BIOGRAPHY and GENEALOGY
Thomas Hutchins, the only person ever having the right to the title “Geographer to the United States of America”, was a brother of Anthony Hutchins. He was born in Monmouth. N. J., 1730 and died at Pittsburg, April 28, 1789. Before he was 16 he entered the British army as ensign, and became captain and paymaster of the 60th Royal American Regiment. He was assistant engineer in the expedition of Gen. Henry Bouquet in 1764 in Ohio and took part in the campaign against the Florida Indians. He was associated as surveyor with the British province of West Florida, including the Natchez district, previous to the Revolution.
Thomas is generally credited with having devised the rectangular system of surveys of public lands, and it is certain that he was the first to put it in practive. His map gives the relative locations of Lake Erie, Lake St. Clair, and Lake Huron with approximate accuracy. He published two books, AN HISTORICAL NARRATIVE AND TOPOGRAPHICAL DESCRIPTION OF LOUISIANNA, Etc. (Philadelphia, 1784) and A Topographical Description of Virginia Pennsylvania Maryland and North Carolina: Reprinted From the Original Ed. Of 1778, etc. (London, 1778)
There was held by Mrs. Kate E. Hutchins, of Gulfport, Mississippi, a deed by “Thomas Hutchins, of the town of Pensacola and the province of West Florida, … to Anthony Hutchins, of the District of the Natches, in the province aforesaid,” for two thousand acres of land, about 16 miles from Fort Natchez, adjoining the lands of Jacob Winfree. This land was originally patented to Thomas Hutchins. The deed is dated at Pensacola, July 15, 1775, witnessed by Samuel Lewis and Elihu Hall Bay, and was recorded by Alexander Macullagh, deputy secretary of the province. The consideration was 1,000 Spanish milled dollars, of the value of 233 pounds, 6 shilling and 8 pence sterling. But while Anthony was loyal to the British interest,Thomas took the side of the revolutionists. His devotion to the cause of American independence caused his arrest “and imprisonment for 6 weeks in London, in 1779, on the charge of maintaining correspondence with Benjamin Franklin, then in France. He soon went to Charleston, S. C., where he joined Gen. Nathaniel Greene and received the title of “Geographer-General.” He held the title of geographer of the United States after the Revolution under the Confederation, and made the first survey of townships in the Territory Northwest of the River Ohio, now eastern Ohio, assisted by Winthrop Sargent. He was succeeded in eminence as a surveyor by Andrew Ellicott.
In 1784, he published an “Historical Narrative and Topographical Description of Louisiana and West Florida.” He wrote of the region about Natchez: “The soil at this place is superior to any of the lands on the borders of the river Mississippi, for the production of many articles. . . . The climate is healthy and temperate; the country delightful and well watered; and the prospect is beautiful and extensive, variegated by many inequalities and fine meadows, separated by innumerable copses, the trees of which are of different kinds, but mostly of walnut and oak. . . . The district of the Natchez, as well as all along the eastern bank of the Mississippi to the river Ibberville, was settling very fast by daily emigrations from the northern states, but the capture of the British troops on the Mississippi, 1779, put an entire stop to it.”
And again “Though the quantity of good land on the Mississippi and its branches, from the Bay of Mexico to the river Ohio, a distance of nearly one thousand miles, is vastly great, with many conveniences attending it; so likewise we may esteem that in the neighborhood of the Natchez and of the river Yazou the flower of it all.” Speaking of the Choctaw and Chickasaw towns he says “The former is situated on the eastern branch of the Yazou, an hundred miles from the mouth of that river, and consists of nearly 140 warriors: the towns of the latter are about 15 miles west of the northwest branch 150 miles from the Mississippi. They can raise upward of 500 warriors. . . . The country in which the Choctaw and Chickasaw towns are situated, is said to be as healthy as any part of this continent, the natives scarcely ever being sick. Such of them as frequent the Mississippi, leave its banks as the summer approaches, lest they might partake of the fevers that sometimes visit the low swampy lands bordering on that river.”
Again he says “twelve miles from the mouth of the Yazou, on the south side, are the Yazou hills. . . . Four miles further up is the place called the Ball Ground, near which a church, fort St. Peter, and a French settlement formerly stood. They were destroyed by the Yazou Indians in 1729. That nation is now entirely extinct.”
Of Biloxi, he says “Just opposite to Ship island, on the main land, is situated old Biloxi, in a small bay of the same name, behind L’Isle au Cheveruil, or Buck or Deer island. . . . There are still a few inhabitants at Biloxi, some of whom are the offspring of the original settlers. Their chief employment is raising of cattle and stock, and making pitch and tar; but the natives are very troublesome to them.” Describing the country watered by the Pascagoula river, he says “The soil on this river, like all other rivers on the coast of West Florida, grows better the higher up you go; but even near the entrance it is far from being bad. There are some good plantations on the east side, but here as well as all the way to the westward, the inhabitants are much molested by the natives, especially by the Choctaws who killed their cattle, etc.”
Of the harbor of Ship Island he says “it is a very convenient place for shipping the produce of the rivers Pearl, Ibberville and Amit, and the lakes Maurepas and Ponchartrain.” Of the “Tombecbe” he says “The river is navigable for sloops and schooners about 35 leagues above the town of Mobile. . . . Several people have settled on this river, who find the soil to answer beyond their expectation.”
1.Encyclopedia of Mississippi history: comprising sketches of counties, towns, events, institutions and persons, Volume 1 1907 -BY DUNBAR ROWLAND
2.St. Clair County, Michigan, its history and its people: a …, Volume 1 By William Lee Jenks, Lewis Publishing Company 1912.