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Miss Marie V. Denegre, 2427 St. Charles Street.
Mr. P. L. Noblom, 516 Canal Street. Miss Grace King read the paper of the evening, "The Real Philip Nolan,” the material for which, original documents and letters, were furnished by Miss Kate Minor, who was present, and who added greatly to the interest of the paper by the reminiscences she was able to contribute on the life history of Philip Nolan, who had married a great-aunt of hers.
Mr. Hart made a short report about the Bienville celebration held in the City Hall on October 24th.
Mrs. Gregory reported that her husband, stationed in France, had in a letter described the bi-centennial celebration of the founding of New Orleans held in Paris on the same date as this Bienville celebration in this city. He said it was largely attended and in every way worthy of the event.
There was some short discussion after Miss King's paper before the Society adjourned.
THE REAL PHILIP NOLAN.
By GRACE KING. We are all of us acquainted with the remarkable story, “The Man' Without a Country,” by Edward Everett Hale; one of the classic gems of our literature. Its theme infinitely above the usual commonplace theme of the short story, coupled with a title of sinister significance, has placed it apart in a class to itself.
The man without a country! What a mournful echo the title arouses in the heart! It conveys, and apparently was meant to convey, a severe moral, appearing, as it did, in the period closely following the Civil War. The moral did not commend it at first to Southern readers, who have since had to learn to accept and admire it for its pure literary beauty and exalted ideals, and as we see to-day, its impartial sincerity of sentiment. When the story first appeared, it was taken in such sober seriousness, so much curiosity was aroused as to its origin, whether the hero, Philip Nolan existed in romance or in real life, that Hale, in a preface to one of its numerous editions, felt constrained to state that the story lacked all foundation in fact; but later he wrote a novel called “Philip Nolan and His Friends," a story built upon historical records, which with a different fate from “The Man Without a Country,”' is to be found now only in the limbo of unread books in public libraries, where it holds its position merely by virtue of the preface containing Hale’s reflections on his hero.
“I feel,” he writes, “that I owe something to the memory of Philip Nolan, whose name I took unguardedly for the name of a hero of my own creation.” The part that the real Philip Nolan played in the history of our country is far more important than that of many a hero who has statues raised in his honor. He was murdered by the Spanish government, who dishonored its own passport for his murder. Spain was strong then, and America was weak, and Mr. Jefferson a "pacifist.”' : Philip Nolan was a Southerner, and his story, in truth, belongs to us in Louisiana. How it was captured and made, as we may say, a spoil of conquest, is one of the interesting memories of our distinguished co-member, Miss Kate Minor, of Southdown plantation, Terrebonne Parish, whose life seems held together by a chain of such memories. This one, with the papers belonging to it, she has graciously put at the service of the Historical Society. She, and she alone, can explain why Philip Nolan's name should have been singled out to typify a rare incident of disloyalty, with its unnecessarily cruel and harsh punishment. Hale while traveling in leisurely, philosophical fashion through the South after the close of the Confederate War, came to Louisiana, and was, no doubt, glad to leave the sad war-beaten City of New Orleans for the country, particularly for so beautiful a region of the State as Terrebonne Parish, where if anywhere in the world Nature was strong and opulent enough to conceal, if not cure the ravages of war.
In Terrebonne, he enjoyed further the hospitality of a typical Southern home, that of Mr. William J. Minor, on the plantation which green, fertile and prosperous bears so well the pleasant English name of “Southdown.” Miss Minor relates that she recalls with vivid distinctness the picture of her mother sitting and talking with the distinguished, handsome stranger, lately numbered with the foes of her country, entertaining him in the charming way that Southern ladies have always known how to entertain strangers in their homes, so that to alter the Biblical expression, when they have passed on, they have found that they have often been entertained by angels unawares. Naturally the conversation did not turn on the recent bloody past; that would have been a poor way to entertain, at that time, a courteous and courtly Northern visitor; but it went back to the farther past, to the stately colonial past, with its romance and poetry and glamorous life of abundant prosperity and wealth; and as it seems to the descendants of that time, of unmeasured pleasures and ease. And, àpropos, perhaps, of a compliment to the beautiful green land outside the window, it must have been explained that Southdown plantation did not belong to the colonial past of the Minor family, but to their more recent history.
The present owner of Southdown and his forebears, as we know, but of course Mr. Hale did not, belong to Natchez, where their home was the famous “Concord Mansion,” the most famous mansion in its time in the Mississippi Valley.
Would that we could have heard Mrs. Minor's descriptions of it! And of the stories connected with it! No woman in the world, I firmly believe, can relate such stories as beautifully and simply as the Southern woman, of the generation of our mothers.
