Early Soutwest Mississippi Territory
Copyright Restrictions Apply to this Page and Material


The marriage of Rev. Moses Floyd to Miss Hannah Griffing "produced an unfavorable influence and excitement " in the Church. The groom was "of failing health and engaged in a calling which promised but little  the maintenance of a family". This concern caused the bride's father to sternly oppose the marriage.  As Hannah was of age, and they had been in love for four years, they decided to marry without parental consent, in direct disobedience to the "rule in the Discipline" that says "Yet even then a Methodist preacher ought not to be married to her that is without her parents' consent".

The marriage was talked about, and confusion entered the community and Church, causing another decrease of members.  Mr. Floyd was suspended from preaching for a short time. After that, Mr. Floyd studied medicine and became a practitioner for awhile in St. Albans, where he also farmed, and preached locally. He afterward removed with that branch of the Griffing family to Prairie Jefferson, in Morehouse Parish, Louisiana, and continued to practice medicine and farm until the war of 1812-1815, when the country was drained of supplies.  He left his land unsold and moved to Adams County, Mississippi. He stopped a short time on Pine Ridge, where he taught school, as well as practiced medicine and preached. He finally moved to Natchez, and continued as Dr. Floyd, teaching, and preaching until 1814 when he died from measles. His life after marriage " was a life of change, toil, disappointment and poverty".  He left his family, consisting of his wife, three sons and two daughters, homeless and penniless.  One daughter died as an infant, two lived to middle age but never married, and died Out of the Church.  The oldest son became deranged and finally committed suicide.  The oldest daughter married eligibly and lived to a good old age, a zealous and consistent Methodist.  After 30 years of widowhood and poverty, Ms. Floyd was dependent on her relatives, and finally was taken in by her brother, Rev. James Griffing after many times moving in and out of his home.

Mr. Harriman, one of the new appointees had a long and dangerous illness, which prevented him from traveling. His successor, Rev. Learner Blackman found him at Esquire Adam Tooly's in Adams County on Nov. 5th, 1804, at the point of death, but he ultimately recovered.
 Next / Return to Menu


On April 5th, Tobias Gibson finally died after leaving all his worldly possessions behind in SC 5 years before, to become an itinerant preacher in the Natchez territory. He was a native of Great Pedee, in Liberty County (which had disappeared from maps at the writing of this book), SC, born Nov. 10, 1771.  His parents were "from an elevated class of society, and were in possession of considerable property". He had four brothers and one sister.  Stephen, one of his brothers, and the families of two of his deceased brothers came to the western part of MS in Warren County when Tobias did and settled near the Mississippi River. Tobias had been licensed to preach on Feb. 14, 1792 in Charleston.  In the division of his parents' estate, he had inherited a large number of slaves.  As he was unable morally to sell or give them away, he gave them their freedom. Most of the slaves became vagabonds and wandered the countryside until they disappeared.

Mr. Gibson was described as tall and spare, with fair complexion, light hair and piercing black eyes.  He was considered quite handsome.  He seldom smiled.  After his death, the family died one by one until the family cemetery became a wasteland in an abandoned field, overrun with briers.  His grave site was lost until a committee contacted his nephew and nieces, to erect his monument and could not find the grave until they found and aged slave who had dug the grave himself, and he showed them where it was.  The committee consisted of Williams Winans, John Lane, Joseph Travis, Benjamin M. Drake, and Thomas Owens. The monument was erected with solemn rites, presided over by the Rev. C. K..  Marshall of Vicksburg.  The grave sits about six miles south of Vicksburg, two or three hundred yards to the left of the road leading to Warrenton, as of 1889.

William McKendree was elected president of the Conference in 1804, after 16 years of itenerancy.  Gibson had died, Floyd married and relocated, Moses was ill, and Amos left the country for unknown reasons.  His council, consisting of Jonathon Jackson, Lewis Garrett and William Burke, met to decide who to send to the Natchez country to preach. They decided on Learner Blackman and he consented to go, with Nathan Barnes as colleague. Lorenzo Dow was making a preaching tour through the area, so they joined him on the return trip to the Natchez  territory. On the 800 mile trip, they camped in Bigtown, in the Chickasaw Nation and had their horses stolen, but after posting a reward, the horses were returned by a "negro and an Indian".  They continued on their trip until they came to a village where they met a Mr. Gunn, whom they stayed with for two days.  They visited Mr. Floyd at St. Albans, where they left Mr. Barnes to commence his first round of the circuit.

