Home Away From Home

Last Day in Natchez

We have seen so very much in Natchez and it has been a high point of our trip for sure. Today we just tried to see the few things still on the list that we had missed so we started our day in Ferriday at the Delta Music Museum.

The museum focuses on three cousins: Jerry Lee Lewis, Mickey Gilly and Jimmy Swaggart because they all are from Ferriday but other famous people mostly musicians from the Delta area are covered as well. The guide, Jane, was full of information and was quite eager to share it all. There are displays through the small museum but Jane was eager to explain each person. Unfortunately Jerry got a bit tired and bored but I enjoyed it for a while. For such a small town and small museum they have a lot of memorabilia from the various artists. The only person who was not a musician that was covered was Howard K. Smith, a journalist and broadcaster who was born in Ferriday.

I wanted to see the Fork in the Road which I understood was a monument to the slave trade. By the time we found it they wind was blowing so hard that we couldn’t stay outside for very long and despite what I had read there was nothing there but some written signs so we decided we could read about it on the Internet. I did stand there for a moment though thinking about the many people whose lives were so drastically altered by that place. The cruelty of being sold to someone is incomprehensible to me.

We left in search of Natchez Under the Hill. We didn’t find it but ended up riding down to the casino at the bottom of the hill, at least it seem to be the bottom to me. We didn’t stop!

We stopped by Stanton Hall to see if they had a Longwood magnet and they had one left. I chatted with three of the ladies in there for a few minutes – love talking with the people who live there!

Next we went in search of the Magnolia Grill for lunch as it had been recommended to us. Gypsy was her usual lost self so I pulled up Waze on my phone and we not only found Magnolia Grill but also Natchez Under the Hill! Unfortunately Magnolia Grill was closed so then we had to decide where to eat. We finally decided on Pearl Street Pasta which is not only on Pearl Street but right down from the Presbyterian Church I wanted to visit.

I had a salad for lunch and Jerry had a yummy flat bread pepperoni pizza. Then we topped it off with bread pudding for dessert. When you’ve had the best and we had the best at Oak Ally you shouldn’t go on looking for more. Although it was good it paled in comparison to Oak Ally’s bread pudding with raspberry rum dressing drizzled on it.

We walked over to the Presbyterian Church where they have a pictorial history of Natchez. There are any number of rooms that show pictures from the 1800’s and early 1900’s. Houses, ladies fashion, steam boats, families, floods, and sinking boats – you name it they showed it. It was quite interesting.

Back to the coach to check the groceries and then off to Walmart for a final grocery run. Since we are taking the coach to Concord on Monday we don’t want to have too much on hand as we have no cooler and we will have to get it home somehow so we are only buying the essentials.

I’m a bit anxious about our travels home as the forecast calls for freezing temperatures – 9 degrees on Saturday night plus some snow earlier. Jerry has assured me that we are prepared for it and will not have any trouble staying warm with no freezing water in the coach. Prayers for safe travels.

Home Away From Home

The Natchez Trace

What a delightful day. The weather could not have been more perfect for wandering the Natchez Trace. We started in Natchez at the Southern Terminus and traveled until we reached mile post 41.5. During that time we made several stops along the way.

Our first stop was at the 10.5 mile post at Emerald Mound. It is the second largest Mississippian Period ceremonial mound in the United States, surpassed only by Monk’s Mound in Iowa. Built by the Mississippians (called this because of the concentration from the Mississippi River Valley) the 35 foot high mound covers 8 acres and measures 770 feet by 435 feet at its base.

Jerry at the top
Jerry at the top
Two secondary mounds sit atop the primary mound making the total height about 60 feet. There are steps leading up to the top of the mound and we climbed all the way up to see an amazing view of the grassy primary mound. Of course Jerry questioned where they got all of the dirt to build the mound. The builders carried baskets and may have collected the dirt by digging with sticks or their hands whenever they found the perfect dirt only to take the baskets to the mound, empty them and then start anew. No one knows how long it took to build it.

Our next stop was at mile post 15.5 at the Mount Locust Inn and Plantation. There was a volunteer park ranger on duty there so we got a great deal of information about the area. He and his wife are volunteering there for 3 months and living in their 37 foot motor home with full hook-ups. They work four days a week and then have the rest of the time to visit the area.

IMG_1252Although Mount Locust had a rocky beginning it eventually ended up in the hands of Paulina Ferguson Chamberlin. She had married William Ferguson and operated the farm with him for several years. After his death she married James Chamberlain who was an overseer at the farm and they continued to grow the farm. Although she lost both of her husbands she continued to prosper the farm. As the travelers would come by her house she would let them sleep with their sleeping bags on her porch for $.25 as it was better than sleeping under a tree. She also had a tap room in the center of the house where one could buy something to drink. This was very significant as this was a period of time when women were typically shunned from business but Polly was an astute business woman. Despite losing two husbands and raising 11 children she prevailed in a difficult era.

