COMANCHE WOMEN dress buffalo skins in this village on the Great Plains, while buffalo meat dries on the racks in the distance. The teepees are also made of buffalo skins. Philip Nolan of Natchez spent two years with the Comanches in Texas in the 1790s during which time he hunted, sold animal skins and captured wild horses. A few months after he married a Natchez woman in 1799, Nolan returned to Texas, met up again with the Comanches, but lost his life in a shootout with Spanish soldiers. (George Catlin, “Comanche Village, Women Dressing Robes and Drying Meat,” 1834, Smithsonian American Art Museum) 


In between horse-trading, secret dealings and fortune seeking, 30-year-old Philip Nolan became romantically involved in Natchez not long before he was killed in a shootout with the Spanish in Texas. 

His girlfriend, 21-year-old Fannie Lintot, was the daughter of merchant, planter and trader Bernard Lintot, who initially didn’t care much for Nolan. But as time passed, Lintot had a change of mind and on December 19, 1799, he gave his daughter in marriage to Nolan. 

In retrospect, Lintot should have followed his initial instincts of distrust. Nolan wasn’t the kind of son-in-law a father could love. Although he was educated and ambitious, he was also secretive and restless. Born in Belfast, Ireland, little is known about his childhood except that his parents were Peter and Elizabeth (Cassidy) Nolan. 

Much more is known about the Lintot family, which established itself down South in the 1770s during British rule. 

In a July 1981 issue of The Florida Historical Quarterly, author Robin Fabel reported that Fannie’s father was a man well adapted to change during the late 18th century. Bernard Lintot successfully survived the rule of three different governments – British, Spanish and American – for more than three decades. 

Lintot was born in England before his family migrated to the U.S. and settled in Connecticut. In the 1760s, he was living on Wall Street in New York making a good living as a trader and importer of British goods. His merchandize ranged from the luxurious (jewelry, fine china and silverware) to the practical (horse whips, shoes and brandy). He also was a slave trader. 

Lintot eventually cashed in and returned to Connecticut to farm, but due to a growing population and high real estate costs, more than 2,000 men by one estimate were leaving the colony every year. Prior to the Revolutionary War, 400 Connecticut families migrated to British West Florida, which included Natchez, to resettle. The British rewarded those who had served in the French & Indian War with land grants. 

Although Lintot wasn’t a war veteran he sniffed new opportunities as a farmer and a merchant on the Mississippi River at the fast-growing community of Manchac, established as Fort Bute by the British in 1763, at the junction of the Iberville River (Bayou Manchac) with the Mississippi. He sold his Connecticut farm before moving his family to Louisiana and buying land in 1778. 

Later he acquired property opposite Pointe Coupee and in 1789, according to The Natchez Court Records, 1767-1805, petitioned the Spanish government for land at Natchez, noting that his “habitation {at Manchac} is insufficient to maintain his numerous family of children, a large part of whom has already come of age of maturity, and to occupy abt. 20 slaves, whom the petitioner would like to use in the culture of tobacco, asks for 1,000 acres in the District of Natchez.” In Spanish Natchez, Lintot developed a close relationship with Governor Manuel Gayoso, who once adored but later despised Philip Nolan. 




Nolan, the horse trader, had once disappeared from the face of the earth for two years, casting him in a mysterious light. Some of his associates were suspect, too, including his mentor, U.S. Army General James Wilkinson, who while leading American troops also was secretly serving as a paid spy for Spain, which controlled Louisiana until 1803, when the U.S. gained possession. 

But Lintot had another son-in-law – Stephen Minor – who liked Nolan. Minor was American born, but had served the Spanish during his adult life and had amassed a fortune. He served for a few days as the last governor of Spanish Natchez. Minor likely understood that love could not be controlled. 

In 1915, author Grace King (“The Real Philip Nolan,” Louisiana Historical Quarterly), wrote: “Fannie Lintot not only flouted parental objections, but soon made it apparent to all Natchez that she laughed at any family interference with the choice of her heart. Instead of obeying the parental decree, she and Nolan saw one another as often as they chose; and although her own home was closed to him, every friend’s house in Natchez was open, and they were showered with opportunities for meeting.” 

King included in her article a letter she said Nolan had written Fannie of their forbidden love: “I intended to visit you yesterday, but your father did not give me the most distant invitation. I lament that love and friendship should suffer so much through his caprice, prudence or pride. Perhaps I will see you here to-day at the hill … “ 




Some of Nolan's more conservative friends urged him to abandon his roaming and adventurous ways and to settle down into a calm domestic life, especially since he would be moving up on the social scale by becoming part of the Bernard Lintot family and would likely benefit from the financial and political connections Lintot had cultivated. 

