This is an excerpt from the book ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS Exploration: Lost & Forgotten Stories (Volume 1) First Edition
Royalists Settle In Alabama
Before the 1760’s the eastern bank of the Mississippi River was inhabited mostly by Native Americans. Starting in 1768, British West Florida began issuing land grants to settlers and speculators.
Once English control was extended over the area of Alabama, the Natchez region and the western part of the present state of Mississippi attracted many settlers. They came from the Atlantic colonies in considerable numbers.
A small German settlement was upon the Pascagoola, a river in the south-eastern part of Mississippi.
The Mississippi river and its eastern tributaries seemed to be at first the most attractive for settlement. From the Atlantic colonies, first from Roanoke in North Carolina, as early as 1764, then from South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, and New Jersey, large numbers came, either in boats down the tributary rivers, or cutting a pathway through the wilderness. They made settlements extending some twenty miles east of the river.
In 1767 a colony of French Protestants, in number two hundred and nine, made a settlement upon the Escambia river north of Pensacola. They received a large grant of land from King George III and were sent across the ocean at royal expense. They built white cottages among the live oak groves, and erected a church building with one simple village spire. This colony was not long afterward desolated by the yellow fever, “the scourge of the tropics.”
By 1775, there was approximately 2500 people along the eastern banks between Walnut Hills (present day Vicksburg) and Manchac on the Iberville River. The outbreak of the American Revolution brought many Tories and Loyalists to the area. Most of them were trying to escape the war and settled on the fertile soils of Natchez.
Scotch Highlanders came from North Carolina and settled thirty miles east of Natchez. In 1770, and again in 1778, many immigrants came by the way of the Ohio river from New Jersey, and Virginia, and Delaware. Immigrants also began soon to come from Great Britain and the British West Indies.
“It does not appear that in these years many additions were made to the settlers on the Mobile and Tensaw rivers. The plantations opened there must, however, have been productive, and business enterprise was evidently not stagnant, for in 1772 the exports from Mobile and Pensacola were, according to Pickett “indigo, raw-hides, corn, fine cattle, tallow, rice, pitch, bear’s oil, tobacco, tar, squared timber, indigo seed, myrtle wax, cedar-posts and planks, salted wild beef, pecan nuts, cypress and pine-boards, plank of various woods, shingles, dried salt-fish, scantling, sassafras, canes, staves and heading hoops, oranges and peltry.”
The cultivation of cotton had also started, and some small machines were invented for separating the lint from the seed. “The French planters had some machines by which, it is said by Captain Barnard Roman, in his Florida “seventy pounds of clear cotton can be made every day.” Whitney’s Cotton Gin was not invented until 1792.
Pensacola, the capital of the province, contained in 1771 about one hundred and eighty houses built of wood. It was the seat of government and the first place of traffic for the coming settlers. The French houses of the wealthy in Mobile were of brick.
In 1775, the Thirteen United Colonies had a population of about three million people that extended from New Hampshire to Georgia, and were “entering upon that great conflict with the Mother Country, the American Revolution.”
West Florida did not enter this conflict. Therefore it was a secure retreat for the Royalists of the Carolinas and Georgia, who held themselves still loyal to the king of Great Britain. The banks of that river, then called Tombeckbee, (Tombigbee) became attractive to this large class of adventurers and refugees.
“In the year 1777 an English botanist, William Bartram, visited the settled parts of West Florida. He found on the Tensaw river many well-cultivated plantations on which settlers were living. His route both going and coming seems to have been on the east side of the Alabama. From him, therefore, nothing is learned concerning settlers on the west side.”
“Near the northern boundary of the province and still beside the river, Bartram’s party met with some Georgians, a man and his wife, some young children, one young woman and three young men, packing their goods on a dozen horses-who were on their way to settle upon the Alabama river, a few miles above its union with the Tombeckbee.”
And according to historian, Albert Pickett, these “are believed to have been among the first Anglo-Americans who settled in the present Baldwin county. That some such settler had already reached the Tombeckbee is quite certain, so that we may safely place the commencement of what became permanent American settlement as early as the year 1777.”