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John Maley's Red River Journal, Part I: Natchitoches, I Loathe Thee

Inside his journal from 1810, John Maley drew this rather gruesome scene of a man carrying a disembodied human head, walking towards a scattering of human skulls and bones. I need to read more of his journal to figure out the purpose of this art (John Maley Journal, UT Arlington and SMU).

When I get the chance -- and when I feel like it -- I transcribe the manuscript written by John Maley, an American trader, which recounts his travels seeking trade relationships with Indians in the newly-purchased Louisiana Territory in the years 1810-1813. He wasn't the best of writers, mind you. The entire manuscript is one long sentence, and he apparently didn't believe in punctuation, let alone spelling! And it's VERY obvious that he didn't care for Natchitoches AT ALL.

John Maley journeyed up the Red River and visited Natchitoches twice, but apparently didn't enjoy either visit:

Regarding the plantations surrounding Natchitoches: "some of those french planters are very hospitable and others despise the Americans since that country was purchased by the united states which is merely on account that they are rather doubtful that all their claims of land will be allowed them that they held under french government I was [scouled? scorned?] times denied by them even a nights lodging even in my own blankets under their roof" (1810, first journal, p. 192).

In Natchitoches town: "lots of gambling night strolling so many ladies pf pleasure (...) all girls are copper color some are slaves and others their own mistresses, some wealthy purchase their own mistresses... generally captivating figures but when they think them worn out in the service they then sell them and buy others. I was credibly informed that there were but three men in all the town that had lawfull wives" (1812, third journal, p. 3-4).

Regarding American bison hunters who had settled just outside of Natchitoches: "I wish for the welfare of the country that some might read this and also see the cause to feel himself interested so much as to enter complaints [to?] of the executive of the United States that they may make laws that would bring these now disapated [sic] characters to be [illegible]" (1812, third journal, p. 25).

Thought you'd enjoy an outsider observation from the early years of the Louisiana Purchase. His observations on his travels along the Red River will be the topic of Part II!

When John Maley visited Natchitoches, he would have encountered homes like this: "post in ground" construction of oak/cypress trunks, moss (bousillage), and thatch roofs (this one has a modern topping, though).
Portion of an 1806 map of the Red River, drawn by Nicholas King using descriptions from the Custis & Freeman & Sparks Expedition of 1806 (LOC).

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1 opmerking

17 mei

Looks like a wonderful account. I hope it is published.

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