The following comes from the Gentry Glascock Woodson Family web site at MyFamily. This site embraces many early colonial famlies including the Claibornes.
William Charles Cole Claiborne
1775 - 1817
A Notable Claiborne Cousin
Months ago, I wrote and posted to our family web site a profile on Col. William Claiborne, my great [times 8] grandfather through my Gentry and Harris lines. Col. Claiborne was a very influential figure in Virginia's early colonial days and held numerous positions of importance including: Surveyor General, Jamestowne Council Member, Virginia's first Secretarie, and Treasurer of Virginia to name a few.
More importantly, Col. Claiborne is credited with starting the third colony [after Jamestowne and Plymouth] in Maryland, albeit unknowingly at the time. [Please see the story posted on 26 March 2001 to the History Section - use "Claiborne" in the search function.] This last event resulted in a territorial disagreement and a bit of anarchy in Maryland's early years - so much so, Col. Claiborne's profile may be found in nearly all common encyclopedias.
Good fortune is often described as being at the right place at the right time. And certainly the fact that Col. Claiborne was such an important figure was, no doubt, due in part to a bit of good fortune. However, the old adage of cream rising to the top likely had much more to due with the Colonel's prominence than his timely arrival at Jamestowne in 1621. So too was it with his Col. Claiborne's great, great, great grandson*, William Charles Cole Claiborne, for he had the good fortune to be the Governor of the Mississippi Territory at perhaps the greatest moment in our Nation's post-Revolutionary War history. That was, the point at which America became a global power by way of the Louisiana Purchase. This 15 million dollar acquisition by President Thomas Jefferson doubled our landmass and facilitated our continental expansion.
The following excerpt from a profile of the History of Louisiana frames the event nicely:
"By the secret Treaty of San lldefonso, Spain officially returned the Louisiana territory West of the Mississippi to France in 1800, to avoid a continuous deficit the colony caused. Another factor was the possibility that Spain might have to fight the uneasy Americans to keep control of the land. It was actually 1803 when France took control.
In 1803, the greatest deal in history occurred. The United States purchased, at the cost of only $15 million, the territory of Louisiana. An American Minister to France, Robert Livingston said this about the purchase. "We have lived long, but this is the noblest work of our whole lives... From this day the United States will take their place among the powers of the first rank... The instruments which we have just signed will cause no tears to be shed; they prepare ages of happiness for innumerable generations of human creature"."
Because William C. C. Claiborne was the highest-ranking civilian authority in the area at the time, President Jefferson appointed him as one of two commissioners to oversee the transfer of Louisiana to America. The other Commissioner was General James Wilkinson, who was sent by Jefferson to New Orleans to back Claiborne with military power. On December 20, 1803, in the Sala Capitular, these two commissioners signed the transfer document with Laussat, giving lower Louisiana officially to the United States.
Weeks later, in 1804, Louisiana is divided into the Territory of New Orleans (south of 33 degrees latitude) and the District of Louisiana (north of 33 degrees latitude) and President Jefferson then appoints William C. C. Claiborne the Governor of the Territory of Orleans. The United States took formal possession of the full territory of Louisiana, although its boundaries were vaguely defined, in St. Louis three months later, when France handed over the rights to
As the first governor or the Territory of New Orleans, William C. C. Claiborne was
instrumental in setting up the area'sjudicial system. The following three paragraphs are excerpted from a history of Louisiana's judicial system.
"The judicial system of Louisiana has its roots in the colonial governments established by France and Spain. Prior to 1712, there was nothing more than the personal rule of explorers. In that year, a French charter was granted creating a Superior Council with both executive and judicial powers. In 1716, the Council was reorganized and its judicial function was as a court of last resort for all civil and criminal cases, without cost to litigants. The Senior Councillor was president of both the Council and the general trial court for the territory. Subsequently, when the Western Company became the grantee of the charter, it was authorized to appoint and remove trial court judges.
There were various modifications to the judicial system as the territory grew and as control over it changed. The most significant occurred in 1769 when control over the territory passed to Spain. The Superior Council was replaced by the Cabildo, composed of executive judicial officers called regidors and alcaldes. The alcaldes were the judges of general jurisdiction in New Orleans and were selected by the regidors, who obtained their offices by purchase. In minor cases, the judgments of the alcalde were final while appeals were heard by a three
judge court composed of two regidors and the trial alcalde. Outside of New Orleans, each
parish had ecclesiastical judges and military judges, aided by syndics (a magistrate or
assistant at law) with the military judges exercising general trial powers. In all case, final authority was held by theGovernor-Intendant. With minor changes, this judicial structure lasted until 1802 when Spain ceded Louisiana to France. The French abolished the Cabildo but had not set up a new judicial system when, in 1803, the territory became part the United States.
