Later records prove that the Hoopers migrated from South Carolina to Natchez, but by what route is an intriguing question. It was possible to travel by boat from Charleston in six weeks or so, and overland travel without roads must have been considerably more difficult. Nearly all the early settlers of Natchez came down the Mississippi from Ft. Pitt or other northern parts.
1 September 1772
Minutes of West Florida Council meeting at Pensacola September 1, 1772: concerning land-grant petitions by… Innis Hooper…Sarah Holmes…Absalom Hooper and 27 others. [British Colonial Office Records, Class 5 (CO5), Reel 7, Volume 590 contents summarized by David Library of the American Revolution at https://www.amphilsoc.org/sites/default/files/2020-01/attachments/CO5West%20Florida.pdf — hereafter referred to simply as “CO5”]
21 September 1772
Claim No. 1879. British Govt. to Absalom Hooper 250 acres on Second Cr. Pensacola, 1 Sept. 1772, by Peter Chester. // File. Claimant, Absalom Hooper, 31 Mch. 1804. Wit: Bennet Truly 28 May 1805. Reported 298 Apr. 1807. Absalom Hooper claims 250 acres being unto me granted as above. Plat shows Indian Old Fields. [May Wilson McBee, The Natchez Court Records 1767-1805: Abstracts of Early Records (1953; Reprint by Genealogical Publishing Co, 1994) page 505, abstracting Written Evidences Book F, page 518.]
21 September 1772
Claim No. 1028. British gr. To Innis Hooper, 250 acres on Second Cr. B. by Samuel Wells. Pensacola, 21 Sept. 1772. // File. Claimants, heirs of Samuel Wells, decd., 23 Mch. 1804. See No. 1029. Confirmed… heirs and heiresses-at-law of Samuel Wells, decd., claim a tract of land, 250 acres in Adams Co., Miss. Ter. On Second Cr. By virtue of a British grant to Innis Hooper, as above, and by him sold to the said Samuel wells decd., [n.d.]… [McBee, page 442, abstracting Written Evidences Book D, page 200]
The next Claim, No. 1029 is a grant to Samuel Wells of 1000 acres “near the River Miss.” On Second Creek. Another rendering of this claim, by author Stephen Neal Smith reads the name as “James” Hooper, surely a misreading of Innes”. See also th eentry below for Claim No. 38.
Claimants were allowed 100 acres for themselves and 50 acres for each family member (including servants and slaves), so both Hoopers headed families of four.
21 September 1772
Claim No. 317. British grant to Sarah Holmes for 200 acres in Natchez Dist., on waters of Middle Cr..b. by William Ratcliffe. Pensacola 21 Sept. 1772 by Peter Chester. File: Claimant, Sarah Holmes. Reg. 24 Feb. 1804. Wit: Joshua Howard, 26 May 1804. Certf. A-4, issued Feb. 27, 1805. [McBee, page 373, abstracting Written Evidences Book A, page 548]
We can infer a family of three: herself and sons Joseph and Simpson. But evidently not Charles Holmes.
Middle Creek must have been another name for Second Creek. In 1794 Stephen Minor contracted to sell a tract described as being on Second Creek and adjacent to Mrs Sarah Holmes [McBee, page 102]. And in 1795 Don Estevan Minor sold a tract on Second Creek that was described as adjacent to the lands of the widow Sarah Holmes. [McBee, page 118]. Yet another deed refers to a British grant on Second Creek adjacent to William Ratcliffe [McBee, page 109].
Robbery on the Mississippi by Joshua Haywood, Innes Hooper, Charles Holmes, Reason Young, Richard Holloway, and Absolam Hooper
See detailed accounts of the incident on this page
July 1, 1773
Letter from George Urquhart at Sempas Vale Mississippi, to (Governor Peter) Chester, being delivered along with the three persons charged with the murders on the Mississippi River, describing the crimes; raising issues of protection and law enforcement up the Mississippi River; enclosed with Chester’s August 28, 1773 letter to Dartmouth crimes; raising issues of protection and law enforcement up the Mississippi River; enclosed with Chester’s August 28, 1773 letter to Dartmouth — see below. [CO5, Reel 7, Volume 590, Items 37, 40]
30 July 1773
Letter from Governor Peter Chester at Pensacola to Spanish Governor Luis Unzaga e Amezaga, at New Orleans, responding to Unzaga’s letter [dated 1 June 1773] to him about the barbarous murders on the Mississippi River; expressing satisfaction that the Spanish apprehended the murderers and cooperated in turning him (sic) over to British authorities. [CO5, Reel 7, Volume 590, Item 38]
Apparently the Spanish managed to capture Innis Hooper, Charles Holmes and Joshua Haywood in May or June of 1773 but not the other three. I found no further mention anywhere of Reason Young or Richard Holloway. Absalom Hooper managed to avoid capture somehow and request a pardon more than three years later.
