Early Soutwest Mississippi Territory

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We see that New Orleans is again stricken from the roll of pastoral charges.  The little Conference had no missionary to send them, and no means to support them.  Moreover, the city was being beleaguered by the British army, and was under martial law.  New Orleans was not again included on the list of pastoral charges until 1819 and 1920, then it was left off again until 1824, and no statistical report of new members was found.

The most sorrowful event this year (1815) was the death of Richmond Nolley. The cause of his death was afflicting to all of his friends.  Only three preachers went out west of the Mississippi River;  Thomas Griffin,  Elisha Lott and Richmond Nolley.  The author gives the account of the tragedy told by four different men.  One was Rev. Thomas Nixon, who succeeded Nolley, another was a Mr. Galvin, who assisted in bringing the body up.  Another was the Indian guide who took the author to see the grave, and had guided Nolley to Hemphill's Creek, two miles from Mr. Carter's, where Nolley planned to borrow some old
clothes until his were dried by the fire.

On the evening of November 25th, Nolley had left his supplies, valise, books and saddlebags with the guide to be delivered the next morning to Mr. Carter's, and he proceeded to cross the Creek.  As he reached the other side, his horse turned and swam back across. He yelled to the guide to also bring his horse the next morning.  He made it to shore and waded through mud and water until his coat became too heavy, and he left it beside the road. Farther along the road to Mr. Carter's, he divested himself of another outer garment as he became weaker from hunger, as it was his regular Fasting day, in addition to his usual abstinence and lack of sleep.  When he reached the top of a hill that was dry, he knelt to pray (evidenced by his knee prints near a log where he was found), then, he lay at full length at the base of a pine tree, his head rested on a root, his legs "gracefully adjusted," eyes closed, and hands folded across his breast, and died.  He was found the next morning by his faithful guide who delivered his belongings as promised.  A widow lady and her daughters made the shroud, and the men of the neighborhood dug the grave and provided the coffin in time to bury him on Sunday afternoon.  He was about 30 years old, and only in his 8th year of ministry.

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It was an exceedingly trying year for the people.  For two years all able bodied men were kept in defensive armies against the Indians and the British.  Their homes were neglected to the point of destitution.  The embargo had shut off all supplies, and common necessities became scarce.  The most rigid economy was practiced and every family member was put to productive work.  The women and girls manufactured clothing at home, using hand-cards and spinning wheels. reels, warping-bars and hand-looms.  They got raw materials from their
own crops, cotton patches and the backs of domestic sheep.  Their dye stuffs were obtained from barks and berries of trees, and everyone wore homespun.  There was lively competition among the women as to who could make the prettiest and most durable cloth.  The ladies wore sun bonnets and homespun dresses to weddings and to church.  The young married in homespun, and the dead buried in the same cloth.

The resources of the men were equally brought into play.  In addition to cultivating their little farms and tending their livestock, they learned to manufacture at home a great many necessary items.  They made troughs out of the bodies of trees and converted them into tan-vats, in which the tanned their own leather.  They made a last to fit every family foot, upon which they made their own shoes.  They made halters and hats of home raised wool or fur producing animals they caught.  Wooden mortars and hand-mills were used to convert corn to meal and hominy.  Plows and wagon gear were made of rawhides, the cart wheels from sections sawed from large logs.

The Creek war had closed the year before, the American Army made the English fleet withdraw from Mobile and Pensacola, and Gen. Packenham in charge of the British forces in the Gulf was now investing New Orleans by land and water.  Levies were made all over the Conference territory for additional troops, so that when the preachers got to their circuits, they found large numbers of the men absent.

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Great excitement prevailed in MS and LA.  Several skirmishes had already taken place.  If the British captured New Orleans, it would be breaking the door to the Valley of the Mississippi.  The battle of the 8th of January, 1815 was fought with success by our Army, and the British thoroughly slaughtered and repulsed.  Mail was limited and newspapers few, so by concert signal, guns were fired at given points on the Mississippi River all the way to Natchez to let the people know of the victory.  The news went from mouth to ear all the way to Alabama, and was soon followed by official news of a permanent peace, then word of "soldier's return."

