ANDREW ELLICOTT'S INSTRUMENTS PHOTOGRAPHED WHILE IN STORAGE AT THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AMERICAN HISTORY IN WASHINGTON, D.C. This is Ellicott's small zenith sector that he used to build an astonomical observatory in present-day Houston County Alabama in August of 1799. It is now in storage in the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. Here's a link describing this instrument.http://amhistory.si.edu/surveying/object.cfm?recordnumber=758696
This is a link to a chart of Ellicott's observations of 4 stars using the small zenith sector at his observatory on the Chattahoochee in present-day Houston County Alabama in July and August of 1799. https://archive.org/stream/journalofandrewe00elli#page/98/mode/2up
Need to get info on this instrument. I was told that it was Ellicott's. It looks like a refracting telescope.
Need to get info on this instrument. I was told that it was Ellicott's. It looks like a quadrant with a telescope and plumb line.
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxThis is the base of the small Zenith Sector which was used to mount and level it on a tree stump for astronomical observations.http://amhistory.si.edu/surveying/object.cfm?recordnumber=758696
This is a magnetic compass made for Ellicott by Benjamin Rittenhouse. It was probably not used on the Southern Boundary Survey but a venier compass made by Rittenhouse was used on the survey. Here's a link explaining this instrument. http://amhistory.si.edu/surveying/object.cfm?recordnumber=747273
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxThis is Benjamin Rittenhouse's
mark on the magnetic compass he made for Andrew Ellicott.
The curator allowed me to remove the top off of Ellicott's compass. She will never know how much I appreciate that privilege.
I wrote the text for this historic marker which is located south of Dothan on the northbound lane of U.S. Highway 231.
The painter of this mural, Bill Smith, used Ellicott's transit as a model for this 1968 work. The transit is now in storage at the Smithsonian and the Maryland Department of Transportation has also stored the mural. This is the same transit Ellicott used in present-day Houston County, Alabama in August of 1799. Here's link that explains it. http://amhistory.si.edu/surveying/object.cfm?recordnumber=758993
Mr. ELLICOTT'S WASHERWOMAN
by Robert Register
August 1st, 1794"My Dear Sally,
...We live here like a parcel of Monks, or Hermits, and have not a woman of any complexion among us-our linnen is dirty, our faces, and hands brown, and to complete the picture, our beards are generally long-
O sweet Woman!
without thee man is a Brute,
& society a blank:
thou shapest man into a valuable being, and directeth his ambition to useful pursuits.
Can that man be possessed of rational sensibility who adoreth not a woman?
I am Dear Sally your
In our present age in which political expediency and twisted syntax replace legal proof and Biblical morality, it's almost refreshing to hear the old axiom, "There's nothin' new under the sun."
As one contemplates the following story, the self-evident truth of this old maxim applies once more to the unwavering foibles of the condition that goes by the title, "Human Nature."
As we contemplate more than 200 years of American dominion over this land we call "home",
we can find comfort in knowing that our ancestors had ample opportunity to witness the shortcomings of their leaders. So it was with the 1811 court martial of General James Wilkinson, Commanding General of the U.S. Army and, arguably, the most greedy, deceitful and devious rascal to ever walk across the stage of West Alabama history.
General Wilkinson's career in West Alabama was brief, but consequential. Under orders of President Thomas Jefferson, Wilkinson traveled during the summer of 1802 to the ruins of the old Spanish Fort Confederation near present-day Epes in Sumter County. By October he had produced a treaty that proved that in the future his powers of salesmanship would never be equalled by any slick selling cars or trailers on Skyland Blvd.
The ink on the yellowed paper of the treaty sez it all:
"...the said Choctaw Nation, for, and in consideration of one dollar, to them in hand paid, by the said United States, the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged, do hereby release to the said United States, and quit claim forever, to all that tract of land..."
In other words, with language lifted from an Alabama used car sale before the title law, Wilkinson picked up one-and-a-half-million acres in present-day Southwest Alabama, "in consideration of one dollar."Almost nine years later, on April 10th, 1811, General Wilkinson took the offensive in one of the greatest feuds between men who shaped Alabama history. His legal arguments bore strange fruit in a federal courtroom in Frederick, Maryland. General Wilkinson, commander of the U.S. Army for seventeen years (1796-1813) was on trial for being the notorious secret agent "Number 13" for the King of Spain. Wilkinson, who would later claim Mobile for the U.S. from Spain in 1813, had spent more than two decades taking Spanish money in exchange for privileged information and now he was about to be convicted of treason. Options were of the essence so Wilkinson played "his ace in the hole."
Wilkinson's hidden ace was Thomas Freeman, Surveyor General of Mississippi Territory and the namesake of the Freeman Line passing east to west through Montevallo which separates North & South Alabama to this day.
