Touring Natchez, MS 4/21/09

One thing we had to get used to was the humidity down south. What a difference from the dry air in Arizona! We worked up a sweat just getting in and out of the truck! Our first stop of the day was at “Forks in the Road”. This site was the second largest slave market in the Deep South during the early 1800s. Nothing remains from the market, but a historical marker is there, plus exhibits that describe how the market was run and how the slaves were paraded before the buyers. It was hard to read about how the blacks had been treated.

Next stop on the agenda was St. Mary’s Basilica, built in 1841. It is the oldest Catholic building still in use in the State of Mississippi.

Behind the church is Memorial Park, which has a lovely fountain in the center, grand old trees, and lots of park benches. I could see myself spending time there sitting on a park bench just daydreaming, or reading a book, with the gargling fountain as background music.

It was getting near lunch time, so we drove on over to the “Pig Out Inn”, a local restaurant that was advertised in a recent issue of Southern Living. I liked the eclectic atmosphere right off the bat when I saw the pig statue wearing cowboy boots out in front of the restaurant.

Inside they had a couple of kooky signs – one being, “What I love about the South”.

We munched down barbecue pork sandwiches with coleslaw right on the bun (of course), some chips, and pop. A nice touch was the squirt bottle with WARM barbecue sauce in it! Yumm!

There are many antebellum homes in the area which you can tour, for a price. I was happy just to snap pictures from the outside as we were passing by. Here are only a couple of homes. The first one is called Rosalie Mansion, which was built in 1820, and was used as Union Headquarters during the Civil War.

This is Magnolia Hall, built by Thomas Henderson in 1858. Mr. Henderson was a merchant, planter, and an elder in the First Presbyterian Church. It was one of the last mansions to have been built in the town of Natchez before the beginning of the Civil War. It did not escape that conflict - shelling by a Union gunboat damaged the home. In fact, a cannonball landed in the kitchen. Mr. Henderson had a stroke before the war ended and was confined to bed in the guest bedroom downstairs, where he eventually died. It is believed the home is haunted by Mr. Henderson, himself. I found out this information after we left the area, so this means when we travel back to Natchez that I'll just have to visit old Tom!

We also visited two other local churches. One was the First Presbyterian Church. The original Presbyterian church was built in 1815; the newer and larger church in 1828. The second floor of the church houses a photographic history of Natchez. It was like taking a step back in time.

The second church was the Trinity Episcopal Church built in 1822, making it the oldest Episcopal church building in the State of Mississippi. It has many stained glass windows inside, two of which have great significance, having been designed, fashioned and installed by Louis Tiffany. Here is one of the Tiffany windows, entitled, "Christ the good shepherd".

Next up was the William Johnson House. He became a freed slave when he was only 11 years old. He trained to become a barber from his brother-in-law. Once William completed his training, he bought his first barbershop in Natchez in 1830. Eventually he came to own and operate three barbershops and a bath house in the city. William kept diaries for over 16 years beginning in 1835 and ending with his death in 1851. These diaries tell what it was like to be a free person of color back in the time of slavery. This is where William lived in 1841, along with his wife, mother-in-law, 10 children, and some slaves. They all lived upstairs; downstairs was commercial space. The other half of the building he rented out.

Our final stop of the day was to see a restaurant that was talked about on Roadside, called "Mammy's Cupboard". It definitely would catch your eye if you were driving by:

Yes, that's right. To enter the restaurant, there is a door in Mammy's skirt. The restaurant was closed at the time, but it was worth the short trip just for the photo opportunity!
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