Natchez is the county seat
of, and the largest and only incorporated city within, Adams
County, Mississippi, United
As of the 2000 census, the city had a total
population of 18,464. One of Mississippi's oldest cities, it was
founded by French colonists in 1716,
antedating the current capital city, Jackson, by more than a century.
Located along the
, Natchez is the
southern terminus of the Natchez
. The city is famous in American history
for its role
in the development of the Old
, particularly with respect to its location on the
the principal city of the Natchez, MS–LA Micropolitan Statistical
Pre-European settlement (to 1716)
The original site of Natchez was the main ceremonial village of the
(pronounced "Nochi") Indian
tribe, who occupied the area for countless generations (and whose
culture was unbroken since the 8th-century, according to
archaeological findings). Many early explorers, including Hernando De Soto
, La Salle and Bienville,
made contact with the Natchez, some of whom left detailed records
of their encounters. The Natchez's society was divided into nobles
and commoners according to matrilineal
descent. The supreme Natchez chief, the "Great Sun", owed his
position to the rank of his mother.
The flat-topped ceremonial mounds built by the Natchez show the
influence of moundbuilding cultures to the north in the Middle
Mississippi River Valley (see Mississippian culture
). At Natchez, the
Grand Village of
the Natchez Indians is preserved as a National Historic Landmark (NHL)
and maintained by the Mississippi Department of Archives and
Nearby Emerald Mound, an earlier NHL ceremonial
center also in Adams County, may be visited just off the Natchez Trace Parkway
at mile marker
Colonial history (1716-1783)
In 1716 the French founded Fort Rosalie
to protect their trading post established in the Natchez territory
in 1714. Permanent French settlements and plantations were
subsequently established. The French inhabitants of the "Natchez
colony" often found themselves in conflict with the Natchez, who
were increasingly split into pro-French and pro-English
After several smaller wars, the Natchez (together with Chickasaws
and Yasous) launched a final war in November 1729, which came to be
known as the "Natchez War" or Natchez Massacre, during which they
destroyed the French colony at Natchez. On November 28
Natchez Indians killed a total of 229 French colonists: 138 men, 35
women, and 56 children (the largest death toll by an Indian attack
in Mississippi's history). Counterattacks by the French and their
Indian allies over the next two years resulted in most of the
Natchez Indians being killed, enslaved, or forced to flee as
refugees. After surrender in 1731, the leader and
several hundred prisoners were taken to New Orleans to be sold as slaves and shipped to Saint-Domingue, as ordered by the French
prime minister Maurepas.
Many of the refugees who escaped enslavement ultimately became part
of the Creek
nations. Descendants of the Natchez
diaspora survive as the Natchez
, a treaty tribe and confederate of the federally
recognized Muscogee Nation
with a sovereign traditional government. Subsequently, Fort
Rosalie and the surrounding town, which was renamed after the
extinguished tribe, spent periods under British and then
Spanish colonial rule before finally being ceded by Great
Britain to the United
States under the terms of the Treaty of Paris .
Spain was not a party to the treaty, and it was Spanish forces that
had taken Natchez from the British. Although the Spanish were
loosely allied with the American colonists, it was more an alliance
of convenience for them, as an opportunity to advance their
interests at the expense of the British. Once the war was over, the
Spanish were not particularly inclined to give up that which they
had taken by force. For a time, possession was, indeed,
"nine-tenths of the law" as far as Natchez was concerned, and the
Spanish retained control. A census of the Natchez district taken
after the war in 1784 counted 1,619 people, including 498
Under the early republic (1783-1860)
late 18th-century Natchez was the starting point of the Natchez Trace overland route, which ran from
Natchez to Nashville,
Tennessee through what is now Mississippi, Alabama, and
"The Parsonage", Historic house in
Produce and goods were transported by the
, who usually sold their wares at
Natchez or New Orleans, including their boats (as lumber). They
then made the long trek back north overland to their homes. The
boatmen were locally called "Kaintucks" because they were usually
from Kentucky, although the entire Ohio River Valley was
well-represented among their numbers.
On October 27
the U.S. and Spanish signed the Treaty of San Lorenzo
settling their decade-long boundary dispute, by which all Spanish
claims to Natchez were formally surrendered to the United States.
