History of the Southwest Mississippi Territory

"That the legislature of the State of Georgia be, and are hereby requested to give
their assent by law, to the formation of two States, of the Mississippi Territory."
- Congress of the United States, 17 June, 1812

UNDER FRANCE - to 1763

For centuries, several Indian tribes including the Choctaws, Chickasaws, and The Natchez roamed, hunted, and lived on the land that we now call Southeast Mississippi.  White man did not arrive until 1540 when Hernando DeSoto led his party from Florida, through Mississippi, and across the Mississippi River into Louisiana.  For a great part of the time until the cession of 1763, most of the Indian tribes were in a state of warfare with the white intruders.

Several white explorers traveled through Mississippi, including the Frenchman La Salle, in 1681, who claimed the land in the name of the King of France.  But the first permanent settlement on the lower Mississippi River was not attempted until 1698 when Ibberville, the governor of Louisiana, created the settlement named after him.  In 1700, Ibberville sailed up the Mississippi River as far as Natchez, and mapped out the area today known as Natchez, Adams Co, Mississippi.  However, the settlement was not created until 1716, when Bienville, another Louisiana governor, built a fortification called Fort Rosalie. This settlement was attacked out in 1729 by the Natchez Indians, in what is known as the Natchez Massacre.


In 1763, France relinquished to Great Britain all her possessions east of the Mississippi River, and to Spain, all her possessions west of that river, and also the Island of Orleans.  Spain, at the same time, gave up Florida to the British.

UNDER SPAIN - to 1812

In 1783, the country north of the 31st parallel (northern edge of present day Claiborne County, Mississippi,) was included as part of the United States via the treaty  acknowledging US independence.

In this Treaty of Peace of 1783, Spain was permitted to accede, by the British. The British, in making this treaty, insisted upon the Ohio River as the western boundary of the United States, but finally yielded the Mississippi River.  The accession of Spain was promised on the condition only that the Americans relinquished all claims west of the Allegheny mountains, and to the navigation of the river, promises which were sustained by France.  The American negotiators, however, settled with Great Britain without consulting France.  A secret article in the treaty provided that a line due east from the mouth of the Yazoos, on the Mississippi, not the 31st parallel, should constitute the southern boundary of the United States.

Displeased, Spain refused to deliver the territory between these lines, and continued to claim the land as Florida, and refused all right of deposit for our commerce at New Orleans, or any other point in the territory.  The area of southeast Mississippi was not turned over to the United States, by Spain, until forced to in 1797.  Winthrop Sargent became the first governor of the Mississippi Territory, in 1798.

See Gov. Sargent's Address to the People of the Mississippi Territory.


One of the first acts of Gov. Sargent was to ascertain the conduct of the Spanish with regard to the Indians, and to determine the numbers and degree of threat the Indians posed.  He directed the agents to confine passports to Indian chiefs, and men of real consequence among the tribes, wisely thinking that the less the Indians and whites mixed, the better the prospect of harmony.

In other early acts as governor, Winthrop Sargent appointed the first Mississippi Militia, and made certain Judicial appointments.

In 1803, with the expected surrender of Louisiana by the Spanish to the United States, men of all grades, professions, and pursuits, flocked to the lower Mississippi with the intention of descending, at first opportunity, to New Orleans.  Many, however, remained in Mississippi.

Natchez became a place of much importance during those early years.  It was a large settlement, consisting chiefly of small wooden buildings of one story, but with little regard to system or cleanliness.  The area beneath the tall bluff, known as Natchez-Under-The-Hill, became a favorite habitat to gamblers, thieves, and murderers.

In the outlying areas of the Southwest Mississippi Territory, thousands of pioneer families arrived, many from South Carolina, and established churches, schools, and villages.

The Mississippi statehood convention was held in 1817, in Washington, Adams County, Mississippi.

  • All The Western States and Territories, From The Alleghanies to the Pacific, and From the Lakes to the Gulf, containing their history from the Earliest Times, by John Warner Barber;  Published by Howe's Subscription Book, Cincinnati, OH, 1867
  • Industrial Resources, Inc. of the Southern and Western States, Volume III, by J. D. B. DeBow; Published at the Office of DeBow's Review, New Orleans, LA, 1853
  • Mississippi, by J. M. Chilton, appearing in Debow's Review, Volume II, Issue 3;

  • Published by J. D. B. DeBow, New Orleans, Sept. 1851
  • The Territorial Government of the United States, appearing in The Southern Quarterly Review, Volume 12, Issue 24, Publisher E. H. Britton, Columbia, S.C., Oct., 1847

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