Wingding 2015 Day05

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Aerial View of Natchez Trace Parkway Arch Bridge

Aerial View of Natchez Trace Parkway Arch Bridge

 

Natchez Trace Map (118k)
Natchez Trace


Old Natchez Trace near Port Gibson MS. Originally, the Natchez Road was a series of linked game trails, latter used by America’s ancient First People. In historic times, the two major First Nations that controlled the area through which the trail ran were the Choctaw and the Chickasaw. When the old trail started to receive names, it was given three, one for each part. From Natchez northeastward, it was called the “Path to Choctaw Nation,” the middle section through the Choctaw Nation was known as the “Choctaw-Chickasaw Trail, ” the northern most leg of this rude path ran through Chickasaw Nation and to Nashville Tennessee. This part was known as the “Chickasaw Trace.” The name “Mountain Leader’s Trace” was applied to at least the nothern part during the early days. As a whole, the trail became know as the Natchez Road, the Federal Road, the Boatman’s Trail, and finally, the Natchez Trace.

Part of today’s Mississippi and Alabama became the Territory of Mississippi on 7 May 1798. The narrow strip of land contained “Path to Choctaw Nation, ” that is, Natchez through Port Gibson into Choctaw country. The eyes of the United States were starting to look south.

In 1800, the U.S. Congress established a postal route between Nashville and the capitol of the Territory of Mississippi in Natchez. The mail route was known officially as “Road from Nashville in the State of Tennessee to the Grindstone Ford of the Bayou Pierre in the Mississippi Territory.”

In 1801, the United States treated with the Chickasaw, and obtained the right to build a road through the Chickasaw Nation.

From the 1801 treaty:
“The Mingco, principal men and warriors of the Chickasaw nation of Indians, give leave and permission to the President of the United States of America, to lay out, open and make a convenient wagon road through their land between the settlements of Mero District in the state of Tennessee, and those of Natchez in the Mississippi Territory, in such way and manner as he may deem proper; and the same shall be a high way for the citizens of the United States, and the Chickasaws.” (See full treaty text)

On 30 April 1803 the United States signed an agreement with France to purchase Louisiana country. Soon after, this vast tract of land became the Territory of Louisiana. Early use of the Road was for commercial and private inland travel, it soon became an important military road. In 1803 and 1804, Tennessee Volunteers marched over it to insure that the Louisiana Purchase agreement would not be disputed by Spain.

On 27 March 1804 a large tract of land was added to the Mississippi Territory. While the Natchez Road never reached into the Territory of Louisiana, it is important to recognize that the United States was moving southwest, and for about thirty years, the Natchez Road played a important part in the development of that southwestern country. (See the Territory of Mississippi map)

In the early 1800s, many Tennessee and Kentucky farmers would take their farm goods to the lucrative New Orleans market. They built flatboats for their goods. They floated down the Cumberland, Duck and Tennessee Rivers to the Ohio River, then to the Mississippi River and southward to Natchez and New Orleans.

When is was time to return, the flatboats would be sold, or if necessary, abandoned. If they had made a good sale, they might buy a horse for their return trip. If the sale was bad, they might return on foot. In any case, in those early years, the route of choice was the Natchez Road. When the Kentuckians arrived at Nashville, they would continue to central Kentucky via the “Wilderness Road.”

It is these return trips that have made the Natchez Road famous (or perhaps infamous would be a better choice of words here). There are stories of murders along the Natchez Road. The farmers would be killed, then disemboweled, their body cavities filled with stones, and then the bodies would be submerged in some nameless creek.

To the farmer, the stands would be a welcome sight. Even the most rude stand could offer some protection and a meager meal. Generally, the stands were located five to six miles apart, but not so in the early times of the road.

Meriwether Lewis. The most well known death along the “Trace” is the 11 October 1809 death of Meriwether Lewis, Governor of the United States Territory of Louisiana. This man, famous as co-leader of the Lewis and Clark expedition, allegedly committed suicide at Griner’s Stand. Lewis’s traveling companion, Major James Neely, arrived at the death scene a few hours after the event. Major Neely wrote this to Thomas Jefferson: “It is with extreme pain that I have to inform you of the death of His Excellency Meriwether Lewis, Governor of Upper Louisiana who died on the morning of the 11th Instant and I am sorry to say by Suicide.” Still, there are many today who question the suicide, believing instead that Lewis was probably murdered.