The first judicial officer appointed by the United States was William C. C. Claiborne, the Governor of Mississippi Territory, who was one of the commissioners appointed to receive the territory from France. President Thomas Jefferson vested him with all the powers, including judicial, exercised by the Governor-General and Intendant under the Spanish regime. Claiborne directed that the parish officials who had exercised judicial power under the Spanish were to continue in office. In New Orleans, to replace the Cabildo, Claiborne established a Court of Pleas of seven judges with limited civil and criminal jurisdiction. Claiborne retained
original jurisdiction in more serious cases and appellate jurisdiction over the Court of Pleas."
Claiborne served in the capacity of the Governor of the Territory of New Orleans until Louisiana was admitted as the 18th state in 1812 whereupon Claiborne was then elected as the state's first Governor. He served in this new capacity from 1812 to 1816.
Governor Claiborne had great admiration for the pelican, an awkward bird that inhabited the Gulf Coast. Rather than let its young starve, would tear at its own flesh to feed them. The Governor's great respect for the Pelican led him to use the bird in a seal on official documents. Many different versions of the present State Seal, including one with as many as twelve chicks in the nest, were utilized. However, pelicans rarely have more than three chicks in the nest at any time, and it was a version with three chicks that was officially designed on April 30, 1902 as the official state seal. And today, the easter bown pelican is Louisiana's state bird.
These were very eventful years in our nation's history - years where many of the events centered in Louisiana. It was the beginning of the steamboat era that began with the arrival of The New Orleans. This was the first steamboat to navigate the Mississippi River having arrived from Pittsburgh traveling down the Ohio. In 1810, the citizens of America that lived in Spain's
West Florida Territory took control of the Spanish Government declaring the territory a
republic. This republic consisted of the area of present day Louisiana known as the Florida
A more notable event was the War of 1812, our second encounter with England. That war was
painfully punctuated by the British troops over running our Capitol in Washington and the burning of the Whitehouse to the ground. [Another of our cousins, First Lady Dolley Paine Todd Madison, a descendant of Dr. John Woodson, is credited with saving some of the nation's important documents and treasures including the famous portrait of George Washington painted by Gilbert Stuart. See "Dolley Madison's Letter - War of 1812" posted to the History Section on 1 Jan 2001.] Yet much of that war's action took place in and around Louisiana. Andrew Jackson defeated the British in 1815 at the Battle of New Orleans. This saved control of the lower Mississippi for the United States. Jackson gained this victory even though the British troops out numbered Jackson 2 to 1.
In the following year, 1816, Governor Claiborne was elected to the position of U.S. Senator. He served the state of Louisiana as its senator until his death on 23 November 1817.
Nascent investigation indicates that Senator Claiborne was first married to Elizabeth Wilson Lewis of Nashville. Following her death, he married Clarisse Durald of New Orleans. They had two children: Cornelia Tennessee Claiborne who died in infancy and a son, William Charles Cole Claiborne Jr. Following Clarisse's death in a yellow fever epidemic, Senator Claiborne married Suzette Bosque of New Orleans. They had a son Charles who died unmarried and daughter Sophronia Claiborne. Some information on the Senator's namesake follows:
William Charles Cole Claiborne Jr. married Louise de Balathier who was born in Paris, France. The names of some of their offspring are listed below:
Clarisse Claiborne - born 1835; died 1901.
William Charles Cole Claiborne III - born 1837; died 1925 - he married Jeanne Robelot, born 1853 in France and died 1932.
Henry de Balathier Claiborne - born 1838; died 1872.
George Washington Claiborne - born 1840; died 1864.
Arthur Claiborne - born 1841; died 1888.
Senator Claiborne, born in 1775, was one of several children born to William and Mary Leigh Claiborne. Senator Claiborne's siblings include General Fedinand Leigh Claiborne, Thomas Augustine Claiborne, Nathaniel Herbert Claiborne, and Mary Leigh Claiborne.
Senator Claiborne's relationship to Colonel William Claiborne, the emigrant and my great
[times 8] grandfather may be traced as follows:
Col. William Claiborne, the emigrant [b. 1600; d. 1776]
married Elizabeth Butler [ b. unk.; d. unk.]
their son, Lt. Col. Thomas Claiborne [b. 17 Aug 1647; d. 7 Oct 1683]
married Sarah Fenn [b. 22 Mar 1659/60; d. 18 Oct 1716]
their son, Capt. Thomas Claiborne [b. 1 Jan 1680/81; d. 1 Aug 1732]
married Anne Fox [b. 20 May 1684; d. 4 May 1733]
their son, Col. Nathaniel Claiborne [b. abt. 1716; d. 1 Sep 1756]
married Jane Cole [b. unk.; d. unk]
their son William Claiborne [b. unk.; d. 29 Sep 1809]
married Mary Leigh [ b. unk.; d. unk.]
