St. Stephens was an eastern city of the Mississippi Territory that was still in Alabama and a very important site in the settlement of the southwestern frontier. During a brief three decades beginning in the 1790’s, St. Stephens became a Spanish Fort, an American trading post, and Mississippi territorial capital as settlers streamed down the Federal Road from the Carolinas and Georgia.
The garrison at St. Stephens was composed of one company, commanded by Captain Fernando Lisoro. The block house, the residence of the commandant, 2nd the church, were good buildings of framework, clay, and plaster.
The other houses were small and covered with cypress bark. All the inhabitants of this place, and of the country, were required to labor so many days upon the public works, to take the oath of allegiance, and to assist in repelling the depredations of the Creeks, who stole horses and other property.
Indian Baths at Old St. Stephens Park
Upon Little river, dividing the modern counties of Baldwin and Monroe, lived many intelligent and wealthy people, whose blood was a mixture of white and Indian. This colony was formed at an early period, for the benefit of their large stocks of cattle, for the wild grass and cane were here never killed by the frost.
Some French farmers also lived upon this river, who dwelt in houses made almost entirely of clay, while those of the Americans were constructed of small poles, in the rudest manner. They all cultivated indigo, which was worth two dollars and fifty cents per pound. The burning of tar engaged much of the time of the Spaniards, still lower down.
Sophia McGillivray was a beautiful, remarkable woman
A most remarkable woman, a sister of General McGillivray, lived occasionally among these people. Sophia McGillivray, a maiden beautiful in all respects, was living at her native place, upon the Coosa, when Benjamin Durant a man of Huguenot blood, came from South Carolina to her mother’s house. A youth of astonishing strength and activity, he had mastered all who opposed him at home.
Being informed by the traders that a man in the Creek nation was his superior, he immediately set out for the region, to which he had long before been inclined to go. He was handsome, and his complexion was almost as brown as that of the pretty, dark-eyed Sophia. She went with him to the Hickory Ground, only a few miles distant, where many Indians had collected, to see the antagonists meet. They encountered each other, and a tremendous fight ensued.
Durnat felled his antagonist to the ground, where he lay, for a time, insensible. The conqueror was proclaimed the champion of the nation. He soon married Sophia and went to reside upon one of the estates of her father, the wealthy Lachlan McGillivray, situated upon the Savannah river.
During the siege of Savannah, she was there with her father, her husband her little boy, Lachlan Durant, who is now favorably known to many of our modern citizens and is yet a resident of Baldwin county. When the city was surrendered to the Americans, she parted from her father, amid a flood of tears, and set out for her native Coosa, while he, as we have seen, sailed with his British friends back to Scotland.
Sophia McGillivray had an air of authority about her
Sophia Durant had an air of authority about her, equal, if not superior, to that of her brother, Alexander. She was much better acquainted with the Indian tongue, for he had long lived out of the nation. When, therefore, he held councils in the vicinity of her residence, she was accustomed to delivering his sentiments in a set speech, to which the Chiefs listened with delight.
Her husband became a wealthy man, and “Durant’s Bend” and other places upon the Alabama, still preserve his memory. In the summer of 1790, while McGillivray was in New York, the Creeks threatened to descend upon the Tensaw settlers and put the whole of them to death. Mrs. Durant mounted a, horse, with a negro woman upon another, and set out from Little river, camped out at night, and, on the fourth day, arrived at the Hickory Ground, where she assembled the Chiefs, threatened them with the vengeance of her brother upon his return, which caused the arrest of the ringleaders, and put a complete stop to their murderous intentions.
Two weeks afterward, this energetic and gifted woman was delivered of twins at the Hickory Ground. One of them married James Bailey, who was killed at the fall of Fort Mims, in 1813, and the other lived to be an old woman.” (Pickett)
- Pickett, Albert James HISTORY OF ALABAMA and incidentally of MISSISSIPPI and GEORGIA, 1896
- Saunders, Col James Edmonds EARLY SETTLERS OF ALABAMA Notes and Genealogies,1899
- Brewer, W ALABAMA HER HISTORY WAR RECORD and PUBLIC MEN, 1872
- Record, James A DREAM COME TRUE The Story of Madison County and incidentally of Alabama and the United States
Three Historical Fiction Novels by Alabama Author for only $11.97