Until the time of removal during the late 1830s, many Indian families could operate stands (wayside inns) and ferries needed by travelers along the road. Those stands and ferries proved to be lucrative for some of the lucky few who owned the concessions. Still, by 1825, many stands had gone out of business. During the heyday of the trace, thousands of travelers used the road. Unfortunately, many of those same travelers illegally settled on Chickasaw and Choctaw land, especially during the 1830s. Since the Trace favored higher ground, i.e., ridge lines in order to avoid swamps, the early settlers would actually look for bottom land with richer soil than the ridges. The white settlers had a insatiable appetite for land so they squatted on Indian land and waited for the U.S. government to obtain “legal” title. When that happened, the Chickasaw and Choctaw were evicted to west of the Mississippi River.

Natchez Trace
The West Tennessee Natchez Trace †

West Tennessee, that is, that part of the state which is situated west of the north flowing part of the Tennessee River was Chickasaw country until they ceded all their land there (and in Kentucky too) to the United States on 19 October 1818. The treaty, known as the Great Chickasaw Cession opened west Tennessee for legal settlement.

Prior to the cession, the idea of a military road was conceived to run from the west side of the Tennessee River opposite of Reynoldsburg in Humphrys County south to Chickasaw Old Town in the Territory of Mississippi. At Chickasaw Old Town, this new road would connect to the original Natchez Trace.

In 1817, the United States Congress appropriated four thousand dollars for the purpose of opening the road. This road became known under a number of names, including Natchez Trace, Congress Trace, and Notchey.

Matthew Rhea’s 1832 Map of Tennessee shows the Notchey as the “Natchez Trace.” See enhanced detail section of West Tennessee from Rhea’ map. (83k)

The advent of steamboats in the 1820s reduced the importance of the both the original Natchez Trace and “the Notchey.” Much of those old roads became part of rural road systems. Today, the original Natchez Trace is a beautiful scenic parkway while the Notchey is in part, country roads, and in part, abandoned.

Notes

The stands shown on our map represent the most well know stands, but be aware that the stands came and went, and some changed names. Not all of these stands existed with these names at the same time. Additionally, in places along the route there were parallel roads. A lower road might be easier in the summer, but less favorable in the early spring.

Chickasaw Old Town; a.k.a., Chickasaw Oldtown, M‘Intoshville, McIntoshville, McIntosh’s, Tockshish, and Tockshish’s Stand. A postoffice was established there before 1803.

Bibliography

Coates, Robert M., The Outlaw Years: The History of the Land Pirates of the Natchez Trace Macaulay Co. 1930. Stories of murder and more along the Natchez Trace. Often found in used books stores. It has been reprinted by University of Nebraska 1986, ISBN: 080326318X and perhaps others.

Daniels, Jonathan, The Devil’s Backbone: The Story of the Natchez Trace. McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1962. More stories of murder along the Natchez Trace.

Davis, William C., A Way Through the Wilderness: The Natchez Trace and the Civilization of the Southern Frontier. HarperCollins Publishers, NY, 1995. ISBN 0-06-016921-4
This is a excellent and worthy work. Much of our map information came from this book.

Smith, Jonathan Kennon Thompson, The West Tennessee Natchez Trace, an online publication of David Donahue.


Windsor Ruins 

Built in 1859-61 by Smith Daniell who only lived in the large mansion for a few weeks before he died. The Windsor plantation once sprawled over 2,600 acres. Legend says that from a roof observatory, Mark Twain watched the Mississippi River in the distance.

A Yankee soldier was shot in the front doorway of the home. During the Civil War the mansion was used as a Union hospital and observation post, thus sparing it from being burned by Union troops.

However, after the Civil War, during a house party on February 17, 1890 a guest left a lighted cigar on the upper balcony and Windsor burned to the ground. Everything was destroyed except 23 of the columns, balustrades and iron stairs.

From the Natchez Trace Parkway take Mississippi Highway 552 at milepost 30. Go west and follow the signs.

The Windsor Ruins are in Claiborne County in the U.S. state of Mississippi, about 10 miles (16 km) southwest of Port Gibson near Alcorn State University. The ruins are those of the largest antebellum Greek Revival mansion built in the state, and have been used in various motion pictures.

