Friday, April 17, 2015

Old Court House Museum in Vicksburg

We enjoy getting to know more about our temporary home here in Mississippi, so we spent one Saturday touring some of the museums.  When Teddy Roosevelt came to Vicksburg, he visited the Old Court House. So did Jefferson Davis, Booker T. Washington, William McKinley and U.S. Grant - so we figured we ought to visit it too!

It was on these grounds that Confederate President Jefferson Davis launched his political career.

It was also here, on July 4, 1863, that the Confederate Stars and Bars were replaced with the Union Stars and Stripes, signifying the end to the 47-day siege.  

Built in 1858, the Court House withstood the bombardment by Union Troops, hit by only one cannonball.

A museum since 1948, it houses thousands of items reflecting the Southern Heritage, including this Bible that was nearly destroyed as it lay open on a table inside a house hit by cannon fire.

There are many exhibits reflecting the southern way of life for the well-to-do citizens of Vicksburg before the war.

The museum doesn't neglect the fashions of the time either.

There are also exhibits on the early days of Vicksburg......................

....................and the many steamships that travelled the Mississippi River.

And, of course, what would a court house be without a court room?

We had an enjoyable day learning about the history of Vicksburg.  By the way - Vicksburg did not celebrate  the 4th of July with the rest of the nation until after World War II.  Feelings run deep in the south!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Just Some of the Mansions of Natchez, Mississippi

Natchez is the oldest continuous settlement on the Mississippi River and will celebrate her 300th birthday in 2016.  At the outbreak of the Civil War there were twenty millionaires in the United States.  TEN of them lived in Natchez.  Mansions abounded, with everyone trying to outdo the other.  When Vicksburg fell to General Grant, Natchez quickly sent word to Grant surrendering the city so they wouldn't suffer the same fate as Vicksburg.  Therefore, the mansions of the city were not burned down and and remain today as tour homes or bed and breakfasts.  We only had time to visit just three of those mansions.

The Federal-style mansion, Rosalie, was built in 1820.  During the Civil War, the owner, Mrs. Wilson, was untiring in her services to the Confederacy and fell under suspicion during the federal occupation of Natchez.  She was arrested and banished to Atlanta.

I risked arrest myself when I snapped a few photos of this parlor as we were ushered inside for the tour.  I had to put away my camera when they finally told us "no photos allowed inside the house."

Once poor Mrs. Wilson was banished, her home became headquarters for the Union officers in Natchez.

The back door of the mansion is just as elegant as the front.  Rosalie still  contains many of the same furnishings Mrs. Wilson left behind.  Too bad I can't show them to you!

Our next stop was Stanton Hall built by a wealthy cotton planter and broker in 1857.

This mansion, too, contains many of its original furnishings.  Unfortunately, I can't show them to you either.  

On the outskirts of Natchez is the largest octagonal house in America called Longwood.  Planned in 1859 for cotton nabob Haller Nutt and his wife, Julia, it was begun in 1860.  Using the octagon form with four main floors, a fifth-story solarium and a sixth-story observatory, the structure was designed to have 32 rooms, each with its own entrance onto a balcony.

Work progressed rapidly and the gigantic shell was soon up.

In April 1861, all of Mr. Nutt's dreams were smashed by the declaration of war.

The Philadelphia craftsmen dropped their saws and hammers and fled North to pick up rifles and bayonets, never to return.

A dejected Mr. Nutt and a few local workers and slaves completed the basement level.  Originally planned to have a wine cellar, school room, recreation room, and office, the basement was converted to living quarters for the Nutts and their eight children.

They lived in relative comfort in the basement, but, on June 15, 1864 Haller Nutt died in the basement of his unfinished mansion.

Julia and the children lived on in the basement doing only a minimum to maintain the great hulk looming over them.  They had lost their great fortune during the war and were never able to finish their dream home.

We enjoyed our visit to some of the historic homes in Natchez but there are many more to visit.  So many mansions, so little time!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Rosswood Plantation

As it happens, our 40th wedding anniversary falls on Easter this year.  Since we wanted to go to church on Resurrection Sunday, we decided to celebrate a week early with a trip to Natchez and a stay at a beautiful plantation.

Rosswood is actually out in the countryside a good 30 minute drive north of Natchez.  It was built in 1857 at a cost of $10,735.64.

The owner was wealthy Doctor Walter Ross Wade and he had a cotton plantation of 1250 acres and 105 slaves.  The architect was David Shroder, the architect of nearby Windsor, whose ruins I posted about earlier.  

When the mansion was completed, Dr. Wade had a big celebration and mothers from miles around brought their single daughters to, hopefully, attract the widowed doctor.  Dr. Wade met the widowed Mabella Chamberlain and they were happily married until his death from Yellow Fever a few years after the Civil War started.

Mabella continued living at Rosswood, losing her kitchen to a cannonball fired during  the nearby Battle of the Cotton Bales.  Yes, it was a battle over valuable bales of cotton and was eventually won by the south. 

After the battle, Mabella went out, gathered up the wounded, from both sides, and brought them into her home to nurse.

In the library are volumes of diaries kept by Dr. Wade, including a list of slaves and their monetary value.  However, he wanted to free his slaves and eventually paid passage for many of them to return to Liberia, Africa where they settled a new town and called it Mississippi.

At the end of the war, the remaining slaves had no where else to go and begged Mabella to be allowed to stay on the plantation.  However, it was against the law to keep slaves without paying them wages.  To do so could result in forfeiture of your land.

Mabella had no money now, so she made a deal with them.  In return for planting and harvesting the cotton she would take it to New Orleans, sell it and, then, share the profit with them. 

Eventually, Mabella died and the plantation fell into ruin.  But, in 1975, Colonel Walt Hylander and his wife, Jean, looking for a southern mansion to call their own, purchased the house and the surrounding 100 acres.

They began a five year renovation project with Jean furnishing Rosswood with the antiques she had collected from their travels in the military, and trips to auctions in New Orleans where she purchased this rare dining room set.

Upon the suggestion of friends and family, the Hylanders opened the house to tours and overnight guests.

We were very comfortable in our room!

All the rooms were beautiful though.

Jean says the second floor veranda is her favorite place in the house calling it "a little slice of heaven."

I think we would agree!

And, remember the slaves who had been freed and returned to Africa?  A few years ago Jean had a knock at her door.  There stood a number of people visiting from Africa.  They had come to see the Rosswood Plantation they had heard so much about and to learn more about the doctor that had freed their ancestors. What a wonderful way to celebrate our anniversary!