THE PLYMOUTH FORT AND THE CREEK WAR

 

A MYSTERY SOLVED

 

 

An article published in the Journal of Mississippi History

                                            

Vol. 62, pp. 328-370,  2000

 

 

By

 

Jack D. Elliott, Jr.
Map of Old Plymouth

 

 

Before the construction of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, the Tombigbee River flowed westward by the mouth of Tibbee Creek (or “Oaktibbeha Creek,” as it was originally called), the historical boundary between the Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes (Figure 1).  After passing through low alluvial land, the river cut into the towering uplands as it swung around to the southeast forming a lengthy cliff into the outside of the bend.  This bluff was capped with the chalky Mooreville geological formation which encouraged the growth of cedar trees.  During his 1771 descent of the Tombigbee British civil engineer Bernard Romans commented on the cedars and also noted that the imposing bluff had “a very romantic appearance.” [1]

 

While visually romantic, this site, located a few miles northeast of Columbus, Mississippi, would acquire a romance of history by virtue of events and legends.  Occupied during the early nineteenth century by John Pitchlynn, U.S. Interpreter for the Choctaws, it was originally known as “Pitchlynn’s” or “Oaktibbeha,” but acquired the name “Plymouth” when a town of that name was founded on the north end of the bluff about 1833.   However, within a few years the town passed into oblivion leaving only the name and memories.  As memories faded to be replaced by oral traditions and speculation, and in the early years of the twentieth century by written history, an aura of legend came to surround the place, inspired by a variety of early associations including Pitchlynn, a brief rendezvous in 1736 of French and Choctaw forces campaigning against the Chickasaws, finds of prehistoric Indian artifacts, and, most important, the memory of an old fort of uncertain origin.  About this fort, speculation ran rife.  Some claimed that the French explorer and colonizer Iberville had it constructed in the dawning years of the eighteenth century, while others claimed that his brother Bienville built it during his Chickasaw campaigns during the 1730s.  Yet others claimed that the English built it or that Andrew Jackson had it constructed during the Creek War.  Additionally, reports of finding “many scraps of old armor and pieces of pottery and war implements of Spanish manufacture” led some to speculate that the Spanish had constructed it or that De Soto had camped there during his passage through the area in 1540-1541. [2]

 

All of these associations, whether real or imaginary, were summed up by W.A. Love in 1903 in the questionable claim that Plymouth was “undoubtedly the oldest site historically in east Mississippi.”  These flurries of speculation did little to resolve the problem of the origin of the fort.  Love observed that the problem had “so far baffled the researches of historians [with] no one having given a satisfactory explanation of the purpose of its construction.”  For almost a century subsequent efforts have not changed this appraisal. [3]  However, I propose herewith to provide a solution to this riddle.

 

The mystery of the fort’s origin has been perpetuated by two problems: the lack of a concerted effort to investigate the appropriate primary sources and the smoke screen of weak or spurious hypotheses which have led researchers down many a false path.  I address this problem first by demonstrating that most hypotheses have little substance and then follow with a considerably more substantial scenario based upon primary sources that both document the fort and the historical context that produced it.  It is proposed that the fort was constructed in 1813 by John Pitchlynn as growing tensions led to an outbreak of the Creek War.  Furthermore, going beyond mere identification, the narrative will demonstrate that the fort played a key role as a base for military maneuvers against the Creek Nation.

 

I examine only those hypotheses that have at least a modicum of documentary support.  The first attempt at documenting the origin of the fort was by Choctaw ethnohistorian and long-time Lowndes County resident Henry S. Halbert who devoted an article to the subject in 1910. [4]  According to him, all that remained of the fort by the mid-1800s was a cedar log blockhouse and remnants of a circular ditch and embankment.  He provided a detailed description of these remains, undoubtedly based upon oral sources:

 

The [block]house...stood upon a slight elevation and was about five hundred yards distant from the river.  It was surrounded by a circular ditch with an embankment, about two hundred yards in circumference.  Some faint traces of the embankment may yet be seen.  The fort, as it was commonly called, was a two-story building, some twenty feet square, made of large cedar logs, hewn on two sides.  There was a door to the lower story, but no windows.  On each side of the door were some holes, evidently made for gun men.  The upper story had eight windows, two on each side, and two holes under each window, sixteen in all.  The roof was made of cedar shingles, nearly an inch and a half thick, fastened to the lathing with wrought-iron nails.  The fort was torn down by Mr. Canfield in 1860, and the timbers were used, some in building various outhouses, and some in building a small bridge on the public road.  When torn down, it was noticed that the exposed ends of the shingles were nearly worn away, an evidence of the antiquity of the house.  [5]

 

Assuming that the fort predated Pitchlynn’s residence at Plymouth, Halbert bemoaned the fact that no one had ever queried the frontiersman about its origin.  He then proposed a credible, but unsubstantiated, scenario according to which the fort had been built in the early years of the eighteenth century as a fortified trading house as a result of an agreement that Iberville made to the Choctaws and Chickasaws in 1702.  [6]  On March 26, 1702, the French leader held a meeting of chiefs of the two tribes at Old Mobile to bring about peace between them and ally them with the French as buffer states against the English.  As a result Iberville agreed to establish a fortified trading house to supply the Indians with trade goods.  On April 28, he sailed from Mobile bound for France, leaving his brother Bienville in command with orders for Henri de Tonti to ascend the Tombigbee River and build the promised fort. [7]  Halbert’s hypothesis was tenuous from the beginning for three reasons: (1) there is no proof that the fort was actually built, (2) there is no clear linkage to the Plymouth site, and (3) it is unlikely that any component of the fort would have survived unmaintained from ca. 1702 through 1860.  A weak scenario initially, it is invalidated by Bienville’s 1706 assertions that the fort was never built because of rampant sickness and shortage of funds.  [8] Although Bienville promised to eventually construct it, there is no evidence that he ever considered the issue again.

 

Other hypotheses have revolved around a possible Spanish origin of the fort, inspired no doubt by the claims of finding Spanish armor and other artifacts at the site along with a lingering oral tradition.  In 1921, a pamphlet history of Columbus noted that “Fort Choctaw, or Cedar Log Fort, was established at Old Plymouth, near Columbus by the Spaniards in 1790.”  [9]  Although a source for this assertion was not provided, it is undoubtedly the same source that Prout used as documentary evidence of the fort,---an untitled 1792 map of the Southeast.  Labeled partially in Spanish and partially in English, it depicts what at first glance appears to be a “Fort Chactaw” located on the Tombigbee River.  [10]  However, a closer inspection makes it clear that this is a misreading; in fact, “Fort Chactaw” results from an awkward juxtaposition of the words “Fort of Old Tombecbe” and the word “Chactaw.”  The former phrase indicated the site of the old French Fort Tombecbe while the word “Chactaw” indicated the territory of the Choctaw Indians.  [11]  

 

Kaye, Ward, and Neault have linked “Fort Chactaw” with one William Cooper, “a coloured man of Portugese extraction” and an employee of John Turnbull, an Indian trader during the Spanish regime.  In 1794, Cooper charged Turnbull $200 for “working on fort on Tombigby,” which they suggest might indicate the construction of the fort at Plymouth.  Needless, to say this source is quite vague; it does not indicate what fort is referred to (there were two on the river in that year, San Esteban, founded 1789, and Confederación, founded 1794), nor does it indicate whether Cooper actually constructed a fort or merely helped repair one already in existence.  Consequently, the Fort Chactaw/William Cooper hypothesis has little merit.  [12]

 

Another hypothesis, for which I must take responsibility, was based on an account of a blockhouse located on the western side of the Tombigbee in present-day Pickens County, Alabama.  This structure was purportedly one in a series of trading posts established by the Bonapartists who founded the Vine and Olive colony at and in the vicinity of Demopolis, Alabama.  Although the hypothesis was plausible there is no documentary basis for linking it specifically to Plymouth.  Nor is there any known documentation that corroborates the existence of these trading posts.  Consequently, I consider this proposal to be without notable merit.  Indeed, as I observed over twenty years ago, short of new archaeological or documentary evidence “no strong case can be made for the origin” of the fort. [13] 

 

Now new documentary evidence has appeared.  Recent research in primary sources related to the territorial period establishes with a high degree of certainty that the fort was built by John Pitchlynn shortly before the outbreak of the Creek War.  In this regard it is strange that the variety of hypotheses concerning the fort’s origin were usually linked to questionable historical scenarios, while no one had ever considered that an established historical association--John Pitchlynn and the Creek War--was directly related to the origin. [14]  The newly-discovered sources include a reference to Pitchlynn constructing the fort in mid-1813 and reveal the name--Fort Smith--as used by American troops.  Furthermore, a letter fragment written by Pitchlynn’s son, Peter, provides a reminiscence regarding the role of the fort during the Creek War.  This evidence not only establishes the origin of the fort, but it also documents a neglected, albeit important, chapter in the history of the war.  [15]

 

The origins of the fort must be seen in the context of the cultural dynamics of westward expansion, of international conflicts, and the transformation of the indigenous inhabitants of the Mississippi Territory.  To the south of the territory, lay Spanish West Florida which controlled access to the Tombigbee River at Mobile resulting in a simmering tension that occasionally produced filibusters and attempted filibusters by militant Anglo-American frontiersmen. 

 

In the middle of this international powder keg, several Indian groups--Choctaws, Chickasaws, Cherokees, and the heterogeneous groups that were lumped under the often misleading rubrics of Creeks and Seminoles--were caught up in fundamental cultural changes.  Their lands were increasingly being encroached upon by Anglo-Americans.  Furthermore, over a century of trade with successive colonial powers placed increasing stress on an economic system based on subsistence horticulture and commercial hunting.  The desire for European-manufactured trade goods encouraged over-hunting in search of the hides that were the medium of trade; this in turn depleted the deer and other wildlife that were the life-blood of the trade.  Consequently, while demand for goods increased, the means for acquiring them was vanishing, and Indian indebtedness to traders increased; thus the seeds of economic change were sown.  [16]

 

In response to their economic plight, the United States government instituted the “plan of civilization” as a fundamental component of its Indian policy, which was designed to shift the Indians from an increasingly unviable economy into the American economic system. [17]  The plan was implemented by the Indian agents; for example, in 1799, the first resident Choctaw/Chickasaw agent Samuel Mitchell reported having “advised the Indians to settle out separately or in small villages, farm their fields and turn their minds to agriculture and the raising of stock for the support of their families, a number of half Breeds and some Indians in this quarter have settled out for the purpose of raising of stock.” [18] Two years later Choctaw/Chickasaw agent John McKee, who will play a major role in this story, reported further success in the endeavor: “the Indians here are settling out of their old towns, fencing their plantations, and collecting round them stocks of hogs & cattle....” [19]

 

However, these economic changes and shifts to isolated farmsteads entailed the abandonment of the villages which resulted in concomitant reorganizations of family and political organizations.  In effect, it initiated a sea change in aboriginal culture which often translated into hostilities and tensions between factions, between those who favored change and those who resented its impact upon traditional culture.  In many cases, whites who had married into the Indian tribes and their mixed-blood families were the first to take advantage of these changes.  Among the Choctaws these families included the Folsoms, Lefleurs, and Pitchlynns.

 

Anglo-American John Pitchlynn (1764-1835) became a resident of the Choctaw Nation about 1774.  There he was married successively to two mixed-blood Choctaw wives and raised several children.  Well-respected by both Choctaws and Americans, he was appointed U.S. Interpreter to the Choctaws in 1786 at the Treaty of Hopewell and continued as a key figure in U.S.-Choctaw relations for decades.  The position of interpreter involved more than simply interpreting; in the early years Pitchlynn was the primary contact in the Choctaw Nation.  After the appointment of the first resident Choctaw agent in 1797, he was closely connected to that office, effectively serving as an assistant agent, through its termination at the end of 1832.  Although he probably resided originally in the Choctaw villages, by the late 1790s he established a farm on the upper Noxubee River near Mount Dexter, the first known site of the Choctaw Agency (ca. 1799-1804).  In 1804, the agency was moved to a site near present-day Quitman, Mississippi on the Chickasawhay River.  As a result of extended absences of Agent Silas Dinsmoor, Pitchlynn moved in 1806 to the agency and effectively operated the establishment.  However, in 1810 Dinsmoor relocated the agency to the Natchez Trace at present-day Ridgeland, Mississippi, and probably at this time Pitchlynn moved to Plymouth.  [20]

 

Pitchlynn’s move was apparently part of a plan to supply the U.S. Choctaw Trading House at St. Stephens on the Lower Tombigbee. [21]  The plan, to transship munitions overland from the Tennessee River to the Tombigbee, thereby avoiding the Spanish-held port of Mobile, was probably developed by George S. Gaines, the agent, or factor, at the trading house, in consultation with the War Department and probably in consultation with Dinsmoor and Pitchlynn.  The trading house, or factory as it was often called, was part of a federal program to provide reasonably priced goods to the Indians and thereby wean them away from foreign-based merchants.  It had been established in 1803 at St. Stephens on the Lower Tombigbee in the remnants of the old Spanish Fort San Esteban. [22] When Pitchlynn settled at Plymouth, the place was located in the extreme northeastern corner of the Choctaw territory and remote from most of the Choctaw population.  However, it was a desirable site by virtue of its transportation connections.  It was not only on the navigable Tombigbee River but was also a crossroads at the intersection of two major trails running, respectively, north-south and east-west. [23] 

 

Upon arriving at Plymouth, Pitchlynn established a home and farm, where he could take care of agency and trading house business and feed and maintain his family.  It was probably at this time that his “cedar log mansion,” so fondly remembered by his son Peter, was constructed.  Fields were cultivated.  Peter grew up working with his father’s cattle herd and, as a pastime, hunting deer and alligators.  [24]

 