The author was only ten years old, too young to be a soldier, but had many family members in the battles, so he kept informed of the events.  He lived on the old Natchez Trace, and for many months he saw the soldiers marching southward, but now they marched with a light step and merry heart in the opposite direction.  First came the heavy brigade of Tennessee infantry;  then came regiments of mounted riflemen, and squadrons of light dragoons of various sizes, followed by smaller detachments of both infantry and cavalry, and last came the sick and their attendants, and for months he seldom looked up or down the Natchez Trace without seeing passing soldiers.  The war was over.

The soldiers generally got home in time to plant staple crops, cotton went up from four or five cents to thirty or forty cents per pound.  Then trade marts opened and general prosperity dawned once more upon the country.  Most of the Methodist soldiers maintained their piety throughout the war, and came home in good working condition, immediately returning to their Church to work and pray.  Some however, had yielded to temptation and violated their church covenants.

The first Church trial occurred in the vicinity of the author's home, under the administration of Thomas Griffin in 1814.  This was the case of a prominent and active member who had served out the time of his enlistment and lately returned from the army, accused of drinking too much and using improper language.  He admitted the complaints but pleaded extenuation of his circumstances as a soldier.  Mr. Griffin told him that the army was the place to test a man's religion.  Such was his former good character and his promise to be more guarded in the future, that the Church restored him, and he became a local preacher of considerable note.

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While all the classes were jubilant over Gen. Jackson's great victory at New Orleans and the restoration of peace, none were more so than the few itinerants who had been and were still laboring os diligently in what they so often and so plaintively termed "this detached portion of the Lord's vineyard."  For three years they had been deprived of the company of their brethren to the north and east of the great Indian Wilderness.  Now those who were willing to come to their aid would not be hindered by hostility.  There was everything here to invite crowds of settlers to this land.

The next Conference was scheduled for Pine Ridge just north of Natchez on November 16, 1815 at the home of William Foster.  There is no record that the Conference was held that year.  It was called the lost Conference.  A year before this book was published, the author found a living witness who said that the Conference was held at Adam's Camp-ground in Amite county.  The Adams, White, Felder and other families in that region who had known something of campmeetings in South Carolina decided to have one in their new country.  Ira
Byrd and Jonathan Kemp, favored the idea, along with Samuel Sellers, so it was held.

The author wrote to Hon. Lemuel Lewis of Marion County and asked him to make some inquiries about certain old Methodist families who settled in that region at an early day and prominent among them was the family of Rawles.  Judge Lewis crossed to the eastern side of the Pearl River and found Mrs. Keziah Rawles, the widow of Jabez Rawles, the only surviving member of the second generation of the family in Mississippi.  Her father, the venerable and greatly beloved Peter Felder, moved from somewhere about Orangeburg, SC and settled in what became Pike County previous to the War of 1812-1815.  Keziah was converted in SC under Richmond Nolley's teaching.  Mr. Felder was in the autumn of his life, but being near enough to camp at Adam's campground he did so.  Keziah was still single at that time.  She told how the preachers held a Conference among themselves, some coming from a great distance through dangerous Indian Nations. This was in the fall of 1815, according to other sources.

From the General Minutes of the meeting, we learn that Elijah Gentry was continued on trial, Peter James, Thomas Owens, John S. Ford, and Elisha Lott were received into full connection and elected Deacon's orders.  John Ford and Elisha Lott went to the Tennessee Conference in Bethlehem, WIlson County on October 20, 1815 and were ordained.  John Ford was ordained for the second time here.  No explanation as to why, but he had been elected and ordained previously in Oct. 1, 1811, in Cincinnati.

Thomas Griffin, who was ordained elder at this session of the Tennessee Conference had also been ordained at the Newet Vick Conference in Mississippi.  It may have been a "war necessity" since he should have been on the rolls for one year as presiding elder to be appointed.  The author surmises he may have been allowed to preach, but not give the Lord's Supper until the second ordination.

John I.E. Byrd and William Winans  were under the necessity of locating.  Winans had lately married Miss Martha DuBose.  Byrd was to marry Miss Margaret McRae, daughter of John McRae of Wayne County, MS.  As the Church made no provisions for housing and supporting families, these men were required to find work to take care of their families for the next year or two.

The Conference had lost half of its force since the previous session at Rev. John Fords.  Richmond Nolley died. Jonathan Kemp, Roswell Valentine and Gabriel Pickering had been discontinued.  Thomas A. King and Elisha Lott went to Tennessee and took work there after their ordination. John S. Ford and Thomas A. King never returned to the Mississippi Conference, but Thomas Griffin and Elisha Lott returned at the end of one year.

