A Cajun Christmas In New Orleans

NOLA Panorama

NOLA Panorama

We’ve been wanting to spend time time in New Orleans ever since we hit the road. This year (2016) we finally got here. Another sticker for the RV map. That only leaves 3 states in the lower 48 we haven’t camped in West VA, Ohio and Connecticut). We chose Bayou Segnette SP on what is referred to as the westbank area. Good choice as it has large sites, free wifi, free laundry and is only a 10 minute drive to the Algiers Point ferry to downtown New Orleans. The parking for all day was $5 and senior rate on the ferry is $1 each way. If you are lucky you might even get serenaded by the calliope from the Steamboat Natchez.

Steamboat Natchez In The Fog

Steamboat Natchez In The Fog

We spent the first day with friend and fellow volunteer from Red Rock Lakes, Marilyn, touring two of the six sites that are part of Jean Lafitte NHP. The first was Chalmette Battlefield (site of the 1814 Battle of New Orleans) and the other in Thibodaux, LA at the Acadian Culture Center. We arrived in Thibodaux just in time for a Ranger led walking tour of town covering history and architecture of the area. If you enjoy discovering the small towns and hidden gems of our country, don’t miss this walk. We saw original Acadian homes, Victorian homes, Art & Craft homes, Beau Arts buildings and even one of only two Second French Empire homes in Louisiana. We also learned about the Louisiana seal which depicts a pelican with 3 chicks ripping her own flesh to feed them. This was created based upon what the first governor thinks he saw. Truth, per the Ranger, is that pelicans never have more than two chicks and usually only one survives, no bird would rip itself to feed young and that until the late 20th century the seal also showed blood droplets. The Center hosts free events such as a Cajun music night and a local dialect of French discussion group to preserve the language. At one time it was illegal to speak the Acadian language. We ended the day with a meal at Fremin’s, once a pharmacy cum restaurant. Oh, those smoked oysters and gumbo!

Seal Of Louisiana

Seal Of Louisiana

Chalmette VC and The Battle Of New Orleans

Chalmette VC and The Battle Of New Orleans

Malus-Beauregard House

Malus-Beauregard House

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Victorian Home In Thibodeaux

Victorian Home In Thibodaux

Second Empire French Home

Second Empire French Home

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thibodeaux Cemetery

Thibodaux Cemetery

Day two was a walking marathon through the French Quarter. We started at the Old Mint, the only mint to have coined currency for both the US and the Confederacy. Currently it is also being used as the Visitor Center for the New Orleans Jazz NHP. Then we walked and photographed ourselves silly on the fabulous architecture and seasonal decorations. We returned to the Jazz park for a Ranger led walk on music and cuisine. If America is the melting pot of the world then surely New Orleans is the epicenter. We knew about the Spanish, the French, the Acadians, the Caribbean influence but Canary Island Islenos … we had no idea. We were still able to catch half of the free jazz concert by the NPS Arrowhead band too. Starving we stopped for a muffuletta and jambalaya.

Bourbon Street

Bourbon Street

The French Market

The French Market

Shabby Chic

Shabby Chic

The Cornstalk Hotel

The Cornstalk Hotel

Mardi Gras Beads On Balcony

Mardi Gras Beads On Balcony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

muffuleta-sign

Landmark Eatery

OMG! The Food!

OMG! The Food!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Orleans Architecture

New Orleans Architecture

French Quarter Scene

French Quarter Scene

All That Jazz!

All That Jazz!

 

New Orleans From The Ferry At Sunset

New Orleans From The Ferry At Sunset

Being in a vibrant city at holiday time is special. We loved the decorations, the lights at The Oaks and most of all the Cajun custom of guiding Papa Noel with bonfires along the levees. Steve has put together a video of these events and our visit to Garvan Woodland Gardens in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Enjoy!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone!

 

 

 

 

Where Next? #10

It’s hard to believe that our wonderful summer in northern Utah is coming to a close. So where will the four winds blow us next?

First we are headed over to Laramie, Wyoming to visit friends who are volunteering at the Wyoming Territorial Prison State Historical Site. Then south to the Silverton/Durango area in Colorado. A brief stop at Petrified Forest NP to say hi to staff where we volunteered in 2014-2015. Lastly we turn south to try our hand at being camp hosts for the Coronado National Forest at Parker Canyon Lake about an hour south of Tucson, AZ. After 6 weeks there we make an almost straight through drive to Charlotte, NC. We know now that full timing is what we want so no use paying to store things for 15+ years. We’ll pare down to just a few memory pieces.