The need to avoid Mobile was precipitated by the 1809 closing of its port to the shipment of munitions upstream into the Mississippi Territory.  This new policy, no doubt arising out of Spanish fears of American filibustering, resulted in turning back a substantial shipment of powder and lead that was bound for the Choctaw Trading House.  [25]  The War Department initially attempted packing goods overland from Natchez to St. Stephens in early 1810.  However, even before this was attempted, Gaines and the War Department were already considering the possibility of using a short overland route that would connect the Tennessee river with the Tombigbee, a plan in which Pitchlynn would play a key role.  Concurring with Gaines in regard to this overland route, in August 1810 John Mason, the superintendent of the War Department’s office of Indian trade, ordered the factor to proceed to the mouth of the Cumberland river to receive a shipment of powder, purchase lead, and determine the best route between the rivers.  Mason also made suggestions regarding the route and a possible new site for the trading house.  He noted that although boats had descended the Tombigbee from as high as Cotton Gin Port, such navigation was possible only during swells.  However, below the mouth of Tibbee creek navigation was much better, making it desirable for the terminus of the road and a new trading house.  When discussing the mouth of Tibbee creek, he did not mention Pitchlynn, suggesting that the interpreter had not yet moved there. [26]  Acting on these orders, Gaines left St. Stephens in early November and arrived the following month at the mouth of the Cumberland River.  There he made arrangement for the goods to be shipped up the Tennessee to George Colbert’s ferry, then overland to Pitchlynn’s at the mouth of Tibbee.  From there they were shipped downriver to St. Stephens, arriving by mid-February 1811.  [27]  The next shipment followed in December 1811 through January 1812. [28] 

 

At this time the beginning of the War of 1812 proved to be the spark that ignited growing tensions between traditionalists and pro-American factions that culminated in the Creek War.  Aware of the discontent at the loss to traditional lifestyles, in 1811, the Shawnee chief Tecumseh traveled through the Southeast in a campaign to arouse the Indians against the United States.  Passing through the Choctaw Nation he spoke at several villages and found many sympathetic ears but was largely rebuffed by pro-American factions led by Pushmataha, the principal chief of the southern Choctaw district. [29]  Nevertheless, a strong anti-American sentiment remained.  Although the tensions were endemic throughout the Southeastern tribes, no where were they more pronounced than among the Creeks, and among them he had considerably more success.  Heightened tension eventually erupted into civil war between a pro-American faction and an anti-American, nativistic faction known as the “Red Sticks.” Although fighting was initially between these two groups, it eventually spilled over to the Anglo-American settlers, in part due to encouragement from the British.  In February 1813 a Red Stick party slaughtered seven families near the mouth of the Ohio River; a pregnant woman was cut open and her unborn baby was impaled on a stake.  The situation was greatly intensified following the July 27, 1813, Battle of Burnt Corn Creek, where territorial militia intercepted and attacked a group of Creeks returning from Pensacola with supplies of ammunition.  What first appeared to be a victory turned into a debacle when the Creeks counterattacked causing the militia to retreat in disarray.  [30] 

 

In the meantime Pitchlynn found himself in an exposed position far from the main Choctaw settlements and on the border of what was virtually a no-man’s land between the Choctaws and the Creeks.  He was not at home in April 1813, when Silas Dinsmoor reported that

 

about fifty eight Muskogees [Creeks] had been hovering near the northeastern frontier of this nation and near the residence of Mr. John Pitchlynn assistant agent & interpreter.  His family had collected as many warriors as could be assembled in the neighborhood to guard them until general notice could be given to the great Medal chiefs & principal warriors who were assembled at [the agency].  [31]

 

Upon hearing this the Choctaw chiefs resolved to protect Pitchlynn and his family “as their own people.”    A few days later, Pitchlynn returned home to find his family “much alarmed and confused.”  Relating the incident to Chickasaw Agent James Robertson, he toyed with the notion of raising several companies of Choctaws and Chickasaws to protect the frontier from Creek incursions.  [32] 

 

Meanwhile, settlers on the frontier began to construct defensive fortifications.  On July 29, territorial governor David Holmes  summarized the realities of frontier defense:

 

It will be impracticable for any army that we can possibly bring into the field to protect completely the settlements on the frontier against sculking parties of Indians who can attack them at defficient points and retire to the wilderness when pressed by a superior force, Block Houses and places inclosed by pickets form the safest defence for the inhabitants against this mode of warfare and can be speedily erected[.]  a sufficient number should be constructed at convenient distances to contain all the families who may be exposed to the incursions of the savages. [33]  

 

Construction of forts for the defense of civilian settlements in unstable frontier situations was an established procedure in Trans-Appalachia, particularly in portions of Kentucky and Tennessee that were settled during the late eighteenth century.  Such forts could vary in size from those designed to encompass an entire village, such as Boonesborough and Fort Nashborough, to small single residence “stations.”  Such defensive measures commonly used palisade stockade walls, ditches, and blockhouses.  [34] 

 

In the Mississippi Territory fort construction was in progress by August 4 when a letter reported that “all on the East Side of [the lower] Tombigbee [River] are Forted and many have removed on the west side, Even to Chickasawhay and Pearl River.  those on the west side, immediately on the Rivers are Forted also....”  [35] Although most of the forts were located near the conjunction of the Alabama, Mobile, and Tombigbee Rivers, others were constructed near the Chickasawhay River in Wayne County, along the Pearl River, at the Chickasaw Agency, and even in the Natchez District. [36] The forts were usually built around a person’s house and provided a central defensive position where settlers could congregate.  Although intended for only temporary usage, they often entailed substantial construction efforts as indicated by a letter from the Pearl River:

 

Those of us who have determined to make a stand are busily engaged in constructing a Fort.  We have already progressed considerably.  Two block houses are nearly finished, in the construction of which we have availed ourselves of the defects in that already taken by the Indians.  Our Fort is a square of sixty yards with two Block houses at right angles, the port holes seven feet high & the pickets nearly one foot thick.  All we wanted were arms & ammunition, which we thank you for supplying.... [37]

 

In the midst of this flurry of fort building, General F.L. Claiborne wrote that: “It is said, Mr. Pitchlynn the interpreter of the Chactaw nation is alarmed for his own safety and that of the friendly Chactaws and is fortifying....” [38]  In light of the other forts being constructed at the time, Pitchlynn’s with its stockade and blockhouse was fairly typical.  Much of his construction work was probably conducted by his slaves, although Choctaws may have also assisted.  [39] 

 

Events reached a climax on August 30, when one of the more heavily occupied forts, Fort Mims, located on the Tensaw River was unexpectedly attacked by the Red Sticks.  Caught with the stockade door open, the settlers were overwhelmed and approximately 275 were killed.  [40]  Hysteria swept the frontier, resulting in growing concern in the states of Georgia and Tennessee where previously many leaders had doubted the seriousness of the Indian threat.  These states would soon contribute substantial militia troops to supplement those from the Mississippi Territory which were numerically inadequate for the purpose at hand.  Immediately upon notification of the massacre, George Gaines sent letters requesting immediate military assistance to Nashville addressed to Tennessee governor Willie Blount and to Major General Andrew Jackson, who was in command of the West Tennessee militia.  To deliver the messages, Gaines selected a young man named Samuel Edmondson to serve as an express rider along a route that included a stop at Pitchlynn’s outpost.  Upon reaching Nashville, Gaines’s request could not have come as a surprise;  Blount had just received a request from the Secretary of War that 5000 Tennessee militia be deployed to the Mississippi Territory. [41]

 

Meanwhile another load of goods was enroute to the trading house.  This would be the last shipment to go by this route, because on April 15th of that year the Spanish had surrendered the port of Mobile to American forces under General James Wilkinson.  The shipment was under way when this occurred so it continued as far as Pitchlynn’s.  However, with the growing hostilities, Pitchlynn was apparently reluctant to send a 6068 pound shipment down river where it could easily fall into the possession of the Creeks.  Consequently, the goods were placed into storage to wait for a less volatile time for shipping.  [42]

 

On September 14, Mushulutubbee, the principal chief of the Northeastern District of the Choctaws (a.k.a. Lower Choctaws), arrived at Pitchlynn’s to report a rumor that 5000 Creek warriors along with their women and children were advancing on St. Stephens.  Reports also claimed that two Creeks had even invited the Choctaws to join with them in destroying the Tombigbee River town.  That evening Pitchlynn penned a letter to Governor Willie Blount informing him of the Choctaw’s vulnerable situation and of their need for ammunition.  [43]  On the same day he made arrangements with Mushulatubbee to employ about 30 Choctaws, 20 of whom were to serve as guards for the Trading House goods being stored at his home; the others were to act as spies and protect whites who were residing in or traveling through the Choctaw territory.  Pitchlynn fed the guards from the produce of his cornfield and cattle herd. [44]

 

Events were rapidly developing in Nashville.  With Choctaw Agent Dinsmoor absent in Washington, D.C. and unable to work with the Choctaws, General Jackson and Governor Blount were aware that the tribe could potentially become enemies of the United States.  Consequently, the Tennessee Legislature authorized Blount to appoint a “confidential agent,” who would proceed to the Choctaw territory and attempt to secure their neutrality in the war.  If successful, he was to employ sympathetic Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Cherokees to participate in military activities against the Red Sticks.  Blount selected Colonel John McKee, the former agent to the Choctaws and Chickasaws and an associate of his late brother Governor William Blount.  Prior to his selection, McKee had advocated that the Choctaws should not be written off as potential enemies; if properly armed, they could indeed be valuable allies, as Pitchlynn had also asserted.  Nor was his advice to be taken lightly.  Having served as agent, he knew the land and was respected by the people.  Furthermore, he had the reputation of being of good character. Willie Blount had earlier observed to Jackson that “God never made a better man than John McKee.”  B.L.C. Wailes described McKee in 1818 as “exceedingly polite and attentive” and noted that “there is an open, noble generosity in his character that I admire.” [45] Jackson also ordered McKee to acquire information and possibly place a lieutenant at Pitchlynn’s to aid in protecting the Trading House goods.  [46] 

 

At the time the state of Tennessee was being drawn into a massive campaign against the Red Sticks that would entail the use of four armies and require cooperation between state governors and federal officials.  The plan required that the four armies enter the Creek nation from different directions and converge at the confluence of the Coosa and Tallapoosa Rivers.  Two of the armies consisted of the West Tennessee militia under General Andrew Jackson and the East Tennessee militia under General John Cocke which were supposed to enter the Mississippi Territory from the north and merge under Jackson’s command.  The Georgia militia would enter from the east while the United States Army regulars accompanied by the Mississippi territorial militia, would advance up the Alabama River to the meeting place.  All units were ordered to attack any Red Sticks, burn hostile and abandoned villages, and destroy crops.  To protect their supply lines, forts were to be constructed at intervals of about one day’s march apart.  It was initially thought that the war would be won in two to three months.  Although conducted according to plan, the war actually required about ten months to achieve victory with much of the delay arising from a shortage of supplies and a constant turnover of troops. [47]

 

After receiving his commission, McKee traveled southwards with Tennessee cavalry under Colonel (later General) John Coffee who had been sent in advance to establish a camp at Huntsville in the Mississippi Territory (now in Alabama).  After the bulk of the army under Jackson arrived, they pushed southwards into Creek territory and established Fort Strother on the upper Coosa River as a base of operations.  Despite some military successes, Jackson’s troops were plagued, first, by a shortage of supplies and, second, by the expiration of the one year enlistment of most of his troops.  As enlistment dates expired, troops departed.  By the end of December the Tennessee militia had completely disintegrated leaving Jackson fuming and virtually powerless in Fort Strother. [48]

 

Meanwhile, McKee was busy.  Prior to Jackson’s arrival at Huntsville, he was given a detachment of 20 men including Captain George Smith and departed for the Choctaw territory via the Chickasaw Agency.  Under the supervision of Agent James Robertson, blockhouses were under construction at the agency for defense against the Creeks.  While there, McKee found that the Chickasaws were “generally pleased with the expectation that the Creeks are about to meet their merited punishment” but were “too few and too much scattered” to be of military assistance.  On October 13, McKee and his escort rode into Pitchlynn’s fortified settlement, no doubt creating a stir of excitement.  They would transform it into their base of operations during the course of the following months, possibly enhancing the fortifications that had already been constructed.  As the center of military activity they dubbed it “Fort Smith,” probably in honor of Captain Smith.  At the same hour that McKee’s party arrived, so too arrived George Gaines and John Flood McGrew from St. Stephens. Under orders from General Thomas Flournoy, commander of the U.S. Seventh Military Division, they were on a mission to enlist the aid of the Choctaws against the Red Sticks.  McKee immediately sent out Choctaw runners to collect the chiefs for a meeting.  [49]

 

Soon afterwards, McKee reported Flournoy’s plans to Coffee.  He also reported that nine Choctaw spies had recently returned from the Black Warrior River where they had observed a large Creek village and fort that was almost totally abandoned.  It was thought that they were concentrating their forces at the confluence of the Coosa and Tallapoosa Rivers. [50]

 

On October 19 chiefs, primarily from the Northeastern District, convened at Pitchlynn’s, and the following day McKee addressed them.  There were many old friends present, but he also recognized an undercurrent of hostility in many.  He appealed to them to resist the inclination to join the Red Sticks and instead ally themselves with the United States.  Because of McKee’s persuasiveness and the Choctaws’s trust in him, the meeting was a success.  Furthermore, McKee acknowledged the importance of Pitchlynn’s exertions and to the “friendly deportment” of Captain Smith’s troops toward the Indians.  The Choctaws pledged their support and resolved to go to war against the Creeks but only on the condition that they were supplied with guns and ammunition.  Furthermore, it was decided that McKee would oversee operations with the Chickasaws and the northern Choctaws, while Gaines would work with the southern Choctaws. [51]

 

To secure the needed munitions, McKee and over 50 warriors departed on October 24 for St. Stephens, 150 miles away, in hopes of acquiring them from General Flournoy.  Unable to obtain anything from the short-supplied army, the party traveled another 60 miles to Mobile to purchase supplies and returned to Pitchlynn’s on November 29.  Meanwhile, Smith and company had remained behind at the fort, now known as “Fort Smith,” to help guard the supplies and organize the Choctaws for a military campaign, activities that left them with considerable idle time.  While waiting, Smith received information about “a considerable number of rebellious Chaktaws” concentrating at a village of Creeks on the Black Warrior.  This was designated as the primary target of the campaign along with a nearby Creek village on the Cahawba River. [52] 

