American Locations 12 – Windsor Ruins, Mississippi

This trip is from the northern terminus of Natchez Trace National Road and off it at the southern terminus into Mississippi and Louisiana.

The next morning we drove north from Natchez State Park on Hwy. 61 toward Vicksburg. We turned northwest onto Rte. 552, which crossed Natchez Trace. We turned north onto Rodney Road, which led us into some swampy lowlands close to Bayou Pierre, just off the Mississippi River. Our destination was the Windsor Ruins. Here is a Wikipedia article concerning it:

Windsor mansion was located on a plantation that covered 2,600 acres (1,100 ha). The mansion was constructed by enslaved African Americans between 1859 and 1861 for Smith Coffee Daniell II. He was born in Mississippi and had acquired great wealth by age 30 as a cotton planter. In 1849, Smith Daniell married his cousin Catherine Freeland (1830–1903). The couple had six children, with three surviving to adulthood.

Windsor mansion was built facing the Mississippi River, which formed the major transportation route. It was located about 4 mi (6.4 km) east of the river. The architect David Shroder supervised a crew of skilled artisans—carpenters, plasterers, masons, and painters—from Mississippi, northeastern states, and Europe to do finishing work on the mansion.

The footprint for Windsor mansion was set by 29 columns which supported a projected roof line that protected 9 ft (2.7 m) wide verandas on the second and third floors. The 29 columns were constructed of bricks that were covered with stucco. Each column was more than 3.5 ft (1.1 m) in diameter at the base and stood 40 ft (12 m) tall. The columns were constructed atop 10 ft (3.0 m) tall, paneled brick plinths that were almost 5 ft (1.5 m) square. Bricks were made in an onsite kiln. The fluted columns were crowned with ornate, iron Corinthian capitals. The columns were joined at the height of the third floor by ornamental iron balustrades.

Column capitals, balustrades, and four cast iron stairways were manufactured in St. Louis and shipped down the Mississippi River to the Port of Bruinsburg, about 2 mi (3.2 km) west of Windsor mansion.

Windsor mansion was constructed as a three-story block, consisting of a ground floor basement, with living quarters on the second and third floors. The main block was 64 ft (20 m) on each side. A three-story ell projected from the east side of the main block. The ell measured 59 ft (18 m) by 26.5 ft (8.1 m). Archeological examination suggests that outer walls were constructed of wood covered in stucco. When completed, the 17,000 sq ft (1,600 m2) mansion contained three hallways and 23 to 25 rooms, each with its own fireplace. A featured innovation for that time period was the inclusion of two interior bathrooms supplied with rainwater from a tank in the attic. In 1861, cost of construction was about US$175,000 (equal to $5,277,870 today).

The ground floor basement contained a school room, doctor’s office, dairy, commissary, and storage rooms. The second floor had a hallway flanked by the master bedroom, a bathroom, two parlors, a study and a library. In the ell off the second floor was the dining room. Connected to the dining room by a dumbwaiter was the kitchen, located on the ground floor. The third floor contained an additional bath and eight more bedrooms. Eight chimneys extended from the slate-covered roof, and a domed cupola with glass walls was constructed above the attic, over the main block of the mansion.

On April 12, 1861, Smith Daniell died at age 34, just weeks after construction of the mansion was completed.

Once the American Civil War began in 1861, Confederate forces used the Windsor mansion cupola as an observation platform and signal station. In the spring of 1863, as part of his Vicksburg campaign, Union General Ulysses S. Grant and 17,000 Union troops landed at the port of Bruinsburg and took control of Windsor mansion. Following the Battle of Port Gibson, the mansion was used by Union troops as a hospital and as an observation station. The Daniell family was allowed to live on the third floor of the mansion during the Union occupation.

Windsor mansion survived the war and continued to be used by the Daniell family as a home and for social gatherings in the area. During Reconstruction, the family derived income by leasing part of their vast land holdings.

For more than 100 years, the outward appearance of Windsor mansion was a matter of conjecture. But in the early 1990s, an 1863 sketch of Windsor mansion was discovered in the papers of a former Union officer, Henry Otis Dwight, of the 20th Ohio Infantry. Historians believe that Henry Dwight made the sketch while his unit was encamped on the grounds of the mansion.

