The decision to head north wasn’t an easy one. We are having so much fun way down here in the south, but with our return to New Zealand in the back of our mind, we really had to make some decisions as to where we want to end our trip.
So, with that in mind, we decided to meander our way up to Little Rock and beyond.
We followed the Mississippi River north to Natchez MS. One of the reasons we chose Natchez to head as it was the same name as the Paddle Steamer in New Orleans.
What a pretty gem to find. A small “city” on the Mississippi River. Well, they call it a city; I call it a town as it only has a population of close on 15,000 (that’s about the size of Te Awamutu in NZ).
Natchez is a town full of Antebellum Houses, and I mean full as 18 of these houses within the centre of the town. I was fascinated to learn that these houses were the town houses for the plantation owners and were predominately built as refuges when the Mississippi flooded their plantations. Which it did on a regular basis. When their plantations flooded, they would uplift their entire families, and all their slaves and transport them into their houses in Natchez until the floods receded and it was safe to return.
The houses are magnificent and generate a real feeling of what times were like back before the Civil War.
The house I chose to tour was Longwood and it was a relatively new antebellum house. It was started to be built in 1860. Unfortunately, due to the Civil War breaking out it was never fully completed. But now is a museum to the building methods of the time as the men employed to build the house were from the North and at the outbreak of the war, they returned to the North to join the Union Army. Believing that the war would be over quickly, and they would soon return, they downed their tools and left. Their tools are still there where they have left them some 200 years later. A little creepy.
The basement of the house had been completed and this was where the family moved into. Not that I would call what they lived in a basement. I would happily have moved in…. in total comfort.
To keep a balance, we also visited a working cotton plantation (Frogmore Plantation). Unfortunately, the plantation house (which was still the current owners’ home) had burnt to the ground just 3 weeks before we arrived. But the slave quarters and cotton mills were untouched but the fire, so we were able to tour these.
The huge difference to how these people lived to those from the Plantation Owners is something I know we have all learned in the past, but the reality of seeing the conditions and hear a grand-daughter of one of the slaves tell the stories of growing up on the plantation and the stories her grandmother and mother passed on to her really did make it real. When she broke into song to explain the secret meaning of the songs that were sung in the cotton fields, I really did have a shiver up my spine.
At the Campground we were told of a pub in town that had live music, so we headed into town for the evening at the Natchez-Under-The-Hill pub. This place was a museum, in itself. I was fascinated reading all the history on the walls and to be told it was the oldest continuous pub on the Mississippi River.
We had an interesting night. I think the crowd was a Swingers Crowd, or they were extremely free-spirited and had no way of booking private rooms. I think half the crowd was… well, let’s just leave it to your imagination, just let me say that at times I was unsure where to look. But the band was great, and the “swingers” were fun to talk to apart from one, that had her eye firmly on Wayne. Made for a brief bit of uncomfy.
Our last day in Natchez we went to the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians. The Museum and video we watch were very good and I was fascinated to learn that they were a female lead farming tribe. They had small farms around the village which the women ran and the men of the tribe moved to the wife’s farm when they married. Unfortunately, they were entirely wiped out by the French by 1729.
On a somber note, I must touch on the Devil’s Punchbowl. We heard about this site but were unable to find it. I am not sure I really wanted to find it. It is one of those horrid little secrets all families have. And I have thought hard about adding the history of the Devil’s Punchbowl to the blog.
Natchez is a beautiful part of our trip through so much history and the Devil’s Punchbowl has certainly darkened it.
The Devil’s Punchbowl was a Concentration Camp for the freed slaves during the Civil War. Thousands of freed slaves were forced to live in concentration camps. One of the most infamous was at Natchez, (The Devil’s Punchbowl).
Mostly the Women and Children, were forced into this walled site, under a cliff where they could not escape and were left without food or water, left to die.
This was mainly the women and children as the men were taken to perform hard Labour, probably worse than the slavery they just escaped.
Tens of thousands died, they believe something like 20,000 died in the Devil’s Punchbowl. Such a tragedy. The worst fact in all this is that even though they were in the South, it wasn’t the Confederate that did this, it was the Union Army that did this!
Just down the road from the campsite was Mammy’s Cupboard. It is a café that was built in 1940. When it was first built, she was black, but during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s it was painted a lighter colour and has gradually been becoming lighter to now she is white. Another reminder that history has not finished with us. A little like, there are those here in the south who want to remove all statues of the Confederation as they think it’s wrong. Personally, I think removing them is wrong, they are reminders of how far we have come rather than a celebration of what was wrong. If we remove or hide all the reminders, will we forget and repeat the atrocities!.