 

The day after his return, McKee again held a meeting with the district chiefs who insisted on yet more ammunition before undertaking the campaign.  McKee suspected that this was merely a ploy perpetrated by Creek sympathizers to delay any military action.  To allay their demands, he started out again for Mobile on December 3 accompanied by only one Indian, leaving Pitchlynn and Smith to “stimulate the Choctaws to strike the blows which was daily becoming more necessary.”  Back in Mobile he obtained more guns and supplies.  [53]

 

Returning on December 30, McKee discovered that zealous anti-Red Stick factions had already “commenced the war.”  Parties led by the chiefs Talking Warrior and Hummingbird had traveled to the Black Warrior, killed four Creeks and four pro-Red Stick Choctaws, and brought the scalps back as trophies.  With McKee’s return, final plans were implemented for the assault on the Black Warrior, while messengers were sent out to rally Choctaw and Chickasaw warriors.  [54]

 

Finally, the day came.  On January 9, the force led by McKee departed accompanied by Pitchlynn, his son John, Jr., Choctaw warriors, and presumably by Captain Smith and his Tennessee troops.  McKee’s party rendezvoused with other Choctaw warriors on the 12th at the Choctaw settlement of “Shekulluck” (probably near Shuqualak Creek in present-day Kemper County), bringing the force up to 402 and waited until the 15th for other warriors from the Northwestern District, or Upper Choctaws, and from the Chickasaws.  While waiting the Choctaws were taunted by the chief Little Leader who had been a constant advocate of the Red Sticks; failing to win any support he stormed out of the camp.  After the reinforcements failed to arrive, McKee crossed the Tombigbee and advanced toward the Black Warrior where they discovered that the Creeks had abandoned their settlement to escape from the invaders.  On the 24th the Choctaws burned the fort, houses, and all the provisions that could be found.  A few Red Sticks remained to harass McKee’s force, resulting in a few wounds and, on one occasion, the theft of 28 horses.  As the campaign wound down, the long awaited Chickasaw and Upper Choctaw force finally arrived, only to find McKee beginning his return on the 28th.  [55] 

 

At Fort Strother, Andrew Jackson’s fortunes were on an upswing.  After the departure of most of his troops during the fall and winter, the approach of spring brought substantial numbers of fresh troops from Tennessee so that by March he had a rejuvenated command of almost 5000 men.   Consequently he began to prepare his offensive.  On February 3, he addressed a letter to  McKee ordering him to “scour the Black Warrior” with his Choctaw and Chickasaw warriors while his own forces made a simultaneous thrust into the heart of the Creek Nation.  This concerted campaign, the General alleged, would “strike terror to the whole nation.”  Expecting relatively little resistance, McKee sent small parties of Choctaws and Chickasaw eastward to search the Black Warrior basin for Creeks and their provisions.  By March 18, returning Choctaw warriors reported that “they could not find the track of an enemy between Tombigby and Cawhaba.”  [56] 

 

This ended most of McKee’s work on the Upper Tombigbee.  On March 18, he reported that he was traveling southward with a force of 435 Choctaws and Chickasaws to link up with the U.S. 3rd Regiment under the command of Lt. Col. Gilbert C. Russell and campaign along the Alabama River.  In May the Indians were disbanded at St. Stephens to return home. [57]

 

By late February it was fairly clear that the Red Sticks no longer posed a threat on the Tombigbee, so George Gaines left St. Stephens and rode north to Pitchlynn’s accompanied by a guard consisting of Efford L. Jones, “Indian Jim,” and “Negro Dick” to retrieve the trading house goods from storage.  He remained a week before finally loading them into a keel boat, which had been built there at his request, and departed downriver for St. Stephens.  Although conditions were relatively secure, he took the precaution of having the sides of the boat lined with cowhides and additional planking to make them bullet-proof.  A few days later they arrived safely at St. Stephens.  All subsequent shipments of goods to the Trading House would pass through the more convenient port of Mobile.  [58]

 

As McKee completed his campaign on the Black Warrior, Jackson moved.  On March 14, his troops advanced from Fort Strother in a thrust that would destroy the backbone of Red Stick resistance, most of which was accomplished at the March 28 Battle of Horseshoe Bend, a victory that turned into a massacre.  Subsequent military activity was little more than picking up the pieces, leaving Jackson, McKee and the others to concentrate on other campaigns.  In August, McKee returned to Pitchlynn’s for the purpose of reassembling the Choctaws for another campaign under Jackson.  The task was made difficult because of difficulties providing the Indians with provisions and paying them for the last campaign, yet with the assistance of Pitchlynn and others he was able to recruit another force of Choctaws and Chickasaws. [59] The last known military activity at Plymouth occurred in October 1814, when militia under General Coffee traveling from Fayetteville, Tennessee to St. Stephens passed through there. [60]

 

Following his decisive defeat of the Red Sticks, Jackson was well on his way to becoming a national hero, a passage that culminated with his victory at the Battle of New Orleans on January 8, 1815.  Although Jackson, leading armies of trained militia and Federal troops, produced triumphs on the field of battle, McKee’s triumphs were less flamboyant but no less worthy.  Although McKee’s forces had not engaged in any major conflicts during their expeditions to the Black Warrior River, they in effect stabilized the Tombigbee area by maintaining the allegiance of most of the Choctaws and by encouraging the Creeks to concentrate further to the east where they were demolished by Jackson.  [61] 

 

The importance of McKee’s accomplishments were assessed in 1815 by Governor Willie Blount: “It is a fact known to thousands...that his [McKee’s] exertions and influence...not only prevented the Choctaws from aiding the Creeks but really saved the settlers on Tombigby from actual destruction, he having successfully used those exertions and effected that object before the troops from Tennessee had or could get to their relief.”   [62]  Blount probably exaggerated McKee’s role somewhat, after all the purpose of the letter was to persuade the War Department to reimburse the latter for his war expenditures and special pleading would be helpful.  However, the statement does highlight the importance of the efforts of men like McKee and Pitchlynn whose dogged efforts cannot be measured in terms of military victory.  Battles and their consequences have an immediate impact upon the public consciousness; Jackson was swept up into national awareness through his victories at Horseshoe Bend and New Orleans was transformed into a national hero.  However, the achievements of McKee and Pitchlynn were not conducive to producing such fanfare.  Instead their work required determination, patience, and the ability to acquire and maintain the confidence and trust of a different race of people.  The results of this work cannot be measured on the field of battle but in the hypothetical realm of that which they prevented, in this case, a Choctaw uprising.  Could there have been such an uprising?  Certainly, although it would not have been total.  American sentiment was too ingrained in many of the leaders, and even among the Creeks a substantial proportion of the tribe remained pro-American.  However, a majority of the Choctaws probably had no strong commitments; many could have been swayed by a vocal anti-American faction, and the consequences would have been catastrophic, in part for the United States, but even more so for the Choctaws.  A rebellion of several hundred, if not a few thousand, warriors could have terrorized the Tombigbee and Natchez settlements, but, in the end, they could not have prevailed against the combined might of state militias and Federal troops.  They would have been crushed and suffered a frightful toll of lives as did the Red Sticks.

 

In early 1815, news of the cessation of hostilities reached Pitchlynn.  To celebrate the occasion he loaded a cannon that had been used to defend his fort and fired it.  The cannon exploded.  When the smoke cleared, he phlegmatically observed, “Well we have no further use for her--she has served us through the war & bursted in telling the news of peace.”  [63]

 

Following the war, he continued to reside at Plymouth into the 1820s. [64] With the fortifications no longer needed for defensive purposes or for military activities, he presumably dismantled the stockade, retaining only the block house, which being spacious and well constructed could have easily served an alternative function.  His home continued as a center for Choctaw Agency-related business and for his farming activities.  It briefly served as a United States post office named “Pitchlynns” from 1819 through 1820. [65]  Furthermore, when missionaries began activities in the area in the late 1810s, they frequently called on Pitchlynn for assistance. [66]

 

Plymouth’s importance as a crossroads was soon overshadowed when the U.S. Army opened a military road downriver in 1819, and the town of Columbus was founded at the crossing.  As the town grew, new transportation routes converged there including a second Federally-funded road, the Robinson Road.  In about 1827, Pitchlynn moved to a new home on the Robinson Road located four miles west of Columbus [67] and left his old home to his daughter Rhoda and her husband Calvin Howell, who were residing there by 1830.  [68]  Through provisions of the 1830 Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek Howell acquired several hundred acres surrounding his residence.  [69]  As the surrounding lands were purchased and transformed into farms, he had the town of Plymouth surveyed on the northern end of the bluff in either late 1832 or early 1833; it was incorporated in 1836.  [70] Plymouth was a small river town that served as a trade center for surrounding farms with at least one warehouse to accommodate the river trade.  The town grew fairly rapidly in its early years.  In May 1833, Howell described it as “improving, as fast as could be reasonably expected.  There are a considerable number of Log and frame buildings, a carrying on in it.  The Steam Boats, have visited us several times, this winter.  We have one Store, and one grocery, in town, and a young man by the name of Carver, is teaching School.”[71]  By 1837 a county census revealed a population of 199 living within the corporation limits--77 free and 122 slave.  [72]  Yet, by virtue of proximity to Columbus, it could never have been more than a satellite to the older and larger town.

 

However, about 1840 Plymouth declined abruptly and was soon extinct.  The site continued to serve as little more than a shipping port when the seasonal rises of the river permitted navigation.  [73]  Why the town declined so early and so quickly is not certain.  Other river towns in the area declined as a result of flooding, while others died after the arrival of the Mobile and Ohio Railroad in the 1850s, effectively stealing trade away from them.  These factors were irrelevant for Plymouth; it lay high above the river terraces and bottomlands and consequently was not subject to flooding and its decline took place years before the arrival of the railroad.  Lipscomb claimed that it declined because the site was unhealthy; however, it seems improbable that it was unhealthier than other Tombigbee towns.  The most likely explanation for its precipitous decline was the ca. 1840 opening of a bridge across the Tombigbee at Columbus.  Plymouth was so close to the larger town that a person could easily walk from one to the other in two hours and ride in about one.  The opening of a bridge would have reduced the cost and time of travel by eliminating ferry usage and the requisite fares making it increasingly difficult for the smaller town to compete with the larger.  [74]

 

All traces of the Pitchlynns and Plymouth quickly disappeared.  John sold his Robinson Road home in late 1832 and moved across Tibbee Creek into Chickasaw lands where he established a farm and a new home.  Increasingly despondent, he contracted an unidentified disease in April 1835, died on May 20, and was buried nearby at a site of his own choosing.  All of his relatives soon moved westward. [75]. With the sudden decline of Plymouth, Calvin and Rhoda Howell departed for Arkansas in 1841. [76]  Soon after, virtually all of the town lots were combined under the ownership of John Billington who moved into the Pitchlynn/Howell house. [77]   It was into this setting that Pitchlynn’s son, Peter, rode in September 1846 during a trip back to Mississippi from the Indian Territory.  He described visiting the site, making no mention of a town, but did refer to the warehouses on the river bank and his former family home which he visited as a guest of Billington.  He recalled: “It was the same roof which was first placed over it, under which I was raised--the same floor, doors and shutters....”  Memories of childhood experiences during the Creek War flooded back: “I can without the least mental effort see the old homestead as she appeared during the war,--  and the war fires blazing on her hills.  the war dance, the war talks and many a brave and na humma, long dead now rise up in my mind--  What brave noble fellows they were.  They had come to the protection of my father, and family, and they would have fallen & died around our little fort ere they would have allowed a Muskoke reaching us with their Tomma hawks....”  [78]

 

In 1859, Billington sold his Plymouth property to C.B. Canfield, whose family, as previously related, dismantled the blockhouse to reuse its timbers.  [79]  It is not certain what happened to the Pitchlynn house; however, it is possible that the Prowell family, who acquired the property in 1889, dismantled it and rebuilt it on other property where it was still standing as late as the 1930s. (Figure 2)  [80]  The site was eventually plowed over as a cotton field, but by 1925 it had been abandoned and was returning to forest.  In 1934, James C. Prowell still knew the location of the fort site and was able to lead MDAH archaeologist Moreau Chambers and county engineer C.L. Wood there on a site visit.  However within a few years both Prowell and Wood were dead, while Chambers had left the state.  Today I have been unable to find anyone who knows the traditional location. [81]

 

As Plymouth receded into the past, what had been fairly accurate and detailed everyday knowledge gradually melted into a blur of legend.  This process was encouraged by the removal of most of the town’s population; those few who remained seldom thought about or articulated that which initially seemed so commonplace.  By the time that it acquired an aura of the irretrievable, mysterious past, something worthy of investigating, it was too late.  No one was alive who had first hand knowledge of Pitchlynn or the fort.  So faded the story of an incident of the Creek War which, having been preserved in written fragments, is here resurrected.

APPENDIX A 

 

THE PLYMOUTH LANDSCAPE 1810-1830

 

The landscape at Plymouth during the period of John Pitchlynn’s residence is reconstructed and synthesized on Figure 1.  The topographical backdrop is derived from United States Geological Survey topographical maps from the 1950s.  A comparison of these maps with the much earlier General Land Office (GLO) township plats indicates that the courses of the Tombigbee River and Tibbee Creek had changed relatively little.  (Subsequently, following the construction of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway including the Columbus Lock-and-Dam which butts up against Plymouth, the old courses of the streams have become almost unrecognizable.)  Agricultural practices have undoubtedly resulted in erosion and gully formation after Pitchlynn’s time but these have not changed the gross configuration of the land.  Also, for purposes of reference, I have depicted the GLO section lines west of the Tombigbee and south of Tibbee, which date to the early 1830s.

