Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Natchez, Day Two

Day two in Natchez meant we were up and at 'em early for a brief walk and talk about downtown historic Natchez. Then it was off to the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians for a walking tour and remarks by James Barnett, Director of the Division of Historic Properties.

View of the mounds

The Natchez Indians inhabited what is now southwest Mississippi c. A.D 700-1730, with the culture at its zenith in the mid 1500s. The Grand Village was their main ceremonial center according to historical journals and archaeological evidence.

The 128 acre site features a museum, a reconstructed Natchez Indian house, and three ceremonial mounds. Two of the mounds, the Great Sun's Mound and the Temple Mound, have been excavated and rebuilt to their original sizes and shapes. A third mound, called the Abandoned Mound, has been only partially excavated and will be preserved intact, representing a sort of time capsule from the Natchez Indians' past.

Reconstructed House

After the Grand Village it was off to Glen Mary Plantation, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is a private home that has been in one family for generations. We had a picnic lunch here and short tour of the house.

Glen Mary Kitty

Glen Mary

After lunch we took a short ride on the Natchez Trace Parkway to Emerald Mound and Mount Locust.

Split Rail Fence

Mount Locust

Mount Locust is one of the oldest structures still standing in the Natchez area. An increasing number of boatmen known as "Kaintucks" were floating flatboats down the Mississippi river to sell their goods at the markets in Natchez and New Orleans. Without an efficient way to navigate up the Mississippi river, the boatmen walked north on the Natchez Trace to make their way home. A day's walk from Natchez brought the Kaintucks and their gold to Mt. Locust. The growing number of travelers forced the owners to turn their home into a "stand," which is nothing more than a crude inn. Mount Locust was home to five generations of Chamberlains with the last leaving in 1944. The park ranger who met us here is a Chamberlain and told some interesting family stories.

It was at Mount Locust that we talked about the first author on our tour, Eudora Welty. We read her short story "A Worn Path" remarking about Ms. Welty's use of place -- the Trace.

We had some free time before meeting for dinner at the King's Tavern which was built in the 1700s as an inn, a tavern, and a postal stop at the origin of the Natchez Trace. Dinner was delicious (again) -- salad, prime rib, stuffed baked potato, bread pudding. The Tavern resembles the block houses of American frontier days. Its timbers were hewn to size and fitted together with wooden pegs. All rooms have low ceilings and the windows and heavy doors have narrow frames. Several ghost stories are told about King's Tavern.

End of Day Two!

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