( a new resource has come to my attention since researching and writing this section that I strongly suggest reading if your are intersted in the subjects being covered - Cotton And Conquest: How The Plantation System Aquired Texas by Roger G. Kennedy, University of Oklahoma Press, 2013.)
Philip Nolan is listed in the Nacogdoches Census of 1792 with his birthplace listed as Belfast, Ireland. The Supplement to the Texas Handbook states Philip Nolan's father was Peter Nolan and that his mother was the former Elizabeth Cassidy. Nolan was a tall, dark haired man with a ruddy complexion. People of the time said he had amazing personal strength. Philip Nolan was raised for a time in the house of General James Wilkinson, who in 1798 was the ranking general in the United States Army.
General James Wilkinson-
Most of my research has shown Wilkinson to be of English descent, but one author, Arthur Preston Whitiker, labeled him Irish. I make note of the observation because the eminent historian, Samuel Eliot Morison of Harvard University, wrote the Introduction to Whitiker's book, The Spanish-American Frontier 1783-1795.
General James Wilkinson as painted by contemporary portaitist Charles Wilson Peale >
There are Wilkinsons of Scottish descent. As far back as 1498 there are references to the son of Wilken, or Wilkenson (later Wilkinson) in Scottish records. Whatever the general's ancestry, most of his associates had Celtic names: Michael Power, Henry Innes, Daniel Clark, Major Isaac Dunn, Hugh McIlvaine, Henry Owen, Joseph Collins, and Philip Nolan. He once used Hugh McIlvaine as an alias.
As a young man, James Wilkinson showed much promise. He studied to be a doctor, and began his practice at 17. When the American Revolution began, Wilkinson entered the Continental Army. James Wilkinson was a Brigadier General in the United States Army before he was 21. He was an officer in the United States Army for more than 30 years. Wilkinson succeeded Irishman, General "Mad" Anthony Wayne, as the senior general in the U.S. Army.
General James Wilkinson served as Chief of the United States Army for seventeen years, under four presidents.
Wilkinson laid out the town of Frankfort, Kentucky and was very popluar with frontiersmen. The Governor of Louisiana, Carondelet, wrote to Thomas Power, the governor's liaison with pro-Spanish Americans, about Wilkinson, "...he possesses the confidence of his fellow citizens and of the Kentucky Volunteers, at the slightest movement, the people will name him the General of the new republic; his reputation will raise an army for him, and Spain, as well as France, will furnish him the means of paying it".
This was in fact the case, though it was not proven until many years later. Wilkinson was a secret agent for the Spanish. He took an oath to support the King of Spain in 1787. He also had secret talks with the English.
One of Wilkinson's schemes was for the western regions of Tennessee and Kentucky to detach themselves from the United States and declare a seperate western republic. Wilkinson bribed and/or otherwise convinced U. S. commanders of the principal forts in these areas to join and then lead the revolt when the signal was given.
Spain secretly agreed to this plan, as did Great Britain. Spain wanted a buffer between its territory and the youthful, still growing United States. Great Britain supported the plan because it would destabilize the border and cause concern for both the U. S. and Spain. There were other Americans involved besides Wilkinson, but it was Wilkinson who was the key player who sold Spain and England on their respective viewpoints and support.
Wilkinson was not a double agent, he was working for himself, hoping to carve out an empire to rule in Spanish or U.S. territory, in between both, or part of both. He even had friends in high places in the United States who supported the plan. One of whom was the Republican candidate for Vice-President of the United States in 1796, and was Vice President in 1800, Aaron Burr.