However, it took another three years for the official orders to
reach the Spanish garrison there, which then surrendered the fort
and possession of Natchez to American forces led by Captain Isaac
Guion on March 30, 1798. A week later, when the Mississippi Territory
was created by
administration, Natchez became
its first capital. After several years as the territorial capital,
a new capital was built six miles to the east and named
"Washington" (also located in Adams County). After roughly fifteen
years in this role, on 10 December 1817, the capital reverted back
to Natchez, which became the first capital of the new state of
Mississippi, before being transferred yet again to Washington sometime later. Finally, as the
state's population shifted north and eastward, the capital was
moved to the more centrally located city of Jackson in 1822.
Throughout the course of the early nineteenth century, however,
Natchez remained the center of economic activity for the young
state, due to its strategic location on the high bluffs on the
eastern bank of the Mississippi
, which had enabled it to develop into a bustling port.
Natchez, many local plantation owners
loaded their cotton onto steamboats at the landing known as
Natchez-Under-the-Hill and transported their wares downriver to
Orleans or, sometimes, upriver to St. Louis,
Missouri or Cincinnati, Ohio, where the cotton would be sold and transported to
northern and European spinning mills.
Natchez District, along with the
Sea Islands of South Carolina and Georgia, pioneered cotton agriculture in the United
Until new hybridized breeds of cotton were created
in the early nineteenth century, it was unprofitable to grow cotton
in the United States anywhere other than those latter two areas.
Although South Carolina came to dominate the cotton plantation
culture of much of the Antebellum
, it was the Natchez District that first experimented with
hybridization, making the cotton boom possible.
On May 7
, an intense
struck Natchez. This tornado killed
269 persons, most of whom were on flatboats
in the Mississippi River
tornado killed 317 persons in all, making it the second deadliest
tornado in United
This tornado is today known as the
"Great Natchez Tornado
The terrain around Natchez on the Mississippi side of the river is
hilly. The city sits on a high bluff above the
Mississippi River; to reach the riverbank, one must travel down a
steep road to the landing called Silver Street, which is in marked
contrast to the flat "delta" lowland found across the river
surrounding the city of Vidalia, Louisiana.
Today, Natchez is well-known for the
mansions and estates
built by its early 19th-century planter society, many of whom owned
plantations in Louisiana but chose to locate their homes on the
higher ground in Mississippi. Prior to the American Civil War
, Natchez had the most
millionaires per capita of any city in the United States, making it
arguably the wealthiest city in the nation at the time. It was
frequented by notables such as Aaron
, Henry Clay
, Andrew Jackson
, Zachary Taylor
and Jefferson Davis
. Today the city boasts
that it has more antebellum homes than anywhere else in the United
States, partly due to the fact that during the War Natchez was spared the destruction of
many other Southern cities,
such as Vicksburg to the north.
American Civil War (1861-1865)
During the Civil War, Natchez remained largely undisturbed, but not
entirely. Natchez surrendered to Flag-Officer David G. Farragut
after the fall of New Orleans in
May 1862. In September, 1863, the Union ironclad USS Essex
, under Capt. William D. Porter
shelled the town but caused only
minor damage, although a seven year-old Jewish girl named Rosalie
Beekman was tragically killed. Union troops under Ulysses S. Grant
occupied Natchez in 1863; Grant set up his temporary headquarters
in the Natchez mansion Rosalie.
Confederate army forces attempted to
recapture Natchez in December 1863 but did not attack the town
itself because the C.S.A. forces were outnumbered.
Like almost everywhere else in the United States, numerous Natchez
residents did in fact fight or otherwise participate in the war and
many families lost their antebellum fortunes. The fact that the
town was largely spared the horrors of the war is illustrated by
the legend of the Battle of Natchez. According to this story, while
Union troops were being housed in Natchez, civilians and regular
bar owners gathered at the river landing to watch Union gunboats
travel the Mississippi River from Vicksburg down to New Orleans. In
one passing, a Union gunboat fired a blank from a cannon to rile up
the Union troops at Fort Rosalie. This caused an elderly man to
have a heart attack at Under the Hill–the one casualty in the
Battle of Natchez.
Despite the city's relatively peaceful atmosphere under Union
occupation, Natchez residents remained somewhat defiant of the
Federal authorities. In 1864, the Roman
of the Diocese of Natchez
William Henry Elder
, refused to
obey a federal order to compel his parishioners to pray for the
President of the United
. In response, the federals arrested Elder,
jailed him briefly and then banished him across the river to
Confederate-held Vidalia, Louisiana.
