Who do you think should manage Ferriday water?|
Story Archives: Natchez & Lancaster early 1700s: Two outposts, two outcomes
- 2013 - 300 articles
- 2012 - 856 articles
- 2011 - 635 articles
- 2010 - 1276 articles
- 2009 - 1591 articles
- 2008 - 1763 articles
|Natchez & Lancaster early 1700s: Two outposts, two outcomes|
In 1718 in southeastern Pennsylvania -- less than a hundred miles west of Philadelphia -- a small outpost known as Lancaster was established on the frontier.
There, gunsmiths found a home in an area "blessed with seams of iron ore and tracts of maple trees," choice materials for the making of guns.
"Moreover, the location was perfect," wrote Alexander Rose in his 2008 book, "American Rifle," because "it was within reasonable traveling distance of Philadelphia, yet it also formed the gateway to the boundless wilderness beyond, ensuring a steady supply of rangers, trappers, explorers and hunters needing well-crafted, reliable, accurate weapons." By 1730, guns were a lucrative business there, says Rose, and a center for gun buyers where a "burgeoning population, taverns, stores and inns sprang up."
As Pennsylvania and the other English colonies prospered, the French were hoping the same would happen in their gigantic Louisiana colony, which included Natchez, a key location on the super highway known as the Mississippi River. While French Natchez prospered during the same period of Lancaster's meteoric growth, conditions in Natchez country were volatile.
In fact, tensions had been mounting in the Indian community against the French for more than a decade. Catastrophic trouble was brewing and some 700-plus warriors within the Natchez population of 3,000-plus were preparing to attack the French, which included about 700 souls -- men, women and children -- about 400 French and close to 300 African slaves.
In the years before the French arrived and in the years before the British from the Carolinas began trading guns with the Natchez in exchange for deerskins and Indian slaves, the Natchez had used the old methods of hunting to survive in this bountiful land.
On Thursday, March 11, 1700, French leader Iberville's boat docked at the Natchez landing, just below the high point where Fort Rosalie would be built 16 years later. Iberville observed that between the landing and Natchez Island three miles to the south that "many savages (Indians)...fish for catfish in the river on a little scaffold extending into the water from 7 to 8 feet. They sold me very small white fishes and very good catfish a foot and a half long."
The French settler DuPratz said the Natchez sometimes during feasts and celebrations "have meat or fish in abundance," but more often ate "only when they have an appetite, without confining themselves to any hour of the day."
Before European traders provided the Natchez guns, they hunted primarily with the bow and arrow. They also developed cleverly successful means of hunting wild game, such as the bear.
Bears hibernated in the ancient virgin forests in the hollows of dead trees, sometimes, according to the French, 30 to 40 feet above the ground. The Frenchman Dumont said the Natchez through trial and error had learned that "two bears never lodge" in the same tree although mothers sometimes hibernated with their cubs.
The Indians, when hunting bear, walked through the forests, said Dumont, "examining whether the bark at the trees" bore "the imprint of this animal's claws." Once the tell-tale signs were observed, the Natchez pounded on the foot of the trunk to awake the bear from its slumber and then hid behind nearby trees. There, they waited for the bear to emerge from the hollow and look below to determine what was interrupting his sleep.
Once the bear's presence was confirmed, and after it returned to the hollow, one Indian climbed to a tree near the one with the bear inside, said Dumont, and sat "astride a branch of equal height of the opening of the bear's hole." Meanwhile, the Indians on the ground bundled a ball of dry cane or other dry material and set part of it afire. This was tied to a string or "creeper" which the Indian in the tree used to pull up the burning bundle, which he lobbed into the hole of the nearby tree. If he missed, he retained possession of the fire bundle through the string -- at least for a while. Sometimes the string was tied to an arrow and shot through the hole in the tree.
In short time, the fire spread onto the rotted wood in the hollow and the sleepy bear emerged from the hole. Often, before he reached the safety of the ground, Indian archers killed the animal with a barrage of arrows.
By the late 1720s, those simpler days for the Natchez had vanished, while in Pennsylvania a thousand miles to the northeast, the English colonies were growing and frontiersmen were moving westward through Lancaster. In Natchez, however, the Indians here would seal their fate by what they chose to do on a late autumn day 280 years ago -- Friday, Nov. 28, 1729.
(Stanley Nelson is editor of the Concordia Sentinel and can be reached at 318-757-3646 or email@example.com.)
|Frank Morris Murder Series|