Natchez, a tribe of North American Indians, known to Europeans from 1560, when Tristan de Luna aided the gulf tribes against them. With the Tensas, a kindred tribe, they held a tract on the E. bank of the Mississippi. According to their traditions, they came from the southwest, in consequence of wars with ancient inhabitants, and made a stand on the seacoast, where a part remained, while others pushed on to the spot where they were found. Their language, sabaeism, and mound building connect them with the Mayas of Yucatan. La Salle reached their country in March, 1683. and planted a cross. Iberville also visited them, and proposed to build a city there. They were mild and friendly, brave, though preferring peace to war, and very dissolute. They were governed by the Great Sun, descended in the female line from a man and woman, their first civilizers, who came down from the sun, and first built the temple for perpetual fire, which was always afterward maintained. This temple was on a mound 8 ft. high, with a pitched roof, and contained the bones of the suns and three logs slowly burning under the care of appointed guardians. The cabin of the sun was on a similar mound, but with rounded roof. His power was despotic, as was that of his sister and immediate kindred.
He was never approached without special marks of reverence. Next to the suns were the nobles, while the Michemi-chequipy, called Puants by the French, formed the common people, and were evidently of the Choctaw race. They used bows and arrows, but had no metals, dressed in buffalo robes, and made feather robes for winter, and others for summer of the bark of the mulberry and of flax. They had many feasts, and on the death of a chief killed many to attend him. The dead were kept on raised platforms till the flesh was consumed. They rapidly declined after the appearance of the French and of English traders, who about the same time reached them. La Mothe Cadillac in 1715 refused the calumet, and they killed some Frenchmen; but Bienville in 1716 compelled them to give up the murderers, and built a fort there.
Hostilities were renewed in 1722, but Bienville burnt the Apple village and again compelled them to punish the guilty. In 1729 the tyranny of Chopart, who wished the site of one of the villages for his own use, led to a conspiracy in which apparently the Choctaws and Chickasaws were engaged. On Nov. 28 the Natchez began a general massacre of the French, killing all the men except 20 who escaped and two or three kept for service; a few women were killed, but most were kept as prisoners, and the negro slaves were adopted. Their kindred Tensas had disappeared before 1712 as a distinct tribe, and do not appear in these troubles; but the Yazoos and Chickasaws joined the Natchez, while the Choctaws joined the French and were first in the field. Lesueur, a Canadian officer, raised a large Choctaw force, and inarching into the Natchez territory attacked the enemy Jan. 27, 1730, killed 80, and recovered many captives and slaves. The chevalier de Loubois soon after came up with the colonial troops that had been raised at New Orleans moved slowly up the Mississippi to the Tonicas, and after some delay finally on Feb. 13. besieged the Natchez forts. He showed little vigor, and after obtaining the remaining captives allowed the Natchez at the end of February to escape.
The fugitives in their flight cut off French parties, and at last made a stand on Black river, west of the Mississippi. Gov. Perrier on Jan. 25, 1731, reduced this fort and captured the sun, his brother and nephew, next in succession, 40 warriors, and 387 women and children. These were sent to Santo Domingo and sold as slaves. The remnant of the nation, more furious than ever, tied to the Chickasaws, after killing many of the Tonicas and attacking the Natchitoches, where they were repulsed with heavy loss by Saint-Denis. But in spite of this repulse they with the Chickasaws kept up the war, and the French attempting to punish the Chickasaws were repulsed, and at last patched up a peace in 1740. The Natchez never again appeared as a distinct nation. After a time they moved to the Muskogees, and in 1835 were reduced to 300 souls, retaining their own language and line of suns, but without restoring their temple or worship. - For their language the only materials are the words preserved by Le Page du Pratz and other French writers, and a vocabulary taken by Gallatin in 1826 from the chief Isahlakteh. Dr. Brinton traced the analogy between it and the Maya.
Natchez, a city, port of entry, and the capital of Adams co., Mississippi, the second city in the state in population, situated on the E. bank of the Mississippi river, 279 m. above New Orleans and 116 m. below Vicksburg by water, and 85 m. in a direct line S. W. of Jackson; lat. 31° 34' N, lon. 91° 25' W.; pop. in 1850, 4,434; in 1860, 6,612; in 1870, 9,057, of whom 5,329 were colored. It is built on the summit of a bluff 150 ft. above the water, and on the narrow strip of land between the foot of the hill and the river. The latter portion of the city, called Natchez Landing or Natchezunder-the-Hill, has some important business houses, but can make no claim to beauty. It communicates by broad and well graded roads with the upper quarters (Natchez-on-the-Hill), which are beautifully shaded and contain many handsome residences and other buildings. The streets are regular, lighted with gas, and generally gravelled in the roadway. The houses are principally of brick, and the residences are adorned with gardens. The brow of the bluff along the whole front of the city is occupied by a park.
The principal buildings are the court house, in a public square shaded with trees, the masonic temple, the Catholic cathedral, with a spire 182 ft. high, the Episcopal church, and the Presbyterian church, with a spire containing a clock. The city hall and market house are immediately back of the court house. In the suburbs there were formerly numerous residences of wealthy planters, expensively furnished, and surrounded with beautiful lawns and gardens; but many of these were destroyed in the civil war. On the bluff, adjoining the city, there is a national cemetery, handsomely laid out and decorated. The climate of Natchez is pleasant and very salubrious. The winters are temperate, though variable, and the summers are long and equable; the thermometer seldom rises above 90°. The business is mainly in cotton, which is brought to this market from the adjoining counties, and in the supply of provisions and implements for the neighboring plantations. From 13,000 to 20,000 bales of cotton are annually shipped to New Orleans. Regular lines of steamers connect with New Orleans, Vicks-burg, and Memphis, and a stage line runs to Brookhaven on the New Orleans, Jackson, and Great Northern railroad, 60 m. E. There are a Protestant and two Roman Catholic orphan asylums, and a city hospital.
The United States marine hospital is situated between the city and the national cemetery. There are several Roman Catholic schools, and good public schools, attended by about 1,000 pupils. Of the two school buildings, one is a handsome structure recently erected for colored children, while the " Natchez institute " for whites was used as a free school before the civil war. A daily and two weekly newspapers are published. The city contains eight churches, viz.: Baptist (2), Episcopal, Jewish, Methodist (2), Presbyterian, and Roman Catholic, besides several for colored people. - The site of Natchez was selected by a party sent by Le Moyne d'Iberville in 1700 as the chief place of a number of proposed settlements in the lower Mississippi territory, and the name of Rosalie was given to it in honor of the countess of Pont-chartrain, whose husband had been one of Iberville's patrons. No settlement was made however until 1716, when Bienville, Iberville's brother, built Fort Rosalie on Natchez bluff. In November, 1729, the fort and adjacent settlements were destroyed by the Natchez Indians and the inhabitants massacred; but a few months later a force of French and Indian allies drove out the Natchez and rebuilt the fort, which continued to be a French military and trading post until it passed into the hands of Great Britain by the treaty of 1763. It was now called Fort Panmurc. In 1779 it was occupied by the Spaniards, who kept possession of it until March, 1798, although by the treaty of 1783 it was rightfully included in the territory of the United States. In April, 1798, the territory of Mississippi was created by act of congress, and Natchez became its capital.
It was incorporated as a city in 1803. In 1820 the seat of government was removed to Jackson. In 1840 a large part of the city was laid in ruins by a tornado. During the civil war Natchez was captured, May 12, 1862, by a portion of Farragut's fleet. It had never been occupied by any considerable force of the confederates, and being of little military importance was soon abandoned by the Unionists.