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|Trouble at Hutchins farm on Natchez frontier -- Kentucky John wants a blanket|
In the early 1790s when 18-year-old John Hutchins arrived at the family farm south of Natchez, he learned of his mother's encounter earlier in the day with a Choctaw Indian known as Kentucky John.
Hutchins wrote a memoir of his life for his family when he was an old man and told the story of Kentucky John. Hutchins was born in the wilderness of the Natchez frontier not long after his family arrived here in the early 1770s when England was promoting the establishment of a colony. The Hutchins' brood came from South Carolina and settled on an abandoned Natchez Indian site along Second Creek still known today as White Apple Village, located 12 miles south of Fort Panmure (Rosalie) in Natchez and three miles east of Ellis Cliffs.
Hutchins' father, Anthony, received a generous land grant from the British in recognition of his military service during the French and Indian War. Natchez was governed by the British government of West Florida, which was headquartered in Pensacola. The British obtained Natchez from the French in the Treaty of Paris in 1763. At this time, a few settlers were here, and the land was mostly wilderness roamed by traders and a group of Choctaws allied with the British.
THE FRENCH AND INDIAN WAR
The French and Indian War grew out of land disputes between the French and British in North America. Having a major stake in this war were several Indian tribes, some siding with the French, others with the English. This battle began in 1754 and two years later helped spawn the Seven Years War in Europe.
The great British leader during World War II, Winston Churchill, said the Seven Years War was in actuality the planet's first world war. The classic 1826 novel by James Fenimore Cooper -- "The Last of the Mohicans" -- which was made into a film in 1992 starring Daniel Day-Lewis, was set during the French and Indian War.
Britain was victorious and in 1763 at the Treaty of Paris, America was sliced up between the British and Spanish. Great Britain got Canada and all French possessions east of the Mississippi, including Natchez. Spain got all French lands west of the Mississippi, and the Isle of New Orleans, which included the city. Additionally, Spain was given ownership of the mouth of the Mississippi, thereby controlling who went up the river and who was granted passage to the Gulf.
Now Spain and Great Britain were alone in the fight for North America and both worried greatly over those independent-minded American colonists. Natchez suddenly became a strategic location for the British along the Mighty Mississippi, the greatest interstate highway on the continent.
Anthony Hutchins fought in the French-Indian War and he other veterans of the war qualified for land grants in recognition of their service to the British crown. In 1766 the first British grant was given in Natchez to Captain Francis Vignolles. He got 2,000 acres near the Natchez fort. Samuel Hannay, a London merchant, also rewarded for his service to the King, received a 5,000-acre grant, some cleared ground, in the general area of the Natchez settlement.
There at the Hutchins' home at White Apple Village, Anne Hutchins often found herself alone with her children as her husband, Anthony, was often away on various journeys. But John Hutchins' mother, Anne White Hutchins, was a tough-as-nails pioneer woman of "high mettle," said her son, who was one of nine children.
When John Hutchins arrived home that day in the 1790s, Natchez had been a Spanish colony since late in the Revolutionary War after Spain allied with the Americans. Here, Hutchins found his mother busy at work about the farm as if nothing eventful had happened that day. But at some point she told her son that a "large Indian came to the door and demanded a blanket," and that trouble followed.
Hutchins knew the Choctaw by the name of Kentucky John and said the man was "well made...a stout young fellow, full six feet high..."
Kentucky John showed up at the Hutchins' household when only Anne and one daughter were at home. He demanded a blanket, and when Anne refused, Kentucky John "stepped into the house and drew from a bed a blanket." At the same moment, Anne "ran to the fire place, picked up a large poker" and "belaboured him so stoutly as to make him drop his prize and retreat out the door."
Once outside, Kentucky John, who "could speak very good English," heaped "every epithet of abuse that he was a master of" upon Anne, hoping, said her son, "to draw my mother outside the house while he could recover his prize." Unsuccessful, Hutchins said Kentucky John walked away.
