Stephen “Don Esteban” Minor (1760 – 1815) was just a second cousin of our Miner line, but his story is too unique not to include. Pardon the length, but as Frances Hunter says, this period of early American history is a delightful rabbit hole of heroes and scoundrels — often embodied in the same individuals.
Stephen’s rise from a backwoods Pennsylvania, teenaged sole survivor of an ambush to Governor, first president of the Bank of Mississippi (1797-1815) and wealthy Natchez planter is remarkable. I think his connection to the rich and powerful was Oliver Pollock, though I haven’t seen this link written anywhere.
My next post covers Stephen’s children and grandchildren who owned hundreds of slaves yet many remained loyal to the Union and one offered emancipation in exchange for recognition of the Confederacy by England and France.
Famous and infamous characters in Stephen’s life include:
- Bernardo de Gálvez, Governor of Louisiana
- Oliver Pollock, Inventor of $ (dollar sign) and financier of the Western theater of the Revolution
- Manuel Gayoso de Lemos, Minor’s mentor and Governor of Natchez and Louisiana
- Marshall Alejandro O’Reilly, “Wild Geese” mercenary from Ireland
- James Wilkinson Scoundrel, American General and Spanish double agent, (See the Spanish Conspiracy by Frances Hunter. I wonder if Stephen Minor assisted his mentor Manuel Gayoso in his undercover work. Maybe he led the 300 Natchez militiamen deployed to New Orleans in 1793 to help defend the port against “the Jacobin menace.” ) Later, Minor was a friend of James Wilkinson who asked him to protect a trunk of manuscripts from his enemies in 1814.
- Aaron Burr endeavored to persuade Governor Minor to co-operate with him in his nefarious plot , against the Federal Government.
- Philip Nolan, Horse Trader, Freebooter, and “the man without a country” After Nolan was killed by the Spanish on a filibustering expedition to Tejas, Minor adopted his son Philip Jr.
- Dueled with George Poindexter, Quick tempered Federalist hater, congressman and later US Senator from Mississippi
- Minor helped Andrew Ellicott survey the Mississippi Territory/Florida border. Ellicott mapped much of the west, planned DC and taught Meriwether Lewis.
- Among the noted men who were entertained at Minor’s Concord Plantation were General Anthony Wayne, General Lafayette, Jefferson Davis, Aaron Burr and Winthrop Sargent, the first territorial governor of the Mississippi Territory,
- The Yellow Duchess, Stephen’s wife
Stephen Minor was born 8 Feb 1760 Greene County, Pennsylvania on the Monongahela River near the border with Virginia. Present day West Virginia University in Morgantown is about 12 miles away from Stephen’s birthplace. His great grandparents were our ancestors William MINER and Francis BURCHAM. His grandparents were Stephen Minor and Athaliah Updyke. His parents were Capt. William Minor and Frances Ellen Phillips. (See William MINER‘s page for their stories)
Stephen first ventured to New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1779. He first married Martha Ellis 1790 in Louisiana. After Martha died, he married Katherine Lintot 4 Aug 1792 in Natchez, Adams, Mississippi. Stephen died 29 Nov 1815 in Natchez, Mississippi and is buried at Concord, the historic residence of the early Spanish governors at Natchez, Mississippi.
Martha Ellis was born 1760 in Natchez, Natchitoches, Louisiana She was the daughter of Colonel John Ellis of White Cliffs, located south of Natchez on the Mississippi River. There were apparently no children from this union. Martha died before 1791
Katherine Lintot was born 4 Aug 1770 in Carlisle, Cumberland, Pennsylvania. Her parents were Bernard Lintot (1740 – 1804) and Katherine Trotter (1744 – 1804). Bernard . Bernard Lintot is reputed to have studied at the Inner Temple, London. He was a Wall Street trader who became the commissary at Manchac. She was known as the “Yellow Duchess” because of her reputed fondness for all things golden. Katherine died 9 Jul 1844 in Natchez, Adams, Mississippi
Child of Stephen and Martha: for her story, see my post Stephen Minor’s Children – Decadent Unionists
|1.||Mary Minor||4 Jul 1787 Natchez, Adams, Mississippi||William Kenner
19 Nov 1801
|5 Oct 1814 Oakland Plantation, Louisiana|
Children of Stephen and Katherine: (for their story, see my post Stephen Minor’s Children – Decadent Unionists
Natches, Adams, Mississippi
Natches, Adams, Mississippi
|3.||Frances Minor||27 Mar 1795 Natchez, Adams, Mississippi||Henry Chotard
27 May 1819 Adams, Mississippi
|10 May 1864 Natchez, Adams, Mississippi|
|4.||Katherine Lintot Minor||24 Jun 1799 Natchez, Adams, Mississippi||James Wilkins
11 Apr 1823 Adams, Mississippi
|5 Jan 1849 or 9 Jul 1844 Natchez, MS|
Natchez, Adams, Mississippi
|Charlotte Walker?||29 Nov 1815 Natchez, MS or
26 Jun 1830
|6.||William John Minor||27 Jan 1808 Natchez, Adams, Mississippi||Rebecca Ann Gustine
7 Aug 1829 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,
|18 Sep 1869 Southdown Plantation,, Houma, Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana|
About 1779 before Stephen was twenty years old, he traveled to Spanish New Orleans to procure military supplies for the Continental Army. Once the goods were packed on mules, Minor and his men headed up the western bank of the Mississippi in a caravan in route to the Ohio Valley. Along the way, Minor fell ill and was at times so consumed with fever and chills that the caravan was forced to moved forward during the day while Minor followed their trail at his own sluggish pace, often catching up with the group at its encampment at night.
One day as Minor laid back shivering with a high fever, the caravan was overtaken by bandits deep in the heart of Indian country in present day Arkansas, their goods stolen and the men murdered. Minor found the grisly crime scene hours later, his life having been spared due to his illness. Alone in the vast wilderness, the 20-year-old stumbled back into New Orleans with news of the disaster.About that time, Spain had joined the Americans in the fight against the British. Minor, always enterprising, learned Spanish and French as he determined his next move.