By this time we were getting hungry so we decided to try to locate the Old Country Store which has been written up as a craft and café that has wonderful fried chicken. Why oh why do we always end up on a dirt road. We headed out for Lorman and somehow missed it so we turned around and I put Lorman in the GPS. Gypsy took us down a long dirt, sometimes graveled, sometimes briefly paved road that eventually led us to the correct highway and we accidentally suddenly found the restaurant. When we entered the owner, Mr. D was singing to the diners about his grandmama’s cornbread. He welcomed us on in and we took a seat and then someone was promptly at our table getting our drink order and then encouraging us to try the buffet. Besides the incredible fried chicken the buffet was full of vegetables, biscuits and to top it off they brought me a split hot peach cobbler and raspberry cobbler topped with ice cream. Ah, sugar delight! As we were eating Mr. D came over and serenaded us and later came again and I was able to video it. Though the outside of the restaurant is quite unassuming the food is delectable and has been featured on TV.

With our appetites fully sated we headed to the Windsor Ruins. We have been to a couple of ruins before and Jerry was not impressed so he asked me to let this be our last one. I told him to just wait because he might change his mind and he did! Indescribable and again another sad story. When we arrived another couple was there and an older lady was talking to them. They left and she turned to me and asked me if this was my first time there and when I answered yes she begin to tell me about the ruins. I later told her I wished I had recorded her remarks because she was an absolute fount of information. Not only had she worked with the local Chamber but she also knew one of the descendants. Construction on the home began in 1859 and was completed in 1861 but sadly the owner Smith Daniell only lived there a few weeks before he died. During the Civil War the Union took over the house and used it as a hospital. There is a large oak tree in the front and the lady told me that that was where the amputated arms and legs were put until they could be buried. When the Union left they ordered that the house be burned down but the lady of the house went to the captain and told him that she had let her children go hungry while she looked after the sick soldiers and he better not burn her house down and he didn’t! That was done by a guest at a house party in 1890 when he left a lighted cigar on the upper balcony and everything except the 23 columns, the iron balustrades, and the iron stairs burned. The iron stairs are now at housed at Alcorn State University located nearby.

The road to our next stop was long and winding and it often had deep gorges on the sides. It reminded us of the roads in Mammoth Cave, Kentucky. Suddenly Jerry said he saw an armadillo so I asked him to stop so I could get a picture. As far as I can remember I have never seen an armadillo in the wild before. We certainly don’t see them in North Carolina! He must have been young and foolish because he continued to eat grass and he didn’t pay me a bit of attention as I took his picture!

We were planning to head for the Sunken Trace next but the lady at Windsor Ruins suggested that we go through Port Gibson to see the pink Presbyterian Church. The steeple is a gold hand with the index finger pointing up. Really? Well we went and yes indeed that’s what we found. The story goes that the preacher who had the church built was a fire and brimstone preacher with his arm frequently raised and his finger pointing in the air. Sadly the first service held in the church was the funeral of that preacher. Although we were told that the church was opened and we should go in to see the chandeliers which were from the Robert E. Lee steamboat Jerry was reluctant to go in so we skipped that part.

We headed on out to the Sunken Trace at mile post 41.5 and easily found it. It’s a portion of the deeply eroded or sunken Old Trace. We were told to imagine ourselves walking that land where a broken leg or arm could mean death for a solitary traveler. I can imagine the mosquitoes, the heat and of course those pesky reptiles. I’m not sure I’d want to be walking there in the spring or summer. We were already told not to put our hands anywhere that we couldn’t see. I didn’t have to be told twice and I did watch where I walked. After all, it was a bright sun shiny day and you never know what may come out to bask in the sun.

We decided then to head on back to the campground and since it was such a lovely drive we stayed on the Trace. I can only imagine how beautiful it must be in the spring and summer when everything is lush and green. The only green we saw were the shiny leaves of the magnolias.

Because of the way our coach was parked (under a leafless tree) we were unable to use our Dish. The campground had no cable TV so Jerry had the pleasure of watching the Super Bowl on his iPad! Helen Jo and I caught up on everything by phone and by then it was half-time. The Carolina Panthers were losing so I turned in for the night!

Home Away From Home

Three Town Houses and Two Cemeteries in One Day!

Three town houses and two cemeteries in one day! We started off at Stanton Hall timing it so we could get the tour and then have lunch at the adjoining Carriage House. It definitely was a good decision.

Stanton Hall is absolutely breathtaking both inside and out. The outside, as many of the town houses in Natchez are, is palatial to say the least and the inside is absolute overkill. The house was built in 1857 by Irish immigrant and cotton merchant Frederick Stanton. It is believed that Mr. Stanton’s father sent him and his brother to America in an effort to begin cotton farming here in order to circumvent the taxes that he had to pay on the cotton he used in his business in Ireland. Mr. Stanton married a young girl from Kentucky who was from a fairly wealthy family. Perhaps that it why Stanton Hall is absolutely over the top in many ways.

