November 29, 2012
The story of the founding of the City of Holly Springs involves the story of powerful family alliances between the Chickasaw Nation in Mississippi and European settlers from the East.
In celebration of the 175th anniversary of the founding of the city, some descendants of the Chickasaw Nation and the European settlers try to connect the dots to show how the city came into being.
The story begins with some people who are active in working on important projects in Holly Springs and Marshall County today, who are coincidentally the descendants of these earlier Indians and white settlers.
David Person, Robert Perry, Rook Moore, Frances Buchanan, Margaret Brown, Ben Martin, the late Teresa Totten Wittjen, and some of the Rathers, the Mitchells, the Tottens and the Colbert families are related either directly or indirectly to Delilah Love.
Love is believed to have donated property for the founding of the downtown square in Holly Springs. Bobby Mitchell, local historian, has a copy of the handwritten deed of 50 acres to be divided and sold as lots in exchange for the purchase of the remaining portion of a section of land by Marshall County.
Her powerful connections included the fact that she married white men, bringing together powerful families of the Chickasaw and the wealthy settlers.
She was the granddaughter to the queen of the Chickasaw Nation, Person said. The intermarriage of Indian maidens with white settlers was important in consolidating land holdings and building a political power base in the Mississippi Territory, he said.
Delilah Love, the daughter of Thomas Love and Sally Colbert, was born in 1790 in Chickasaw Nation, Mississippi, and died in Indian Territory in 1847 in Ft. Washita, Oklahoma, according to genealogy records. She gave birth to 10 children, some of whom were sent out West during the Trail of Tears, Person said, and eventually she moved to Oklahoma where she died. At least one of her children is said to have been sent West during the Trail of Tears.
Love may have been married three times, but the record shows that she married two settlers – Samuel Mitchell in 1809 and John B. Moore in 1812.
The marriage to Mitchell yielded two children and a powerful connection to Washington, D.C.
Person said Sam Mitchell was sent by Thomas Jefferson to be the first federal Indian agent to the Chickasaw to work out a treaty for a new road into Indian territory in Mississippi. The Natchez Trace, an Indian trail, was the only way into Chickasaw territory in Mississippi, he said.
“So, the Natchez Trace was opened up, a very, very old road that Americans were forbidden to use,” Person said.
Love and Sam Mitchell had two children – Catherine and Joseph G. – both born in the Chickasaw Nation, Mississippi. Catherine was born in 1812 in the Chickasaw Nation when Delilah Love would have been 22 years of age. Joseph was born in 1809 when Love would have been 19.
Love married John B. Moore in 1812 in the Chickasaw Nation, Mississippi. They parented eight children.
Love was probably one of the largest landowners in the Holly Springs area, Person said. She and Moore exchanged their 50 acres for the city for the sale of the rest of the section to the corporation founding Holly Springs.
The price paid was $7,000 for the remainder of the section , according to Bobby Joe Mitchell.
The Chickasaw followed two routes on their way out west. Some went to Memphis, crossed the river and went overland through Arkansas to Oklahoma, he said. The majority took steamboats down the Mississippi River to the Arkansas River and up through the Arkansas Post near the confluence of two rivers. The government hired six steamships to transport the indians down the Mississippi and up the Arkansas. Cost of transportation was $14.50 per capita, he said.
Love left for Oklahoma with her brothers’ caravan and crossed the Mississippi River on December 12, 1842, Mitchell said.
Love was also related to the Colberts – a very common name among settlers and Chickasaw alike.
Person said the Colberts were the most important mixed-blood Chickasaw in the area, a very powerful people who sent their children to be educated up North to Massachusetts. The Colberts and Loves owned a lot of property all over North Mississippi and into Alabama, Person said.
“We are hoping to have a reunion of the descendants of Sam and Delilah in Holly Springs,” Person said.
After her marriage to John B. Moore, Delilah and many of their children remained in the Holly Springs area. Some of them became Methodist preachers, Person said.
“Bob Perry is also related to Delilah Love through the Colberts,” Person said.
Perry is a member of the Chickasaw Council of Elders and has been involved in developing several projects of interest in North Mississippi and Northeast Alabama.
Person said Delilah’s husband, Sam Mitchell, was the brother of his great-great-great-great-grandmother. Her name was Susan Mitchell Dyer, for whom the City of Dyersburg, Tenn., was named.
“I am connected through the Dyers, and the Mitchells are also ancestors of the Tottens in Holly Springs,” Person said. “Ben Martin, Margaret Brown and some of the Rathers are descendants of the Dyers and Mitchells.”