The Taking of British West Florida
Minor joined the royal Spanish army being assembled by the Governor of Louisiana, Bernardo de Gálvez, for attacks on English Manchac (Fort Butte) and Baton Rouge (1779).
Spain officially entered the American Revolutionary War on May 8, 1779, with a formal declaration of war by King Charles III. This declaration was followed by another on July 8 that authorized his colonial subjects to engage in hostilities against the British. When Bernardo de Gálvez, the colonial Governor of Spanish Louisiana received word of this on July 21, he immediately began to secretly plan offensive operations. Gálvez, who had been planning for the possibility of war since April, intercepted communications from the British at Pensacola indicating that the British were planning a surprise attack on New Orleans; he decided to launch his own attack first. To that end, he concealed from the public his receipt of the second proclamation.
Fort Bute was located on Bayou Manchac, about 115 miles up the Mississippi River from New Orleans, on the far western border of British West Florida. Lt. Col. Alexander Dickson was charged with the defense of the Baton Rouge district, which included Fort Bute, Baton Rouge, and Fort Panmure (modern Natchez, Louisiana). The British had begun sending larger numbers of troops to the area following George Rogers Clark‘s capture of Vincennes, which had exposed the weak British defenses in the area. At Dickson’s disposal in August 1779 were 400 regulars, including companies from the 16th and 60th Regiments and a recently-arrived company o fgrenadiers from the German state of Waldeck, and about 150 Loyalist militia.
Fort Bute was an older stockade fort built in 1766. It was in such disrepair that Dickson judged it to be indefensible. When Dickson received word of Spanish movements, he withdrew most of his forces to Baton Rouge and Panmure, leaving a small garrison of 20 Waldeckers under Captain von Haake behind.
Gálvez originally planned to march from New Orleans on August 20. However, a hurricane on August 18 swept over New Orleans, sinking most of his fleet and destroying provisions. Undeterred, Gálvez rallied the support of the colony and on August 27 set out by land toward Baton Rouge, using as an explanation for the movement the need to defend Spanish Louisiana from an expected British attack. The force departing New Orleans consisted of 520 regulars, of whom about two-thirds were recent recruits, 60 militiamen, 80 free blacks and mulattoes, and ten American volunteers, including Stephen Minor, headed by Oliver Pollock.
Pollock used his fortune to finance American operations in the west, and the successful Illinois campaign of General George Rogers Clark in Illinois 1778. Stephen Minor’s uncle, Col. John Minor built Clark’s flotilla of vessels on the Monongahela River. I’ve never seen it written anywhere, but its more than likely that Pollock’s introduction of Minor to the Spanish leadership was a key factor in Stephen’s rise and family fortune.
Oliver Pollock (1737-1823) was a merchant and financier of the Revolutionary War, of which he has long been considered a historically undervalued figure. He is often attributed with the creation of the US Dollar sign in 1778.
Oliver Pollock came to North America in 1760. A native of Ireland, he arrived in Philadelphia and settled in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. At age 25, Pollock began a career as a merchant in the West Indies. With his headquarters in Havana, Cuba, he traded mainly with the Spanish. In Cuba, he established a relationship with Governor-General Alejandro O’Reilly Like Pollock, O’Reilly was from Ireland, but left his native land to fight in foreign armies, serving in both the Austrian and Spanish military. O’Reilly married into the family of the Spanish governor of Cuba, and quickly rose in influence in the region. In 1769, he was sent to Louisiana to put down a rebellion by French Creoles, a task he completed with flying colors.
Following his friend to New Orleans, Pollock worked there as a merchant and was given free trade status within the city because of his relationship with O’Reilly. As a result, he because a very successful businessman, particularly in dealing with flour, which was a highly sought-after commodity. To help the colonists, Pollock sold the flour at half price, no doubt endearing him to the populace.
With his growing wealth, Pollock gained political influence. In 1777, he was appointed as the commercial agent of the United States government in New Orleans, essentially making him the representative of the colonies. Utilizing his enormous wealth, Pollock financed American military operations west of the Mississippi, including George Rogers Clark’s campaign in Illinois in 1778. That same year, he borrowed $70,000 from the Spanish governor of Louisiana and served as his aide-de-camp during a campaign against the British. Throughout Louisiana, Alabama and Florida, the Spanish defeated the British, culminating with the Siege of Pensacola in 1781. Pollock, through his diplomatic skills, helped gain the surrender of Fort Panmure by the British in Natchez.
In 1779 he borrowed $70,000 from Spanish Louisiana’s Governor Bernardo de Gálvez, but the financial needs of the country at the time left him in a loss. Pollock served as Gálvez’s aide-de-camp during the Spanish campaign against the British that began with the Spanish declaration of war in June 1779. Gálvez and the Spanish troops swept through Louisiana, Alabama, and Florida, defeating the British with the Capture of Fort Bute and campaigning through the victorious Siege of Pensacola in 1781. Pollock’s diplomacy assisted in the surrender of Fort Panmure at Natchez, Mississippi
As they marched upriver, the force grew by another 600 men, from Indians to Acadians. At its peak, the force numbered over 1,400, but this number was reduced due the hardships of the march by several hundred before they reached Fort Bute.
When the force neared Fort Bute on September 6, Gálvez informed them of the Spanish war declaration and the true purpose of their mission, eliciting cheers from the men. At dawn the next day, they attacked the fort, and after a brief skirmish in which one German was killed, most of the garrison surrendered. The six who escaped capture made their way to Baton Rouge to notify Dickson.
After several days’ rest, Gálvez advanced on Baton Rouge, only 15 miles from Fort Bute. When Gálvez arrived at Baton Rouge on Sep 12, he found a well-fortified town garrisoned by over 400 regular army troops and 150 militia under the overall command of Lt. Col. Alexander Dickson.