Charles Holmes and Innes Hooper were evidently in custody for about a year. Presumably, Innes Hooper sold his land claim during this period, What happened to the three members of his family is a mystery. Were they taken in by Absalom Hooper? Did they return to South Carolina or to the nearby settlement of Hoopers on Pistol Creek?
28 August 1773
Letter from Chester at Pensacola to Dartmouth, reporting on a “barbarous” murder and robbery by British subjects of three Frenchmen and two Negroes up the Mississippi River near Natchez; enclosing papers, including correspondence with the Spanish governor on the matter. [CO5, Reel 7, Volume 590, Item 37]
18 April 1774
Claim No. 38. Indenture. 18 Apr. 1774. Cpt. Amos Ogden…to Macullagh and Elihu Hall Bay… Whereas the British Govt. patented to sd Ogden, 27 Oct. 1772, a tract of 25000 acres 21 miles SW. of old Natchez Fort, b. on Homachita Cr., one-fourth mile east of 1000 acres fr. Colin Graham, Esq., one mile from grant to Innis Hooper on Second Creek, other sides vacant… [page 376, abstracting Book B, page 68.]
When he sold this land later in 1774 it was one-half mile from Innis Hooper [McBee, page 436, abstracting Book D, page 63.]
“A different fate was meted out to Innis Hooper and Charles Holmes who were hanged in May 1774 for robbing a boat on the Mississippi…” [Robert R. Rea, British Pensacola, 1763-1781, page 64.)
6 June 1774
Letter from (Governor Peter) Chester to Dartmouth, reporting on prosecution of English subjects charged with the robbery and murder of two Frenchmen and two Negroes and especially on its high cost; ]“An Account of the different Sums paid on Account of the Prosecution carried on against [Innis] Hooper and [Charles] Holmes who were lately executed for the Robbery which they committed on the Mississippi in December 1772”; total amount £248.10.3½; enclosed with Chester’s June 6, 1774 letter to Dartmouth; also enclosed, a May 24, 1774 copy of letter from Wegg at Pensacola to Chester, describing the difficulties of the prosecution of Hooper and Holmes. [CO5, Reel 7: Volume 591: Official correspondence and documents 1773-1774, Items 85-87]
Anne Goodwin, the premier Hooper genealogist, reported via email that one of her correspondents had uncovered a record that Joshua Haywood had given evidence on the other two and saved himself.
Minutes of West Florida Council meeting at Pensacola: …concerning a pardon request from Absolum Hooper, accused of robbery on the Mississippi River [CO5, Reel 8: Volume 592: Official correspondence and documents 1771-1776, Item 107]
The pardon request was evidently approved, for he was a very public citizen of Natchez thereafter. There is no mention in these abbreviated records of the other members of the gang: Reason Young, Richard Holloway, or Joshua Haywood.
Captain Hooper participates in an attack on an Lt. Reuben Harrison’s American “rebel” detachment at the White Cliffs, about a dozen miles below Natchez.
See deposition dated 6 Nov 1797 below.
21 May 1778
Minutes: West Florida Council meeting minutes at Pensacola, taking notice “of the late spirited Behaviour of Anthony Hutchins Esquire” and commending him for “his loyal, brave, & spirited exertion in defence of His Majesty’s Government”, in particular, “in the Action with the Rebels at the White Cliffs” [CO5, Reel 7, Volume 594: Official correspondence and documents1777-1778, Item 31]
See deposition dated 6 Nov 1797 below.
