2017: Natchez

Rosalie Mansion

April 13


On our first full day in Natchez, we were off to visit some of the local historic places. We started out at the city's visitor center, which was pretty impressive for a town of about 15,000.

The visitor center had a huge wall of placards detailing the history of Natchez, from the native American tribe of the same name, through slavery and the Civil War, up to more recent days when tourism has become the #1 industry. It was almost like a museum without exhibits. We browsed until our eyes started to cross from TMI. The ladies who staffed the place were full of helpful information. We took off with a fistful of brochures and headed for one of the town's historic mansions.

Rosalie Mansion was built in 1823 for a planter whose plantation land was across the Mississippi in Louisiana. The house sits right on the bluff and its grounds have a beautiful view of the river.

Since 1938, the house has been owned by the DAR. We were greeted at the door by a sweet lady in full Southern-belle costume, more authentic than our guide at Houmas House in New Orleans. Unfortunately we would not get a guided tour of the house today; a river-cruise boat was in town and the passengers have very limited time for sightseeing, so on "boat days" there are only self-guided tours.

Rosalie survived like so many antebellum Natchez homes because the town was largely undamaged by (as a brochure so quaintly called it) the "War Between the States". Natchez surrendered shortly after the fall of New Orleans in 1862, and when nearby Vicksburg was captured in 1863 and the Mississippi River was under northern control, the Union forces used Rosalie as their headquarters. Many items from that time survived because the general in charge ordered that the furniture and fragile pieces be locked away in the attic until the occupation was over.

For some reason, they ask you not to take pictures inside the mansion, but Mikey managed to sneak a few anyway. The parlor contained some wonderful antique furniture, including some chairs and sofas by John Henry Belter, a New York master furniture craftsman from the mid-1800s. These vintage pieces are worth many thousands of dollars today. They would not be the only examples we saw in Natchez, illustrating just how wealthy the 19th-century cotton planters were.

There was a wonderful veranda on the second floor, with lovely views of the yard and its oak trees.

We learned something new from a docent lady on the second floor. These bells hanging outside above the door were used to summon the slaves from the kitchen or from their quarters. Each bell corresponded to one of the four rooms upstairs. Each bell had a different sound, so the servant would know which room to go to.

I talked with this docent for some time while we were upstairs. I don't remember exactly how the subject arose, but in response to my questions she said quite directly that racist attitudes are alive and well in Natchez. It wasn't really a surprise, I guess, but I had hoped for better.

We got back to the RV park in time to explore a bit. We discovered a nice paved riverwalk right along the riverbank. We rode our bikes from one end to the other, about a mile in total and got some great views of the bridge.

That evening, we were treated to another lovely sunset. Max must have been very busy while we were gone, because he looked worn out.