Alston Mygatt
American Patriot and Devoted Christian
March 26, 1805–June 5, 1876

Recently I came across an article written about the life of Alston Mygatt. The title of the article was THE QUISLING OF VICKSBURG. It appeared in a book entitled, ...Just Passing Through...Funeral Stories from Vicksburg: Including some of the interesting characters buried in the city's Cedar Hill Cemetery and graveyard humor” by Gordon Cotton and Charles Riles in 2010. Having grown up in Vicksburg and having my parents, brother and many relatives and friends buried in that cemetery, I decided to read the article. As I begin to read, I was overcome with revulsion. How could such a slanderous and frankly racially biast article have been written by a respected Vicksburg historan, a man I had conversed with and respected? The article's villification of Rev. Mygott demanded correction and an accurate recording of the life of this outstanding scholar, minister, patriot, and champion of civil and basic human right of African-American slaves and freedmen before and after the Civil War.

First we provide some information about Rev. Mygatt. Some spelling of the family name "Mygott" appears in a small number of publication, we will use the spelling that is dominant in historical records.

Sylvester Mygatt, father of Alston Mygatt

Alston was born on March 26, 1805, to Sylvester and Abigail "Albe" Booth Mygatt and baptized in the Stone Presbyterian Church in Clifton (maybe Clinton), New York, on September 29, 1805. Clifton is in upstate New York within what is now the Adirondack Mountains Park. Both parents were born in Connecticutt and married in New Britain, Connecticut, on August 31, 1880. Sylvester (1774-?) had served in the War of 1812 in the New York Militia Company Detachment 157 and 131 Regiments of the New York Volunteers commanded by Captain Nathan Seward. Alston's grandfather, Austin Mygott served as a spy for the Continental Army and died at Bunker Hill on February 23, 1776. Alston's family's military history demonstrate the deep loyalty to the United States of America.

Alston's siblings include Edward Gilyard Mygatt, Lucetta Maria Mygatt, Louisa Mygatt, Sylvestor Mygatt, Hortensia Minerva Mygatt, Delaus Warner Mygatt, Harriet Eugenia Mygatt and Wallace Mygatt. Sylvester and Abigail later moved to Wisconsin and purchased a farm. Sylvestor died in Mygatt's Crossing, Racine, Wisconsin.

Another source states, "Sylvester Mygatt, son of Austin and Lament Mygatt, married Abi, daughter of Elisha Booth, of Berlin, Conn., August 29, 1800. Mr. Mygatt was evidently born for a pioneer. He is a man of large muscular frame, and commanding appearance, and has gone westward with the "tide of empire," from early life. About the year 1804, he removed from Berlin to Oneida Co., N.Y., and from thence to Hannibal, Oswego Co., in 1829. In 1838, emigrated to Wisconsin, and resides three miles west of Racine, at Mygatt's Cross Roads, Racine Co."

Alston married Effa Maria Van Epps on November 2, 1835 in Oneida, New York. He and Effa had three children, Alston Jr. (born 1838 in South Carolina), Elizabeth (born 1839) and Maria Elizabeth (born 1840 Wisconsin). Effa died in childbirth on June 17, 1845, in Vicksburg, MS. She is buried in Lot 5 of Square 25 of Div B All Tombstones. Mygatt(sp?), Mrs. Alston of New York and her infant who would have borne her mother's name Effa Maria. age 36 yrs, three infants preceded her. ?- 17 Jun 1845. Alston Mygatt Jr. married Margaret Cook. They had a son, Jackson Thomas Mygatt (1864-1911). who married Sarah Ann Kirkpatric (1866-1948) k in Franklin, Illinois. Jackson's obituray appeared in The Belleville News Democrat, Belleville, Illinois, September 9, 1911
Fall of Coal Causes Death, New Baden Miner Died in Hospital Here
J. T. Mygatt, 47 years of age, a coal miner of New Baden, died in St. Elizabeth's Hospital on Wednesday morning from injuries sustained in an accident which occurred in the Southern Coal and Mining Company mine at New Baden last week. Mygatt was brought to this city on a Southern train last Friday and taken to the hospital in the Gundlach & Co. ambulance. He was injured internally by a fall of coal. He was born in Franklin county, Ill., January 20, 1864, and was married to Miss Sarah Kirkpatrick. He leaves his widow and five children---Mrs. Mattie Knight, W. H., Ernst, Garret and Marie Mygatt, and two brothers, Wallace and Scott Mygatt. The interment will take place in New Baden. (sic)

Jackson and Sarah are shown below.