Gálvez first sent a detachment of men further up the river to break communications between Baton Rouge and British sites further upriver. Before the fort he was unable to directly advance his own artillery, so Gálvez ordered a feint to the north through a wooded area, sending a detachment of his poorly-trained militia to create disturbances in the forest. The British turned and unleashed massed volleys at this body, but the Spanish forces, shielded by substantial foliage, suffered only three casualties. While this went on, Gálvez dug siege trenches and established secure gunpits within musket range of the fort. He placed his artillery pieces there, opening fire on the fort on Sep 21.
The British endured three hours of shelling before Dickson offered to surrender. Gálvez demanded and was granted terms that included the capitulation of the 80 regular infantry at Fort Panmure (modern Natchez, Mississippi), a well-fortified position that would have been difficult for Gálvez to take militarily. Dickson surrendered 375 regular troops the next day; Gálvez had Dickson’s militia disarmed and sent home. Gálvez then sent a detachment of 50 men to take control of Panmure. He also dismissed his own militia companies, left a sizable garrison at Baton Rouge, and returned to New Orleans with about 50 men.
In 1780 Spanish Gen. Bernardo de Gálvez amassed an army to take on the British in West Florida. Stephen joined the Spanish army and participated in a military expedition against Fort Charlotte, located near Mobile in British West Florida., which resulted in a resounding Spanish victory. At Mobile, according to historian Benjamin L.C. Wailes, Minor caught the eye of Gen. Galvez who was impressed with Minor’s bravery and heroism as well as his “remarkable skill with the rifle.”Minor was in Spanish service for most of his adult life. He became a major of the Spanish army.
In 1763, the Treaty of Paris was signed, ending the French and Indian War. The treaty ceded Mobile and the surrounding territory to Great Britain, and it was made a part of the expanded British West Florida colony. The British changed the name of Fort Condé to Fort Charlotte.
The British were eager not to lose any useful inhabitants and promised religious tolerance to the French colonists, ultimately 112 French Mobilians remained in the colony. The first permanent Jewish presence in Mobile began in 1763 as a result of the new religious tolerance.
While the British were dealing with their rebellious colonists along the Atlantic coast, the Spanish entered the war as an ally of France in 1779. They took the opportunity to order Bernardo de Galvez, Governor of Louisiana, on an expedition east to retake Florida. He captured Mobile during the Battle of Fort Charlotte in 1780, as part of this campaign. The Spanish wished to eliminate any British threat to their Louisiana colony, which they had received from France in the same 1763 Treaty of Paris.
On Jan 11, 1780, a fleet of twelve ships carrying 754 men, a mix of Spanish regulars and militia sailed from New Orleans, reaching the mouth of the Mississippi on Jan 18. They were joined on January 20 by the American ship West Florida, under the command of Captain William Pickles and with a crew of 58.
On Feb 20, reinforcements arrived from Havana, bringing the force to about 1,200 men. By Feb 25, the Spanish had landed their army on the shores of the Dog River, about 10 miles from Fort Charlotte. They were informed by a deserter that the fort was garrisoned by 300 men.
On Mar 1, Gálvez sent a letter to Durnford offering to accept his surrender, which was politely rejected. Gálvez began setting up gun batteries around the fort the next day. Durnford wrote to General John Campbell at Pensacola requesting reinforcements. On March 5 and 6, most of the Pensacola garrison left on a march toward Mobile. Delayed by difficult river crossings, this force was unable to assist the Fort Charlotte garrison.
On Mar 13, the walls of Fort Charlotte were breached, and Durnford capitulated the next day, surrendering his garrison. The fall of Fort Charlotte drove the British from the western reaches of West Florida and reduced the British military presence in West Florida to its capital, Pensacola.
Emboldened by the destruction of a Gálvez-led expedition against Pensacola by a hurricane in the fall of 1780, Campbell decided to attempt the recapture of Mobile. In the Battle of Mobile, a British attack on Jan 7 1781 against a Spanish outpost on the east side of Mobile Bay was repulsed, and the German leader of the expedition was killed.
Captain Johann von Hanxleden’s expedition of 700 men arrived near the outpost late on Jan 6, and made a dawn attack the next morning. Forty of the Spaniards made a dash for a boat anchored nearby, but the British cut many of them down with a musket volley. Choctaw warriors from the expedition then followed the Spaniards into the water to collect scalps. The remaining Spanish coolly opened fire on the British, killing Hanxleden and nineteen others. The British troops then disengaged and retreated
Minor also participated in the conquest of Pensacola (1781) by later in the year Spanish Field Marshal Gálvez completing the Spanish conquest of West Florida.
These actions were condoned by the revolting American colonies, partially evidenced by the presence of Oliver Pollack, representative of the American Continental Congress, and due to the fact that Mobile and West Florida, for the most part, remained loyal to the British Crown. The fort was renamed Fortaleza Carlota, with the Spanish holding Mobile as a part of Spanish West Florida until 1813, when it was seized by United States General James Wilkinson during the War of 1812.
Stephen Minor and Manuel Gayoso de Lemos
In return for his military services under Galvez, Minor was accorded the rank of Captain and granted the land on which the city of Natchez was built. In 1781, Galvez appointed Minor adjutant of the military post at Natchez commanded by Gayoso de Lemos.
Minor received a commission as a captain in the Spanish army, and he served as the adjutant of Fort Panmure at Natchez. During this time, Minor also assisted Spanish governor Manuel Gayoso de Lemos in various administrative duties. He also provided the Anglo-American settlers and Natchez Indians of the district liaison with the Spanish officials, who often referred to him as “Don Esteban.”
Manuel Luis Gayoso de Lemos Amorín y Magallanes (1747 – 1799) was born in Oporto, Portugal to Spanish consul Manuel Luis Gayoso de Lemos y Sarmiento and Theresa Angélica de Amorín y Magallanes, he received his education in London, where his parents were living. He was said to have the accent and manners of the British.
At age 23 Manuel Gayoso de Lemos joined the military, the Spanish Lisbon Regiment as a cadet (1771) and was commissioned ensign the following year. The Lisbon Regiment had been reassigned from Havana to New Orleans since the Spanish entry under Field Marshal Alejandro O’Reilly in 1769. (Like many so-called “Wild Geese” of his generation, O’Reilly left Ireland to serve in foreign,Catholic armies.)