 

The site lies on the eastern edge of the Mississippi Black Prairie.  However, this physiographic region was not one continuous grassland, but instead consisted of a scattering of prairies of varying sizes that were surrounded by primarily hardwood trees.  One of these prairies (ca. 1.5 miles north-south by ca. 1 mile east-west) was located at Plymouth where a swath of woodland separated it from the edge of the river.  In this particular area, many of the surrounding trees were apparently cedars. [82]  As will be seen, Pitchlynn’s house was on the eastern side of this prairie.

 

Within this prairie were cultivated fields which were probably established by Pitchlynn.  The larger--ca. 80 acres--was depicted on the GLO plat of Township 19, Range 17 East with the survey notes identifying it as “Howells cornfield.”  To the east was another, smaller field that the surveyors described as “another field of Howells.”

 

The road network is reconstructed schematically.  To do this I have identified known points where roads crossed either a section line or a stream and then interpolate the roads from there so as to intersect near the Pitchlynn house.   More specifically, these known points include (1) the places where GLO surveyors identified roads as crossing section lines, (2) the river landing, and (3) Red Bluff on Tibbee Creek where the main north-south road from the Choctaws to the Chickasaws apparently crossed. [83]

 

During the Creek War, Pitchlynn’s homestead consisted of two basic components, the domestic buildings and the fortifications.  The former component centered around the house which was probably built about 1810 when Pitchlynn first moved there.  Peter Pitchlynn referred to it as “the cedar log mansion,” indicating that it was constructed using the abundant cedar trees.  The house may very well have been a dogtrot structure, which was a common house type.  Although there is no documentation, there were probably also a variety of buildings including slave housing, blacksmith shop, kitchen, corn crib, smoke house, etc.  [84]  The fortifications consisted of two components, a stockade and the blockhouse.  The former defined the fort proper and was alluded to by Peter Pitchlynn when he recalled “the gate of the fort [being] thrown open.”  [85] The primary component of the stockade was a palisade wall.  Additionally, Halbert’s described “a circular ditch with an embankment, about two hundred yards in circumference” for which he noted that “Some faint traces of the embankment may yet be seen.”  Presumably the ditch was on the exterior of the palisade, while the stockade palings were probably embedded in the embankment.  A circumference of about two hundred yards indicates a diameter of about two hundred feet.

 

Blockhouses were often incorporated into fortification walls, even extending out from them like bastions, which might have  been the case at Plymouth.  As noted, with the cessation of hostilities the palisade was probably dismantled because it was of no further use; however, a well-constructed blockhouse could have been reused for storage or residential purposes, and so it consequently survived much longer.

 

The location of Pitchlynn’s house and fort can be approximately determined using various lines of evidence.  First, the settlement was certainly in the southeast quarter of Section 10 in that John Billington was residing there in 1846, and all of his property was the fractional quarter section.  Furthermore, as discussed elsewhere, the house was probably near the center of the quarter section. [86]

 

Halbert placed the fort site “on a slight elevation...about five hundred yards distant from the river.”  Using a distance range of 400-600 yards from the river and a location near the center of the southeast quarter of Section 10 and on the crest of a knoll or ridge, we can narrow the location down to two or three possible locations on the eastern edge of the prairie.  However, above and beyond this, final confirmation of the site will probably have to be through using archaeological methods aimed at identifying the ditch and palisade trenches as the criteria that will separate this site from the numerous other house sites that are to be found there as a result of the brief existence of the town of Plymouth.

 

Finally, Peter Pitchlynn’s 1846 letter mentioned a cemetery that dated to the period of his father’s residence.  Today there is a small abandoned cemetery at Plymouth with surface indications of 10-20 graves and possibly more.  However, only four of these are known to have had headstones--with dates ranging from 1845 to 1860. [87]  Although the markers post-date John Pitchlynn’s occupation, it is probable that the cemetery originated while he lived at Plymouth.

 

 

APPENDIX B

 

The following transcript is of a fragment of a letter written by Peter Pitchlynn in 1846 when, during the course of a return visit to Mississippi from the Indian Territory, he visited his former home at Plymouth.  Located in the Peter P. Pitchlynn collection (box 1, folder #109), Western History Collection, University of Oklahoma Library, it was called to my attention by Sam Kaye and Rufus Ward and is reproduced in its entirety herewith by virtue of its relevance to the fort at Plymouth.

 

The manuscript appears to be an uncompleted draft of a letter as suggested by the considerable number of deletions and additions and because the text ends abruptly  in mid page.  Passages that have been crossed out are usually not included in this transcription, unless they contribute to the narrative, in which case, they are italicized and placed in brackets.

 

 

                                                            Columbus, Mississippi Sept. 23, 184[6]

Dear Brother, [88]

                   On the morning of the 21st Instant I made a visit to the old Homestead, and beheld once more the [scenes] of my childhood after an absence of fourteen long years from the country.  I crossed the tombigbee at this place [Columbus] & proceeded up on the west side of the River, and all the way up I saw many places which I remembered, and all connected with some circumstance or event which occurd long ago and known probable only to myself.  Here I killed an Aligator, there I killed a deer, here I slept one night, and then there was the spot where my horse fell when I was bounding through the woods in full speed and threw me, and there were places which brought up from the long past remembrances of my departed father-- but I can not tell the one half, or even one hundredth of my recollections for they crowded upon my mine and almost overwhelmed [me] at times with feelings and emotions which I cannot describe.  Finally I came to the place where you last resided, and passed on to the Bluffs, and here I gazed over the still waters of the tombigbee where I had sported with my brothers and companions in another time.  Here all was natural save the long ware houses-- but the river was still beautiful and the white cliffs seemed as they did--  From her[e] I soon reached the old homestead.  But ah how changed was everything from what they were when I was a little boy.  My parents brothers and sisters were not here to greet me on my return as they did in times of yore--  they are all gone, save the dead!  I rode up to the gate and stood a long time.   seeing no one, I passed on to the grave yard where Dawson, Cooper and Uncle Billy (my father’s servant) and others are buried, and remained here some ten minutes and looked over the old fields upon the scenery around, filled with thoughts of the days of other times--  from here I went out to your friend, Major Canfield[’]s and spent several hours with him-- and after dinner [i.e. the noon meal] I returned to the old Homestead and, there spent some little while in [       ] at the place-- Mr Billington being there recieved me kindly and permitted me to go into the Cedar log mansion--  it still had on it was the same roof which was first placed on it, under which I was raised-- the same floor, doors and shutters, and there was still to be seen the print of the piece of cannon that struck against the house [which bursted in firing her at the news of Peace that reached us after the late war with England.]  this happened by firing her upon the occasion of Peace being declared between England & the United States.  I remember my father saying-- Well we have no further use for her--she has served us through the war, and bursted in telling the news of peace. [89]  that was a great day with us, for none were more exposed than we were to the tommahawk & scalping knife of the Creek Indians [being] then the farthest settlement towards the Creek nation who you know had espoused the cause of England-- which brought them in conflict with the Choctaws as well as the people of the United States.  twice had they  come to attact us,  but finding we were Forted and probably from a belief we were very strong in numbers they retired without making an attact upon us.--  I recollect how often we were alarmed by news reaching us that signs of the enemy were about us--  One time Mother fled with us/ the children to Yakmittubbe’s about ten miles off.-- the alarm was great, brother James came up in full speed (father was not at home) with news that he had heard the war hoop of the Creek Indians--  [90] brother Joseph remained in the fort, being some four years older than myself-- he said that if he was not able to fight he could run bullits for those that could fight--  [91]  Mother cryed when she left him, but not without incouraging him to be brave-- upon which Joseph painted his face and said he would die defending the Fort-- he was a brave boy [and ever afterwards proved himself to be a high and noble hearted] but just as he grew up to manhood, tall and handsome beloved by all who knew him-- an evil moment came over him, and in a state of mental derangement he put an end to his own existence.  The past how they crowd upon my mind, and how vivid are the recollections of my youth.  I can without the least mental effort see the old homestead as she appeared during the war,-- and the war fires blazing on her hills.  the war dance, the war talks and many a brave and na humma, [92] long dead now rise up in my mind--  What brave noble fellows they were.  They had come to the protection of my father, and family, and they would have fallen & died around our little fort ere they would have allowed a Muskoke reaching us with their Tomma hawks.  among those who figured in those scenes how few are living.

 

My father and all his contemporaries have all passed away-- and only a few of the men wh[o were] then yong are now living,  of them I recollect but few-- David Folsom,  [93]   Adam Folsom, Bob Cole [94] were of that class.  Among those dark and evil days there was one bright one Reposed over the old homestead, which caused every heart to rejoice, and well do I remember the expression that came over my father’s face as I stood by his knees-- it was on a beautiful morning & everything seemed to be happy--  but there was an expression of gloom [& concern] in my father’s countenance-- and he was walking to & fro some five feet in front of the Cedar log mansion, when a long shrill hoop was heard in the distance-- upon which he stopd & said “Peter, did you hear that hoop”  I said I did. “Which way was it”  I told him it was down the River.  In a few moments we heard it again, and again, and then it changed into the scalp song, and followed by a succession of rapped hoops--  then it was a smile of joy & triumph beamed upon his countenance.  The boys are alive Thank God-- Ta na pe (the Tisha [95]) was ordered to go & meet them, soon they hovered in sight, four young warriors.  David Folsom, James Pitchlynn, Tulk ho tubbie (the name of the fourth man forgotten but I recollect he was the brother of Tulk ho tubbie) were the individuals who composed this party.  The gate of the fort was thrown open and they were recieved with high honors & joyful greetings, but ere they entered the fort Tana pi had gone & met them, and returned in advance of the party & announced to us their arrival by four long loud hoops-- he held in his hands the rods to which the scalps were suspended.--  after this being over, my father met them at the gate & shook hands with them.  we all shook hands with them,  they walked into the old mansion and seated themselves,  mother soon had the table sat for them, after they eat, Capt. David Folsom made his reports which was in substance as follows to the best of my recollections.

 

 

 

Jack D. Elliott, Jr. is the historical archaeologist for the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

 

I would like to acknowledge the assistance of Jim Atkinson, Keith Baca, Carl Butler, Sam Kaye, Gary Lancaster, Steve McBride, Sue Petrie, Warren D. Swoope, Rufus Ward, Terry Winschel, Bob R. Curry,  and Sarah Erwin.

 

Abbreviations for documentary repositories:

      LC                  Library of Congress

      MDAH           Mississippi Department of Archives and History

      NA                 National Archives

 

NOTES

 

1. Bernard Romans, A Concise Natural History of East and West Florida (New Orleans, Louisiana, 1961, originally published in 1775), 212.

 

2. The first known published source that treated Plymouth and the fort was W.L. Lipscomb’s “History of Columbus and Lowndes County,” which appeared serially in 1901 in the Columbus newspaper, the Columbus Commercial.  The passages relevant to Plymouth were reprinted in Franklin L. Riley, “Extinct Towns and Villages of Mississippi,” Publications of the Mississippi Historical Society (1902), V, 354-355.  Lipscomb’s history was edited and published in book form in 1909, a year after his death.  William Lowndes Lipscomb, A History of Columbus, Mississippi during the 19th Century (Birmingham, Alabama, 1909), 67.  The second known source was W.A. Love, “Lowndes County, Its Antiquities and Pioneer Settlers,” Publications of the Mississippi Historical Society (1903), VII, 355-356.  In a later article, Love apparently alluded to the Plymouth fort and the Jackson hypothesis when he wrote that Mississippi “also has a ‘Jackson Fort,’ made of cedar logs and surrounded by entrenchments.” W. A. Love, “General Jackson’s Military Road,” Publications of the Mississippi Historical Society (1910), XI, 404.  The English hypothesis is in Works Progress Administration for Mississippi: Source Material for Mississippi History, Lowndes County (1936-1938), XLIV, part 1, 6-7.  Also cf. Dunbar Rowland (ed.), Mississippi (Spartanburg, South Carolina, 1976, originally published 1907), II, 438.  Bienville did in fact spend a few days at or very near Plymouth in May 1736 waiting for Choctaw allies during his Chickasaw campaign.  However, there is no reason to believe that he constructed a fort there.  Dunbar Rowland and A. G. Sanders (eds.), Mississippi Provincial Archives: French Dominion (Jackson, Miss., 1927), I, 301-302, 317.

 

Examples of hearsay notions held by local residents are found in two 1933 depositions by James C. Prowell and R.C. Cox concerning Plymouth.  Prowell noted that “I do not know who built the...fort or when it was built.  John Peachland [Pitchlynn]...believed it was built by Spaniards.”  Cox simply stated that “I was told this was a Government Fort.”  Cox and Prowell interviews with W.P.A., copies in the Plymouth vertical file, MDAH.

 

Plymouth town site has been given archaeological site number 22Lo569.  Marc D. Rucker, Archeological Survey and Test Excavations in the Upper-Central Tombigbee River Valley: Aliceville-Columbus Lock and Dam and Impoundment Areas, Alabama and Mississippi (Mississippi State University, 1974), 103.  The site was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

 

3. Love, “Lowndes County, Its Antiquities and Pioneer Settlers,” 355-356.  National Park Service historical technician Stuart Cuthbertson noted in a rather hurriedly prepared report that the question of the origin of the fort “will probably never be answered.  Cuthbertson, “Plymouth” (1934), typescript report on file in the General History and Military Series, Accession #Vick-299, Catalogue #Vick-4275, box 2, folder 67, Vicksburg National Military Park, Vicksburg, Mississippi.

 

4. H.S. Halbert, “The French Trading Post and the Chocchuma Village in East Mississippi,” Publications of the Mississippi History Society (1910), XI, 325.  John Pitchlynn resided at Plymouth from ca. 1810 through ca. 1825, as will be demonstrated.  This location can be documented through the convergence of a variety of sources.  There are numerous references to his residence as being at the mouth of Oaktibbeha, or Tibbee, Creek  during this time.  Furthermore, the General Land Office (GLO) plat of Township 18, Range 19 West (early 1820s) depicts the location of “Peachland’s Landing” on the Tombigbee a short distance north of Plymouth Bluff.  See also Gideon Lincecum’s account of his visit to Pitchlynn’s house in late 1818 or early 1819 and the relevant geographical references.  Franklin L. Riley (ed.), “Autobiography of Gideon Lincecum,” Publications of the Mississippi Historical Society (1904), VIII, 469-472.  An 1826 map identifies the site as “Pitchlyns.”  A. Finley, “Map of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama” (1826), copy in MDAH.  In an 1817 letter with accompanying map regarding his survey of the military road, Captain Hugh Young identified Pitchlynn’s residence as being on the Tombigbee immediately below the mouth of Tibbee.  Letter, Hugh Young, Assistant Topographical Engineer, Shoal Creek, to Andrew Jackson, September 30, 1817, typescript with map, in the Natchez Trace Parkway headquarters, Tupelo, Mississippi.