The duplicity of Wilkinson touches every scandal of the period. He was an aide for General Benedict Arnold, and was heavily involved in the Conway Cabal (General Conway was an Irishman on loan from the French Army and was not directly involved in any plot. He made a critical remark about George Washington at a time when others were trying to replace Washington with General Gates. Early historians used his name for the alliterative value). In 1778, a Colonel John Connolly from Canada was in Kentucky and informed Wilkinson he was an agent for England and had money for an immediate invasion of Louisiana. He asked Wilkinson's help in recruiting an invasion force. Whether it was for ego reasons, or that Connolly's plans interfered with his own plans; or that British control of the area would not allow Wilkinson to "operate;" or perhaps the timing was not right, Wilkinson revealed the plot to United States officials. Wilkinson took kudos from the U.S. and solicited reward from Spain for stopping the invasion of their territory. Of course all these details were not learned until years later. There was street talk about Wilkinson. As early as 1790, Irish born, Doctor James O'Fallon wrote President George Washington, "..an influential American has been engaged in trade to New Orleans and now acts the part of secret agent for Spain in Kentucky and is employed by that court through Miro [Governor of Louisiana] for the purpose of a separation of Kentucky from the Union."
Dr. O'Fallon, who was born in Athlone, Ireland, was a surgeon in the Continental Army during the American Revolution. Wilkinson worked to discredit O'Fallon. General Wilkinson took the sting from O'Fallon's remarks by revealing that at the age of 50 O'Fallon married a girl of 15, the youngest sister of Irishman, George Rogers Clark. Clark was the famous American Revolution general who found the "Northwest Passage." His brother, red-haired William Clark, would later travel with fellow Celt Meriwether Lewis on the celebrated Lewis & Clark Expedition. George Rogers Clark had named one of his children after O'Fallon, John O'Fallon Clark.
.....................Meriwether Lewis >
Wilkinson claimed that O'Fallon and Clark had more in common than Clark's sister and son's name. Wilkinson reported O'Fallon and General Clark, had some dealings with the Spanish about setting up a colony in the west (the South Carolina Yazoo Company). He went on to report Clark recently accepted a commission from the French to invade the Spanish territory of Louisiana in connection with the Genêt Affair.
The French minister, Citizen Edmond Genêt, attempted to break America's official neutrality during a period when France and England were at war. Genêt was asked to leave the country. Genet asked for asylum in the United States because his faction in the French Revolution had been replaced by a more radical group. He did not want to return to France and a possible visit to the gullotine. His request for asylum was granted and Citizen Genêt became an American. He married Cornelia, the daughter of Irishman George Clinton. Clinton was Governor of New York (the first governor 1777-1795).................Citizen Genet >
The revelations made by General Wilkinson were so stark as to both, question O'Fallon's credibility, and require an investigation of George Rogers Clark's activities. At the same time it raised Wilkinson's credibility. Again, General, janus (two-faced), Wilkinson was rewarded by both his declared country for whom he wore the uniform and his clandestine country from whom he collected money.
PHILIP NOLAN AGAIN
In the late 1700's, Philip Nolan began trading with the Indians. He operated from Natchez. Nolan was known to be a very capable man. Governor Miro of Louisiana asked him, in 1788, to meet with Alexander McGillivray on behalf of the government. McGillivray was a leader of the Creek Indians, who agreed to form an alliance with the Spanish to stop the American advance into Spanish and Indian territories. McGillivray was the halfbreed son of Lachlan McGillivray, who was born in Scotland [there were quite a number of Scottish halfbreeds in the Creek nation and several of them became important men in the history of the Creek Nation. McGillivray was one, there were also several named McIntosh].
< Estevan Rodriguez Miro
In 1789 the governor of Natchez, Manuel Gayoso de Lemos Amorin y Magallanes, began an association with Nolan that was still in place when Gayoso became Governor of Louisiana and West Florida. In fact, Gayoso seriously considered going into business with Nolan.
General Wilkinson, for a time, left the army and began a mercantile business. Wilkinson, with Nolan's assistance, conducted a commercial venture with Spanish Louisiana and Texas until his resumption of military service in 1791. The business continued several years under Nolan. Most historians agree that Nolan was only running the business for the General, and still took his orders from his patron. When Wilkinson went back to the army, Philip Nolan handled General Wilkinson's commercial accounts in the Spanish territories. Although each was a Spanish territory, they were administered separately and differently. Louisiana was administered through Havana, Cuba; while Texas was administered through Mexico City.
