Southeastern Magazine

Gaining a Piece of the Past

Last July an impressive and extraordinarily rare batch of documents, previously part of the Thomas W. Streeter Collection, went up for auction.

Tonya Lowentritt

May 12, 2023

Southeastern recently received a collection of rare documents that brings to life an important part of the area’s history—from nearly two and a half centuries ago.

Last July an impressive and extraordinarily rare batch of documents, previously part of the Thomas W. Streeter Collection, went up for auction. Leon Ford Endowed Chair and Director of the Center for Southeast Louisiana Studies at Southeastern Sam Hyde said he was contacted by one of the center’s biggest benefactors who notified him about the documents.

“Ann Reilly Jones describes herself as first and foremost a hunter,” Hyde said. “And fortunately for us, one of the things she hunts for are rare documents pertaining to this region.”

In the competitive bidding process, Jones invested $13,000 to purchase some impressive documents to add to the center’s holdings. One of the documents included was the first printed document ever in the Gulf South—a British land grant to a former soldier who fought in the French and Indian War. Also included were British grants of land in the present-day Southeastern area to loyalists who were fleeing persecution during the American Revolution in Carolina.

“The documents are all British land grants along the Natalbany and Amite rivers, mostly to soldiers who served in the French and Indian War,” Hyde explained. “The grants, issued in 1777 and 1778, as the American Revolution raged, also included some to British loyalists who were being persecuted by the Americans during the revolution and who fled to British controlled West Florida, a territory that chose not to join in the revolution. All of the documents include maps, replete with identified ‘witness trees’ that were used to delineate the dimensions of the grant, and some include the seal of West Florida.”

Louisiana’s Florida Parishes remain the only place in North America where every major European power that intruded into the continent held governmental authority. The native peoples did not issue land grants and the initial French explorers of the region issued very few. It was the British who first began issuing substantive numbers of land grants.

After processing in the center, the pristine documents were included in an exhibition for the Louisiana in Continuity and Change Symposium that highlighted historical challenges confronting the Bayou State through the course of Louisiana’s development.

“We basically told our student workers to create an exhibition that conforms to the mission of the symposium and cut them loose,” Hyde recalled. “With the exception of a little editing, they did it all themselves.”


The exhibition included rare documents, artifacts, and photos that highlight critical issues confronting Louisiana from the colonial period to the present.

“The most rewarding part of constructing the exhibition was witnessing our ideas come to life,” said Center for Southeast Louisiana Studies Graduate Research Assistant Brooklyn Sherrod. “Yet it was not a simple task.”

“One of the biggest challenges was narrowing our focus,” added student worker Max Hopcraft. “There are so many colorful stories included in the holdings of the center that we struggled to select which were the most crucial to our state.”

The exhibition, along with a forthcoming book highlighting the proceedings, revealed the purpose of the symposium, which was designed to draw attention to issues that have diminished the quality of life in Louisiana, while also suggesting means to overcome such challenges.


Governor John Bel Edwards, center, attended a symposium at Southeastern called Louisiana in Continuity and Change: Challenges Past and Present Confronting the Bayou State. During his visit, he toured a newly created exhibit in the Center for Southeast Louisiana Studies that highlights the themes of the symposium. Pictured with Edwards, from left, are Southeastern students that helped create the exhibit: Max Hopcraft, Lauren Guillory, Brooklyn Sherrod, and Ashley Tarleton.

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