Blackman and Dow spent the next night with Col. Daniel Burnett, at the Grindstone Ford on Big Bayou Pierre, then went to Randall Gibson's home, now moved from Washington to Clark's Creek, eight miles south of Port Gibson.  From there the went to Adam Tooley's in the vicinity of Natchez, to visit the sick Hezekiah Harriman.  Mr. Harriman had recovered somewhat, and soon after moved out of the country to Baltimore, his birthplace, and married. He preached there until he became paralyzed in 1818, and died soon after that.  He left a
wife and five small children.

Abraham Amos continued to travel and preach until 1811, when he obtained another location at the Conference.
Next / Return to Menu


Dow was considered and eccentric, "but always on the safe side".  He was zealous, self- sacrificing and useful as a wandering Methodist evangelist. He would not consent to be controlled by local ties or the Conference. He labored when, where and how he considered himself useful. He desired no comforts, asked no compensation, accepted gifts from the people only when he could see they were not needed by the givers. If he was given more than he needed at the present time, he gave the surplus to the needy. He was known to sell his watch and give the proceeds to the needy community to build a place of worship, and
would sell pieces of his wardrobe to pay his own expenses to travel. He was not only tolerated by the people for his eccentricities, but most cordially received and encouraged by the people he preached to along his travels.  He was "harmless in his deviations from the usuals course or ministers".

To leave Lorenzo Dow out of the history of Early Methodism would be a gross injustice, and the record of facts would be inaccurate.

After Dow's visit to with Mr. Blackman to the ailing Hezekiah Harriman, at Adam Tooley's, Dow spent several weeks preaching in and around Natchez and Washington. He said he doubted whether there were three Christians in Natchez, either black or white, because no one would come to his meetings.  Other Protestant ministers agreed.  But on this visit, he found himself in luck.  Col. Andrew Marschalk, who was the publishing the only weekly paper in Mississippi, in looking over his exchanges for an item, found in a paper published in Lexington, KY some rather severe strictures on Mr. Dow, "written in the style of burlesque" and holding him up to ridicule of the public.  Just as the Col. got this set in type, Mr. Dow handed him an article with a notice that "he would hold a meeting in town on Sunday".  The Co. published both articles, which caused great talk and speculation in Natchez about this odd preacher, who had been so caricatured in the Union papers. The result was large curious audiences every time he came to town.

The first camp meeting ever held southwest of Tennessee, was Mr. Dow's meeting at Clark's Creek, near Port Gibson.  The people had to dissemble their homes and fix for camping at the meeting in November with Mr. Dow, Messrs. Blackman and Barnes. Backsliders were invited by Mr. Dow, and many returned to the fold.

The next meeting was to be thirty miles away.  Randall Gibson's family of about thirty people set out right away for the next meeting.  About  people came to God at that meeting.  Some of the extreme oddities at this camp meeting were noted.  On the day the families were to start for home, Mr. Dow went to the pulpit and told them in a loud voice that he had the latest news from hell.  Once he got their attention, they forgot to pack, until he had finished his sermon.

Next Mr. Dow and two other men decided to head for Georgia. They needed three Spanish mustangs for the trip, in order to outrun the Choctaw and Creeks. To get the horses, they crossed the Miss. River into La. to the Attakapas region, and Mr. Dow preached at settlements along the way, the first preacher these folks ever heard.  When he reported this to Mr. Blackman, Elisha W. Bowman was appointed to Opelousas.  Mr. Bowman later reported "trials of flood and field" from this territory.

Mr. Dow tarried six days in the junction of the Tobigbee and Alabama River, preaching. The author says "Let the Alabama ministers take note of this".  Dow was the first to minister in South Alabama.  Several years later, Matthew P. Sturdevant came as a missionary from SC.

The author takes us back to the Natchez Country, "a narrow strip of country on the eastern margin of the great river between the st parrallel of latitude and Walnut Hills".  Emigrants are flocking into the area.  Mr. Blackman, after a thorough reconnaissance of the area, reported to the Conference that the area needed to be divided by three.  The old Natchez circuit should be divided so that the preachers could go eastward to the settlements of the Amite River, and south into W. Florida, and a new work formed in Southern Louisiana, to be called Opelousas.  Mr. Blackman had the help of Nathan Barnes and Moses Floyd, and Lorenzo Dow at times.  In addition, Rev. Newet Vick moved with his family from Vicksburg in March, to Cole's Creek in Jefferson County, MS.  After a short time, Mr. Vick moved his family about five miles south of Fayette, near Spring Hill.  He started preaching at the courthouse in Greenville, and other places within traveling distance.

Many first class families from the Old States were moving into this area at that time, so Mr. Blackman had an easier time finding a congregation than Tobias had, when he first preached in 1799.  He and Mr. Barnes had an increase of 58 white and 10 colored members, the total being 132 white, and 72 colored.

