to his military background and the rough nature of the frontier. In one military battle years earlier, he was hit by two bullets. The lead remained inside his body for the rest of his life.
Once all three territorial judges were in place, a series of laws were enacted. This came, of course, without the vote of the people, but was the way territorial government operated in its early stages.
Historian Dunbar Rowland wrote in 1905: "The leaders of the opposition violently attacked the laws that were enacted by the governor and judges. These dissensions resulted in a public meeting of the opponents of (Sargent), at which a committee was appointed to present grievances to the governor and judges. The committee also appointed (an agent) to proceed to Philadelphia (then the capital) and lay their complaints before Congress. The petition to Congress...was signed by fifteen citizens of the Territory."
Congress, eight months later, "authorized a legislative body for the Territory, to consist of a House of Representatives elected by the people, and a Legislative Council nominated by the House and appointed by the President. The House had a membership of nine; the Council was composed of five members."
On June 24, 1800, Sargent, due to Congress' actions, called for an election for the House of Representatives. Sargent's opponents carried the day and those elected held their first meeting on September 22, 1800, in Natchez. Sargent tried to work with his opposition, but it was too late. He was finished politically.
But personally, he had much to do. And enjoy. This widower married a wealthy widow and together they increased the fortune with property, including land around Lake St. John in Concordia, and plantations. He was one of the largest slave-holders in the region.
He had many interests. Aside from a mistress a few years earlier who caused him some legal problems, he, like his neighbor William Dunbar, who lived a few miles to the south on Forest Plantation, Sargent lived quietly. He was interested in science and nature. He recorded the temperature, weather conditions, and river stages. He liked to garden and wrote about the plants and flowers that interested him. In fact, this interest was common around Natchez at that time.
At Gloucester, two sons were born to this family.
According to Charles Sprague Sargent, a few years after the governor's death, Sargent's widow sold the home and 83 acres to James C. Wilkins for $20,000. Due to financial problems, Wilkins lost the place in 1848 and at auction the Sargent's youngest son, George Washington Sargent, bought the family home.
During Civil War, some misfit federal soldiers in a robbery plan, murdered George Washington Sargent at Gloucester. After his murder, "his youngest son George" moved in after the place was "bought for his use with its contents in 1868 by his brother-in-law William Butler Duncan of New York. In 1877 Duncan sold Gloster House with 210 acres of land to James Surget of Natchez. After Surget's death the house in 1920 became the property of his widow Catherine Boyd Surget."
Under Mrs. Surget's ownership the home was "repaired and restored to its original condition and the old time splendor and hospitality (was) renewed in a ball given by the new owner on May 30, 1923, for her friends in Natchez and its neighborhood."
In every old home in Natchez, filled with fine furnishings and art, there are stories of people who enjoyed happiness and success, and endured sadness and tragedy. Lives are complex -- rich and poor -- no matter how we spread our butter.
In 1808, just seven years after the colonel's governship ended in Natchez, Cuming rode through Sargent's lawn and by the flock of sheep. Cuming recalled that "this plantation bespoke more taste and convenience than I had yet observed in the territory."
He gave his horse a pat on the neck, and "riding half a mile through the lawn, I left it by a similar gate to the first, and a quarter of a mile more of an open wood brought me to Colonel William Scott's."
(Next week: Cuming journey southward toward Fort Adams.)
|Frank Morris Murder Series|