Day 26-27 Natchez, Mississippi   Leave a comment

Natchez Trace was probably a series of hunters’ paths that slowly came to form a trail from the Mississippi over the low hills into the valley of Tennessee. By 1733 the French knew the land well enough to map it and showed an Indian trail running from Natchez to the northeast. By 1785 Ohio River Valley farmers seeking markets had begun to float their crops and products down the rivers to Natchez or New Orleans. Because they sold their flatboats for lumber, returning home meant either walking or riding. The Natchez trail was the most direct.

By 1810 many years of improvements made the trace an important wilderness road, the most heavily traveled in the Old Southwest. By 1820, over 20 stands were in operation providing basic food and shelter. Thieves added an element of danger, along with the swamps, floods, disease-carrying insects, and sometimes unfriendly Indians. Steamboat travel began in 1812, leaving the trace to become a peaceful forest lane.

Back on the Natchez Trace, stop at Mount Locust Inn. It is one of the oldest structures still standing in an area known for historic homes. Mount Locust was started in 1780 by John Blommart. After leading a failed rebellion against the Spanish, he was jailed, forfeiting his fortune and mount Locust. His business associate, William Ferguson, purchased Mount Locust in 1784. It has been the home to five generations of Chamberlains, with the last leaving in 1944.

The only original furniture in the house is the high chair. Everything else has been reproduced.

Behind the house is a graveyard for the slaves. There is only 1 headstone, but they have listed on a sign the names of ten known slaves that have been buried here.

In the family cemetery, you will find the gravesites of the founder, William Ferguson, his wife, six of her children, among other family members.

If you drive the Natchez Trace Parkway, be sure to jump off at Rt. 552 East and head to Lorman, Mississippi, to The Old Country Store, Located on Highway 61 and visit “Mr. D” (Arthur Davis) for lunch.

He uses his grandma’s recipe, operating in a 130 year old wooden structure once a popular stop for purchasing everything from cotton to work boots. He doesn’t do “home cooking,” he does “I” cooking.

YOU WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED! He has the best fried chicken EVER and blackberry cobbler to die for! AND he will sing to you and entertain you. “Sugar Pie Honey Bunch, you know that he loves you”…. I can still hear him. Also don’t forget to leave your business card (pictured above, right) which he posts all along the walls.

After lunch, we took a horse drawn wagon ride through the town of Natchez.

Once home to half of America’s millionaires and 200 free people of color, Natchez was one of the most prestigious and powerful cities in the South. I love the architecture of the south. There are so many beautiful homes.

The William Johnson House was of special interest because he went from Slave to Master. At the age of 11, he was emancipated by his white slave owner, trained to be a barber, and purchased his own shop in Natchez in 1830. He eventually owned and operated three barbershops and a bath house. Services were rendered by Johnson, his free blacks, apprentices, and slave s owned by Johnson. His home is pictured below.

Stanton Hall was built in 1857 for cotton magnate Frederick Stanton by Natchez architect-builder Thomas Rose. No expense was spared, from immense Corinthian columns topped with iron capitals to silver door knobs and hinges, extravagant Italian marble mantles, massive gold-leaf mirrors, and grand chandeliers. Frederick Stanton died in 1859, but his family remained there until 1894.

Ending our day at Longwood . Longwood was designed in 1859 and begun in 1860 for wealthy cotton planter Haller Nutt and his wife Julia by Philadelphia architect Samuel Sloan. It is the largest octagon house in America. Today it is kept up by The Pilgrimage Garden Club in Natchez with Sears donating the paint to help preserve this great American home.

The basement and principal floors measure 10,000 square foot each. The upper floors are a little smaller, with the house being a total of 30,000 square foot.

The great octagonal rotunda is open to the entire six stories.

When the Civil War began, Sloan’s Philadelphia craftsmen dropped their tools and fled North. Haller Nutt completed the basement level as living quarters for his family with local workers. He died in 1864, but Julia and their 8 children lived in the basement level until her death in 1897. Many of the family’s original furnishings are on display and photography was prohibited. We were allowed to take photos on the upper floors. The staircase was intriguing.

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