17 January 1779
Petition: From His Majesty’s Dutiful and Loyal Subjects, Inhabitants of the Natches, to His Excellency Governor (Peter) Chester thanking him for actions in defense of the district but expressing alarm that Indians were to be sent to assist in defense of Natchez — stating that “most of us are too well acquainted with the Indians to put the least confidence in them” and that the “Indians formerly sent here was a reason why many People and families left their Habitations. But another such visit forced upon us, we fear, will add to an unhappiness and too, probably to the Country’s desolation.” Signed by more than 100 men, among them … Absalom Hooper, Stephen Holsten… Thomas Holmes…[Reproduced online at http://sherrysharp.com/genealogy/getperson.php?personID=I8039&tree=Roots]
4 October 1779
Letter: To Lieut. Colonel Dickson 16th Regiment Commanding His Britannick Majesty’s Forces in the River Mississippi (from) Natchez, 4th October 1779: We his Majesty’s dutiful and loyal Subjects the Inhabitants of the Natchez beg leave to return you our most sincere thanks for your generous and disinterested attention to our welfare in the Capitulation of Baton Rouge. From every Circumstance We had not, a Right to Expect such Terms and are fully impressed with the Idea that we owe them to the Unexampled bravery of you, the Officers and Men under your Command. Altho’ the unavoidable event of war has reduced you and your Troops to a situation which greatly affects us; yet we have some consolation from your being in the Hands of a brave and generous Conqueror. We most earnestly wish you that Promotion hereafter which your merit justly demands, and in the mean time every happiness that your present situation will admit of.- Signed by 59 men, among them Absalom Hooper but not Holmes or Holstein. [“Petition from the Citizens of Natchez, October 4, 1779” at http://trackingyourroots.com/data/bri1779pet.htm]
Well… Dickson had just surrendered Baton Rouge effectively handing over most of West Florida to the Spanish. Natchez surrendered the following day. One might argue that the 59 men who signed the letter may have done so less in solidarity with the King than to curry favor with the new Spanish Governor of Natchez, who the signers referred to as their “brave and generous Conqueror”.
A 1838 account mentions an incident of uncertain veracity — the author calls it an “alternate version” of a story — that occurred during when the Spanish Governor Galvez of Louisiana undertook an expedition against the British at Mobile: “Hooper (a white man of some notoriety in the early history of Natchez) had drawn sight upon the governor, as he was reconnoitering the bay in an open boat; when a British officer, struck by the barbarity of the warfare, suddenly struck up Hooper’s rifle, and thereby saved the general’s life. Hooper, with the dogged spirit of a backwoodsman, then swore he would fight no longer in a cause so managed, and suddenly packing up his small baggage, left the British camp” 1
17 March 1780
List of Inhabitants: British residents of Mobile District, prepared for the new Spanish Governor, Jose de Ezpeleta: …Absolom Hooper… [F. de Borja Medina Rojas, Jose de Ezpeleta, Gobernador de la Mobila 1780-1781 (Seville, 1980), page 175.
This list omitted a number of residents of Natchez, for unknown reasons. Many were probably among the refugees avoiding Spanish occupation, but others who remained, like the Truly family, are not listed in this document.
“In 1780, the area around Natchez had been subject to unsettling reports and visitors. Mingo Houmas, “one of the eldest chiefs of the Choctaw nation” with eighteen of his warriors came to Delavillebeuvre with a report of conspiracies of Choctaws, Chickasaws, and British traders gathering at the Yazoo who had plans to attack Natchez and who collaborated with British authorities at Pensacola. British merchants and settlers at Natchez easily considered going to the Chickasaws because of their longstanding ties and loyalty to the British. Supposedly, Campbell had authorized a man named Hooper to raise men in the Creek Country near Tombecbé for the purpose of attacking Spanish-held Natchez.” [Frances Bailey Kolb, “Contesting Borderlands: Policy and Practice in Spanish Louisiana, 1765-1803” (PhD Dissertation, Vanderbilt University, August 2014), page 236 — attributing this to a 24 June 1780 letter from the Spanish commander at Natchez, de la Villebeuvre, to Governor Galvez as reported in Lawrence G. Kinnaird, Spain in the Mississippi Valley, 1765-94: Translations from the Spanish Archives in the Bancroft Library (Washington D.C.: American Historical Association, 1949), Vol. 1, page 378-9.]
Maj. General John Campbell commanded the British forces in West Florida.
