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First, there is the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), for the initial impetus for an in-depth study of the beginnings of this little but important corner of Hancock County, Mississippi. It was on this high land that slave traders of the early19 century found staging areas to import Africans into the New World, after Thomas Jefferson had prohibited this horrid commerce in the newly bought territory.
Next, we shall give equal credit by combining into one our thanks to the Hancock County Historical Society, Hill Memorial Library of Louisiana State University, and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, all of which have been necessary – and therefore essential – to this study. The East Pearl River empties into the Gulf of Mexico, or it almost does.
And, most fascinating, we discovered a treasure of primary documentation, mostly in the form of family letters.
There is good reason that a reader may ask earnestly why a little populated area in the southwest corner of a sparsely populated state might command much attention.
Evidence of once thriving prehistoric cultures of indigenous peoples is familiar, by and large, only to the professional archaeologist.
The remains of what by some accounts was the largest sawmill in the world is a few large blocks of concrete, once foundation for nineteenth century mechanisms that even today would be considered imposing structures. Names that once commanded power or reflected wealth, like Claiborne, Pray, Weston and Favre, are known elsewhere today, but now exist along the Pearl only on tombstones in the Logtown and Napoleon cemeteries.
At that time, the Gulf of Mexico was dozens of miles to the south of its currect location, and those earliest archaeological sites are likely under the waters.
It is on Mulatto Bayou, one of a number of Sea Island cotton plantations, and was owned for a time by Andrew Jackson, Jr.
It bifurcates around an island at its mouth where the British camped on their way to being defeated by Gen.
Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans in 1815.
As early as 1500 BC and continuing until historic tribes like the Pascagoula and Biloxi, Native Americans hunted, fished and navigated the Pearl River drainage, building earthworks and shell middens and leaving a great deal of evidence of their trading acumen and artisanship.
It was archaeology that brought us to the topic of this book.