The Conference met Oct. 2, 1805 at Griffith's in Scott Co. KY, which adjoins Harrison, where the two previous conferences were held.  Mr. Blackman set off to attend, going the much more traveled Natchez Trace.  Mr. Barnes, though he was to receive his ordination, stayed behind to serve the parishioners.  Mr. Blackman presented the needs of the congregation to the conference.  He wanted to extend the territory from Natchez to the seat of the Territorial Government in Kingston, Pine Ridge, Selsertown and eastward as far as the Homochitto River," the strongest holds of Satan", the Claiborne circuit must be bounded on the west by the Mississippi, and north and east by the Choctaw Nation, including Claiborne, Warren and part of Jefferson Counties.  Wilkinson circuit must embrace all of Wilkinson county, extend east to the Amite and Bogue Chitto Rivers, and as far south into W. Florida as would be safe for the preachers to travel.  He added that Mr. Dow had pointed out the need for help
in Southern La. on the gulf Coast, with its rich lands, ocean-like prairies, its coast indented with beautiful bays fed by navigable bayous, known as the Attakapas Country, and to the city of New Orleans that was gradually spreading out on the alluvium between the Mississippi and Lake Ponchartrain.
 Next / Return to Menu


New Orleans was founded by the French in 1717, and in 1723 it contained about 100 inferior cabins, many of them inhabited by a solitary adventurer so that the entire population was but little over 200 souls.  "Already the lynx-eyed Jesuits of France had reconnoitered the situation", and saw in the near future that N. O. was destined to become a great city.  In 1792, the Jesuits and a body of Ursuline nuns, arrived and laid a foundation for an extensive community with the acquisition of a large amount of real estate.  In 1763 The Order of Jesuits being expelled from France, Spain and Naples, had also to leave Louisiana, having the property confiscated and sold by the court for $186,000, (the author said in 1887 that amount would have equaled 30 or 40 million dollars and be cheap at that).

Yellow fever visited the city in 1769, introduced by and English vessel with a cargo of African slaves.  March 21, 1778 the city was visited by " a terrible conflagaration, which consumed about 900 houses".  In 1803, after being for many years under the Spanish government, and that government conveyed to France, it was ceded to the US as part of La.  At that time in contained a mixed population of about 8000, which was 12000 including a considerable slave
population by 1887.

Bishop Asbury agreed with Blackman's request of four separate charges, and sent him back to oversee it.  Nathan Barnes and Thomas Lasley were assigned to the Natchez Circuit. Lasley was the son of a local preacher from Virginia.  Thomas Lasley  had moved to KY in young manhood, and entered the ministry.

William Pattison, who had traveled two years NW of the Ohio River, was appointed to the Claiborne Circuit, and Caleb W. Cloud, who had traveled one year in Ohio as the junior of Luther Taylor, was appointed to Wilkinson Circuit. Elisha W. Bowman was given the Opelousas charge, full of mosquitos, carnivorous animals, flies, gnats, alligators, with sparse population of foreign descent, language and religion.

Mr. Bowman was a Virginian, son of another local preacher. His father moved the family to KY when he was a lad, where his son embraced religion and was licensed to preach when only 16 years of age.  He traveled two years in Miami Country before he was ordained, then traveled two years in the Holston District before being appointed to Opelousas.

The five preachers mentioned above, and Mr. Blackman started off traveling together through the territory.  The author says someone in TN has possession of Learner Blackman's journal, which detailed the travels.  The author could not get the notes.

Also preaching in the territory was Newet Vick, James and Randall Griffing, who in the meantime had become licensed to preach.  Randall belonged to the elevated ranks of society, he spoke and dressed as the gentleman he was, unlike James, who was simpler and did his job with "great deliberation, acceptably and successfully".

Another new comer was John C. Johnson, son of Jonathon and Rachel Johnson, of Spring Hill;  born in Pennsylvania on 19 Aug. 1782.  His father died when he was only four years old, and when he was eight his mother moved the family to KY.  Such was the need for procuring game for the family and warding off thieving and murderous savages, that she became expert in the use of the rifle.  Mr. Johnson said his mother would put her children to bed, bar the doors and taking her rifle, would lie down by an opening between the logs of the cabin,
and keep guard of her family all night.  He told the author that his mother generally brought down the object of her aim.  John was converted at the age of eighteen, having been raised by parents who thought more of keeping him from being scalped than attending to his education.  He also saw no means to afford the traveling of a preacher.  Even so, after he attained the age of majority, he set out for Natchez.  As a matter of course, he fell from grace and became outwardly wicked and for a while was known as a wild and godless young man in Selsertown. He worked as a mechanical person.

.Next / Return to Menu