Then a much overdue trip to see Steve’s family in Chambersburg, PA for Thanksgiving. From there we meander for a month via Alabama, Florida and Louisiana to our next volunteer job at Hot Springs National Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas. We’ll be there from January-March 2017.

Our path this time looks a lot like a ricocheting bullet, doesn’t it? Thanks for traveling with us!

RV Travels From Flaming Gorge NRA, UT to Hot Springs NP, AR

RV Travels From Flaming Gorge NRA, UT to Hot Springs NP, AR

Where Next #4

It looks like we’re due for another Where Next post as we look ahead to the next six months. These locations are a general plan but as always subject to change for a variety of reasons. First we head over to the Outer Banks of North Carolina for a photography workshop on nighttime photography. That’s an area totally new to us so we’re really excited. Then (brrrrr!) we go north to celebrate Thanksgiving and an early Christmas with family. Back we come to NC for a major repair on the trailer (see Attack of the Tree Branch in June 2013). With trailer and ourselves all refreshed and repaired we finally head south for some fun in the sun. Spring will take us to a new area of the country and many new adventures. Remember, if you want to view this full screen, click over the picture.

Google Earth, travel, RV, Florida

RV Travels November 2013 – April 2014

Catch The Holiday Spirit In Natchez, Mississippi Part 2 Of 2

Now to continue with our week in Natchez, Mississippi.

The Natchez Historical Park under the National Park Service consists of two sites; Melrose (see Part 1) and the William Johnson House. The William Johnson House honors a seldom mentioned segment of the antebellum South population, that of the free, black middle class. William Johnson was born into slavery. His mother was owned by a planter named William Johnson and it is thought that he was the father of the boy. His mother was freed soon after his birth but current law forbid freeing minors. He was freed at age 11. Again the law required that if at any time the freed slave was unable to take care of himself the owner was responsible for him. William Johnson became educated and trained as a barber however surprisingly he also was a slaveowner. He went on to own four barber shops and integrated into both the black and white economy. He kept diaries that give precious insights into the daily lives of the Natchez middle class. The house and separate kitchen was built after a fire and a tornado damaged much of Natchez downtown area in 1840. The main floor was rented out to other merchants while the Johnson family lived upstairs. This site is within an easy walk of the Natchez Visitors Center or can be seen as part of the historical area walking tour.

One evening we attended the Natchez Little Theatre production of A Christmas Carol Natchez Style. This is community theatre at its best. Natchez Little Theatre has been entertaining people since 1932. The traditional holiday story is adapted where Scrooge is a wealthy cotton merchant and Cratchit is a freedman in post Civil War Natchez. The show stealer was the five year old who played Tiny Tim. As only kids can do he had us all laughing when he made faces at the audience while other actors were saying their lines. The ghost of Christmas Past was also a hoot.

We also stopped at the Rhythm Club Museum which despite the open sign in the window was locked. We later learned that we were to call and have someone meet us there. The museum is in memory of the fire at the Rhythm Club in 1940 that killed 209 black residents who were gathered to hear a band from Chicago. It is in the top three worst nightclub fires in the US.

While in town we needed to stop at Verizon to see why our Mifi internet connection wasn’t working properly. The representative we spoke with turned out to be an amateur photographer. “Would we like to go out on his boat to the St. Catherine National Wildlife Refuge this weekend?” We would, of course, but we were leaving on Saturday. We exchanged information for a rain check next time we are in the area. He did give us a tip on a good local restaurant across the river in Vidalia, Louisiana. So we went to Nikki’s for dinner. It’s a small family owned place. Just the sort of place you’d think Guy Fieri would find. I had gumbo, blackened catfish, cajun fries and fried pickles. I had crawfish tails, frog legs and crawfish etouffe. I had all the leftovers. Thank Goodness for huge portions! We were stuffed to the gills, no pun intended. On our way out we spied the homemade pies. Tomorrow would be another day. So we bought a slice (enough for 2) of peanut butter pie. The best thing I’ve ever put in my mouth!