Throughout his life Gayoso de Lemos retained his military rank and he was a brigadier at the time of his death. Don Manuel Gayoso de Lemos married three times. His first marriage was to Theresa Margarita Hopman y Pereira of Lisbon, with whom he had two children. In 1792 he married Elizabeth Watts of Philadelphia and Louisiana; she died three months later. He then married Elizabeth’s sister, Margaret Cyrilla Watts, with whom he had one son.
On Nov 3, 1787, Manuel Gayoso de Lemos assumed military and civil command of the fort and the newly organized District of Natchez (West Florida), having been appointed district governor by Governor-General Esteban Rodríguez Miró, governor of Louisiana and West Florida. On his arrival, Gayoso de Lemos established an informal cabildo (council) of landed planters which was formalized in 1792. Most of the council were of non-Spanish origin having come down from the Ohio River Valley settlements (especially Kentucky).
From The Sins of Manuel Gayoso – “Natchez was a rough, lawless frontier settlement when Gayoso arrived in 1789. There were about twenty houses, most of them rough framed affairs, sparsely furnished. Kentuckians and other westerners descended the Mississippi with flatboats of goods to sell, unloaded their cargoes, then raised hell in the taverns. Often they stole a horse to get back home, via the Natchez Trace. Stolen goods frequently changed hands in the taverns for the price of a few drinks. Counterfeiting was big business, and slaves were common targets for thievery. Gayoso himself was ripped off by an American traveler to whom he extended hospitality, losing two slaves, a shotgun, carbine, bridles, and two saddles. (The thief was caught and returned for trial.)
Gayoso sought to lower the high rate of homicide in his frontier district by banning knives and pistols, but outlaws with a penchant for stabbing circumvented the law by fashioning effective stilettos of hardened wood. As governor, Gayoso was the chief magistrate and possessed the power to adjudicate disputes and arrange settlements. In Natchez Saturday was court day, and Gayoso spent virtually the entire day hearing complaints of various types and rendering his decisions. He was as tough on miscreants as his authority allowed, petitioning Miró unsuccessfully for the funds to build a jail. Gayoso had considerable power over the church in his district. Because the governors were considered the Spanish King’s representatives the new world, they had the power to create new bishoprics, dioceses, parishes, and other church posts. Gayoso was tolerant of various religious sects in Natchez, but he didn’t take any guff off the priests and didn’t hesitate to let them know who was boss.
Miró left the governorship of Louisiana in 1791 and returned to Spain. Gayoso had hoped to replace him, but was disappointed when Francisco Luis Hector de Carondelet was appointed in his place. Despite initial reason for tension, the two men seemed to have had an effective working relationship. When Carondelet arrived in 1791, he was appalled at the state of Spain’s defenses on the lower Mississippi. Together, Gayoso and Carondelet set about a long-term program to beef up Spain’s military defenses. At Gayoso’s urging, Carondelet created the Squadron of the Mississippi, which came to include six galleys, four galiots, one bombardier, and six cannon launches. In 1795, the crew members numbered over 300. The larger galleys boasted an 18-pounder cannon and eight to ten swivel guns. They were used for reconnaissance expeditions up and down the Mississippi.
Gayoso also recommended to Carondelet construction of additional forts in the Mississippi Valley. They beefed up defenses in Nogales, Natchez, New Orleans, and Baton Rouge. Gayoso beat the Americans to Chickasaw Bluffs through painstaking negotiations with the Chickasaws, who finally consented to let Spain build a small military post there. Gayoso was supported by a majority of the ships in the Spanish squadron when he established a new military post at Chickasaw Bluffs in 1795.
The new fortifications aside, Gayoso believed that the primary defense of Louisiana lay not in expensive permanent forts, but in the willingness of Natchez settlers to defend their homes and plantations. Louisiana had a regular battalion of infantry—at least on paper (in fact, the battalion was never at full strength despite recruiting efforts in Mexico and emptying out all the jails in the Spanish empire). Gayoso persuaded Carondelet to organize a real militia, though Carondelet was mistrustful of the French settlers in Natchez and was reluctant to give them too much leeway. Gayoso persevered, and by the fall of 1793, he had organized two companies of infantry, two of cavalry, and one of artillery for Natchez.”
Gayoso de Lemos continued to encourage American settlement on Spanish soil, especially by Catholics, notably the Irish and the Scots, and those who brought significant property. He moved the administrative part of the town of Natchez from the waterfront up onto the bluffs. One of the most troubling aspects during his civil administration was confusion in the land titles, with a number of inconsistent land grants. Unfortunately, Rodríguez Miró’s successor, Governor-General Carondelet was not amenable to rectifying the problem.
While in Natchez, Gayoso de Lemos used Americans freebooters, notably General James Wilkinson and Philip Nolan to help limit the growth of the United States. Also to this end, Gayoso de Lemos entered into alliances with the local Indian tribes and signed formal treaties with them in 1792, 1793, and 1795. Under his direction the Spanish fortified the Mississippi at Nogales (later Walnut Hills, then later changed to Vicksburg) and Chickasaw Bluffs (later Memphis). He was instrumental in acquiring the information from James Wilkinson concerning the proposed US attack on New Orleans in 1793 by General George Rogers Clark.
Several years after the death of his wife, Elizabeth, Gayoso began courting the younger sister of his second wife, Margaret Cyrilla Watts. However, the road to matrimony was far from smooth. When Gayoso sailed north to New Madrid in 1795 (where he happened to run into young William Clark), ugly rumors circulated to the effect that he was keeping a mistress there, had built a house for her, and intended to marry her. Governor Carondelet heard the rumors and was disturbed enough to write to Gayoso, reminding him that it was common knowledge that he had “lived as a husband” to Margaret Watts in Natchez and that if he didn’t behave himself, he was going to get in trouble with the Bishop of New Orleans.