An 1842 document in New Orleans reports a land sale to Alston Mygatt from Charles S. Curtis.

 

In 1856 the following ad appeared in a New Orleans newspaper.

In 1854 an Alston Mygatt has property in Kenosba, Wisconsin, might be his son.

An American Bible Society document noted his contribution of $10 from South Carolina.

Alston later married Margaret Burns Hay on November 13, 1856, in Vicksburg, Warren County, MS. The minister was Rev. C. K. Marshal. The Vicksburg Herald reports their arrival from New Orleans that day. Margaret was born in Scotland. She was previously married to possibly William Hay and had four childrn by him, Thomas (1840–?), Charles (1844–?), Emma B. (Harper) (1846–? ) and Anna (1848–?). There is a Willam Hay in the Cedar Hills Cemetery in Vicksburg, 1806–1849. The death date is consistent with the birth of their last child in 1858. Margaret and Alston had a son, Edward B. Mygatt (1858-1915) who married Carrie R. ? and they had a number of children. The Hay children lived with Alston and Margaret. Margaret died September 2, 1877, in Vicksburg. In 1879, the Vicksburg Herald newspaper list a tax auction of a property Plate: Norton, Division:1 under the name of Margaret Mygatt heirs.

Alston attended a number of colleges. He attended Hamilton College in New York in 1833. The student list document says he was from Clinton, NY. Alston attended the New York Theological Seminary in Auburn, New York. An alumni entry in Triennial Catalogue of the Theological Seminary of the Presbyterian Church at Auburn, New-York. January 1853, states he spent 6 semester at the seminary and graduated in 1834 and was currently living and preaching in Augusta, Georgia. The catalogue states he was also educated at Middlebury College. It was reported that he preached and taught in Georgia until about 1853 when he moved to Racine, Wisconsin.

Another source stated, " Alston Mygatt, (382) son of Sylvester (354) and Abi Mygatt, married Effa Maria Van Epps, of Vernon, Oneida County, N.Y., November 2, l835. Mrs. Alston Mygatt was born in - - - 1809, and died at Vicksburg, Miss., June 17, 1845. Mr. Mygatt graduated at Hamilton College, N.Y., and studied theology for a time at Auburn; but ill health compelled him to abandon his studies and seek employment in a milder climate. He has resided for some years in New Orleans." (Source: A Historical Notice of Joseph Mygatt, One of the Early Colonists of Cambridge, Mass. and Afterward, One of the First Settlers of Hartford, Conn.: with a Record of his Descendants by Fredderick T. Mygatt, A Descendent of the Ninth Generation Brooklyn, NY: printed by the Harmonial Association, No. 100 Nassau Street, New York. 1853) By 1859 he has closed his business in New Orleans.

The 1883 General Catalogue of the Auburn Theological Seminary states, Alston Mygott came to Auburn from Church in Clinton, N. Y.; born in Clinton March 26, 1805; graduated from Hamilton College in 1834; part of Junior year in Auburn. Preaced and taught in Georgia; reprted as there in the Gen. Catalogues of 1839, 1850, 1853; said to reside i or near Racine, Wis.

A classmate of Alston was Gerrit Smith,

Upon completing his education Alston went into the publishing business. Example:

The life and treason of Benedict Arnold, Author: Published by Harper & Brothers for Alston Mygatt (1849)

Secret Proceedings and Debates of the Convention Assembled at Philadelphia in the Year 1787 for the Purpose of Forming by Luther Martin. Publisher Alston Mygatt, 1838. Cincinnati, OH: Alston Mygatt, 1838.

