Great Britain won Natchez after defeating the French in the 1760s and rule passed through Spanish and American hands until all Spanish claims to the land were surrendered to the United States in 1795. The county was named for President John Adams and Natchez was made the first capital of the new Mississippi Territory. The government would soon move to Washington six miles to the east but was back in Natchez in 1817 when Mississippi became the 20th state in the Union. In 1822 the legislature departed for good, to the more centrally located Jackson and after that the townsfolk got down to doing what they did best - making money.
Natchez was a key shipping post on the Mississippi River. Boatmen would float down the river from Kentucky and Ohio and sell their goods and their boats for lumber. Then they would pack up and head back north 500 or so miles on an old buffalo trail that came to be known as the Natchez Trace.
The first planters to the region tried the great Colonial cash crop, tobacco, but it didn’t take. Then they tried cotton. So much cotton was grown and shipped out of Natchez that the town could lay claim to being the wealthiest planters in America. Natchez was hurt by the Civil War but one thing the conflict did not take away was its housing stock. The town surrendered in 1862 and remained in Union hands for the rest of the rebellion. It emerged with more antebellum homes than just about anywhere.
Those mansions remain the backbone of Natchez’s identity. Beginning in 1932 many of the historic homes were opened to visitors in the Spring Pilgrimage. The event has expanded to four weeks when residents and friends connected to the antebellum homes don costumes and greet pilgrims. The doors to natchez don’t have to open for its rich heritage to be on view, as we will discover on our walking tour which will kick off where the town began, on the bluffs atop the Mississippi River...