Hernando de Soto and his remaining troops crossed the Tombigbee near present-day Columbus and spent the winter near Tupelo, reaching he Mississippi River on May 8, 1541.
René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle explored the Ohio River Valley and the Mississippi River Valley, and he claimed the entire territory for France as far south as the Gulf of Mexico. La Nouvelle-Orléans (New Orleans) was founded May 7, 1718, by the French Mississippi Company, under the direction of Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville.
The first permanent settlement in French Louisiana was founded at Fort Maurepas, now in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, and referred to as Old Biloxi, in 1699 under the direction of Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville, with Louisiana separated from Spanish Florida at the Perdido River near Pensacola (founded 1559 and again in 1698).
New Biloxi was founded across the bay from Fort Maurepas.
Fort Rosalie—the site of modern-day Natchez—was established by the French. Natchez was to become the most important European settlement in the Lower Mississippi Valley up until the Civil War.
The Chickasaw Campaign of 1736 consisted of two pitched battles by the French and allies against Chickasaw fortified villages in present-day northeast Mississippi. Under the overall direction of the governor of Louisiana, Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville, a force from Upper Louisiana attacked Ogoula Tchetoka on March 25, 1736. A second force from Lower Louisiana attacked Ackia on May 26, 1736. Both attacks were bloodily repulsed, and French domination of the Mississippi Valley fell into decline.
The Treaty of Paris, also known as the Treaty of 1763, was signed on 10 February 1763 by the kingdoms of Great Britain, France and Spain, with Portugal in agreement, after Great Britain’s victory over France and Spain during the Seven Years’ War. By the terms of the treaty, Britain wrested the area east of the Mississippi River from the French.
Phineas Lyman led a group of New England veterans of the French and Indian War to settle in the new colony of West Florida (then a territory of Great Britain) near Natchez on the Big Black River where he died shortly before the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War.
Under the terms of the Peace of Paris (1783), a series of treaties between Great Britain, France and Spain, what is now Mississippi above 31° north latitude parallel passed to the United States of America, but a separate Anglo-Spanish agreement, which ceded both Florida provinces back to Spain, did not specify a northern boundary for Florida, and the Spanish government assumed that the boundary was the same as in the 1763 agreement by which they had first given their territory in Florida to Britain. Spain claimed the expanded 1764 boundary, while the United States claimed that the boundary was at the 31° parallel. Negotiations in 1785–1786 between John Jay and Don Diego de Gardoqui failed to reach a satisfactory conclusion. The border was finally resolved in 1795 by the Treaty of San Lorenzo, in which Spain recognized the 31° parallel as the boundary, and British troops were withdrawn in 1798.
April 7, 1798
The Mississippi Territory was organized. The territory’s original boundaries consisted of the region bounded by the Mississippi and Chattahoochee rivers in the west and east, the 31st parallel in the south, and the point where the Yazoo River emptied into the Mississippi River in the north. Government was patterned after the 1787 Northwest Ordinance which established a governor, secretary and three judges to serve as a ruling council. After the territory’s population reached 5,000 free adult males, an assembly could be elected and a delegate sent to Congress. Winthrop Sargent, a New England Federalist, was appointed governor.
Chafing under Sargent’s autocratic “Codes”, his opponents presented their grievances to the federal government, which granted the second stage of territorial status to Mississippi, including the popular election of officials. In 1801 Democratic-Republican President Thomas Jefferson removed Sargent from office. The new administration repealed all of Sargent’s laws and moved the territory’s capital from Federalist-dominated Natchez to nearby Washington.
The northern boundary of the Mississippi Territory was extended to the Tennessee state line,
President James Madison annexed additional land along the Gulf of Mexico Coast. By 1813, the Mississippi Territory encompassed the boundaries of present-day Alabama and Mississippi.
March 27, 1814
General Andrew Jackson won the Battle of Horseshoe Bend which destroyed the Red Stick Creeks as a military power. The subsequent Treaty of Fort Jackson forced the devastated Creeks to cede over 23 million acres of land to the United States and cleared the way for an influx of immigration into the Mississippi Territory.
Prominent residents from throughout the Territory met at the home of John Ford, south of Columbia, to discuss statehood. In what became known as the “Pearl River Convention,” the attendees—the majority overwhelmingly eastern section residents—decided to send leading territorial official Harry Toulmin to the nation’s capital to request admission of the Mississippi Territory as a single state.
March 1, 1817
President James Madison signed the Enabling Act that granted admission of the western section of the Territory as the state of Mississippi on; the eastern section was organized as the Alabama Territory at the same time. The line of division, which still serves as the boundary between Mississippi and Alabama today, was designed to be a compromise between the wishes of western and eastern residents of the Territory.
Forty-eight delegates from Mississippi’s fourteen counties met at Washington to draft the new state’s constitution. The constitution established Mississippi’s government and recognized Natchez as the state’s capital.
August 15, 1817
The Alabama Territory was carved from the Mississippi Territory.
