Who do you think should manage Ferriday water?|
Story Archives: Natchez outlaws, highwaymen & the Anthony Campbell beating
- 2013 - 340 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
- July 29th, 2010 (Thursday) - 20 articles
- July 28th, 2010 (Wednesday) - 10 articles
- July 22nd, 2010 (Thursday) - 19 articles
- July 21st, 2010 (Wednesday) - 10 articles
- July 20th, 2010 (Tuesday) - 2 articles
- July 19th, 2010 (Monday) - 11 articles
- July 15th, 2010 (Thursday) - 20 articles
- July 8th, 2010 (Thursday) - 15 articles
- July 7th, 2010 (Wednesday) - 11 articles
- July 1st, 2010 (Thursday) - 19 articles
- June 2010 - 105 articles
- May 2010 - 103 articles
- April 2010 - 143 articles
- March 2010 - 136 articles
- February 2010 - 98 articles
- January 2010 - 115 articles
- 2009 - 1591 articles
- 2008 - 1763 articles
|Natchez outlaws, highwaymen & the Anthony Campbell beating|
(Sixth in a series)
In 1798, resident Lewis Evans wrote that Natchez appeared as unprepared for law and order "as a bride is generally for the first night or two of marriage...You will see camels as frequently in the eyes of needles as you will meet honest men in Natchez..."
Evans' sentiment seems a bit harsh. Certainly there were many people in Natchez who wanted decent and honest law enforcement.
When that same year Mississippi's first territorial governor arrived in Natchez, he commented often on the criminal element based under-the-hill: "Diffused over the country are aliens of various characters, and among them the most abandoned villains" convicted of "the blackest crimes" who had escaped "chains and prisons." Because there was no established system of civilian-based law enforcement, Sargent found "the vilest offenders therefore calculate" they will face no punishment for their continued evil acts.
In 1802, a new governor, William C.C. Claiborne, sent the U.S. Army on the trail of several highwaymen who were robbing and murdering travelers along the Mississippi River and the Natchez Trace: "I have information that a set of pirates and robbers, who alternately infest the river and the road, have their rendezvous in the cane-brakes near Walnut Hills (Vicksburg). A certain Samuel Mason, his son John, and a desperate villain from Kentucky, one Wiley Harp, are the reputed leaders of this banditti. They have long been robbers and murderers, and the two former are well known at Natchez. They recently attempted to board the boat of Colonel Joshua Baker, between the mouth of the Yazoo and the Walnut Hills, but were deterred by his show of arms for defense. These men must be arrested."
Mason was known to keep a network of informants based under-the-hill where rivermen and travelers from the interior were constantly moving about. In time, U.S. authorities also solicited the aid of Indians in the capture of these outlaws.
John L. Swaney, one of the first mail riders between Natchez and Nashville, told a Tennessee newspaper in 1813 he often saw Mason on the trace. Mason never harmed him but was "always anxious to hear what was said of him...His band was the terror of every trader. Traders, in those days, went down the river in flats, sold their produce for dollars or doubloons, which they packed on ponies and came through (the trace) on foot, in gangs of five or ten men"
Claiborne offered a $2,000 reward for the capture of the Mason gang. There are conflicting stories on how the group was brought to justice but the common belief was that two of Mason's men found out about the reward and killed him.
According to Swaney's account in the Tennessee newspaper -- the Gatlin Examiner -- two men "calling themselves Sutton and May, brought to Greenville, Jefferson county, Miss., a man's head, which they said was Mason's, and called on myself and others, to identify it, so they might get the reward. They failed completely, and unable to account for the head they were charged with murder, tried and sentenced to be hung. On the day of the execution, one of the guards, John Bowman from Knoxville, recognized one of the condemned as Little Harpe. He denied the name; but Bowman persisted and said if you are Harpe, you have a scar under your left nipple where I cut you in a difficulty we had in Knoxville. Bowman tore the man's shirt bosom open and there was the scar." The two outlaws were hanged in early 1804.
Historian D. Clayton James wrote that when "Natchez was incorporated in March, 1803, its fourteen hundred inhabitants constituted the largest American settlement for over four hundred miles in any direction. Because of the isolated situation of Natchez on a rugged frontier and because of the infamous reputation that its port population" under-the-hill carried, the territorial government provided the city with "extensive and summary" powers.
John Monette, in his history of Mississippi, said when municipal government was first formed that it "leaned to the despotism of monarchy" -- power in the hands of a few -- resulting from "the nature of the circumstances under which it was enacted." Those circumstances dealt directly, he said, with the crime-infested conditions under-the-hill: "Such was the number of lawless adventurers and boatmen from the Ohio region which annually infested the city and habitually defied the municipal authorities, that no man was safe from their depredations and assaults until the city authorities were clothed with ample powers of punishment."
Historian John Bettersworth said the violence continued to grow: "In 1817, twenty young arrivals from New Orleans attempted to shoot up Natchez Under-the-Hill. After three days of battling with the constables, the citizens, and the hastily summoned militia, the flatboatmen yielded when they were finally confronted with a cannon placed on the bluff and trained on the landing. It is no wonder that the first public building erected in the territory was a jail."
Anthony Campbell, a 62-year-old civic-minded Pine Ridge planter and former Natchez council president, was savagely beaten in 1826 by a man named John Irvin. According to the Natchez paper -- The Ariel -- Campbell was riding his horse atop the bluff in route to the landing below when confronted by a man who identified himself as John Irvin, a stranger to Campbell.
The Ariel reported that Irvin, described as a big man, knocked Campbell from his horse with a whip, beat Campbell senseless, bit off his left ear, chewed it to a pulp and swallowed it. While Campbell pled for his life, Irvin shouted, "By God, I'll murder and eat you. You ought to have been killed ten years ago!"
The article indicated that Irwin was a riverman and Campbell felt that someone possibly put his attacker up to the beating. Why? Historian Michael Beard in a 1988 article in the Gulf Coast Historical Review concluded the beating may have been related to Campbell's actions as a city official a decade earlier in 1816. At that time, Campbell warned all involved in criminal activities under-the-hill that town laws against such acts would be vigorously enforced.
The beating of Campbell re-energized the upper town's desire to see the lower town's criminal activities controlled. Writer Joseph Holt Ingraham said in 1835 "an efficient police, and a spirit of moral reform among the citizens, has, in a great measure, redeemed" under-the-hill.
|Frank Morris Murder Series|