Are you for armed guards at schools?|
Story Archives: Natchez and The Company of Military Adventurers: A good idea that failed
- 2013 - 285 articles
- 2012 - 856 articles
- 2011 - 635 articles
- 2010 - 1276 articles
- 2009 - 1591 articles
- December 2009 - 147 articles
- November 2009 - 140 articles
- October 2009 - 168 articles
- September 2009 - 128 articles
- August 2009 - 109 articles
- July 2009 - 144 articles
- June 2009 - 106 articles
- May 2009 - 115 articles
- April 2009 - 157 articles
- March 2009 - 126 articles
- March 26th, 2009 (Thursday) - 25 articles
- March 25th, 2009 (Wednesday) - 7 articles
- March 23rd, 2009 (Monday) - 1 articles
- March 19th, 2009 (Thursday) - 24 articles
- March 18th, 2009 (Wednesday) - 8 articles
- March 12th, 2009 (Thursday) - 20 articles
- March 11th, 2009 (Wednesday) - 12 articles
- March 6th, 2009 (Friday) - 1 articles
- March 5th, 2009 (Thursday) - 21 articles
- March 4th, 2009 (Wednesday) - 6 articles
- March 2nd, 2009 (Monday) - 1 articles
- February 2009 - 132 articles
- January 2009 - 119 articles
- 2008 - 1763 articles
|Natchez and The Company of Military Adventurers: A good idea that failed|
Among the groups of settlers arriving in Natchez country in the months prior to the American Revolution was an organization of New Englanders known as "The Company of Military Adventurers."
The group was led by a beloved veteran by the name of Phineas Lyman and the venture, said Mississippi historian Dunbar Rowland, "caused a good deal of excitement in New England at the time." But after years of legal and political wrangling, settlement attempts and the loss of a number of lives, the project failed miserably.
Phineas Lyman was a Connecticut native, born in Suffield in 1715. He earned a law degree from Yale and soon became a leader in the colony. When the French and Indian War broke out in 1754, Lyman was placed in command of Connecticut's troops serving under the British flag.
Lyman received overall praise for his long service to the crown in its war against the French and its Indian allies. Once the war ended in 1763, he and some of his comrades focused their attention on Natchez country.
According to Jack Elliott, Historical Archaeologist with the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, and Lecturer at Mississippi State University: "The geopolitical conditions for the birth of the Natchez District were set by the 1763 Treaty of Paris by which England received Canada, Spanish Florida, and all of French Louisiana east of the Mississippi River, except the Isle of Orleans. The Isle and Louisiana west of the river were ceded to Spain. Out of its newly acquired territories, England organized two provinces, East and West Florida."
The Natchez District was in West Florida, Pensacola the capital. Elliott said Natchez country "occupied a narrow strip of land that was bounded on the west by the Mississippi River. Located primarily on loess-covered uplands, the District began at the 31st parallel of latitude, or as more commonly recognized, the Loftus Cliffs (Roche d'Avion and later known as Fort Adams) on the Mississippi, and stretched northward to the mouth of the Yazoo River (Vicksburg), beyond which lay the vast bottomlands of the Mississippi Delta. On the east, the District was only nubelously defined by the eastward extent of settlement from the River. Today, the Natchez District corresponds to the five Mississippi counties of (south to north), Wilkinson, Adams, Jefferson, Claiborne and Warren."
In this region, wrote historian and geographer Benjamin L.C. Wailes in the 19th Century, numerous grants were made from January 1768 to September 1779 by the governor of West Florida. He said those in Natchez country were "chiefly made to officers of the British army and navy, and in many instances of large dimensions."
Historian Rowland explained that there was a distinction "to be made between the grants to persons about to occupy lands themselves, and those who obtained patents with the purpose of organizing speculations of colonies, and a third class who were given patents as a token of the royal appreciation. The last class usually received a mandamus (royal order) from the king, while the ordinary applicant presented a petition to the governor and council at Pensacola, and received a warrant of survey, directed to the surveyor-general. Upon the proper return from the surveyor a patent was issued."
Anthony Hutchins, who settled on an abandoned Natchez Indian village known as White Apple 12 miles below the Natchez fort, and Sam Gibson, the founder of Port Gibson who settled in what is now Claiborne County, are examples of settlers who personally visited the land office at Pensacola to acquire grants. Each man came to Natchez country with others but sought grants individually.
