British West Florida embraced a large part of the present states of Alabama and Mississippi, extending northward beyond the present city of Montgomery, Alabama. Its first governor was Captain George Johnstone, who arrived in February, 1764, at Pensacola with a British regiment and many Highlanders from Charleston and New York. Among other activities, he planned the town of Pensacola, confirmed land title of all Frenchmen who had improved their properties, and invited Swiss and German families to migrate from New Orleans to West Florida. Lieutenant Governor Montford Browne succeeded Johnstone, and his successor, John Eliot arrived in West Florida in the spring of 1769. In August 1770 Peter Chester was chosen as Eliot's successor.
In 1772-73 the British began seriously to settle West Florida. Holmes' Annals record that, before the summer of 1773, 400 families came from the Atlantic seaboard in a body by way of the Ohio and Mississippi.148 The same reference tells the settlers from New England, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, including the Ogden and Swayze colonies from New Jersey and the Phineas Lyman colony of Connecticut, came by way of the Ohio and Mississippi. Numerous parties from the western portions of North Carolina and Virginia usually came by land to the Holston and there constructed flat-boats and barges at Long Island in the Cherokee Nation. Pensacola, the capital of the Province, did not receive a great deal of this immigration. The pioneers, who were bent on owning land and establishing homes, soon discovered that the country near Walnut Hills (Vicksburg), Natchez, Bayou Sara and Baton Rouge were the real garden spots of what had come to be regarded as the Promised Land of America.149
So the tide flowed steadily southwest into West Florida, passing the more northern frontier settlements, since the year 1772 - known as the "starving year" - had given these a bad reputation which lasted for some time.
Governor Chester served until Spain took advantage of the Revolution to the north, and seized the Province of West Florida in 1781. Thereafter, Spain exercised jurisdiction over all the area known as the Florida parishes, Louisiana, and the seaboards of Mississippi, claiming the whole country between the Mississippi and Perdido rivers.
The United States claimed the same district, under the treaty of Paris made in 1803, as part and parcel of Louisiana, but Spain did not want to deliver it. After the western portion of the district was occupied by American settlers, the Spanish rule was broken. A "Florida Convention" was set up by the Americans and they announced themselves an Independent State, under the name of the Commonwealth of West Florida. The President of the United States, however, made a proclamation that claimed the whole district as part and parcel of ancient Louisiana, which, by the treaty of 1803 with France, had been purchased by the United States. Possession was to be taken and it was to be considered a portion of the Orleans Territory. By 1810 the West Florida Convention has peaceably expired.150
PASSPORTS IN WEST FLORIDA
Pensacola 26th Sept. 1770
I have the Honor to transmit to your Lordship here inclosed [sic] the Copy of a letter that I lately received from one John McIntire together with a copy of the Deposition of Daniel Huay, both relative to a Settlement now forming at the Natchez with this Province. . . .
[Governor of the Province of West Florida under the British Cominion, 1770-1781]
[To The Earl Of Hillsborough]
Fort Natchez, 19th July 1770
I make bold to let your Excellency know that we are to the number of Eight Souls arrived from Fort Pitt in design to settle at Fort Natchez. . . . The bearer Mr. Huay sets out to bring his family and his Neighbours for this settlement if encouraged. . . .
Deposition of Daniel Huay
Daniel Huay of the Province of North Carolina being duly sworn deposeth and sayeth; that some time in the month of April last being then at a place called the Muskingham River which runs into the Ohio, on his return from the Illinois or Fort-Chartres to Fort Pitt, he this deponent found there a Considerable Number of English Families, Men Women and Children, who told this deponent, and some of them he knew came from Red Stone Creek in Pennsylvania by the way of Fort Pitt and were on their Rout to the Natchez on the Mississippi in the Province of West Florida where they proposed to make a settlement, or on Lands Contiguous thereto which should be granted them: That upon the application of Samuel Wells and John McIntire in behalf of the aforesaid party they appearing to be the most Considerable and leading men among them and through his great desire of viewing the Lands on the Mississippi this deponent was Induced to accompany the said party from Muskingham as a Pilot or guide down the Ohio and so to Fort Natchez on the Mississippi aforesaid at which place the said party together with this deponent arrived sometime in the month of July last. That the number of the said Party when this deponent left them at Fort Natchez consisted of seventy nine men, women and Children and Eighteen Negroes. . . .
Sworn and Signed before His Excellency the Governor on the 20th day of August in the year of our Lord 1770.