The entire case for the government hinged on the testimony of Major Andrew Ellicott, the former commissioner for the United States during the first American survey of Alabama soil in 1799. During the survey of this first Southern Boundary of the U.S., Ellicott had intercepted a letter which proved Wilkinson was on the take.
Freeman, the man who established the Huntsville Meridian upon which every North Alabama property line is now based (including the lines which keep my neighbors off uv me here in Tuscaloosa as I type),
had a grudge to pick with Ellicott. Ellicott had fired Freeman during the U.S. Southern Boundary survey so the court martial was an opportunity for Freeman to get some payback.
Freeman testified that during the entire 1796-1800 survey of the first southern boundary of the United States, Andrew Ellicott and his son, Andrew Jr., employed
"a prostitute of the lowest grade" to share their camp cot during their trip through the wilderness. This testimony produced "the utter demolition of the character of the eminent astronomer."
It didn't matter that Ellicott could prove that Wilkinson was on the take. All the jury heard were salacious tales of the government's chief prosecution witness having "a beastly, criminal and disgraceful intercourse with a harlot."What follows are excerpts from Thomas Freeman's sworn deposition:
Question: Did you know a woman called Betsy who sat at Mr. Ellicott's table?
What station did she appear to occupy in Mr. Ellicott's family, and what was her known character?
Answer: I did know the woman called Betsy who sat at Mr. Ellicott's table. She appeared to occupy the position of washerwoman to the party. Her known character was that of a prostitute,
and of the lowest grade.
Question: Did you observe and particular familiarity and attentions, in the intercourses of the said prostitute, with Ellicott and his son, and what was the age of the boy? Be particular in time, place and circumstances.
Answer: I did observe frequent, particular familiarities and attentions in the intercourse of Ellicott and his son and said prostitute. I cannot now, from recollection, be very particular in
time, place and circumstance. The boy appeared to be nearly full grown, of about nineteen years of age. I recollect that Ellicott introduced the woman, Betsy, to Governor Gayoso, on his first visit to the barge after we landed at Natchez [February 24, 1797: ed.];
and, as far as their conduct (Ellicott & son) came within my observation afterward, they continued to pay mutual friendly and familiar attentions to her.
It was said and generally believed that extraordinary trio:
father, son and washerwoman,
slept in the same bed at the same time-
I did not see,
but I believed it.
I was even pressed by the old sinner, Ellicott, to take part of his bed with himself and the washerwoman, for the night.
Question: Was it not your opinion and that of all the other gentlemen of the party, that Ellicott, the father, and son held criminal intercourse with the said harlot, Betsy.
Answer: It was my opinion, and I understand it to be the opinion of every gentleman of both parties, American and Spanish, that the Ellicott's, both father and son,held, and continued a beastly, criminal and disgraceful intercourse, with the said harlot Betsy.
J.F.H. Claiborne in his 1880 history of Mississippi makes this statement about Thomas Freeman's testimony:
"As Mr. Ellicott, in his journal and official correspondence traduced many worthy persons living and dead, and did not hesitate to break open private letters, surreptitiously obtained, and represents himself as pure and immaculate, it is but justice to show what manner of man he was. This can be seen by reference to the deposition of Major Thomas Freeman before the court-martial at Frederick, convened September 1, 1811, for the trial of Major-General James Wilkinson. The witness was a man of the highest character, then and until his death holding a responsible position under government, and he charges Ellicott, under oath, with untruthfulness and official corruption, and with conduct personally and most degrading, indecent and beastly."
So the next time you look at an Alabama property deed or drive down by the Florida line, the demarcation between the Anglo-Saxon civilization of the U.S. and the Latin civilization of Florida in 1799, think about Betsy- Mr. Ellicott's washerwoman. She was probably the first woman from the United States to see the 381 miles of impenetrable wilderness between the Mississippi and the Chattahoochee Rivers. By cleaning Ellicott's linen, Betsy added a civilizing touch to the survey party, but her place in history is assured because Betsy was the first of a legion of American "ladies of the evening" who followed the almighty dollar down the Mississippi River to the rowdier sections of Natchez, New Orleans, Mobile and Pensacola.
She survived the Ellicotts, Indian attacks, a voyage around the peninsula of Florida, a trip up the St. Mary's River to Okefenokee Swamp
& when her story was used in court,
she allowed Major General James Wilkinson, a clever scoundrel whose reputation is rivaled only by Benedict Arnold,
to get away with 23 years of espionage.
