Following the move of the Tunica Indians to the Red River in Louisiana in 1706, French activity in the region of the Yazoo waned until 1719 when Fort St. Pierre was built and a number of French settlements were made in the area, especially along the banks of the Yazoo River.
The relationship between the settlers and the Indians appears to have been primarily economic, and religious work was of little concern as there was no missionary until 1727.
The fort was built probably on the site of the mission. It was the main source of European goods, the first contact point for trade between the Europeans and the Indians in the Yazoo valley and was one of the prime regions in the Mississippi Valley for French settlement.
An ancient French map shows the fort to have been square, but the map is not necessarily accurate. The late Dr. Stu Neitzel, noted archaeologist for the region, said that often a company would send back to France reports that embellished the actual conditions in order to get more funding or for political reasons.
The fort, with walls of palisades, had a moat around it, a ramp crossing the moat and going down to the Yazoo, and dwellings within the walls, a reservoir, trash pits and gun batteries. Outside the walls were huts for workers and plantations.
A report filed by Diron D’Artaguiette in 1723 verified some of the details on the map: the fort was square with four bastions, the moat was six feet wide and three feet deep and encompassed the palisades, and the commandant, officers, and soldiers lived within the walls.
D’Artaguiette wrote, “It is at this fort where I have seen the best disciplined troops and where the duty is performed with exactitude, thanks to the attention of the commandant.”
The fort was part of a colonial enterprise to expand France’s hold on the New World, and in 1719 M. de la Housaye and M. de la Scovion obtained land, or grants, along the Yazoo and settled them with 82 people. By 1720 390 French settlers lived in the area, making it two or three times larger than the French settlement in New Orleans. Additional settlements were made until the colonies at Natchez, at St. Pierre, and west of the Mississippi River became “the envy of the British and the pride of the French,” D’ Artaguiette wrote.
M. LeBlanch, the French minister of state, had a large plantation adjacent to the fort which was operated by his engineer, M. de la Tour, and 60 workers. It was said to include an interpreter’s house, gardens a house for the gardener, 10 houses for workmen, a reservoir, and a baking oven.
A large building, located farthest from the river, was believed to have been a church as it had a cupola mounted by a cross and also a very large door.
A few years later LeBlanch shifted his interest to Terre Blanch near Natchez, but by 1729 there were still 14 French plantations along the Yazoo near St. Pierre, there were one or two at Walnut Hills and several near Natchez.
For some reason the French seem to have lost interest in the fort, and it deteriorated, for when Father Poisson visited St. Pierre in 1727 he wrote that there were only two small guns, or cannons, and that the commandant was living in a shed.
Relations between the French and their Indian neighbors was generally peaceful, though in 1722 a group of Chickasaw warriors (who lived nowhere near the area) murdered two French sergeants and destroyed their houses which were outside the fort, but by the following year officials had secured peace with the Indians – or so they thought.
In 1729 a combined force of Indians from several small tribes killed the French inhabitants at Natchez and a month later did the same at St. Pierre. Almost all of the European occupants at both places were murdered, and the few who escaped made their way to New Orleans. Though their land claims were unquestionably valid, no claims were ever filed under either the British or the Spanish regimes.
No further attempt at settlement in what is Warren County was made again until the British gained possession in 1763.
Archaeological explorations in the 1970s between a crew from Harvard University and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History verified the location of St. Pierre. A total of nine historic sites were recorded including the fort and a nearby settlement; the other places were Indian, or Native American.
Archaeological investigations between 1974 and 1979 revealed two nearly complete buildings, a bastion, a dry moat, an area where lead shot was made, and many other features.
St. Pierre may have been totally forgotten but for the efforts of the Vicksburg Historian, M. J Mulvihill, Sr. who researched and wrote about St. Pierre and secured historic markers for the site, which is on Highway 3 a few miles north of Redwood.