Are you for armed guards at schools?|
Story Archives: The origins of Villa Gayoso near Church Hill, Miss.
- 2013 - 290 articles
- 2012 - 856 articles
- 2011 - 635 articles
- 2010 - 1276 articles
- December 2010 - 59 articles
- November 2010 - 56 articles
- October 2010 - 73 articles
- September 2010 - 128 articles
- August 2010 - 123 articles
- July 2010 - 137 articles
- June 2010 - 105 articles
- May 2010 - 103 articles
- April 2010 - 143 articles
- April 29th, 2010 (Thursday) - 22 articles
- April 28th, 2010 (Wednesday) - 10 articles
- April 23rd, 2010 (Friday) - 2 articles
- April 22nd, 2010 (Thursday) - 20 articles
- April 21st, 2010 (Wednesday) - 9 articles
- April 15th, 2010 (Thursday) - 21 articles
- April 14th, 2010 (Wednesday) - 14 articles
- April 8th, 2010 (Thursday) - 21 articles
- April 7th, 2010 (Wednesday) - 13 articles
- April 2nd, 2010 (Friday) - 1 articles
- April 1st, 2010 (Thursday) - 10 articles
- March 2010 - 136 articles
- February 2010 - 98 articles
- January 2010 - 115 articles
- 2009 - 1591 articles
- 2008 - 1763 articles
|The origins of Villa Gayoso near Church Hill, Miss.|
BY JACK ELLIOTT
Villa Gayoso was a Spanish settlement in western Jefferson County, Mississippi, during the 1790s.
Today few people know that it ever existed. Even fewer can locate its site, far off the beaten path as it is, about three miles north of Church Hill.
The settlement has been depicted, erroneously, as being the country estate/mansion of the Spanish governor of the Natchez District, Manuel Gayoso de Lemos (1747-1799). Although it was named after the governor, it was not his country estate. This error probably arose from misinterpreting the name. "Villa" in the United States usually refers to a country estate centered on a palatial mansion. However, in Spanish the term villa (pronounced VEE-ya) refers to a nucleated settlement that is smaller than a "ciudad" (or city). The city of Natchez -- which was founded by the Spanish in ca 1790 -- was deemed a "ciudad". Considerably smaller, Villa Gayoso was merely a villa.
The history of Villa Gayoso is closely tied to the political evolution of the Natchez District which was transformed from an uninhabited wilderness in the mid-1760s to a territory of the United States by 1798. This development took place through a number of decisions by the Spanish administration during the latter half of the 1780s. Beginning as early as 1785, Lt. Col. Francisco Bouligny, the newly appointed commandant at the Natchez fort, wrote a lengthy letter to Esteban Miró, the acting Governor General of Louisiana and West Florida, in which he described the district and its largely agrarian population. He recommended that -- because of threats from the United States -- it was advisable to promote the development of the district and the growth of its population. Having spent several months at Natchez in 1782, Miró was cognizant of the importance of the district and consequently was supportive of Bouligny's recommendations.
On April 5, 1786 a Royal Order was issued from Spain based on Miró's recommendation authorizing that parishes be established "at Natchez and other convenient places, in order that the English and American Settlers, and their Children and Families, may be attracted to our Religion." By the summer of that year four priests had been selected from the Royal College of Irishmen at the University of Salamanca and were soon bound for North America where they arrived in New Orleans in August 1787.
In a letter of February 1, 1787 addressed to the Marqués de Sonora, Minister of the Indies, Miró described the three main areas of settlement in the Natchez District, that is: (1) along St. Catherine's Creek, (2) along Second Creek to the south of Natchez and (3) along Cole's Creek to the north of Natchez. The governor proposed that two parishes be developed in the district, one at Natchez and the other at Cole's Creek. The first parish already had a natural nucleus at Natchez; the parish would include the settlements along St. Catherine's Creek and Second Creek. However, for the second parish there was no established nucleus. A site would have to be located and a center constructed from scratch. This would become Villa Gayoso.
The first site selected in 1787 was near the Mississippi River and reportedly had a source of good drinking water. However, this land proved to be less than was claimed. It was low-lying and subject to flooding. Furthermore, the water wasn't as good as reported.
A new parcel belonging to the Green family was selected by June 1791. The site was described by Governor Gayoso of the Natchez District, as being a high, flat plateau with a good view of the Mississippi River and two nearby springs that provide fresh, healthy water. It was located near the outside of a hair-pin bend in the river. The river has subsequently abandoned this channel so the present site is currently about seven miles from the active channel.
However, the original plan to establish an ecclesial parish at Coles Creek soon evolved into something more. On March 31, 1790, Governor Miró contracted with Francisco Langlois to build a church and a commandant's house, barracks for the troops, two kitchens and two latrines at the new establishment of Bayu de Coles-Kreek, all to be constructed according to plans drawn up by Don Gilberto Guillemard. However, at that time the government didn't have a site to build on.
After acquiring land from the Green family, Gayoso reported in a January 1792 letter that "I am at present constructing and establishing a military post which will be composed of the commandant's house, barracks for the troops, a church, and the priest's houses." All of it will be surrounded by a strong stockade. He also reported that the site was contiguous to "a beautiful tract of level ground which would be very suitable for the building of a city. When I return there I am going to draw up plans for same." There is no clear evidence that either a stockade was constructed. While it's possible that a town plat was surveyed, there is not a single deed known to survive indicating ownership of town lots.
Shortly after reporting on the progress of the construction, Gayoso received a petition dated March 24, 1792 from some of the Cole's Creek settlers who desired to change the name of the administrative center "Cole's Creek" to "Villa Gayoso" in honor of the governor. No doubt flattered by the idea, Gayoso concurred and so "Cole's Creek" became "Villa Gayoso." This name would apply to both the administrative center and the surrounding area. Population statistics reported for Villa Gayoso refer to the broad area and not the center. The center probably never had a population more than about 50 or so, including the garrison and the church staff.
The settlement was linked to the capital of the District, Natchez, by a "camino real," a "royal highway." The term camino real is loaded with romantic overtones. One has vision of major highway linking Spanish communities and used by the dons. However, the term in actuality didn't apply to any one road. It simply meant a primary road within a community. Consequently there were caminos reales all over the Spanish world. When Villa Gayoso was established the road running north from Natchez to the new settlement was given the appellation to indicate that it connected the two major administrative centers of the Natchez District, neither of which was very large during the 1790s.
For the next few years the new administrative center called "Villa Gayoso" served the surrounding populace. That would soon end with the end of Spanish rule and the advent of American rule.
|Frank Morris Murder Series|