The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Letter to Messrs. The Abbes Chalut and Arnaud, Philadelphia, 17 April, 1787, (Boston: Charles Tappan, Publisher. Louisville, KY, Alston Mygatt, 1844) Vol X, p. 38

During the Civil War his tax assessments indicate he was raising cotton in Warren County. Surprisingly the Lists of Union or Loyal Men in and Around Vicksburg, Entry 370, Box 3, Record Group 366, Records of Civil War Special Agencies of the Treasury Department, Second Special Agency Records, Vicksburg District, NARA indicates that Mygatt owned two slaves. The dates of the ownership are likely around 1863.

Alston remained in Vicksburg during the war. He had opposed succession, as did Vicksburg. In December of 1860, however, still hoping to reach a peaceful solution over slavery, Vicksburg voted overwhelmingly against secession, 561 to 173, and sent two Unionist delegates to the state secession convention. (from the Vicksburg Daily Evening Citizen. Throughout the war some wealthy plantation ownersin Natchez continued to support the Union. After the surrender of Vicksburg, many citizens took an oath to the Union in order to open stores. Most were citizens of Vicksburg. Clergyman Alston Mygatt received permission to lease an abandoned Warren County plantation to open a business, likely a cotton gin.

After the Civil War, most plantation owners assumed that little would change in their operation, namely the freed slaves, having no resources would continue to work the farm for minimal wages and rent the slave quarters for housing. There were white men, including Alston Mygatt, who had higher hopes for the freedmen. They organized in 1863 the first white Union League in Mississippi. As MichaelW. Fitzgerald wrote in his book, The Union League movement in the Deep South : politics and agricultural change during Reconstruction, "Mygatt saw Radical Republicanism as a means of across the South to unite freedmen to resist the plantation system and to spead education among the former slaves." Mygatt's goal was to breakup the plantations which had developed and prospered under slave labor. It seemed only fair that those that created this wealth should share in the benefits. Mygatt wished to divide the plantations into smaller farms owned by the former slaves. Original owners would also receive a farm. Naturally the southern whites were violently opposed. Mygatt and other organizers suffered constant harassment and violence from Ku Klux Klan members, sympathetic whites in the community and the US military. After the war, intimidation continued as a powerful tool to discourage freedmen from joining the League. Despite the opposition, the League began to grow and wield some political power. Mygatt was president of the Mississippi's State Council of the Union League. His efforts on behalf of the freedmen earned him the vile comments found in the Mississippi press. Clearly Mygatt was a man of exceptional courage and dedication to a very Christian cause, the betterment of his fellow man. His religion provided a deep foundation in this Christian principle.

On April 14, 1866, a pathetic article appeared in the Vicksburg Herald newspaper providing an account of an initiation ceremony by the Ku Klux Klan. Part of the condition for membership was to slander R. W. Fournoy and Alston Mygatt, representative to the Mississippi Constitional Convention. The article mentions the punishment for "plotting with a nigger under a gin house": the Klan head says, "Pull his toenails out and ram his head in a bee gum." The Klan members shout "Boom, Boom, Boom."

In 1867, Alston was elected to the Mississippi State Senate from the Seventh District. He served until 1870 at least. Mygatt was regularly villified in the Vicksburg newspaper for his support of the 15th Amendment to the US Constitution giving the right to vote to African-American citizen.

In 1970, Mygatt and a group of other Vicksburg businessmen incorporate the Vicksburg Ferry Company using a charter provided by the State. The business failed and their failure to pay the deed of trust resulted in the auction of the business in 1873.

His will was probated October 2, 1877 in Vicksburg, MS. The executor was husband of his stepdaughter Emma Hay Harper.

Below we exam the information contained in this "funny story." Most who are compassionate about their fellow man will find no humor in the story.

 

First we include here the article in full: I have labelled the paragraph for reference as we exam each in detail.

1. THE QUISLING OF VICKSBURG

2. An “imbecile old wretch” was the way a Vicksburg newspaper described Alston Mygatt in 1868. He could be called a carpetbagger—he was born in New York in 1805—but he was more probably a scalawag, for he had lived in the South, mainly Vicksburg and New Orleans, since before 1845.

