Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Windsor Ruins in Mississippi

Snow and ice have made an unwelcome appearance here in Mississippi, but before it arrived we had the opportunity to visit the magnificent Windsor Ruins.  Windsor was a plantation owned by Smith Daniel II, his wife Catherine and their seven children (only three survived to adulthood).  Smith completed his home in 1861 using slave labor.  Skilled carpenters from New England were brought in to complete the interior woodwork.

The columns are 45 feet high and made of bricks covered with mortar and plaster.  It cost $175,000 to build - equivalent to $4,593,426 in today's dollars.  Unfortunately, Daniel only lived in the house a few weeks before dying at the age of 34.  His wife and children continued to live in the home and throw many lavish parties.

There were 25 rooms, each with it's own fireplace, and interior baths fed by a water tank on the roof.

The mansion had four floors and a cupola.  The main floor was the 2nd floor, containing a broad hall, two parlors, a bathroom, the master bedroom, a study, a library, and the dining room.  The ground floor had the kitchen, schoolroom, commissary, and doctor's office.

The 3rd floor had another bathroom and nine bedrooms with the 4th floor serving as the ballroom.  During the Civil War, both Union and Confederate troops used the house as a hospital and observation station.  Mark Twain actually stayed at the home and viewed his beloved Mississippi River from the cupola.

Surprisingly, Windsor survived the Civil War only to burn down on February 17, 1890 when the family was away.  Someone, a guest or worker, left a lighted cigar on an upper balcony burning down the mansion, leaving only 23 of the 29 columns and a lone metal staircase.  This picture was taken in 1901.

All the house plans and records were destroyed in the fire so no one really knew what the mansion looked like until, in 1991, a drawing was discovered in someone's attic.  Henry Otis Dwight, an officer in the 20th Ohio Infantry, had sketched Windsor when his troop was camped on the grounds in 1863.

Despite it's fairly remote location, the remains have served as settings for several movies, including 1957's Raintree County starring Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor.  In a scene in the movie they ascend the staircase and Taylor tells Clift about how her home had burned when she was a child.

Eventually, the staircase was removed and installed in the chapel at nearby Alcorn State University.  In 1971, the Daniel descendants donated the ruins to the state of Mississippi who oversees the property now.

We certainly enjoyed our tour of some Mississippi history.  We can't wait to see more.  If only the weather would cooperate!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Grand Gulf, Mississippi

Last weekend we began exploring the state of Mississippi.  I'm planning on visiting plenty of Antebellum mansions while we're here, but our first stop was the town of Grand Gulf:  one-time boom town, major river port, theater center, and a strategic Confederate stronghold during the Civil War.

Today it is a virtual ghost town.  Originally settled by the French in the early 1700s, it became a major port city on the Mississippi River.  Prosperous plantation owners shipped loads of cotton to northern textile mills from here.

There was even talk of Grand Gulf as a possible site for the state capital - until several disasters hit the area.  Yellow fever turned into an epidemic, claiming the lives of many of the town's citizens.  Then a devastating tornado ravaged the town.  Finally, the currents of the mighty Mississippi River ate away the entire 55 block business section of Grand Gulf.

The Civil War destroyed what little was left of the town, with Union forces twice occupying the area, then burning the few remaining buildings to the ground before withdrawing.

The few inhabitants today still do battle with the river!

Not far from town is the Grand Gulf Military Monument dedicated to the battle fought here during the Civil War.

The small museum has some excellent displays on life in the area during the war.

Outside the museum are various buildings and displays.  This is a re-creation of the jail at Grand Gulf.

This is no re-creation though!  This is the actual cell they used.  They dug it out of the river mud.

 This is a hearse from New Orleans.  The sign says "people were dying to ride in it."

After viewing the displays near the museum, we took a driving tour of the 400 acre landmark which includes this church transported here from the nearby ghost town of Rodney, Mississippi.

One of the most interesting sights on the driving tour was the Grand Gulf Cemetery.

Most of the people buried in this, rather large, cemetery died long before the Civil War started.

As we wandered among the tombstones the thing that struck me the most was how young most of these people were when they died.  There were way too many children here too.

There was a lot to see at Grand Gulf but we had more miles to go!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

New Job, New Location

It's hard to believe that it's been the beginning of November since I blogged!  We drove back to Arizona from the job in Pennsylvania (so glad I'm not there now!) in time to celebrate Thanksgiving with the family.  A few months home, and we left Arizona two weeks ago for a new nuclear power plant near Vicksburg, Mississippi.  What did we do while we were home?

We played with our grandsons..........

........watched a hockey game........

..........went to the zoo.......

...........helped put together a LOT of Leggos..........

.........saw a wonderful Christmas program.......

..........had a few meals with the family........

........celebrated Christmas with lots of gifts........

..........did some re-decorating at our mountain cabin in Pine...........

..........and did some outdoor work before..........

................it snowed!

All too soon, it was time to pack up the 5th wheel and head to another job.  We'll start doing a little sightseeing this weekend and I'll be blogging about our new adventures.  We're not in Arizona anymore!