their son was Sen. William Charles Cole Claiborne [b. 1775; d. 23 Nov 1817]
The following biography comes from the Library of Congress:
CLAIBORNE, William Charles Cole, 1775-1817
Years of Service: 1817-1817 (U.S. Senator)
CLAIBORNE, William Charles Cole, (brother of Nathaniel Herbert Claiborne, nephew of Thomas Claiborne [1749-1812], uncle of John Francis Hamtramck Claiborne, and great-great-great granduncle of Corinne Claiborne Boggs), a Representative from Tennessee and a Senator from Louisiana; born in Sussex County, Va., in 1775; moved in early youth to New York City; studied law in Richmond, Va.; was admitted to the bar and commenced practice in Sullivan County, Tenn.; delegate to the State constitutional convention from Sullivan County in 1796; appointed judge of the superior court in 1796; elected as a
Republican from Tennessee to the Fifth and Sixth Congresses, and served from November 23, 1797, to March 3, 1801, in spite of the fact that he was still initially under the constitutional age requirement of twenty-five years; appointed Governor of the Territory of Mississippi in 1801; appointed in October 1803 one of the commissioners to take possession of Louisiana when purchased from France and served as Governor of the Territory of Orleans 1804-1812; Governor of Louisiana 1812-1816; elected as a Democrat from Louisiana to the United States Senate and served from March 4, 1817, until his death, before the assembling of Congress, in
New Orleans, La., November 23, 1817; interment in Basin St. Louis Cemetery; reinterment in Metairie Cemetery.
Dictionary of American Biography; Hatfield, Joseph T. William Claiborne: Jeffersonian
Centurion in the American Southwest. Lafayette: University of Southwest Louisiana Press, 1976; Winters, John D. ’William C.C. Claiborne: Profile of a Democrat.’ Louisiana History 10 (Summer 1969): 189-210.
There are literally hundreds of letters on fileand on-line at the Library of Congress
that were written between President Thomas Jefferson and William C. C. Claiborne. You may view them by going to http://www.loc.govhttp://www.loc.gov. Click on the "American Memory" section and conduct a search using "William C. C. Claiborne." Insofar as Claiborne's penmanship is much better than Jefferson's, you may want to read these before trying to tackle Jefferson's letters.
And this info comes from the History of Claiborne County, Tennessee:
"The act to erect a new county from portions of Hawkins and Grainger Counties in Tennessee
was passed October 29, 1801. It was named Claiborne in honor of William Charles Cole
Claiborne, one of the first judges of the superior court, and the first representative in Congress from Tennessee. Claiborne County lies in the northern portion of East Tennessee, and borders both the States of Kentucky and Virginia. The famous Cumberland Gap is situated near the middle of its northern line."
Claiborne County, Mississippi, also named for William C. C. Claiborne, is located along the
Mississippi River, south of the Big Black River, in thesouthwestern section of Mississippi. This area was long the subject of territorial dispute - one involving one of our Glasscock cousins!
The following comes from the History of Claiborne County in Mississippi:
"In the early history, the Mississippi River, the Big Black (or Chittaloosa as the Indians called it), as well as Bayou Pierre were all navigable. Many lakes, natural springs, bayous, creeks, and small branches abounded in the area.
The first white setlement in the area was established in 1729 as a hunting village near Petit Gulf, just north of Rodney. The first permament settlement was established in 1775 and by 1795, settlers were beginning to come in large numbers.
The earliest settlers obtained land grants from the government which claimed the lands at the time of settlement. The French claimed this area from the time of La Salle's exploration of the Mississippi River until 1763. Then the English claimed it by the Seven Years War Treaty from 1763 until 1781.
During the English rule, the area was called East and West Florida with Pensacola as the
Capitol. However, Spain also claimed parts of this area as Natchez had surrendered to Spain
in 1779, and from 1781 until 1798, she claimed all of what is now Claiborne County as her own and gave many land grants.
The state of Georgia also claimed it as her "western lands" in 1785. The government in
Georgia organized the county of Bourbon and began selling land to anxious settlers and it was during this time that Nicholas Long, Thomas Cumming, A. Gordon, Thomas GLASSCOCK"
[another notable cousin!], "and others, bought all the territory which is now Claiborne County (and other counties) for $155,000.00.
[Please see Jay McAfee's post for a more complete discussion of this land dispute.]
Claiborne County was formed from the northern section of Jefferson County, Mississippi
Territory and old Natchez District on 27 Jan 1802. It was named for the first Republican
governor, William C. C. Claiborne, and was the state's third county."
It would seem that our cousin William C. C.Claiborne was truely a political trend-setter. He switched political parties more often than Congressman Jeffers ever contemplated!
Today, a major street in New Orleans is named for William Claiborne as is a Parish along the western portion of Louisiana's northern border with Arkansas. His New Orleans residence has been restored and today this historic structure serves the nostalgic traveler as a scenic hotel/bed and breakfast. It is located a few blocks from the French Quarter in the Lower Garden District. When one considers all William Claiborne accomplished and that he died at age 42, it makes one's own life pale by comparison.
My daughter will be enrolling at Tulane next month and I will, therefore, be frequenting New Orleans. I hope to stay at the Claiborne Mansion in the near future.
If any of you Claiborne cousins would like access to our family web site, e-mail me your full name with "Claiborne Access" in the subject line.