 

5. Halbert, “The French Trading Post,” 325-326.  The reader should keep in mind that this description may possess inaccuracies as a result of being based on oral sources.  In particular, the purported presence of a circular stockade rather than a polygonal one might be questioned by virtue of the greater difficulty in defending the former.  Indeed frontier stockades with circular plans were very seldom used.

 

6. Ibid., 326-329;  this hypothesis was followed by W. E. Prout, A Historical Documentation of Plymouth, Mississippi (Columbus, Mississippi, 1973), 73-76, and Samuel H. Kaye, Rufus Ward, Jr., and Carolyn B. Neault, By the Flow of the Inland River: The Settlement of Columbus, Mississippi to 1825 (Columbus, Mississippi, 1992), 9.  On July 11, 1934, MDAH archaeologist Moreau B.C. Chambers visited the fort site and referred to it as “the old French fort,” implying that he subscribed to Halbert’s hypothesis.  Moreau B.C. Chambers field journal, 1932-1935 (typed transcript), page 8, MDAH RG 31 (Records of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History), Subgroup 4, vol. 218, 8.

 

7. Halbert, “The French Trading Post,” 326-329; Jay Higginbotham, Old Mobile: Fort Louis de la Louisiane 1702-1711 (Mobile, Alabama, 1977), 76-80, 84-85; Richebourg Gaillard McWilliams (ed. and trans.), Iberville’s Gulf Journals (University, Alabama, 1981), 171-173.

 

8. Dunbar Rowland and Albert G. Sanders (eds. and trans.), Mississippi Provincial Archives: French Dominion (Jackson, Mississippi, 1929), II, 23, 25.  It is unlikely that Halbert had ever seen these documents which had not been published when he wrote. After the publication of his 1910 article, Halbert located a published passage from a letter written by Iberville upon his return to France in 1702 which claims that the fort was actually established.  However, as noted herewith, Iberville only left orders for the establishment of the fort immediately prior to his departure for France, so he was probably only assuming that his orders were carried out.  Letter, H.S. Halbert to W.A. Love, April 25, 1915, Halbert papers, Alabama Department of Archives and History.  The passage from the letter appeared in Charles B. Reed, The First Great Canadian: The Story of Pierre Le Moyne Sieur D’Iberville (Chicago, 1910), 221.  Cf. Kaye, Ward, and Neault,  By the Flow of the Inland River, 9.

 

9. “For ‘Auld Lang Syne’: Columbus Centennial and Home Coming Week,” (Columbus, Mississippi, 1921).  The same text reappeared about twenty  years later in Columbus pilgrimage promotional booklets.  See examples on file in the Columbus-Lowndes Public Library.

 

10. Prout, A Historical Documentation of Plymouth, Mississippi, 77-78; Untitled map of much of the Mississippi, Mobile, and Ohio drainage systems, Baron de Carondolet, (1792), copy in MDAH.

 

11. Jack D. Elliott, Jr., volume II, in James R. Atkinson and Jack D. Elliott, Jr., A Cultural Resources Survey of Selected Construction Areas in the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway: Alabama and Mississippi, (Mississippi State University, Mississippi, 1978), 26-27. 

 

12. Kaye, Ward, and Neault, By the Flow of the Inland River, 22-24, 67; Monroe County Deed Book 1, page 118, Monroe County Chancery Clerk’s Office, Aberdeen, Mississippi. 

 

13. My hypothesis was based on an untitled and undated article by the late E.P. Windham of Pickens County, Alabama, see Elliott, A Cultural Resources Survey, II, 27-28, 115-122.  For the Vine and Olive Colony, see Hamner Cobbs, “Geography of the Vine and Olive Colony,” The Alabama Review (1961), XIV, 83-97; Camillus J. Dismukes, “The French Colony in Marengo County, Alabama,” Alabama Historical Quarterly (1970), XXXII, 81-113; O.B. Emerson, “The Bonapartist Exiles in Alabama,” The Alabama Review (1958), XI, 135-143.

 

14. Although Kaye, Ward, and Neault acknowledged that Pitchlynn used the fort during the Creek War, they believed that it was constructed during the eighteenth century.  Kaye, Ward, and Neault, By the Flow of the Inland River, 67.  Overlooking Pitchlynn as the solution to the problem, probably resulted from highly speculative sources attributing an aura of exaggerated antiquity to the fort.

 

15. Most accounts of this event have been derived from George S. Gaines, either from an interview conducted by Albert James Pickett in 1847 or from a memoir that Gaines dictated late in his life.  James P. Pate (ed.), The Reminiscences of George Strother Gaines: Pioneer and Statesman of Early Alabama and Mississippi, 1805-1843 (Tuscaloosa, Alabama, 1998), 58-59, 134-136.  The 1847 interview was the source of  the very brief account in Pickett’s, History of Alabama and Incidentally of Georgia and Mississippi, from the Earliest Period (Birmingham, Alabama, 1962, originally published in 1851), 549-551.  Both Gaines and Pickett served as sources for H.S. Halbert and T.H. Ball, The Creek War of 1813 and 1814 (University, Alabama, originally published 1895), 213-218, while all three, Gaines, Pickett, and Halbert and Ball, served as sources for Peter J. Hamilton, Colonial Mobile (University, Alabama, 1976, originally published 1910), 422-423.  DeRosier, while introducing new primary sources, gave only a cursory coverage of the event.  Arthur H. DeRosier, The Removal of the Choctaw Indians (Knoxville, Tennessee, 1970), 35-36.  Ironically, the most comprehensive source on the Creek War, barely mentions the event.  Frank Lawrence Owsley, Jr., Struggle for the Gulf Borderlands: The Creek War and the Battle of New Orleans 1812-1815 (Gainesville, Florida, 1981), 49.

 

16. Kathryn E. Holland Braund, Deerskins & Duffels: The Creek Indian Trade with Anglo-America, 1685-1815 (Lincoln, Nebraska, 1993), 173-187.

 

17. Francis Paul Prucha, American Indian Policy in the Formative Years: The Indian Trade and Intercourse Acts 1790-1834 (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1962), 2, 53-54.

 

18. Letter, Samuel Mitchell, Choctaw Nation, to Winthrop Sargent, March 31, 1799, LC Winthrop Sargent papers, roll 5, frames 37-39.  Mitchell served as resident agent to both the Choctaws and Chickasaws from 1797 through 1801.  During the latter year he was appointed to serve as agent to only the Chickasaws and remained in this position until 1806.  Jack D. Elliott, Jr., “Historical Overview,” Chapter 2 in John W. O’Hear, J.R. Atkinson, Jack D. Elliott, Jr., Edmond A. Boudreaux III, and John R. Underwood, Choctaw Agency Natchez Trace Parkway: Archaeological and Historical Investigations, Madison County, Mississippi (Southeast Archeological Center, National Park Service, Tallahassee, Florida, 2000), 24-26;  James R. Atkinson, History of the Chickasaw Indian Agency East of the Mississippi River (Starkville, Mississippi, 1998), 2, 11; see also Braund, Deerskins & Duffels, 184-185; J. Leitch Wright, Creeks & Seminoles: The Destruction and Regeneration of the Muscogulge People (Lincoln, Nebraska, 1986), 152-153.

 

19. Letter, John McKee, Chickasaw Nation, to Winthrop Sargent, March 21, 1801, LC Sargent papers, roll 5, frames 794-795.  As a result of undefined and overlapping administrations, McKee (1771-1832) served as agent to both the Choctaws and Chickasaws from 1799 through 1801, in effect duplicating the office held by Samuel Mitchell.  In 1801 he was appointed to serve only the Choctaws which he did until being replaced the following year by Silas Dinsmoor.  He served again as Choctaw agent from 1814 through 1821.  Elliott, “Historical Overview,” 24-25, 29, 37-38.

 

20.  The respective locations of Pitchlynn’s residences and the Choctaw Agency are discussed in detail in Elliott, “Historical Overview,” 25, 31-33, 39.  John Pitchlynn was born on June 11, 1764 in South Carolina, the son of Isaac and Jemima Pitchlynn.  His first wife was Rhoda Folsom, a daughter of the white trader Nathaniel Folsom and a Choctaw woman.  Their children included: James (b. 1789), John, Jr. (b. July 12, 1792), and Joseph C. (b. September 16, 1802.  Following Rhoda’s death, John married in ca. 1804 “according to the custom of the Choctaw nation” her cousin Sophia Folsom (December 27, 1786-1871), the daughter of Ebenezer Folsom.  In 1818 they were remarried according to Christian ceremony by the Presbyterian minister Samuel King.  John and Sophia’s children included: Peter Perkins (b. January 30, 1806), Charley (b. November 14, 1807), Silas Dinsmoor (b. December 17, 1809), Mary (b. October 13, 1811), Rhoda (b. January 31, 1814), Thomas Jefferson (b. January 15, 1816), Eliza Ann Cornelia (b. January 14, 1818), Elizabeth C. (April 3, 1820), and Kezziah (b. July 6, 1824).  Bob Curry, “The Princes of the Blood,” unpublished biographical sketch of the Pitchlynn family;  photostatic copy of the Rhoda Pitchlynn Howell Bible records, courtesy of Bob Curry; deposition of Peter Pitchlynn, August 6, 1873, in Sophia Pitchlynn’s pension application, NA, courtesy of Sue Petrie.  John Pitchlynn’s place of birth has been a matter of controversy. However, lists of employees of the Choctaw Agency indicate that he was born in South Carolina, see two separate lists in LC John McKee papers, box 4, #253-254; and NA RG 75 (Indian Affairs), Entry 1059 (Records of the Choctaw Agency, East: Correspondence and Other Records, 1817-1821).  For his appointment as interpreter in 1786, see American State Papers, Indian Affairs (Washington, D.C., 1832), I, 49-50.  Pitchlynn’s last payment as interpreter was for the last quarter of 1832, which also marked the termination of the office of Choctaw Agent east of the Mississippi River.  Expenses of the Choctaw Agency, October 1-December 31, 1832, NA RG 217 (Treasury Department), Entry 525 (Settled Indian Accounts and Claims, 2nd Auditor), box 115, folder 2555.  The date of Pitchlynn’s marriage to Sophia is from a typescript of her 1871 deposition, courtesy of Bob Curry.

 

21.  Elliott, “Historical Overview,” 32-33.  Pitchlynn had moved to his new residence on the Tombigbee by December 1810 because George Gaines, on a return trip from the mouth of the Cumberland River, lodged on December 30 “at Mr Pitchlynns mouth of Tibby.”  NA RG 75, T500 (Records of the Choctaw Trading House, 1803-1824), roll 2, frames 65-69.  Suggestive of Dinsmoor’s role in this relocation is his statement that “Mr Pitchlynn my interpreter and assistant...I have stationed in the eastern district [of the Choctaw Nation], about one hundred & fifty miles from me [at the agency site on the Natchez Trace], where his general residence is necessary....”  Letter, Silas Dinsmoor to the Secretary of War, July 15, 1812, NA RG 107 (Secretary of War), M221 (Letters received, Main Series, 1801-1870), roll 43.  If Pitchlynn moved to Plymouth as the result of Dinsmoor’s orders and almost immediately afterward began to play a pivotal role in the plan to transship goods to the Choctaw Trading House, then it was likely that he relocated to help implement the plan.  Because the plan had been devised in 1810, then it appears that 1810 was indeed the year in which Pitchlynn moved to Plymouth.

 

22. Aloysius Plaisance, “The Choctaw Trading House--1803-1822,” Alabama Historical Quarterly (1954), XVI, 393-423.

 

23. The north-south trail connected Mobile and St. Stephens with the Choctaws and Chickasaws and was variously known as the Big Trading Path, the St. Stephens Road, and the Choctaw-Chickasaw Trail.  Since as early as 1736 the trail had passed through Plymouth. Elliott, A Cultural Resources Survey, 10-15.

The source for the east-west trail is a letter by Pitchlynn that refers to “the situation of this place [Plymouth] being in the Eastern part of the Nation adjoining the Chickasaw line & its being the common path usually travelled by the Creeks to & from the Mississippi & being the route they will certainly take when routed....”  Letter, John Pitchlynn, Choctaw Nation, to the Secretary of War, November 2, 1813, NA RG 107, M221, roll 56, #P-298.

 

24. See Appendix B for Peter Pitchlynn’s description of his father’s house.  The term “mansion” in those days did not have the implications of size and pretentiousness that it has today.  Cf. a biography of Peter, written during his lifetime, which describes his childhood home as a “log-cabin” and refers to his youthful experience working as a “cow-boy.”  Charles Lanman, “Peter Pitchlynn, Chief of the Choctaws,” The Atlantic Monthly (April 1870), XXV, 486.

 

25. Clarence E. Carter, The Territorial Papers of the United States, (Washington, D.C., 1937), V, 709-711, 746-749.

 

26. Letter, John Mason, Superintendent of Indian Trade, to George S. Gaines, August 28, 1810, NA RG 75, M16 (Superintendent of Indian Trade, Letters Sent, 1807-1823), roll 2, pp. 187-193.  This letter alludes to a communication from Pitchlynn to Gaines, indicating that the interpreter was being consulted regarding the developing plans. 