AMERICA, NATCHEZ 1760s TO 1770s
The largest amount of acreage given to one man went to the military veteran Amos Ogden, who traveled to London and received a "royal mandamus" -- an order by the crown -- for about 25,000 acres in 1772. Ogden sold much of this property -- about 19,000 acres -- to the brothers Samuel and Richard Swayze and other pioneers who came from New Jersey. Many of these families settled on the Homochitto in what is now southern Adams County.
The Swayzes and their neighbors paid Ogden 20 cents an acre, about $3,800 total. One can speculate what that property might be worth today by looking at a recent sale on the other side of the Mississippi River.
Angelina Plantation, the 26,236-acre farm in the Monterey area of Concordia Parish, was purchased in 2006 by an Indiana company for $31 million in the largest agricultural deal in the history of Concordia. That amounts to $1,180 per acre. If the old Swayze property were sold at the same price per acre it would be worth about $22.4 million.
But back in the 18th Century, for decades the French held Natchez, and in the years of British and Spanish dominion, the fort at Natchez, known as Rosalie by the French and Panmure by the British and Spanish, was the symbol of power. After the Natchez Indian massacre of the French in 1729 in Natchez and the French campaign of retribution ending in 1731 at Sicily Island in a devastating French victory, Natchez had for years lay dormant and the Choctaw had laid claim to this region but ceded it to the British in the Treaty of Mobile in 1765.
Wrote Elliott: "British military occupation of the District began on September 29, 1766, when a detachment of 60 men of the 21st Regiment of Scottish Fusiliers arrived at Natchez to garrison the fort, now renamed Fort Panmure. It was the same year that the government of West Florida began to make land grants in the Natchez District. The first was made on May 26 with others following at an increasing frequency. Most seem to have been made in the vicinity of the fort. Many of the land grants involved thousands of acres of land and were given to prominent Englishmen. Most of these large parcels were never settled or improved."
But the British soon removed its military force from Natchez due to economics, and appointed two settlers to operate a trading post for peltries from the confines of the fort. A short time later, in an effort to appease the scattered settlers with some degree of protection, the British sent cannon and ammunition.
While the trading post flourished for a while, the men in charge -- one a man named John Bradley -- begged West Florida authorities for military protection. Bradley worried about Choctaws -- 14,000 strong at that time in what is now the state of Mississippi. Parties of Choctaw often traded at the fort and sometimes demanded presents, part of a longtime European policy.
In early 1771, as the British continued to ignore Bradley's pleas, a party of 18 Choctaws "armed and painted for war" surrounded the fort, placed guards at all points and held Bradley and two other men as prisoners inside. In the meantime, another group "broke into the store and took from thence every thing they could lay their hands upon and breaking to pieces what they could not carry away..."
Elliott wrote of the event: "Bradley managed to send word of his plight to neighboring farms" by an unnamed black man, apparently "a worker at the trading post. Eventually a group of local settlers...were able to rescue Bradley and, following a gunfight, recover many of the trade goods. Perhaps out of fear of a large scale retaliation by the Choctaws, most if not all of the settlers in the vicinity of the fort constructed a raft and floated down river to Bayou Sara (St. Francisville). The trading post was not reestablished at the fort."
As peace returned so did the settlers -- followed by a steady stream of new settlers.
GENERAL LYMAN GOES TO LONDON
Two years later, Gen. Lyman, the Connecticut native who had excelled in the military, began making big plans for a move to Natchez. At the close of the French and Indian War (1757 to 1763), the general, wrote Mississippi historian John F.H. Claiborne in his 19th Century book, was "wrecked in fortune and finding most of his comrades in the same position, they formed an association, under the name 'Military Adventurers,' to establish a colony in the Natchez district..."
As their leader, Lyman sailed to London. Shortly before his arrival in England there was a change in politics and policy. Lyman, said Claiborne, found "himself overlooked in the whirlwind...He lingered through several years of disappointment and neglect, and gradually sunk into despondency and inaction."
In fact, Lyman apparently remained in London until 1772 -- more than eight years -- before his wife sent their son, Thaddeus, to London to bring her 57-year-old husband home.
