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This webpage reproduces a chapter of
The Story of the West Florida Rebellion

Stanley Clisby Arthur

The St. Francisville Democrat

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
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Part 1
This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

 p3  Introduction

That section of Louisiana east of the Mississippi river, south of the Mississippi state line, north of lake Pontchartrain and Maurepas, extending to the Pearl River, which includes the parishes of West Feliciana, East Feliciana, East Baton Rouge, St. Helena, Livingston, Tangipahoa, Washington, and St. Tammany — a territory once called the "County of Feliciana," is known today by many as the "Florida Parishes."

It was the westernmost section of a land that was known for nearly half a century (1763‑1810) as "West Florida" and over it flags of two European kingdoms flew, the Union Jack of England for 16 years, and the banner of Spain for 31 years. On the soil of this fruitful southern land was enacted one of the most spectacular events in Louisiana's color­ful history. For the space of 74 days​a1 this part of the present state was a free and independent nation, with its own governing officials, its own army, its own navy, its own flag, its own declaration of independence. To secure this daring, if short-lived freedom, liberty-loving Anglo-Saxon inhabitants, many British to the backbone, literally fashioned their plowshares into swords and, at the point of these weapons, captured a fort by force and beat down the defenders, to throw off the shackles of a hated European despotism.

It is a pulse-stirring story — one that every Louisianian should know in its intimate detail for, although the event is mentioned in our standard histories, full justice has never been done either the tale or the men who wrote the tale in blood and courage.

This manly move for freedom, which resulted in annexation to the United States in 1810 — seven years after the Louisiana Purchase — had its inception in the minds and courage of those living in that place and section of West Florida upon which Spanish masters had bestowed the pleasing name of Feliciana. Therefore, it seems only fit that these details should be chronicled in a newspaper published in the very territory where lived and died the men who were not only the instigators but the very brains of this liberty-winning event.

To this end, Mr. Elrie Robinson has volunteered to preserve by type in the "Pictures of the Past" section of the Saint Francisville Democrat the mass of documentary material I have gathered from here and there during the past seven or eight years that I have been seeking "more light" on the story of the West Florida Rebellion, so that what has been unearthed from the files of the past may be made available to present and future historians.

Files of old newsprints have been searched; letters, in faded ink and crumbling paper, have been placed at my disposal by descendants  p4 of those who wrested this land from the haughty Dons; museums and libraries, private, state, and national, as well as other institutions, even the archives of Spain, have placed their treasures at my disposal so that the picture can be made complete in its every detail.

To understand and correctly picture this event of past years, it appears necessary that a backward glance be given the land and the people before detailing the taking of the fort at Baton Rouge, or the unfurling of the first "Lone Star Flag," the signing of the "Floridian Declaration of Independence," the forming of the Tom Thumb Republic,​b the selection of Saint Francisville as its capital, and then the inclusion of the tiny independent territory as a section of the young United States by making it a part of Louisiana.

So we will consider first — the place and its people, the flags of domination that waved over its hills, productive acres, and beauti­ful forests and streams, something of the names bestowed upon it by French, English, and Spanish masters.

[image ALT: A flag quartered as follows: in the upper left and lower right, a stylized three-towered castle on a plain field; in the upper right and lower left, a heraldic lion rampant. It is the flag of Castile and Leon in the 15th thru the 17th centuries.]

The first Flag

The ancient banner of Castile and Leon, the same red and white ensign Columbus flew on the Santa Maria, was the first bit of white man's bunting to flaunt its folds over Feliciana. The flag was quartered red and white with two golden castles and a pair of rampant red lions.

 p5  Introduction
As It Was In The Beginning

A paucity of historical documents has for a considerable length of time made difficult positive assertions regarding the baptism of that section of Louisiana known as Feliciana, or to throw light on the exact time of the settlement of the two present towns now called Bayou Sara and Saint Francisville.

This lack of ancient authorities has made my search for authentic data on the naming of this region and the founding of the towns all the more interesting. As one of the most adventurous and romantic periods in Louisiana's color­ful history, "The West Florida Rebellion," had its inception on the soil of this particular territory it is first necessary before the story is told that we become acquainted with the land so pleasantly named "Feliciana" in the musical tongue of the empire that dominated its flower-strewn hills and dales for the space of thirty-one years.

The Bayou Sara's First Name

The Bayou Sara did not always bear the name that now distinguishes it. One ancient map, located many years ago in the Bureau de la Marine, Paris, indicates that the stream was originally designated by the French as "La Rivière de la Pucelle Juive." In English this means "The River of the Jewish Virgin."

Why such a strange baptismº is not now clear. Was the Jewish maiden named Sarah? Certainly, that was the ancient Biblical spelling, and it must be remembered, too, that a hundred years and more ago the English-speaking inhabitants of Feliciana always added the final "h" when they named the bayou or the village in their letters. Spanish maps, particularly one drawn by Don Vincente Sebastian Pintado, the crown surveyor who served under Governor Carlos de Grand Pré, spelled the bayou "Zara," but as z's and s's were used interchangeably by the Spanish we may take it that the shorter spelling began about this time.

Miss Louise Butler in her charming "West Feliciana — A Glimpse of its History," states that the village of Bayou Sara "was called for an old woman who dwelt on the banks of the creek or bayou then named Clay's Bayou and changed to Sara in her honor."

No early map I have examined gives the name "Clay" to this stream. The military chart prepared in 1765 (and admittedly based on earlier work of French cartographers) by Lieut. John Ross of the 34th Regiment, has long been recognized as a correct delineation of the course of the Mississippi River and its tributaries. He was a British engineer who surveyed the great river from the Balize to Fort Chartres in the Illinois country. Lieutenant Ross conducted his historic survey two years after the territory along the Gulf of Mexico and far up the  p6 Father of the Waters was taken from France to fall under the domination of England. On the map we find he named the stream we now call Bayou Sara as "Clap River."

Examination of earlier French maps proves that this name given by Ross is a literal translation of a rather horrid French term and not a misspelling for "Clay." Four French maps in my possession all carry the same designation. The first is one by Gonichon, dated 1731, with names Bayou Sara as "baioucº à la Chaudepisse," meaning "Bayou Gonorrhoea." The others, one by Saint d'Anville, drawn in 1732 and published in 1752, who calls it "R're à la Chaude-pisse;" another, also drawn in 1732 by Crenay, and a fourth, by an unknown cartographer under date of 1740, give the Bayou Sara this same offensive French name.

Lieutenant Ross' map, as well as some of the earlier French charts, locate near the mouth of the Bayou Sara "Fort Ste. Reine, abandoned." It has been impossible to obtain from any printed or manuscript source examined a history of this early settlement or fortification. There are several references to it, however. Professor Chambers speaks of it as "St. Reine's concession in the Tonicas;" Fortier indicates it as "St. Reine in the Tonicas;" as do Gayarre​c and Martin in their histories of Louisiana. Father Charlevoix mentions that in 1721 he stopped at "Ste. Reine" on his memorable voyage down the Mississippi to New Orleans. Usually the French maps indicate the spot as "Ste. Reyne," the "i" and the "y" being used interchangeably but meaning the same thing.