Nolan kept the books for Wilkinson. When various people testified that money came from Spain to Wilkinson, Nolan's books showed the payments Wilkinson received from Spain were recorded as late payments owed for commercial reasons. These books were used in the Aaron Burr trial and went a long way in clearing Wilkinson. Nolan knew there were no "late" payments, and was keeping a false balance sheet.
During his trading years, Nolan became very proficient at sign language. He ingratiated himself with the Indians of Texas and Louisiana. Some say he did it so he could move freely about and be in a position to influence their activities later. Nolan impressed the Spanish as well. Spanish officials described Nolan as educated, talented, industrious, and a daring adventurer. He was known to be an excellent horseman and skilled with a lariat. Philip Nolan moved along the El Camino Real so often, that an offshoot trail leading to Opelousas was called the Nolan Trace before 1800.
Political changes at the time, and the two different Spanish bureaucracies worked to Nolan's advantage. The areas of Louisiana and Texas were in a state of flux reacting to the Treaty of San Lorenzo el Real, known in the U.S. as Pinckney's Treaty, signed in 1795 between Spain and the United States. The treaty ceded to the United States all territory east of the Mississippi River and north of the two Floridas. This included Natchez. The treaty also called for free navigation of the Mississippi, and the right of deposit of U.S. goods at the port in New Orleans.
Andrew Ellicot was commissioned by the United States to survey and certify the new border for the United States. It is known that Nolan tagged along with Irishman Andrew Ellicot after he received his commission from General Wilkinson to survey the areas bordering the southwestern United States with New Spain. Ellicot taught Nolan how to use a sextant and navigate by the stars. Ellicot was very impressed with Nolan and considered himself Nolan's friend. Nolan led Ellicott and the US surveying team to set up a base camp at a hill in Natchez at the end of the Natchez Trace in 1797. At the direct orders of George Washington, Ellicott erected a flagpole flying the flag of the United States. This created a problem between Governor Gayoso de Lemos and Nolan. The hill today is known as Ellicot's Hill. Pat Connelly erected a large house on the hill in 1798 a portion of which became Connelly's Tavern. The house is still standing.
Connelly's Tavern on the left was built on Ellicott's Hill. The picture on the right shows one of the rooms restored to what it was like in 1798 by the Natchez Garden Club, current owners of the building. Originally the house was built complete with a moat and drawbridge to keep out the riff raff from the Natchez Trace.
Ellicott erected a survey marker on April 10, 1799 on behalf of the joint U.S.- Spansh survey party. It marked 31° North latitude: the east-west line between the U.S. Mississippi Territory and Spanish West Florida (as set forth in the 1795 Pinckney Treaty - more formally called the Treaty of Lorenzo). The stone marker (a sandstone block about two feet high and eight inches thick) was placed near the bank of the Mobile River (in present-day Mobile County, Alabama). On the U.S. (north) side of the stone is an inscription stating "U.S. Lat. 31, 1799." The inscription on the south side reads "Dominio de S.M. Carlos IV, Lat. 31, 1799." That marker is preserved as an historical artifact by the State of Alabama and still stands on the site where it was erected. Ellicott went on, at the request of then President Thomas Jefferson, to teach Meriweather Lewis the use of surveying equipment for the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Earlier in his career, Ellicott participated in laying out the towns of Erie, Warren and Franklin, Pennsylvania and surveying the boudaries of several states including, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York and Georgia. He particpated in the laying out of Washington D. C. , extended the Mason-Dixon line west and particpated on the U. S. team to establish the U. S. - Canada border. His last career stop was as on the faculty at West Point.
Nolan was ostensibly rounding up wild horses and trapping when he was in Texas. Wilkinson helped him in getting permits and passports from the Spanish governors of Louisiana and Natchez. Miro, the Spanish governor of Louisiana, liked Nolan and was on good terms with him. Nolan's first announced trip to Texas was in 1791. This trip was not successful as the Texas Spanish officials confiscated his goods. Nolan spent a good part of the year among the Indians of Texas. He stated he was a "..favorite of the Tawayes and the Comanches." On his second trip, in 1792, Nolan rounded up quite a few horses and drove them to Natchez where he sold them. There is also evidence that Governor Miro profited from Nolan's horse sale.