The initial plan to circumvent the Spanish involved shipping powder to Natchez and then hauling it overland to St. Stephens.  For whatever reason, possibly because of having to cross numerous streams, this plan was abandoned after the initial shipment.  Letter, Mason to Joseph Saul, New Orleans, June 17, 1809, ibid.; Mason to Gaines, June 17, 1809, ibid., published in Carter, Territorial Papers, V, 746-749; Entry, “Cash paid...Robert Caller for packing 2300 lb. powder from Natchez to the Trading house...his receipt dated the 11th February 1810,” from “An Account of the Contingent Expences of the Chaktaw Trading house....”  NA RG 75, T500, roll 1, frame 854.

 

27. The shipment included 3855 pounds of lead, 80 kegs of powder, one bolt of linen, and two stock locks.  See various receipts, vouchers, and expense entries in ibid., roll 1, frame 761; Ibid., roll 2, frames 5, 55-69.  For a critique of misinterpretations of the route that was used, see Jack D. Elliott, Jr., “Leftwich’s ‘Cotton Gin Port and Gaines’ Trace’: Reconsidered,” Journal of Mississippi History (1980), XLII, 356-361.  Although my critique still stands, I must correct it in one aspect; at the time I considered that the Gaines Trace was entirely on the east side of the Tombigbee River.  Recent research in the National Archives has indicated that the trace was developed rather hurriedly in late 1811-early 1812.  Its first segment followed the 1807-1808 survey of E.P. Gaines from the upper end of the Muscle Shoals on the Tennessee River to Cotton Gin Port on the Tombigbee.  After crossing the latter river, it eventually  incorporated much of the Big Trading Path to St. Stephens and Fort Stoddert.

 

28. The shipment included 5000 pounds of lead, 20 kegs of powder, and 19 packages of dry goods. Vouchers and receipts, Ibid., roll 2, frames 182, 186.

 

29. Another of the many fictions to accrete around Plymouth was the story, promulgated by H.B. Cushman, that Tecumseh had spoken to a joint council of Choctaws and Chickasaws at Plymouth, where Pushmataha effectively rebutted the Shawnee’s call for revolt.  H.B. Cushman, History of the Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Natchez Indians (New York, 1972, originally published in 1899), 242-261.  This scenario is contradicted by the meticulous work of Henry S. Halbert, whose numerous oral history interviews revealed that Tecumseh had traveled through a considerable portion of the Choctaws nation and participated in several councils, none of which was at Plymouth.  See Halbert’s notes on his interviews in the Tecumseh Papers, Draper Manuscript Collection 4YY and 10YY, State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin.  For summaries of his research see: H.S. Halbert and T.H. Ball, The Creek War of 1813 and 1814, 40-45; and Mary Jane McDaniel, “The Coming of the Creek War, 1810-1813” (M.A. Thesis, Mississippi State University, 1966), 23-36; cf. W.A. Love, “Mingo Moshulitubbee’s Prairie Village,” Publications of the Mississippi Historical Society (1903), VII, 373-378.

 

30. Thomas D. Clark and John D.W. Guice, Frontiers in Conflict: The Old Southwest, 1795-1830 (Albuquerque, New Mexico, 1989), 122-127; Wright, Creeks & Seminoles, 156-173

 

31. Letter, Silas Dinsmoor, Choctaw Agency, to the Secretary of War, April 18, 1813, NA RG 107, M221, roll 52.

 

32.  Ibid.; two letters, same date, John Pitchlynn , Oktibbeha, to James Robertson, April 27, 1813, “Correspondence of Gen. James Robertson,” The American Historical Magazine (1900), V, 279-280; Pitchlynn had already proposed to Robertson that Choctaws could be used against the Creeks. Letter, Robertson, Chickasaw Agency, to Andrew Jackson, March 15, 1813, LC Andrew Jackson papers, roll 6..

 

33. Letter, Governor David Holmes to Harry Toulmin, July 29, 1813, MDAH RG 2 (Territorial Governor), vol. 32, #1647; also cf. a similar letter written by Holmes to John Ford, a settler on the Pearl River, on August 1, 1813, Ibid., vol. 32, #1652.

 

34. W. Stephen McBride, “Frontier Forts on the Greenbrier: An Archaeological and Historical Examination of Colonial Settlers’ Forts in Eastern West Virginia,” in Proceedings of the Tenth Symposium on Ohio Valley Urban and Historic Archaeology, Tennessee Anthropological Association Miscellaneous Paper No. 16, (1992), 120-134; Nancy O’Malley, “Stockading Up”: A Study of Pioneer Stations in the Inner Bluegrass Region of Kentucky, Kentucky Anthropological Research Facility Archaeological Report 127, (Lexington, Kentucky, 1987).

 

35. Letter, John Hanes, St. Stephens, to David Holmes, August 4, 1813, MDAH RG 2, vol. 32, #1670.

 

36. For the lower Tombigbee area see Susan C. Olsen, Noel R. Stowe, and Marvin Hoyt, “Archeological Investigations at Fort Mims,” Archeological Completion Report Series, (Washington, D.C., 1975), IV; and Halbert and Ball The Creek War of 1813 and 1814, 106-116; there were at least two in Wayne County--Patton’s and Rogers’s Forts, Jesse M. Wilkins, “Early Times in Wayne County, Publications of the Mississippi Historical Society (1902), VI, 268-269; for the Pearl River, see below; for the Natchez District see “Copy of Resolutions relative to the defense of the County entered into by the Citizens of Jefferson County,” September 21, 1813, MDAH RG 2, vol. 33, #1800, and John G. Jones, A Complete History of Methodism as Connected with the Mississippi Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church South (Nashville, Tennessee, 1887), 305; cf. Pate, Reminiscences of George Strother Gaines, 56.

 

37. Letter, Joseph Caldwell, Pearl River, to David Holmes, September 1813, MDAH RG 2, vol. 33, #1783.

 

38. Letter, FL Claiborne, Cantonment Mount Vernon, to David Holmes, August 12, 1813, Ibid., vol. 32, #1702.

 

39. Pitchlynn owned 50 slaves in 1831.  American State Papers, Indian Affairs (Washington, D.C., 1860), VII, 65.  It is not known how many he owned in 1813, however he had been acquiring slaves since as early as 1797.  Washington County (Alabama) Deed Book A, pp. 258-263, Washington County Probate Clerk’s Office, Chatom, Alabama. 

 

40. Olsen et al., “Archeological Investigations at Fort Mims,” 11-21.

 

41. Clark and Guice, Frontiers in Conflict, 135-136;  Pate, Reminiscences of George Strother Gaines, 56, 62-63; Gaines’s letter to Jackson probably does not survive in that it is not listed in the index to his papers.  Harold D. Moser, Sharon Macpherson, John H. Reinbold, and Daniel Feller (eds.), The Papers of Andrew Jackson: Guide and Index to the Microfilm Editions (Wilmington, Delaware, 1987).  For a discussion of Edmondson’s route, see Elliott, “Leftwich’s ‘Cotton Gin Port and Gaines’ Trace’: Reconsidered,” 356-361.

 

42. Voucher, US to James Allen, July 20, 1813, “For detention of his wagons employed to hawl goods belonging to the Chaktaw Trading House from Colberts ferry to Oh Tibia being disappointed by the boat not arriving at Colberts agreeable to promise

“For hawling 6068 lbs. public goods from Colberts ferry to Och tibbee ha.”  NA RG 75, T500, roll 2, frame 322.

Receipt, dated April 8, 1814, Choctaw Trading House, “Invoice of twenty kegs rifle powder forwarded from shipping port by order of the Supt. Indian Trade pr. Messrs James Berthaud & Son on the 30th July last to Smithland mouth of Cumberland River addressed to Joseph Woods Esqur. there & destined for the United States Indian Factory at Chaktaw”.  Ibid., roll 2, frame 372.

 

43. Letter, John Pitchlynn, “Ocktibbaha,” to Willie Blount, September 14, 1813, LC Jackson papers, roll 6.

 

44. Letter, John Pitchlynn, Choctaw Nation, to the Secretary of War, November 2, 1813, NA RG 107, M221, roll 56, #P-298; receipt, George S. Gaines to John Pitchlynn, March 31, 1814, “For 3620 Rations of Beef & Corn furnished a guard of 20 Chaktaws employed by the agent of the Chaktaw Trading house for the protection of a quantity of goods belonging to said Trading house then in store at Ochtibbeeha from the 15th Septr. 1813 to the 15th March 1814....  For storage of said goods from the 15th Sepr. 1813 to the 15th March 1814 inclusive @ $5 pr. month....”  NA RG 75, T500, roll 2, frame 453.  Certificate by John Pitchlynn, Jr., March 31, 1814, “The following articles were delivered by John Pitchlynn Junr. Intr. [Interpreter at the Choctaw Trading House] to sundry Indians for their services in guarding the public goods whilst at John Pitchlynns mouth of Tibbee....”  lists items paid to the guards with dates of November 12, 1813; December 2, 1813; December 22, 1813; January 8, 1814; and January 25, 1814.  Ibid., roll 2, frame 529.

 

45. For the legislature’s authorization and the Governor’s appointment of McKee, both dated September 28, 1813, see copies in both the Jackson papers, roll 6 and NA RG 217, Additional Settled Accounts and Claims, 5th Auditor (No Entry Number), box 1, account 475; letters, John McKee, Nashville, to John Pitchlynn, September 14 and 20, 1813, Jackson papers, roll 6; Elliott, “Historical Overview of the Choctaw Agency”; Dumas Malone (ed.), Dictionary of American Biography (New York, 1943), XII, 82-83;  letter, Willie Blount, Knoxville, to Andrew Jackson, February 26, 1811, in Harold D. Moser and Sharon MacPherson (eds.), The Papers of Andrew Jackson  (Knoxville, Tennessee, 1984), II, 259;  Charles S. Sydnor, A Gentleman of the Old Natchez Region: Benjamin L.C. Wailes (Westport, Connecticut, 1970, originally published 1938), 56.

 

46. Letters, Andrew Jackson, Nashville, to John Coffee, September 27(?) and 28, 1813, LC Jackson papers, roll 6.

 

47. Owsley, Struggle for the Gulf Borderlands, 43, 45.

 

48. Ibid., 61-72.

 

49. Untitled, undated narrative summary by McKee of his war experience from September 28, 1813 through early 1815, in LC Jackson papers, roll 6, referred to hereafter as the “McKee narrative.”  Letter, John Coffee, Huntsville, to Andrew Jackson, October 4, 1813, Ibid., roll 61, vol. D, p. 18; letter, John McKee, “at Mr Pitchlynns in the Choctaw Nation,” to John Coffee, October 15, 1813, Ibid., roll 7; letter, James Robertson to John Armstrong, Secretary of War, January 1, 1814, which explained that his accounts were higher than usual because of the necessity “to prepare for the defence of this place [Chickasaw Agency] against the disaffected Creeks.  We are expected daily to be attacked.”  NA RG 217, Additional Settled Accounts and Claims, 5th Auditor, box 1, acct. 298.  This letter and a relevant receipt concerning “hauling timbers to build Blockhouses for the defence of the Public property” are abstracted in James R. Atkinson, Records of the Old Southwest in the National Archives: Abstracts of Records of the Chickasaw Indian Agency and Related Documents, 1794-1840 (Chickasaw Nation, Oklahoma, 1998), 241; Pate, Reminiscences of George Strother Gaines, 58-59, 134-135.  For an overview of the Chickasaw Agency, see James R. Atkinson, History of the Chickasaw Indian Agency East of the Mississippi River (Starkville, Mississippi, 1998).

    George Smith (1776-1849) was a Sumner County, Tennessee, planter and a former member of the Tennessee legislature.  He married Andrew Jackson’s niece Tabitha Donelson.  Harold D. Moser, David R. Hoth, Sharon Macpherson, and John H. Reinbold (eds.), The Papers of Andrew Jackson (Knoxville, Tennessee, 1991), III, 118n.

     The name of the fort is used in two letters by McKee to Andrew Jackson, dated January 6 and February 26, 1814, both addressed from “Fort Smith (Mr Pitchlynns),” LC Jackson papers, rolls 8 and 9.

 

50. Letter, McKee, “at Mr Pitchlynns in the Choctaw Nation,” to John Coffee, October 15, 1813, Ibid., roll 7.

 

51. McKee narrative; address, John McKee to Choctaw chiefs, leaders, and warriors, October 20, 1813, Ibid., roll 7; letter, John McKee, “Mr. Pitchlynn’s,” to John Coffee, October 21, 1813, Ibid., roll 7; Pate, Reminiscences of George Strother Gaines, 60.  Pushmataha and a force of about 700 southern district Choctaws served under General F.L. Claiborne in a campaign against the Creeks from November 1813 through January 1814.  DeRosier, The Removal of the Choctaw Indians, 35-36.

 

52. McKee narrative; letter, George Smith, “Pitchlands,” to Andrew Jackson, November 22, 1813, in John Spencer Bassett, Correspondence of Andrew Jackson (Washington, D.C., 1926), I,  358-359; letter, George Smith, “Pitchlands,” to Andrew Jackson, November 23, 1813, in LC Jackson papers, roll 7; letter, McKee, Choctaw Nation, to Coffee, November 2, 1813, NA RG 107, M221, roll 56, #P-298.

Three receipts, all dated November 13, 1813, at Mobile:  Receipt, John Forbes & Co. to McKee, for articles furnished to the Choctaws, including guns, clothing, cloth, tobacco, coffee, etc.  NA RG 217, Additional Settled Accounts and Claims, 5th Auditor, box 1, account 63; receipt, Garront Wilson to McKee, for two blankets, knives, papers & spoons.  Ibid., box 1, account 74;  receipt, Miguel Estava to McKee, for 20 “trading guns.”  Ibid., box 1, account 74.

 

53. McKee narrative.  Receipt, M____ to McKee, Mobile, December 19, 1813, for 48 guns, and receipt, John Forbes & Co. to McKee, Mobile, December 20, 1813, for salt for Choctaw chiefs and for cloth and bags. Ibid., box 1, account 74.

