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Calcasieu Historical Preservation Society

Truman Stacey

"Notable Men and Women of SWLA" is result of work compiled by SLHA member Truman Stacey.

A native of Texas,Truman Stacey served in the U.S. Army in World War II, earned bachelor and master degrees from the University of Detroit, and worked on a number of newspapers before serving as editor-in-chief of the Lake Charles American Press from 1961 to 1982, when he became chief information officer for the Catholic Diocese of Lake Charles. 

Stacey wrote the series of articles here to commemorate the Bicentennial of the Louisiana Purchase. These articles appear in numerous newspapers across the state, including the DeQuincy News, the Cameron Pilot, the Teche News, the Welsh Citizen, the American Press, the Ville Platte News, and the Hammond Star.

He is a past president of Southwest Louisiana Historical Association.

Athanase de Mezieres

One of the significant policies of the Spanish regime in Louisiana was its decision to retain many French officers in Spanish service. One of these was Athanase de Mezieres, who was lieutenant-governor stationed at Natchitoches during the decade 1769-1779.

Athanase Christophe Fortunat Mauguet de Mezieres was born in St. Sulpice Parish in Paris March 26, 1719, the son of Louis Christophe de Mezieres and Marie Antoinette Clugny. His family was well connected. Two of his sisters married noblemen and one of his uncles was a general in the French army and another was a minister of state.

He came to Louisiana, probably before 1740, as a Marine cadet and was stationed at Natchitoches where he soon became friends with the St. Denis family. In 1746 he was married to one of St. Denis’ daughters: Manuela Marie Petronelle Felicite Juchereau de St. Denis, and began a long and close association with his in-laws, gaining prestige and honor as well as financial gain, through the association.

He was promoted to lieutenant in 1746 and to captain in 1754. Following the example of his father-in-law he made himself well schooled in the lore of the frontier and cultivated close relations with the native tribes of the north and west. He himself engaged in the Indian trade with his in-laws. He even obtained a land grant and turned his hand at agriculture.

When his brother-in-law, Cesar de Blanc de Nieville, died in 1763, de Mezieres was named commandant in his place.

When Gen. Alejandron O’Reilly established Spanish rule in the colony, he recognized the strategic importance of Natchitoches as a buffer against the Indian tribes of the north and west who, during the French regime, had been hostile to Spain.

Deciding to take advantage of the French familiarity with the natives, O’Reilly mustered de Mezieres into Spanish service and appointed him commandant at Natchitoches and lieutenant governor of the frontier, to take advantage of the commercial and diplomatic alliances with these tribes.
His chief service to Spain, and to Louisiana, was to turn the hostility of the "Nations of the North" from hostility to friendship toward the Spanish. His first task was to visit the Cadodacho, Petit Cado and Yatansi tribes, give medals to their chiefs and receive their promises to help make peace with the Nations of the North.

In 1770 he visited the villages of the Cadodachos again on the Red River to arrange peace talks. Accompanied by chiefs of the Adaes, Yatasi and Petit Cado, he met with chiefs of the Taovayas,. Tawakoni, Yscani and Kichai, all of whom had been friendly with the French but hostile to the Spanish. By dint of much persuasion and the assistance of friendly chiefs, he was able to persuade emissaries of these tribes to travel to San Antonio de Bexar and sign a treaty of peace. In 1771, therefore these tribes agreed to terms of peace with the Spanish in a large pow wow held in San Antonio.

In 1772 de Mezieres was ordered to make another embassy into Texas to ratify the peace treatises. He left Natchitoches in the fall of 1772 with a large retinue and crossed the Sabine, Angelia and Neches Rivers to visit a village of the Kichai on the Trinity. He visited the Tonkawas and then the Tawakoni near the present site of Waco. Then going south he arrived at San Antonio 87 days after he had departed Natchitoches, bringing with him a group of 70 chiefs and leaders of the tribes he visited.

With this expedition Spanish officials believed that their first real Indian problem had been solved. With this assured de Mezieres felt able to travel to France and spend a year in Europe. While he was abroad he learned that the King of Spain had promoted him to the rank of lieutenant colonel of infantry, and made him a Knight of the Order of St. Louis.

In 1777 the depredations of the Apaches in West Texas called for action, and Texas officials decided to form a military alliance with the Nations of the North to fight the Apaches. Therefore, they called to Governor Bernardo de Galvez of Louisiana to send de Mezieres to them to assist in the campaign. The King of Spain opposed the plan and it was dropped.

Instead de Mezieres was sent once more to the upper Red River to cement relations with the Nations of the North. This time he penetrated to the Red River near the Cross Timbers and reached the Taovayas near present day Ringgold, negotiating treaties of friendship throughout the journey.

In 1779 Texas officials asked de Galvez to allow de Mezieres to transfer to Texas permanently to negotiate treaties with the Comanches. Because of heavy spring rains de Mezieres was not able to leave Natchitoches until May. When crossing the Trinity River his horse fell and he suffered a severe injury that sent him back to Natchitoches on a stretcher.

Late in August he started out again for San Antonio. During the journey he received dispatches that informed him of his appointment as Governor of Texas and promotion to the rank of colonel. It was not to be, however, for his old injuries had never really healed and he fell ill in San Antonio. He died at noon on November 2, 1779, and was buried with full military honors after the funeral Mass.

His loss was severely felt by Spanish officials. As the Baron de Ripperda, governor of Texas for whom de Mezieres carried out his missions, said: "He had such a knowledge of the provinces of Texas and Louisiana as possessed by no one else, and likewise of the tribes that surround them."