The Mississippi River is a beautiful sight at night so we spent some time photographing the riverfront.

bridge, Mississippi River

Casino Boat and Bridge Over The Mississippi River At Natchez

The next day we went back across the river to Louisiana to see the Frogmore Cotton Plantation, http://www.frogmoreplantation.com . Rand McNally has listed it as one of their “Must See Sites”. This is a modern cotton farm but the owners have recreated an antebellum cotton plantation by moving period structures to their property. We arrived early and watched a film on modern cotton farming. We learned that most of our cotton is sent overseas to Mexico and even China while we import from China… go figure! Another couple from Canada joined us. For a while we thought it might just be the four of us. Then a whole bus pulled up. Inwardly I sighed as a large group of slow moving seniors got off. I know I’m a senior too and one day age will catch up with me but now I just don’t relate to this. As it turns out, this was a blessing in disguise. When they have the buses from the paddle boat cruises Frogmore puts on a special tour led by Lynnette Tanner, wife of the owner. All participants are in period dress. There is music at the church from spirituals and gospel to Cum By Yah with all of us joining in ( yes, I know I can’t sing so I do it very quietly but I can bang a mean tambourine.). On the way from the church to the first building we were “stepping out” to some New Orleans style jazz. We were told the best dancer would get a prize. Steve won and got a Moon Pie. Mrs. Tanner led us through all of the buildings while educating us on antebellum plantation life, the changes after the Civil War and how sharecropping started. Sharecropping continued into the early 1960s when the mechanized cotton picker was invented. Since then the height of cotton plants has gone from 5-6 feet down to 3 feet. Seed today is selected for a lower height and a more branched structure so that yields per acre are higher. Two women from the boat were riding a golf cart due to mobility issues. As one of the woman got off the cart to enter a building she fell. After assuring us she wasn’t hurt, everyone was looking around thinking how do we get her up? So I stepped forward and asked her how she thought it best to get up. She told me she had two total knee replacements and could get to her knees but couldn’t push up. I positioned myself to both brace her knee and offer support for her to pull up. Up she came without much effort. Once a physical therapist, always a physical therapist I guess.

Frogmore, Louisiana, general store

Frogmore General Store

wagon, cotton, plantation

Old Wagon And Cotton Fields

Frogmore, Louisiana, barn

Frogmore Barn With Equipment

Frogmore, cotton gin

Cotton Gin At Frogmore

plantation, church

Inside Church At Frogmore

Frogmore, slavery, Louisiana

Slave Quarters at Frogmore

Frogmore, cotton, slavery

Frogmore Overseers House

barn, stencil, Frogmore

Barn Door With Stencil

plantation, Mississippi

Rosalie Front View

For the last plantation we had time to see we chose Rosalie which is located on part of the land originally occupied by the French fort, Rosalie. built in 1716. Rosalie http://www.rosaliemansion.com/index.html , the plantation, was built in 1823 by Peter Little. He had come to Natchez at age 17 and became a wealthy landowner. When yellow fever took the lives of a ferry boat captain and his wife who were close friends, Peter Little married the orphaned 14 year old daughter, Eliza. After completing her education in the East she returned and they moved into Rosalie. The Littles had no children. When Peter Little died he had no will and sale of Rosalie was done at auction. The next owners, the Wilsons also had no children but fostered many. One of these children became their daughter in fact and when married she and her husband lived at Rosalie with their 6 children. Two of the daughters, referred to as Miss Annie and Miss Rebecca sold the home in 1938 to the Mississippi chapter of the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) with a life estate. The plantation was last inhabited in 1958. Most of the furnishings are those of the families who resided at Rosalie. Unfortunately no interior photography is allowed. Even in winter the gardens were lovely. A quick edit here. I forgot to mention that the large garden bell shown in the pictures came from the USS Mississippi. Steve is a good proofreader. The view of the Mississippi River is excellent. Our tour guide was very informative and since we were the only ones touring at that time, we asked a lot of questions.

plantation, history

Rear View Of Rosalie Plantation

plantation, Natchez

View From Front Porch At Rosalie

plantation, Natchez

View Of The Mississippi River From Rosalie

plantation, garden

Rosalie Plantation Winter Garden

flowers, plantation

Snapdragons Bloom In Rosalie Winter Garden

Rosalie, garden

Steve Ringing The Garden Bell At Rosalie

bell, Rosalie, garden

Foundry Mark On Bell At Rosalie

General U. S. Grant

General U. S. Grant

While we were in the area, for us that means within two hours, a visit to the Vicksburg National Battlefield was planned. We’ve been to Gettysburg, Shiloh, Chickamauga and Fort Donelson so far. With the 150th anniversary of the Civil War in progress it is interesting to see how these separate battles

interrelate. Now we’ll turn the blog over to Steve.