History[edit]

The original name of the property has been lost, however it is commonly known today as Windsor, or Windsor Ruins, a name derived from the sound of the wind whistling through the columns. At one time the plantation covered 2,600 acres (11 km2). Smith Coffee Daniell II, who was born in Mississippi in 1826, the son of an Indian fighter turned farmer and landowner, constructed the mansion itself in 1859-1861. In 1849 he married his cousin Catherine Freeland (1830–1903) by whom he had seven children, three of whom survived into adulthood.

Basic construction of the house, which was designed by David Shroder (Shroder also designed and built Rosswood, which is located in Lorman) was done by slave labor. The bricks for use in the 45-foot columns were made in a kiln across the road from the house. The columns were then covered with mortar and plaster. There were 29 of these columns supporting the projecting roof line with its plain, broad frieze and molded cornice. This provided protection for the galleries that encompassed the house at the second and third levels. The fluted columns had iron Corinthian capitals and were joined at the galleries by an ornamental iron balustrade.

Skilled carpenters were brought in from New England for the finished woodwork. The iron stairs, column capitals and balustrades were manufactured in St. Louis and shipped down the Mississippi River to the Port of Bruinsburg, several miles west of Windsor.

The mansion cost about $175,000 (equal to $4,593,426 today) to build and was completed in 1861. However Smith Daniell lived in the home only a few weeks before he died at the age of 34.

When completed, Windsor contained over 25 rooms, each with its own fireplace. Among other innovations, the mansion featured interior baths supplied with water from a tank in the attic.

On the main floor, flanking the broad hall, were the master bedroom, a bath, two parlors, a study and the library. In the ell off this part of the structure was located the dining room. Directly below in the above-ground basement was the kitchen, with the two connected by a dumbwaiter. Also in this basement were a school room, an on-site dairy, several storage rooms, a commissary and a doctor's office.

On the third floor were an additional bath and nine more bedrooms.

Above the smaller fourth floor (which had a ballroom, but was never finished) was a roof-top observatory.

During the American Civil War, the home was used by both Union and Confederate troops.

Confederate forces used the roof observatory as an observation platform and signal station. After the capture of the area by Union forces, the mansion was used as a hospital following the Battle of Port Gibson and as an observation station.

The home survived the war and continued to be used for social gatherings in the area. Mark Twain stayed at the home and is said to have used the roof observatory to observe the Mississippi River.

On 17 February 1890, a guest left a lighted cigar on a balcony (it is also said that someone dropped a cigar or cigarette in a pile of wood chips left by carpenters working on the 3rd floor). The family said the fire started around 3:00 in the afternoon. Having planned a seated dinner, they had gone into town to pick up the mail. As they were riding back, they saw flames shooting through the shingled roof. The fire burned from top to bottom making it impossible to extinguish, and the house was completely destroyed in the conflagration.

The only remnants today are 23 haunting columns, a few pieces of china, and a set of the wrought-iron stairs and portions of the balustrade. The flight of stairs and the balustrade are now used at Alcorn State University's chapel down the road.

Near Windsor, atop an Indian mound, is a cemetery where members of the family have been buried since the early 19th century. The earliest grave is that of Frisby Freeland, an American Revolutionary War soldier.

Windsor Ruins in 2007

Windsor's ruins have appeared in several motion pictures including the 1957 filmRaintree County starring Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift and most recently in the 1996 movie Ghosts of Mississippi with Whoopi Goldberg, Alec Baldwin andJames Woods.

Also in the nearby area are the site of the town of Rodney, Mississippi, the Shaifer House, and the Bethel Presbyterian Church, founded in 1826. The ghost town of Rocky Springs, Mississippi is also nearby, which has only one building standing and that is the church.

The actual appearance of the mansion has been mainly conjecture since the original plans, along with all of the Daniell family photographs and drawings, were destroyed in the fire. However, in 1991, historians discovered a drawing by Henry Otis Dwight, an officer in the 20th Ohio Infantry, made while his unit was encamped on the grounds of the home. It is thought that Windsor was the first mansion Union troops encountered following Grant's crossing of the river in May 1863 in his effort to cut off Vicksburg from the south.

Windsor Ruins were added to the National Register of Historic Places on November 23, 1971 and are administered by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History's Division of Historic Sites and Archaeology.