The First Survey Through Hal's Lake Swamp Page 3
Silas Dinsmoor. Silas Dinsmoore was born September 26, 1766 at
Windham, New Hampshire. When he reached eighteen, he moved to
Bangor, Maine, where he worked a year on a farm for four dollars
a month. He then prepared for college under the tutelage of a
minister, graduated from Dartmouth in 1791, and taught for three
years. Upon the reorganization of the Corps of Engineers in 1794,
he was commissioned Lieutenant. President George Washington was
discussing with Lt. Dinsmoor the best way to treat the Indian
tribes; when Dinsmoor said it was to tech the Indians
"civilization", Washington persuaded him to resign his Army
commission and become Agent to the Cherokees. He spent five years
among the Cherokees before becoming purser on a Navy ship, U.S.S.
GEORGE WASHINGTON and, under Commodore Bainbridge, voyaged to Algiers and Constantinople. His success with the Cherokees, however, brought his appointment as Indian agent to the Choctaws. Marrying Miss May Gordon of Hampstead, N.H. in 1806, shortly an invalid, they travelled by land from New Hampshire over the
Allegheny mountains to Pittsburg, where Dinsmoor built a flatboat.
The floated sixty-eight days downriver to the point on the
Tennessee River nearest the Choctaws (probably Muscle Shoals),
where he traveled to the Choctaw nation.
Dinsmoor as agent or factor to the Choctaws lived first on the
Chickasahay River near present Quitman, MS, and then west of the
Pearl River. As was written in 1910, before Political Correctness
ensued, Dinsmoor "was enthusiastic at both his stations in
improving the condition of the savages. He induced them to make
larger truck patches, added cotton to their crops, and introduced
poultry, hogs and horses...[W]ith Africans [he] operated a large
plantation near the agency".6 In 1805, Dinsmoor was one7 of the
Commissioners for the U.S. in the Treaty of Mount Dexter,8 which
ceded to the U.S. the lands which caused the 1809 survey discussed
in this paper.
Dinsmoor made an enemy of Andrew Jackson in at least two ways. First, he insisted on passports for the slaves of travellers.9
Second, "[t]he story goes that, when asked by the government
5P. HAMILTON, COLONIAL MOBILE (1910) [hereafter "Hamilton"] at 552 (biography of Silas Dinsmoor, M.D., of Pittsburgh, PA, grandson to Silas Dinsmoor) at 552.
6Id. at 377.
7Along with James Robertson of Tennessee, who has a fame in
Tennessee much beyond that of Dinsmoor in Alabama.
8Hamilton, at 382.
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