3. He was listed sometimes as a minister, though he never pastored a church here, and in 1860 he operated the Methodist Book Depot in Vicksburg. He had gone to school in the North and was a classmate of Gerritt Smith, the famous abolitionist. Mygatt backed the Know Nothings in 1856 and opposed secession, though his stepsons both volunteered for Confederate service.

4. After Pemberton’s surrender, Mygatt wasted no time in showing his true colors. He organized the Loyal League which during military occupation became a powerful force against white Southerners and former Confederates.

5. Mygatt was quite vocal. He wanted the plantations confiscated and divided among the former slaves, and he was personally responsible for reviewing applications of former Confederates to vote, bragging that he never approved but two.

6. When the Federal government took control of the Methodist churches, city’s were outraged and they ostracized Mygatt.{What are the facts of this assertion, Google search provides no hit providing any discussions of such an action. Any evidence would be appreciated.) He was referred to in the occupation newspaper as “an old citizen of Vicksburg and a thoroughly Union man . . . (he) received rapturous applause as he related the trials of Union men in this city who fought against secession, and stood true to the old flag” when he spoke before Yankee officers upon Lincoln’s reelection.

7. Mygatt also contributed funds for the Union army, and he claimed local citizens tried to kill him and burn his property. In January Mygatt was a delegate to the constitutional convention in Jackson, elected with the backing of Union Army bayonets. In the same manner he was elected to the state senate. He often served as a government witness opposing claims filed by Southerners for losses they had suffered during the war.

8. In 1876 his family had him declared insane and he was placed in a mental asylum, where he died. When his wife died in 1877 his body was moved from Jackson and buried with her in the family plot in Cedar Hill Cemetery.

9. He has no tombstone. Southern citizens would have been hard pressed to have have said anything nice about Alston Mygatt, who earned the legacy of being the most despised man in Vicksburg.

10. He was Vicksburg’s quisling long before the word was coined.

 

Paragraph 1.

Rev. Mygott is labelled "Quisling." Wikipedia defines the term, " a term originating from Norway, which is used in Scandinavian languages and in English for a person who collaborates with an enemy occupying force – or more generally as a synonym for traitor. The word originates from the surname of the Norwegian wartime leader Vidkun Quisling, who headed a domestic Nazi collaborationist regime during World War II."

Who was the occupying force in Mississippi, it was the United States of America, of which Rev. Mygott was a citizen and loyal patriot. His support for his country never wavered despite what must have been incredible pressures. As a Christian, he saw the evils and inhumanity of slavery and worked to ensure that the evils of this most insidious and unchristian of institutions were eradicated.

Paragraph 2.

"Imbecile old wretch," was a description by the Vicksburg paper

 

Secret Proceedings and Debates of the Convention Assembled at Philadelphia in the Year 1787 for the Purpose of Forming the Luther Martin Alston Mygatt, 1838. Cincinnati, OH: Alston Mygatt, 1838.

 

8. In 1876 his family had him declared insane and he was placed in a mental asylum, where he died. When his wife died in 1877 his body was moved from Jackson and buried with her in the family plot in Cedar Hill Cemetery.

 

 