Gayoso finally requested a royal license to marry Margaret in early 1796. Carondelet forwarded the paperwork through the captain-general of Cuba to the secretary of war. Official permission was not forthcoming until March 1797, by which time Margaret was noticeably pregnant. Concerned about their status, Gayoso asked Carondelet to grant interim permission, which he declined to do.
On July 14, 1797, Margaret gave birth to a healthy son, whom they named Fernando. When the Gayosos went to New Orleans later that year, an interesting religious ceremony took place, in which the Bishop baptized young Fernando and married his parents.
Under the terms of Pinckney’s Treaty promulgated in 1796, Spain agreed to relinquish the Natchez District to the United States. Thus Gayoso de Lemos oversaw the gradual Spanish withdrawal from the east-side of the middle Mississippi. In March 1797 the fort at Nogales was decommissioned with the troops and stores being moved to St. Louis.
Gayoso de Lemos succeeded Carondelet as Governor-General of Louisiana and West Florida on Aug 5, 1797 and Minor briefly served as acting governor until the Spanish evacuated Natchez prior to April of 1798, when the Mississippi Territory was created by the United States Congress.
Gayoso died of yellow fever in Louisiana in 1799. Unkind gossips claimed that hard drinking with a visiting American general who was associated with several scandals and controversies — James Wilkinson—was a contributing factor.
Wilkinson served in the Continental Army, ,but was twice compelled to resign. He was twice the Commanding General of the United States Army, appointed first Governor of the Louisiana Territory in 1805, and commanded two unsuccessful campaigns in the St. Lawrence theater during the War of 1812. After his death, he was discovered to have been a paid agent of the Spanish Crown. Traitor extraordinaire James Wilkinson should be better known. I’m pretty well versed in American history and today is the first I’ve heard of him..
(See the Spanish Conspiracy by Frances Hunter. I wonder if Stephen Minor assisted his mentor Manuel Gayoso in his undercover work. Maybe he led the 300 Natchez militiamen deployed to New Orleans in 1793 to help defend the port against “the Jacobin menace.” )
Minor was next appointed as one of the Spanish commissioners responsible for establishing the boundary between Florida and the United States during 1798 and 1799, running the lines between Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. He was in command of the Spanish forces in Vidalia, Louisiana, across the river from Natchez, when the United States acquired this territory with the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Minor was also a Spanish boundary commissioner for Louisiana during 1804 and 1805.
Owning plantations on Sandy and Second creeks in Adams County, Minor initially produced indigo and tobacco. Following the example of Governor Gayoso, he began planting cotton around 1795, and by 1797, just one of his plantations was yielding twenty-five hundred bales of cotton annually. Minor also owned forty thousand acres of land east of the Pearl River in Louisiana.
Stephen Minor purchased Concord, the former residence and plantation of Governor Gayoso, after the latter departed Natchez.
Over fifty years later, in its December 1850 session, the US Supreme Court affirmed the validity of Minor’s title to Concordia. At issue was whether Gayoso gave Concordia to his second wife Margarett Watts to use as she pleased or whether Gayosa’s infant son Fernando should have inherited. Also at issue was how the 1802 contract between the United States and Georgia and the 1803 Congressional Act regulating land grants south of Tennessee should be applied to this case. You can read the arguments and the decision here.
Some Interesting Events in Stephen’s Timeline
In 1788, Stephen Minor sold 300 acres to the Spanish government which included the bluff property. Manuel Gayoso de Lemos “drew a line from Front Street, facing the bluffs, and forbade the granting of lots west of it.”
From 1804 to 1806, Congress was involved in a dispute over the bluff property involving 30 acres, which was eventually provided the Town of Natchez. In 1804 the (Natchez) Common Council fell into legal controversy with the aristocrat-controlled Board of Trustees of Jefferson College in Washington over the college’s claim to the public square and the commons in Natchez. In 1803 the United States Congress granted the college, for revenue purposes, two lots in Natchez and thirty acres of federal property in the city, with the tracts to be picked by the governor. Despite loud cries of protest from the Natchez officials, Gov. C.C. Claiborne chose two lots on the public square, and Cato West, acting governor of the Mississippi Territory in 1803, picked as the thirty-acre site the city commons on the bluff…The issue was not settled until 1816 when the city ‘won permanent and clear title to the tracts’.
At noon Thursday, May 11, 1797, [Concordia Sentinel by Stanley Nelson] Englishman Francis Baily, the 21-year-old son of a London banker, arrived in Natchez on a flatboat loaded with flour. This was a tense time in Natchez country history — the Spanish flag was flying over Fort Panmure (Rosalie) and the American flag flying over Liberty Hill a few hundred yards to the north where the House on Ellicott Hill sits today. A treaty had transferred possession of Natchez to the Americans, but the Spanish had yet to leave town, causing great tension. Much excitement was also in the air over cotton, a crop which was transforming the economic fortunes of the region, triggered by the invention of Eli Whitney’s saw gin.”There is a great deal of cotton raised in this district,” Baily wrote in his journal, which was later published in a book. “There are several jennies erected…in order to extricate the seed from the cotton.” On the bank of the Mississippi River at Natchez, Baily observed one gin owned by Stephen Minor and his partner that was “worked by two horses, which will give 500 lbs. of clear cotton in a day.”
Not long after inspecting Minor’s gin on the river bank, Bailey prepared to take off for New Orleans. When the owners of the flatboat that transported Baily to Natchez sold their flour, the owner and crew headed back home through the wilderness along what became known as the Natchez Trace.
Bailey found a ride south on another flatboat, owned by a Mr. Douglass, “laden with cotton” bought at Natchez. Baily said the cotton was loaded into bags weighing about 200 pounds each and that the flatboat held an estimated 250 bags, about 25 tons. Douglass charged farmers and merchants an average of $1.50 per bag of cotton, garnering him a fee of about $375 for the entire shipment.
The flatboat was the only really serviceable type of river craft, for it would go where there was water enough for a muskrat to swim in, would glide unscathed over the concealed snag or, thrusting its corner into the soft mud of some protruding bank, swing around and go on as well stern first as before. The flatboat was the sum of human ingenuity applied to river navigation. Even (keeled) barges were proving failures and passing into disuse, as the cost of poling them upstream was greater than any profit to be reaped from the voyage.
