Natchez is the oldest city on the Mississippi River. Many of the early Natchez residents rest here, at the Historic Natchez City Cemetery. In fact, after this cemetery was opened over two hundred years ago, many people buried behind St. Mary Basilica and on plantations were moved to this site. As one of the oldest burial grounds in the state, this gorgeous cemetery is listed on the National Registrar of Historic Places. It was much too hot to fully enjoy the cemetery (although we tried), it was mostly a driving tour for us. Many of the interesting markers on this 100 acre tract went unseen, including the one that reads, “Louise. The Unfortunate.” Very unfortunate.
St. Mary’s Cathedral was dedicated in 1843; it is the oldest catholic building still in use in Mississippi. In 1998, Rome granted St. Mary the status of ‘minor basilica’, allowing its name to change to St. Mary Basilica. This antebellum (pre-civil war) church is recognized as an architectural masterpiece of the south and is also listed on the National Registrar of Historic Places.
Continuing on our National Registrar of Historic Places tour, Longwood is the largest octagonal house in the United States. Construction of this 30,000 square foot mansion stopped due to the Civil War and, although the owner sided with the north, all of his crops were burned by the union. Dr. Nutt went from being one of the richest men in the United States to a doctor in debt. The Nutt family was living in what should have been the basement at the time of the war, and for a hundred and fifty years, descendants continued to live in the 10,000 square foot basement, never completing the octagonal mansion. Visitors are not permitted to take pictures in the living area, but it is filled with the Nutt family’s original furniture, commode chairs, paintings, books, and other belongings. There is also a large commissioned portrait of one of their 800 slaves, Mr. Nutt’s personal assistant, hanging in their living quarters.
In the 1850s, half of the millionaires in the United States lived atop the Natchez Bluffs, overlooking the Mississippi River. There are 600 Natchez homes listed on the National Registrar of Historic Places, more historic places per square mile than anywhere else in the nation.
Our evening ended settled on the bluffs, watching Independence Day fireworks launched from a barge floating on the Mississippi River. Afterwards, we walked along the river, watching fireflies glowing all sorts of shades of green.