It appears that the concession was that of one M. de Sainte Reyne who also held lands in and about New Orleans at the very beginning of the founding of that city. The concession up the river was undoubtedly established during the first days of the period when John Law's Company of the West held jurisdiction over Louisiana and about the same time that Diron d'Artaguette settled at Baton Rouge and Athanase de Mézières> erected his concession further north. In Cabildo records we find that on November 9, 1720 the ship "La Loire" had on it "186 persons for Ste. Reine under the direction of MM. Sicard and Tibain," but whether they were bound for the properties near New Orleans or the concession in the Tunicas is not proved.

Another map of Louisiana, drawn by N. Bellin, Ingenieur de la Marine, which carries the date of 1764, specifically locates "Concession de St. Reine" at the same place where Saint Francisville now stands. Below it we find he names "Thompson's Creek," which is evidently the first time this name so appears on a chart. The stream now called Bayou Sara, on the Bellin map, is properly located but the engineer names it "Rivière des Tunicas" and on the north side of this Bayou he locates the Tunica village.

The map of the province, drawn 32 years previously by Saint d'Anville, is not only one of the best but the earliest maps of the Mississippi river and the settlements along its banks. This Frenchman was a noted engineer and acknowledged one of the best sent to the colony. His full name was Jean Baptiste Bourguionº d'Anville and he was born in Paris in 1687, where he died in 1782.

 p7  Unquestionably the French were the first Europeans to settle in the Feliciana country. One of the first pioneers, if not the very first, to erect a habitation in this "Happyland" was a certain Frenchman named Le Jeune. His plantation lay on "the eastern bank of the Bayou Sarah about 10 miles from where it emptied into the Mississippi." This would place his habitation quite near the dividing line of the present Ventress and John M. Parker properties, and today, on this spot, a grove of age-old live oak trees, "the Le Jeune Oaks," still defy the relentless and ruthless march of time.

M. le Jeune, in addition to his farming enterprise had a store or "magazine" as it was then termed, as well as a tavern at this ford or crossing of the bayou, for the main trail to Fort Rosalie at Natchez passed this way.

Houmas the First Indians

However, other documents examined point to an early occupancy of this territory. It was originally the land of the Houmas (Oumas) Indians. They occupied the land that extended from the high ground in the extreme southern part of what is now Wilkinson County, Mississippi, to the bluffs at Baton Rouge where, as is well known to all readers of Louisiana history, a red pole, called by the French baton rouge (red stick) marked the boundary line between the Houmas and the Bayou Goula tribes.

The Houmas had two landing places on the Mississippi river. This mighty stream in the early days made a wide sweep to the westward in front of the bluffs to meet the mouth of the Red River. The first village, and the principal one, was located above the head and their smaller village below it.

In 1682, La Salle on his historic voyage down the Mississippi to its diverging mouths, when he claimed the entire wilderness drained by this stream for Louis of France, did not visit this tribe although the hardy Frenchman knew of the existence of the villages. Four years later, Tonti of the "Iron Hand" (on his ascent of the Mississippi following his failure to join forces with La Salle at the mouths of the river) did land at the Houmas village and from his journal we learn he considered them "the bravest savages on the river."

Therefore, to Henri Tonti goes the honor of being the first white man to set foot on the soil of Feliciana.

In March of 1699, Pierre Le Moyne, the Sieur d'Iberville, together with his brother Jean Baptiste, the Sieur de Bienville, and another Frenchman who deserves to have his name written large in the pages of Louisiana's history — Sauvol de Villantray, who became the first governor of Louisiana (Sauvol was not a Le Moyne, in spite of statements in our early histories that he was a brother to Iberville and Bienville — he was not even related to them!) visited the "Ouma" Indians, for so Iberville spelled the tribe's name in his journal, and the three white men learned much about the savages occupying the highlands of Feliciana. Sauvol in his able narrative, "The Journal of the Frigate Le Marin," has preserved for present day readers many interesting  p8 details of Iberville's visit to the chiefs and something about the habits of these original inhabitants of the Bayou Sara region.

A study of ancient maps indicates that the upper village was close to the present upper or northern boundary of West Feliciana parish, and that the second village, the one just above the "big bend," must have been on the bluffs on which Saint Francisville is now located. There is, of course, a possibility that it was further north, where Bayou Tunica empties into the Mississippi, but Sainte d'Anville's splendid map of 1732 indicates that the high ground just above the "big bend" (which later became Pointe Coupée) is the site of Ste. Reyne.

Father Gravier, whose journal of his memorable journey down the Mississippi in 1700 is a valuable source book for those delving into Louisiana's early history, arrived at the village of the Houmas in late November of that year. He records: "I counted 70 cabins in the village, which I visited with Father de Limoges, who chose to give me the first fruits of his mission in the baptism that I administered to a child three days old. I gave him the name of Saint Francis Xavier, the patron of the mission."

A strange coincidence, is it not, that the first child to be baptised in this territory by the white man's rites should have been given the same name now borne by the present seat of government of the parish?

The Houmas papoose thus christened by the good Jesuit did not live to bear the name of the patron saint for, as Father Gravier piously adds to his account, "God took him to paradise a few days afterwards, there to labor for the conversion of his parents and of his countrymen."

The Tunicas

Although the Houmas were the original inhabitants of Feliciana popular belief is that the Tunicas were the aboriginals found there. The Tunicas originally inhabited the country in the neighborhood of the mouth of the Yazoo river. They abandoned that location in 1706 (or 1709, there is a conflict of dates), migrated down river, and were hospitably received by the Houmas. Shortly thereafter the Tunicas fell upon their hosts and massacred most of them. The remnant of this tribe, those few who escaped the arrows, knives, and clubs of the perfidious Tunicas, fled to the south and a Houmas colony settled first on the banks of Bayou Saint Jean back of New Orleans and then moved up the river to what is now Ascension parish and settled along Bayou Lafourche.

It was this usurpation of the Houmas' territory by the stronger Tunicas that caused the name of the victorious but treacherous tribe to be fastened upon the Tunica Hills, the Tunica Bayou, and the tiny village that nestles in the hills that guide a pleasant little stream to its union with the mighty Mississippi. As Miss Louise Butler has so neatly put it: "Of the name of Houmas, not an echo remains in the parish, while that of the betraying Tunicas is perpetuated in hill and stream and town."

 p9  Who were the Houmas?

The Houmas belonged to what has been described as the Muskhogean tribes; their name meant in their tongue "Red" and their totem or war emblem was the crawfish. The French found them a peaceable people and Iberville said that the main village was about three leagues from the landing place on the Mississippi. It was composed of from six to seven hundred persons, according to Sauvol, who claimed they were much more civilized and honest than their southern neighbors the Bayou Goulas. They put their dead on posts and when anyone fell ill two men of the community were chosen "to sing, so as to chase away the evil spirits" that caused the illness.

