BRIEF HISTORY OF THE ORDER

The Order of the First Families of Mississippi 1699-1817 began as the result of a question. Mrs. Allen Turpin, Sr., of Monroe, Louisiana, wrote asking Mr. Charles Owen Johnson of Washington, D.C., if there were a First Families of Mississippi. She noted there were First Families of Virginia, Louisana Colonials, Sons and Daughters of the Republic of Texas, etc. Surely, there must be a similar Mississippi group.

Not knowing the answer, Mr. Johnson wrote the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. By a letter dated July 19, 1967, Mrs. Laura D. S. Harrell of the Department replied that there was no such organization, but suggested Mrs. Herbert D. Forrest and Mrs. Swepson Taylor of Jackson, Mississippi, might be contacted about the prospects of organizing such a society.

On July 27, 1967, the following interested persons met for lunch and a meeting in the Downtowner Motel in Jackson, Mississippi: Mrs. Turpin, Mrs. Forrest, Mrs. Taylor, Mr. Johnson, Mrs. T. L. Carraway of Jackson, Mr. and Mrs. Lamar Landfair of Jackson, Mrs. Hugh Watkins of Jackson, Mrs. R. C. Upton of Madison, Mississippi, and Mrs. Camilla Frank of New Orleans, Louisiana. Attending the lunchon, but not the meeting was Mrs. Clifford Johnson of Monroe.

To further the study of Mississippi history and genealogy of the Colonial and Territorial periods, it was decided to form the Order of the First Families of Mississippi 1699-1817 and to limit its membership to descendants of settlers in the State between 1699 when the French settled in Old Biloxi and 1817 when Mississippi entered the Union.

By telephone that same day, Mr. Everette Truly of Natchez pledged his best efforts to promote the organization and Mrs. J. B. Dawkins of Monroe signified her interest.

The following members were authorized to apply for a Charter of Incorporation: Mr. Lamar Landfair, Mrs. Herbert D. Forrest, Mrs. T. L. Carraway, Mrs. Hugh Watkins and Mrs. R. C. Upton.

28 October 1967. The First Annual General Assumbly was held at the Carriage House, “Stanton Hall,” Natchez, Mississippi. The Membership Certificate was adopted. Mr. Everette Truly spoke on the early history of Mississippi. Charles Owen Johnson, as Governor General for the first full term, and his Staff of Officers were installed in office.

09 July 1968. The General Council met at the Carriage House, “Stanton Hall,” Natchez, Mississippi.

12 October 1968. The Second Annual General Assumbly was held in Natchez, Mississippi. There was a tour of four Natchez homes; members and guests met for cocktails at “Hope Farm,” courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. J. Balfour Miller. Membership totaled 58.

27 December 1968. The General Council met at the Carriage House, “Stanton Hall,” Natchez, Mississippi. The Order had 60 members.

From 1969 thru May 1980, meetings were held at various locations, including Jackson, Mississippi; Monroe, Louisiana; Natchez, Mississippi; and Brookhaven, Mississippi. In May 1979, the Order approved the publication of a lineage book showing the full lineage of each member. The Order had 372 members.

The membership continued to increase through the 1980s and 1990s. The first Governor General, Owen Johnson, and other founding members had expressed interest in having the organization sponsor a debutante ball. The first Colonial and Territorial Cotillion of Mississippi was held at the Natchez Eola Hotel on Friday, May 8, 1987, with ten young ladies making their debut. There have been seven cotillions held since the first in 1987 in alternate years depending on the number of young ladies interested in participating.

In the early 1990’s it was apparent that there was a need for an office/headquarters to serve as a central contact point for officers and members. Space was available at the Historic Natchez Foundation Building at 108 South Commerce Street in Natchez, Mississippi. The office opened in February 1994 with Suzannah Patterson as the manager. Mrs. William F. Prince served as manager from 1995 to 2000 and Catherine Ruth Prince has been the manager since 2000.

Through the years The Order of the First Families of Mississippi has met the organizing purposes of historic preservation, historical research, and education. It has supported and made contributions to a number of organizations with similar purposes such as: The Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Historic Natchez Foundation, The Center for the Study of Southern Culture at The University of Mississippi, the Genealogy Department at the Judge George Armstrong Library in Natchez, the Natchez City Cemetery, and Chamberlain-Hunt Academy in Port Gibson. The organization published lineage books Register I in 1981 and Register II in 1991 and Register III is being published at this time. These books are a record of the lineage of each member and biographical sketches of the ancestors.

At this time, just over 1,300 members have been approved since The Order of the First Families of Mississippi was founded in 1967 with approximately 630 active members today. Meetings are held twice a year. The Spring General Assembly is always held in Natchez in late May or early June. The Fall Gathering is held in different locations throughout the state of Mississippi usually in October. The meetings provide the opportunity for the descendants of the earliest settlers of the State of Mississippi to gather for a time of fellowship and to exchange genealogical information.

The Order of the First Families of Mississippi:  1699-1817
P. O. Box 821  —  Natchez MS  39121  —  601.442.0018