[ed. note: The following article is related to Ellicott's Survey of the First U.S. Southern Boundary (1796-1800) because Panton, Leslie and Company, the forerunner of John Forbes and Company, financed the outfitting of the Spanish Boundary Commission which accompanied Ellicott on the survey and confirmed his observations. James Innerarity would have met Ellicott at Panton, Leslie and Co. headquarters in Pensacola in 1799 but his younger brother John Innerarity had not yet arrived.)
The Long Road To the American Acquisition of St. Andrews Bay
A title search for any deed to any piece of property in the Panama City area is a strange mosaic of clues to a long story that goes back over two centuries and includes international intrigue, complex individual and international interests, the long delayed settlement of St. Andrews Bay, the preservation of Florida’s public domain and the sovereignty of the United States. The oldest deeds in the Panama City area only go back to 1835 yet Spain turned the land over to the U.S. in 1821 so why did it take Florida’s land hungry pioneers fourteen years to gain title to some of the best unsettled land on the shores of one of the most important and beautiful harbors in all of frontier Florida?
When the federal government tried to settle the Spanish land claims in Florida, they discovered that St. Andrews Bay was part of the largest Spanish land grant in all Florida history which claimed the entire seacoast and all the bayshore from present-day Apalachicola west to East Pass at present-day Destin. The United States always delayed land sales until all Spanish land grants had been legally recorded or invalidated. This particular Spanish land grant was issued in 1818 by the Captain-General of Cuba to the John Forbes & Co., a mercantile firm of Scottish Indian traders based in Pensacola and Mobile who had received a permit from the Spanish to conduct a monopoly on trade with the Southeastern Indians. This huge land grant was compensation for the company’s services to the Spanish government of West Florida and for the losses it incurred during the 1814 British invasion of West Florida during the War of 1812. Until the litigation concerning this Spanish land grant was settled, none of present day Bay County’s land could be placed in the public domain and be offered for sale to Florida’s frontiersmen.
A drawing of the John Forbes and Co. warehouse on the waterfront in Pensacola.
A photograph of the John Forbes & Co. complex on the waterfront in Pensacola
John Forbes & Co. deserved some sort of compensation because the Spanish government welcomed the British army and navy into West Florida and allowed them to establish British martial law in Pensacola under which John Forbes and Co. suffered greatly.
The name, John Forbes & Co., was adopted by the old company of Panton, Leslie & Co., in 1804 when it reorganized after the death of the original Scottish partners, William Panton of Pensacola, Thomas Forbes of the Bahamas and John Leslie of London. The Spanish government confirmed all of the privileges of the old company to the new one. The new principal partners, John Forbes, James Innerarity and John Innerarity were tied to the old partners by kinship but were decidedly more pro-American than the original partners. It is not that the new partners necessarily changed their political allegiances but more importantly, American rule appeared to be inevitable and certainly promised to be better for their business if they were able to sell the land they had acquired from the Indians with the approval of the Spanish government.
James Innerarity, head of Forbes & Co. in Mobile, negotiator of the Forbes Purchase east of the Apalachicola and first American mayor of the City of Mobile
John Innerarity, head of Forbes & Co. in Pensacola
In the spring of 1814, the British navy and marines arrived off the coast of Northwest Florida and in preparation for the invasion and conquest of New Orleans attempted to incite a general slave and Indian uprising similar to the one that had previously gripped Haiti. This proposed slave insurrection along the Gulf Coast was designed to incite terror in the general populace, to target the women and children of the settlers for slaughter and to engage American forces which would otherwise be used in defense of New Orleans.
The British chose to build the fort that would support this war effort at the John Forbes and Co. store on the east bank of the Apalachicola River at Prospect Bluff located about thirty miles north of the present day town of Apalachicola. Even though all of the partners of John Forbes and Co. had been born in Great Britain, they did not welcome the British invasion of their adopted homeland and the British military men considered the John Forbes and Co. partners to be American spies.
A map of the Forbes Purchase showing the location of the Prospect Bluff store on the 1.25 million acres the company received from the Creek Indians in 1804 to clear the Indians' debt to the company.
The Brits picked John Forbes and Co. clean during their one year stay in Northwest Florida. The company’s slaves taken by the British created the greatest monetary loss for the firm but the British also took John Forbes & Co. cattle, horses, mules and gunpowder. The company store at Prospect Bluff was closed and replaced by a fort to protect the Indians and Negroes recruited to the British cause.
When John Forbes retired from the company and moved to Cuba in 1818, he used the move as an opportunity to appeal to a Spanish government superior to the one in Pensacola for the losses the company experienced in West Florida at the hands of the British during the War of 1812. Forbes successfully convinced the Captain-General of Cuba, Don Jose Cienfuegos, to invoke an 1815 royal ordnance meant to increase the population of Puerto Rico to justify giving John Forbes and Co. title to all the land between the Choctawhatchee and the Apalachicola Rivers south of a line running from the mouth of the Choctawhatchee east to the point where Sweetwater Creek enters the Apalachicola River. This grant included over 1.5 million acres of land and encompassed all of present-day Bay County along with the entire seacoast between present-day Apalachicola and Destin.