Elder was eventually allowed to return to
Natchez and resume his clerical duties there, staying until 1880,
when he was elevated to archbishop
Postwar period (1865-present)
Natchez was able to make a rapid economic comeback in the postwar
years, with the resumption of much of the commercial traffic on the
Mississippi River. In addition to cotton, the development of local
industries such as logging added to the exports through the city's
return, Natchez saw an influx of manufactured goods from Northern
markets such as Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis.
The city's prominent place in Mississippi River commerce over the
nineteenth century has been illustrated by the nine different
steamboats plying the lower river between 1823 and 1918 that were
, many of which were built for and commanded
by the famous Captain, Thomas P. Leathers, whom Jefferson Davis
had wanted to head the
fleet on the Mississippi River, though this appointment never was
concluded. In 1885, the Anchor Line
known for its luxury steamboats operating between St. Louis and New
Orleans, launched its "brag boat", the City of Natchez
survived only a year before succumbing to a fire at Cairo,
Illinois, on 28
Since 1975, an excursion steamboat at New
Orleans has also borne the name Natchez
Such river commerce sustained the city's economic growth until just
after the turn of the twentieth century, when steamboat traffic
began to be replaced by the railroads
city's economy declined over the course of the century, as in many
Mississippi river towns, although tourism has helped compensate for
In 1940, 209 people died in a fire at the Rhythm Night Club
. This fire has been
noted as the fourth deadliest fire in U.S. history.
A cinema verite account of the 1966 Civil Rights actions by local
NAACP leaders in Natchez was depicted by filmmaker Ed Pincus in his
film "Black Natchez." The film highlights the attempt to organize a
black community in the Deep South
during the heyday of the Civil
. A black leader has been car-bombed and a
struggle ensues in the black community for control. A group of
black men organize a chapter of the Deacons for Defense--a secret
armed self-defense group. The community splits between more
conservative and activist elements.
is also home to Small Luxury Hotel Monmouth Plantation, a circa 1818 Mansion once owned by Mexican War
hero John Anthony
's The Adventures of Huck
was partially filmed here in 1993. The 1982 television movie Rascals and Robbers:
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn
was also filmed
here. The television mini-series Beulah Land
filmed in Natchez, as well a number of individual weekly shows of
the TV drama The Mississippi
, starring Ralph Waite
Natchez is located at 31°33'16" latitude, 91°23'15" longitude
(31.554393, -91.387566) .
According to the United
States Census Bureau
, the city has a total area of
13.9 square miles (35.9 km²), of which, 13.2 square
miles (34.2 km²) of it is land and 0.6 square miles
(1.7 km²) of it is water. The total area is 4.62% water.
As of the census
of 2000, there were 18,464
people, 7,591 households, and 4,858 families residing in the city.
The population density
1,398.3 people per square mile (540.1/km²). There were 8,479
housing units at an average density of 642.1/sq mi
(248.0/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 44.18% White
, 54.49% African American
, 0.02% Pacific Islander
, 0.18% from
, and 0.63% from two
or more races. 0.70% of the population were Hispanic
of any race.
There were 7,591 households out of which 29.7% had children under
the age of 18 living with them, 36.6% were married couples
living together, 23.5% had a female
householder with no husband present, and 36.0% were non-families.
32.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.6% had
someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average
household size was 2.37 and the average family size was 3.00.
In the city the population was spread out with 26.5% under the age
of 18, 8.8% from 18 to 24, 24.3% from 25 to 44, 22.4% from 45 to
64, and 18.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was
38 years. For every 100 females there were 81.5 males. For every
100 females age 18 and over, there were 76.7 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $25,117, and the
median income for a family was $29,723. Males had a median income
of $31,323 versus $20,829 for females. The per capita income
for the city was
$16,868. 28.6% of the population and 25.1% of families were below
the poverty line
. 41.6% of those under
the age of 18 and 23.3% of those 65 and older were living below the
is the home to Alcorn State University's Natchez Campus.
The campus is home to the
university's nursing school and master's of business administration
program. Copiah-Lincoln Community College also operates a campus in
The city of Natchez and the county of Adams operate one public
school system, the Natchez-Adams School District
. The district comprises eight schools. They
are Susie B. West, Morgantown, Gilmer McLaurin, Joseph F Frazier,
Robert Lewis Middle School, Central Alternative School, Natchez
High School, and Fallin Career and Technology Center.
In Natchez, there are a number of private and parochial schools.
Trinity Episcopal Day
is PK-12 school founded by the Trinity Episcopal Church.
Trinity Episcopal Day School and Adams County Christian School are
both members of the Mississippi Private School Association. Cathedral
is also a PK-12 school in the city. It is affiliated
with the Roman Catholic Church St.