Iberville described a formal entertainment the head man gave in honor of the French adventurers. It was held in the center of the square and music was furnished by "drums and chychycouchy, which are gourds in which there are dry seeds, and sticks for holding them; they make a little noise and serve to mark the time for the dancers." Could the "chychycouchy" have been the forerunner to the celebrated "hoochy-couchy" of the first Chicago's World Fair?​d

The Houmas' dance was performed by "twenty young people of from 20 to 30 years old, and fifteen of the prettiest young girls magnificently adorned after their manner, entirely naked, having only their breechcloths on, which they wore above a kind of belt a foot broad, made of feathers and skin or hair painted red, yellow, and white, the face and body daubed or painted with different colors, bearing feathers in their hands, which served them as fans to keep time." Not unlike Sally Rand's fan dance, eh? The young men participating in the dance, continues Iberville, were also naked, "having only a belt like the girls, which concealed them in part, they being well daubed with paint and their hair well provided with bunches of feathers. Many had pieces of copper in the form of flattened plates, two and three together fastened to their belts, and hanging as far down as the knee, which made a noise and assisted in marking time."

The young Houmas danced for three hours in a very active and sprightly manner, Iberville goes on to say, and when night fell the white visitors supped with the chief and the meat consisted of a hominy made of Indian corn. After the feast, the Indians armed themselves with bows and arrows, war clubs, and other warlike instruments, and danced until midnight.

Iberville described the village being about 2½ leagues from the river towards the north, the woods being open, a mixture of all kinds of oaks; the entire country being of quite good black earth with no rocks; situated on a hill, in a double row of cabins, in a circle, there being about 140 cabins which housed about 350 men, in addition to many squaws and children. The cornfields were in the valleys, although some of the stalks grew on the sides of the hills. "They have not cultivated anything else," said Iberville, "except melons and have sowed tobacco."

The Houmas had a sacred fire, which was kept alive by an old man charged with the duty of never letting it become extinguished, in front  p10 of a temple situated at one side of the main square. The square was the main gathering place and in it the youngsters played their games. The young men of the tribe exercised themselves by "running after a flat stone, which they throw in the air from one end of the square to the other, and try and make it fall on two cylinders, which they roll wherever they think the stone will fall."

Father Gravier, the first Jesuit to descend the Mississippi, was impressed with the docility of the Houmas. "The women and girls are more modest than those of neighboring tribes," he related. "May God be pleased to convert them and make the road in their village impracticable for certain French libertines."

When the men sallied forth to hunt, the women wept over them, as though they were going to their death, and when they returned unscathed, they wept again — for joy. While the Houmas had a reputation for bravery and were feared as warriors, they were not cruel and did not put to death those of neighboring tribes they captured, but made slaves of them and treated them like their own children, and, still according to Father Gravier, there were few villages in France where there were more hens and cocks than in the Houmas' villages, "because they never kill any and will not even eat any of those that their dogs quite often kill. When one wishes to obtain chickens from them he must not say that he intends to kill or eat them."

The Houmas women were described as wearing fringed skirts, which covered them from the waist to below the knees, and when they went out of their cabins they threw over their shoulders a robe made either of muskrat skins or turkey feathers. They tattooed their faces with figures, plaited their hair, and blackened their teeth as aids to beauty and masculine allure.

After the coming of the white men the Houmas became lazy, diseased, and debased with the Frenchmen's "fire water." The Tunicas, who succeeded the Houmas in Feliciana, were in name and fact "the people," for that is what Tunica meant in the Indian tongue, and they continued as such until the white men ousted them from the pleasant hills of their "Happyland."

First White Settlers

The domination of the white man over this section of Louisiana is divided into five epochs:

French 1717 to 1763.
British 1763 to 1779.
Spanish 1779 to 1810.
Independent 1810: 74 days, Sept. 10 to Dec. 7.​a2
United States 1810.

The first white settlements in the district included the concessions granted Diron d'Artaguette, who settled at Baton Rouge, the one given de Mézières, just above the Red Stick, and the settlement of Sainte Reyne. These and others inhabited by Frenchmen were taken over about 1717. The erection of a habitation by M. le Jeune on the Bayou Sara has already been recorded.

[image ALT: A flag bearing three fleurs-de‑lis. It is the flag of France under the kings in the 18c.]

The second Flag

The fleur-de‑lis banner of Saint Louis which waved over Feliciana and Louisiana from 1682, when La Salle claimed most of the continent for his king, until 1763, when France ceded most of Louisiana to Spain, and Feliciana and West Florida to east. This banner of Bourbon France was white with three golden lilies and not blue with trois fleurs-de‑lis as sometimes shown.​e

 p11  On the authority of a number of maps, near to the spot where the Bayou Sara empties into the Mississippi a fort was erected and later abandoned, and its name was Fort Ste. Reyne. Whether it was close to the river's edge or on the heights where now sets Saint Francisville is not clear, although the natural presumption is that the elevated spot would have been selected for the practical purposes of a fortification. The date of the establishment of Fort Ste. Reyne, or "Queen's Fort," as it can be translated,​f or when it was abandoned and allowed to fall into decay, has not yet been ascertained.

It is known however, that Jean Joseph Delfau de Pontalba (grandfather of the Baron Pontalba who married the daughter of Don Andres Almonester) was at one time in command of the Ste. Reine fort. Delfau de Pontalba, at the age of 19, came to the colony in 1732 as an enseigne en second of the Louisiana troops. He was first sent to Fort Rosalie (Natchez) where he served under Captain de Bénac, before being transferred to Ste. Reine. Etienne de Périer de Cenier, governor of Louisiana from 1726 to 1733, evidently erected the fort at Ste. Reine as a protective measure following the Fort Rosalie massacre when the French commandant, Sieur d'Etchéparre (his name has been erroneously spelled Chepart, Chépart, de Chapeare, etc., in Louisiana histories), all of his soldiers, and most of the planters in the Natchez concession, about 300 all told, were put to death by the Choctaws, this Indian uprising occurring in December of 1729.

When Governor Périer was recalled to France and Bienville, after seven years absence in France, again ruled over Louisiana, one of his  p12 first moves was to place Lieutenant de Pontalba, June 1733, in command of the "fort at the Tonicas." Here he remained until the early part of 1736 when he, with his whole command, was ordered to join Bienville at New Orleans to participate in the governor's disastrous campaign against the Chickasaw Indians. In 1740 de Pontalba was placed in charge of Fort St. Joseph at Pointe Coupée and he served here, in the Illinois country, and at other posts in the colony with distinction, was raised in rank to captain and was made a chevalier of the Order of Saint Louis. He married Marguerite Madeleine Broutin, the widow of François Philippe de Marigny de Mandeville, in 1743. His only son was Joseph Xavier Delfau de Pontalba, in turn the father of Celestine de Pontalba who married Almonester's daughter and it was she who erected the celebrated Pontalba buildings that flank Jackson Square in New Orleans.

It appears most probable, while not proved, that "Fort Ste. Reine" after being established in the early part of 1730, was abandoned when Lieutenant de Pontalba marched his troops away from it in April of 1736.

The British Domination

In 1763, following the end of the seven-year struggle in America known as the French and Indian War, France lost Canada and her other North American colonial possessions. Canada and that part of Louisiana lying east of the Mississippi river were relinquished to the triumphant British and the Union Jack, bearing only the two crosses of Saint George and Saint Andrew, flew over the former French territory. The rest of her colonial property France ceded to her late ally Spain — this included the territory west of the Mississippi river as well as "the Island of Orleans," and the red and white pavilion of Castile and Leon waved over the city Bienville founded and the wilderness that stretched out towards the setting sun. The golden lilies of Saint Louis disappeared forever.

