The Region's Early Settlers
Library of Congress
By Angela Lurz, Park Ranger, Natchez National Historical Park
The early European settlement of Natchez includes rule by the French, British and Spanish. Initially, French explorers made contact with the Natchez Indians in 1682 during LaSalle’s exploration of the Lower Mississippi Valley. It was not until 1716 though that the French created a true settlement. Its anchor was Fort Rosalie, a wooden palisaded area that served as, not only the defensive center, but the governmental center as well. As a result of the Seven Years War, the French ceded control of the fort and surrounding area to the British in 1763.
Though looking to protect their northern settlements, the British occupation and maintenance of the fort, now named Fort Panmure, was minimal at best. Soldiers utilized the site more as an outpost than as a means for colonization. Twenty years later, in 1783, the dominant European power shifted again. Now, the Natchez district, as it was named, fell under the control of the Spanish crown.
It is during this period that the city of Natchez begins to take a familiar shape. Governor Manuel Gayoso installed road networks, implemented laws to protect the citizenry and encouraged construction of beautiful mansion homes, including his own. Gayoso’s control over Natchez ends, in part, due to the terms of the Revolutionary War.
Sent to the area by George Washington in 1798, Andrew Ellicott informs the Spanish governor that the city of Natchez is now part of the United States of America and no longer under Spanish domination. Thus, this was the first time the American flag was unfurled above the city.The stories of Melrose, the Wiiliam Johnson House and the City of Natchez are vast.
Did You Know?
During the antebellum period, Natchez Mississippi was the home of over two hundred and fifty free blacks. The largest number of free blacks lived in New Orleans and numbered over two thousand.