Gulf Coast Exploration, 1775137
William Bartram left Mobile in the summer of 1775 (not 1777 as mentioned in Travels) “on board a large trading boat, the property of a French gentleman, and commanded by him (he being general interpreter for the Choctaw nation), on his return to his plantations on the banks of Pearl River. Our bark was large, well equipped for sailing and manned with three stout negroes, to row in case of necessity.”(138)
Upon entering “the channel Oleron [at present Grants Pass](139) between the mainland and Dauphin Island” (Mississippi Sound) “from this time until we arrived at this gentleman’s habitation on Pearl River, I was incapable of making any observations for my eyes could not bear the light.”(140) No indication of time for the journey is given.
It has been suggested that the Frenchman was Jean Favre, for a man with this name had a home one mile north of Pearlington on the Pearl River in western Mississippi. Three generations of Favres were Indian interpreters, first for the French from 1699, the British after 1764, and the Spanish after 1780.(141)
Since Favre traded with the Indians and all settlers for their pelts, skins, hides, etc., it is safe to assume he would on his return from Mobile have visited the rivers, bays and known homes of many settlers bringing sack cloth, leather, knives, axes, gunpowder, etc., or whatever they would have ordered on his way to Mobile.
The first bay and river they would have reached in Mississippi would have been the Pascagoula, then possibly the largest settled area on the Coast. The Krebs, De La Pointe, Boudreau, de Graveline, Dupont, Deflanders and possibly seven or eight other families plus slaves and Indians lived along the river. Irish settlers were arriving.
Along the shore of present Jackson County en route to Biloxi Bay at Belle Fontaine was the J. B. Baudreau family. Pierre and Maria Ronchon were on the Dog or Escatawpa River.
Around Biloxi bay, including present day Ocean Springs, d’Iberville, Biloxi and Deer Island were many other French speaking families including several Ladniers, Grelot, Carco, LaFontaine, Seymours, DeBuys, and possibly a dozen others.
In mid Harrison County at Bear Bayou or present Long Beach lived Widow Ladnier and family with Nicholas Ladnier at Pass Christian.
Further around the Bay of St. Louis the Saucier, Carriere, Morins, Ladniers, Favre, Necaise, and a few other families lived.
Going around Hancock County the main travel route into the interior of Mississippi was up the East Pearl River. Indian tribes and their descendants remained strong and noticeable particularly in Hancock County until the 1930s.
William Bartram remained three days at the Favre home without any improvement in his eye disorder. The Frenchman suggested that he see Mr. Rumsey, an Englishman on Pearl Island “who had a variety of medicines,”(142) about twelve miles away. Francis Harper does not believe that this was the present Pearl River Island lying off the mouth of Pearl River, but rather in an area bounded on the south by The Rigolets, on the north by Salt Bayou, and on the east by West Pearl River.(143) In any case, the island was located within the present boundaries of Louisiana.
Return to Mobile, 1775
Bartram apparently returned through the Mississippi Sound in late November, 1775, mentioning “the bay of Pearls, sailing through the sound betwixt Cat Island and the strand of the continent; the beautiful bay St. Louis…continuing through…the oyster banks and shoals of Ship and Horn Islands, and the high and bold coast of Biloxi on the main, got through the narrow pass Aux Christians, and soon came up abreast of Isle Dauphin…”(l44)
N.B. Page numbers for all Bartram quotations will be given in the following way: The first page number cited will be the page on which the passage appears in the first (Philadelphia 1791) edition of the book; the second page number will be the page on which the passage appears in Francis Harper’s Naturalist's Edition. For convenience in checking the original source, Harper’s edition provides both systems of pagination. When third or fourth numbers appear, they refer to Harper’s commentary, also in the Naturalist’s Edition.
138. Bartram’s Travels, op. cit., p. 418, Harper, p. 265.
139. See Harper, Naturalist’s Edition, op. cit., p. 581.
140. Bartram’s Travels, op. cit., p. 419, Harper, pp. 266, 581.
141. For this account of Bartram’s travels in Mississippi, the Bartram Trail Conference is indebted to Mr. James Stevens for his Technical Study, “William Bartram’s Mississippi Visit,” 1978.
142. Bartram’s Travels, op. cit., p. 420, Harper, p. 266.
143. See Harper, Naturalist’s Edition, op. cit., p. 589.
144. Bartram’s Travels, op. cit., pp. 437-438, Harper, p. 277.