In 1776 thirteen British colonies along the east coast rebelled against the mother country, and the American Revolution was underway.
But what about the 14th colony?
It was called British West Florida, and it remained loyal to King George III. It is seldom mentioned in the annals of American History.
Pensacola was the capital, and the northern boundary, which was moved several times, comprised the southern halves of present-day Mississippi and Alabama and the Florida panhandle.
The northern boundary was from the mouth of the Yazoo River east to Georgia. The northwest corner of the colony is today Warren County.
England acquired the land at the Treaty of Paris which was signed Feb. 10, 1763, at the close of the French and Indian War. France lost all of her territory on the east side of the Mississippi River except New Orleans.
Though they possessed the land and organized the colony, it was several years before any real efforts were made to encourage settlement. There were a few farms on Cole’s Creek in today’s Jefferson County but there was nothing north of that area.
The colony had a series of governors, but Peter Chester was the fourth and most active. He thought that within a few years West Florida would be one of the most flourishing colonies in North America. That might have been true but for some events occurring in the eastern colonies. There was a spirit of insubordination and rebellion made obvious by a group of Bostonians dumping tea into the harbor. It was the eve of all-out war.
In West Florida all seemed peaceful and quiet. The late Marion Bragg, Warren County historian and journalist, wrote that “King George’s loyal subjects struggled with frontier hardships, hack away at the wilderness, built their cabins, planted their little fields, paid their royal taxes without protest, and – engrossed in the practical matter of staying alive – seemed indifferent to the questions of ‘rights and liberties’…
In 1773 a group of men calling themselves “The Company of Military Adventurers” sent a delegation to Gov. Chester seeking the right to explore the lands along the Mississippi and to seek grants based on their military service. Chester was delighted with this ambitious endeavor, and he agreed to their plan. Several thousand inhabitants of the northern colonies would move to West Florida within a year.
A year later, in 1774, the King ordered that no more land grants be given except to officers of the British army and navy. Ordinary settlers would have to pay for the land at high prices.
There was a clause, however – Chest could make small grants where actual settlement and improvements had been made. As the political winds began to blow stronger, Chester received additional orders on July 5, 1775. he was to offer refuge to loyal British subjects who had no desire to take part in the rebellion. The Governor could be generous with them when it came to financial help and free land. Loyalists in the other colonies were invited to West Florida. Many accepted and joined the West Floridians during the Revolution.
The Military Adventurers lost their claims in 1774, but it was finally decreed that they could obtain small grants, not the huge ones they had hoped for, so very few of them attempted to settle in the area.
From 1776 through 179(???) over 18,000 acres were granted in the Warren County area for loyalists. They were as follows:
- At Walnut Hills, now the city of Vicksburg, land was given to Lt. William Grant, Dr. John Lorimer, John Watkins, and James Hutchinson. The land was from the Clay Street area to Kings.
- At Three Islands, which is now Davis Island, land was given to William Selkrig,
William Vousdan, Thomas James, and Philip Barbour.
- At Cedars, Phillip Afflect was given land; south of him Sir Basil Keith received a grant at what later became the Warrenton area; and south of him John Grant was given a large grant, just sough of Redbone Road at Glass.
- Lt. William Grant was given a large grant on the river west of Yokena, and on the Big Black grants were given to Benjamin James, John Stowers, and Benjamin Day.
To receive a land grant, one had to agree to cultivate it and actually live on it, but only a few actually tried to make settlements on their lands.