Mrs. Minor, evidently, as such story tellers did, went back to what they called their “beginning,” that is to what their mothers had told them; and their mothers invariably in the narrative went back to their “beginning,” that is to what their mothers had told them.
And so, in the easy, leisurely course from reminiscence to reminiscence (the hours are long on a Louisiana plantation), the name immortalized by Hale came in due succession in the story of Mrs. Minor's grand-aunt, Fannie Lintot; and this was the first time that the name of Philip Nolan ever fell upon Hale's ears.
Mrs. Minor's story must have been as follows:
Fannie Nolan was the daughter of Bernard Lintot, one of the early settlers of Natchez. He was the son of William Lintot, of the Inner Temple, London. His will, dated 1753, with a deed of sale of certain property in the County of New Haven and Colony of Connecticut, dated 1774, is still to be seen in the Minor family archives. Bernard Lintot emigrated from Old England to New England, and he later moved southward from New England to 90
the Natchez country, where he became prominent among its citizens.
His oldest daughter, Catherine, married Stephen Minor, the distinguished General Don Estevan Minor, of the Spanish domination. Stephen Minor was the father of William J. Minor, and, therefore, grandfather of our member, Miss Minor, who also bears the family name of Catherine.
The reminder may not be unnecessary that in 1763 Natchez, sharing the fate of France's northern possessions in North America, had passed into the power of England, while Louisiana, as we know, was transferred by secret treaty to Spain. Hence, while New Orleans, for forty years under Spanish régime, progressed in the way of Latin development, the little village of Natchez grew and formed itself on the English model and remained sturdily and conservatively English, even when it passed again temporarily under Spanish rule, and remained the same when the Mississippi became a part of the United States. We may say it is still noticeably so to-day. A fine flow of immigration from England had marked the brief period of English domination, and another flow of as fine a type of settlers, Tory sympathizers, came in from New England* and the State adjoin· ing after the Revolutionary war, all attracted by the beauty of
the country, its fine climate and fertile soil and the secure expectation that Natchez would, in time, become the commercial and maritime rival of New Orleans, or, pending that, that Great Britain would eventually make New Orleans and the Mississippi her own as securely as she had Quebec and the St. Lawrence.
And, therefore, at the end of the eighteenth century we may picture Natchez the pretty little “White Apple Village” of a noble tribe of Indians, expanding in all the beauty and refined culture of an English rural town, with noble brick edifices; manors standing in great parks of stalwart trees; the vestiges of the primeval forest; served by lordly retinues of slaves; altogether an aristocratic, if not lordly community, living as such communities lived in similar towns in England, maintaining a strict social etiquette, entertaining with handsome ceremonious dignity; rolling along smooth, well-kept roads in pompous carriages imported from the mother country, drawn by blooded stock
*Bernard Lintot, as we saw, came from Connecticut.
from famous stables driven by liveried coachmen, attended by liveried grooms and outriders.
The greatest, as well as the most important personage of the community, as he should have been, was the Spanish commander, Brigadier General Don Manuel Gayoso de Lemos. He was a Spaniard of Spaniards in blood, religion and in loyalty to his King and in obeisance to the court ritual imposed by his official position. But he had been reared and educated in England; had, moreover, married an American lady, and this, with his geniality of temper and love of conviviality, more nearly approached him 'to the people he governed than the power in whose name he governed. Speaking English fluently and elegantly, he was well qualified to be the social as well as the political center of Natchez, He lived in a stately mansion, situated two miles from the town and the same distance from Fort Adams, its military station. The house was palatial, according to the Spanish standard at that time, of official residences; the furniture, cornices and mantels were imported from Spain; and Gayoso, with happy sentiment, named it “Concord” in token of the harmonious relations existing between him and his neighbors.
When he was transferred to New Orleans, to succeed Carondelet as Governor of Louisiana, he sold Concord to his successor and friend, Don Estevan Minor, who lived there until his death, maintaining the same splendid hospitality as Gayoso. His son, William J. Minor, inherited it, but migrated from it to his great plantation of Southdown in Louisiana. All of this, and more like it, must have been described to Mr. Hale.
But for all its blossoming beauty and harmonious atmosphere, Natchez, about 1800, was not all nor solely a social paradise, as Governor Gayoso knew well. If it was not, in truth, the center of political agitation, it was a wayside)station to it, for New Orleans was then, and for many years, the center and seething pot of revolutionary schemes.
Gayoso, who seemed to be given to the pleasures of Natchez society and to his entertainments at Concord, was, in fact, held by his position, to the exercise of the same painful vigilance and unrelenting suspiciousness, that kept Carondelet on a tense strain in New Orleans. Never in the history of a country were there more varied forms of uneasiness to disturb the minds of its rulers. French, Spanish and American agitators were all at work in