Introduction to Delta Pieces: Northeast Louisiana Folklife

Map: Cultural Micro-Regions of the Delta, Northeast Louisiana

Working in the Delta

Making Music in the Delta

Telling Stories in the Delta

The Hub Lake Gold: An Analysis of A Legend – John L. Doughty, Jr.
Landmark of the Koroa – Sam Dickenson

Delta Archival Materials

The Hub Lake Gold: An Analysis of A Legend

By John L. Doughty, Jr.


Hub Lake lies in a remote area of west-central LaSalle Parish, Louisiana, near Little River, about twenty miles north of Catahoula Lake. Old timers say that the lake, actually little more than a pond barely one hundred yards in diameter, is bottomless, created by an ancient natural gas blowout. Surrounded by oak and cypress trees dripping with gray Spanish moss and adjacent to a large, well-excavated Indian mound, Hub Lake presents an eerie, primeval setting. According to local legend, this dark, "bottomless" water contains the Natchez Treasure.

A large hole dug in the shore of Hub Lake.

Treasure hunters have dug large holes in the shores of Hub Lake and spent many hours searching the lake bank with metal detectors. They have also probed the lake waters with underwater detectors. Several scuba divers have searched the lake, finding only a dangerous tangle of submerged logs, tree limbs, and abandoned trot-tines.

What brings so many treasure hunters to Hub Lake? Apparently, many people believe that Natchez Indians, hotly pursued by vengeful French, stuffed gold plundered from Fort Rosalie into the barrels of two cannons and rolled them into the lake.

Like most legends, the legend of gold in Hub Lake is based on facts distorted by the passage of time. According to written history, in 1729, an aristocratic officer named Chopart gained command of the French settlement of Fort Rosalie, at present-day Natchez, Mississippi. He was haughty and tyrannical and obviously considered the command of a woe-begotten outpost on the edge of civilization beneath his dignity. He had little respect for his subordinates and none for the Indians (Gayarre 396).

The most beautiful village of the Natchez was the White Apple Village; Chopart wanted it for a plantation. He told Great Sun, the head chief of the Natchez Indians, and an actual king, to move his people from the village (Gayarre 397).

Great Sun protested, but nothing he said made the slightest difference to the arrogant Chopart. Great Sun told Chopart he would lay the orders before the old and wise men of the Natchez Nation. When the elders and chiefs assembled to hear the white man's orders, they refused to abandon the place where they had lived for uncounted centuries. The chief of the White Apple Village said it best: "The white faces will run their plows over the bones of our dead and put their cattle in our temples. Shall we consent to such profanation? Are we strong enough to prevent it? We are" (Gayarre 401).

The Natchez Indians saw only one alternative, to destroy all the French. The French at Fort Rosalie would die as well as all the French in Louisiana, including New Orleans. The Natchez plan should have worked. In 1729, there were no more than four thousand French, including women and children, in Louisiana. Seventeen thousand warriors lived in the Indian villages along the principal rivers, in the inland villages, the Choctaws alone had ten thousand warriors (Gayarre 404).

The Natchez sent ambassadors to the tribes the French had mistreated. Without exception, the Indians agreed to the plan of destruction. Each tribe was assigned a target and, to coordinate the date of attack, received a bundle containing an equal number of sticks. Each day a stick was to be removed from the bundles; when there were no more sticks, the attacks would begin in unison. However, Stung Arm,1 mother of Great Sun, was a friend of the French. Rumors even said Great Sun derived from an affair between Stung Arm and a French officer (Gayarre 405). She pleaded with Great Sun to call off the attack. He refused, so she informed a French soldier of the plan. Chopart threw the soldier in irons. It was at this point that she informed a French officer of the impending attack. Chopart refused to believe Stung Arm's warning.

Stung Arm was at a loss because Chopart refused to believe uncivilized Indians would dare strike such a blow against the French. The Natchez's bundle of sticks was kept in the Great Temple. To remove the element of surprise from the attack and to allow at least some of the French to escape death, Stung Arm penetrated the temple and removed two sticks from the bundle. The Natchez's attack began on November 28, 1729, two days early.

The Natchez massacred two hundred French men. About twenty escaped and warned New Orleans; two were spared. Pregnant women and those nursing children were killed. Stung Arm gathered some of the remaining French women under her protection, but most were killed in the drunken orgy following the massacre.

Great Sun sat under a shed and had the severed heads of the French piled around him like cannonballs. The warriors quenched their thirst on captured French brandy and their lust on captured French women. Their hate they vented on the dead bodies of the French men. The Natchez enjoyed a huge celebration; after all, their allies were having the same festivities all the way to New Orleans (or so they thought).