[image ALT: A flag bearing a cross and a saltire superimposed. It is the flag of Great Britain as it was in the 18c.]

The third Flag

For sixteen years, 1763 to 1779, the Union Jack of Great Britain waved over the two Floridas and Feliciana. At that time it displayed two crosses only — St. Andrew's cross, white on a blue field, and superimposed upon it the red cross of St. George. The cross of St. Patrick was not added to England's famed Jack until 1801. In this and the other reproductions of flags in black-and‑white the colors of each are indicated, viz.: horizontal lines, "blue;" vertical, "red;" dotted areas, "yellow;" blank, "white."º

In 1763, when England began plans for taking possession of her newly acquired property along the Mexican Gulf, Lieutenant Ross, a British engineer attached to the 34th Regiment, was instructed to chart the course of the Mississippi from its mouths to Fort Chartres in the Illinois country. This he did, basing many of his surveys on former French works, and on this first English chart we find names of many of the villages and streams emptying into the big river not only correctly positioned but their names correctly spelled. While St. d'Anville in 1732 located le Baton Rouge, Isle Iberville (Profit's Island), les Ecors blancº (Port Hudson) and Ste. Reyne on his map, when Lieutenant Ross came along 33 years later he designated the site as "Fort Ste. Reine, abandoned."

The location of the lower Pointe Coupée village on the opposite shore, the indication of the Port Hudson bluffs, the course of Thompson's Creek and the Bayou Sara proves that Ste. Reine occupied the present site of Saint Francisville.

 p13  Under the Union Jack

For sixteen years the criss-crossed banner of England waved over the Feliciana country, taking the place of the white banner bearing the three golden fleurs de lis of Bourbon France. When good King George's government wrested New France (Canada) and Louisiana from Louis XV covetous English eyes were turned on the possessions that Spain owned in America.

After witnessing five years of conflict between St. George and St. Denis, and observing that France was losing on sea and on land, Spain, in 1761, allied herself with France and pledged her resources and forces in the famous "Family Compact" to treat the enemies of France as her own. England promptly declared war against the kingdom of Castile and Leon and her far-flung possessions in the New World. Havana was captured in the very beginning of 1762 and, panic-stricken over the possibility of further disasters, Spain sued for peace. France, completely exhausted and having lost Quebec — the long-considered impregnable Gibraltar of America — also bent the knee and asked for the price of peace. The price was high for both France and Spain — but each paid what was asked after but little haggling. We know what France had to relinquish — everything she owned in North America.

What price did the Dons have to pay for attempting to thwart the purpose of Albion? England, to Spain's great dismay, demanded Florida because the owner­ship of this peninsula was necessary to insure the peace and prosperity of the English colonies of Georgia and the Carolinas. France, it is true, tried to spare Spain the humiliation of being stripped of this prized possession and even offered to surrender to the English all French Louisiana lying west of the Mississippi but the offer was refused — the British not only wanted Florida but other lands along the Gulf of Mexico.

 p14  In such a fashion, as Professor Chambers pointed out in his excellent (and the best) history of Louisiana, did Louisiana become a pawn in the great game of diplomacy-chess that the European masters of the world payed in those far-off days. Beg as did both Spain and France, England refused to be moved by tears and stubbornly demanded Florida — and the land of flowers, in which Ponce de Leon sought the fountain of youth in vain, was ceded to the victorious British.

As it then devolved upon France to make some sort of reparation to her late ally for what she lost in making common cause with her against England, all of Louisiana lying west of the Mississippi river, and the island of Orleans on the east bank from the Iberville (Manchac or Ascantia) river to the mouths of the Mississippi were given Spain as balm to her hurts.

In such fashion came the British to Feliciana — it was not thus named, of course, for it was indeed an unnamed wilderness, a terra incognita, which even France at that time considered of insignificant value. It was in February of 1763 that the terms of peace were signed at Paris and before the ink was dry on the parchment England became the possessor of Canada, Nova Scotia, Cape Breton, and all land in North America, east of the Mississippi river, with the single exception of the island of Orleans. Spain was given back her island of Cuba as a concession for relinquishing Florida. In such a fashion was the banner of Bourbon France, the white banner sprinkled with three golden fleur-de‑lis, furled in Louisiana in general and in the Feliciana country in particular.

In October of 1763, eight months after the treaty of peace and parceling of territory was signed in Paris, George Rex, the third of that name, and in the third year of his reign, issued a lengthy proclamation from his court of St. James, and in it for the first time the name "West Florida" was penned.

Said his Britannic Majesty, after penning a number of whereases a firstly and a secondly, "The government of East Florida, bounded to the Westward by the Gulf of Mexico and the Apalachicola river; to the Northward, by a line drawn from that part of the said river where the Catahouchee and Flint Rivers meet, to the source of St. Mary's river, and by the course of the said river to the Atlantic Ocean, and to the East and South by the Atlantic Ocean, and the Gulf of Florida, including all islands within six leagues of the sea coast."

And so we had East Florida. But listen to the crow-quilling of his rotund, gouty majesty as he dipped afresh into the ink:

"Thirdly, The government of West Florida, bounded to the Southward by the Gulf of Mexico, including all islands within six leagues of the coast from the river Apalachicola to lake Pontchartrain; to the Westward by the said lake, the lake Maurepas, and the river Mississippi; to the Northward, by a line drawn due East from that part of the river Mississippi which lies in 31 degrees North latitude, to the river Apalachicola, or Catahouchee; and to the Eastward by the said river."

In such fashion was West Florida, on the seventh day of October, 1763, formed and baptised. Pensacola was made its capital, and the Gentleman's Magazine of London, soon after the royal proclamation was  p15 issued, predicted: "The immense gain which this trade produces will probably soon make West Florida be numbered among our most flourishing colonies."

The first British governor of West Florida was a Scot, George Johnstone, who ruled from 1763 to 1766; he was followed by Governor John Elliott, who was a suicide; in 1770 Peter Chester took charge and was the eye and the instrument of the British crown until West Florida was wrested from England by force in 1779‑1780.

Governor Johnstone when he took possession of the former French and Spanish territories changed many of the old-time names. Especially so was this true of the forts, the one at Pensacola was rebaptised Fort George, the fort at Natchez became Fort Panmure instead of Rosalie, and a new fort was set up at Manchac on the Mississippi and named Fort Bute. Baton Rouge was renamed "New Richmond," and a stockade was erected on Thompson's Creek.

Settlers were invited to this fertile land nestling along the course of the Mississippi river and Governor Johnstone was authorized to make free grants of land to retired British officers and soldiers who had participated in the war just ended against France and Spain. A field officer was entitled to 5,000 acres; a captain to 3,000 acres, while a private's portion was 300 acres. Thus Feliciana and Baton Rouge received many of their early inhabitants — men of quality, energy, and intelligence — and so was implanted a sturdy stock in this heretofore Latin-infested territory.

For years all went well. Then, on the eastern seaboard the colonists began rebelling against King George. A declaration of independence was signed, a long war was begun, and soon, as a result of this rebellion, many loyalists ("damned Tories" to those enlisting under George Washington's banners) decided to immigrate to a land where the Union Jack fluttered in every breeze without being tainted with the poison of the rebellious. And in such fashion came many others of the English tongue to the lands of West Florida in general and the Feliciana district in particular.

