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Posts from the ‘Natchez Trace’ category

Natchez Trace – Mount Locust

“Of the 50 or so primitive hostelries established before 1820 along the Trace, only Mount Locust remains. It is one of the oldest buildings in Mississippi, dating to 1780. In 1956 it was restored to its form as a frontier hime of the 1820’s, which was the peak era of the Trace’s foot and horse travel. The old framework of the house is sassafras and was found to be in almost perfect condition where the other woods had succumbed to the years of southern Mississippi’s moist heat. The interior trim and walls are poplar, the exterior siding, cypres.”  From Guide to The Natchez Trace Parkway by F. Lynne Bachleda.

It is a gorgeous setting for a farm and “stand” (tavern or hostelry). You can walk the trace behind the house, and there are family and slave graveyards. The original brickwork remains in walkways and chimneys. The bricks were made on the site.

I should have walked the Mt. Locust Scenic Trail, which is described at pristine and stunning in Bachleda’s book, but I didn’t read about until later.

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Houses of Natchez

I spent the afternoon driving, but mostly walking around Natchez. One neighborhood along the cliff overlooking the Mississippi was most impressive. It’s only a guess, but I suspect the city codes for historic homes might stop some people from buying. Next door to some incredibly beautiful homes are once-beautiful homes that are in disrepair. There are also intermixed modest homes that are often quite pretty. Blocks away, I found a modest neighborhood that looked like Elvis’ birthplace. Rhett was right. This is a very cool town, rich in heritage and history, and I didn’t even get started on the cuisine. Next time 😊

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Loved my campsite at Natchez State Park.

Natchez Trace Emerald Mound

Like the Grand Village, this is a sacred and impressive site of the Mississipians beginning about 1300. Mound building was practiced for thousands of years. It was a place of ceremonies, trade among nations all the way to Indiana, and games. Here they placed stickball with only their hands. They still return every year for ceremonies.

Note: if you click a picture, you can then scroll through them as slowly or quickly as you want.

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Driving back up the Trace from Natchez, I wanted to see Mount Locust, one of the hostelries along the Trace. It is the only one that remains. The framework of the house is sassafras, and was found to be in almost perfect condition. The interior trim and walls were poplar; the exterior siding cypress. From “Guide to The Natchez Trace” by F. Lynne Bachleda. Unfortunately it was not open. I visited some other sites along the way, a beautiful cemetery on the Trace, the remains of Elisabeth Female Academy (1818-1845) and Loess Bluff, an ancient wind-blown cliff.

I went back to Natchez, visiting St. Mary’s Cathedral and the Natchez National Cemetery that my tour guide recommended. Walking along the boardwalk, there are three impressive homes standing above the Mississippi.

Natchez, Mississippi

My friend, Rhett Riplinger, told me Natchez is a great and interesting town, so I spent a couple of days exploring. Still I left a lot undone. I walked around downtown and along the riverwalk. Then I saw a little horse and carriage with a man standing beside it in front of the old train station. I hustled over just in time. Within a couple of minutes I realized this guy was going to be a classic, and I started the recording app on my phone. He grew up here, adding a lot of color commentary, but he knew his history…..although some may have been embellished.

There was the ‘Hanging Tree” at the court house and old jail, where paranormal stories abound. There are Clan stories. Bowie’s Tavern has an old bar where Kit Carson inscribed his name. Sam Bowie, born in Kentucky, grew up across the river, gaining fame in the “Sandbar Fight” in the middle of the Mississippi River. He was shot twice and stabbed three times, once in the sternum with a sword cane. With the sword sticking out of his chest, he grabbed his opponent’s shirt, killing him with his large sheath knife.

The Natchez Indians had settled this site on a high bluff above the “Father of Waters” for 1,000 years before the Europeans came. Probably the “Mississipians” had been there long before. When De Soto came in 1540 with 600-700 armored and mounted soldiers, the Natchez “Sun God”, Quigualtam, had heard how he had treated Indians along his journey. De Soto sent emissaries several times asking for treasures and surrender. On his last attempt, he said he was the father of the Sun and was more powerful than the chief. Quigualtam told him to prove it by drying up the river. When that didn’t happen, the Natchez chased and raided De Soto all the way to the Gulf.