Historian Rowland says before father and son returned to America "an order had been passed by the king in council, authorized the governor of West Florida to grant lands in the province" to officers like Lyman and soldiers "who had served in the late wars, to obtain from the British government a tract of land" in the Natchez District.
However, says Rowland, "General Lyman brought no written document to substantiate the grant, but at a meeting of the Company (of Military Adventurers) held in Hartford, Conn., in 1772, his word was so far credited that the meeting resolved to explore the lands, and appointed a committee...for that purpose."
The committee, including Gen. Lyman's son, Thaddeus, sailed on the sloop "Mississippi" from New England down the Atlantic into the Gulf, landing at Pensacola on July 7, 1773, six months after their departure. There, one of the men, Rufus Putnam, met with "Governor Chester and his Council," and learned that "no order granting lands" to the Military Adventurers had arrived from England. This was, said Putnam, "a mortifying circumstance," but believing the order would soon arrive, the men resolved to continue on "the business of reconnoitering the country on the Mississippi and to make such surveys as we might think proper."
EXPLORATION OF NATCHEZ COUNTRY
Embarking up the Mississippi in a bateau on April 8, 1772, the men reached an Acadian settlement 71 miles above New Orleans, passed several Indian villages and old French settlements before arriving at Fort Panmure in Natchez on April 26. Fifty miles upriver they came to the mouth of Bayou Pierre, where two decades later a future U.S. President, Andrew Jackson, would briefly operate a trading post and bet on horses at a race track there.
The party traveled 17 miles up the bayou to the forks (northwest of Port Gibson), where they marked a tree "for commencing our location." They also explored the Big Black to the north and the Walnut Hills (Vicksburg) and the Yazoo.
There, they met a Choctaw chief named "Mingo-oma," or "Snakehead," who said through an interpreter that he had an agreement with the West Florida governor that white men were not to settle any lands above the Big Black along the Yazoo and showed a document to prove it.
After surveying much land, wrote Rowland, the men ascended the Big Black "some 25 miles by boat to a rocky rapid" which they felt was a good location to construct a sawmill. "They found here plenty of fine rich land on the left bank of the river, hilly, but watered by several springs." Just as they had marked a tree on Bayou Pierre, they did the same on the Big Black, and satisfied with the two chosen locations, headed home.
On the way, at Pensacola on July 7, 1773, the committee petitioned the government for 19 townships of 20,000 acres each -- 380,000 acres total. Back in Hartford, the Military Adventurers turned out for a meeting to hear the committee's report. Impressed with what they heard, the veterans "resolved to prosecute the settlement; and during that autumn, winter and spring following...families embarked from Massachusetts, Connecticut, and other places, for the purpose of settling on the lands we had explored."
Hundreds of families -- coming in waves -- made the trip South but some, upon landing in Pensacola, learned that the grants were in question. The Revolutionary War had halted the program, but the settlers were allowed to choose vacant lands on which to stake a claim but no guarantees were made.
Many returned home. Others came to Natchez country, but many, sickened with fevers, died along the way, and for various reasons only a few military adventurers made a successful claim in Natchez country.
Wrote Dunbar Rowland, "General Lyman, accompanied by his eldest son and a number of other members of the company, and their families moved on to the Big Black river in the surveyed territory in 1774. It was his intention to get his plantation in shape in reception of his family, who were to follow him later. However, when Mrs. Lyman and five more children arrived in 1776, she found both husband and son dead. She did not survive him and died in 1777." The infamous fevers of the lower Mississippi River Valley claimed scores of immigrants.
Those colonists who made it to the Big Black and Bayou Pierre alive erected a sawmill on the rapids which were discovered on the exploration of the committee. They planned to ship lumber to New Orleans, but says Rowland, this economic plan of the settlers was dashed when the region, in Spanish hands by 1781, prohibited the trade.
Sometimes things don't work out. The failure of the Company of Military Adventurers, also known as the Lyman Colony, points to the great odds of overcoming all of the obstacles facing the pioneers. Men like Anthony Hutchins at White Apple, the Swayze brothers on the Homochitto and Sam Gibson on Bayou Pierre, were the exceptions.
But of all the misfortunes suffered by the many men, women and children who followed Gen. Lyman to Natchez country, there was no story sadder than that of Matthew Phelps. His story next week.
|Frank Morris Murder Series|