1800-1810 - When Natchez lawyer, judge, Congressman and finally Senator George Poindexter, a man often embroiled in controversy, challenged Minor to a duel in the early 1800s for some alleged slight, Natchez citizens thought he was insane. One friend advised Poindexter to back off, noting, “You must look to him (Minor). Whatever Major Minor states, upon his honor, you, and every other gentleman, are bound to accept.”
Poindexter was involved in two other shootings. When former U.S. Vice President Aaron Burr was arrested in 1807 for the alleged Burr conspiracy, Poindexter conducted the prosecution until Burr’s escape from custody. Poindexter’s outspoken opposition to the Federalist Party resulted in criticisms from merchant Abijah Hunt, possibly the richest man in Mississippi Territory.
When Hunt criticized him, Poindexter challenged Hunt to a duel and the quick moving affair ended up on the dueling grounds of Concordia on the plantation known as Palo Alto, located about a mile north of the Post of Concord (Vidalia) and owned by Stephen Minor of Natchez. Poindexter killed Hunt resulting in controversy and unsubstantiated claims that accused Poindexter of firing prematurely.
In 1834 when he was President pro tempore of the Senate, Poindexter had his Washington, D.C. home painted by Richard Lawrence. Lawrence, a deranged man, thought he was the ruler of England and the United States and that Andrew Jackson was a usurper. In Jan 1835 Lawrence shot at Jackson with two pistols while the President was attending a memorial service for a Congressman at the House of Representatives. It was the first attempt to assassinate a President. Jackson accused various political enemies as being behind Lawrence. Among them was Poindexter, who denied any connection except for the painting. But the accusations followed Poindexter back to Mississippi. He was unsuccessful for a second term.
The Yellow Duchess
|Stephen Minor’s wife Katherine Lintot was known as “The Yellow Duchess” . She is buried under the massive tomb to the left and her husband is buried next to her under the “table top” tombstone. She was known as the “Yellow Duchess” because of her fondness for the color yellow. Everything she owned was yellow. Including her clothes, carriage and furniture. She even had a flower garden full of yellow roses. She insisted that her horses be Palominos, and her slaves mulatto. Being of Spanish Royalty she had very great wealth and it is said she was buried with much of her gold. Therefore a massive structure was placed over her grave to prevent grave robbery. But no, she did not die of Yellow Fever – a disease that took many lives in Natchez.|
Philip Nolan Jr.
Katherine’s sister Fanny, married Philip Nolan, Sr. (wiki), who lost hits life while on an illegal horse hunting expedition at the site of present-day Waco, Texas, in 1797. His infant son, Philip, Jr., was reared by Stephen Minor. Philip Nolan, Jr., apparently lived out his life using the surname of his Uncle Stephen Minor. It was Philip, Jr., who built Linwood Plantation (circa 1840 to 1939) near Ashland (1841- ), the plantation home of Stephen’s grandson Duncan F. Kenner in Ascension Parish, Louisiana.
He is not to be confused with the fictional Philip Nolan of “The Man Without a Country” by Edward Everett Hale whose background was only loosely based on the real Philip Nolan’s exploits. Hale had intended to make his fictional character Philip Nolan’s brother, but, misremembering the real Nolan’s name as “Nathaniel”, named his character “Philip” (the apostles Philip and Nathaniel being frequently mentioned together in the New Testament). In editions printed after Hale discovered his mistake, the word “brother” was therefore changed to “cousin”, and Hale wrote The Real Philip Nolan by way of atonement.
At the age of fifteen, Nolan went to work for the Kentucky and Louisiana entrepreneur James Wilkinson as his business secretary and bookkeeper (1788–1791). He handled much of Wilkinson’s New Orleans trade and became conversant in Spanish. During this time, he became acquainted with Manuel Luis Gayoso the district governor for Natchez.
In 1791, using the influence of Wilkinson, Nolan obtained a trading passport from the Spanish governor of Louisiana and West Florida, Esteban Rodríguez Miró. He left Wilkinson’s employ and set out to trade with the Indian tribes across the Mississippi. This trade was not legitimate, but was perhaps winked at by the Spanish authorities. The passport was void in Texas, and his goods were confiscated by Spanish authorities. Nonetheless, and after living with the Indians for two years, Nolan returned to New Orleans with fifty horses.
He made a second trip to Texas in 1794-1795, with a passport from the Louisiana governor. He made acquaintance with Texas Governor Manuel Muñoz and the commandant general of the Provincias Internas, Pedro de Nava. It was on this trip that he met his first wife. This time he brought back 250 horses.
In 1796, Nolan worked for Andrew Ellicott, boundary commissioner for the United States who was mapping up the Missouri River. [Stephen Minor had previously worked with Ellicott mapping the border between Florida and the Mississippi Territory. ] Governor Gayoso de Lemos was not pleased when Nolan arrived at Natchez accompanied by the surveying party.
But Nolan managed to patch things up, at least with Governor Carondelet in New Orleans, and obtained a third passport to enter Texas, despite the fact that trade directly between Louisiana and Texas was still officially prohibited by Spain. Gayoso de Lemos was not fooled. He wrote directly to the viceroy of Mexico, warning him against foreigners (such as Nolan) who were stirring up the Texas Indians against Spanish rule.
In the summer of 1797, Nolan left on his third trip to Texas with a wagon train of trade goods, which he successfully brought to La Villa de San Fernando de Béxar, Spanish Texas (now San Antonio, the seat of Bexar County), where he insinuated himself in Spanish Texas society and married. Commandant General Pedro de Nava was ordered by the viceroy not to deal with Nolan, but Governor Muñoz defended Nolan and provided him with safe conduct out of Texas. Nolan left his wife and daughter in Texas and came back to Natchez in the autumn of 1799 with more than 1,200 horses.
Nolan is sometimes credited with being the first to map Texas for the American frontiersmen, but his map has never been found. Nonetheless, his observations were passed on to Wilkinson, who used them to produce his map of the Texas-Louisiana frontier in 1804.