The front door measures ten feet by four feet and is the perfect entrance into such an extravagant home. The Greek Revival style residence in the heart of Natchez has a foyer that could easily hold a two bedroom starter home. Enormous mirrors hang in the end rooms, one re-silvered, one not and they are set up so when standing in the middle of the room you can look in one mirror and see a cascade of mirrors behind you. Mr. Stanton had hired an Irish architect and though the house is breathtakingly beautiful it is not livable. The bedrooms are located upstairs and imagine how high the stairs have to go if the ceilings on the first floor are 17 feet high! Unfortunately Mr. Stanton only lived in the completed home a few months before he died.

The home was then sold and became Stanton College for Young Ladies. The bottom floor was used as classrooms and the bedrooms upstairs were large enough to house several girls.

Eventually the home was purchased by the Pilgrimage Garden Club and they worked for several years to restore it to its original splendor. In 1974 it was designated as a National Historic Landmark.

IMG_1221After our tour we walked over to the Carriage House for lunch. It is definitely a place reminiscent of the old South. As soon as we sat down they brought us a plate of biscuits and a serving of grape jelly! I had a delicious salad with greens, bacon, eggs, grilled chicken, blue cheese and a yummy dressing. Unfortunately for my waist line we requested more biscuits to go along with it. Jerry had a Bingo Burger with pimento cheese, bacon and hickory sauce along with French fries. He said the burger was terrific. We both agreed that it was one of the best meals we have eaten since we’ve been gone but I do attribute part of that to it being just plain ole food like we’re used to!

IMG_1241We were then heading for Longwood House but saw a sign for the City Cemetery and since that was one of the places I had on today’s agenda we changed our itinerary. We missed the turn-in and ended up at the National Cemetery. It is located on the Bluff and one side looks over the Mississippi River. We rode through both sides and it was just overwhelming. Many graves were marked with World War II, Viet Nam, Korea and sadly enough Unknown. It is very humbling to realize the number of people who have lost their lives defending our country and our freedom. Wonder what they would think of what we have done to our country now. We saw graves marked with “wife of”, “daughter of”, and we were not quite sure who was eligible to be buried there so when we got back to the coach I looked it up. According to the National Natchez Cemetery website it is open to “all members of the armed forces who have met a minimum active duty service requirement and were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable. A Veteran’s spouse, widow or widower, minor dependent children…” are also eligible.

Our next stop was the winding road of the City Cemetery. Some of the monuments honoring the dead were very large, some crumbling with age. We looked at the dates and saw many deaths occurring in the 1800’s.

Our next stop was the Longwood House, to me a rather sad house. Looking at it upon arrival one can hardly comprehend the majesty of the house. It is a six stories high octagonal home and is the largest octagonal house in the United States. Having seen the outside of other houses of irregular shape I always wondered how the inside was but when inside this house I never felt that it was an octagon.

Only the bottom floor, the basement, is completed. Howard Nutt bought the property complete with a house, cemetery and carriage house. When he decided to build Longwood he moved his family out and work began on the grand house. Unfortunately 18 months after the work began the Civil War began and the workers dropped their tools right where they were and went off to war thus the only completed floor was the basement. Mr. Nutt moved his family back into the basement but he died shortly thereafter. Mrs. Nutt continued to live there after the war but in very reduced circumstances. Of the thirty-two rooms planned for the house, only the nine rooms on the basement floor were completed. It is now owned by the Pilgrimage Garden Club of Natchez and is a Registered National Historic Landmark thus Nutt’s Folly will never be completed.

As we left Longwood we rushed over to Melrose Home which was not far away. We were a few minutes late for the 3:00 tour but they let us join in. The interior of the first floor is arranged around a large central hall and consists of rooms used for entertaining including a drawing room, a dining room, and a library. Interestingly at night they would completely close off the central hall because there was no heat there. Two of the outstanding features of the house are the painted floor cloth that is original to the house and the large

Punkah or Shoo Fly - not very clear but you get the idea.
Punkah or Shoo Fly – not very clear but you get the idea.
punkah or shoo fly over the dining room table. The punkah is said to the largest in the South. The upstairs is very different from the downstairs. Whereas the downstairs was used for entertaining and “living” the upstairs was very utilitarian with a central hallway and bedrooms and a bath emanating off of it.

Visiting town houses has been very different from visiting the plantations in Louisiana. Although the owners of the town houses owned plantations outside of Natchez, many in Louisiana, they lived in the town houses and they are all right there in the city. We had to ride long distances to see plantations and could only see one or two during a day but in Natchez we could really see a lot in a day. That’s how we saw three town homes and two cemeteries and still got back to the coach in time to cook dinner Natchez appears to be a great town full of Southern hospitality and a town I’d love to visit again. It reminds me of Memphis with its small town feel and gentility.