Morning on the Mississippi began with a formal southern breakfast while the player piano entertained us with ragtime and blues. Fully sated, we headed to what is called the Spring Pilgrimage. The Natchez Garden Club offers tours of private homes during the month of March. Each home has volunteer hosts decked out in antebellum dress. They are incredibly knowledgeable and give detailed descriptions of the mansions provenance as well as the contents of each room in the home. Each day offers different mansion tours. We visited three.
The first was Routhland built in 1817. It was built as a Federal cottage. The land was deeded by President Monroe. The lady of the house, was wearing the jewelry of her great grandmother-in-law, as seen in the painting behind her. The home is beautiful and the grounds are shaded with magnificent Live Oaks several of which are as old as the mansion. The next was the House on Ellicott’s Hill which was built in 1798. General Andrew Ellicot raised the first American Flag over Mississippi on that location the previous year. It is one of the earliest homes built in Natchez. The Shields Town House was built in 1860 and was the final mansion that we toured. Shields had a plantation in Louisiana and this was his house in town, thus the name. It’s current owner has furnished it with period antiques from Europe and the US.
Along withe the hundreds of beautiful homes, there are other historical sites. There is a marked trail along the river and through the town with interesting facts about each site. The National Park Service maintains the William Johnson House. He was a freed slave who became a successful barber. He kept an incredible journal documenting every aspect of his life including owning slaves. An iconic restaurant on the edge of Natchez is Mammy’s Cupboard. Her earrings are horseshoes. Enough said. A few miles from downtown Natchez is the Trace. This is an historic parkway maintained by the National Park Service. It is a wonderful ride. It was formed first by animals, mostly Bison, followed by Native Americans (the Natchez) and also explorers. The modern day Trace is paved and flawless; there are no commercial vehicles allowed and the maximum speed is 50mph. The points of interest are well marked and we stopped to explore quite a few. At about the ten mile mark of th 444 miles is a Native American ceremonial mound; Emerald Mound. It covers eight acres and dates back to 1200 BC. At mile marker 30 we detoured to the Windsor Ruins. The impressive mansion was built by a plantation owner. It’s unfortunate fate was not due to the Civil War but to a cigar smoking overnight guest. The steel column ruins are impressive. Beautiful winding roads edged with blooming trees brought us to Port Gibson, MS. This town has beautiful homes which escaped destruction during the Civil War and a Presbyterian Church that has a steeple with a gold hand pointing to Heaven. A little further on the Trace was a marker for the “Sunken Trace“. This is a segment of the original trail that was walked for centuries. At each of the stops we met other travelers, however when we were on the Trace, there were no other vehicles in our eyesight.
The final detour for the day was about a half hour off the Trace. We stopped at the Anchuca Bed and Breakfast to explore Vicksburg.