Home is Where We Park It: Natchez State Park, Mississippi
Date: June 1, 2019
Temperature: 87 Degrees
Natchez Trace Parkway
Natchez Visitor Reception Center
This morning we awoke to a beautiful day. Clear, sunny skies. A bit cooler since the rig is fully shaded – except for the front windshield. Reflex takes care of the heat that would normally come in there. What more could one ask for.
We decided we would take our first trip on the Natchez Trace Parkway. The park we are in is about 15 miles from the actual start so we’ll work our way down the parkway back to the beginning. We’re taking the car this time. It’s a beautiful road that goes up and down, and twists and turns this way and that.
We were told and did discover that there are circular turn outs at various points along the parkway. This is the only one we came to on this stretch of the Parkway.
At this turn out we discovered an actual portion of the Old Natchez Trace.
We discovered that after the American Revolution frontiersmen from the Ohio River Valley brought their goods down the Mississippi to Natchez and New Orleans. Once there since the current was too strong on the river to return by boat, they broke them up and sold the wood. They then returned north using a number of different trails which ultimately evolved into the Natchez Trace.
We learned of the hardships travelers or Kaintucks faced on the 500 mile journey home. They were now on horseback or foot. Insects and snakes. Rain and mud. Swamps, creeks, and rivers to cross tested their resolve. There were also robbers to deal with.
We learned that two Daughters of the Revolution played pivotal roles in the development of the Natchez Trace Parkway. One of the two, Mrs Byrnes , became president of the Natchez Trace Association in 1934 and for over thirty years campaigned for the development of the Natchez Trace into a scenic national parkway. Through her efforts and the efforts of many others the National Trace Parkway was completed and dedicated on May 21, 2005.
Now at the origin of the Parkway in Natchez
we moved on to the Visitor Reception Center.
Moving toward the front door we discovered this mural of main street revealing commercial and social activity in Natchez 100 years ago. The welcome message across the mural in several different languages was created to emphasize the diversity that has always existed in Natchez.
Yup, that is Barbara once again leading the charge.
Once inside you find an fantastic display that contains a wealth of information about the city of Natchez. This is an overview of the lobby which contains the display.
Behind the information counter in the visitor center is this wonderful wall mural of the city as it once was.
Let me say right up front, there is no way I can cover everything that was at the Visitor Center. I spent close to two hours wandering around, reading, and taking pictures. The best I can do, and I will try, is to present a snapshot of Natchez as presented at the Visitor Center.
The story of the city of Natchez is the story of a city that was built on the back of slaves when cotton was king in the south. Natchez Forks of the Roads became the second largest slave trading market in the Old Southwest. New Orleans was the largest.
By 1850 it was rumored that there were more millionaires residing in Natchez then anywhere else in America. They quickly learned that the more human commodity they invested in at The Forks the more cotton they could grow. The more cotton they grew the richer they became.
Advertisements of Negroes for sale in 19th century newspapers and hand bills reflect an abundant number of dealers selling enslaved persons at The Forks.
A receipt given for the purchase of slaves.
Alongside the world of cotton lived the men and women associated with the river: gamblers, innkeepers, dock workers and boat men. Their life was centered in a section of Natchez known as Under-The Hill. It was the seedy side of town full of bars, brothels, as well as river front commercial establishments. Today this is a vibrant part of the city filled with some of the best restaurants in Natchez. Unfortunately, we couldn’t visit it today because it is partially flooded due to the record rise of the Mississippi.
Over the years Natchez went through many changes. There was the Civil War and following it the question loomed large: How would the former enslaved and those who had enslaved them interact? Regulations were first put in place to try and force the freed slaves to again work on plantations in slave like conditions. African-Americans in turn threw themselves into forming a new social order.
Natchez slowly began to pull itself back together. After the Civil War a close knit Jewish community emerged in Natchez. They used their capital to establish stores, buy cotton, and extend credit to planters and sharecroppers. Some amassed fortunes in banking, land, and the supply business.
During this time Natchez was becoming a thriving commercial and industrial town. By 1900 Natchez was home to cotton mills, seed oil plants, lumber mills and an iron foundry. But it all came to an end because of one little bug – the boll weevil.
But in 1932 Tourism came to town. But it at first presented only the idealized picture of the south and avoided any mention of the harsh reality of slavery.
But that has now changed. Today, as this display at the Visitor Center makes clear, Natchez is willing to present all its sides: the Plantations, the slave cabins, the Forks in the Roads slave market and the homes of freed persons of color.
We’ve now come to the end of our first day here. Once again we didn’t think there would be that much to see or do here. Once again we were wrong. So, we’ve made plans to stay here an extra day and cram in as much as we can. Tomorrow we’ll tour the city. The following day we’ll go in search of plantations, forts and so much more. Stay tuned we’ll bring it all to you.
That was our day on The Road of Retirement. It was a day for a wonderful drive on the Parkway, a day in which we learned so much about the city of Natchez, and a day to just be together doing what we love to do: travel along, hand in hand, singing our song. Time to go, sleep is calling.
Thanks again for your company it is always appreciated. Have a good night, till tomorrow.
These are the voyages of Graybeard and it’s occupants, four paws and two humans. Our continuing mission: to explore as many new states as possible, to seek out new acquaintances and make new friends, to boldly go where we have not been before
See you on down the road