Absalom Hooper likely fled Natchez at this time.
Settlers at Natchez, alarmed by the surrender at Baton Rouge, but confident that the Spanish would be defeated at Pensacola and expecting the British fleet to attack New Orleans, offered to provide a diversion by attacking Ft. Panmure at Natchez. General John Campbell, commander of British forces in West Florida, approved the scheme and forwarded captaincy commissions to be distributed among the locals. In late April a force of locals, led by Anthony Hutchins and augmented by Choctaws laid siege to the fort. On April 29 the Spanish surrendered. As they were preparing to repulse Spanish reinforcements several days later, the 200-odd insurgents learned that Pensacola had fallen on May 9 and all of west Florida was now effectively Spanish territory. For most, their only option was to gather their families and flee the area. It is said that about 100 refugees fled to British settlements on the Savannah River. Whether Absalom Hooper and his family ended up in Savannah or upriver with the Pistol Creek Hoopers is unknown. A smaller group of refugees, including Phillip Alston and Christian Bingaman, fled to the Cumberland settlements in Tennessee, which may have influenced Hooper’s subsequent move there.
“De la Morandière sent the leaders of the rebellion to New Orleans, where they were held prisoner, and bounties were put out for others including the Alston brothers, Jacob Winfree and Joseph Holmes.” [Kolb, page 242.]
Joseph Holmes, John Alston, and seven others were eventually paroled.
“Some of the insurrectionists were considered frontier riff-raff. Campbell had not been below employing them to secure his ends. Indeed, the man who carried the commissions from Pensacola to Natchez, Christopher Marr, was called “a noted vagabond of bad character and abandoned principles.” The frontier banditti had been lurking about the Natchez fort and settlement at the time Delavillebeuvre assumed control in 1779. In 1780, the commandant had issued orders following a gruesome murder in an effort to expel from Natchez “vagabonds,” “vagrants,” and “rogues,” those “idle, loose, disorderly or unlawful persons.” Suspected murderer, Absalom Hooper, was another actor in the rebellion.” [Kolb, page 244]
This, according to a footnote, refers to his participation in the December 1772 robbery.
25 July 1781
In Case of William Clark vs. Stephen Jordan… Sarah Holmes declares that her son, Joseph, desired her to get $20 from William Clark; that she went to the Natchez landing at the time that James Willing came down the river in the beginning of the year 1778; that Clark told her he had not the money and asked her if her son Joseph did not owe money to Stephen Jordan and if Clark took up her son’s note to Stephen Jordan would it not answer the purpose; that she told Clark that was as good to her as cash… [McBee, page 234, abstracting Book F, page 1.]
Sarah Holmes’ 1772 grant of 200 acres implied a family of three. They were evidently Sarah Holmes and her two sons Joseph and Simpson.
Absalom Hooper’s will mentions “that part of the estate of Joseph Holmes that is coming to me”. If we assume that refers to the son of Sarah Holmes, and we further assume that Joseph Holmes died without issue and intestate, then the obvious possibility is that Absalom Hooper’s wife was the sister of Joseph Holmes.
21 January 1782
Deposition: Sarah Truly, widow, regarding her son Bennet Truly… “when he returned from hunting up the river, he had little (property), part due hum from Wm. Ferguson, for which he got some cows and calves, the other part consisted of a rifle gun, with which he bought a horse from one Hooper, which horse he has with him now…[McBee, page 238]
There was only one Hooper in the area – Absalom Hooper. She mentions Bennet Truly’s participation in the incidents involving Capt. Willing and Reuben Harrison in passing. Lt. Reuben Harrison, incidentally, married Sarah Truly’s daughter, also named Sarah, and after her death married her sister Patsy Truly. Sarah Truly was the widow of Hector Truly, who died in Virginia in 1761. She and her family accompanied her brother Debdal Holt to Natchez in 1773. Her 1792 will identifies Bennet Truly as “my youngest child”.
8 March 1782
Letter: from Robert Ross to John Murray, Fourth Lord of Dunmore proposing a British invasion of Louisiana, speaks of Absalom Hooper thus: “Now in Georgia with his family he is perfectly well acquainted with the Country, has very great influence in the Natchez Settlement is well attached to Government, and of courage and intrepedity equal to any undertaking.” [William David McCain, The Journal of Mississippi History, Vol. 37 (1975), page 128.]