As John Ford left, it was with sorrow that the Conference parted with him.  After he had given five years of his early manhood, they understood his need to return to South Carolina to his home and family.  After laboring one year he returned to the South Carolina Conference where he married, and was local for a number of years.  He regretted his location as the greatest mistake of his life, was readmitted into the Georgia Conference, and finally after a well spent life, at a good old age, weighed down with accumulating infirmities, died in Macon, Georgia on November 9. 1871.  Mr. Ford was remembered with great respect, love and holy reverence.

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The transfers received form the Tennessee and South Carolina Conferences this year were highly appreciated by the four remaining itinerant preachers.

They were James Dixon (Natchez Circuit), Thomas Nixon (Wilkinson Circuit), John Menefee (Pearl River), Alexander Fleming (Tombigbee Circuit) from Tennessee, along with Ashley Hewit and  John Lane from South Carolina.

James Dixon traveled for one year then was superannuated, and transferred back to Tennessee.

Thomas Nixon was borne in Kershaw District, SC October 22,1793, and died in Raymond, MS March 4,1872 after 60 years of ministry, at the age of 79.  When he was a boy, his parents moved to Maury County, TN and settled on Duck River.  His father was a local preacher who sometimes itinerated.  He described his and Menefee's travels from Tennessee to Mississippi.  He talked of visiting Brown, an old Indian on the 5th of November 1815 then on to "Allen's" that night.  The next day they rode to the Chickasaw Agent's and stayed for 10 days.  While there old Sister Cosby, the mother in law of Hon. Edward McGhee of Wilkinson County, MS passed by with her son in law Dr. Hays.  Just as the doctor's carriage passed by it broke down, and he came to borrow tools to mend it.

"Brother Menefee told him I was sick, and who I was."  The doctor tended him and left medicine with him.  Then he says that Judge Cocke, the Agent treated them with the utmost care and would not accept a cent for his care of them or their horses.  The ministers rode 40 miles to Fulson's, "a half-blood," with a white wife who who was kind to them.  This family would take no money for their food.  Next they went to Harkin's and stayed in an Indian hotel, made of small poles, just high enough for you to stand straight, with a dirt floor, bearskins for bedding.  No fire was offered.  The next stop was Crowder's for a "disagreeable night," then on to Brashear's in southeastern Madison County.  "Brashear is a white man" and treated the ministers well.  On the 14th, they parted company to go to their own circuits.  Nixon stopped at his Uncle's, Col. Nixon on the Pearl River on the 16th.

John Menefee was from an old Tennessee family.  In his dress and manners he had
the polish of a refined gentleman and was well educated.  He was a promising minister that was doomed to an early death.

Alexander Fleming "desisted from travel" after his second year of itinerancy.  He was advanced in years when he began, was a widower with had two children.  He had neglected to tale up collections on his circuit and was docked by the Conference by one half of his claim of funds.  He may have engaged in some secular business in Franklin County, in what was known then as Pickett's settlement, perhaps teaching primary school.  He died there and was buried in a family graveyard not far from Old Franklin.

Ashley Hewit was born a Carolinian. He was tall and spare, with light hair and skin, blue eyes, large mouth, and "gracefully chiseled thick lips", was of mediocre education. After nearly turning back several times on his journey, he arrived at his post unharmed and anxious to begin his duties. He soon found  a true "yoke-fellow" in Rev. John French in Tombigbee. Then he met the Cades and the Easleys who had become pillars of the church. In the Chicasawhay he found the McRaes, Horns, Boykins, Tagerts, Sibleys, Godfreys and many other families.

John Lane was the youngest of ten children of William and Nancy Lane from Virginia, born in Fairfax County April 8, 1789. When he was two, his parents moved to Elbert County, GA. His father had been a Revolutionary soldier, and was a "high-toned gentleman", though not very religious. His wife was allowed to have her own way in religious training for her children. She raised all ten in the Methodist Church. She died when John was 15.  John's father dissolved the home and spent his remaining days with one of the married children. John taught school to save funds to allow him to attend Franklin College.  There he
boarded with Rev. Hope Hull, who brought him into the church to teach and later preach. When he accepted the post in Mississippi he traveled with Ashley Hewit from Milledgeville, Georgia where they met in January of 1816.

