Airstream Time

Exploring North America in an Airstream

Posts tagged ‘Natchez Trace’

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 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/

 

Natchez Trace From Meriwether Lewis Campground

Seven Points Campground was added to my list of favorite campgrounds

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Leaving Charlottesville, I drove i64 to i81 to i40 and some back roads to Seven Points Campground on Percy Priest Dam and Lake southeast of Nashville. This is a great campground with lots of room, great staff and site-preparation, on a beautiful lake. I had two goals: visit my cousin and his wife in Somerville, Alabama and to explore the Natchez Trace

Driving from Seven Points to Meriwether Lewis Campground took longer than I thought it would. Traffic was heavy around Nashville, so I didn’t want to go into the city to get to the end of the Trace. It runs from Natchez to Nashville, so I was going to drive it “backwards”. I got on at Pasquo, south of I40. I was sorry to have missed the Loveless Cafe, just north of this, but it was mid-morning by then.

The Natchez Trace Parkway is a 444-mile recreational road and scenic drive through three states. It roughly follows the “Old Natchez Trace” a historic travel corridor used by American Indians, “Kaintucks,” European settlers, slave traders, soldiers, and future presidents. Today, people can enjoy not only a scenic drive but also hiking, biking, horseback riding, and camping along the parkway. https://www.nps.gov/natr/index.htm

That’s the extent of what I knew about the Trace, but there is a lot more. It is a 444 mile National Park that you can drive, hike, bike or ride a horse. It is beautiful, changing subtly through different landscapes, soils, hills and bayous. The trees are magnificent, huge and seemingly untouched for generations. There is a lot of history. The trail was originally made by migrating game (buffalo and others) along the west side of the Appalachian Mountains. Native Americans followed these trails for thousands of years before the arrival of the Kaintucks. By the 1600’s, three tribes inhabited these regions – the Chickasaw in the north, Choctaw in the middle and Natchez in the south. 2,000 years ago, they were the Missippians, skillful farmers and great mound-builders, similar to the natives of Mexico. Approximately 10 million natives inhabited North American before Columbus. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Population_history_of_indigenous_peoples_of_the_Americas

For travelers throughout time, it was difficult. With frequent storms, trees fell, streams changed course and there was flooding, so the trail was seldom in one place. Rather there might be many trails. Yet, there are many beautiful campsites alongside creeks, streams and rivers. Today you can drive the Trace, walk it, ride a bike or ride a horse. A casual drive through the park might seem boring to some, but the more you explore, the more complex it gets. There is no charge to travel this national park, and there are three free campgrounds along the way. The Trace itself has many forms. Sometimes it is a dirt road, at times a narrow trail, sometimes deep or sunken.