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Story Archives: Natchez quotes: Blood-sucking mosquitoes, horns of plenty, Tattooed Serpent
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|Natchez quotes: Blood-sucking mosquitoes, horns of plenty, Tattooed Serpent|
Natchez country has been home to many people -- great chiefs, circuit riders, surveyors, soldiers, horse hunters, tough and delicate women, and under-the-hill poets.
To follow are more quotes which framed moments of time in the wide region of Mississippi and Louisiana known two centuries ago as Natchez country.
WAS IT FOR GUNS?
By 1720s, many of the Natchez Indians and their leaders had become pro-English at a time when the Natchez had become completely oriented toward the European economy. The French, enemies of the English, were then operating plantations at Natchez and a trading post at Fort Rosalie.
Several factors, including French aggression, poor leadership and other disputes, led to the 1729 massacre at Fort Rosalie (280 years ago). There, the Natchez brutally murdered about 220 men, women and children. Others were taken as slaves.
Jim Barnett vividly describes the horrific bloody scenes of the massacre and the disgusting scenes in the days to follow as the Natchez in a drunken frenzy celebrated their victory while dogs chewed on corpses. Barnett wrote about the Natchez in his 2007 book: "The Natchez Indians: A History to 1735" (185 pages, University Press of Mississippi). He also describes the subsequent French expedition of retribution which basically wiped out the Natchez as a race at Sicily Island.
One Natchez leader Barnett wrote about was known as the Tatooed Serpent, considered a good diplomat, who promoted peace and understanding between the Indians and the Europeans. Following some deadly disputes prior to the massacre, a Frenchman wondered one day why the Tatooed Serpent did not speak to him. He asked what was wrong?
The Tattooed Serpent said: "What need did we have of the French? Before them, didn't we live better than we do now?...Was it for guns? We used our bows and arrows which sufficed to make us live well. Was it for their white, blue, or red blankets? We did well enough with the skins of buffaloes which are warmer....before the arrival of the French, we lived like men who know how to do with what they have, whereas today we walk like slaves who do not what they wish."
A HORSE HUNTER'S WIDOW
Philip Nolan, the great horse hunter of the 1790s, married Fanny Lintot, the pretty, literate, popular daughter of the well-to-do Bernard Lintot of Natchez on Thursday, Dec. 19, 1799 (210 years ago), at William Dunbar's Forest Plantation eight miles south of Natchez. Dunbar, the renown scientist, planter, surveyor and explorer, performed the ceremony. (He was also a justice of the peace.)
The most eligible bachelor in Natchez, Nolan had made three previous expeditions west into Texas, which belonged to the Spanish, to catch and tame wild horses and drive them to Natchez and New Orleans for sale. Before Nolan led his men out for his fourth such journey late in 1800, Fanny, approaching her 22nd birthday, was pregnant.
One thing Nolan didn't expect on this trip was that the Spanish, who had warned him against the expedition, would send troops after him. In a corral in Texas, Nolan, who initiated a battle against the Spanish soldiers, was the lone fatality although some of his men were taken prisoner, one later executed and many never seen back in Natchez again.
On Saturday, Aug. 22, 1801, Dunbar wrote his pen pal President Thomas Jefferson about the fate of the horse hunter: "We have been lately cut off from our usual communication with that country (the west) by the imprudence of Mr. Nolan who persisted in hunting wild horses without a regular permission; the consequence of which has been that a party being sent against him, he was the only man of his company who was killed by the random shot."
Dunbar told the President, "I am much concerned for the loss of this man. Altho' his eccentricities were many and great," Nolan "was not destitute of romantic principles of honor united to the highest personal courage, with energy of mind not sufficiently cultivated by education..." Dunbar added that "the guidance of a little more prudence," might have "conducted him to enterprises of the first magnitude."
Poor Fanny was already in a precarious situation before she delivered her son. She spent weeks worrying over the fate of her husband and when she learned of his death she was devastated, and her heart broken into a thousand tiny pieces when she was told of his infidelity. All of this shattered her will to live.
Little Philip was born on a hot summer day on Friday, June 26, 1801. Twenty-four days later on Monday, July 20, 1801, Fanny Lintot died in the home of her sister Mary Steer in Baton Rouge. Her death was reported in a newspaper.
It said: "...This amiable young woman, languishing under the corrosion of grief for the unexpected fate of her beloved husband and advancing in pregnancy, was delivered of a son, whose birth the unhappy mother survived but a short time. Thus fell in the bloom of youth a worthy and accomplished member of society."
A HOLE IN THE COFFIN
Some men during this era wore their hair in a long strip in the back called a queue. This was considered quite fashionable.