Letter of Alston Mygott to Jared Sparks, latter President of Harvard University

Jared Sparks was a Unitarian minister, editor, and historian who went on to serve as President of Harvard University in the middle of the 19th century. Perhaps the greatest contribution to modern scholarship made by this passionate researcher and educator was his tireless efforts to collect and preserve the documents of America’s founding fathers. Born in 1789, Jared was one of nine children born to Joseph and Elinor Sparks of Willington, Connecticut. At the age of six his parents sent him to live with an aunt and uncle in Camden, New York, as a way to ease the family’s financial burdens, but he soon returned to Willington to be with his parents and pursue his education. As a child he displayed an interest in literature and history, supplemented later by studies in mathematics and Latin. In 1811, Sparks began attending Harvard University. He briefly dropped out the following year (for financial reasons) but eventually returned to Harvard and became one of the leading students in his class. After finishing at Harvard, Sparks became a minister at the First Independent Church (Unitarian) in Baltimore, Maryland, and later served one year as the chaplain of the United States Congress. Scholar of US Founders Becomes Harvard University President Sparks returned to Boston in 1823 and, four years later, began collecting the papers of the nation’s founding fathers. His efforts led him to author numerous publications, including The Writings of George Washington, The Library of American Biography, and The Works of Benjamin Franklin. These works, by preserving this seminal time in American history, marked his greatest contribution to historical scholarship. In 1832, Sparks married Frances Ann Allen, and one year later, Frances gave birth to a daughter—Maria Verplanck Sparks. Tragically, Frances died in 1835, leaving Sparks to raise their two-year-old daughter alone. In 1839, he married his second wife, Mary Crowninshield Silsbee, a woman 20 years his junior with whom he had five more children. A year before his second marriage, Sparks accepted a position as the McLean Professor of Ancient and Modern History at Harvard University. He remained an educator there until, in 1849, he became president of the university. Finding he liked teaching and writing more than being an administrator, Sparks left his prestigious position in February of 1853. He spent his remaining years in Cambridge, researching and providing guidance to budding young historians. He died of pneumonia on March 14, 1866.

 

Mygott was publishing books by Sparks on famous individuals of United States.

September 1, 1831? Clinton

In this letter he is requesting Sparks to let him know when the manuscript for his book on George Washington will be available. He suggest approval to increase the price for a subscription. Mygott is planning a trip South (Georgia?) to collect a debt owed him.

August 17, 1832 Clinton

Mygott responds to an accusation by Sparks that he is collecting advances on subscriptions to the Washington Works. Mygott denies this and suggest that the rumor likely arose from a man in "the valley of Va, I think in Augusta GA? whose name I do not at the tie remember ust have written you stating that he had paid for a copy of the Washingtons Works in advance." Mygott offers an explanation, He had bought a horse from a man for $125. Instead of currency the man was to receive a copy of Washingtons Works and the balance in "cash down." The horse proved to be "anything but what he recommended him." The seller returned to Mygott $60. Mygott states, "I nver intend the gentleman shall have any more money for him or the Work. Mygott gave his landloar in Richmond a $5 credit toward a subscription. These are the only two advances he has mad.

Mygott then discussed his current situation. He is currently in the junior class at Hamilton College and looking forward to a profession you will readily perceive that it will be difficul to spend four.? winters? in that business. He asked Sparks what compensation he will receive for his trouble expenses and time and the subscribers which are 325. He suggest ?leaving it to Mr. Williams to decide. He also suggest that Williams take over many of his task at the moment. He ask also that their contract be altered to let Mygott return to Sparks any copies that subscribers refuse to accept due to the long delay in publishing the works.

October 30, 1832? Clinton

Responds to a letter from Sparks who had promised that the Washington Works would be available soon. Mygott asked if it might be published by next June and if it will contain 12 Vol? . Again he notes his need to go South to take care of financial problems.

April 24, 1833 Clinton

Mygott again wishes to know when the book will be out. He wishes to send out an agent to sell subscriptions. He also inquires wheter Sparks agrees to the change in the contract regarding undelivered copies.

September 25, 1933

Mygott is upset with a letter from Messers Hilliard Gray & Company requiring he submit a bond with securities. He notes that his contract nowhere include such an obligation and that he assumed Sparks had complete confidence in his integrety. He states he could provide a guarantee ofhis integrety in the amount of $20,00 but is not inclined to provide a bond with penalty. He states, "I suppose there ought to be a new prospectus so the subscription can and ought to be considerably increased. If you have any new ones printed please send some."

March 8, 1834 Charlston

Mygott compliments Sparks on the Washington Works saying is even better than expected and includes additional material not promised subscribers. He implies that the work is not delivered to subscribers yet. He inquires whether Sparks will let him sell extra copies. He says he has thre to five thousand copies.