The next day, the plunder, including the treasure, was transported to the Grand Village, and Great Sun divided it among his subjects. A few days later, a delegation of irate Choctaws arrived. Their expedition against New Orleans had failed, due, they were sure, to the haste and greed of the Natchez. The Natchez tried to pacify them with shares of the booty from Fort Rosalie; but the Choctaws, now enemies of the Natchez and therefore allies of the French, left in great anger, telling the Natchez they were no better than dogs (Gayarre 420-21).

The plan to kill all of the French had failed, and the surviving French were sure to seek retribution. The Natchez built two forts at Grand Village, armed them with captured cannons from Fort Rosalie and awaited the French. The main French force arrived on February 8, 1730, with Choctaw allies. They attacked on February 14 and ended the siege on February 26 when the Natchez agreed to release the captives. During the night of February 28, the Natchez escaped, leaving behind nothing but their cannons (Du Pratz 92, Swanton 241).

The Natchez fled across the Mississippi River into Louisiana and built forts near present-day Sicily Island in Catahoula Parish where the French and Choctaws found them (Green 547-77). In January, 1731, more than one year after the massacre at Fort Rosalie, the French attacked again, under the leadership of Governor Perier.

This Sicily Island battle was more successful than the one at Grand Village in February, 1730. Under a flag of truce, the French captured Great Sun, Little Sun, and Chief of the Corn Village. Several sub-chiefs, forty warriors, and three hundred eighty-seven women and children, including Stung Arm, surrendered and were later sold into slavery. At night, under the cover of a storm, the chief of the Flour Village, forty warriors, and their women and children escaped. According to Du Pratz, they came to LaSalle Parish.

Le Page du Pratz lived at Fort Rosalie in the years before the massacre, and Great Sun was his friend. Du Pratz talked to Great Sun and his mother Stung Arm while they were in prison in New Orleans after their capture at Sicily Island. Thus, credence must be given to his comments in his The History of Louisiana: "Ten or twelve leagues higher up from this stream (Little River) is a stream near which those Natchez retreated who escaped being made staves with the rest of their nation when the Messrs. Perier exterminated them. . ." (171).

Although the specific location of this retreat is unknown, it could be Hub Lake. After the "extermination'' at Sicily Island, it is likely that the scattered remnants of the Natchez united under the Flour Chief, for in June, 1731, they massacred a tribe of Tunicas. Later, in October, 1731, the Natchez attacked St. Denis at Natchitoches and were soundly defeated. All of the chiefs, including the Flour Chief, were killed, ending the Natchez Indians as a tribe. James Mooney, in his "The End Of The Natchez," said "they were homeless refugees. . . They could go only to the tribes in the English interest, the Chickasaw, Creeks, and Cherokee, or to the English settlers themselves in Carolina" (510-520).

After the defeat at Natchitoches, the Natchez scattered in small bands. One group joined the Chickasaw near present-day Tupelo, Mississippi, and helped defeat the French in the Battle of Ackia in 1736. However, in the second battle, in 1740, they were betrayed and turned over to the French. Another group settled in South Carolina in 1736; others went to Georgia, North Carolina, and Oklahoma. Because of the white man's arrogance and treachery, and an old woman and two sticks, a nation died. Today, nothing remains of the Natchez but relics, the empty Grand Village, and a legend of treasure.

Any real "treasure" would probably have been small, in the late 1720s the French colonial effort was on the verge of bankruptcy due to John Law and his Mississippi Scheme. The main items of trade at Fort Rosalie were deer skins and bear fat. The treasure would have consisted of jewelry worn by the French and the few coins in their pockets. The silver plate from Chopart's table would have been included, along with the sacramental vessels from the church. Various merchants would have had some gold, silver, and copper coins. A goldsmith was among those killed, and his shop would have held a small quantity of his stock in trade.

At the siege of the Grand Village in February, 1730, a commissary from the King of France, d'Artaguette, mentioned in a dispatch that "silver plate and other valuable articles were the subject of clandestine transactions." He strongly suggested that the Natchez bribed the Choctaws and the French soldiers into allowing them to escape (Gayarre 434). If so, the Choctaws took part of the Natchez Treasure. The Natchez retained the remaining treasure in their flight across the river to Sicily Island.

The defeat at Sicily Island came more than a year after the massacre at Fort Rosalie. Probably, the Natchez would have retained very little treasure for a long period of time. English traders from the Carolinas had been trading with the Natchez since before Fort Rosalie was established. At the first siege, the Natchez boasted that the English were coming to their rescue (Gayarre 434). At the battle of Ackia in1736 thirty Englishmen were seen, and the English flag flew over the Chickasaw fort (Gayarre 473, 479). It is probable that some of the treasure ended up in English pockets. If any treasure remained after the defeat by St. Denis in October, 1731, it would certainly not have been thrown into a lake. The remnants of the Natchez faced a trip across miles of enemy territory. Some of the surviving Natchez walked half-way across the present-day United States. They knew the value of gold and would have kept it, if for no other reason than paying bribe to retain their freedom.