Jim Barnett of Natchez, Director, Division of Historic Properties, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, and an expert on Indian cultures, says that Native Americans expected to be "given presents" such as blankets. "By the 1760s and 1770s, the Choctaw and other Indians were completely addicted to European items."
Initially, Barnett said, blankets were considered an exotic item, but in time "they came to be expected as an every day item. The Indians had made blankets in the past out of animals skin, but by this time the buffalo were being thinned out here although the Choctaw were still getting buffalo blankets from trade."
Barnett said that "chiefs, warriors, families, women and children required blankets and European clothes. They also required guns by then but couldn't make a gun nor could they make gun powder."
HUTCHINS FINDS KENTUCKY JOHN
Fuming over the episode involving Kentucky John, Hutchins said, "I really believe I could have shot him if I had seen him that day. I knew Johnny well and had often hunted in his company. I did not forget John's abuse..."
Kentucky John appeared to be something of a loner and obviously was not afraid of John Hutchins, who some Choctaw considered to be a medicine man and many feared.
Hutchins said he "prepared a whip, put a twisted vine last to it and loaded it with lead in the handle, carried it wherever I went."
Months later, Hutchins was working a field of head-high tobacco when he observed Kentucky John stealing watermelons from the Hutchins' melon patch.
"John had filled up a large sack which he fastened to his back and taking up a large one on one arm and his gun on the other (I had no gun with me)...I followed John, overtook him and with the butt end of my whip I felled him to the ground, seized his gun, threw out the priming and sent it as far from the scene of action as I could, used on his naked skin my vine lash."
Hutchins, according to his story, flogged Kentucky John with the "butt end of my whip" -- loaded with lead -- until he broke away. Hutchins caught up with him at a fence, whipped him some more there, and a short time later disabled his gun "and threw it over the fence to him. I really believe it cost my father a full half acre of tobacco which was broken in the scuffle."
Whipping seemed to be something of a standard punishment during those days. It was commonly used in the military -- Continental soldiers in the American Revolution could be punished with up to 100 lashes for serious offenses. When the Americans took possession of Natchez country in the late 1700s, the military often punished privates with a whip. Justice in those days included an appointment at the whipping post. Masters whipped slaves.
But all who were whipped had one thing in common -- not a single recipient of this form of punishment ever liked it one bit.
A few years after his flogging of Kentucky John, Hutchins was descending the Mississippi River in Natchez country in a flat boat loaded with flour "sent down by one of the contractors for some United States Troops from Pittsburgh. One stormy night I had landed the boat for safely and as there was but little room, for our oars were then worked on the outside of the boat, we had kindled a fire on the shore and were drying our wet clothes when who should I see advancing with a quiet step but this same Kentucky John with his rifle in hand."
Hutchins, fearing retribution from the man he had beaten, said he had to think quickly as he stood there half naked and unarmed. He grabbed a "good sized stick that had been burning leaving it two or three feet long. The blaze of the fire lit up on his face and I could see his eyes. I watched his every motion, intending to do the only thing in my power, that was if he should present his gun I intended jumping to one side and by so doing defeat his aim and then, if I could have made the best possible use of the stick."
When Kentucky John was 10 feet away he stopped and stared at Hutchins. Suddenly, he dropped the butt of his flintlock to the ground and exclaimed: "John Hutchins, how do you do?"
He stuck out his hand and Hutchins "received it, and from the hearty and long shake he gave me I was sure I had nothing to fear. We had a long talk. He told me that from the time of our tobacco field exploit that he had absented himself from the gaze of human eyes as he was ashamed of the marks left on his back..."
Kentucky John had lived since that time alone in the swamps. He invited Hutchins to his camp but Hutchins explained that he couldn't leave the flatboat until the goods were delivered.
In a short time, Kentucky John went to his camp and "returned with a quantity of venison for which I gave him the bacon and flour in return and, when parting, I gave him what was of great use in the place where he lived, a mosquito bar."
The two parted as friends that night and never saw each other again.
|Frank Morris Murder Series|