In 1794, Nolan went into Texas again, with a letter from the new governor in Louisiana, Hector, Baron de Carondelet, shown in the small painting on the left. Nolan also had his old permits. Antonio Leal and his wife, Gertrudis, and her brother José de los Santos built corrals on their grant in Ayish Bayou to store the mustangs Nolan would capture. Antonio Leal was an authorized Spanish trader with the Indians. Leal also assisted Nolan in his mustanging. Nolan went to Béxar in an attempt to convince the governor there to give him a permit. The Governor of Texas was charmed by Nolan and Nolan got his permit, but not without saying he was related to former Governor Oconór, which is doubtful. The governor was not the only person in Béxar who Nolan was able to charm. He became intimate with a Gertrudis Quiñones. Gertrudis, who was from a respected family in Béxar, gave birth to a daughter from Nolan in 1798 (as late as 1830, mother and daughter were shown in the Béxar census). From Béxar, Nolan went to Laredo, Revilla, and Punta de Lampazos with Antonia Leal's wife, Gertrudis de Los Santos Leal, to purchase horses.
The smooth talking Nolan had gotten praise and permits from two governors of Louisiana, the Governor of Natchez, and the Texas governor. He moved freely in these areas among lesser officials and the Indians. This made William Barr and Samuel Davenport, the traders at Nacogdoches, jealous and they sought to discredit Nolan and eliminate any possible competition.
After Nolan sold his second catch of horses (1300) to the U.S. Cavalry at Frankfort, Kentucky and settlers on the Mississippi, Nolan wrote a letter to Barr and Davenport complaining of their telling the Indians he was a "badman." The three Irish traders weren't such enemies however, that they wouldn't team together to eliminate yet another trader in the area. In 1797, Nolan and Barr acted as the court's interpreters in the Nacogdoches trial of a trader named Lucas O'Se (O'Shea?).
This was not the first time Nolan provided a service to the Spanish. He met with Alexander McGillivray for Governor Miro. The new Governor of Louisiana, Baron de Carondelet, sent Nolan on a mission to map northern Louisiana (Missouri). In 1797, Nolan was again in Texas. Besides capturing horses he also did some mapping. He presented a copy of a map he made of Texas to Carondelet. In the same year, Carondelet made a contract with Nolan to provide horses for one of his regiments. Carondelet knew Nolan was getting the horses from Texas and that he probably would not be able to obtain permission to operate there again. This did not concern the governor, in fact, he probably encouraged Nolan as there was bad blood between the two governors. The Spanish administration in Louisiana had become a burden to those who adminstered Texas. There was a Royal Order of 1780, that was never recinded, which ordered the administrators in Texas to provide the Governor of Louisiana
"...any help or assistance that may be in his power, without waiting, for our authorization."
This old decree was used often by Louisiana to cover the contraband moving between the two areas.
Late in 1797, Nolan made another "mustang" trip into Texas taking with him two men, William Scott and John Murdock (two last names that are very numerous in Belfast, Ireland). Previously, he used Indians and Spanish territory citizens like the Leals to help him round up the horses. Nolan and his party went to Nacogdoches and then on to Béxar to obtain permission. Nolan sought permission to enter Nuevo Santander to trade there. Permission was given by the officer who then held Oconor's one time position. The title changed from Inspector Commandante of the Interior Provinces to Commandante of the Interior. The man holding the office was Pedro Nava. As part of his permit, Nava allowed Nolan to take two thousand pesos worth of goods with him to trade with the Indians. Shortly after Nolan's departure, Nava had a change of heart. In March of 1798, he wrote Governor Muñoz he was revoking Nolan's permit "for good reasons." The authorities were alerted that Nolan may be more than a trader. Orders were posted for Spanish officials to be on the lookout for Nolan. Nolan knew the Spanish were looking for him and was able to keep moving ahead of them and was out of Texas by 1799.