Mississippi historian J.F.H. Claiborne wrote in this 19th Century book that one night during a card game at Fort Adams -- the American fortification built in 1798-99 (210 years ago) in what is now Wilkinson County -- a prank was pulled on Gen. James Wilkinson, commanding officer of the U.S. Army. Fort Adams was located six or seven miles above the new American/Spanish border which Andrew Ellicott was marking.
The officers, he said, "became rather merry over their punch one night, and the general, by some accident, got his queue singed off. Next day he issued an order forbidding any officer appearing on parade with a queue."
Major Butler, who also imbibed with the officers, refused to follow the order and was arrested. He was outraged. A short time later, Butler was stricken with an illness and a surgeon told him he was dying and should immediately plan his funeral. Butler knew everyone in command would attend his last rites, including Wilkinson. He called the doctor to his side before his death to leave a message for the general.
Butler said: "Bore a hole through the bottom of my coffin, right under my head, and let my queue hang through it, that the dammed old rascal may see that, even when dead, I refuse to obey his orders."
AMAZING SWARMS OF BUGS
On a hot evening in a wilderness camp -- Tuesday, June 19, 1798 (201 years ago) -- along Bayou Sara across the Mississippi River from the southern tip of Concordia Parish, Andrew Ellicott sat in his tent and penned a note to his wife Sally who was back home in Pennsylvania.
Ellicott was encamped in the stifling thickets along the east-west boundary line he marked that today separates Mississippi on the north and Louisiana on the south, a boundary established as one of the provisions of the Treaty of San Lorenzo between the United States and Spain. Two years earlier, Ellicott, a Pennsylvania Quaker, had been appointed survey commissioner by President George Washington to fix the boundary line along the 31st parallel.
Ellicott said: "It is impossible in this country to write after night, and sometimes in the day, on account of the amazing swarms of flies, Muskeetos and gnats; all thirsting after the blood of man. Our beds are all surrounded with a kind of thin curtain...to keep them off when we go to rest...It is now 9 o'clock at night and my eyes almost put out by the Musketoos..."
A TURKEY-BUZZARD'S DIGNITY
Thomas Griffin -- the youngest of eight children -- was born on Saturday, Sept. 24, 1787, in Cumberland, Virginia. He became a fire and brimstone preacher.
In 1810, at the age of 23, he began his ministry as a Methodist circuit rider and by 1812 was transferred to the Mississippi District. He was sent to the Natchez country and his first appointment was the Washita (Ouachita) Circuit west of Natchez, including Sicily Island. In 1814 (195 years ago), he preached the first sermon under-the-hill in Natchez.
He became famous for his language in the pulpit. He preached that one who seduced the young and innocent was "a whitewashed, hollow-hearted, hypocritical, double-faced monster of inequity, with a heart as black as night."
The vain sinner was "one of your real Gospel-slighting, heaven-neglecting, God-provoking, devil-daring, hell-deserving rebels against the majesty of the universe."
The alcoholic ranked near the bottom, said the preacher, "a far worse character than the frantic suicide who would take a pistol and blow out his brains, thus ridding the family of a pest and leaving his property for their maintenance, whereas the drunkard, after cursing and disgracing his family with his besotted example, afflicting them with his drunken revels, wasting his property, breaking the heart of his wife, and hanging his poor, ragged, uneducated children on the horns of poverty, is in the end a self-murderer."
But he found the aging, fast-talking, hard-living womanizer the worst of the worst. The preacher said the philanderer's "debauched carcass would disgrace a wolf trap if put in it for bait," and this person represented the "frazzle-ends of humanity...." The preacher had no sympathy, empathy or time for the womanizer.
Griffin preached: "If he should die by the wayside a decent turkey-buzzard would consult the dignity of his beak before he would condescend to pick out his bloodshot eyes."
CONCORDIA'S BLESS'D BACHELORS
In May 1816 (193 years ago), Anthony Campbell issued a warning under-the-hill at Natchez to all gamblers, vagrants, owners of houses of prostitution and prostitutes to clean up their acts.
A city officer and Pine Ridge farmer who served in many public roles in Natchez, Campbell's warning is believed to be the reason he suffered a savage beating a few years later. A man knocked Campbell off his horse, beat him with a rawhide whip, bit off his left ear, then chewed and swallowed it.
By December 1816, the thought that prostitution might actually end under-the-hill worried Anthony Haslett, a Navy veteran who also liked to write poems. In the Christmas Day editions of the Washington Republican and Natchez Intelligencer, his fears that the prostitutes working below the bluffs might take their business across the river to Vidalia were expressed in this poem, a farewell to the ladies of the evening:
"Fair Poll, adieu. With thee sweet Jenny goes,
"and Moll and Bet, and Nell and Rach, and Rose.
"Lost o'er the watery way compell'd to roam..
"Concordia's banks receive their wand'ring feet,
"Concordia's crops supply them beds of rest,
"Concordia's bachelors are supremely bless'd."
|Frank Morris Murder Series|