On the return trip to Pitchlynn’s, McKee wrote a letter to an unnamed person, who was probably George Gaines at the Choctaw Trading House, stating that “If this should reach you before the munitions of war etc. are started I wish you to add another hundred pounds of lead for the use of Pushamataha’s people.”  (Pushmataha was the chief of the Southern, or Six Towns, District.)  This suggests that Gaines was preparing to make a shipment to Pitchlynn’s which McKee was having increased.  Letter, McKee, at “Mr. Juzan’s,” to unnamed person, December 28, 1813, Ibid., box 1, account 475.

 

54. McKee narrative;  letter, McKee, “Mr Pitchlynn’s,” to George S. Gaines, January 2, 1814, Ibid., box 1, account 475; letter, McKee, “Fort Smith Mr Pitchlynns,” to Andrew Jackson, January 6, 1814, LC Jackson papers, roll 8.

 

55. McKee narrative; letter, McKee, “Camp Toote, Massatabbe east bank of the Black Warrior 85 miles above its junction with the Tombigby,” to Andrew Jackson, January 26, 1814, Jackson papers, roll 8; On one such expedition, Pitchlynn found an abandoned Creek girl, aged about one year and named Onaheli (sp?), whom he brought home and raised to adulthood.  Letter, John Pitchlynn, Hopewell Prairie, to Andrew Jackson, August 18, 1831, NA RG 75, M234 (Letters Received, 1824-1880), roll 169, frames 927-928.

 

56. Remini, Andrew Jackson and the Course of American Empire, 210; McKee narrative; letter, Andrew Jackson, Fort Strother, to McKee, February 3, 1814, Jackson papers, roll 61, vol. E, pp. 57-59; letter, McKee, “Fort Smith (Mr Pitchlynns),” to Andrew Jackson, February 26, 1814, Ibid., roll 9; letters, McKee, Choctaw Nation, to Lt. Col. Gilbert C. Russell, March 6, 1814, and McKee, at “Mr. Juzans,” to Gilbert C. Russell, March 18, 1814, Ibid., roll 10 (listed under date of June 7, 1814); letter, McKee, at “Mr. Stearn’s,” to unnamed person, possibly George S. Gaines, February 22, 1814, NA RG 217, Additional Settled Accounts and Claims, 5th Auditor, box 1, account 475; letter, McKee, “Mr. Pitchlynn’s,” to George S. Gaines, March 2, 1814, Ibid., box 1, account 475.

 

57. McKee narrative; letter, McKee to Russell, March 18, 1814.

 

58. Pate, Reminiscences of George Strother Gaines, 54-55.  Gaines’s recollection of the boat trip is somewhat out of sequence within his narrative, due no doubt to the decades that had passed since the events had transpired.  Expense itemization for George S. Gaines “on his Rout to Ochtibbeeha & while there” includes “Paid an old woman at Ochtibbeeha.... Rent of her cabin from the 7th to the 15 March, for use of Mr. Jones Myself Indian Jim & Dick” NA RG 75, T500, roll 2, frames 455-456; Voucher, Chaktaw Trading House to John Pitchlynn, March 3 [sic, should be ca. March 15], 1814  “For the following articles [bacon, coffee, meal] furnished the agent for subsistence of himself Messrs. Jones, Price & Clingaman, Indian Jim and Negro Dick on the voyage down the River from Ochtibbeeha to St. Stephens with the Public goods....” with receipt dated March 31, 1814,  Ibid., roll 2, frame 458; receipt, from George S. Gaines by Samuel Davis, March 31, 1814, “For 1 Keel Boat built at Ochtibbaha 12 Tun Burthen for the use of the Trading House....$275    For expence of planking up her sides covering her with plank & cowhides to secure her against an attack from the Indians.... [$]75,” Ibid., roll 2, frame 451.

 

59. McKee narrative; letter, McKee, “N.Eastern District/Choc. Agency [i.e. Pitchlynn’s],” to the Secretary of War, August 7, 1814, NA RG 107, M221, roll 64; letter, McKee, “Choctaw Agency [Pitchlynn’s],” to Andrew Jackson, August 9, 1814, Moser et al., Papers of Andrew Jackson, III, 111-112; letter, McKee, “Mr. Pitchlynns,” to George S. Gaines, August 13, 1814, LC Jackson papers, roll 11; letter, John Pitchlynn, “Council House, Eastern District, Choctaws,” to McKee, August 20, 1814, Ibid., roll 11. 

John Pitchlynn continued to serve in the war effort as Adjutant and Interpreter under Major Uriah Blue of the 39th US Infantry during the West Florida campaign and was involved in the November 1814 storming of Pensacola.  Letter, John Pitchlynn, Fort Montgomery, to James Pitchlynn and John Pitchlynn, Jr., November 18, 1814, and deposition, Uriah Blue, Baldwin County, Alabama, April 23, 1821, from typescripts courtesy of Bob Curry.  From January 28 through April 2, 1815 he served as First Lieutenant in Captain Pushmataha’s Company.  Letter, G.M. Saltzgaber to W.P. Poland, in Sophia Pitchlynn’s pension file, National Archives.

 

60. Bassett, Correspondence of Andrew Jackson (Washington, D.C., 1927), II, 68, 74-75.  Based on Coffee’s description of his route, he followed the Gaines Trace from the upper end of the Muscle Shoals on the Tennessee River on his way to St. Stephens.

 

61. Owsley, Struggle for the Gulf Borderlands, 78-85.

 

62. Letter, Willie Blount, Nashville, to the Secretary of War, August 15, 1815, NA RG 217, Additional Settled Accounts and Claims, 5th Auditor, box 4, account 475.  George Gaines had a similarly favorable appraisal of the role of Pitchlynn, see Pate, Reminiscences of George Strother Gaines, 149.

 

63. Appendix B.

 

64.  See footnote 67.

 

65. He was appointed postmaster of the “Pitchlynns” Post Office on August 28, 1819, and the post office was discontinued the following year.  NA RG 28 (Postal Service), M1131 (Postmaster Appointments 1789-1832), roll 2. 

 

66. Baird writes, without providing a source, that when the Presbyterian missionary Cyrus Kingsbury visited Pitchlynn in early 1820, he found that a Methodist missionary had been conducting services there during the past year.  W. David Baird, Peter Pitchlynn: Chief of the Choctaws (Norman, Oklahoma, 1972), 18.  Regardless, Pitchlynn did aid Kingsbury that year in establishing Mayhew Mission about ten miles west of Plymouth.  Clara Sue Kidwell, Choctaws and Missionaries in Mississippi, 1818-1918 (Norman, Oklahoma, 1995), 42-43.

In early 1822, Kingsbury visited Pitchlynn who was at home seriously ill.  On this occasion Pitchlynn donated $1,000 to the missions and informed Kingsbury “that the Lord had intrusted him [Pitchlynn] with so much property, that, after he had conferred this benefit on the school, there would be enough left for him.... that, notwithstanding his having grown up in the Indian country, among traders and pack-horsemen, and in the midst of swearing, drinking, card-playing and horse-racing, he was thankful to God for preserving him, in a good measure, from those practices; that, however, he did not consider himself a pious man, but rejoiced that missionaries had come to teach his children good things, and that, if it pleased the Lord to raise him from his sickness, he would come and interpret for the mission, as faithfully as though he were hired for that purpose.”  The Panoplist, and Missionary Herald (Boston, 1822), XVIII, 373

 

67. The process of establishing a new home and farm apparently took several years.  As early as 1824 Pitchlynn indicated that “I do not wish to live at this plasce much longer.”  Letter, John Pitchlynn, “At home,” to Peter Pitchlynn, September 29, 1824, Peter Pitchlynn papers, box 1, folder 4, Western History Collections, University of Oklahoma Library, Norman, Oklahoma.  In late 1825 he referred to having house logs cut at “the new Plasce” and to starting two saws cutting planks, implying that he was beginning to construct a house at the Robinson Road site.  However, he was still addressing letters from “Oaktibbeeha” as late as October 1826, but by 1827 he began to address them as either “Choctaw Nation” or “Choctaw Yockney [?], suggesting that he moved from Plymouth to the Robinson Road in late 1826 or early 1827.  Letters, John Pitchlynn to Peter Pitchlynn, March 14, June 15, July 19, 1824, December 11, 1825, October 5, 1826, April 16, August 16, 1827, February 15, April 14, July 27, August 9, 1828, Peter Pitchlynn papers, Gilcrease Museum.  The Robinson Road house was in Section 34, Township 19, Range 17 East.  Lowndes County Deed Book 1, pp. 192-193, and the GLO field notes for the township which, for the northern boundary of Section 34, refer to intersecting John Pitchlynn’s “lane north of his house.”  See also: American State Papers, Indian Affairs, VII, 65;  Lipscomb, History of Columbus, Mississippi, 62; Love, “Lowndes County, Its Antiquities and Early Settlers,” 364; Dawson A. Phelps, “The Robinson Road,” Journal of Mississippi History (1950), XII, 153-161.

 

68.  Calvin Hickman Howell (May 28, 1799-October 1, 1865) married Rhoda (January 31, 1814-February 18, 1911) on January 15, 1828, and their first child William was born on August 15, 1829. Rhoda Pitchlynn Howell Bible record; Curry, “The Princes of the Blood”; Sue Petrie, “Rhoda Pitchlynn Howell,” unpublished biographical sketch, courtesy of the author.

 In 1831 Howell indicated that he was residing in his father-in-law’s house when he referred to his “present residence known by the name of Majr. John Pitchlynn Senr. old place near the mouth of a River known by the name of Tibbee.”  Lowndes County Deed Book 1, p. 52, in Lowndes County Chancery Clerk’s Office, Columbus, Mississippi.  In John Pitchlynn’s will, dated October 12, 1833, he left nothing to his daughter Rhoda, because, as he stated, “I have already given [her] what I consider an equal share [of my estate].”  This “equal share” was quite likely his house and farm at Plymouth.  Typescript copy of will in John Pitchlynn Estate File #92, in Columbus-Lowndes Public Library, Columbus, Mississippi.

 The Armstrong census of 1831 lists Howell as being located at the “mouth of Tibe o[n] Tombecbe” where he had about 100 acres in cultivation.  American State Papers, Indian Affairs, VII, 65.

 

69. As a white man married to a member of the Choctaw Nation, Howell was entitled to 1.5 sections (960 acres) of land under Section 14 of the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek.  U.S. Court of Claims no. 12742: The Choctaw Nation of Indians vs. The United States (Washington, D.C., 1872), 18, 151.  He received the NE 1/4 of Section 9 (162 acres), Fractional Section 10 (602 acres), and Lots 2-6 of Section 15 (200 acres), all in Township 19, Range 17 East.  These contiguous parcels are all at or adjacent to Plymouth.  Patent, U.S. to Calvin Howell, May 9, 1840, Lowndes County Deed Book 16, pp. 388-389, also cf. pp. 34-37.

 

70.  An 1859 deed refers to the “Town lots...which had been laid off by one Calvin H. Howell” indicating that Howell was responsible for having the town surveyed.  Lowndes County Deed Book 31, p. 482.  The date range for the town survey is deduced as follows: at the earliest, the plat was surveyed after the survey of the GLO section lines during the third quarter of 1832; at the latest it was probably prior to the establishment of the Plymouth voting precinct in April 1833.  GLO plat of Township 19, Range 17 East; Elliott, A Cultural Resources Survey, 21, 24-25, 113; NA RG 28, M841 (Record of Appointments of Postmasters 1832-1971), roll 68. 

Although the town plat apparently has not survived, a detailed analysis of deed records and other sources is useful for determining the extent of the town and the general location of the Pitchlynn/Howell house.  The plat probably covered most of the southeast quarter of Section 10.  One deed refers to the plat as “forty acres more or less laid off on the southeast 1/4 of said section [10] and constituting the Town of Plymouth”  Lowndes County Deed Book 16, pp. 34-37.  However, the number of blocks in the plat suggests that this area is much too small.  Deed descriptions allude to block numbers regularly as high as Square 56, indicating a minimum of 56 blocks, while one deed refers to a Square 83.  Deed Book 16, p. 518-519.  If this is correct, then there were a minimum of 83 blocks.  However, to have a gap between Squares 56 and 83 without references to any intermediate blocks suggests that the reference to Square 83 might be a mistake.  Block sizes for Mississippi towns in the early 1800s were typically about two to three acres in area.  Even with a minimum of 56 blocks, the plat would have covered an area of 112-168 acres plus the acreage for the streets.

The plat apparently extended from the Tombigbee River on the east to the north-south half section line in the west.  This is indicated by a deed that specifies that Square 55 was bounded on the river.  Lowndes County Deed Book 9, p. 347.  Furthermore there are two deeds that refer to the west half of Section 10 as “adjoining the Town of Plymouth,” implying that the western boundary of the plat adjoined the half section line.  Ibid., Book 22, pp. 289-290, Book 23, p. 124.

Furthermore, there are indications that the plat extended into the northeast quarter of Section 10.  This is suggested by a quit claim deed for the west half of the northeast quarter which excepted that part which has “been laid off in Town lots.” Ibid., Book 21, pp. 410-411.  Additionally, another deed  refers to the northwest quarter of Section 10 as “adjoining the Town of Plymouth.”  Ibid., Book 22, pp. 290-291.  Therefore it appears that the plat of Plymouth probably covered most, if not all, of the southeast quarter of Section 10, and possibly extended into the northeast quarter.

This sheds some light on the location of the fort site.  The 1836 corporation limits were defined as a half mile square with Howell’s “house and residence” at the center of the square.  Because the corporation limits would have covered virtually the entire plat, the Pitchlynn/Howell house was probably near the center of the southeast quarter of Section 10.  Laws of Mississippi (1836), 302-30.

 

71.  Letter, Calvin Howell, Plymouth, to Peter Pitchlynn, May 23, 1833, Peter Pitchlynn papers, Gilcrease Museum.  The following year, Howell provided an additional description of the town’s progress:  “We have Eleven familys in this Place one Tavern Doctors Shop Blacksmith Shop and two grocery Stores.  Our Town Stands pretty much as it has for the last six months as the proprietors since the first sale after receiving their shares of the net proceeds have become a little careless but I still think and know that Plymouth will be something one day.  I have sold the two Quarter Sections and still retain the section on which Plymouth is situated with the exception of the lots that have been sold.  I am sorry to inform you that some of our inhabitants are at variance and they make it a business of Quarriling and Slandering each other which is something against the place but am happy to say that we have some few very fine persons who do not interfere with other peoples business.”  Letter, Calvin Howell, Plymouth, to Peter Pitchlynn, May 15, 1834, Ibid.