On February 17, 1890, a fire started on the third floor when a guest dropped ashes from a cigarette or cigar into construction debris left by carpenters who were making repairs. Windsor mansion was destroyed leaving only the columns, balustrades, cast iron stairways, and pieces of bone china.

When Catherine Daniell died in 1903, her daughter, Priscilla Daniell, inherited the mansion property. Priscilla married Joseph Magruder, and the mansion site remained in the Magruder family until 1974, when they donated 2.1 acres (0.85 ha), containing the mansion ruins, to the state of Mississippi. The historic site contains 23 standing columns and 5 partial columns; it is administered by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

Through the years, three of the cast iron stairways, that survived the 1890 fire, disappeared from the site. The fourth stairway was moved to Alcorn State University and serves as the entrance to Oakland Memorial Chapel.

North of Windsor Ruins is a cemetery where members of the Daniell and Freeland families have been buried since the early 19th century. The earliest grave is that of Frisby Freeland (1747 – 1819), an American Revolutionary War soldier.

We stopped and walked all around the grounds.

In this one you can see our motor home in the distance.

A close-up of a capital.

We continued winding through the bayou country, which was an enjoyable scenic drive, to Port Gibson, where we turned north on Hwy. 61. This took us to Vicksburg.

Next Location – Vicksburg, Mississippi

American Locations 11 – Natchez, Mississippi 2

This trip is from the northern terminus of Natchez Trace National Road and off it at the southern terminus into Mississippi and Louisiana.

We drove across the Mississippi bridge for a short excursion into Louisiana. As usual, there was a lot of barge traffic.

We saw the bluffs we’d heard so much about, which of course were best viewed from the Louisiana side.

We drover a short distance downriver to the Frogmore Plantation.

Driving back across the river into Natchez, we parked our motor home at their riverfront park and walked around. There was a picturesque gazebo.

A lengthy walkway. Note the locks. That tradition has caught on everywhere there is a bridge.

The park was situated atop the bluffs, giving a good view of the river below.

We then got back in our motor home and drove around to see some of the other historic buildings.

Such as this church. The many spires are striking.

And several old mansions.

And our first Spanish moss-draped tree.

After another full day, it was back to our camp site in Natchez State Park to relax.

Next Location – Windsor Ruins

American Locations 10 – Natchez, Mississippi

This trip is from the northern terminus of Natchez Trace National Road and off it at the southern terminus into Mississippi and Louisiana.

We wanted to drive off the very southern end of the Natchez Trace, so we went 10 miles or so beyond Natchez State Park and had to double back on Hwy. 61 to 553, then go a short way south into the state park campground.

After resting a bit, we drove around to see the park. We found a large lake.

We stayed 3 nights and saw a good bit of Natchez. There was the bridge across the Mississippi River.

And a river access ramp.

After a good view of the Mississippi River, we drove to the visitor center. Where we learned we could have camped for free (with full hook-ups!), but we were already committed. We left the motor home parked there and walked around. Several blocks from the visitor center was the Rosalie Mansion and Gardens, which we toured.

As I’m sure you can guess, I wasn’t allowed to take photos inside. Here is a view of the Mississippi River from  the mansion’s spacious back yard.

Another with the bridge. Note the 2 paddlewheeler steamboats docked. I don’t know if they were casinos or just excursion boats.

And yet more barges. The Mississippi is really wide here, allowing a lot of traffic.

More exterior shots. There is an enclosed walkway between the main building and the kitchen. Because of fire hazards kitchens were never directly connected to the main house.

After our tour, we drove down to the riverfront. The Mississippi looks even wider when standing right on the bank.

There were some interesting old buildings preserved and repurposed into bars and restaurants.

And a casino. This is a new structure designed to look like an old building that might have been found on the riverfront a century ago.

Another view of the bridge spanning the Mississippi River.

And another barge. We saw a lot of these.

After a full day of touring we returned to Natchez State Park to crash at our site.

Next Location – Natchez, Mississippi 2

American Locations 9 – Natchez Trace Parkway south segment

This trip is from the northern terminus of Natchez Trace National Road and off it at the southern terminus into Mississippi and Louisiana.

