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St Marys of Natchez A History of Catholic Congregation, 1716-1788

St Marys of Natchez A History of Catholic Congregation, 1716-1788

Excerpt contributed by Ms. Della Ford Nash

Excerpts g 65, A few Protestants ministers ventured to the Natchez frontier. These men came as individuals rather than a official representatives of British or Eastern American presbyteries or congregations. Around 1777, Presbyterian Dr Samuel Swaze and a Reverend Gwillis (Willis?) were in Natchez, although the latter did not exercise his ministry because of drunkeness.  (the dates fit)

page 66, During the first decade of Spanish rule in the Natchez District, ….No priest was stationed at the post and visiting priests left no records of a sacramental ministry. 

pg 67, General Esteban Miro (1782-1791) faced a dilemma at Natchez. He could tolerate the presence of a majority Protestant population or he could expel all Protestants from the area. Neither solution was politically acceptable, …feared the exiled Anglo-Americans might relocate just outside the colony and become a threat to its stability. …devised an ingenious third way to deal with the ticklish situation. Miro proposed a cadre of Irish priests be specially trained and sent to the most populous Protestant Florida settlements where they would quickly convert Anglo-Americans to the true faith. …adults would not be forced to accept Catholicism, they would be required to have their children baptized as Catholics and attend Catholic schools……modified by Spanish officials. Protestants could remain in the Floridas if they took an oath of political allegiance and fidelity……

…new parishes in Natchez District. One parish..near St Catherine and Second Creek; …nearby Cole’s Creek,…third parish…Tensas River forty-five mile above Mobile.

pg 68, another parish for the Natchez District at the military post that was built at Nogales (Vicksburg) in 1791.

pg 75, In 1779, French born Captain Juan de la Villebeuvre occupied Natchez….He accepted the loyalty oaths of 31 settlers on Octber 20 and gave those who refused the oath an opportunity to leave the district. (wonder where that oath might be)

pg 76, Rev Samuel Swayze, a congregationalist preacher, had settled on the Homochitto River in 1773 and organized the Kingston Church, the first Protestant Church of the district. His activity was restricted after the Spanish arrival in 1779, John Bolls, an elder in Swayze’s congregation, was imprisioned, released and threatened with banishment to the silver mines of Mexico for conducting public services.

pg 77, In 1791,…Reverend Richard Curtis, Jr organized a Baptist Church at Cole’s Creek. He was called before Gayoso for public preaching and threatened with confiscation of his goods and exile. ….fled to South Carolina to avoid arrest. Returned in 1798..organized Salem Baptist Church…died in Amite County in 1811.

pg 77, …vexing Catholic-Protestant problems dealt with marriage. All marriages in the Catholic floridas were to take place before a priest and two witnesses. ….however, Catholic priests could not preside at Protestant marriages until the couple had renounced their heresy. Protestants were also forbidden to contract marriage outside the floridas and then return to Spanish territory.

By November 30, 1792,…. clarified the problem by requiring Catholic priests to be present at, record, but not bless all Protestant marriages. Exile and confiscation of property were imposed for those who broke the law.

pg 79, When he departed, Father Lennan took with him the sacramental records of San Salvador Parish. These eventually became part of the sacramental collection of St Joseph Church in Baton Rouge.

pg 88-89, In 1801, Presbyterian Minister John Black noted the lack of literary instruction in the Natchez area and the region had only four clergymen. One Episcopalian, one Methodist, two Baptists, a few exhorters, and all were illiterate except the Episcopalian.

pg 88, Although no Protestants churches could be organized under the Spanish, many Protestants, like Catholics before and after them, retained their traditional faith and religious affiliation without the presence of clergy.

pg 90, The first area Baptists came from South Carolina and settled at Cole’s Creek in 1780.