 

72. Census of Lowndes County 1837, on microfilm at the Columbus-Lowndes Public Library, Columbus, Mississippi.  Considering the ruggedness of the terrain at Plymouth, I find it difficult to believe that almost 200 people were actually living within the corporation limits, making me wonder if the record keeper was not overall generous with his definition of who was included in the town.  The Federal census of 1840 did not define the Plymouth population, yet there appears to have been several families still living there, although none had any members employed in commerce or manufacturing; for a town this was not a good economic indicator.  The 1850 census provided no evidence of a nucleated population.  For my method used in analyzing censuses for small urban populations, see Elliott, A Cultural Resources Survey, II, 68-69.

 

73.  As indicators of decline, the voting precinct was abolished in 1842, while the post office was moved away from the site by 1845.  Elliott, A Cultural Resources Survey, II, 23.

 

74. Ibid., 7-8, 54, 59; Lipscomb, A History of Columbus, 68; William Stephen McBride, “Flush Times on the Upper Tombigbee: Settlement and Economic Development in Lowndes County, Mississippi, 1833-1860” (unpublished ph.d. dissertation, Michigan State University, 1991); C. L. Wood, “Historic Lowndes: An Outline,” (unpublished typescript, 1925, retyped in 1959), copy in the Columbus-Lowndes Public Library, 7.

 

75. John Pitchlynn sold his land on the Robinson Road on October 22, 1832 and January 24, 1833.  Lowndes County Deed Book 1, pp. 192-193, 217.  Complaining that the Choctaw cession lands had become “a bad country” with white immigrants stealing his livestock, he determined to move into the Chickasaw lands on the north side of Tibbee Creek.  In May 1833, with the approval of the Chickasaw chiefs, he drove his livestock across the creek and established a farm and home called Camp Good Hope.  There he intended to serve as guardian for his orphaned grandsons, Alexander and Ebenezer, the children of James Pitchlynn and his Chickasaw wife Wihamiyo Colbert, who had been born near the new place of residence.  Letters, John Pitchlynn to Peter Pitchlynn, November 2, December 24, 1832, May 24, May 28, August 20, 1833, Peter Pitchlynn collection, Gilcrease Museum;  “Princes of the Blood.”

For John’s death see letters, Samuel Garland to Peter Pitchlynn, May 20, 1835, and Calvin H. Howell to Peter Pitchlynn, May 22, 1835, Peter Pitchlynn papers, Gilcrease Museum.

For the location of his home near present-day Waverley, see Elliott, A Cultural Resources Survey, II, 30-32, 38-39.  Although it has been suggested that Pitchlynn’s body may have been disinterred at a later date and moved to the Indian Territory (now Oklahoma), this is apparently untrue, because his widow’s 1859 will provided for erecting a monument “at the grave of my late husband, near Plymouth in the State of Mississippi”  (his burial site is about 2.5 miles from Plymouth). Typescript of Sophia Pitchlynn’s will, April 23, 1859, courtesy of Bob Curry.  However, Sophia lived for another 12 years, and there is no evidence that the monument was ever erected.  Following a recommendation by W.A. Love, the purported grave site was marked on June 14, 1929 with a government military headstone that was placed by the Shuk-ho-ta Tom-a-ha Chapter DAR (Columbus, Mississippi).  At some time prior to the erection of the headstone, Miss Sarah Vallie Young (1860s-1930), a native of Waverley, wrote that his grave, which lay in an abandoned black cemetery, was marked by “a large oak tree” and “a few scattered bricks,” an identification that was probably based on local tradition.  However, whether or not the actual grave was identified cannot be certain.  Sarah Vallie Young, “Major John Pytchlyn,” Pioneer Society Annals (1947-1953), III, 35-36; Carrie Meek Sessums, “Headstone Unveiled to Lowndes First Citizen,” Commercial Dispatch, newspaper, Columbus, Mississippi, June 16, 1929; Charles L. Wood, address presented at the dedication of the John Pitchlynn headstone, June 14, 1929, copy in John Pitchlynn vertical file, Special Collections, Mitchell Memorial Library, Mississippi State University; DAR Shuk-ho-ta Tom-a-ha Chapter Minute Book, February 1919-March 1930, pp. 171, 182, in Columbus-Lowndes Public Library.

 

76.  On May 22, 1840 Calvin Howell executed a deed of trust for several parcels of land including the eastern half of Section 10, Township 19, Range 17 East, “excepting... the Town of Plymouth.”  Lowndes County Deed Book 16, pp. 34-37.  On February 17, 1841, preparing to leave Lowndes County for Arkansas, he authorized Abraham Murdock to collect his debts, sell his property, and “execute deeds of conveyance in fee simple for any Lots formerly sold by me [Howell] in the Town of Plymouth...for which title bonds given by me are now in the hands of any person....”  By March 12 the Howells had moved to Arkansas.  Ibid., Book 16, pp. 505-509.

This contradicts Baird who claimed, without stating his sources, that Howell moved to the Indian Territory in 1837. Baird, Peter Pitchlynn: Chief of the Choctaws, 51.  In this regard, it should also be noted that the 1837 Lowndes County, Mississippi census indicates that Howell was a resident of Plymouth, while the 1840 U.S. Census indicates that he was a resident of Lowndes County and still at Plymouth, judging by adjoining names.

 

77. Declining towns were notorious for having chains of title that disappear as people abandon lots without troubling to sell them.  Following Howell’s departure, John Billington acquired virtually all of the eastern half of Section 10, through a marshal’s deed on October 4, 1841.  In 1844, he filed a quit claim deed for the northeast quarter of Section 10, leaving him with only the southeast quarter--the Plymouth town site.  Lowndes County Deed Book 21, pp. 470-471, 480-481, 489; Book 23, pp. 553-554.  Although Billington’s claim to the southeast quarter probably excepted  viable titles to town lots, yet those titles were rapidly vanishing.  Deeds for town lots disappeared from the deed books soon after 1840, and by 1850 the tax rolls listed only Billington as paying taxes on the southeast quarter.  Lowndes County Land Roll 1850, in the Columbus-Lowndes Public Library.

 

78. Appendix B.  Peter Perkins Pitchlynn (1806-1881) was prominent in Choctaw politics in Mississippi and the Indian Territory west of the Mississippi and served as chief.  Baird, Peter Pitchlynn: Chief of the Choctaws.

 

79. Lowndes County Deed Book 31, p. 482.

 

80. Other than the blockhouse, there is evidence of other buildings in Plymouth being dismantled and reused or reassembled elsewhere.  W.P.A. photographs in MDAH depict three log, dogtrot houses, each of which is identified as having been moved from Plymouth to neighboring Canfield (one house) or Prowell (two houses) property.  One of these is linked by oral tradition to the Pitchlynns.  The earliest record of this is from the 1930s when James C. Prowell (1864-1938), claimed that his home was built of cypress logs from the home of Peter Pitchlynn at Plymouth. His father, James W. Prowell (1817-1898) had dismantled and moved the house to the new location about two miles west of Plymouth where it stood until the 1940s (in the northeast quarter of Section 8, Township 19, Range 17 East at UTM coordinate 16/ 357200/3711150).  Moreau Chambers, Field Journal, July 11, 1934, p. 8; Prowell deposition.

The time frame for the move is suggested by James W. Prowell’s 1889 purchase of the southeastern quarter of Section 10 (i.e. Plymouth), although it is possible that he could have acquired and moved the house earlier.  Lowndes County Deed Book 66, pp. 563-566.  Nevertheless, moving the house shortly after the 1889 land purchase dovetails with the ca. 1900 marriage of James C. who resided there and whose daughter Carrie was born there in 1905.  According to the Prowell family, it was a dogtrot house made of cypress logs and was “the first house built at Old Plymouth.”  Carrie Ware Prowell Swoope, “I Remember the Little House Where I Was Born,” in Lowndes County Department of Archives and History (ed.), A Pictorial History of the People of Lowndes County, Mississippi (Columbus, Mississippi, 1981), 35; interview with Warren D. Swoope (born 1936, son of Carrie Prowell Swoope) on July 14, 1999;  for dates on the Prowell family see Eleanor Swoope Hairston’s genealogical sketch in Annals of the Pioneer Society, Columbus, Mississippi (1989-1993), VII, 15-18.

The story linking the house to Peter Pitchlynn is not clear.  It is very unlikely that Peter ever had his own house at Plymouth, unless his childhood home could be construed as being “his” house.  By the mid-1820s, aged only about 20, Peter established a home on the Robinson Road about 15 miles southwest of Plymouth in Section 32, Township 18, Range 16 East.  Baird, Peter Pitchlynn: Chief of the Choctaws, 19-22; Lowndes County Deed Book 12, p. 1.

However, it is more likely that the house was John Pitchlynn’s, which would coincide with the claim that it was the oldest at Plymouth.  There is a seeming contradiction in that the Prowell account refers to the house being made of cypress logs while the Peter Pitchlynn letter (Appendix B) refers to cedar logs.  If both sources are correct then this could not have been the house that Peter visited in 1846.  It is possible (but unlikely) that one was wrong, or perhaps John Pitchlynn had a second house, possibly for a family member or overseer, that was eventually utilized by the Prowells.  In any event the core of the story linking the house to the Pitchlynns is probably true; the details, however, remain ambiguous.

 

81. Lipscomb, History of Columbus, Mississippi, 68; Wood, “Historic Lowndes: An Outline,” 15; Chambers, Field Journal, July 11, 1934, page 8.

 

82. In 1771 Bernard Romans observed that Plymouth Bluff was “covered principally with Juniper, or cedar shrubs.” Romans, A Concise Natural History of East and West Florida, 212.

Additionally, Lipscomb referred to the “prodigious growth of large cedars” at Plymouth.  Lipscomb, A History of Columbus, Mississippi during the 19th Century, 68.

 

83. The GLO plat of Township 18, Range 19 West from the early 1820s identified “Peachland’s Landing” with a road  terminating there from the east.  A fork of the main north-south trail from the Choctaws to the Chickasaws apparently crossed Tibbee Creek on the north side of Section 10 at Red Bluff and ran to Pitchlynn’s.  Lowndes County Board of Police Minutes refer to a crossing “at the foot of the Red Bluff,” implying that there was a ford there.  Additionally, John O’Hear has pointed out the existence of a ford on Tibbee Creek located about a half mile downstream from Red Bluff.  Finally, on the south side of Section 10, roads departed to the south.  Elliott, A Cultural Resources Survey, 10-14, 24; John W. O’Hear, Clark Larsen, Margaret M. Scarry, John Phillips, and Erica Simons, Archaeological Salvage Excavations at the Tibbee Creek Site (22Lo600) Lowndes County, Mississippi (Mississippi State University, 1981), 13; GLO survey notes for Township 10, Range 17 East record crossing three roads on the southern boundary of Section 10.  One of these was probably the Choctaw-Chickasaw road.  The notes also record a road on the western boundary of the same section.

 

84. During the early stages of the Creek War, Mushulatubbee requested that a blacksmith shop be opened for the benefit of the Northeastern District of the Choctaws, because the government blacksmith was located at the Choctaw Agency about 150 miles away.  When presenting the request to the War Department, Pitchlynn noted that he had already taken the liberty of hiring a blacksmith.  The shop was probably, but not certainly, located at his house.  Letter, John Pitchlynn, Choctaw Nation, to the Secretary of War, November 2, 1813, NA RG 107, M221, roll 56, #P-298.

 

85. Appendix B.

 

86. Additionally, Charles L. Wood, who was familiar with the location of the fort site from local tradition, identified it as being in the southeast quarter of Section 10.  C. L. Wood, “Historic Lowndes: An Outline,” 14.  For the location of the house in the center of the southeast quarter of Section 10, see footnote 70.

 

87. Elliott, A Cultural Resources Survey, 25.

 

88. Although the letter is addressed to “Brother,” there is no internal evidence that the addressee was a biological brother of Peter’s.  Indeed, Pitchlynn alludes to his father and brothers as though the addressee was not related to them.  The letter was probably addressed to Calvin Howell, who being a brother-in-law, could have warranted the use of the familiar “Brother.”  Indeed, Howell addressed Peter in the same manner in his letters.  Letters, Calvin H. Howell to Peter Pitchlynn, May 23, 1833 and May 15, 1834, Peter Pitchlynn papers, Gilcrease Museum. Furthermore, upon arriving in the Plymouth vicinity, Pitchlynn refers to coming “to the place where you last resided.”  In using the term “place,” it is not clear whether he was alluding to a specific house site or to the general vicinity.  The latter seems more probable.

 

89. In 1925, civil engineer and local historian C. L. Wood reported that the “broken end of [a] 3 in[ch]. cannon” had been discovered on “the site of the old fort” which was at the time in an abandoned cotton field.  Wood, “Historic Lowndes: An Outline,” 14.

 

90. This apparently alludes to the incident in April 1813 when the group of Creeks were reported to have threatened the Pitchlynns while John was absent.  Although Peter implies that the fort was in existence at the time, it probably was not built until after this incident.

 

91.    Joseph was born in 1802, therefore he was about eleven years old when the events transpired.

 

92. Na humma.  Choctaw term apparently referring to meritorious warriors.

 

93. David Folsom was Peter Pitchlynn’s cousin in that he was a son of Peter’s great-uncle Nathaniel Folsom.  Czarina C. Conlan, “David Folsom,” Chronicles of Oklahoma (1926), IV, 340.

 

94. Robert Cole served briefly as chief of the northwestern district after Pukshunubee died in late 1824  in Maysville, Kentucky, after suffering a fall from a cliff while on the way to Washington, D.C.

 

95.  Tisha.  Choctaw term referring to an attendant to the chief.

 

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