The Pearl River

From the Baltimore Patriot (Baltimore, Maryland), dated September 25, 1815:
Transcribed and submitted by Denise Burge


According to an official advertisement in the western papers, it appears that all the public lands (to which the Indian title is extinguished) in that part of the Mississippi Territory which lies west of Pearl River, are to be exposed to public sale at Washington, in the Mississippi Territory, on the second Tuesday in next month. This sale, which will probably continue many days, affords an opportunity not to be neglected by those who are desirous to hold lands in that country. – National Intelligencer.



From the Ariel (Natchez, Mississippi), dated February 16, 1827:
Transcribed and submitted by Denise Burge


Pearl River
It affords us great satisfaction, and must no doubt be highly gratifying to every public spirited citizen, whether he be of the east or the west, to understand that the Pearl River has been rendered navigable for steam boats, as high up as Monticello. It was reported in this city, that two or three had succeeded in getting up to that place, but from the following account which we copy from the “Pearl River Herald,” it is certain that the steamboat American, arrived at Monticello, on the 3d instant.

The advantages which our fellow citizens of the east, will derive from the navigation of Pearl River, by steamboats to New Orleans, is incalculable, it must in the course of a few years, introduce into that section of the state, an industrious and enterprising description of people, particularly should the members of the legislature from the east, after a proper and deliberate investigation of the subject, find that the best way to promote the emigration of a free white population, would be to prohibit the introduction of slaves into the state. In order to render Mississippi a bright star in the American constellation, there are four great objects to be attained, and which can be attained in a few years, if the wealth and patriotism of the state, will combine with the enterprising and laborious to bring into operation – The institution of Primary Schools – attention to Internal Improvement – a prohibition act as regards Slaves, and means brought into action to render Natchez a Shipping Port.

“At 10 o’clock this morning, the steamboat American arrived at this place – deducting the time she stopped at different places, she came up from the mouth of the river in three days. Her arrival was both a novel and pleasing sight to the inhabitants of Monticello. The problem is at length solved, the Pearl River can be navigated by steam. To the enterprising spirit of Captain Wood, we are indebted for the first attempt, in contradiction to the advice and prediction of many people, some of whom, it is more than probable were interested in preventing the attempt being made. It is sincerely hoped that every facility will be afforded the captain, in his getting freight up and down the river.”



From the Ariel (Natchez, Mississippi), dated April 19, 1828:
Transcribed and submitted by Denise Burge


Pearl River
It always affords us a satisfaction, when we hear of any circumstance, that promises an immediate benefit to our fellow citizens of the eastern section of this state, or that will tend to draw the attention of intelligent and enterprising men to its situation. The people as well as the lands of the west are rich and they have a more direct and free access to a market for the productions of their soil. But the people of the East labor under many disadvantages, which might by the attention of the State Legislature, assisted by the fostering hand of the General Government, be in part if not altogether removed. Many of our citizens here think with us on this subject, and we do not know why they all should not.

We know there are many jealousies grown up between the people of the two sections, but we see no good reasons why they should exist, why as far as many be in our power, should we not endeavor to reconcile unnecessary antipathies, and which if not ameliorated may lead to consequences injurious to the interests of both sections. The people of this state are for the most part native Americans, sprung from fathers known in the days of the revolution, and respected for their patriotism, and why should not their feelings and their principles unite to sustain the interests of all. And even if their be those among us from European countries, yet it is for our, as well as their advantage, that a good understanding should be promoted among all classes and conditions of society.

We have had occasion several times to express our opinion on this subject, but our attention at present has been drawn to it by a citizen from the east, who called on us not long since, and gave us an account of the arrival at Jackson of the Steamboat Superior. This was a very unexpected sight to the citizens of that place and neighborhood, and encourages them in the belief that by proper exertions, the inhabitants on Pearl River may yet see their property greatly improved and enhanced in value by the navigation of Pearl River. The Superior is a boat of about 80 tons. Capt. Coan the commander, deserves much credit for his successful attempt to navigate the river to Jackson.



From the Times-Picayune (Picayune, Mississippi), dated September 14, 1844:
Transcribed and submitted by Denise Burge


Navigation of Pearl River
A letter appears in the Mississippian from Senator Walker, of Mississippi, upon this subject. He states that he has given the closest attention to improving the navigation of Pearl river, and deems it of vast importance. He first ascertained at the Land Office that there were 1,048,000 acres of vacant lands within five miles of the river – a small portion being within the parishes of St. Tammany and Washington, in this State. He then recommends the following course to be adopted, and pledges his heartiest exertions to accomplish the objects in view:

Now, my plan of operation is, to call at some central point a convention of all the counties of our State and Louisiana interested in this great work. 2d. This convention to request the Legislatures of Louisiana and Mississippi to memorialize Congress in favor of the project, and to ask a grant of alternate sections of all the vacant lands within five miles of Pearl river, to be applied to this improvement by the States of Louisiana and Mississippi, each taking charge of the portion granted which may be within its own limits. Could this grant be obtained of these alternate sections, it would amount to five hundred and twenty-four thousand acres. This plan avoids all constitutional objections, for no one doubts the power of this Government, as the great proprietor of the public domain, to grant a portion of it to a State, so to be applied as to render the balance more valuable. The steamboat on the principle of Hunter, now no longer an experiment, with no outside wheels, and turning as it were on a pivot, is admirably calculated for narrow, shallow and winding rivers; and there is no doubt that the Pearl, almost to its source, can be improved so as to be navigable by vessels of this description.