All went well, the settlers in this new Southern Utopia resisted every inducement proffered to make them become the "Fourteenth Colony," and every night the plantation owners, those who spoke English, of course, nightly petitioned the Almighty with their "God Save the King." And he certainly needed their prayers!

Into this new British possession came many settlers — all bearing sturdy Anglo-Saxon names. Many were, of course, British, some canny Scots, and others turbulent Irishers. They were mostly Loyalists fleeing the war-wrecked provinces along the Atlantic seaboard. With these settlers came such names as Barrow, Baker, Brown, Campbell, Carson, Cox, Clark, Collins, Cooper, Devall, Ellis, Green, Herries, Hicky, Johnson, Jones, Kemper, Kennedy, Lilley, Norwood, McDermott, Mather, Mills, O'Fallon, O'Connor, Percy, Pollock, Randolph, Stirling, Thomas, Moore, and many were named Smith — which is not surprising.

They worshipped God through the kindly offices of the Church of England, raised huge cotton crops with the aid of negro slaves imported from Jamaica, and large families by their own unaided efforts.

 p16  Spanish Domination

For the sixteen years that England exercised sway over the East and West Floridas, Spain had waited a chance to get even, to regain what she had been forced to yield at the point of the bayonet, and to teach perfidious Albions a lesson in Spanish hate.

The American colonists had struggled on alone against the master England until 1777 in the attempt to gain independence. In that year France espoused the cause of the Americans. Two years later, in 1779, Spain scenting a possibility of regaining the lost American possessions, stripped from her in 1763, and also winning back the coveted fortress of Gibraltar, allied herself with the struggling colonists.

Word was sent to the stripling acting governor of Louisiana at New Orleans, Don Bernardo de Galvez, to take up arms and drive the hated British from West Florida. How well young Galvez did this, how he retook not only West Florida but planted the banner of Castile and Leon along the Mississippi as far north as Natchez is history that here needs no repeating. Suffice it to say he overwhelmed Fort Bute at Manchac at the point of the bayonet, took "New Richmond" by cannonade, restored its original name of Baton Rouge, and later invested Pensacola.​g

From that time on the sun set at eventide across the wide twisting course of the Mississippi without its yellow rays shining on the criss-crossed banner of Old England and gave lie to Britain's proudest boast.​h

For the many true-hearted British who had taken up lands there were two courses open — they could move out bag and baggage and leave behind their productive acres, or they could remain with their British grants recognized — providing they renounce their allegiance to the British crown, swear fealty to his Catholic Majesty, Carlos of Spain, and embrace the tenets of his church. This latter proviso a bitter, bitter pill for the Church of England men to swallow. In spite of this nauseous dose, practically all the leading Britishers owning rich lands decided to stay and, in spite of their oaths, signatures, and protestations of fealty, there slumbered in each Britisher's heart a flickering hope for a return of England's sovereignty — as soon as His Britannic Majesty had thoroughly chastised George Washington and his ragged band of rebels on the Atlantic coast.

When the red and white banner of Castile and Leon was raised over this happy land there was, apparently, no settlement at either Bayou Sara or Saint Francisville, but the countryside, especially that along the Tunica Hills, was known as "Distrito de Bayou Sara" and a census taken by the British in 1792 lists twelve names as inhabitants. This census, in all likelihood incomplete, did not refer to a village of the same name — as a matter of fact it is difficult to determine just what constituted the district of Bayou Sara which was, in turn, attached to the "Distrito de Natchez." Those named in the census were:

Guillermo Brown. Juan Green. Abram Horton.
Francisco Pausset. Roberto Stark.​i Juan Wall.
Reuben Dunman. Andres Here. Juan O'Connor.
Davis Ross. Jaime Ryan. Juan Welton.

 p17  Land office records show dates upon which a number of the earlier settlers made their purchases of land, and frequently footnotes to the records carry interesting information. For instance we learn that John H. Mills purchased from William Wikoff certain lands on January 12, 1789, and that Bayou Tunica was settled by Patrick McDermot in 1795. Other settlers and the dates of their acquisition of lands follows:

David Waugh, 1770. John Eldergill, 1798.
J. B. O. Coin, 1786. Matthew Hughes, 1798.
Claudio Bougard, 1787. John O'Connor, 1802.
Felix Bernard, 1790. George Freeland, 1802.
Juan Barclay, 1792. James Foster, 1803.
Juan Allen, 1795. John Higgins, 1804.
Francaº Ashton Watts, 1796. Cornelius Seeley, 1804.
Patrick Holland, 1796. James Clark, 1804.
Alexander McCoy, 1796. James Kavenagh, 1806.
Juan Raffray, 1797. W. Aairs, 1806.
Nathan Lytle, 1797. Henry Flower, 1806.

There were, naturally, many others whose names at this late day are not easily procurable but the foregoing indicates the class and nationality of those who took up lands here under the Spanish rule.

These English-speaking inhabitants led a care-free and prosperous life on their plantations and their hospitality was a tradition — listen to what one visitor wrote:

"These Feliciana planters live profusely — they also drink profusely costly port, madeira, sherry, after the English foolish, and are exceedingly hospitable. Your coffee in the morning before sunrise; little stews and sudorifics [something which causes sweats] at night, warm footbaths if you have a cold; bouquets of fresh flowers and mint juleps sent to your room; a horse and saddle at your disposal — everything free and easy and cheerful and cordial."

There were places along the twisting roads where the traveler could purchase a "coonbox" to slack his thirst or to satisfy a certain yearning of the stomach, for, be it known, a "coonbox" proved to be Jamaica rum sold in an egg shell! Illegally sold at that! To a flip [a flip was a mixed drink usually sweetened, spiced, and heated generally by the immersion of a hot iron in the concoction] generally one loaded egg was used. "Coonboxes" were not costly — two rum laden eggs shells cost the wayfarer one bit, and the taverns and wayside houses did a thriving business in supplying the demand in those happy Hispanic days. The eggs were deftly blown of their albumen and yolk contents through one hole in the end, the contents as deftly replaced with the fiery product of sugar cane molasses, and then again deftly sealed to await the coming of a traveler who needed a little rum, tax free, for his stomach's sake.

Those were the happy days.

Bayou Sarah Village Founded

The present village of Bayou Sarah was founded in 1790 by John H. Mills. He settled first in the Natchez district, near Second Creek, where he formed a partner­ship with Isaac Johnson, an Englishman from  p18 Liverpool, and the two erected a sawmill there. When the profitable mill was swept away by a spring freshet, Mills prevailed upon Johnson to move to the Bayou Sarah region. Johnson established himself upon a plantation near the Mississippi river, which he named "Troy," and there with his wife (she had been Mary Routh, a Virginia girl), reared a large family, and a grandson who bore his name became a governor of the State of Louisiana in 1846.

John Mills, after leaving the Natchez district, entered into a partner­ship with Christopher Strong Stewart, set up a trading post on the river batture​j to care for the growing Mississippi flatboat trade. In a short time the settlement at the mouth of Bayou Sarah became the most important flatboat stop between Natchez and New Orleans, and the village that sprang up about the Mills' trading post took its name from the nearby bayou.