Nolan and his crew successfully rounded up 2000 Texas horses which they took back to Louisiana. After fulfilling the terms of his contract with Carondelet, Nolan sold the rest in Louisiana, Mississippi and Kentucky. In 1799, Philip Nolan married Frances Lintot of Natchez. His wife's sister was married to the former commandant at Natchez.
Stephen Minor was born in Pennsylvania. As a young man in New Orleans he was recruited to serve in Spanish service. He distinguished himself in the Spanish attack on the British fort at Mobile. By the early 1800's he was a distinguished gentleman living in Natchez and known as Don Esteban Minor. He was married to Katherine Lintot who was known as the Yellow Duchess, not so much because of her strikingly beautiful blond hair but because she loved the color of gold and had many items including her clothing and carriage reflect this favoritism. When Don Manuel Gayso de Lemos was replaced as Governor of Natchez, it was Minor who received the appointment as the next Governor of Natchez. He even bought the beautiful home Gayso had built known as Concord.
To the left is a picture of the plantation house known as Concord that was home to Governor of Natchez Don Manuel Gayso de Lemos and his successor Don Esteban Minor who was married to the former Katherine Lintot, the "Yellow Duchess".
Fannie Lintot was the red-headed younger sister of Katherine Lintot. She married Phillip Nolan and had a child by him. There is a description of a potrait of Nolan made shortly after his wedding in the book, Natchez On The Mississippi.
While Nolan's contacts in and around Natchez were of the first order. There was someone just across the Mississippi from Natchez who was not impressed. He was José Vidal, Commandant of the Spanish military outpost built opposite Natchez called Concordia. The area is now Vidalia, Louisiana.
Late in 1799, Philip Nolan received an invitation to meet with with the Vice President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson was of Welsh ancestry on his father's side and Scottish ancestry on his mother's side. Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and founder of the Democratic Party, supported republican causes. He was not a supporter of monarchies. His interest in Nolan is reflected in some of his correspondence. Daniel Clark, born in County Sligo in 1766, was friend of Nolan's, who worked in the Spanish Governor of Louisiana's office, once wrote President Jefferson that Nolan was a man "who will at all times have it in his power to render important services to the United States, and whom nature seems to have formed for the enterprises of which the rest of mankind are incapable." Jefferson appointed Clark the U. S. Consul for the United States in New Orleans in 1803.
General Wilkinson, who earlier that year served briefly as an interim Secretary of War after the resignation of James McHenry, wrote President Jefferson on May 22, 1800 that Nolan was a qualified person to brief the president on Texas. Nolan gave Jefferson a copy of the map he made of Texas. It is believed to be the first known map of the interior of Texas.
Thomas Jefferson was very much interested in Spanish America as evidenced by a letter he wrote a nephew, Peter Carr, in 1797. He wrote, "Spanish, Bestow great attention on this, and endeavor to acquire an accurate knowledge of it. Our future connections with Spain and Spanish America will render that language a valuable acquisition." Later you will read Jefferson speaking more bluntly about why he thinks his nephew should learn Spanish.
It is not known if Nolan and Jefferson ever did meet. There were several arrangements made. In June of 1798, Thomas Jefferson wrote Nolan a letter indicating his interest in obtaining from Nolan information on the "large herds of horses in a wild state, in the country west of the Mississippi". Jefferson goes on to write, "ÿour information is the sole reliance, as far as I can at present see". He encourages Nolan to write him about the horses.
To read the full text of Jefferson's letter click here >
We know that Nolan was on the road to Monticello (Jefferson's home) in May of 1800 with a "fine paint stallion for Jefferson"; but there is no record of an actual meeting. It is known Nolan met with others including General Wilkinson before his last trip into Texas.
The Governor of Louisiana also changed in 1799. The new governor was the Marques de Casa Calvo. He was a military man who participated in the reconquest of Louisiana in 1769 and was among the leaders in the taking of Mobile in 1770. The Marques was a caretaker military governor awaiting Manuel de Salcedo. He would assist Salcedo in delivering Spanish Louisiana back to the French in 1803. The Marques de Caso Calvo's mother was Catelina de O'Farrill of Havana. The O'Farril family of Havana, the product of an Irish expatriate, provided several military leaders to the Americas.