John C. Pemberton, Vicksburg

John C. Pemberton

When we were in Kentucky and Tennessee, I wrote an entry in the blog about the Civil War activities at Fort Henry and Fort Donelson.  I spoke then about the importance of waterways during the war, in particular, of the Tennessee and the Cumberland Rivers.  And about how an unknown General, by the name of Ulysses S. Grant, became a national hero with his victories at these two forts.  If the Tennessee and the Cumberland held such importance, imagine how much more strategic was the Mighty Mississippi, effectively splitting the country into eastern and western halves.  And the most strategic point on the river was the City of Vicksburg, Mississippi.

Vicksburg, map

A View Of Vicksburg

At the beginning of the war, General Winfield Scott devised what became popularly known as “The Anaconda Plan”, whereby the entire coastline of the southern states would be blockaded, and the Union forces would use the Mississippi river as a highway to cut the Confederacy in half.  The Union already had control of the northern portion of the river.  In April of 1862, Admiral David G. Farragut fought his way from the Gulf past Forts Jackson and St. Philip, and made his way north to take the City of New Orleans.  In May, he moved upriver and demanded the surrender of Vicksburg, but had insufficient troops to enforce his demand.  The city remained in Confederate hands.

General Winfield Scott, Anaconda Plan, Civil War

General Scott’s Anaconda Plan

Admiral David G. Faragut

Admiral David G. Farragut

David Dixon Porter, Civil War

Admiral David Dixon Porter

Jefferson Davis said, “Vicksburg is the nail head that holds the South’s two halves together.”

Abraham Lincoln wrote, “Vicksburg is the key. The war can never be brought to a close until the key is in our pocket.”

In the fall of 1862, General Henry W. Halleck was promoted from command of the Western Theater to General-in-Chief of all Union Armies.  In November, he assigned to the hero of Forts Henry and Donelson, U.S. Grant, the task of moving down the Mississippi and taking Vicksburg.

A quick look at a map will indicate that this was no easy task.  The city is located two hundred feet high on the bluffs overlooking a huge horseshoe bend in the river.  North and east of the city lies the Yazoo Delta, an almost impenetrable swamp, roughly two hundred miles long and fifty miles wide.  General John C. Pemberton commanded 12,000 Confederate troops in Vicksburg and Jackson, Mississippi, and General Earl Van Dorn commanded an additional 24,000 in Grenada.  Grant sent General William Tecumseh Sherman, with 32,000 men down the river toward Vicksburg, while he brought 40,000 to Oxford, hoping to lure the Rebels out.

Volumes have been written about this campaign, and for the next several months, Grant tried anything and everything to accomplish his mission, including attempting to dig canals to bypass the City of Vicksburg.  Nothing worked.  By spring, he had decided that the only way to take the city would be from the east and south, but to do that, he needed to bring his forces across to the east side of the river.  How to get there?

On April 17, 1863, a clear and moonless night, Admiral David Dixon Porter attempted a near suicidal mission.  He would take a fleet of seven gunboats and three empty troop transports downriver, past the guns of Vicksburg.  Trying to minimize noise and lights, he was nevertheless discovered by Confederate lookouts, and the bluffs erupted with cannon fire.  Seeing that his boats were getting hit high, not near the waterline, he guessed, correctly, that the cannon above could not be depressed low enough to hit him if he hugged the east shore.  He moved downriver right under the rebel guns, close enough so that he could hear the Rebel officers giving orders to their gun crews.  The fleet survived and made it through.  Five nights later, six more boats, loaded with supplies steamed south.  One boat was lost, but the crew survived by clinging to the wreckage and floating downriver.  Meanwhile, Grant marched his troops down the west bank of the river to a point south of Vicksburg.  Now resupplied, he had the Navy to ferry him across.

Vicksburg, Civil War

The Vicksburg Blockade

Again, volumes have been written about this campaign, and I won’t attempt to describe all the details of the siege and many battles that were fought in the ensuing months.  One battle that deserves mention, however, is Millikin’s Bend.  This was a supply area somewhat upriver.  It was defended by relatively inexperienced and undertrained black troops.  The prevailing sentiment of the time was that black troops would not fight, but when attacked by Confederate troops, they proved everyone wrong.  With help from gunboats, they fought off the Rebel forces, but not without heavy losses.  The defenders lost 652 men while the attackers lost 185.  Grant wrote of how well they fought, and while this was not a major battle, they earned the respect of many.  Recruitment of blacks soon began in earnest.

