Natchez Mississippi. This place made it onto our bucket list when we moved to Texas. Well, sort of. We passed through nearby Vicksburg and that’s where we really wanted to go but when researching the area, I found out that Natchez was the motherlode of antebellum mansions. So here we are on our yearly fall trip for a fantastic history tour of this section of Mississippi.
As you see above Natchez was settled by the Spanish around 1780. But its history goes back further. The area was first under French control in the early 1700’s and a fort was built here, Fort Rosalie. The small village that sprang up was called Grand Village and was a trading post for the French with the Natchez Indians. But the French succeeded to piss the Indians off. So, the Natchez infiltrated the town before trading day and on signal massacred the French male settlers took the women and children and burnt the town. The battle lasted less than 15 minutes. Between 150 and 200 French males were slaughtered.
We stayed at the Grand Hotel Natchez which was right on the river. We could see the river from the room but only had to walk a few steps across the street to be treated to an 8-mile view of the Mississippi River.
“The Mississippi River towns are comely, clean, well built, and pleasing to the eye, and cheering to the spirit.”Mark Twain
On our first morning there we took an open-air tour.
We learned about the town, the mansions and the history of Natchez.
There was never a US Court in Natchez until 2004. It was built as a place to file and settle claims arising from Hurricane Katrina.
Texada was built sometime between 1797 and 1805. It is the oldest brick structure in Natchez. The tavern was sold to the first Spanish governor of Mississippi and remained the State Capitol until the capital city was moved to Jackson.
Now the homes we saw. But first, let me tell you the reason all this is still here. These mansions of the very wealthy cotton planters were called town homes. It was here they did all of their socializing. There were no plantations in Natchez. They were all across the river in Louisiana. As Union troops approached the mayor surrendered the town. It became to General Ulysses S Grant, along with Port Gibson, Mississippi, the “towns to pretty to burn”.
Originally called Belfast,Stanton Hall was built in the 1850’s by Frederick Stanton to mimic his ancestorial home in Ireland. Nine Months after completion Stanton died of yellow fever. To provide an income the home was turned into a finishing school for local girls and renamed Stanton Hall. The ABC miniseries North and South was filmed partially at the Mansion.
When the Union occupied Natchez commanding general Walter Gresham chose Rosalie as his headquarters. Rosalie has the best view of the river of any structure in Natchez. General Gresham had all the belongings of the home owner carried to the attic and put under guard.
Rosalie was built by Peter Little in 1823. Little came to Natchez in 1798 at the age of 17. By the age of 25 he was a successful lumber and cotton broker. He built Rosalie for his 14 year old wife Eliza. The house was then sold to the Wilson Family and then the Rumbles. 90% of the furnishings today belonged to one of the three families.
Longwood was built by Haller Nutt starting in 1860. It is the largest octagonal home in the United States, or it would be. The dirty little secret of Longwood is that it never got finished. When the Civil War broke out most of the workmen who were from Philadelphia, went home. So only the basement was finished to a livable state by using slave labor. Haller Nutt died in 1864 so the house remains unfinished. Haller Nutt was one of the wealthiest Plantation owners owing 43,000 acres, 800 slaves and having a net worth of over three million dollars in 1860. His working plantation in Louisiana, Winter Quarters, was spared destruction by General Ulysses S. Grant because Nutt was pro-Union.
Longwood was purchased in the eighties by the McAdams Foundation who spent two years stabilizing and preserving the structure.
Only at the unfinished floors of Longwood were we permitted to take any pictures of any of the interiors of the mansions. I understand. They are loaded with millions of dollars of antiques.
Thus ended our time in beautiful Natchez Mississippi.