When you look at I.G. Searcy’s 1829 Florida map, the first American map of the Florida Territory, the entire Washington County portion of the map around St. Andrews Bay is labeled “Innerarity’s Claim”. This was the Spanish land grant of John Forbes and Co. and the Innerarity brothers of Mobile and Pensacola were in 1829 the controlling partners of John Forbes and Co. These Scottish brothers had taken over John Forbes and Co. after Forbes retirement in 1818 and his subsequent death in 1823.
In the early years of the Florida Territory, land ownership controversies like “Innerarity’s Claim” were the most pressing problems facing the government. On May 22, 1822, Congress created a Board of Commissioners on Land Claims for Florida which validated Spanish land grants of less than 1000 acres. Wealth in Florida was defined by land ownership so administration of the land claims commission as well as the offices associated with the public land system became the road to prosperity for many of the recently arrived Americans who owed their appointments to these offices to their association with Florida’s first territorial governor, General Andrew Jackson. The land claims commission could not rule on a grant as large as “Innerarity’s Claim” so in 1828, Congress passed a law allowing claimants of grants this large to file suit against the United States in the Superior Court of the district where the disputed land was located. With this law, the stage was set for a showdown between the Inneraritys and Andrew Jackson’s cronies who had used Old Hickory’s influence to gain their positions in Florida’s courts and land offices.
Richard Keith Call
Even though he was a partner with James Innerarity in the purchase of property on Santa Rosa Island, lawyer Richard Keith Call was the last person Innerarity needed to see representing the United States when his case came before Judge Henry M. Brackenridge’s Pensacola courtroom in the fall of 1830. Call had been appointed by President Jackson to assist government attorneys in these larger Spanish grant lawsuits. Through service as Florida’s delegate to Congress, two terms as the Florida Territorial governor and as Receiver of Public Monies at the public land office in Tallahassee, Call had become an expert on Spanish land grants and was convinced that all of the Spanish land grants issued in the last days of the regime were frauds. Besides being suspicious, in his commercial role as a land speculator, Call understood that preserving land in the public domain would mean that in the long run it would be cheaper to buy the property at the public land office than from private owners. In preparing for the case in 1829, Call received a federal commission that paid him to sail to Havana in pursuit of original documents pertaining to the case.
Call was the fifth government official sent to Cuba since 1821 to retrieve Spanish archives of Florida which had been taken out of the country in violation of the 2nd article of the Adams-Onis Treaty in which the U.S. acquired Florida from Spain. This February 22, 1819 treaty required that all documents relating to property were to be left in the possession of “officers of the United States.” For whatever reason, Spanish officials began exporting Florida archives to Havana immediately after the treaty was confirmed and had no intention of turning over one paper to an American official yet holders of Spanish land grants in Florida were constantly presenting original and copied documents from Cuba in Florida courtrooms to support their cases. Men like R.K. Call were convinced that the holders of Spanish land grants were cheating the U.S. government out of land that was rightfully its own and were able to present original and verified supporting documents in Florida courts because they bribed the Spanish officials in Havana in order to get them.
Because Call requested only the documents he needed for his land grant cases and did not demand all of the Florida archives illegally held in Havana be returned to the United States, he was successful in getting original documents and verified copies for the first time after four previous attempts failed to acquire a single piece of paper.
With the documents he desired, Call returned to Pensacola and when the court heard the case, he produced the original document where he showed Judge Brackenridge that the actual date of the land grant had been altered in order to make it conform with the provision in the treaty that made it illegal to make land grants in Florida after January 24, 1818. On the date on the original document a line had been drawn through “March” and the word “January” written above it. So by a matter of days, the company lost the land grant that compensated it for all its wartime losses. This was a catastrophic defeat for John Forbes & Co. but a triumphant defense of the public domain of the United States. Indian title to the land had already been extinguished in 1823 by the American Treaty of Moultrie Creek with the Seminoles so in 1831, Robert Butler, the Surveyor-General of Florida, ordered surveys of the townships surrounding St. Andrews Bay to begin and by 1834, the land of present-day Bay County was being purchased at the Tallahassee land office. For the first time in American History, citizens who had been living on the shores of St. Andrews Bay for decades as squatters were able to exercise their pre-emption rights to the land they had improved and purchase their property for about two bucks an acre.
Forbes Street in present day downtown Apalachicola Leslie Steet in present day downtown Apalachicola Panton Street (sign misspelled) in present day downtown Apalachicola
A model of the Forbes and Co. warehouse in present day Pensacola