A Company of over 20 men from North Carolina, and from Rockbridge county, and the valley of New river in Virginia - John Rains, Kasper Mansco, Abraham Bledsoe, John Baker, Joseph Drake, Obadiah Terrell, Uriah Stone, Henry Smith, Edward Cowan, Thomas Gordon, Humphrey Hogan, Cassius Brooks, Robert Crockett, and others - each with one or more horses, left Reedy creek, a branch of New river, in June, 1769, coming by what is now Abingdon and Powell's valley to Cumberland Gap; thence to Flat Lick, 6 miles from Cumberland River, down which they traveled.... Some of the company returned home on June 6, 1770 while ten of them - including Mansco, Stone, Baker, Gordon, Hogan, and Brooks - built two boats and two trapping canoes, laded them with furs and bear meat, and started down the Cumberland and Mississippi rivers to the French Fort Natchez, and thence home. . . .152
London 26th November 1771
I have the Honour to inclose Your Lordship a Narrative of my Journey to Natchez and through the Chacta [or Choctaw] Nation. . . .
I have the Honour to be. . .
[Endorsed] London, 26 Novr. 1771.
[To the Earl of Hillsborough]
Narrativeof a journey through several parts of the province of west florida in the years 1770 and 1771.
by Edward Mease.
. . . . Sunday 16th Decr. . Having obtained a Pass from the Governor [of West Florida] & presented it at the Fort at the Mouth of the Bayouc de St. Jean to the Serjeant of the Guard, we went on board a small Schooner laden with Cotton for Panzacola in order to get a Tow to the River of Pearls. . . .
Saty 23d Feby. . I went to several of hte Settlers Houses who are situated on both sides of the River St. Catherine & at the Distance of Three Miles from the Fort [Panmure]. Their Names are as follows. -
Henry LeFluer, Ind. Intr. [Indian interpreter] his Wife, two Children and two Servants.
Richard Thomson, his Wife and three Children.
Samuel Ferguson, his Wife & three Children.
Samuel Wells (a Tanner) his Wife & three Children.
Daniel Perry, his Wife & five Children.
Michael Prudhomme, a Blacksmith, Wife & Child.
----- Wively, his Wife & five Children.
Jacob Miller, his Wife and five Children,
Michael Hooder, his Wife and five Children & Assistant.
Alexander, (a Shoemaker), his Wife, two Sons grown up and a little Girl
Trifot, who has lived here two Years.
William German & his Associate
These People are mostly from Maryland and Carolina, they came down the Cherokee [Tennessee] River with some others settled near Conways below the Pointe Coupee and are in general very laborious good Settlers. . . .153
REPORT OF CONGRESS
WITH THE CREEK INDIANS
At a Congress of the Principal Chiefs and Warriors of the upper Creeks Nation, held at Pensacola in the Province of West Florida. By John Stuart Esquire his Majesty's Sole Agent for and Superintendt [sic] of Indian Affairs in the Southern District of North America.
October 29th 1771.
. . . .Emistisogio: [Indian Chief]
Besides Mr. Galphin who was the First That drove Cattle, thro' our Nation, there are many other driving Cattle and Settling Cowpens on our Land without our Consent (Vizy.)
Robert Anderson has drove Cattle to the Kaialeagies.
William Cousins to the Abekoutchies.
Nicholas Black to the Oakchoys.
Thomas Graham to the Wakekoys.
Thomas Grierson to the Eufallies.
Richard Ballie to the Otassies.
Thomas Scott to the Hillabies.
and James M'Quin has in opposition to our talks not only brought Cattle but also Negroes, and has made a Settlement near the great Tallassus. . . . There are many white men in our nation who follow no other business but that of Hunting, such as Mcfall and Humphry Hubbard, John Snipes and Adam Tapley. . . .
The Superintendt. Speaks. -
Governor Johnstone and I at the last Congress held here, asked the Liberty of driving Cattle thro' your nation provided it should be found necessary for the good of the Colony, you objected to it and. . . said it might probably be the means of Involving your Nation in a dispute with the white People, that if such a permission was given it would be a president for making Your Nation a thoroughfare for all Sorts of People, it was at last agreed upon, That no person should be allowed to drive Cattle thro' Your Nation without a pass from the Governor of a Province or the Superintendt., no person ever applied to me for such a pass & I never gave any. . . .154
"Journal of the Committee
of Safety of Virginia"
Friday - 22nd March 1776
Ordered a Pass to William Penn to go thro, the sd Colonies to West Florida.155
May [1802, Creek Agency]
. . . . Tom Miller, a citizen of the United States, who for the present is at the residence of his late brother Jack Miller, on the east side of Koonecuh, in West Florida . . . .
[Benjamin Hawkins. . . .]156
A few days ago, at the Bayou St. John, Joseph Rabie, master of a schooner just arrived from Pascagoula, informed me that a few days before he left, he was forced to obtain a passport from one Pierre Nicolet, acting commander under the Florida Convention. . . . That on his way here he, (the said Rabie), passed the Bay St. Louis and the Pass of Christian. . . .
[To Governor Claiborne, Governor of the Mississippi Territory.]157