For hundreds of years, several different Indian tribes roamed the floodplain of the Mississippi River. Archaeologists have dated artifacts centuries back in time, but the relatively recent date of 1541, is generally accepted as the beginning of the known habitation of Indians in the Delta region.
The early tribe of the Chakchiuma had villages along the Yalobusha and Tallahatchie Rivers and down the banks of the Yazoo. The Choctaw Indians, located further to the north, were traditional enemies of the Chakchiumas. Around 1770, a vicious four-day battle wiped out the Chakchiumas, and the victorious Choctaws took the remaining women and children as slaves and moved south to make the Delta their home. Here, the Choctaw Indians built villages and began to farm the land. It is thought that the first true efforts at cultivation began around 1818, when missionaries from the American Board of Missions settled among the Choctaws.
Greenwood Leflore, born in 1800, to Louis Lefleur, a French Canadian, and Rebecca Cravit, an Indian princess, was named Chief of the Choctaws at age 22. He negotiated the 1830, Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, giving Choctaws the choice of moving to land west of the Mississippi River or remaining to follow the ways of the white man. The majority chose to move, although a few remained and were granted land patents. The Choctaw Indians were the only tribe who never rose against the United States Government.
Greenwood Leflore ruled the tribe for over 40 years. Time after time he made the trip overland to Washington in the interest of his people, believing that citizenship for the Choctaws, under the American flag, would be a significant advancement. In 1861, he steadfastly remained loyal to the Union, but gave shelter and food to all soldiers, whether in blue or gray. He died in 1865, as the last chief of the Choctaws east of the Mississippi.
The Grand House
In 1854, years before his death and in the prime of his life, Greenwood Leflore called in James Clark Harris, a young architect from Georgia, to draw the plans for a grand house. The house, a magnificent example of southern antebellum architecture, was built fourteen miles east of Greenwood, and was named Malmaison in honor of Leflore's admiration for the Empress of France whose home bore the same name. Leflore imported china and silver from France and stocked the home with exquisite furnishings. Decades later on the night of March 31, 1942, fire destroyed the historic mansion. Some items were saved, and are on display today at the Museum of the Mississippi Delta.