The Mississippi originates in Lake Itasca in Minnesota, traveling 2300 miles to the Gulf, which makes it the third largest watershed in the world. It carries a half million pounds of sediment every day. Over the eons, it is responsible for making what is now south central United States. From “Guide to The Natchez Trace Parkway” by F. Lynne Bachleda. It remains a relatively untamed river.

Samuel Clemens spent a lot of time in Natchez. My tour guide told the story of Clemens being invited to the 1st Presbyterian Church. Before the service, he noticed the Slave Gallery upstairs. He tried to go up there to join them, but couldn’t find the way up. It was said that was one of the inspirations for “Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn”, where the kids fake their death on the river and view their funeral from the rafters. Later he was asked what he thought of heaven and hell. He said he didn’t want to comment because he had friends in both places.

Natchez was a rich town before the Civil War, with river transportation, lumber and cotton being the primary businesses. After the war, times were different. A lot of the shipping business went to New Orleans and Baton Rouge. The transition from slavery and today didn’t always go easily. I visited the Natchez Museum of African American History and Culture. You could spend the rest of your life reading all the books in that museum. I was their only visitor that afternoon, and was given a guided tour that lasted three and a half hours. I was thankful, but exhausted. History is rich here. We discussed recent issues we have had in Charlottesville, or what I call “Statue City”. They said it could have easily happened in Natchez. Diving back to camp, I couldn’t help but think of how terribly the Native Americans fared. Yet we hear little of it today.

Natchez State Park was a great place for me to stay. It was quiet with a good staff and good facilities.

Natchez Trace – Grand Village of The Natchez Indians

I didn’t tour the plantations and mansions, but there are lots of beautiful ones. I opted to tour the Grand Village of the Natchez. There is a nice information center. I listened to a person of Natchez decent telling his history to the lady at the desk. I wished I had recorded it. He was telling about his family’s land, going back to early European times and how the tribe wouldn’t accept him now. He thought the new casino might have something to do with it.

The Grand Village is impressive. It reminded me of sites in Mexico, though no buildings remain. You could imagine large numbers of Indians in ceremonies and games. It’s an impressive site. “The Natchez Indians inhabited what is now southwest Mississippi ca. AD 700-1730, with the culture at its zenith in the mid-1500s. Between 1682 and 1729 the Grand Village was their main ceremonial center, according to historical and archaeological evidence. French explorers, priests, and journalists described the ceremonial mounds built by the Natchez on the banks of St. Catherine Creek, and archaeological investigations produced additional evidence that the site was the place that the French called “the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians.” from http://www.mdah.ms.gov/new/visit/grand-village-of-natchez-indians/

Stickball

Ball_players

The origins of Lacrosse is often attributed to the Algonquins, but the Indians of the southeast played stickball for more than 1000 years.

“Among the Indian nations of the Southeast (Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, Natchez, Seminole), there were two basic ball games which were played. These games had both social and ceremonial meaning.

Stickball was played with two sticks per player. The ball sticks, made from hickory or pecan, were about two feet long and were bent at one end to form a racket. The balls were made from deerskin which was stuffed with deer or squirrel hair. Players would catch the ball between the nettings of their sticks and then throw it. They were not allowed to strike or catch the ball with their hands. The players, however, could tackle, block, or use any reasonable method to interfere with the other team’s movement of the ball.

Points were scored when a player hit the opposing team’s goal post with the ball. Among the Cherokee, a team had to be the first to score 12 points in order to win. The Creek, however, required 20 points in order to win.

The field for the game might be as long as 500 yards or as short as 100 yards. The object of the game was to get the ball between two goal posts or to strike one of the poles with the ball.

Stickball was often used to settle issues between Choctaw communities. This approach to settling internal issues reduced the possibility of civil war. In these instances, the goal posts might be located within each opposing team’s village which meant that the goal posts would be several miles apart.

Among the Choctaw, the players were not allowed to wear moccasins or any clothing other than a breechclout. On the night prior to a game, there would be a dance in which the players would dance in their ballplay outfits and rattle their ballsticks together.