That evening we hiked up to a church, with an old graveyard next to it.

The next day our first stop was to see Owens Creek Waterfall (app. MM52).

Next stop was Magnum Mounds (app. MM45).

These weren’t nearly as well maintained as others we had seen.

We stopped to hike another trail along the Trace, I’m not sure where it was.

But the trees were getting big there.

At Mount Locust (app. MM16) we stopped to roam around another old inn that had operated when the Trace was active.

There was one last burial mound to see, Emerald Mound (app. MM10). This was the largest of them all.

We drove 10 more miles and we were off the Trace and in the city of Natchez.

Next Location – Natchez, Mississippi

American Location 8 – Natchez Trace Parkway south-central segment

This trip is from the northern terminus of Natchez Trace National Road and off it at the southern terminus into Mississippi and Louisiana.

This morning the sun was shining and the wind was gone. A much better day. We set off south on the Trace in a much better mood. We felt like we had really dodged a bullet. Our first stop of the day was at French Camp (app. MM182). At this location there had once been an inn for travelers along the Trace. Several original buildings have been restored.

We stopped at Cole Creek next (app. MM177). Because of the storm 2 days ago, everything still looked flooded.

Then we stopped to hike to Hurricane Creek (app. MM164). More flooding.

At Myrick Creek (app. MM146) we hiked back to another swollen muddy creek.

At Cyprus Swamp (app. MM122) we hiked into a swamp. Now it looked like we were seriously getting south.

Our next stop was at Reservoir Overlook (app. MM105) to view the reservoir for Jackson.

This was the most traffic we encountered during our entire time on the Trace, when it passed through Jackson, Mississippi. We were so anxious to get away from the city and back out into the country that we didn’t stop again until we came to the third free campground on the Trace, Rocky Springs (app. MM55). Despite being near a major city, even this campground wasn’t crowded.

Next Location – Natchez Trace Parkway south segment

American Location 7 – Natchez Trace Parkway north-central segment 3

This trip is from the northern terminus of Natchez Trace National Road and off it at the southern terminus into Mississippi and Louisiana.

We got an early start the next morning and drove back to the visitor center. We were going to check on storm damage on the Trace, but we were too early and it wasn’t open yet. But the Trace wasn’t closed, so we figured the damage couldn’t bee too bad. We were wrong. There were trees down all over, and a lot of standing water (but nowhere was the road flooded). We saw a lot of trees and limbs along the side of the road. Apparently, crews had already gotten to work clearing the road. But there was one big tree down across the road they hadn’t gotten to yet, totally blocking it. Luckily, there was just enough space to drive around it, without getting stuck in the sodden ground. Good thing we hadn’t gotten started any earlier.

We were concerned about the road conditions, so we did not make many stops. Our first one was to hike to Black Belt Overlook (app. MM253).

We didn’t stop again until we reached Bynum Mounds (app. MM232), more Native American burial mounds.

We stopped to hike another section of the Old Trace (app. MM222).

We stopped at the next free campground on the Trace, Jeff Busby (app. MM193).

Although it was a muddy mess, we had stopped so early in the day I was too restless. I had energy I needed to burn off. So I slopped through the mud on their hiking trail.

Next Location – Natchez Trace Parkway south-central segment

American Location 6 – Natchez Trace Parkway north-central segment 2

This trip is from the northern terminus of Natchez Trace National Road and off it at the southern terminus into Mississippi and Louisiana.

Leaving Tishamongo State Park, we got back onto the Natchez Trace and continued south. Our first stop of the day was after crossing the Tom Bigbee Waterway (app. MM298).

We next stopped to see the Phar Mounds (app. MM287), more Native American burial mounds. There are a few along the Trace. As you can see, the farmers work around them.

Just a little way further we stopped to hike to Donivan Slough (app. MM285).

We pulled into a Parkway Visitor Center (app. MM265). A ranger there warned us that tornado warnings were out for the rest of the day and that night. So we cut our touring short to get off the Trace early and drive into nearby Tupelo, where we found a private campground that was down in a hole. The storms were bad that night, the motor home rocked all night long. We were glad we stopped at the visitor center, otherwise we would never have learned about the storms. And the chance to see a bit of Elvis Presley’s hometown.

