Sunday, January 2, 2011

Early Mississippi Settlers

Mississippi became the 20th state to join the Union on December 10, 1817. However, at that time, much of North Mississippi was considered Indian Territory and not open for settlement. In 1820 the Treaty of Doak's Stand opened up much of Central and West Mississippi to settlement but, the North was still considered Chickasaw and Choctaw lands not yet open for settlement. In 1830, government officials meet with the Choctow tribe at Dancing Rabbit Creek in Eastern Mississippi and they ceded their tribal lands in the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, signed on September 7, 1830. In exchange they were given lands in present-day Oklahoma to which most of them moved. Settlers began moving into the region, which includes what is now the county of Oktibbeha. The county takes its name from the creek in the northern part of the county which formed part of the boundary between the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations. Oktibbeha, in the Choctaw language, means "icy water."

In 1832 the Chickasaw Tribe ceded their land in the Treaty of Ponotoc Creek and opened up the remaining territory in Oktibbeha County for settlement. Oktibbeha County was formally organized on December 23, 1833. With the opening of these former tribal territories, the population of Mississippi increased 175% from 1830 to 1840. The price for land in this new territory, when purchased directly from the US Government was $1.25 an acre for minimum blocks of eighty acres.

My first direct ancestor to settle in Mississippi was David Outlaw Askew, my GGGGrandfather. He was born on 31 January 1794 in Duplin, NC (Bertie County). He had served in the State Legislator as a representative of Hertford County North Carolina for 1827 and 1828; at the time he resided at Pitch Landing in Hertford County. The Askew and Outlaw families of North Carolina were closely related planter families. As one family migrated from North Carolina to Mississippi, in order to develop more farmland, so did the other. Both families settled in the same area of Oktibbeha County.

Outlaw Home built during the early 1830s
David Outlaw Askew married Martha Etheridge, daughter of William Etheridge. David O. Askew purchased land in Oktibbeha County during November 1846, a total of 240 acres acquired for the sum of $250.00 dollars. On 25 January 1847, he purchased another 973 acres for the sum of $5,841.72 dollars.

David Outlaw Askew died on 13 May 1849 and is buried in a family plot, near the land he purchased. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to visit the site and find my GGGGrandfathers grave.

Askew-Harvey Cemetery

Me and my daughter at David O. Askew (GGGGrandfather) Gravesite
In 1850 only 12% of Mississippians were born in Mississippi, 83% had migrated to Mississippi from other states as the tribal territories opened, the remaining 5% were of foreign birth. North Carolina provided the majority of Mississippi settlers, which proved to be true for my ancestors, followed by South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, and Kentucky. (From "Mississippi a Bicentennial History by John Ray Skates")

David O. Askew willed all his property to his wife Martha Etheridge and their five children. Martha was also from Bertie County North Carolina. She married David Outlaw Askew and migrated with the family to Mississippi in 1846. After the death of her husband David O. Askew, Martha E. Askew purchased additional property in October, 1852 for the sum of $800.00 dollars, to include several lots in the town of Columbus, Mississippi. She must have been a strong willed lady to manage so much during the mid 19th Century, an extremely tumultuous time for the South.

During the pre-Civil War years Oktibbeha County developed into an area of small farms with a number of large plantations. The agricultural base was cotton and livestock. The 1860 census revealed a population of 5,171 whites, 7,631 slaves, 18 free blacks, and 157 Indians.

The Civil War was hard on Oktibbeha County as it was on the rest of Mississippi. Large numbers of its men volunteered for Confederate service and the farms suffered. Martha’s sons were George Washington Askew, Joseph Holly Askew, and David Askew. Two of which joined the Confederate Army … please refer to my previous Blogs for more on these two sons.

Grierson's raiders came through the region in the spring of 1863 and looted Starkville. Another Union raid the following year was turned back just south of West Point by General Nathan Bedford Forrest.

After the Civil War, Martha Askew moved into the town of Columbus where she lived until her death in June 1890. She is buried in the Askew family plot of Friendship Cemetery, Columbus, Mississippi.

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