John Lane traveled the last 250 miles of his journey alone, once meeting a Christian lady who insisted he take $20 to help on his trip.  He made his way to Washington to begin his duties.  He was nearly six feet tall, large size, well developed, head large and features perfect, with lustrous hazel eyes, sparkling teeth and full lips.  The author says Lane was decidedly handsome and very intelligent.

That year Mr. Sellers became afflicted and so feeble he could not do his job, and only a few years later he died.

The Adams family, a large and influential group from southwestern South Caronlina, near the Savannah River, formed the Adams Campground in White's settlement at the headwaters of the Amite River. One of the son in laws of the elder Adams was John Obier. He instituted what was known as the jumping exercise, from his joy in the Church. Though it seemed unbecoming in the Church to some. Obier became so overjoyed that he was not in control. He jumped through a useful life for a layman, and jumped until his death.

White's church was six or seven miles lower down on the Amite, and was the site of the old campmeetings before Adams built one.  Some local preachers lived there in 1824, near the remains of the old camp. Their names were Campbell and Tarver, who were well respected.  Here also were the families of White, Winbourne, McKay and McMorris.

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William and Rachel Foster hosted the next Conference October 10, 1816.  Their house was wooden with "two main rooms, a hall between, below stairs and two corresponding rooms upstairs with galleries and other small apartments."  It was a lively group that attended.  Lane and Menefee were the life of the social circle and Little Tommy Owens could not help his with though he tried to be reserved like Ashley Hewit, Thomas Nixon, Elijah Gentry and Peter James. They result was that the group would be thrown into fits of convulsive laughter
around the ample table near the evening fire at the Foster's home.  Serious business was conducted during working hours, from 8-11 AM and 2-5 PM.  James Dixon could not attend as he was confined with a severe illness at the home of Randall Gibson.  The group was disappointed at the absence of Bishop Roberts who was traveling from Pennsylvania according to a letter he sent ahead.  It turned out that he had an attack of fever in the Indian Country that delayed him several days.  During the Conference, John Booth from Wilkinson County was recommended for admission on trial.  Alexander Fleming was continued on trial,
Elijah Gentry was again received and elected to deacon's orders.  The characters of Lane, Menefee, Owens and Peter James were passed in review and approved.  William Winans and John Schrock were sitting below stairs calculating the time of the Bishop's arrival, when he arrived.

Next on the agenda was the financial report:

The Bishop reported that they could draw on the back concern..........$200.00
And on the Chartered Fund.....................................................................130.00
Mite subscription by the hands of Bishop Roberts.................................100.00
Mite subscription from Natchez...................................................................7.75
Conference collection on Pearl River circuit.............................................31.50
Conference collection on Tombigbee........................................................39.81 1/2
            Total............................................................................................$499.06 1/4
To Bishop William McKendree....................................................$20.00
To Bishop R.R. Roberts.................................................................30.00
Samuel Sellers had received $81..Appropriated........................... 19.00
Ashley Hewit had received  $60...Appropriated............................40.00
Thomas Nixon had received 98.43 3/4 Appropriated......................1.56 1/4
John Lane had received $90..Appropriated...................................10.00
John Menefee had received  $85.50 ..Appropriated......................14.50
Thomas Owens had received $39..Appropriated............................61.00
Elijah Gentry had received $80..Appropriated................................20.00
Alexander Fleming had received $80..Appropriated......................20.00
Peter James had received $41 ..Appropriated................................59.00
Peter James, necessitous case........................................................46.00
Fleming's two children.....................................................................48.00
          Total....................................................................................$399.06 1/4
 The balance was divided between the Tennessee and Missouri Conferences to
make up the deficit in the preachers' salaries.

The following were elected to deacon's orders:  John C. Johnson from Claiborne/Natchez, Isaac Tabor and Benjamin Goodson from Pearl River, Bevil Tabor and Samuel Criswell from Wilkinson, Samuel Cole from Tombigbee, and Samuel McKay from Amite.  John Regan recommended form Pearl River was not elected because his character had not been reviewed according to Discipline, at the Quarterly Conference.  Lewellen Leggett from Pearl River was elected to elder's orders.

