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|Quotes which framed moments in Natchez country|
Two centuries ago, a whole world of people and events left their mark in Natchez country.
A simple sentence or phrase sometimes framed a moment or a period in our local history. We have found scores of such statements through the years
The quotes to follow are a few examples.
DUNBAR: WHEN LAWYERS RULE
The times were exciting in late 1803, the year of the Louisiana Purchase. President Thomas Jefferson asked Dr. George Hunter of Philadelphia and William Dunbar of Natchez, the planter, scientist and astronomer who lived on Second Creek, to lead the exploration of the Ouachita River, one of four expeditions launched, including Lewis & Clark's.
Jefferson and Dunbar corresponded regularly during this period. At this time, Natchez had just incorporated and the nearby village of Washington, capital of the Mississippi Territory, were both bustling with activity. William Lattimore was the delegate to Congress from Mississippi, which had been a territory of the United States for only five years.
Dunbar told Jefferson that he had recently expressed to Lattimore concerns about courts and "the law." Because Natchez country was growing so rapidly, lawyers were arriving to handle the legal needs. But Dunbar felt "an evil...is rapidly growing up in this country to an enormous magnitude."
The problem, he said, was lawyers. Because of them, Dunbar feared "a great a scourge" was in the making because of the growing powers of those in this profession.
Dunbar said: "To me it is evident that the period is fast approaching when the Men of the Law will be the Lords & nobility of this Country and the Planters will be their Vassals; they will then govern us with despotic sway."
BIG BOAT ON THE OUACHITA
The folks encountered by Dunbar and Hunter on their expedition of the Ouachita up to the hot springs of Arkansas were few and far between. A runaway slave named Harry was picked up near the mouth of the Black River along the Red and a couple living in the wilderness was found on an island on the Black between the mouth of the Red and present day Jonesville.
The expedition crossed paths on occasion with hunting parties and fur traders. When a Delaware Indian "painted with vermillion round the eyes" saw the expedition's big barge near the hot springs he spoke the few words in English he knew.
The Indian said: "O! Canoe damn big."
WHAT ALL MANKIND SHARES
For Dr. Hunter, the night of Sunday, Jan. 20, 1805, was one he never forgot.
"The sun was set," he wrote in his journal during the expedition. "All was still and silent as death."
He was en route down the Ouachita in present day Caldwell Parish and preparing to camp for the night. The temperature was 56 degrees at sunrise, but had dropped to 40 by dark as a strong cold front blew through.
"I saw a small encampment with two fires and apparently two families of Choctaw Indians," Hunter wrote. "I heard some melancholy mourning in a female voice. It seemed to come from the heart and was very expressive."
Hunter turned toward the sound and "saw a person on the ground wrapped entirely in a blanket, and leaning on a small heap of dead branches rudely piled together, to protect from the wild beasts of the wilderness..."
That "small heap," said Hunter, was "the remains" of a Choctaw mother's "first and only child, which I was informed died six months ago."
The haunting wails of the mourning woman moved him emotionally and made him realize something about mankind.
Hunter said: "Joy and grief are the same in all languages."
WHAT WE HAVE TO GIVE
Twenty-one-year-old Martha Philips Martin along with her husband and baby daughter Jane were traveling with others from Natchez country to Martha's native Tennessee to see her family and beloved mother in 1813 when disaster struck.
Just north of Natchez something spooked the horse pulling a buggy with the driver, Martha and little Jane onboard. Martha threw her baby to safety as she jumped herself but the landing left her with a nasty break on her left ankle, the bone exposed through the skin.
Somehow, Martha's husband found two doctors in Natchez country and each said the left leg had to be amputated above the ankle. They laid her on a table on the front porch and prepared for the surgery. She was given nothing for pain and was wide awake when the surgeon sawed off her leg, a sound she would never forget. She survived.
But before the operation began she held and kissed baby Jane and had what she feared would be her final moments with her husband, who ask as delicately as possible what her wishes were if the worst happened during the surgery.
Martha, remembering her baby boy, James, who died in her arms two years earlier, and remembering her family in Tennessee, focused on the future of little Jane. She said her "heart clung to my dear little babe."
Martha said: "Take her home to my mother. It is all of myself I have to give her."
DEATH OF A PRESIDENT
After his victory over the British at New Orleans, Gen. Andrew Jackson was by now a certified national hero and the most famous man in America. In April 1814, he returned to Natchez, a place he had visited many times before.
Accompanying him was his wife, Rachel. The two were married in Natchez country during the Spanish days but questions over the legality of that union are still questioned by historians today.
At Natchez, Gen. and Mrs. Jackson were treated to a "ball and supper," Jackson wrote, and a "dining" at nearby Washington, the Mississippi Territory capital.
A national hero, Jackson was twice elected President, serving from 1829 to 1837. So revered was Jackson in Natchez country, that many shared the sentiment of Gov. Sam Houston of Texas.
A few years after Jackson's second term as President ended, Houston learned the general, then 78, was dying. Houston had served under Jackson's command in Indian campaigns years earlier. He raced from Texas to New Orleans with his family where he boarded a Mississippi River steamboat passing Natchez and Vidalia along the way. Houston arrived at Jackson's home, the Hermitage, in Nashville on June 8, 1849, having learned while traveling overland in Tennessee that Jackson died only hours earlier.
Grieving, Houston took his one-year-old son Sam Jr. into his arms and held him at the edge of Jackson's bed where Old Hickory's lifeless body rested.
Houston said: "My son, remember that you have looked on the face of Andrew Jackson."
Around the same time in 1814, a Methodist circuit rider -- Thomas Griffin -- preached the first sermon delivered at Natchez Under-The-Hill.
As we've mentioned before, if ever there was a den of iniquity it was this place at that time. Riverboatmen, riff-raff, misfits, outlaws, murderers, men with bounties on their heads, rabble-rousers, hell-raisers, thieves, scoundrels, reprobates, drunkards, prostitutes, flim-flam men, and humans with the venom of a cottonmouth resided and moved in and out of this wallow hole.
Griffin preached there in a house located near taverns and houses of ill repute where he heard "the fiddles going at two places, with dancing and stamping." Some men would have skedaddled.
When Rev. Griffing was shown the house for his service, he said: "Let us give them a center shot or none." At one point during the sermon "a Kentuckain took hold" of one drunk "jerked him down, dragged him over the seats and hurled him into the streets. This produced some flutter." But all in all, Griffin thought his audience got the message, though he doesn't mention if there were any converts.
Bishop Charles B. Galloway surmised that the sermon "was the beginning of gospel at Natchez Under-the-Hill." Yet he made something of a disclaimer about evangelical success at that location.
Galloway said: "It was never an inviting field for religious effort."
NATCHEZ A GHOST TOWN
Presbyterian preacher Joseph Stanton left a eerie description of a Natchez brought to its knees by yellow fever in 1853.
The pestilence spared few, he said, and carried many to the grave. For four months businesses closed their doors because practically no one ventured into the city and those who resided there rarely left home.
Stanton said: "The grass literally sprung up in our untrodden streets; and the silence, not of a Sabbath, but of a funeral hour, hung over our usually bustling city..."
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