Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Natchez and the Trace

We stopped in Natchez for a few days to explore this neat little Mississippi River town.  Most of the town is on a high bluff well out of harms way of the big water.  The river is high and flooding in some areas, but it is not a problem here.
The river boat, Queen of the Mississippi, is in the foreground.  The permanently moored Isle of Capri casino is behind it.  The area down on the water front is called Under the Hill.  There are only a few buildings down there in the flood plain. 
Natchez has many beautiful old homes from the antebellum period. 
No doubt what this lady in one of the gardens did to get her beads.
The William Johnson House (left) and Melrose are part of the Natchez Historical Park.  Melrose is a classic example of the Greek Revival style that was so popular in the 1800's.  It was built by the McMurran family in 1849.  It is one of the best preserved antebellum estates with many original furnishings and several outbuildings.  It is neat seeing these old homes, but also sad when you realize they were built on the backs of a slave economy. 
This is the interior of the Johnson House.  Johnson was born a slave, the son of a slave and a white slave owner who freed him and his mother.  He became a prosperous businessman who owned three barber shops and property in Natchez.  The furnishings show a home of a middle class family.  As he gained wealth he bought his own slaves.  This sure shows how complex the issue of slavery was.  Johnson kept diaries that give a unique look at this period.      
Natchez is at the beginning of the Natchez Trace Parkway a 444 mile road that passes through three states and ends near Nashville. The trace follows a path that was used for hundreds of years by Indians and became the route used by river men who floated boats from Pittsburgh to Natchez.  The mileage chart shows the distances between towns on the 1013 mile trip to Pittsburg.  The last three are Washington, Canonsburgh and Pittsburgh. We did part of the parkway here and plan to do more near the north end. Pictured is Mount Locust, a plantation along the trace that became an inn for travelers.
The interior of the inn.
Not far off the trace is Emerald Mound.  Covering eight acres it is the second largest temple mound in the United States.  It was used for ceremonies and burials.  It is quit impressive when you realize it was built totally by hand with only the most primitive of tools.
Much of the land here is soft soil that has been left behind by the ice age and river flooding.  Over the years of travel the trace wore down to the point that the road was in a huge rut. 
A few homes in Port Gibson, a town that during the Civil War General Grant said was to beautiful to burn.  A battle was fought here as part of the fight to capture Vicksburg.  The gilded hand is on the top of the First Presbyterian Church. 
Just west of Port Gibson are the Ruins of Windsor. The house was built in 1860 and survived the Civil War only to burn to the ground in 1890.  The columns and a metal staircase, that is in a nearby college chapel, were the only things that were left.  It really does have a strange beauty.
On our last day in Natchez we saw the American Queen departing.  This is the same boat we saw in Marietta last spring.  Here is a short video where you can hear the boats calliope.  Natchez is a neat little river town that is a worthwhile stop.

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