Philip Nolan was married twice, first to Maria Gertrudis Dolores Quiñones, with whom he had a daughter, Maria Josefa Nolan, born August 20, 1798, in what is now San Antonio. Philip was separated from Maria by, at least, July 1800. He also married the former Frances “Fanny” Lintot, the daughter of Bernard Lintot, a prominent Natchez citizen, on December 19, 1799. Frances bore him a son Philip Nolan, Jr., in July 1801, after he had left on his fourth and final trip to Texas.
Nolan was unable to obtain any more passports from the Spanish authorities. He conceived or borrowed a scheme to go illegally into Texas and perhaps other Mexican provinces. There is considerable dispute about the exact nature of this filibustering expedition; some claim that he promised his men that they would seize riches and land and create a kingdom for themselves. Nonetheless, he convinced some thirty frontiersmen that the expedition would make them rich. They crossed the border in October 1800 and headed north of Nacogdoches to capture wild mustangs. The Spanish soon heard of their activities, and Pedro de Nava ordered their arrest.
On March 21, 1801, a Spanish force of 120 men under the command of Lieutenant M. Múzquiz left Nacogdoches in pursuit of Nolan, whom they encountered entrenched and unwilling to surrender just upstream from where the current Nolan River flows into the larger Brazos (now in Hill County, Texas). Several of Nolan’s men surrendered immediately to the Spanish and after Nolan was killed, the remainder yielded. Nolan’s ears were cut off as evidence for Spain that he was dead. The first-hand account of the expedition, capture and subsequent imprisonment is contained in the Memoirs of Ellis P. Bean, who was second in command of the expedition. Also see this account of the Adventures of Philip Nolan and Ellis P. Bean from a history of Texas.
Concord in Ruins
Concord was first the residence of Stephen Minor’s friend, the first Spanish Governor, Don Manuel Gayoso de Lemos, who built the house in 1794. Gayoso filled his mansion with ornate furniture imported from Spain and Santo Domingo, spent wildly and entertained lavishly. A friend described Gayoso during this time as “of high stature, and stoutly built,” and added, “he was fond of horses, of good cheer and madeira.” He owned matched bay horses, and a black and a roan. In 1799, he ordered a special “elastic jacket, which is very convenient apparel for a corpulent person to ride on horse back.”
To his beautiful home, Gayoso brought his second wife, an American beauty named Elizabeth Watts, in April 1792. Unfortunately, Elizabeth contracted a fever and died within three months of their marriage. A curious legend sprang up that the grief-stricken governor kept his dead wife in a tub filled with embalming fluid on the second story of Concord.
Gayoso’s mansion, “Concord,” was the social and political center of Natchez. A lady who remembered the mansion as a young girl gave this description:
The very first sight of the house, seen through a long vista of noble trees, as you enter the gate, forms a splendid picture. About half way from the gate is a large pond surrounded by gnarled old cedars, after which the road branches into two, on each side of an extensive sloping lawn, and the end of the delightful drive brings us to the house itself.
Built of brick with walls fully two feet thick, there is an air of massiveness and solidity about this grand old house that gives promise of centuries of useful existence before it shall succumb to the leveling hand of time.
On the ground floor a broad gallery paved with brick completely circles the house, and lofty pillars reaching to the roof support another broad gallery upon which all the second story rooms open. These pillars are about four feet in diameter, made of brick covered with mortar, which gives them the appearance of stone. Two winding flights of stairs, one on each side of the entrance, made of the purest white marble, lead from the ground to the upper gallery, where they meet in a solid slab of snow white marble about six feet wide and ten feet long … A vestibule paved with alternate squares of black and white marble, after the houses of Pompeii, leads through the richly carved front door into a broad hall extending the full length of the house.
After Gayoso de Lemos became Governor-General of Louisiana, he sold the house to Stephen Minor, who took over his former post. The Minor family moved after the Civil War and the home fell into a long period of deterioration. It burned in 1901, just as new owners made plans to refurbish it
The original house resembled Ellicott’s Hill, with a front gallery under the main roof. Later in the 1810s, under the ownership of Steven Minor, the distinctive classical portico and side galleries were added, possibly designed by Levi Weeks, the architect of Auburn (1812), a Natchez mansion thought to be the first use of the classical orders in the form of “white columns” we’ve all come to associate with the antebellum South. Many early authors assumed Concord’s portico was original and thus ascribed a level of sophistication to the Spanish period that really came later in the American period.
The Mississippian created his own architecture; his slave labor was unskilled, his models no more than pictures or memories; his real pattern was the Spanish. The result was the fusion of styles found at Natchez, predominantly Georgian in character, with columns and pediments relieved by the sloping roofs and galleries that broke across the classic fronts. In Concord, the former home of the Spanish governors at Natchez, which burned in 1901, this fusion probably reached its finest expression. The great columns that gave distinction to the building sprang from the earth itself. The lower story was extended to the face of the upper verandah, whose slender balustrade and smaller piazza posts were deeply recessed under the eaves of the light roof. The effect was Spanish West Indian as much as Greek.
Nevertheless, the house was important both architecturally and historically, and was seen as such before it burned, as you can see below.
“CONCORD” IN RUINS
First Mansion Built in the State
Gives Way to the Fire
ERECTED BY GRAND PRE IN 1789
Marble Mantels and Cornices from
Spain–Nothing Left but
Another grand old ante-bellum mansion, one of the many that have made this section famous, lies in ruins, a victim of the fire fiend. The mansion in question is the historic old “Concord,” built by the Spanish Governor, Carlos de Grand Pre, in 1789, who was commandant here from 1786 to 1792.
It was then known as “Grand Pre.” In 1792 Don Manuel Gayosa de Lemos succeeded Governor Grand Pre and he changed the name of the mansion to “Concord.” In 1798 Stephen Minor succeeded Governor Gayosa and occupied “Concord.” The mansion remained as the property of the Minors until some years ago when it was sold to Dr. Stephen Kelly, president of the Fifth National bank of New York, but formerly of this city.
