Redbones Settlement Ms. Territory
Redbone Communities of Mississippi Territory
During the 1770s the first white residents of the region that became Warren County settled near the Nanachehaw hills on the Loosa Chitto River. Over the next twenty years the location selected by the original settlers remained popular. By 1800 newcomers had built homes to the north of the Loosa Chitto, along the crude roadway built by the Spanish atop the bluff that ran to the now abandoned Fort Nogales. During the following decade new neighborhoods appeared, where the ridge first approached the river, and at the Walnut Hills. Yet another cluster of farms materialized on a thin strip of high ground bordering the Mississippi adjacent to the uppermost of the Three Islands.
Evidence indicates that people associated the places where they lived with particular families. More than one document speaks of a Gibson neighborhood, for example, and when isolated on a map family groups do appear in clusters A generation after arriving in Warren County, most members of the Vick family continued to live in the Open Wood neighborhood. The Gibson’s gathered in the cane hills region, while the Evans family inhabited the vicinity of Redbone Creek.
Another two hundred or so people lived in the half-dozen villages that dotted the surrounding countryside. They stood as reminders of Vicksburg’s humble beginnings. Warrenton, Redbone, Redwood, Bovina, Mt. Albon, Oak Ridge–such places consisted of little more than a church, one or two stores that doubled as taverns, perhaps a blacksmith shop, and maybe a post office. Some hamlets had a cotton gin and warehouse established by a local planter who made his facilities available to friends and neighbors. These hamlets might appear as little more than meeting places within rural neighborhoods, and thus perhaps were not truly urban at all. Yet as a public landing at the river, or a train station, or a simple fork in the road, such locales betrayed an urban function and process that set them apart from surrounding farms and plantations. Like the clearly identifiable cities, most especially Vicksburg, the country villages served as gathering places for rural people and produce, as collectors of goods and information, as points in a chain that stretched upward and outward from farm households to New Orleans, to New York, and finally to the great cities of Europe.
In 1809 the legislature for the Territory of Mississippi responded to the growing white and black population between the Loosa Chitto River and Choctaw Indian lands by organizing Warren County. Within ten years farms could be found in the northernmost corner of the new county. By 1830 farms had become so numerous as to make neighborhoods almost indistinguishable.
Isolation and economic interdependence kept social relations within Warren County’s earliest neighborhoods locally and inwardly oriented. Before 1810 only two or three clusters of households, separated by large expanses of uninhabited territory, specked the 400 or so square miles of countryside north of the Big Black River. Within these early settlements people exchanged labor, tools, and produce with one another. They depended on each other for information, for help in times of need, for company. In 1809 a group of farmers along the Bayou Pierre in Claiborne County tried to formalize their interdependence through a “society” organized to promote “the public good individual and public economy,” to “bargain contract and purchase for their own use their annual supplies,” and to purchase and hold land and slaves. But the objectives listed in the society’s charter merely stated the obvious. There was no need for such formality, and the society lasted but briefly. Cooperative interdependence, however, continued.
Of course, more than geography, a shared locale and economic interdependence linked neighboring households. Kinship and friendship also fastened people to one another. Westward migrants tended to travel and settle with associates from their former homes. The Vick and Cook families, for example, together moved to Jefferson County, Mississippi, from Virginia. When after a few years the Cooks moved upriver to Warren County the Vicks soon followed, again settling among their old friends in the Open Wood neighborhood. The Gibson family migrated in several waves from South Carolina, some settling near Natchez, others at Bayou Pierre, with descendants from both branches eventually resting in the same Warren County neighborhood.
Warren County’s rural neighborhoods were not, however, peaceable little kingdoms of family and friends happily and harmoniously working together in some cooperative eden. Isolation and need forced people into associations not always to their liking. Those who lived near family and friends, next door to people whom they both trusted and liked, were fortunate indeed. Those who did not, however, still had to live, work, and trade with people whom they did not know very well, or even disliked. No one had the luxury of associating only with friends. Rather, one either did or did not make friends of those with whom one regularly associated. When William Stephens killed a hog that wandered into his field began. Our definition of a neighborhood as a visible cluster of homes will not do, unless we are to assume that they ceased to exist. However, such a conclusion would be misleading. Warren County residents continued to refer to the places where they lived as neighborhoods. If rural neighborhoods persisted as places, at least in the minds of the people who lived within them, how are we to find them, and how are we to know that the places we find were their neighborhoods? We cannot, exactly, but there is enough evidence to allow us to approximate the location and definition of Warren County’s rural neighborhoods as their inhabitants saw them.
