Don José Vidal
Don José Vidal (March 12, 1763 in A Coruña, Spain – August 22, 1823 in New Orleans, Louisiana) was a Spanish grandee who served in many different roles during Spanish rule of the Mississippi Territory. He was secretary to Manuel Gayoso de Lemos, the Spanish Governor of the Natchez District from 1792-1797.
Spain ceded the territory to the United States in 1798; before that, Vidal moved to a land grant on the west side of the river, which was still Spanish territory. By his agreement with Governor Gayoso, Vidal built the military Post of Concordia and started developing the town. In 1811 the Louisiana legislature named it Vidalia after him.
Life in Spanish territory
French explorer Bienville founded Natchez in 1716 on the east side of the Mississippi River. After losing the Seven Years' War to Great Britain in 1763, France ceded its northern territories to that kingdom. It ceded its southern territory of La Louisiane to Spain. After the United States gained independence in the American Revolutionary War, by its treaty with Great Britain and Spain, the new nation by the end of the 18th century took over Natchez and the Mississippi Territory east of the river from Spain.
The Spanish Commandant, José Vidal, preferred to remain on Spanish territory, and petitioned the Spanish Governor-General Manuel Gayoso de Lemos for a land grant across the Mississippi River from Natchez. Gayoso granted the petition, with the stipulation that Vidal erect a “strong house” (fort) on the property. In 1798 Don Jose moved his family from Natchez across the river and became the Spanish Commandant of the new Post of Concordia. Don Vidal also worked to develop a town at the fort, building the first steam saw mill. He also owned a cotton gin and blacksmith shop - facilities to support the town.
Concordia Parish later derived its name from the fort, and the town was called Concord by 1801. The Louisiana legislature in 1811 changed the name of the city to Vidalia, after its founder. Vidal had donated land along the river to the city, where its civic buildings were later constructed. He also donated land for the first school in Concordia Parish.
Vidal lived most of his later years in Vidalia, although he went to New Orleans on business. He died in 1823. He was buried in the Natchez City Cemetery.
Don Jose Vidal was married and had a family. In the 21st century, he has few living male descendants. They include Alfred Vidal Davis V (Natchez, MS); Robert "Radd" Addington Leonard, Jr. (Brusly, LA); Buck Alexander Beatrous (Mandeville, LA); Britton Postlethwaite Beatrous (Mandeville, LA), Robert Coleman Leonard (Brusly), Connor McDavid Leonard (Brusly, LA); Hays Addington Leonard (Brusly, LA); Will Trott (Birmingham, AL); Henry Lathrop Leonard-Rhodes (Crescent City, CA); Conner House (Natchez, MS); James D. Gammill II (Natchez, MS); Preston Inman (Gulfport, MS); Mason Inman (Gulfport, MS); William Holden Britt (Prairieville, LA); Jacob Davis Britt (Prairieville, LA); Peter Randolph Taylor "Randy", (Athens, GA); Alexander Harrison Taylor (Exton, PA); Carter Sears Dell Taylor (Vero Beach, FL); and Hayes Denker (Missouri City, TX).
- "The Concordia Parish Courthouse" (PDF). LOUISIANA OFFICE OF CULTURE RECREATION AND TOURISM. p. 5. Retrieved 2008-02-06. "Settlement along the Mississippi in the area which would become Vidalia first occurred in the late 1700s when Don Jose Vidal received a large land grant from the Spanish government, which then controlled Louisiana. Part of Vidal's agreement with the colonial governor was that he would establish a military post and town at the site, which was located directly across the river from Natchez, Mississippi. Vidal named his town New Concordia. The post was first known as the Post of Natchez but by 1801 was called the Post of Concord. The Spaniards named Vidal military and civil commander of the post, a position he held until 1803 when the United States purchased Louisiana from France. It was Vidal who donated the strip of land next to the river where the community's civic buildings were eventually constructed. He also erected the first steam saw mill, owned a cotton gin and a blacksmith shop, and gave land for Concordia Parish's first school. The Louisiana Legislature renamed the town Vidalia in 1811."[dead link]
- Saldívar, Ramón (2006). "Life in the Borderlands". The Borderlands of Culture: Américo Paredes and the Transnational Imaginary. Duke University Press. p. 525. ISBN 0-8223-3789-4.
- Gayarré, Charles (1854). "INTENDANT MORALES AND HIS MEASURES". History of Louisiana. Louisiana: Redfield. p. 649. "...the Spanish Commandant, Don Jose Vidal, gave the name of "Concordia" to the fort which was erected on' the west side of the river, in front of Fort Panmure on the east side, and the present parish of Concordia derives its appellation from this circumstance. The village of Vidalia, now existing opposite Natchez, is so called from the old Spanish Commandant, Don Jose Maria Vidal."
- The Natchez Democrat. "Natchez City Cemetery". Retrieved 2008-02-06. "In this old part of the city cemetery were buried many notable people in the history of this city and state. And some from Louisiana and other states. Also the grave and monument of the Royal Governor when this state was part of Louisiana, namely: Don Jose Vidal, Born in the City Cowna, Spain, March 12, 1763, died at New Orleans, 22 of August 1823, Enjoyed the confidence of his sovereigns. He filled many offices of rank and trust in the Royal Government of the Province of Louisiana. Captain of Dragoons in the Spanish time; commandant of the Post of Concordia, consul of Spain at New Orleans."