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History of the Natchez Bluff 'Commons"

• In 1788, Stephen Minor sold 300 acres to the Spanish government which included the bluff property. (Source: Jack Holmes, "Stephen Minor, Natchez Pioneer," Journal of Mississippi History, Volume XLII, February 1980, Number 1.)

• Spanish commander Carlos de Grand-Pre' saw the need to set aside a portion of this bluff acreage for the citizens. Historian Jack Holmes said Grand-Pre' realized that a "large plaza, which seemed out of proportion to the small nucleus (of the tiny settlement)" would "seem more suitable as the town grew in size." (Source: Jack Holmes)

• Manuel Gayoso de Lemos served as governor of the Natchez District during the 1790s and, accorded to Holmes, "He (Gayoso) created a public green or park which remained undivided into residential lots." Holmes said Gayoso "drew a line from Front Street, facing the bluffs, and forbade the granting of lots west of it."

• From 1804 to 1806, Congress was involved in a dispute over the bluff property involving 30 acres, which was eventually provided the Town of Natchez. According to the American State Papers, Congress reviewed the issue in the followed reports:

-- Report No. 93, Pages 170 to 171, 8th Congress, 1st session, January 26, 1804.

-- Report No. 100, Pages 177 to 180, 8th Congress, 1st Session, March 10, 1804. In this report, Congressman Thomas Mann Randolph of Virginia, son-in-law of President Thomas Jefferson, noted that his committee felt it important that Congress grant this "strip of land (on the bluff) to the city of Natchez, on condition that it shall be preserved forever as a public ground for the health, comfort, and enjoyment of all citizens and strangers indiscriminately; and shall never be built on, or cultivated; but, on the contrary, shall be disposed into public walks and lawns, and planted with trees, at the expense of the corporation, and so maintained by it as long as it exists."

-- Report No. 109, Pages 200 to 201, 8th Congress, 2nd Session, Feb. 7, 1805.

-- Report No. 123, Pages 240 to 242, 9th Congress, 1st Session, March 4, 1806. The Committee on Public Lands, chaired by Congressman Andrew Gregg of Pennsylvania concluded: "RESOLVED, That the right of the United States to the land lying between the front street of the city of Natchez and the Mississippi river, ought to be vested in the corporation of said city, so as not to interfere with the legal claims of any individuals, if any there be, nor with the lands annexed to the old fort adjacent there; PROVIDED, That the said land be neither cultivated nor occupied with buildings, but be planted with trees, and preserved as a common for the use, comfort, and health of the inhabitants of the city aforesaid."

• Title to the bluff property in the name of the City of Natchez was finally decided in 1816: "In 1804 the (Natchez) Common Council fell into legal controversy with the aristocrat-controlled Board of Trustees of Jefferson College in Washington over the college's claim to the public square and the commons in Natchez. In 1803 the United States Congress granted the college, for revenue purposes, two lots in Natchez and thirty acres of federal property in the city, with the tracts to be picked by the governor. Despite loud cries of protest from the Natchez officials, (Gov. C.C.) Claiborne chose two lots on the public square, and Cato West, acting governor (of the Mississippi Territory) in 1803, picked as the thirty-acre site the city commons on the bluff...The issue was not settled until 1816 when the city 'won permanent and clear title to the tracts'..."

(Source: D. Clayton James, "Municipal Government in Territorial Natchez,"
Journal of Mississippi History, May 1965.
(Natchez, Selectman Minute Book, Book II, entry of March 8, 1817.)