Sam Moniac at Pass Christian
Samuel Takkes-Hadjo Moniac (Manack)
Sam Moniac was a Creek Indian from Alabama who had been decorated by General Washington while in New York, and was reportedly buried at Pass Christian in 1837.
Every year, treasure hunters and other interested parties call the Pass Christian City Hall, the Library, or the Chamber of Commerce seeking information. One of these was during the 1950s, from Professor Wilbur W. Stout of the English Department of Mississippi Southern University who wrote to the Pass Christian Chamber of Commerce inquiring about the location of an 1837 Pass Christian Cemetery.
In his letter, he quoted Indian historical authority, Thomas S. Woodard, who wrote, “I have often seen a medal General Washington gave Moniac. He always kept it on his person, and it is with him in his grave at Pass Christian.”
“He reportedly had a plantation near Montgomery, Alabama, and another at Manack (a variant spelling of Moniac) and owned an island in the Alabama River called Moniac. He raised range cattle on his properties as early as 1799.”
“He was married to Betsy, a sister of Red Eagle (William Weatherford). Their son, David Moniac born in 1802, was the first non-white West Point graduate from Alabama. Attaining rank of Major in the United States Army, he (David) was killed at the Battle of Wahoo Swamp on November 21, 1836.”
“Sam Moniac’s father was William, a native of Holland, and his mother was Polly Colbert, whose name connects her with James Logan Colbert (1736-1784), the Scottish leader of the Chickasaw nation.”
“Sam Moniac was mentioned during the Creek War of 1813-14, being the guide who led U.S. Army Brigadier General Ferdinand Leigh Claiborne to make the attack at Holy Ground between Montgomery and Selma near the town of Benton.”
Local lore has it that Sam Moniac actually did come to the Pass about 1837.
One of the founders and a chartering officer of the Pass Christian Historical Society was William Wiegand. Some of the foregoing information was extracted from the Wiegand Historical Collection notes. He reported that, there was a grave discovered at the site of the old Lynne Castle Hotel,
where silver adornment artifacts were excavated. “The silver ovals, that were believed to be epaulets, actually were medals of the kind shown in portraits of chiefs such as appear in the Oklahoma museum and in the volume on art collectors entitled The Proud Possessors
"Although there were those who claimed the skeletal body and ornaments were those of a hapless pirate having moored his boat at a live oak with an imbedded iron ring, many years prior to it becoming the Linn Watkins’ property and that entrance from the Sound was into a Bay or bayou that faced the area known as the Rice Fields."
Wiegand believed with other researchers who claimed that the uncovered beads and relics were more likely to have been that of an Indian.
A Burial Site possibility
There is more than enough documentary to support that Sam Moniac died and was buried in Pass Christian, but as to the actual site, many questions remain.
Wiegand's notes describe that, "At the time of the digging and discovery of' the skeleton the property was the summer home of Judge Linn Boyd Watkins, a member of the Louisiana Supreme Court, who originally was from north Louisiana
"His daughter, Lynne Watkins, married Rudolf S. Hecht. The Hecht Japanese Garden
is near the old Lynne Castle site at West Beach and Henderson Avenue, which for years had been a Pass Christian show place. Mr. Hecht was a president of the Hibernia Bank in New Orleans, a president of the American Bankers Association, and one of the founders of International House in New Orleans.
"Daughters of Mr. and Mrs. Hecht are Mrs. Evans Farwell (Lynne Hecht) and Mrs. Asabel Cooper (Dorothy Hecht -- deceased). They became custodians of the silver crown, the silver epaulets, buttons, the beads, and the fragment of wool cloth to which the buttons were attached when the grave was discovered."
"A very thin silver crown is shown laid out flat, but which would be curved to fit around the brow. At each end were holes that allowed a string to be strung to fasten behind the head. The two epaulets are shown below the crown."
(The pictures were evidently taken on a Xerox copier rather than as photographs and very well could have been copied from a 1906 news article included below.)
Today, that burial site would possibly be covered by the east-most part of the shopping center building or by a portion of the service parking entrance way from Henderson Avenue.
The Shopping Mart is fronted by Hwy 90 --- between Henderson and Clarence avenues.
History Buried at Pass Christian
was a headline in the Daily Picayune, Thursday, May 17, 1906, on a news story dealing with a meeting of the Louisiana Historical Society.
It was held in the Progressive Union Hall with Professor Alcee Fortier presiding. Professor Charles G. Gill was recording secretary. W. O. Hart submitted a committee report dealing with a resolution to memorialize the late
E. B. Kruttschnitt, and General W. J. Behan introduced the lecturer for the evening, Colonel Lewis Guion.
A letter was read that had been received from J. Blanc Monroe, as follows:
“At the request of my aunt, Mrs. Edmund Glenny, I desire to submit to you the following facts in order that you may lay them before the Louisiana Historical Society:
“Some three or four months ago while some laborers were digging a trench on the property of L.H. Watkins at Pass Christian Mississippi, they came unexpectedly upon a human skull. Around the bones of the skull was what appeared to be a crown of silver filigree work. Somewhat lower down, in the position which the shoulders should have occupied, there were found two silver epaulets, and across the chest, a silver breastplate. In addition to this, there were found quite a number of bone beads and some brass buttons, apparently suitable for an officer’s uniform.