Until 1832 the territorial governor, and then the state legislature, appointed all county judges. In that year the new constitution, hailed by historians as typical of the democratic reforms that marked the Age of Andrew Jackson, allowed an electorate of adult free men to choose their local officials. Moreover, it split the authority of the old county court, in which legislative, executive, and judicial power had been combined, between an administrative and legislative board of police and a civil court of probate. Government by planter nabobs was to be no more.
The new constitution did alter county politics. In earlier days local government mirrored informal structures of authority. That is to say, they acknowledged the importance of kinship and neighborhood leadership. In 1820 the state legislature confirmed Jacob Hyland’s unofficial position of prominence as head of one of the wealthiest and best-connected families in the county by appointing him justice of the quorum. The next year Hyland’s brother-in-law took a place on the bench as judge of probate. Andrew Glass, for several years a partner in business with Hyland’s brother, and also connected to the Hyland family by marriage, won the most powerful local elected office, that of sheriff. The three men thus stood atop family, neighborhood, and county. Of course, other neighborhoods had their leaders, and not all could hold public office. But at that time public office meant little, particularly to those who lived at a distance from the county seat. It was no coincidence that Jacob Hyland’s plantation abutted the seat of justice. But his position as justice of the quorum gave him little authority in neighborhoods other than in his own, where he was already leader even before he took his place on the bench.
By 1835, the situation had changed. Government wielded authority, and local leaders actively sought public office. Three years following the constitutional convention, William Mills, a Vicksburg attorney with no apparent connections to prominent local families, was elected judge of probate. E. W. Morris, another Vicksburg resident with no connections to leading families, won election to sheriff. Only the new board of police maintained some connection to rural neighborhoods and prominent slaveholding families. John Cowan was closely associated with the Vick family, as was E. G. Cook, whose family had enjoyed power and prestige in the north end of the county since its arrival two decades earlier. Jesse Evans, another elected member of the board of police, belonged to a large family in the Redbone neighborhood near Warrenton. Kinship and neighborhood, however, did not connect board members to each other, or any of them to the judge, or to the sheriff. 
BROTHERS AND NEIGHBORS
One warm but windy spring day Benjamin Wailes took a leisurely ride around his neighborhood. From his home at Fonsylvania plantation near the Big Black River he headed southward, over his pasture toward Ivanhoe, an old plantation built by John Stephens forty years earlier, but recently purchased by Wailes for his niece Susan Covington. Susan had lived in the neighborhood as a girl, although she had moved to Natchez when her father died, since then visiting her childhood home infrequently. From Ivanhoe Wailes rode westward to Old Mr. Harris’s place, and then on to Doc Hunt’s. Finding no one at the doctor’s home Wailes ambled through the fields, examining the cluster of Indian mounds south of Hunt’s house. Several, he noted “have been ploughed over for a long period and the smaller ones almost obliterated.” Wailes continued his tour, heading north at Mrs. Cameron’s farm toward the old Valentine plantation. The new owner, a former Vicksburg miller named Austin Mattingly, intercepted the passerby and offered to sell him a load of bricks. The two men settled on a price of eight dollars per thousand before Wailes rode on, passing Mattingly’s quarters and barns, near the large artificial pond graced by magnolia trees, and traveling beyond the brick kiln to a shallow creek, which he followed for perhaps two miles to the church. Bethel Methodist, more commonly known simply as Redbone church, attracted a large congregation from the neighborhood on most Sundays. Wailes usually attended, although sometimes he visited Antioch Baptist or, on occasion, if the visiting preacher happened to be a favorite, the chapel at Asbury campground. None was particularly close to Fonsylvania, each requiring a journey of about eight or ten miles round trip. One Sunday Wailes arrived at Redbone after Mr. Drake had already begun his sermon. A large crowd filled the building. Unable to get inside Benjamin listened from a window near the pulpit. while he left his station and wandered through the graveyard, among the “large number of handsome monuments,” many of which he thought “exhibit considerable taste.” He recognized some of the names, including those of several who, like himself, had come to this Warren County neighborhood from Natchez. From Redbone Wailes followed the road back home.
Methodism in Early Mississippi Territory;
Religious groups offer their members social support, opportunities for leadership development, and numerous other nonspiritual benefits. While positive outcomes of church participation are worthy of attention, significant attention has not been placed on potentially negative aspects of church life. This is especially the case in the literature on the Black Church. This article examines the creation and maintenance of power structures (formalized power) and conflict in a Black United Methodist church. Themes derived from qualitative data reveal a number of paradoxes related to power, such as the observation that not all people in positions of power welcome the trappings of power. Also, results indicate that power structures are the result of a nexus between micro and macro factors which operate at both local and nonlocal levels.