In 1809 Christopher Stewart moved to Mobile where he died. Even when steam-propelled boats began their conquest of the Mississippi river, the little village founded by John Mills retained its importance in the river trade.

"The settlement at Bayou Sarah, or Saint Francisville, only commenced about 1790 when John Mills established at this place," wrote Dr. William Marbury Carpenter in De Bow's Review (vol. III, 1846), and his statement agrees with the records of the Johnson family which shows that Ann Waugh Johnson, eldest daughter of Isaac Johnson, married Gilbert Mills, a son of the founder of the Bayou Sarah. A daughter, Mary Mills, became the second wife of Stephen Minor of Natchez.1

Doctor Carpenter was one of Feliciana's distinguished sons but few today seem to be aware of that fact. William Marbury Carpenter, son of James Carpenter, was born on his father's Feliciana plantation June 25, 1811, and before he died in 1848 had attained prominence as a botanist, physician, and general scientist. As a lad he became interested in natural history and at the time his three sisters, Mary, Anne, and Louise, were pupils of Mrs. Audubon when she taught at the William Garret Johnson plantation, the boy collected specimens for John James Audubon, then in London publishing his monumental "The Birds of America."

In his mature years botany and the study of the Indians of Louisiana became Doctor Carpenter's hobby and medicine his life work. He was a careful student of folk lore and one of his works was a translation of Martin Duralde's account of Chitimacha Indian mythology, one of the earliest works of its kind, now in the collection of the United States Museum of American Ethnology.

Doctor Carpenter's grandfather was Richard Carpenter, who settled in Louisiana in 1771. Richard Carpenter's brother Caleb, who had first settled at Pensacola, wrote a journal of a trip he made up the Mississippi in 1776 and it proves to be a very interesting and valuable historical document as it describes the many settlements and plantations between New Orleans and Natchez but strange to relate, he said nothing about a settlement at Bayou Sarah, not even mentioning that Ste. Reine had been established there.

 p19  The Saint Francis Village

The original naming of Saint Francisville, too, seems shrouded in mystery. A settlement on the very backbone of a mile-long ridge over­looking the tawny Mississippi river appears to have been a logical place for a village more so than the batture which John Mills selected as a site for his town, and in all probability houses were erected there when the Bayou Sarah town was begun.

The name of this ridge, when the French were in possession, unquestionably was "Sainte Reine," as proved by the several French maps already mentioned. But between the days of the coming of the first Frenchmen and 1790 when John Mills established there, the ridge appears to have been only a burial place for the dead, mostly those ferried across the wide river from the Pointe Coupée side. About this time New Orleans was founded, the French built a fort on the low lands on the opposite side of the river and named it Fort Saint Joseph. It was quadrangular in shape with four bastions, storehouses were erected, as well as a prison, so documents tell us, and the place was guarded by a considerable garrison.

In 1736, when Father Raphael, a Capuchin from Luxemburg and superior of the Capuchin missions in Louisiana, visited the Pointe Coupée fort he was horrified to find the place without a church and expressed fear for the souls of the members of the garrison. It was not until 1738, however, that Father Anselm de Langres was authorized to build a chapel at Pointe Coupée under the patronage of the patron saint of the Capuchins — Saint Francis of Assisi.

Thereafter, when deaths occurred on the lowlands, the bodies were boated across the river to the highlands on the east and interred in consecrated ground. And, so tradition further has it, the name of Saint Francis was likewise ferried across the muddy waters and the name of the patron given the village that later arose there.

When the British took possession of this land in 1765 it would seem probable that there was a settlement of some kind on this ridge that marked the extreme western boundary of the new British territory, but the maps of that period do not designate one.

About 1785, after Spain's banner succeeded the British ensign, Spanish Capuchins supplanted their French brethren of the cowl and crucifix, a grant of land was acquired from the Spanish king and a church and rectory erected, only to be destroyed by fire shortly thereafter. The grant fixes the church property on the lands now occupied by the cemetery of the Catholic church and also included the ground where the present Episcopal church now stands. One of the first priests stationed there was the Reverend Michael O'Reilly, educated for the priesthood in Spain, who came to Louisiana to administer religion to the English-speaking inhabitants in 1787.

When a village grew up around the church the name Saint Francis became attached to it. The Britishers, Scots, Irish, and Americans who had set up nearby plantations usually referred to the settlement as the "Village of Saint Francis," but, according to documents handed down in the Routh and Johnson families, when John Mills founded Bayou  p20 Sarah and Saint Francisville the latter "was named for an old Catholic priest, Father Francis, a wandering missionary, who baptised and married the people with impunity."

This Father Francis was, undoubtedly, François Lennan, not a Capuchin but a secular priest attached to the diocese of Bishop Peñalvert y Cardenas, and who had been stationed at a number of places along the river, including Natchez and Pointe Coupée, as noted by Mr. Roger Baudin, who is presently writing a comprehensive history of the Catholic Church in Louisiana, which promises to be a notable and sadly needed work. Father Francis, or "Don Francisco," as he was termed by the Spanish, was located at Saint Francisville in 1810 when the Spanish were expelled by the Feliciana patriots when they rebelled, captured the fort at Baton Rouge, and established their own spectacular although short-lived republic.

In the testimony given by Spanish soldiers relating to the taking of the fort at Baton Rouge, one of the soldiers stationed at Bayou Sarah spoke of the place as "El pueblo de San Francisco."

Letters written by English-speaking planters in the early part of 1800 show that many of these landowners mention the settlement on the ridge as "the village of Saint Francis" — the "ville" being, evidently, a later Anglo-American addition. An abomination not confined to this place — as witness the many "villes" and "burgs" throughout Louisiana and other sections of our country.

Whether named in honor of the Indian papoose Father Galvez baptised with the name of Saint Francis Xavier, for the patron saint of the Franciscan order, Saint Francis of Assisi, or for the wandering cura Francisco Lennan — Saint Francisville is Saint Francisville. And that's that.

New Valentia

Saint Francisville was never called Nueva Valencia by the Spanish, as has sometimes been stated. This naming refers to an entirely different village, one that was projected early in 1800 as a possible rival settlement to Bayou Sarah.

Nor was the place named for Valencia, the Spanish seaport on the Mediterranean, but was christened by a patriotic Irish man for his birthplace in County Kerry — the tiny island of Valentia on the west coast of the Emerald Isle, the same port that today is the westernmost harbor of the British Isles where transatlantic cables are brought to shore.

New Valentia (which became Latinized and written frequently "Valencia")º was intended as a rival of Mills' Bayou Sarah, and high hopes were expressed by its originators that it would become the most important settlement in Feliciana. It was to be situated on the Bayou Sarah, just a little above the town laid out by John Mills, and its sponsor was the notorious Senator John Smith of Ohio, the same Baptist clergyman who came to grips with the formidable Kemper brothers, as detailed in my "The Story of the Kemper Brothers," published in the Saint Francisville Democrat July 8, 15, 22, 29, 1933.

