Peruse some interesting facts and get the tidbits of information you need before you visit. The more you know before you get here, the more time you can spend taking it all in.
How old are you? — Natchez, was first settled by the French in 1716, two years before New Orleans, Louisiana, and is the oldest settlement on the Mississippi River. The city once boasted more than 500 millionaires, more than any other city in the United States, except New York. Natchez also has the largest concentration of antebellum, or pre-Civil War, structures in the country. Each year some of these houses are opened for touring during Spring and Fall Pilgrimages and many remain open to the public year-round.
Going green — Dr. Haller Rush Nutt used solar panels (strategically place mirrors) to reflect the sun’s rays for the purpose of heating water in the antebellum house Longwood. The historic building is the largest remaining octagonal house in the United States. It was under construction before the Civil War. When the war started the workmen, who were from the north, abandoned saws and hammers and returned home. Dr. Nutt, also a northerner, lost his wealth and plantations across the river in Louisiana and died a broken man. Longwood remains unfinished today, but that is part of its charm. A visit will take you through the rooms and corridors of this most unusual house where you will find the workmen’s tools left where they were dropped, abandoned in their haste to flee the South.
Drinking with the Devil — The “Devil’s Punch Bowl,” located near Natchez is one of nature’s freak occurrences. It is a gigantic, semi-circular pit, somewhat cone-shaped. Connected with this uncanny spot are countless traditions of river pirates, runaway slaves, buried treasures and other involvements with adventure and romance.
Native sons — Between 1682 and 1729, the Grand Village was the center of activities for the Natchez Indians. In 1730, the Natchez Indians attacked Fort Rosalie, in Natchez, killing the French settlers. In retaliation, the French attacked the Natchez Indians. Those that were not killed, escaped and were absorbed by other tribes of the region. According to A History of Mississippi, by Robert Lowery, the Natchez Indian nation was one of Mississippi’s early tribes, that could be traced to Mexico where they aided Cortez in the conquest of the country and the overthrow of Montezuma. Mr. Lowery contends that the Natchez were of a light mahogany complexion, with jet black hair and eyes; their expression was intelligent, open and noble…, they were tall in statue, very few being under six feet. Unfortunately, the Natchez Indians have joined the ranks of the extinct so that we cannot know, first hand, what they were like.
Lights, Camera, Action —Mary Astor, Elizabeth Taylor, Montgomery Clift, John Wayne, Muhammed Ali, Drew Barrymore, Alec Baldwin, Patrick Swayze, Ralph Waite, Genevieve Bujold, Gerald McRaney … Natchez has a star-studded movie history that spans almost the entire 20th century, one of the earliest movies, “Heart of Maryland” in 1920, and one of the most recent, “The Lady Killers” in 2003. Natchez has been the backdrop for many Hollywood productions and independent films, including “Beulah Land,” the mini-series “North and South” and the television series “The Mississippi.”
Down Under — Natchez-Under-The-Hill was called Natchez Landing at the turn of the nineteenth century, when it began to acquire an infamous reputation as “the most notorious spot on the Mississippi River.” Above the hill the wealthy of Natchez looked down upon the rougher elements of river life that flowed in a steady stream as constant as the river itself. Here could be found the gaming halls and dens of vice where the lawless villainy gathered, as well as bustling wharves, cluttered warehouses, shops and boisterous saloons. Today, much of the area has been washed away by the river and all that remains is the ever busy Silver Street where scenes were filmed for such movies as “North and South,” and most recently, Disney’s “Huck Finn.” Gaming has also returned to this historic district in the form of the luxurious Isle of Capri Casino, where Law Vegas style gambling can be enjoyed 24 hours a day.