The Mississippi River
Natchez owes its existence to it's prime location on the Mississippi River.
The Mississippi, which takes its name from the old Ojibwe word "misi-ziibi" meaning "Great River" is the major artery of the largest river system in North America. If measured from the head of the Missouri, the length of the Missouri-Mississippi combination is approximately 3900 miles (6300 km), making the combination the 4th longest river in the world.
In a day when the rivers were the highways of a burgeoning new nation, the Mississippi was to become the major thoroughfare through which goods and people flowed into and out of the interior of the continent. Most of this trade, and the dollars behind it, passed through Natchez, helping to create the much of the wealth the city once knew.
Natchez is still very much a River City, even though that term has a different connotation than it did during the glory days of the steamboat. No matter where one is in Natchez, he is never far from the River, and the River is never far from the hearts and minds of the people of Natchez.
Interesting Facts about the Mississippi River
Natchez City Hall and Live Oaks
Natchez City Hall sits across the street from both the Adams County Courthouse and the Historic Natchez Jail. We did not go into this building, but enjoyed seeing the beautiful old Southern Live Oak Trees which grace its front, and also grow beside the courthouse.
We were in Natchez during winter and yet these live oaks were as green as if it were a summer day. The spreading branches and evergreen character of the the live oak make it one of the most beautiful of all trees.
On many of the horizontal spreading branches were great clusters of Resurrection Ferns. These small green ferns live on the bark of trees or even on rocks. During hot dry weather they shrivel, turn gray and appear to be dead. Then when the rains come the resurrection ferns spread their delicate leaves which once again become lush and green. Lucky for us, they were green on the day of our visit.
Click up the additional photos to get a better view of both the live oaks and the resurrection ferns on their branches.
Gumbo--A Favorite in the South
When visiting Natchez-Under-the-Hill, we discovered GUMBO. The name of this spicy stew originates from an African word, 'kigombo' meaning okra.
Primarily eaten in the Southern states, it combines a variety of flavors and consistencies, using seafood, chicken, red meat or pork with rice and vegetables.
Ordering it for lunch, I found it to be a rich and filling meal accompanied with saltine crackers. Although I usually avoid spicy foods, this version of gumbo was not all that hot.
One can find this dish served often in Louisiana and South Carolina and even in some areas along the Gulf of Mexico.
The second mound you will see on a walking tour of the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians is the Temple Mound. The Temple building would have stood atop this mound. It was the spiritual center of a mound building community or chiefdom.
Inside the temple a sacred fire was maintained, along with religious objects and bones of past chiefs. Like the Great Sun's Mound, this one was also built in four stages. This mound was first described in 1700 by Pierre LeMoyne Sieur d'Iberville, discoverer of the Mississippi gulf coast.
Under the Hill Historic District
In the 1830's and 1840's, the waterfront streets of Under-the-Hill Natchez were notorious, spilling over with boatmen, slave dealers, merchants, tavern keepers, warehousemen, and the riffraff that gave the landing its bawdy atmosphere.
Under-the-Hill sat on a small strip of land that ran for several miles along the river below the town's bluffs. Here steamships docked, brimming with passengers, cotton bales, and bountiful cargo. Moored alongside were boats filled with enslaved humans bound for the Market in Natchez or for district plantations. Under-the-Hill's northend trailed off into the swampy woods of the Devil's Punch Bowl, a legendary haven for shady characters. Its southern end was a place of brothels, gambling dens, shacks, and shanties where respectable ladies and gentlemen seldom ventured. It's busy midsection boasted sawmills, wharves, hotels, warehouses, a cotton oil mill, saloons, bars, boarding houses, even a villa estate and gardens. Today, Under-the-Hill is an artsy area with a biker's bar/ saloon, historical building fronts, restaurants, and the only current casino in Natchez - the Isle of Capris. Its a must stop visit for any visitors to Natchez.