As we drove the Natchez Trace Parkway, we took the opportunity to learn a little more about this part of the country and its Native inhabitants.
The Choctaw Indians of Mississippi are thought to have been the largest of the Muskhogean tribes, which included Creeks, Chickasaw, Seminioles, Apalachi and other small groups. Recently, it is believe that the Chicasaw and Choctaw are related--their language is very similar and their traditions show a close relationship. Some surmise that when the white man moved into this territory, the tribe split into these two groups.
This photo marks Lower Choctaw Territory, which has been a boundary for over two centuries. It was established in 1765 and designated the eastern limits of the Old Natchez District.
*For more history on the Choctaw Indians, go to www.choctaw.org.
I discovered some fascinating facts about the Mississippi River. I had no idea that one of the rivers that passes by my hometown of Pittsburgh, Pa. is one of two tributaries helping to form old Miss--the Ohio River; the other is the Illinois River.
The Mississippi River flows through ten states: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana. This river, which is the second longest in the United States, runs for a length of over 2,300 miles. Its source is Lake Itasca in Minnesota.
FYI:The name, Mississippi, comes from an Algonquian Indian word meaning "father of waters."
Hernando De Soto and his exploration party were the first Europeans to see this river in 1541.
During the Civil War, control of this river was of the utmost importance, a move wisely taken by the Union Army
All of my life I've heard, and have even sung, the United States Marine Hymn, which begins with the line: "From the Halls of Montezuma ...." But until I visited Natchez, and toured Monmouth Plantation, I did not know the story behind those words.
Hanging in the study at Monmouth is this picture from the American-Mexican War. Conquering United States soldiers, whose rallying cry had been "Remember the Alamo!" are seen marching into Mexico City. On the morning of April 14, 1847, Major General John Quitman of Mississippi - the Master of Monmouth Plantation - formed his battle-scarred troops into a line before the Grand Plaza in the Mexican capitol. Limping along with just one shoe, Quitman led his Marines triumphantly through the Halls of Montezuma.
The soldiers hoisted a tattered American flag over the defeated Mexican General Santa Anna's palace while the Marine Band played the Star Spangled Banner. The men presented arms; the officers saluted. This was the first and only time that the American flag - alone - has been raised over the capitol of a conquered enemy country.
U.S. Marine Corps Hymn
From the Halls of Montezuma
To the Shores of Tripoli;
We fight our country's battles
In the air, on land and sea;
First to fight for right and freedom
And to keep our honor clean;
We are proud to claim the title
of United States Marine.
Our flag's unfurled to every breeze
From dawn to setting sun;
We have fought in ev'ry clime and place
Where we could take a gun;
In the snow of far-off Northern lands
And in sunny tropic scenes;
You will find us always on the job--
The United States Marines.
Here's health to you and to our Corps
Which we are proud to serve
In many a strife we've fought for life
And never lost our nerve;
If the Army and the Navy
Ever look on Heaven's scenes;
They will find the streets are guarded
By United States Marines.
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.
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
Directly across the street from the Adams County Courthouse is the Historic Natchez Jail, which dates back to 1891. It is located at 314 State Street, across the street from the Adams County Courthouse.
The old jail is not a tourist attraction but a working office, currently the Board of Supervisors Building for Adams County Administration. The building is well preserved and still shows signs of its former use, with bars covering some of the upstairs windows.
Natchez is the seat of Adams County, named for John Adams, second president of the United States. It is the oldest of the 82 counties in Mississippi, having been created in 1799, eighteen years before Mississippi became a state. Four Mississippi governors have hailed from Adams County: David Holmes, George Poindexter, John A. Quitman, and Gerard Brandon.
The estimated population of Adams County in 2004 was 32,591. This was a decrease of -5.09% from the 2000 census. As in so many counties in Mississippi, people seem to be moving to other parts of the country to find jobs. Natchez is far from being the poorest county in Mississippi, yet the per capita income is only about 74% of the national average.
I find it interesting that this grand old city, once the most prosperous locale in America, has never recovered from the devastation of the War Between the States and the so-called "reconstruction." Yet other southern cities - Atlanta for example - was literally burned to the ground during the War, yet has risen like a Phoenix to surpass many cities in the North.
Adams County, Mississippi
If you visit New Orleans consider taking a day trip to Natchez.
In the plantation era ( pre Civil War) plantation owners built houses ( town houses) in Natchez to serve as a place to party . There was nothing to do on the plantations.
Some of these townhouses are open to the public. On your way back to New Orleans stop at some of the plantations along the Mississippi.
The houses are open on various days and various hours. There is no pattern so you can only visit what is available..
The Natchez Visitor Reception Center, is located at the intersection of Hwy 84 and Canal Streets, and is home to the City of Natchez Visitor information services, the Mississippi Welcome Center, and the National Park Service information services.
Here you have:
- make hotel and b&b reservations
- downtown transportation connections
- Natchez ticketshop
- Natchez exhibitions
- gift shop
- internet / email service kiosk
- 24 hours restrooms & vending machines
- ATM services
and a 20-minute show : THE NATCHEZ STORY
Open 7 days a week:
monday - saturday : 8:30 AM -5:00PM
sunday : 9:00AM -4:00PM
(closed thanksgiving, christmas and new years day)
Favorite thing: If you like to watch or even visit the beautiful antebellum houses of the Old South than Natchez is the place to go, because this city has more antebellum houses than any other place in the United States. Some houses are available for touring daily, but many more open their doors during Spring and Autumn Pilgrimage.
If you have the chance of visiting Natchez around April, than you can enjoy the many azaleas blossoming in the many gardens of the beautiful antebellum houses.
The live oak trees can be admired all year round. These are the most majestical trees in the south of the US.
Fondest memory: As Natchez is perched 200 feet above the Mississippi River on the highest promontory north of the Gulf of Mexico, you'll have some great views of the Mississippi river. This view was taken from the hotel where we were staying.
The Visitor Center is the first place you should go to. Its huge and you can’t miss it (hwy US84) overlooking the Mississippi and open 7 days (except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day. They have 24 hr restrooms, atms and will make bookings for you, They screen a 20 minute film about Natchez as well. You can also tour the photo exhibits and view a topical map of the area. All the brochures and maps you will need are there and you can help yourself to a free coke or coffee. If you cross the highway that its on and go over to the Ramada Hotel high on the opposite hill, go around the back and you will get a fabulous view of the Mississippi and the bridge.
Myrtle Tce Historic Home.
Favorite thing: I have driven to Natchez just for a day trip to visit, eat, then come back, but it is best taken in a few days to see the old homes and study the history.