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Thomas Nixon writes of his journey to Attakapas where he was appointed to serve.  He and Mr. Menefee rode to Mr. Overaker's where they were hospitably entertained.  The next morning they rode to Washington and dined with Dr. Rollins, then spent the night in the country with one of the Tooley's (probably James) before turning toward Midway where they had an appointment to preach, preceding the Bishop who would preach on Sunday.  Then they spent the night with Mr. Sojourner, dined with Brother Hodges and spent the night with
Mr. Richardson near Midway.  People flocked to hear them preach the next day.  On Monday the Bishop presided at McCalley's Church.  On Tuesday he preached in Liberty, the county town of Amite.  He took quite ill while in Liberty, but rode eleven miles on his way to Franklin County.  Wednesday he appeared better and he and his companions rode 28 miles to Mr. Pickett's.

The Pickett settlement was then one of the strongholds of Methodism in Franklin County.  The Bishop intended to preach there the next morning, but a chill kept him in bed all day. Having other engagements to keep, he rode six miles that night to Mr. King's where he spent a rainy night.  They left early the next morning and rode 30 miles in the rain to Randall Gibson's.  The Bishop was confined to bed the next day and missed his appointment for that day.  He was so ill that day that Randall sent to Port Gibson for Dr. Thomas Going.  By evening he was much better and came downstairs for a cheerful conversation with the family. Also convalescing at the Gibson home was James Dixon who had missed the Conference due to illness.  He asked the Bishop's permission to leave the country as soon as he could travel and was granted a transfer back to Tennessee. Nixon and Menefee rode ten miles that night, and stayed with Mrs. Evans to preach to the blacks at Old Hebron, and had a gracious time.

Thomas Nixon left the next day for his post, and past through many dangerous areas.  Once he became lost and found the home of a Mr. Morgan and was astonished to learn that he was on the Vermillion Bayou.  Later he travelled to Rapides and to Wahita.  He met a man near Hemphill Creek name Masters.  Nixon called him a Dunker Baptist.  Farther on he roused the family of a Mr. Carter at 3 AM, and they got up and cooked him breakfast.  He became lost again after leaving the Carter home and found his way to a Mr. Ford's on Bushley Bayou,
where he was entertained for the night.

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Ashley Hewit was at this time on Washita Circuit and he tells of his experiences while traveling, the freezing rains, inhospitable people and hard travel.  But he mentions that in Prairie Jefferson among the Griffings that it was a different place.  The family was warm and inviting.  Here he preached on the island among the ladies of Judge McLaughlin's family and in Esquire Black's settlement on the Darbonne, in the pine hills west of the Washita River. He was cordially received as their pastor this year.  The church in Prairie Jefferson was the oldest in the Country.  Then venerable Hannah Griffing was literally the mother of Methodism in Norther Louisiana.  Mr. Hewit looked forward to visiting her on his circuit.

We find the Foster family settled at an early period in the vicinity of Natchez.  William grew to manhood under the Spanish Government. He was badly wounded in the arm by hostile Indians when he was a young man, in one of their forays against the white settlement south of Natchez. The Indians appeared suddenly between Second Creek and Ellis's Cliffs on the Mississippi River.  In accordance with a standing order from the Spanish commandant at Fort Rosalie, every available man rallied at the point of danger.  After searching fruitlessly for the Indians, the whites assembled at a settlers house for food and rest, carelessly laying aside their arms.  The house was surrounded by the Indians and set it on fire, killing two men. Foster attempted to escape through a lane leading from  the house when an Indian rifle caught him in the forearm.  He suffered long with the wound until a doctor down the coast
performed surgery, removing the shattered bone. He recovered and wooed Rachel Smith, a lovely, healthy, good looking country girl, and won her heart. They had no children of their own, but brought up a large number of orphans. In the later years they owned a large number of slaves.  In his will, Mr. Foster gave half to Rachel, and had his half sent to Liberia to be freed. His wishes were done. Rachel had also been brought up in Spanish times without any education.

Considering her poor start in life, Rachel became one of the most remarkable women the author ever knew.  She and her husband were two congenial spirits.  She was quiet and prudent in her household management, and with society in general.  Soon the industry and economy practiced by both of them amassed a comfortable living for themselves.  They gave their hearts to God in a little school house in Washington while Tobias Gibson preached. They were a young couple then, in the spring of 1799.  Rachel was medium size, well developed but never corpulent, not delicately beautiful, but very comely in her person and
manners, according to the author.  He said of her that she was truly "a mother in Israel".

The author acknowledges his appreciation of the Fosters who at one time gave him $500 to clear all of his debts and support his family while he preached.  Shortly after that Mr. Foster died. Rachel followed him about four or five years later

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