By mid-May Grant’s forces had Vicksburg surrounded.  For six weeks, under constant bombardment, no supplies got into the city.  On July 4th, when hope of relief ran out, Pemberton surrendered the city.  This was one day after Union forces under General Meade defeated Robert E. Lee at a small town called Gettysburg, in Pennsylvania.  On July 9th, Port Hudson, which had also been held under siege since late May, heard the news of the fall of Vicksburg and surrendered.  Union control of the Mississippi River was complete.

To give credit where it’s due, I got some help from Wikipedia with the images and the details while writing this.  Steve

Vicksburg, National Park Service

Vicksburg National Battlefield Entrance Arch

There is a 16 mile drive through the park with interpretive stops along the way detailing events Steve described above. The park brochure available at the Visitors Center is excellent. We bought a CD tour guide too. That was a waste of money. As with other National Battlefields we’ve visited the monuments were impressive. The sculptures and carvings really are artistic.

Troops from 26 states fought in this battle. Illinois and Ohio had some of the largest groups but even states like Iowa and Nebraska that you don’t often think about participating in the Civil War were there. The Illinois monument is the largest one and overlooks a slough where a major battle ensued. Right next door is the only remaining home on the battlefield. The inhabitants were caught in a crossfire for 3 days then signaled for help. A ceasefire was declared while they moved to safety. Then the battle resumed.

Vicksburg, history

Only Remaining Home At Vicksburg National Battlefield

General Grant’s statue is shown in the classic pose with all four legs of his horse on the ground indicating he died of natural causes. Two legs of a horse raised according to conventional wisdom means the rider died in battle and one leg raised means he died later of battle wounds. Not all sculptors adhere to this convention.

Ulysses S. Grant, Vicksburg

Grant’s Statue At Vicksburg

Our most pleasant surprise was when we reached the second Visitors Center that houses the USS Cairo, a Union ironclad boat. The USS Cairo was sunk in the Yazoo  River in 1862 during the Union’s failed campaign to establish a position east of Vicksburg. In 1964 the ship was located and raised. It sits today on a frame to support the fragile remains and is covered by a canvas canopy. You not only see the boat but smell the age of it. A platform has been built so you can board the boat for a closer look. We’ve seen National Historic Landmarks, National Natural Landmarks but who knew there were National Mechanical Engineering Landmarks? This is our first. The Visitors Center houses a small but interesting museum about the boat. It sunk in 12 minutes so the crew did not have time to remove personal items. Everyday artifacts of shipboard life are well displayed. There is even a Lea and Perrins Worchestershire bottle that except for not having a screw top could have come off the shelf today!

USS Cairo, ironclad ship

USS Cairo, A Union Ironclad

USS Cairo, Civil War

Viewing The USS Cairo

USS Cairo, ironclad boat

Underneath The USS Cairo

USS Cairo, Vicksburg, ship

Cannon And Paddle Wheel On USS Cairo

ironclad boat, history

Gear Used To Move Cannons Aboard USS Cairo

Vicksburg, Ohio, Civil War

On The Ohio Monument

Vicksburg, Civil WarVicksburg, National Park Service

Vicksburg, history

Vicksburg, Civil War

Catch the Holiday Spirit In Natchez, Mississippi Part 1 Of 2

At Tupelo, Mississippi we took the exit for the Natchez Trace heading southwest across the state toward the city of Natchez. By doing this segment we will have travelled the entire parkway except for the section between the Alabama border and Tupelo. The Natchez Trace is one of five parkways under the  National Park Service banner. Can you name the other four without heading to Google or Wikipedia? Hint: Only one is located in a western state. Just so you won’t loose sleep over this I’ll put the answer at the end of this entry.

One of our bucket list goals is to visit all of the 391 (and growing) National Park sites. So far we have been to 58.