As fate would have it, Dr. Kelly’s son arrived in Natchez day before yesterday on his bridal tour and is now occupying “Melrose,” another old ante-bellum mansion of the Kelly estate.
Concord is in a large grove and was built of brick with a large wide gallery extending around the four sides. A double stone staircase leads from the grand driveway to the second floor. The mantels were of marble quarried in Spain and brought here for Grand Pre.
One of the historical incidents mentioned in connection with Concord is the story that in the old library at “Concord” Aaron Burr endeavored to persuade Governor Minor to co-operate with him in his nefarious plot against the Federal Government.
After Burr left the Vice-Presidency at the end of his term in 1805, he journeyed into what was then the West, areas west of the Allegheny Mountains, particularly the Ohio River Valley and the lands acquired in the Louisiana Purchase drumming up support for his plans. Burr had leased 40,000 acres of land (known as the Bastrop Tract) along the Ouachita River, in what is now Louisiana, from the Spanish government.
His most important contact was General James Wilkinson, Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Army at New Orleans and Governor of the Louisiana Territory. Others included Harman Blennerhassett, who offered the use of his private island for training and outfitting Burr’s expedition. Wilkinson was later proved to be a bad choice.
Burr saw war with Spain as a distinct possibility. In case of a war declaration, Andrew Jackson stood ready to help Burr, who would be in position to immediately join in. Burr’s expedition of about eighty men carried modest arms for hunting, and no materiel was ever revealed, even when Blennerhassett Island was seized by Ohio militia. His “conspiracy”, he always avowed, was that if he settled there with a large group of (armed) “farmers” and war broke out, he would have an army with which to fight and claim land for himself, thus recouping his fortunes. However, the 1819 Adams-Onís Treaty secured Florida for the United States without a fight, and war in Texas didn’t occur until 1836, the year of Burr’s death.
After a near-incident with Spanish forces at Natchitoches, Wilkinson decided he could best serve his conflicting interests by betraying Burr’s plans to President Jefferson and to his Spanish paymasters. Jefferson issued an order for Burr’s arrest, declaring him a traitor even before an indictment. Burr read this in a newspaper in the Territory of Orleans on Jan 10, 1807. Jefferson’s warrant put Federal agents on his trail. He turned himself in to the Federal authorities twice. Two judges found his actions legal and released him. Jefferson’s warrant, however, followed Burr, who then fled toward Spanish Florida; he was intercepted at Wakefield, in Mississippi Territory (now in the state of Alabama) on Feb 19 1807, and confined to Fort Stoddert after being arrested on charges of treason.
Burr’s secret correspondence with Anthony Merry and the Marquis of Casa Yrujo, the British and Spanish ministers at Washington, was eventually revealed. It had been to secure money and to conceal his real designs, which were to help Mexico to overthrow Spanish power in the Southwest, and to found a dynasty in what would have become former Mexican territory. This was a misdemeanor, based on the Neutrality Act of 1794 passed to block filibuster expeditions like those questionable enterprises of George Rogers Clark and William Blount. Jefferson, however, sought the highest charges against Burr.
In 1807, on a charge of treason, Burr was brought to trial before the United States Circuit Court at Richmond, Virginia. His defense lawyers included Edmund Randolph, John Wickham and Luther Martin. Burr was arraigned four times for treason before a grand jury indicted him. This was surprising since the only physical evidence presented to the Grand Jury was Wilkinson’s so-called letter from Burr which proposed the idea of stealing land in the Louisiana Purchase. During the Jury’s examination it was discovered that the letter was written in Wilkinson’s own handwriting – a “copy,” he said, because he had “lost” the original. The Grand Jury threw the letter out, and the news made a laughingstock of the General for the rest of the proceedings. The trial, presided over by Chief Justice of the United States John Marshall, began on August 3.
Article 3, Section 3 of the United States Constitution requires that treason either be admitted in open court, or proved by an overt act witnessed by two people. Since no two witnesses came forward, Burr was acquitted on September 1, in spite of the full force of the Jefferson administration’s political influence thrown against him. Immediately afterward, he was tried on a more appropriate misdemeanor charge, but was again acquitted.
Among the noted men who have been entertained at “Concord” were General Anthony Wayne, General Lafayette, Jefferson Davis, Aaron Burr and Winthrop Sargent, the first territorial governor of the Mississippi Territory,
The entertainments at Concord were the most famous and lavish ever given in this section, even in the days when regal splendor was the order at all the social divertissements of the upper ten.
Of late years the place has been occupied by Mr. Herman Stier, a well known and prosperous meat butcher.
A few months ago “Concord” was the scene of a magnificent “country ball” given by the Duke and Duchess of Manchester. It was a reminder of the old time social festivals at “Concord” and was largely attended. It was a brilliant affair and made a suitable fluis to the social chapter in the history of “Concord.”
It was just after the town clocks struck the hour of 12 yesterday afternoon that the alarm was turned in. Though “Concord” was a mile beyond city limits the volunteer department hastened to respond. The firemen performed heroic work, but they were dependent upon a few cisterns for their water supply, which was very poor indeed. The old mansion was doomed.
The firemen assisted by numerous citizens directed their first efforts to saving the furniture in the building and succeeded in their endeavors.
Several of the rich marble mantels that were brought from Spain to add their splendid beauty to the magnificence of “Concord” were taken out before the roof caved in, but some were broken and will be of little use, save as mementoes of the famous mansion.
After the fire had played its part the relic hunters picked up small pieces of blackened stone broken from the cornices, also a product of Spanish stone quarries.
The value of the building was beyond estimate. In historic interest its value was beyond price, as its was easily the most famous of all antebellum mansions.
It was insured for $2500 through the Metcalfe Insurance Agency and $2500 through Major John Rawle’s insurance agency, making a total of $5000.
For their story, see my post Stephen Minor’s Children – Decadent Unionists
Minor Family Papers - Mississippi Dept of Archives and Records
William J. Minor and Family Papers -LSU Library