8 March 1782
Comment on Robert Ross’s letter: “…Prominent West Florida refugees mentioned by Ross as useful to British plans to reconquer that province and Louisiana included William Bums, “a compleat Pilot for the harbours…” and a Mr. Purcel, “acquainted with the navigation of the Lakes, and all the interior of the Province, having run the boundary line in 1778.” Captain Francis Miller, a member of Colonel Moncrief’s department, was another engineer said to be acquainted with the interior parts of Louisiana. Absalom Hooper, who had fled to Georgia with his family, was also perfectly acquainted with the territory and was said to have considerable influence in the Natchez District. He was further described as “well attached to Government, and of courage and intrepidity equal to any undertaking.” [Jack D. L. Holmes, “Robert Ross’ Plan for an English Invasion of Louisiana in 1782”, Louisiana History: The Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association, Vol. 5, No. 2 (Spring, 1964), page 176.]
Robert Ross, a merchant who lived in New Orleans, had passed through Natchez in the winter of 1779 on his way to Pensacola, and elsewhere in his letter explained that “prominent inhabitants” had assured him of their desire to overthrow the Spanish. By the time of the letter Ross had fled to Charleston. Dunmore, the former Governor of Virginia, was in England. The original of this letter is held in the Chalmer Papers Collection at the New York Public Library.
Deposition: Simpson Homes sic), Jere (sic) Hooper, William Glasscock and Stern Steuben testify in case of Peter Walker vs. Jemima Lewis. [McBee, page 190.]
Jesse Hooper also witnessed the will of Simpson Holmes’ mother Sarah Holmes. This suggests some sort of relationship which, in tern, implies the possibility of a relationship with Absalom Hooper. Was Jesse Hooper a son of Innes Hooper? Or otherwise connected to Absalom and Innes?
27 January 1797
Suit: Jesse Hooper vs. Ebenezer Rees. Hooper represents that having had dealings with John O’Connor in 1789 and having paid off the whole of these dealings with him to Mr. Eldergill, then his clerk, Mr. O’Connor was then in New Orleans and had with him a note of your petitioner which was to be delivered upon his return as hereunto annexed will appear, but O’Connor never sent it to Mr. Rees to oblige your petitioner to pay it again; ask that Mr. Rees be ordered to deliver up the said note… Parties appeared and the receipt having been presented, the note was ordered to be given up. [McBee, page 336.]
6 November 1797
Deposition: of James Truly of Natchez, taken by William Ferguson, J.P. “…James Truly of [Natchez], aged about 43 years…deposeth and sayeth that he has been an inhabitant of this country since the year 1773…”
[testifies at length of the arrival at Natchez (in 1778? of an American force under Captain James Willing and his capture of Col. Anthony Hutchins who was taken as a prisoner to New Orleans. Hutchins escaped and made his way back to Natchez, arriving just before a boat dispatched from New Orleans commanded by Lt. Reuben Harrison of the United States Army. Lt. Harrison (as the deponent understood) was to preserve the peace in Natchez, in accordance with an agreement between Capt. Willing and the citizens of Natchez to maintain neutrality toward the United States. Hutchens, however, convinced the citizens of Natchez that Lt. Harrison had been sent to raid their property. Upon his arrival Harrison informed a settler that his intentions were harmless and that he wished to land his boat at Natchez, but Col. Hutchins urged a preemptive attack. The deposition continues…]
“…This the inhabitants objected to , saying it was time enough to fire when they found there was a necessity, and appointed Captains Bingaman and Hooper to remain open at the water side (the rest being concealed) to know their intentions; but when the said Harrison came near enough to speak , discovered that he had been basely decoyed over, spoke aloud, desiring all those that were friends to the United States, to separate themselves from those that were not. In answer to which Captain Hooper desired all those on board said boat that were friends to the Natchez (meaning as the deponent presumes those attached to the English) to fall below the gunwales of the boat, or jump ashore, as the boat had gotten into an eddy near the shore. In this confusion, one Cephas Kenard who was previously engaged by the said Col. Hutchins (as was then conjectured) to begin the attack , fired a gun in or towards the said boat, then the firing commenced on all sides, five of the Americans were killed, and the rest jumped ashore, and called for quarters…” [The Journal of Andrew Ellicott, Late Commissioner on Behalf of the United States During Part of the Year 1796, the Years 1797, 1798, 1799, and Part of the Year 1800: for Determining the Boundary Between the United States and the Possessions of His Catholic Majesty in America…, (Budd & Bartram, Florida 1803), pages 130-132.]
