Monday, February 22, 2016

Southwest Mississippi

Natchez National Historical Park -
Melrose home
We continued our easterly movement from Houston on a very rough I-10. This interstate gets an incredible amount of traffic and it is in really rough shape most of the time from San Antonio until east of Lake Charles where we got off. We took US 165 northeast across Louisiana, through Alexandria, to Natchez, Mississippi. Once we got off of I-10 the roads, traffic and scenery were much more enjoyable.
Mount Locust
Natchez MS has a long history dating back to 1716 when Fort Rosalie was established on the site of the present town. The town's heyday came in the 19th century when cotton growing was a leading industry and Natchez was an important river port. Fortunes were made and vast plantations with magnificent houses reflected the prosperity of the period. Many of these houses still exist and are open to the public. We drove around the old town and looked at a lot of old mansions but did not go into any of them.
Emerald Mound

The Natchez Trace Parkway (or wiki link) commemorates the most significant highway of the Old Southwest. The natural travel corridor that became the Natchez Trace dates back many centuries. As the United States expanded westward in the late 1700s and early 1800s, growing numbers of travelers tramped the rough trail into a clearly marked path. Where the ground was relatively soft the trail was worn down so there are "sunken" sections that still exist today. We drove the section from Natchez for about 67 miles until we got off and went over to Vicksburg.

Sunken section of the Trace
Old safe left at Rocky
Springs town site
This section has a lot of great stops: Emerald Mound - this ceremonial mound, built between 1200 and 1700, is the second largest in the United States; Mount Locust Inn - this is one of the oldest structures still standing in an area known for historic homes. Built around 1780, it was the home to five generations of the same family until 1944 when the National Park Service took over the property. It is maintained as it would have appeared in 1820 when it was a plantation home that provided food and shelter to people traveling the Natchez Trace. This was our favorite stop; Sunken Trace -  a section of the original trail; Rocky Springs - a town site first settled in 1790 endured many hardships but was finally abandoned in the early 1900s when boll weevils decimated the cotton crops.
We got off the parkway and went over to Vicksburg to go to the Vicksburg National Military Park. We aren't Civil War buffs by any means but the battle there (wiki link) had such a significant importance to the war it seemed like a good place to visit, while in the area, to learn the story. We didn't do the 16 mile drive round the battle points of interest but we did go in the visitor center where they have a great 20 minute film that tells the story in enough detail for us.
Actual field desk used by an
officer at Vicksburg

Old Warren County
court house
There is a picture in the visitor center of the Warren County Courthouse with a caption regarding people meeting in the building to debate secession. I asked about the building and it is still there so, of course, we had to go see it. It is now the Old Courthouse. It is in need of some work, but it is still impressive to see.

Our day trip continued over to Jackson to see the Mississippi State Capitol before heading "home" (Natchez State Park). We visited the old Capitol, built in 1839, first which has been wonderfully restored and is now a museum. The current Capitol, opened in 1903, is about 5 blocks away, a nice walk through a nice area of town. The current Capitol is a grand building with a lot of marble. Very nicely done.

Mississippi Old Capitol - 1839

Mississippi State Capitol - 1903

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