Nolan and Fannie married at William Dunbar's Forest Plantation south of Natchez. Dunbar -- the renowned scientist, planter, surveyor and explorer -- performed the ceremony.  

Even as he said his vows, Nolan was living a lie. Fannie knew the ladies liked her husband, but she wasn’t aware of his womanizing lifestyle. 

Unknown to her was that he had two girlfriends and a child. Incredibly, both women were named Gertrudis. By one -- teenager Gertrudis Quinones of San Antonio -- was born Nolan's daughter, Maria Josefa, on August 20, 1798, a year before he married Fannie. His other lover -- Gertrudis Leal -- lived with her husband in Nacogdoches, TX. One month before Nolan married Fannie, he wrote Gertrudis Leal: "Write me all you think and desire and believe that all my heart is yours." 




Before he performed the marriage ceremony, Dunbar received a letter from Vice-President Thomas Jefferson, who thanked Dunbar for the information he provided concerning Indian sign language, the first such information the vice-president had ever received on the subject although Jefferson was aware that signs were used "by persons born deaf." But more to the point in this missive, Jefferson was curious about Nolan, the Irishman who knew much about the Indians of the west and the great herds of wild horses that roamed the land. 

"We are not without hopes," Jefferson wrote, "that Mr. Nolan may decide to try the Virginia market with his horses." Should that happen, Jefferson said "my residence is on his (Nolan's) best route." Perhaps, wrote the vice-president, "I may have the pleasure of seeing him personally and perhaps of purchasing one of his fine animals for the saddle, which I am told are so remarkable for the singularity and beauty of their colors and forms." 

It is not known if Jefferson and Nolan ever met, but by 1800, most public officials, traders and merchants along the Ohio and Mississippi knew who Philip Nolan was. In Natchez, Nolan's exploits out west were legendary. Three times he had traveled the frontiers of Texas and Mexico, and each time Spanish officials disagreed on whether he was there legally, and whether he should be allowed there at all. 

After the Spanish departed Natchez in 1798 and the city became American, Jose Vidal, Concordia's founder, established the Spanish Post of Concord on the west bank opposite Natchez in present day Vidalia. 

To travel west of the Mississippi from Natchez into Spanish Louisiana and on to Spanish Texas, you first had to see Vidal, who would issue a passport. As Nolan prepared for his fourth trip west, he didn't bother to go through Vidal for the document, claiming one he had obtained years earlier was all that he needed. It was a fatal mistake. 




While wild horses were the primary reason for this final expedition, Nolan was also charting the land with the tools of a cartographer and sending information to Gen. Wilkinson. There is much speculation about whether Nolan, Wilkinson, and Jefferson’s first vice-president, Aaron Burr, and others were plotting to claim the lands west of the Mississippi for themselves, form their own government, and create great wealth. The Spanish even feared Nolan planned to the use the western Indians to accomplish this alleged plan based on Nolan's vast experience with Native Americans. 

When Nolan went “missing” for two years, he was actually out west where he said he "wandered among the Indians that live between the Illinois and St. Antonio. This life, however, I found less pleasing in practice than speculation. I was a favourite of the Tawayes and Cammanches ... but I found I could not altogether 'Indianfy' my heart." During this sojourn, Nolan said, "I turned hunter; sold skins; caught wild horses." 

On one trip Nolan rounded up 250 horses. He wrote Wilkinson that only one was "worthy" of "your saddle." That prized animal, Nolan wrote, was "as white as snow, all obedience, but was the first carried off by that cursed distemper. I shall, however, take over a dark bay, 5 years old, well broke; and next spring, bring you one fit for a warrior." 

In July 1798, three months after the Spanish evacuated Natchez and the Americans moved in, Nolan arrived in Natchez with more than a thousand head of horses. He hunted and rounded them up in Texas and Mexico before fattening them on rich pasturelands along the Trinity River in east Texas. Then he drove them home to market. 

During the days after his marriage and while planning his trip west, Nolan received a letter from Daniel Clark, an influential planter and businessman who flitted between Natchez and New Orleans. Clark was fond of Nolan but knew he was attracted to fun and danger. 

“I have heard with pleasure of the event which I hope will reclaim you from your wandering way of life and request you will accept my sincere congratulations.” 

But Clark ended the letter with a warning concerning yet another of Nolan’s vices: “Attend to your business and think not of horse racing; you will lose time and money by it. I am fearful of your going into it, and, therefore, warn you against it.” 

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.