Mississippi Historical Timeline, 1673-1820

The following article was written by my good friend, William Dollarhide, and is taken from his book, Mississippi Censuses & Substitute Name Lists 1719-2010.

1673. Mississippi River. French explorers Jacques Jolliet and Louis Marquette left their base at Ste. Sault Marie, and made their way to the Illinois River, which they descended to become the first Europeans to discover the Mississippi River. They floated down the Mississippi as far south as the mouth of the Arkansas River before returning to the Great Lakes area.

1682. Mississippi River. Following the same route as Jolliet and Marquette, René-Robert Cavelier (Sieur de LaSalle) floated down the Mississippi River, continuing all the way to its mouth at the Gulf of Mexico. He then claimed the entire Mississippi Basin for Louis XIV of France, for whom Louisiana was named.

1698. Spain was competing with France for territory on the Gulf Coast, but except for Pensacola in 1698, Spain’s early colonies were in the East Florida region.

1699. Mississippi.
The French established the first settlement on Biloxi Bay at Old Biloxi (now Ocean Springs).

1702. Mobile was founded by the French as Fort Louis de la Louisianne. Mobile became the first capital of French Louisiana.

1716. Mississippi. Natchez was founded by the French, their earliest settlement on the Mississippi River.

1718. New Orleans was founded by the French. In 1722, New Orleans became the new capital of French Louisiana.

1719. New Biloxi, founded in 1719, was the capital of French Louisiana until 1722, when New Orleans replaced it.

1763 Treaty of Paris. Until this year, many cross-claims to territory in North America existed between the French, British and Spanish, and it took a war to settle the issue of land ownership. In Europe it was called the Seven Years War, but in colonial America it was called the French and Indian War. France was divested of virtually all of its large North American claims. The British gained undisputed title to Acadia/Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and Quebec; plus all lands between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mississippi River. Spanish lands were recognized as those former French lands west of the Mississippi, renamed Spanish Louisiana. Just prior to the 1763 treaty, France had transferred title of Louisiana to Spain, including the area from Baton Rouge to Pensacola. As part of the 1763 Treaty of Paris, the Spanish then traded all of Florida to the British in exchange for Cuba. The British immediately divided the area into West Florida with a capital at Pensacola, and East Florida, with a capital at St. Augustine.

1776-1783. During the Revolutionary War, the Spanish captured Mobile in 1780, and Pensacola in 1781.

1783. East Florida was returned to Spain by the British at the Treaty of Paris in 1783, the end of the Revolutionary War. The 2nd Spanish era included all of present Florida

1783-1796. Spain and the U.S. both claimed the area between Latitude 31o and Latitude 32o 30′ of present-day Mississippi and Alabama. This disputed area was left out of the U.S. in the Treaty of 1783, and remained in dispute with Spain until 1796.

1789-1803. Georgia’s claim to huge tracts of western land, extending across both present-day Alabama and Mississippi to the Mississippi River, was to be the scene of some extraordinary and flamboyant land trading schemes. Two notorious land scandals emerged during this period: 1) From 1789 to 1796, three Governors of Georgia made gifts of land covering more than three times as much land as Georgia contained. Mostly centered in Montgomery County, Georgia, the Pine Barrens Speculation was the basis for a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1810, the first time the Supreme Court ruled a state law unconstitutional 2) The 1794-1803 Yazoo Land Scandal involved the Governor and other Georgia state officials accepting bribes in return for land sales to speculators in the region of present-day Mississippi’s Yazoo River area, land that was later ceded by Georgia to the U.S. Public Domain.

1790. Federal Census. The present-day area of Alabama and Mississippi was part of Georgia, part of the disputed area, and part of Spanish West Florida at the time of the 1790 federal census. Although there were American settlements at Natchez and north of Mobile, no federal census was taken there. Georgia’s 1790 federal census was lost.

1796. In the 1796 Treaty of San Lorenzo (also called Pinckney’s Treaty), the U.S. resolved the Spanish-U.S. disputed area by purchasing the area from Spain. The lands above West Florida (Latitude 31o up to 32o30′) became U.S. territory. The purchase did not include East Florida or West Florida.

1798. Mississippi Territory was created within the lands purchased in the 1796 Treaty of San Lorenzo. Natchez was the territorial capital.

1800. Federal Census. Georgia’s 1800 federal census jurisdiction included Indian lands in present-day Alabama and Mississippi, but no whites were enumerated there. The entire GA 1800 census was lost. Washington County, Mississippi Territory was enumerated in the 1800 census, but that census was also lost.

