Thursday, March 13, Jackson MS
A great spring day and a delightfully nice place to stay in Jackson. A boutique type hotel, it is set up like a suite, has a patio-garden-pool on the ground level and a garden on the roof. Next time you are in Jackson, MS, try out the Old Capitol Inn. In its former life, it was the YWCA.
The Natchez Trace is a 440 mile long parkway extending from Nashville, TN to Natchez, MS. It was an Indian path for the Natchez, Choctaw and Chickasaw nations. It gained “fame” as the path used by men from the Ohio River valley who floated crops, livestock and other material from that area down the Ohio and Mississippi to Natchez and New Orleans.
Since steamboats did not go into wide use until the 1815 or later, these men walked or rode horses back to their homes along the Natchez Trace. Today it is a smooth auto route controlled by the National Park Service. Biking and walking are allowed but we did not see much, no separate trails exist and shoulders are non-existent.
Our experience with the Natchez Trace was only from Natchez to Jackson, about 100 miles. The first stop was at the site of the first female academy in Mississippi. The Elizabeth Academy was chartered in 1811 and only lasted until 1845. One wall of one building still stands.
We stopped at Emerald Mound. Emerald Mound is the second largest Mississippian Period ceremonial mound in the U.S. Built and used between the years 1200 and 1730 AD, the mound covers eight acres and is 35 feet high at its tallest point.
These mounds were still in use when the Spanish explorer DeSoto came by in mid 1500s. By the late 1600s, they were pretty much abandoned. The best guess is that European introduced disease and internal strife led to the decline in numbers of the Indian cultures.
Another stop was at Mount Locust. This is the last remaining inn on the Natchez Trace. Inn may be a strong word, but it was a log building constructed in 1779. Travelers could obtain a covered place to sleep and a bit of food before continuing their journey back north. We took a walk along a portion of the original trace which still exists in many areas. A little farther along we hiked a portion of the “Sunken Trace”, a bit of the trail that is about 10 feet below the surrounding area. The trace here was located on deep deposits of sand blown in from the Great Plains and it was easily eroded and worn down.
Our final stop was at the “town of Rocky Springs”. Its population in 1860 was 2600. It was unclear from the signs if this number included 2000 slaves or if the 2000 slaves were in addition to the 2600. In any event its population today is zero. A Methodist church still stands here but the congregation has shrunk and no longer uses the building for church services. Over use of the land, yellow fever, cholera, boll weevil infestations and other problems led to its demise.
We had lunch at the Froghead Grill outside Jackson and proceeded to the Old Capitol. This was Mississippi’s first capitol, constructed 175 years ago and replaced about 110 years ago. Maintenance and upkeep had been spotty over the years but it has been improved nicely and now houses some history exhibits. The building is not beautiful but stately. The state wanted a prestige look but it also was thrifty and used convict labor and construction methods that took plain materials and made them appear to be fancier stone or marble.
The state displays are clear about the denial of voting rights to blacks and also the ejection of the Indian tribes from their lands here. This state, like many others, endured debates from competing factions over the location of the capitol. In the end, the capital was located in the center of the state as it existed at the time. Indian lands were not factored into the calculation. The later assumption of their lands placed Jackson not in the actual center of the state.
As mentioned at the beginning, our lodging for this one night in Jackson is at the Old Capitol Inn. Our dinner was at the Underground 119 with live music, folk instead of blues, but the female musician had a nice voice and I recognized the songs.
Ed and Chris 10 pm