The history of the settlement of north Mississippi begins with the the Chickasaw Cession, which was debated, signed and ratified at this spot, near the modern town of Pontotoc. For hundreds of years before the arrival of the first European settlers, the hill country of North Mississippi was the ancestral homeland of the Chickasaw Indians. The first encounter between Chickasaws and Europeans was in 1540, when the Spanish expedition led by Hernando de Soto came under attack from Chickasaws after trade negotiations failed. 150 years later, the Chickasaw encountered both French and British traders and settlers. After allying with the British, the Chickasaw found themselves at war with the French. At the battle of Ackia in 1736 (near modern Tupelo), the Chickasaw warriors defeated the French and expelled them from their lands.
During the 18th century, British colonists (many of which were loyalist Tories who fled the American colonies after the end of the American Revolution) arrived in the area and began to live with and marry into the Chickasaw. Two of the most famous of these families were the James Colbert and Thomas Love families. Within two generations, these “half-breed” families had risen in the ranks of the Chickasaw and had become influential leaders among the tribe, and represented the Chickasaw during the many treaties between the Chickasaw and the Americans beginning in the late 18th century. After Thomas Jefferson was elected President of the United States in 1801, the U. S. Government adopted a policy of rapidly purchasing land from the Native American tribes, including the Chickasaw. In 1816, future President Andrew Jackson met the Chickasaw delegation at the Chickasaw Council House, which was once located at this site.
By 1830, the Chickasaw had sold all of their ancestral hunting grounds in West Tennessee and North Alabama to the Federal Government, with the only remaining Chickasaw lands located in North Mississippi. On October 20, 1832, the Federal Government and the Chickasaw delegation, led by George and Levi Colbert, again met here at the Chickasaw Council House to ratify and sign one last treaty. This treaty, which would become known as the Treaty of Pontotoc Creek, resulted in the sale of over six million acres to the Federal Government. In return, the Chickasaw received one-third of all of the land on which they could place a temporary homestead until the new territory was surveyed, platted and then sold. The remaining land would be sold and the proceeds would be placed in a trust for the Chickasaw Indians to be dispersed after they arrived in their new lands west of the Mississippi River.
In 1833, the now President Andrew Jackson appointed John Bell as the surveyor general of this new “Chickasaw Cession”. Bell in turn hired Robert Tinnin as land office register and William Forbes as receiver. In early 1834, the first Federal Land Office was built, just outside of modern Pontotoc. From this central office several surveyors spread throughout the land, surveying it and dividing it into six-mile “townships”. In 1835, after all of the Chickasaw Cession was mapped, it fell to Henry M. Lusher, the draftsman at the Pontotoc Land Office, to plat the various townships and subdivide them into 26 one-mile “sections”. The resulting “Lusher Map” survives today, and is the earliest detailed map of North Mississippi.
By the end of 1835, a small town had grown up around the Pontotoc Land Office, and included taverns, offices and a post office. In early 1836, the first land sales occurred at the Land Office, resulting in the sale of over one million acres. In February of 1836 the Mississippi Legislature divided the Chickasaw Cession into ten counties. To accommodate all of these counties and the large amounts of new land, new Land Offices were created throughout the Cession. In 1840, the original Surveyor General’s office was closed, and by 1854 the original Pontotoc Land Office was shut down and later destroyed. Today, both the Chickasaw Council House and the Pontotoc Land Office are long gone, leaving only empty fields and a modern home as reminders of the earliest days in the history of North Mississippi.