1802. Georgia Land Cession. In this year, the portion of present-day Alabama and Mississippi above Latitude 32o 30′ was ceded by Georgia to the U.S. federal government’s “public domain.” An amount of 1.25 million dollars was finally negotiated in 1802, paid to Georgia as compensation. The area of land ceded by Georgia ran from its present western boundary west to the Mississippi River, and north from Latitude 32o 30″ to 35o. Later, Georgia’s ceded area was added to Mississippi Territory.

1802. Spain finally gave up in Louisiana and retroceded the entire region back to France in exchange for a duchy in present Italy. The area of West Florida was not mentioned in the treaty, but Spain continued to occupy the areas east of the Mississippi River as part of Spanish Florida.

1803. When the U.S. ministers James Madison and Robert Livingston negotiated the purchase of Louisiana from Napoleon, they were led to believe that the area included West Florida.

1803. Spain threatened war if the Americans attempted to occupy the West Florida region. It was an idle threat, because the extent of Spain’s military presence in the area was about 20 soldiers billeted at Baton Rouge.

1804. Mississippi Territory. Congress officially added the 1802 Georgia land cession to Mississippi Territory, more than doubling its size, from Latitude 31o to Latitude 35o.

1806 Federal Horse Path

1806. The Federal Horse Path. The time it took for mail via express riders between Philadelphia and New Orleans was cut from five weeks to three weeks, after the opening of the Federal Horse Path. A treaty with the Creek Nation, which encompassed a large area of present-day Georgia and Alabama was necessary to clear the pathway, beginning at the Creek Indian Agency (now Macon) and through Mississippi Territory and Spanish West Florida to New Orleans. With federal funds, the same route was continually improved and became known as the Federal Road, the primary route for thousands of Scots-Irish families migrating into the Deep South.

1810. Federal Census. The census was enumerated in Georgia and Mississippi Territory, but none of the original manuscripts have survived.

1810. West Florida Annexation. In September 1810, a group of rebel Americans overcame the Spanish garrison at Baton Rouge, and unfurled the new flag of the Republic of West Florida. In October 1810, in a proclamation by President James Madison, the U.S. annexed part of Spain’s West Florida, an area from the Perdido River to the Mississippi River, including Mobile, Biloxi, and Baton Rouge. The area was not officially organized for another two years. Spain did not recognize the annexation, and continued their claim to West Florida in dispute with the U.S.

1812. Mississippi Territory and Orleans Territory. The portion of the West Florida Annexation from the Perdido River to the Pearl River was recognized by Congress and officially added to Mississippi Territory. The portion from the Pearl River to the Mississippi River was added to Orleans Territory.

1817. Alabama Territory was created on 3 Mar 1817, taken from Mississippi Territory with nearly the same boundaries as the current state bounds. St. Stephens was the first territorial capital.

1817. Dec 10th. Mississippi became the 20th state in the Union with nearly the same boundaries as today. Washington was the first state capital, replaced by Jackson in 1822.

1819-1821 Adams-Onis Treaty. By 1818, Spain had effectively abandoned Florida and was unwilling to support any more colonists or garrisons. In 1819, the Adams-Onis Treaty formalized Spain’s cession of East Florida and West Florida to the U.S. in exchange for the U.S. paying any legal claims of American citizens against Spain, up to 5 million dollars. But, the treaty also set the boundary between the U.S. and New Spain (now Mexico), from Louisiana to the Oregon Country. Although Baton Rouge, Biloxi, and Mobile were annexed to the U.S. in 1810, then organized in 1812; they did not become U.S. territory free of dispute until the Adams-Onis Treaty was ratified by Congress in 1821.

1820. June. Federal Census was taken in the state of Mississippi. The population was 75,448 people. The 1820 was the first federal census year for which the population schedules have survived for all counties.

1820. July. The Alabama-Mississippi boundary line was resurveyed and it was discovered that a tract of land lying along the east side of the Tombigbee River which had been attached to Alabama was really in Mississippi.

Further Reading:
Mississippi Censuses & Substitute Name Lists, 1830-2002, 83 pages, softbound, Item FR0257.
Mississippi Censuses & Substitute Name Lists, 1830-2002 (PDF Version), 83 pages, Item FR0258.
Mississippi Censuses & Substitutes, a Genealogists’ Insta-GuideTM, 4-page, laminated, 3-hole punched, Item FR0327.
Mississippi Censuses & Substitutes, a Genealogists’ Insta-GuideTM, (PDF version), 4 pp, Item FR0328.

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