Senator Smith purchased the land from Armand Duplantier in 1804 and evidently planned the new town then but his troubles with the  p21 Kempers, particularly Reuben Kemper, put a temporary stop to his ambitious plan. In 1807 the land was deeded to one Ambrose D. Smith (his relation­ship, if any, to Senator Smith is not clear at this writing) who launched what was in those days a strenuous advertising campaign to induce investors to purchase town lots.2

Why the establishment of this new port on the Mississippi was not a success, and whether or not wharves, piers, and warehouses were ever started or completed is not known, but Ambrose Smith's advertisement in the Louisiana Courier (New Orleans) of Friday, March 25, 1808, is in existence, and as it tells its own story it is worth reprinting here.

The Town of New Valencia

The tract of land at the mouth of Bayou Sarah having been legally transferred to the undersigned Ambrose D. Smith, he hereby offers at private sale, after the thirty-first of March next, a number of lots which form the town of New Valencia; the lots containing sixty feet in front, and from 120 to 150 feet in depth, and of other sizes, of French measure; a formal sale of each lot will be made to the respective purchasers, and the title guaranteed; the lots to remain mortgaged for the security of the payment. The proprietor reserves to himself the exclusive right to erect wharves or piers for the preservation of the banks and general utility and to erect warehouses thereon, whether on the shore of the river or bayou; as also the rights to all the lands on the two bayous not laid out in Lots or Streets, and every benefit resulting therefrom, either by a ferry or otherwise.

As a number of reports have been circulated, tending to prejudice the interests of the proprietor, respecting the validity of his title, the following documents may serve to elucidate that point:

Don Charles de Grand Pré, Colonel of the Royal Armies, Governor Civil and Military of the Place and Jurisdiction of Baton Rouge in West Florida, etc. . . .

I do hereby certify that in consequence of the final settlement of accounts between Mr. John Smith and Reuben Kemper, the said John Smith is the sole and only legitimate proprietor of the land which they formerly bought from Mr. Armand Duplantier, as appears by the records kept in the archives of this jurisdiction, and besides of one hundred and twenty acres which the said John Smith bought afterwards of the said Duplantier, the whole consisting of 750 acres, according to the figurative plan of the Surveyor General, and the original grant of the government. In testimony whereof I have delivered the present certificates under my hand and seal at the request of those concerned, in Baton Rouge, this 29th day of August, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and seven.

Charles de Grand Pre.

I certify that the present has been well and truly translated, to the best of my knowledge, date ut supra.

Pedro Luis Morel, Interpreter per interim.

The naturally advantageous position of New Valencia, which by  p22 uniting all the public roads through a large extent of the richest highlands on the river, and the excellence of the landing are such, as must forever render it the depot of all the produce of the finest country on the Mississippi, as well as the center of business; a further description of it is deemed unnecessary.

A Plan of the Lots may be seen at the Coffee-House in New Orleans, Mr. Byrnes Hotel at Natchez, and with Mr. John Murdock, the attorney of the property, who will make known the terms of sale on application. Baton Rouge, 26th February, 1808.

Ambrose D. Smith.


For a long, long time, in this search for information regarding the early days of the West Florida section of Louisiana, much time and energy has been given over to what appeared to be a fruitless endeavor to discover the genesis of the name "Feliciana" and why it was bestowed upon this land.

Truly Spanish, and meaning in that graceful and poetic language "happyland," the name does not appear on either the early French or English maps nor is it so mentioned in any of the early documents concerning the historic periods of occupation by Frenchmen or the English.

"Feliciana!" — was ever a beauti­ful region more appropriately named? But who named it so? And why? And when?

The name apparently first appears on maps designating the course of Thompson's Creek, a stream for which I have not as yet been success­ful in finding an Indian or French designation.​3 During the British occupation a man named Thompson was given the privilege of operating a ferry from the lower Pointe Coupée village on the west side to the eastern bank of the Mississippi. His landing on the east side of the river was just inside this creek where was situated "Port Jackson" where Cochrane & Rhea conducted a store. It would seem that the creek was given the ferryman's name.

After Galvez and his Spanish soldiers took possession of West Florida, the creek's name was changed to "Rio Feliciana," for it is so designated on a number of Pintado's survey maps, and as it ran through the very heart of the district the Dons had designated Feliciana, the naming of the stream was not inappropriate.

beauti­ful land named for a beauti­ful woman.

Who was she?

None other than a fair daughter of Louisiana. A very beauti­ful Creole whose charms of body, face, and mind so captivated two manly hearts that they married her. A charming beauty who became not only a governor's wife, but in turn a Comtesse, and then Vice-reine of Mexico.

Let me then introduce Mlle. Félicité de Saint Maxent, wife of Don Bernardo de Galvez, governor of Spanish Louisiana who wrested West Florida from the British.

 p23  As she was godmother of Feliciana we should know more of her. She was the daughter of Gilbert Antoine de Saint Maxent and Elisabeth Maroché, both of distinguished French families. The Saint Maxents had six children — (1) Gilbert Antoine de Saint Maxent, Jr., the first to enter the fort at Manchac when Galvez took it from the British at the point of the bayonet, who married a daughter of the house of Forstall; (2) François Maximilien de Saint Maxent, who later became a Spanish governor of West Florida; (3) Josephine de Saint Maxent, who became the wife of Governor Louis de Unzaga y Amezaga; (4) Félicité de Saint Maxent, the godmother of Feliciana; (5) Pupon de Saint Maxent, a girl who married into the d'Estréhan family; (6) Celestino de Saint Maxent, who became a captain in the Third Louisiana Regiment, and was one of the Spanish defenders of the fort at Baton Rouge in 1810.

Félicité de Saint Maxent was first married to Jean Baptiste Honoré d'Estréhan, member of a prominent Louisiana French family. After her husband's death, which occurred October 20, 1773, shortly after he led the accomplished Creole girl to the altar, Félicité was wooed by Colonel Bernardo de Galvez, at that time commander of the Louisiana Regiment, and second in rank only to Governor Unzaga.

Galvez, only 21 at the time of his arrival in Louisiana, came from a distinguished Spanish family.​4 He was a son of Don Matías de Galvez, then Viceroy of Mexico, a nephew of Don José de Galvez, the president of the Council of the Indies, and, as the ranking officer of this council, Don José was, next to the king, the most power­ful official in Spain.

In marrying Félicité, Bernardo de Galvez merely followed the example of Governor Unzaga who had chosen from among the many daughters of the Sieur de St. Maxent. In 1776, after he head ruled Louisiana for six years, Governor Unzaga was promoted to the rank of brigadier general and sent to rule at Caracas in Venezuela, and his brother-in‑law and brother in arms was made acting governor. In such fashion did Félicité take her sister's place in the governor's mansion.

With the triumph of Spanish arms over British valor, and the land that George the Third had named West Florida occupied by the Dons, the territory was called officially "Florida Occidental Jurisdiccion de Baton Rouge." This regained territory was further divided into districts, viz.: Distrito de Baton Rouge, Distrito de Sainte Helena, Distrito de Chifoncté, and Distrito de la Feliciana, and the sturdy Anglo-Saxon plantation owners in the district named for Señora de Galvez began their 30‑year term as faithful vassals of His Catholic Majesty Carlos the Fourth of Spain.