"When the digging had proceeded thus far, so much excitement had been created that the domestic servants on the place refused to stay longer, and so Mrs. Watkins ordered the digging to be discontinued and the grave to be refilled. She is, however, willing that an investigation should be made by the historical society, or others interested, and I am personally interested in the matter, because Mrs. Watkins says she can account for the ownership of her property for a large number of years, and is certain that a burial could not have taken place later than 1812 to 1820.
The crown responded to silver polish applied by Mrs. Farwell, and is undoubtedly silver.
The crown, and the epaulets, all are handcrafted, very thin. The crown is pliable, bears small perpendicular marks along the top and bottom borders, and is not a complete circle. Rather, it may be placed flat like a band. Holes at each end are some 16 inches apart. The crown is two inches wide at the trough of the wavelike top scroll and two and one-half-inches-wide from the crest of' the waves to the bottom extremity. One of the epaulets has perpendicular marks along the edge within a narrow border. The other has just the border, without the up and down marks. The buttons are unmarked on the face, but on the reverse side are the imprinted, or stamped letters that read "Warranted Rich Gilt.” They are 5/8 of an inch in diameter. The cloth to which the buttons were attached is black, wool, and of an open weave, and rough to the touch, like tweed or homespun.
Mrs. Farwell said that the spot on her grandmother’s property where the skeletons were found, near an old oak tree, was about three-quarters of the way back from the beach road, and near the eastern boundary fence.
She said the opinion had been expressed that the Old Rice Field, across Henderson Avenue from the Watkins property, had, in the very old days, been either a bay or a bayou.
Her belief is that the wearer of the crown had been a pirate and the white beads on the skeleton's coat had been decorations on the coat.
The Louisiana Historical Society referred the matter to its executive committee and nothing further happened to disturb the bones on the ground which later became the Lynne Castle hotel. (end of news release)
The next most signigicant structure built on site of the Lynne Castle Hotel (before the hotel it was the Savage School for Girls), became the Richelieu Apartment Building which was completely destroyed by Hurricane Camille.
Camille figured to be another excuse for a Hurricane Party. Gerlach and her husband Fritz had stocked up on food and booze for the evening. They had worked late the previous night, so they decided to take a nap before partying with the other apartment tenants. She was awakened by the strong gusts of wind and siding boards being ripped off the complex. Jumping up, she jerked her husband from sleep. She looked up as the walls cracked open and the third floor above her was about to crumble down.
Her husband Fritz didn't want to leave because he couldn't swim. The rising waters gushed around her. Instinctively, she grabbed onto a cushion as the waves pushed her out a window. She noted that the waters were also thrashing against the top floor where the other tenants were having their Hurricane Party. She couldn't distinguish the people, but she could still see the lights, as she was being washed away. Then the lights went under water. On looking back, the third floor of the hurricane-proof apartment complex tumbled into the murky swirling waters driven by the Gulf tide. Those remaining, toppled into the angry waters.
Over the years, it has been recounted that 23 others stayed to "party the night away" at the beachfront Richelieu Apartment complex on Highway 90 (presently the site of Shopping Center). The story was mistakenly reported as such in national news media the day following Camille and continues as a myth in commemoration releases by national and even local news media.
News reports of 23 lives having been lost during the devastation of the infamous Richelieu, actually resulted in 8 victims being confirmed. Although 24 persons originally participated in the Hurricane Party, the more cautious ones had left at varying intervals during the late afternoon. The Richlieu apartment complex was totally flattened by Hurricane Camille on August 17, 1969.
A Second location is most probable Burial Site
A church-operated graveyard within the city-limits can be found north of the railroad tracks off Church Street at the end of Toleman Place — surrounded by woods. Historically, this area was known as the Indian Cemetery, probably due to the large number of Creek Indians that had made encampments in the Pass while making their westward journey during the 1835-37 “Trail of Tears.”
Through the years, these burial grounds have slowly been absorbed by the Goodwill Missionary Baptist Church where a growing number of Negro citizens have been buried. As more and more of the land has been cleared for plots, there is no sign of any but newer tomb stones and slabs that have covered the original cemetery that may have been established there in 1837. If it were so, those sacred hallowed grounds would be the oldest burial place in Pass Christian. In more recent years, the Indian Cemetery is seldom referred to as such. Today, cement borders and tomb stones and slabs cover the area with dates that are mostly of the 1980s and 1990s -- with a few dating back to 1950 and 1960.