Natchez Trace, Mississippi, Travel

Traveling The Natchez Trace In Mississippi

Natchez Trace, tornado, Mississippi

Tornado Damage Along The Natchez Trace From April 2011 Storm

By taking the Natchez Trace our trip added an hour but who cares when the route is scenic and relatively free of traffic. Some place north of Jackson I asked Steve if he thought this would be a good road for me to try driving while pulling the trailer. I’d pulled our former 26′ trailer with the Toyota Highlander but never did learn to back in to camping sites. This trailer at 35′ long and 13′ high intimidated me but I knew I had to learn to do everything in case there would be a time when Steve couldn’t drive. So we pulled off at one of the many historic sites and I adjusted the seat and mirrors while Steve cleared out my “nest”. The “nest” is where I keep all of our maps, brochures, iPads and computers plus anything else we want handy. Having short legs is an advantage! So off we went. I was surprised to find the trailer pulled so easily. After a few minutes I relaxed. I learned how to judge braking time and once I even worked up the courage to pass a slow moving car. I did tense a bit as we went under the first overpass and Steve making a crunching noise didn’t help. Now I’m game to start learning to back in the next time we come to an easy site.

We arrived at Natchez State Park and pulled right into our full service site with a very level pad. Based on the two parks we have used we are very pleased with the Mississippi State Parks. We always tour the campgrounds to note sites we might want to use in the future. We were in campground A (old campground) but even the sites without sewer would easily accommodate our trailer. Campground B (new campground) has water and electric hookups and is on the lake. Again all of the sites looked spacious. We met another full time couple, Morey and Janet, from South Dakota and invited them over that evening. They’ve just completed their first year on the road. They were off to Texas for the winter.

Our first stop was to the Natchez Visitor Center for information on tours and for Chari to load up on brochures. We learned that 12 homes are normally open to the public. Right now two of them were undergoing renovation and were closed. During the Spring and Fall Pilgrimages these and over 30 private homes are open. Here only a day and already we’re saying “when we come back!” Natchez is one of the oldest cities in North America predating New Orleans by a few years. At various times it has been under French, British, Spanish and American governments. During the first half of the 1800s Natchez was chosen as the place to live by wealthy planters and merchants because it sits high on a bluff (i.e. not prone to flooding) and the breezes from the west cooled and reduced insects. At one time during the antebellum period, Natchez was home to 48 out of the 100 millionaires in the USA. Many of the men were originally from NY, PA and OH but married into prominent families. Adams County where Natchez is located was one of two counties that did not vote for secession from the Union. They feared, correctly, that whichever side won they would suffer financially. Oddly Vicksburg was the other holdout. Therefore Natchez was occupied early in the Civil War and the general in charge did not loot and destroy property. These actions preserved the properties we enjoy today.

One  of the plantation homes, Auburn, that normally charges $12/person was holding a free open house on December 9. We didn’t hesitate to take them up on the offer. They were trying to raise money for renovation of the kitchen building. There were volunteers in period dress, music and refreshments. All of the homes we would visit were lovely but the stories that went with them were even more fascinating. Auburn was designed for the first Attorney General of Mississippi, Lyman Harding by architect Levi Weeks and was completed in 1812. Weeks had gained notoriety when he was the defendant in a 1800 murder trial in New York known as the Manhattan Well Murder that was strikingly similar to the O. J. Simpson trial. Weeks was accused of killing a woman he was dating and stuffing her body down a well. His wealthy brother hired a “dream team” of lawyers that included Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton. Weeks was acquitted but public opinion ran against the decision and he was forced to leave New York. He relocated to Natchez. The feature Auburn is most noted for is the freestanding spiral staircase in the foyer. The staircase is made from cypress and the railing is black walnut. This was built by steaming the wood in spaghum moss and using bent wood techniques. Each of the 100+ spindles is hand carved with a round shape at the top and oval at the bottom. After Harding’s death in 1820, Auburn was purchased by a prominent physician, Stephen Duncan. It remained in the Duncan family until 1911. It was then donated to the city of Natchez. A city park was established on the grounds but the city wasn’t interested in the home. It fell into disrepair. All of the antiques were auctioned off. One of the docents said that several generations of Natchez children learned to roller skate inside this home! In 1972 a restoration project was begun by the Auburn Garden Club. Some of the original furnishings were located and donated back to the home. Today it is an excellent example of antebellum beauty. At the time I didn’t realize that there would be so few homes where we could take pictures. This home was beautifully decorated for the holidays as a special bonus.