Among some of the tribes, players would not eat rabbit prior to a game as it was felt that this might cause them to become frightened and confused. They also avoided eating frogs because this would make them susceptible to broken bones. Players would generally fast before the game.

The number of players varied greatly. Sometimes there were games with as few as nine players per side, while other times there were games with several hundred players on the field. A game might last several days. Play was rough and it was not uncommon for the players to suffer severe bruises and even broken bones.

The Southeastern nations also have a single pole ball game which is played in ritual context. Like stickball, the single pole game is played with sticks and a small ball. In this game there is a single pole, about 25 feet high, with a wooden effigy of a fish at the top. Seven points are scored when a player manages to strike the fish with the ball. Striking the pole scores two points.

This game has been played for more than 1,000 years. The game is often played in association with the Busk (or Green Corn Ceremony). The game, which is played on sacred ground, brings a sense of balance and harmony by bringing the secular and sacred together.” From: https://nativeamericannetroots.net/diary/949

 

 

Natchez Trace From Ross Barnett Reservoir to Natchez State Park

As I drove the Natchez Trace Parkway, stopping at each marker to learn the history and see the sights, I was impressed by the depth of history of this ancient road. The Native American history is told pretty well, although it left me wanting to know more. Then the thoughts and stories of the European settlers who walked this trail for 500 miles back to their homes is amazing. Making 20-25 miles a day on foot, carrying gear and a heavy rifle for a month is no small feat. As travel increased, “stands” were built along the way for travelers to sleep and eat. Usually they were small, with many sleeping on the floor, but that’s still better than sleeping in the woods with no shelter from the rains or cold.

Talk about walking, the Trail of Tears crosses the Trace, and Native Americans were made to walk to Oklahoma. They had inadequate food or shelter, and many died along the way.

Rocky Springs is an abandoned 1790’s town where about a 2’616 people had lived and farmed. When and the poorly managed land gave out, it was abandoned. All that remains is a beautiful brick church built in 1836 that is still in use today.

There was a stop to view the “Sunken Trace”. You could easily see how bandits could have full advantage in this area.

Natchez Trace Meriwether Lewis Campground to Ross Barnett Reservoir

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Elvis’ birthplace in Tupelo, Mississippi includes a museum and beautiful grounds. “When Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto passed through this area in 1540, he encountered an established Chickasaw Indian civilization nestled in the wooded hills and valleys. The Chikasaw, who had a reputation as fierce fighters, ultimately drove de Soto westward toward the Mississippi River, the ‘discovery’ for which he is perhaps most famous.’ from Guide to the Natchez Trace Parkway by F. Lynne Bachleda. De Soto came with 700 armed men on horseback. It is a story of torture, enslavement and murder.

Tupelo is also the sight of a battle in the French and Indian war, with the Chickasaws joining the British. There was also a Civil War battle here. The town was originally named for the native Tupelo tree. It was home of the Chickasaw and Choctaws for thousands of years. Mud Creek and Town Creek intersect here, and there are many surrounding lakes, so it was a good area for hunting, fishing and planting for the native Americans. As with most places, there is much more to see in Tupelo.

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I visited the Chicasaw Council House at Pontatok, where tribal chiefs and leaders met in the 1820’s to adopt laws and treaties (that would not be good). This area also marks the National Trail of Tears. When all was said and done, the European settlers took their land and marched them to Oklahoma. The good news is that many return to their homeland for annual ceremonies.

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As Ed Brownfield reminded me, President Jefferson made the Trace a mail route and more of a road between Nashville and Natchez, which took them about two weeks to ride the 450 miles. It was a difficult, lonely and dangerous road. The white man’s use of the trail was to take their crops and goods down the Ohio or Tennessee Rivers on wooden rafts to the Mississippi and to Natchez. They would sell everything, including the wood from their raft. Then they would either ride or walk the Trace back to Nashville or into Kentucky. Since they were flush with cash, they were easy targets for bandits, especially in the sunken areas. They would sometimes travel in groups for safety, but that often slowed travel.

kaintucks

from: https://www.scenictrace.com/follow-the-path-of-the-kaintucks-on-the-natchez-trace/