Next Location – Natchez Trace Parkway north-central segment 3

American Location 5 – Tishomingo State Park, Mississippi

This trip is from the northern terminus of Natchez Trace National Road and off it at the southern terminus into Mississippi and Louisiana.

We set up in the pines by the lake.

It was a nice view as dusk set in.

We stayed for 2 nights. The next day we hiked a long trail. We found this suspension bridge.

It crossed the Tishomingo River.

The trail took us by this old log house.

We took a look inside.

The trail continued to a spillway.

And around a pond that was dammed up.

The trail led to a spring.

And past some interesting rock formations.

Up to a small waterfall.

We made a new friend along the way.

At the end we crossed back over the river and back to our site.

After this nice break in driving, we were ready to set off again south down the Natchez Trace.

Next Location – Natchez Trace Parkway north-central segment 2

American Location 4 – Natchez Trace Parkway north-central segment

This trip is from the northern terminus of Natchez Trace National Road and off it at the southern terminus into Mississippi and Louisiana.

We started the day by exploring the campground. We were too tired to do much of that when we arrived. There was an inn on the Trace here. Merriwether Lewis, of Lewis and Clark fame, stayed here on one of his treks. Sadly, he committed suicide here for unknown reasons. This cabin is a replica of the one that was here at the time.

There is also a memorial.

We soon left the campground and continued south on the Trace. We stopped at another ford (app. MM384). This one had steps so you could cross without getting your feet wet.

Somewhere along the Trace we found a beaver dam.

After driving out of Tennessee into Alabama, our first stop in this state was at Colbert Ferry (app. MM324). This was the site of a ferry across the Tennessee River, which we had just crossed, before a bridge was constructed.

We stopped for a short hike to see Buzzard Roost Spring (app. MM320).

Also for a scenic overlook at Freedom Hills (app. MM317). We had a close encounter with a large hive of bees here. Needless to say, we fled.

We weren’t in Alabama for long. Shortly after crossing into Mississippi (app. MM310), we came to the first of several Native American burial mounds, Bear Creek Mound (app. MM309).

Just beyond this was Cave Spring (MM309).

We exited the Trace (app. 307) to camp at Tishomingo State Park.

Next Location – Tishomingo State Park, Mississippi

American Locations 3 – Natchez Trace Parkway north segment

This trip is from the northern terminus of Natchez Trace National Road and off it at the southern terminus into Mississippi and Louisiana.

This is the kind of rolling hills the northern end of the Parkway begins in at MM444.

Our first stop was at the Double Arch Bridge (app. MM438). This is such an unusual design.

There are many historical markers. This one (app. MM437) is for the soldiers in the War of 1812 who died along the road. Jackson’s army of Kentucky and Tennessee backwoods men marched this road to Natchez, then went on down the Mississippi River to defend New Orleans, where they defeated a much larger invading British force.

Our next stop was to take a short hike to see Jackson Falls (app. MM 405). Being early spring, it was running good.

There are many places to stop and get out of your vehicle to stretch your legs. We stopped at one just beyond Jackson Falls for a nice stroll in the woods.

There were creeks…

…and small falls along the way, I’m not sure about their exact locations.

There are also places along the Parkway you can exit to see. The first one we left the Trace for was Davey Crocket State Park.

There was a small collection of owls.

Along the Trace there is plenty of uncaged wildlife to see, such as turkey vultures.

The paved road follows the original trail, but is not built directly on it. There are many places where you can get out of your car and walk on the actual Trace (app. MM398). You can tell when you are on the original Trace by the way the path is sunken. So many years of foot, horse, and wagon travel have caused this.

We next stopped to hike down to a ford (app. MM390).

You can see the actual location of the old ford by where the creek runs across rocks.

The path led to the site of an old phosphate mine.

Our final stop of the day was at Merriwether Lewis Campground (app. MM387). There are 3 campgrounds on the Parkway. There are no hookups, but they do have bathrooms with running water. And they are free. So we took advantage of all 3.

Next Location – Natchez Trace Parkway north-central segment