Exactly when the incident happened is not clear, but apparently in late April or early May 1778. Captain James Willing had been a merchant in Natchez sympathetic to the American rebel cause. He left the area when the Revolution started, recruited an irregular force and returned to “capture” Natchez in February 1778. Anthony Hutchins was in Pensacola by mid-May 1778 reporting on the skirmish. He had obtained a 1000-acre grant on Second Creek the same day as Absalom Hooper.
This description may be especially sympathetic to Lt. Reuben Harrison, who was the deponent’s brother-in-law. Richard Harrison had married his sister Sarah Truly and after her death married his youngest sister Patsy Truly. In yet another coincidence another of his sisters, Judith Truly, married a son of Stephen Holstein.
7 April 1798
Mississippi Territory established, with Natchez the capital. Spain had ceded the area to the United States in late 1795 and the US took possession in 1796. The US agreed to recognize existing land titles conferred by Britain or Spain upon submission of proof — these submissions are in the National Archives and entitled “Written Evidence”. A total of 2,098 claims are numbered in the sequence in which they were received. Abstracts of these documents are published: see May Wilson McBee, The Natchez Court Records 1767-1805: Abstracts of Early Records (1953; Reprint by Genealogical Publishing Co, 1994)
23 August 1799
Claim File No. 463 includes a deed from Hezekiah Williams to Robt. Miller this date for 250 acres on Wells Creek witnessed by and Jesse Hooper. [McBee, page 393, abstracting Written Evidence Book B, page 374]
(blank day) November 1800
Will of Sarah Holmes, proved 7 November 1807, leaves entire estate to son Simpson Holmes. Witness: Joshua Howard, Joseph Sessions, Jesse Hooper. [Adams County, Mississippi Will Book A, page 27]
The widow Sarah Holmes is mentioned several times in McBee as living on Second Creek, so apparently was the same Sarah Holmes as the original grantee. Whether she was the mother, step-mother, or sister-in-law (or no relation) of Absalom Hooper’s wife is unknown.
Jesse Hooper on jury in Natchez, Adams County, Mississippi (Adams County Minute Book 1, page 223]
He appears once or twice more in court records, but there are no deeds to or from him in Adams County.
1 March 1804
Claim No. 711 by heirs of Justus King for tract “on main branch of the Homochitto river bet. Hooper’s Creek and Morgan’s Fork.” [McBee, page 522, abstracting Written Evidence assortment of “Unrecorded Claims”]
31 March 1804
Absalom Hooper submitted a claim in 1804 – see item at 21 September 1772. The intent of the United States was to recognize the land titles of residents and to resolve conflicts in ownership. Since Hooper was not a resident it is not clear from the abstract whether he confirmed his title or made some accommodation with whoever was occupying the land in 1804. I did not find a deed of sale in Adams County records.
Letter from Sarah Lulu (Chaney) Cockerham, a granddaughter of Jesse Hooper (presumably the same person): “My mother’s grandfather, Jesse Hooper, came to the United States from England. He and his wife moved from the Territory of Mississippi [to Louisiana] in the month of May the year 1815. They reared several children. A daughter married William Parker and they lived in Greensburg, La. Another daughter married David Cooper, they lived near Clinton, La. Their son Elihu Hooper lived near Wilson, La…. [Be it Known And Remembered: Bible Records Vol. IV, (Louisiana Genealogical and Historical Society, 1966), page 182.]
Actually, he claimed land in St. Helena Parish, Louisiana in 1806. [American State Papers, Vol. 8, page 47] the first census was in 1820 when he was enumerated as over 45. For some reason, there are several gedcoms identifying him as the son of Churchwell Hooper – I don’t know the evidence behind that.
- Mann Butler, “An Historical Sketch of the Natchez or District of Natchez…”, The Western Messenger, Vol. VI, No. 1 (November 1838), page 50. [↩]