In support of the Indian Cemetery are those Information resources that reveal that Pass Christian was a way-station for Creek Indians who were being removed from Florida and Alabama by schooners. They left from Mobile Point, Alabama to stop over at Pass Christian where they reassembled, and then traveled by boat via New Orleans to access the Mississippi River in order to reach its destination at Fort Gibson, Arkansas.
History Notes of the Time Period:
! During the War of 1812, American troops had made an encampment in 1815, at the Pass Christian area of Henderson’s Point in preparing defenses against the British attack against New Orleans.
! In 1831, under the supervision of Roger Hiern, lighthouses were built at Pass Christian and Cat Island along with the completion of the Pass Christian Hotel which was built by Charles Shipman, Hiern’s brother-in-law.
! The Roger Hiern family would have been the most active and locally prominent people in Pass Christian during the emigration of Indians and more likely would have decided where the Indian camps would have been located in the years from 1835 to 1837.
! "Thirty five hundred Indians were packed at Mobile Point waiting for the Creek Warriors returning from Florida to join them. In July (1837), two hundred Creeks arrived on board the Merchant. Pass Christian, Mississippi was selected (as a way-station). There was such a number sick that many of them died on the wharf. Just as the first load got into the Bay (of St. Louis) many began to die, and the boat had to return to bury them. After making a successful trip the boat returned for another load. Captain Page directed them to break camp and be on the wharf by night to embark. All the sick were brought to the spot, but a violent storm came up that lasted for two days. Captain Page ordered them to return to camp, but they refused. They said it would spoil their Physic. Being superstitious --- once an Indian made up his mind he would rather die than change it. On July 18 the last load reached Pass Christian. Many more died the next month, which included Samuel Moniac and David Hale. On August 21, two schooners arrived with two-hundred and sixteen friendly Creek Warriors from Florida, and on September 14, two-hundred and eight more departed Tampa Bay in route for Pass Christian."
A likely Scenario
Presumably, as the Creeks arrived by boat from Alabama, they would have landed at the wharf near the land-based lighthouse and were trekked off to Henderson Point where that ground would have already been cleared as used by Federal troops on several occasions since 1815. It would not have been conceivable for the Indians to have been placed anywhere else.
The two early prominent churches, Catholic and Episcopal, did not establish cemeteries until the 1850s. The mass grave that was necessary to provide for 84 bodies in such a short time span between March 29 to July 31, 1837, was most likely under Roger Hiern’s control. The roadway going north from the beaches was called Portage Road (now, Henderson Avenue), which would have provided access means to a hidden away burial field some few hundred yards east of the road.
Further research would prove interesting in determining exactly how many of these Creek volunteer warriors who fought the Seminole Indians in behalf of the American government under General Andrew Jackson — had died at the Pass..
Local folklore refers to Sam Moniac as Chief Moniac — perhaps because of the knowledge of the bestowal by President George Washington of a medal. However, the Muster-Roll of deceased officers and soldiers of the Mounted Regiment of Creek Indian Volunteers, refers to him simply as:
No.14 – Samuel Moniac, Rank of Private – Thlob-thlocco Tribe – Died at Pass Christian, MS, Aug. 21, 1837. Nearest relative was a son, Alexander Moniac, who
was a private, No. 2 on last rolls of Co. C, Creek Vol's.
Proof of Hiern Family Involvement
New Orleans, Lou.
5th Feby. 1839
I have the honor, to enclose herewith a communication respecting the straggling Creek Indians left at Pass Christian on the removal of the main body of Indians in October 1837. All doubtless can be collected without much difficulty with the exception of the one mentioned as having left for Alabama. The writer of the herewith report is a person on whom reliance can be placed being also well acquainted with Pass Christian and environs.
I am Sir
your obt. servant
Jno. G. Reynolds
1st Lieut. U. S. M. C.
Disbg. Agt. Ind. Dept.
T. Hartley Crawford
Comr. Ind. Affairs
30th January 1839
My Dear Sir
Yours of the 29th inst came safe to hand, and I hasten to give you all the information that I possess or can obtain in relation to the Creek Indians that remained here after the main body were removed from this place. From what I can learn from the old Indian Bearfoot there were about twenty in number - men, women & children who remained behind, eleven of whom left this during the winter of 1837 for N. Orleans where they have remained ever since, all the rest are at this place and vicinity with the exception of one man who has left some time since for Alabama.
Tom Pigeon and family are at Wolf River consisting of himself and four others.
There are also five others who are living at this place.
I remain Sir respectfully yours
Finley B. Hain (Hiern)
(Note: Finley B Hiern became Pass Christian's first Mayor when incorporated in February 1848)
The Indians would have found relief and shelter among the French families that had settled along the rivers and bayous known as Wolf and DeLisle since the 1780s. It could even be possible that the Indians mentioned by Finley Bodam Hiern remained there and were absorbed into the community which today is called DeLisle.