Sam Mitchell was connected to a very important landowner in Kentucky and Tennessee, he said.
“Sam Mitchell’s uncle was Judge Richard Henderson, who employed Daniel Boone. He wanted to form new states and owned large tracts of land. Sam Mitchell's marriage to Delilah Love was politically important because Sam was a nephew of Judge Henderson from North Carolina who owned practically all of East Tennessee and East Kentucky in the 1700s. He sent Daniel Boone into this territory to explore it and colonize it.
“So, Delilah was sort of a linchpin in all of this.”
Land ownership was crucial to the families and the politics behind it was somewhat connected, Person said.
“Delilah, herself, became part of a larger political scene, which reached all the way to Washington,” he said. “It was not just happenstance that these connections of powerful families came to be important. Delilah and her family were pivotal and the most important factors in this area.”
Person said he believes Love’s marriage to Sam Mitchell may have been arranged to consolidate power.
Marie Moore said her husband Rook’s family is not in the John B. Moore direct line, but there may have been a common uncle back there. Frances Buchanan explained that Rook’s great-great-great-great-grandfather was Austin E. Moore, an early settler from North Carolina. Buchanan is Rook’s daddy’s first cousin. He had a brother, Benjamin, who had a son named John Barrett Moore, Love’s second husband, she said.
A U.S. Land Office patent record shows that Delilah Moore and her heirs received three and a half sections of land from the ceding of land in the treaty of Pontotoc Creek in October 20, 1830s. The property included Section 17 and Section 21 and the east half of section 20 in Township 4, Range 3, West, containing 1,601 acres and 648 acres in Section 6, Township 4, Range 2, West, of the district of land subject to sale at Pontotoc, Mississippi.
Bobby Mitchell, who is not related to Sam Mitchell, Delilah’s first husband, said the land the Chickasaw ceded to the United States in the 1930s was wilderness. The United States wanted to develop the land, he said. The Chickasaw were allowed to keep a portion of their lands and were given an allotment of acres in the Mississippi Territory according to the number of family members, he said. The Chickasaw maidens sometimes consolidated their holdings by marrying white settlers. Others sold their allotments, but eventually most of the Chickasaw living in this area moved out West, he said.
“Nearly all the Indians were forced to go west eventually. The treaty with the Chickasaw tribe allowed for each family to receive an allotment of land to use as they saw fit,” Mitchell said. “The government auctioned off the lands not allotted to families at a series of land sales at the Land Office in Pontotoc. Love’s family was allotted about 2,250 acres. In 1832 when the land was ceded, it was just a wilderness. It took several years to survey and the land was given to Love’s family on January 25, 1836.”
Love’s 50-acre donation was in the shape of a square, Mitchell said, with about 1,475 feet on each side. The square is believed to have been located on the north near the springs and to have gone south to the present-day cemetery, he said.
Perry provided the Colbert family connection – some of his ancestors – to Delilah Love and the Chickasaw.
“Sam Mitchell, Indian agent for the Chickasaw, first married Molly Folsom, a one-half Choctaw and daughter of Nathaniel Folsom,” he said. “She died in 1807 and Sam married Delilah (Love) Colbert, Chickasaw. Then he died in 1810.
Don Martini, in “Chickasaw Empire,” says that Sam Mitchell returned to Choctaw County, where he operated a stand on the Natchez Trace.
James Colbert Jr. married Carolyn Moore, daughter of John Moore and Delilah Love (daughter of Sally Colbert). A descendant of the Perrys, James Perry and son Jameson, are listed in the same family group as Chief George Colbert. Robert Perry is a descendant of these Perrys.
From Ada, Oklahoma, Perry will soon return to live in Tuscumbia, Alabama, where the Chickasaw and other tribes left on the Tuscumbia River in boats to travel the Tennessee River on to the Mississippi River and on to Oklahoma during the “removal.”
In Tuscumbia, many Chickasaw indian women with land patents married white men and remained in Alabama, he said.
Perry explained his interest in Holly Springs.
“Chickasaws were residents of the Mississippi area for millennia, but forced to leave Holly Springs and Mississippi 175 years ago,” he said.
“Our tribe has flourished and might have done so without leaving. Nonetheless, it’s ironic that an Oklahoma Chickasaw is included in local projects that combine ideas from several states that recall the ancestral roots; better yet, to celebrate them for all to see and appreciate. Thanks, Holly Springs and Marshall County.”
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