From the Times-Picayune (Picayune, Mississippi), dated January 29, 1846:
Transcribed and submitted by Denise Burge


Pearl River
This stream is full to overflowing at this time and still rising. The Bolochitto, Bognechitto, Terrapin Skin and other tributaries of the Pearl are all higher than they have been for many years. The Gainsville Advocate of the 24th inst. Says – “The river is in good boating order at this time, and if it continues so, we may expect large quantities of cotton down. A steamboat is expected daily at this place, to run up the river.”



From the Clarion Ledger (Jackson, Mississippi), dated June 13, 1889:
Transcribed and submitted by Denise Burge


Pearl River History
Recollections of Prominent State Families
Early Settlers in Mississippi Who Recognized the Beauties of the Pearl – Their Progeny Still Live, and are Good Citizens


Judge G.S. McMillan, of Brookhaven, has furnished the following letter, written by Col. J.F.H. Claiborne, to the Brookhaven Progress. The Clarion-Ledger copies it because it will be read with more than passing interest by the people of Mississippi:
“In referring to the old and much respected pioneer of enterprise and steam navigation in South Mississippi, Capt. William J. Poitevent, and to his sons, I must not forget to remind you that he is the father, and they are the brothers of Mrs. E.J. Nicholson, of the Picayune – our “Pearl Rivers” – Mississippi’s bright particular star’s songstress whose melodies recited in all our households, are in tune with the sweetness of her disposition and purity of her soul.

Pearl River is not only our great central water-shed, draining the country into the Mississippi on one side, and into the Chickasaw on the other, and capable of being made navigable two-thirds of the year, but it is a historic stream. It was first discovered by Bienville in 1619. The French had just founded their colony at Biloxi. De Iberville sent his brother Bienville on an exploring expedition up the lake. I have before me the MSS journal of one of his officers from which I quote: “Next day we came to a river, falling into the lake, which the Indians called Taleatcha, or River of Pearls. Here are found the shells used by the Indians to scrape out their pirogues after they have hollowed them with fire; and in their bivalve beautiful pearls are sometimes found.”

The most extensive pre-historic fortification in the State may still be traced on the old Daniel plantation, the first high land above the mouth of the river, a wall thirty feet at the base, twenty feet high, with a ditch twelve feet wide along its entire length, say half a mile.

The first white settler on Pearl river, was Capt. Simon Favre, who was in turn Indian agent for the Spanish and American Governments, and is mentioned in the dispatches of Governor Claiborne, as a most valuable officer. He lived at the first bluff above Pearlington. The first cotton gin on the river was there erected by Capt. Isaac Graves, one of the earliest American settlers. Judge P.R.B. Pray, of our Supreme Court, who came from Maine, and General Nixon, a soldier of the war of 1812, who came from South Carolina, were early settlers in Pearlington; and there the late Gov. John J. McRae, then a student in Gen. Pray’s office, married the lady afterwards known and beloved by thousands of Mississippians.

Gainesville took the name from the Gaines family that settled there about the beginning of the present century.

Napoleon was settled by Nathaniel Mitchell, of North Carolina. He and Francis Leech, formerly of Columbia, a fine writer, author of the famous “Adventures of Shocco Jones,” established the first turpentine orchard and distillery in the piney woods. Col. T.B. Ives, once Senator from Carroll county, was manager of the orchard. He, however, soon quit them and went extensively into the raising of the castor bean, from which he made large quantities of oil, and thereby acquired the dislike of all the children in the neighborhood. Leech & Mitchell terminated their turpentine partnership one morning by a free and easy shooting match, in which fortunately nobody was hurt. They were succeeded by Dr. R. Montgomery, from Madison county, who was the first to go largely into the peach crop. Some years after he married the widow of Mitchell and on the building of the railroad to Brookhaven, he removed to that place, bought a great deal of property in and near the prospective town, built a handsome residence, which may still be seen from the railroad, where he lived up to the time of his death a few years ago. Montgomery Station was named after him. Wakia Bluff and Burnett’s old fields above, were occupied as far back as 1801. Columbia was settled by South Carolinians, and became, you know, about 1821, the capital of the State. It was while the Legislature was sitting there that Poindexter’s Code was submitted and adopted.

The noted Springs, nearby, were turned into a popular watering place by Louis Stovall, a wealthy South Carolinian; who built a large hotel, which was for a number of years, patronized as a summer resort by Mississippi river planters and merchants from New Orleans. The story that Stovall and old Mr. Harmon of Buckatunna Springs, Wayne county, buried a keg of nails and a box of brimstone in their fountains, was no doubt, mere scandal. Judge Safford has lately published an interesting legend of Stovall Springs, which I presume you have seen. Buckatunna was the last residence of Mississippi’s brilliant and favorite son, Gov. J.J. McRea.

The Runnells, the Barneys, and the Maxwells, the Butlers, the Bowens, Buckleys, Lenoirs, Gartman and Conrad, Jayne, Gwin, Whitworth, and the Coopers, were among the early settlers of Monticello and Lawrence county. In my early boyhood I saw some of these people and afterwards served with some of them in the Legislature. I was then spending a month at the house of Judge Charles Lynch, afterwards Governor of the State. There too, I saw the famous Hiram G. Runnells, afterward Governor, and Gen. Arthur Fox, so long the Senator from that District. The beautiful neighborhood of Georgetown, on Pearl River, I visited in 1835, with Col. Buck Harris, afterwards Circuit Judge and one of the best and brightest men of his day; and there I was the guest of the Catchings family, a large and influential connection, that has yielded as much talent and nobility of character as any family in the State.



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