And so was named Félicité's land — Feliciana. In 1785 she followed her husband to Havana, where he was raised to the peerage with the title of Count and appointed Captain General of Cuba, the Province of Louisiana and two Floridas. Upon the death of his father, Count de Galvez succeeded him as Viceroy of Mexico and Félicité became Vicereine. She was, so one writer claimed, "of surprising loveliness, as charitable, gracious and intelligent as she was beauti­ful. She was literally adored by the Spaniards and Mexicans, and she greatly contributed to her husband's popularity."

 p24  Galvez died in Mexico in 1794 at the age of 38 years. His only child, Guadalupe, like her mother, gave her name to a portion of that land — a section of Northern Mexico that carries the child's name today.

Feliciana was well named — it is indeed a beauti­ful happyland.

All of the foregoing, long as it has turned out to be, is at that only a sketchy history of the region that became the scene of the most romantic and adventurous series of events that led up to the determined action on the part of Feliciana planters to throw off the yoke of Spain and strike a telling blow of freedom and independence.

Not only did these Feliciana planters burst asunder the chains that bound them to an Old World power, but they declared this land free and independent, and established a lusty Tom Thumb Republic that lived for seventy-four hectic days​a3 — a short life but a merry one.

Now that the stage has been set, let us look to the actors and the parts they played in the stirring drama that ensued.

[image ALT: A flag with a wide horizontal field bordered by a stripe above and a stripe below; on the field, towards the mast, a crowned oval escutcheon bearing a crenellated tower on its dexter half and a lion rampant on the other. It is the flag of Spain as adopted in 1787.]

The fourth Flag

Soon after wresting West Florida from England, Spain's national emblem was changed from the banner of Castile and Leon to the "Bars of Aragon," adopted in 1787. It had three horizontal stripes — the top and bottom ones red, each a quarter of the whole breadth, while the middle stripe of yellow, constituting one-half of the banner, carried the royal arms.

The Author's Notes:

1 The founder of Bayou Sarah was John Mills. It was his brother Gilbert Mills who married Isaac Johnson's daughter, Ann Waugh Johnson, and their son was John H. Mills. The statement that Gilbert Mills' daughter, Mary Mills, married Stephen Minor was an error — Minor's second wife was Mary Ellis. Mary Mills was twice married — to Thomas North and a Mr. Sholars.

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2 Further details of the contention between Ambrose Smith and Reuben Kemper will be found in the Louisiana Courier, March 14 to 25, 1808, following the first publication of Smith's advertisement relative to the sale of town lots in New Valentia.

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3 The name the French gave to Thompson's Creek was Bayou des Ecores.

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4 Since the foregoing was printed fuller and more accurate details on Bernardo de Galvez have come to light. He was not 21 when he came to Louisiana but was 30 years old. Don Bernardo de Galvez Galardo, of Madrid, was born July 23, 1746 in the town of Macharaviaya, province of Malaga, Spain. He was baptized Bernardo Vincente Polinar. He came to Louisiana in 1776 and was married Nov. 2, 1777, from a sick bed, to Doña Maria Feliciana Saint-Maxent, widow of Don Juan Honorato d'Estrehan, by whom she had one child. The children of Galvez's marriage were Don Miguel Galvez y Saint-Maxent, baptized Jan. 2, 1783. This son became a cadet of the American company of bodyguards, Knight of the Order of Calatrava, and, from 1797, the second count of Galvez. He died before reaching manhood. The eldest daughter was named Doña Matilde Galvez. A second daughter, expected to be named Guadalupe, after the patron saint of the City of Mexico, was born eight days after her father's death. She was christened Maria de Guadalupe, Bernarda, Felipe de Jesus, Isabel, Juana Felicitas y Fernanda de Galvez. In 1784, after Galvez returned from Madrid where he was decorated for his success­ful campaign against the British in Louisiana, he was made governor-general of Cuba and governor of Louisiana and the two Floridas. His father, Don Matías de Galvez, died and the son was sent to Mexico to succeed him as Viceroy of New Spain. With his wife Feliciana, and three children, he arrived at Mexico City June 28, 1785, when he took the oath of office as Viceroy. His death occurred Nov. 30, 1786. The daughter of Feliciana by her first husband was named Adelaide d'Estrehan.

Thayer's Notes:

a1 a2 a3 The author's computation (on p10), from September 10 to December 7, 1810 is not 74 days, but 88. Fortunately, we can dismiss the first date: on September 10 (see Part 3) no independence had been declared, and the leaders of the Convention were still maintaining the veneer of allegiance to Spain; it was not until Lassus' letter of September 12 had been written and intercepted that they started to move toward independence.

December 7 was the date on which Gov. Claiborne of Orleans Territory, representing the United States, caused the flag of the Republic to be lowered and accepted the allegiance of the inhabitants of St. Francisville: 74 days back from that puts us on September 24. The fort of Baton Rouge was taken, the Spanish governor imprisoned, and the Lone Star flag raised, on September 23 (Part 3).

The text should therefore read:

Independent 1810: 75 days, Sept. 23 to Dec. 7.
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b For my quarrel with this irritating phrase, see my note in Part 5.

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c Gayarré, History of Louisiana, Vol. I pp241, 259, 354.

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d The hip-grinding erotic dance that exploded onto the American scene at the Chicago Fair of 1893; usually now spelled hoochy-coochy; etymology still unknown.

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e The author's poor writing should not cause us to understand that "lilies" and "fleurs-de‑lis" are different things, which they are not, although the heraldic lily (= fleur-de‑lis) is drawn in different ways depending in part on the period and in part on the whim of the draftsman. The emphasis should be on the color of the flag: white, not blue; in which Arthur is correct. Fleurs-de‑lis on a blue field were the royal arms, but the battle flag was white.

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f Although reine does indeed mean "queen", Ste. Reine (or as very commonly spelled in the 17c and 18c, Ste. Reyne) has nothing to do, directly, with queens. It is the usual French form of the name of St. Regina, a semi-legendary Gallic martyr whose cult is very old, and whose historical existence is said to have been made probable by the find in 1909 of a small hoard of silver plate the main platter of which is incised with a fish and the inscription Regina. Several small towns in France bear her name. A personal name Sainte Reine (properly, Sainte-Reine) may well exist, very likely based on a connection with one of these places; but surprisingly I find only the barest trace of it online — including in the catalogues of large libraries — and none at all of anyone bearing it who might have come to early Louisiana.

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g Galvez' own log of his siege of Pensacola is onsite (in English translation); it includes a full transcript of the 28 Articles of Capitulation.

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h The famous boast that the sun never set on the British empire. While the British may no longer have held any land on the North American continent, they still ruled other New World territories, Jamaica for example, and the sun continued not to set on her empire. (And although Britain's possessions today are reduced to a tiny fraction of what they were, they are scattered around the globe, and the sun still does not set on them.)

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i For Roberto Stark, see "Spanish Intrigue in the Old Southwest" (MVHR 12:155‑176), p171 and note 53.

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j Batture is the Louisiana term for new alluvial land along a river, variously defined: sometimes as land between the high and low-water marks. The changing landscape of many places, due to vast silt deposits constantly brought in by the Mississippi and other rivers, contributed to challenging legal and sometimes political problems, the most famous example of which was the Batture Riots of 1809 in New Orleans (Gayarré, History of Louisiana, IV.185 ff.; Kendall, History of New Orleans, p86 ff.).

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Page updated: 10 Feb 22