Natchez, plantation, history

Approaching Auburn Plantation

Auburn, Natchez

Docents In Period Dress At Auburn

Christmas, plantation Auburn

Christmas At Auburn

Christmas, Natchez, plantation

More Christmas Decorations

Natchez, plantation, staircase

Spiral Staircase At Auburn From Second Floor

plantation, woodwork, Natchez

Artisans Created Intricate Woodwork

plantation, antiques, Natchez

Master Bedroom At Auburn

antiques, plantation, Mississippi

Antique Bureau

plantation, kitchen, Auburn

Kitchen Building As Seen From Second Floor Of Main House

The next day was cool and rainy so we wanted to do something inside. We chose the Natchez in Historical Photographs exhibit at the First Presbyterian Church. What a hidden gem this is! Rand McNally has even listed it as a Best of the Road selection for their 2011 Road Atlas. The exhibit houses over 500 photographs taken from the Civil War era through 1951 but most are from 1880-1920. It covers portraits from all levels of society and races, street scenes, men (and women) at work and play and river life. This is the collection of Thomas and Joan Gandy. Dr. Gandy found the glass plates and celluloid negatives that had been stored in boxes on an outside porch for decades. He realized their value and learned how to make prints from them. My favorite was of a street scene where a tailor is standing in the store’s doorway measuring a customer while outside the store is a sign offering information on the Klondike Gold Rush. No photos are allowed so you will just have to go see for yourself. What really impressed us though was a poem written by a local man called Youth. Both Steve and I felt this summed up our reason for doing what we’re doing. Steve has written a bit more about it.

There was, however, a poem, written by a Natchez resident, Samuel Ullman, entitled “YOUTH” hanging on the wall.  Mr. Ullman was a German Jew, born in 1840, and immigrated to the United States at age 11.  He died in 1924.  His poem struck a chord with both Chari and me, and we’d like to share it here.  A few of the words may seem a little dated today, as when he refers to what we call a radio with the word “wireless”.  We use “wireless” in today’s computer age with a similar but somewhat different meaning.  And the word “aerial” is a word I haven’t heard in years…  not since my own “YOUTH”.

Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind;

It is not a matter of rosy cheeks, red lips and supple knees;

It is a matter of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions;

It is the freshness of the deep springs of life

Youth means a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity of the appetite,

For adventure over the love of ease.

This often exists in a man of sixty more than a body of twenty.  

Nobody grows old merely by a number of years.  

We grow old by deserting our ideals.

 Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.  

Worry,  fear, self-distrust bows the heart and turns the spirit back to dust. 

Whether sixty or sixteen, there is in every human being’s heart the lure of wonder,

The unfailing child-like appetite of what’s next, and the joy of the game of living.

 

In the center of your heart and my heart there is a wireless station;

So long as it receives messages of beauty, hope, cheer, courage and power from men and from the Infinite,

So long are you young.

When the aerials are down, and your spirit is covered with snows of cynicism and the ice of pessimism,

Then you are grown old, even at twenty,

But as long as your aerials are up, to catch the waves of optimism, there is hope you may die young at eighty.

What more can you say?

The chapel housing the exhibit is also interesting. It was built in 1828 but now is used as the education complex. The pews have the doors on the aisle similar to those we’ve seen in New England.

Natchez, church

First Presbyterian Church Stratton Chapel in Natchez

Christmas, decorations, church

Front Door Decorated For Christmas

Our next stop was at the two sites composing the Natchez Historical Park, a NPS site. The first was the plantation of Melrose. The entrance is lined with draping live oak reminiscent of Gone With The Wind. This mansion home was built in the Greek Revival style over the course of eight years by John McMurran, a wealthy lawyer, state legislator and cotton grower. This was one of five plantations he would eventually own. After moving to Natchez from Pennsylvania in the 1820s he married into a wealthy local family. Cotton was in high demand in England and prices were often manipulated by the growers. Today we’d call it a monopoly. In a good year a the  Mc Murrans could expect the equivalent of 3 million dollars. The Mc Murrans moved in to the mansion in 1849. The home was said to be decorated with everything “good taste and full purse” provided. They sold the property in 1865 to George Malin Davis after the death from disease of their daughter and grandchildren. The Davis family kept Melrose in the family until 1976. The National Park Service took possession in 1990. Currently the exterior is undergoing renovation. By Spring 2013 the front will be repainted the original cream color with a faux marble appearance.  A portrait of John C. Calhoun hung in the parlor. Since we had visited his home this summer, it was interesting to see how these families knew one another. The interior is lovely but dark. The shutters are kept closed to prevent discoloration from sunlight. This made hand held photography difficult. If you look closely at the master bed you will see 2 hooks on the rear of the canopy. This is where the mosquito netting was hung. The posts at the foot would be raised at night and the netting secured there. Yellow fever and malaria were constant threats in this area. Two slaves would use a large rolling pin to smooth the feather bed each morning. If you wanted to nap during the day, the day bed at the foot of the bed was used so as not to mess up the feather bed. In the dining room the large paddle structure over the table is called a punkah. Originally from India, it was operated by a slave and the back and forth motion cooled you and kept away flies.