Probably, the Hub Lake gold never existed. Why, then, did the legend develop? Perhaps the Natchez Indians threw something in Hub Lake, but it was not likely to have been gold.

The legend of Indian treasure has been strengthened by the general belief, in LaSalle and Catahoula Parishes, that the battle between Governor Perier and the Natchez, which actually occurred at Sicily Island, occurred near Hub Lake. Historians have reinforced this false belief. Monette's Valley of The Mississippi erroneously states that the battle at Sicily Island happened at the mouth of Little River. McGinty's History of Louisiana erroneously states that the battle at Sicily Island occurred on the shores of Catahoula Lake. Gayarre's History of Louisiana gives this confusing description of the location: "The French ascended Red River, went into Black River, from Black River into a stream they called Silver River, and from that stream into small lake. . . " (445). He further describes the small lake as being a short distance from Trinity {Jonesville). A convoluted analysis of Gayarre's account could determine Little River to be the "Silver River" and Hub Lake to be the "small lake." In addition, Gayarre's description of the location of the battle of Ackia in 1736 can easily be misconstrued as having taken place on the banks of Catahoula Lake; but it happened near Tupelo, Mississippi.

The "cannon" part of the Hub Lake gold legend may have originated as late as 1802 and 1803 when Indians told early settlers about two cannons in Lake Lovelace near Sicily Island, the actual small lake mentioned by Gayarre, du Pratz and others. In 1854, one cannon was actually found in Lake Lovelace (Green 568). Perhaps a boat carrying two of Governor Perier's cannons capsized.

Whatever the original source of the Hub Lake Indian treasure story, perhaps the Natchez Indians did throw something into Hub Lake. The most sacred treasures of the Natchez were the relics in the Great Temple at the Grand Village: the bones of dead prior chiefs and, revered above all other relics, the Sacred Stone. The Sacred Stone is mentioned only in a letter by the missionary, St. Cosme, quoted by John R. Swanton in his Indian Tribes Of The Lower Mississippi Valley (172). It was whispered that the real purpose of the Great Temple was to house this stone. No white eyes ever gazed upon it. It is not known if it was a clay idol or simply a rock of unknown size. Swanton and logic suggest it was a meteorite. Since the Natchez worshiped the sun, a relic believed to be from the sun would have been greatly revered.

When the Natchez escaped the French at Grand Village on the night of February 28, 1730, they would have carried their relics into Louisiana. The Flour Chief and several sub-chiefs escaped the siege at Sicily Island in January, 1731. Since those chiefs hoped to reclaim Grand Village, they would have taken their sacred relics with them to their retreat on Little River. The Natchez spent almost a year at that retreat and its nearby "bottomless" lake.

After the defeat by St. Denis, the leaderless remnants of the Natchez tribe would have reassembled, probably at the retreat on Little River. Their hopes of reclaiming Grand Village, or of ever establishing another, were gone. All of their chiefs were dead; the tribe was a fraction of its former size. They were surrounded by enemies and faced a long trek through enemy territory to an uncertain future.

Would the Natchez have allowed the bones of the dead Suns to fall into the desecrating hands of the enemy? Would they have accepted white eyes gazing upon their Sacred Stone? Probably not. The only certain way to ensure the relics would never be desecrated was to drop them in the "bottomless" lake about which they surely would have known. Thus, the real Natchez Treasure is possibly explained.

If the Natchez threw their treasure into Hub Lake, it probably lies there today under limbs, logs, and silt. May it lie there forever safe from those who would desecrate it.


1. The mother of Great Sun is called "Stung Arm" by du Pratz in his The History of Louisiana, "Tattooed Arm" by Swanton in his The Indian Tribes of The Lower Mississippi Valley, and "Pricked Arm" by Gayarre in his History of Louisiana Vol. 1.

Works Cited

du Pratz, Le Page. The History of Louisiana. Louisiana Bicentennial Reprint Series. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1975.

Gayarre, Charles. History of Louisiana Vol. 1. New Orleans: Pelican Publishing Co., 1965.

Green, John A. "Governor Perier's Expedition Against the Natchez." Louisiana Historical Quarterly 3 (1936): 547-577.

Mooney, James. "The End of The Natchez." American Anthropologist 1 (1899): 510-521.

Swanton, John R. Indian Tribes of The Lower Mississippi Valley. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1911.

John L. Doughty, Jr. is an independent researcher and writer in Tullos, Louisiana. This article was originally published in the 1991 Louisiana Folklife Journal.