December 10, 1817
President James Monroe signed the resolution that admitted Mississippi as the nation’s twentieth state. Territorial governor David Holmes won election as the state’s first governor. Electors also chose George Poindexter as its only congressman and Walter Leake and Thomas H. Williams as its first senators. Alabama entered the Union on December 14, 1819.
Sam, the Garbager, had carpet,
And some scraps of office jot,
Optomacy stooped to throw him,
As he passed from lot to lot,
And with these he decked his cabin
In a rather modern style;
But himself remained old-fashioned
Like–simple and true the while.
And the milk of human kindness
Seemed to bubble from his heart,
As he rolled about the city
In his two-wheeled garbage cart.
Lyrics of the Under-World (1912),
photo by R. H. Beadle
Jackson native Lehman Engel (1910-82) was a composer and conductor of Broadway musicals, television and film. Engel worked as musical director for the St. Louis Municipal Opera for a number of years before moving to New York to conduct on Broadway. He won 6 Tony Awards, and was nominated for 4 more. Engel wrote among other works The American Musical Theatre: A Consideration, the first book to discuss in detail the writing of a Broadway musical, the elements that went into it, and the art of adapting plays into musicals. In his autobiography, This Bright Day, Engel provides this endearing profile of his friendship with Eudora.
It’s strange how people in a small town know each other, speak in passing and not really know one another at all. Although I had met Eudora Welty in Jackson before either of us went away to school, it was not until several years later in New York, when a group of Jacksonians were there each simultaneously pursuing various schoolings, that we had first real contacts. Eudora was at Columbia along with Dolly Wells and Frank Lyell, who had first introduced me to Eudora in the Livingstone Park Lake. I was at Julliard. We changed to meet here and there. I think it was at Norma and Herschell Brickell’s (also from Jackson) where all of us, including Nash Burger, whose father used to play cards with my father, often went.
Each summer all of us went home to swelter, and there the threads grew stronger. There were about five such summers before I began staying on in New York, with work to occupy and to pay me. But at home, Frank, Eudora, Hubert Creekmore, and I used to meet at Eudora’s, and we formed the Night-Blooming Cereus Club, the total membership of which sat up to see the glorious white flower with the yellow feathery center bloom. The morning after, it looked like a swan with a broken neck. Those summers are jumbled together in my memory. During on of them Eudora did some letter-writing for me. Perhaps it was at another time that she took many snapshots. Several of them are among the best any photographer ever took of me. I have one of Eudora, we really invented “camp”, sitting in a tree, a Spanish shawl around her shoulders and on her face an uncharacteristic expression of world-be disdain.
With the passing of time, many things happened to us separately, and we seized every opportunity to communicate and to be together. On my visits to see my family perhaps twice a year—and more often in my parents’ failing days—Eudora was, as she is today, always available whenever it is possible for me to get away from family and family friends. To insure our being together to talk without interruption, she usually picks me up in her car—never a fancy one—and takes me for a ride just anywhere away from everybody else. At her house or mine while my mother was still alive, or at any of my cousins’, Eudora always enjoyed her bourbon and I my scotch.
She has endured a great deal. Her father died many years ago, but her mother lingered in poor health for some years. When finally it became necessary for Eudora to put her in a nursing home in Yazoo City, more than an hour’s drive from Jackson, Eudora drove to see her nearly every day. During those days she developed the habit of starting her work at 5 a.m. so tht she could spend several hours of writing without interruption. She still retains that habit. Very shortly before her mother died, Eudora’s two brothers—both married and each living in his own house—died within days of each other. I have seldom heard her refer to any of this, and what suffering she experienced she kept as her very own.
She is selfless, simple, timid, unworldly, and dedicated to her work. She has had every possible honor and success heaped on her, but nothing has ever changed her lifestyle or her nature. She lives in Jackson—the only place where she feels comfortable—travels when it is necessary only on trains (if possible), and speaks so quietly as to be often in audible. She lives in her parents’ house, which is very nice and devoid of any fanciness. It has two stories made of dark-red-to-purple bricks, and Eudora lives as she prefers—alone. The front yard has large pine trees and the house is surrounded by japonicas (camellias) of all kinds and colors. Behind the house there is a lovely garden containing more camellias and gardenias. The garden is no longer as well manicured as it once was, but I imagine Eudora prefers it that way. Now devoid of family responsibilities, she works consistently and hard. As she prefers never to discuss her work-in-progress, I seldom ask her what she is doing.
If I have given any notion that, like Emily Dickinson, Eudora is a recluse, let me assure you that she is not. She has many old friends, all of whom respect her privacy, and everyone in Jackson is deeply proud of her distinguished achievements.
LEFT: I snapped this picture of Eudora Welty with her camera. Frank Lyell was the Señor; Eudora, the unwitting inventor of camp, was herself above it all. RIGHT: Taken on a summer vacation in Jackson by Eudora Welty. I was about twenty.