Melrose, Natchez

Melros Plantation

Melrose, Natchez

Melrose Showing Chimney Stacks

plantation, slave quarters

Melrose Laundry With Slave Quarters On Second Floor

Melrose, Natchez National Historical Park

Winter Garden At Melrose

Christmas, Melrose, Natchez

Christmas At Melrose

Melrose, Mississippi, antiques

Master Bedroom At Melrose

Melrose, plantation

Melrose Parlor

Melrose, Natchez, plantation

Melrose Dining Room With Punkha

The next plantation is called Longwood and “it is the one everybody comes to see” because this is the largest octagonal house in the USA. Melrose seemed large at 16,000+ square feet but Longwood dwarfs it at 30,000 square feet. When wealthy cotton planter Haller Nutt (original family name was Scandinavian Knutt) wanted to build a new home he wanted something different than the current Greek Revival style, something to impress. He certainly got his wish. The Oriental villa with its Moorish Byzantine dome looks as if it were transplanted from Turkey to Natchez. The open rotunda towers 6 floors to the dome which is crowned with a 24 foot finial. The home was designed by a Philadelphia architect who brought 24 skilled workers with him and work was begun in 1860. One million bricks were made on the property. When the Civil War erupted in April 1861 the workers fled back North. The basement level was completed with local workers and the family moved to Longwood. Mr. Nutt thought the war would be short-lived and that the home would be completed when it was over. This was not to be. He died in 1864 and the remaining 2 floors were never finished. By luck or fate, our guide this day was a descendant of the Nutt family. His grandmother was the last inhabitant of Longwood. His mother grew up playing in the unfinished upper floors and wandering the estate. The furniture originally ordered for Longwood was confiscated by the Union port blockade. Therefore the furniture at Longwood came from Mrs. Nutt’s family and has remained there for 150 years. It was  beautifully decorated for Christmas. Much to our dismay no photos were allowed in the finished area but were allowed in the unfinished portions. We were told that the Pilgrimage Garden Club who now owns Longwood had allowed Bob Vila to film their sister property at Stanton Hall. When the show aired some enterprising crook used that to scope out the security system. Since then no photography has been allowed.

Longwood, Natchez, plantation

Longwood Plantation

Longwood, architecture

Architectural Plan For Longwood

architecture, plantation

Looking Up The Unfinished Rotunda

Longwood, Natchez, Mississippi

Longwood Main Floor

Longwood, Natchez

View From Longwood Front Porch

While we were waiting for the tour of Longwood to start an interesting event happened. Our guide, Alex, mentioned that he lived with his mother and grandmother on a plantation which was the oldest continuously inhabited plantation in Natchez. A man in the tour was from Natchez and asked “Do you still have the Mastadon tooth?” Alex replied “Yes. We used to use it as a door stop until someone told us how rare and valuable it was. Now we have it under glass.” The first man asked “Have you ever heard the story of when it was found?” Alex hadn’t. Here’s the story. It was Alex great grandfather or uncle who found a mastodon skeleton on the property. It was dug out carefully. It was very brittle. Ten men carefully moved the skull onto a truck. His great grandfather told the workers to take it up to the barn and he’d be along shortly. When he got to the barn he saw nothing but a pile of dust and some teeth. The workers, not knowing what these old bones were had just thrown it off the truck. The tooth they have now is the only thing that survived.

We can see that this post is going to be quite long. It was a very busy week. Since we want to get this posted before the holidays we’ll split it up into two parts. Before we go, here’s the answer to the National Park Service trivia question: the 5 parkways are 1) Natchez Trace Parkway  2) Blue Ridge Parkway   3) Skyline Drive   4) George Washington Parkway   5) Rockefeller Parkway between Yellowstone and Grand Teton NP.