. Holy Family Catholic School, founded in 1890, is
a PK-3 school affiliated with Holy Family Catholic Church.
Route 61 runs north-south, parallel to the
Mississippi River, linking Natchez with Port Gibson,
Mississippi, Woodville, Mississippi, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Route 84 runs east-west and bridges the
Mississippi, connecting it with Vidalia, Louisiana, and Brookhaven,
Route 65 runs north from Natchez along the
west bank of the Mississippi through Ferriday and Waterproof, Louisiana.
Route 98 runs east from Natchez towards
Bude and McComb, Mississippi.
Mississippi Highway 555
from the center of Natchez to where it joins Mississippi Highway
Mississippi Highway 554
the north side of the city to where it joins U.S. Highway 84
northeast of town.
Natchez is served by rail lines, which today carry only
is served by the Natchez-Adams County Airport, which services general aviation.
nearest airport with commercial service is Baton Rouge
Metropolitan Airport, 85 miles to the south on US 61.
Natchez's surrounding communities (collectively known as the
- Cloverdale, Mississippi
- Canonsburg, Mississippi
- Jonesville, Louisiana
- Morgantown, Mississippi
- Kingston, Mississippi
- Cranfield, Mississippi
- Vidalia, Louisiana
- Pine Ridge, Mississippi
- Washington, Mississippi
- Monterrey, Louisiana
- Church Hill, Mississippi
- Sibley, Mississippi
- Stanton, Mississippi
- Roxie, Mississippi
- Campbell Brown, Emmy
award-winning journalist who is currently a political anchor for
CNN and formerly NBC grew up in Natchez and attended both Trinity
Episcopal and Cathedral High School.
- Varina Howell Davis, first
lady of the Confederate
States of America, was born, raised, and married in
- Novelist and motivational author Kenneth R. Besser grew up in
- Novelist Richard Wright,
author of Black Boy and Native Son, was born
twenty-two miles east of Natchez.
- Robert H. Adams, former United States Senator from Mississippi.
- William Wirt Adams, Confederate Army officer, grew up in
- Troyce Guice,
Natchez restaurant owner, was twice a
candidate for the United State Senate from Louisiana
- Lynda Lee Mead, Miss Mississippi in 1959 and Miss America in 1960. A Natchez city street,
Lynda Lee Drive, is named in her honor.
- It was the birthplace of country singer Mickey Gilley.
- Minnesota Vikings cornerback Cedric Griffin was born in Natchez, but was raised in San Antonio,
- University of Pittsburgh All-American defensive end Hugh Green was born and
raised in Natchez.
- Pro Football Hall of Famer Billy Shaw
was born in Natchez.
- Greg Iles, best-selling author of many
novels set in Natchez, is a Natchez native.
- Glen Ballard, a five-time Grammy Award winning songwriter/producer.
- Denise Gee, national food/home design writer and author of
"Southern Cocktails", is a native of Natchez.
- Hound Dog Taylor, a blues
singer and slide guitar player.
- Pierre Adolphe Rost, a
member of the Mississippi Senate
and commissioner to Europe for the Confederate States. Emigrated to Natchez
- Alexander O'Neal, R&B
- Nook Logan, Baseball player for the
Washington Nationals. Regarded as one of the fastest players in the
- Anne Moody, Civil Rights activist and author of
Coming of Age in
Mississippi, attended Natchez Junior College.
- Dwayne Brown, leader of the South
Natchez football and baseball teams in the late 1970s. Now resides
in Lafayette working for the city.
- Olu Dara, musician & father of
- General John
Anthony Quitman - Mexican War hero, plantation owner, governor
of Mississippi, owner of Monmouth Plantation.
- Two-time PBR world champion bull rider
Chris Shivers, who was born in Natchez
and currently resides in Jonesville, Louisiana.
- Don José Vidal, Spanish
Governor of the Natchez District,
is buried in the Natchez City Cemetery.
- Joanna Fox Waddill, American
Civil War nurse known as the "Florence Nightengale of the
- Les Whitt, director
of the municipal zoo in
Louisiana, and a musician who
sometimes played with B.B. King.
- Von Hutchins, NFL football player
for the Atlanta Falcons
- Jennifer Ogden, Emmy
Award-winning film and television producer, is a Natchez
- Je'Kel Foster , basketball
- Jason Bruce ,football player-Troy
- Ginny Walker English, "Natchez Massacre 1729",
State Coordinator, Mississippi American Local History Network,
2000-2001, accessed 3 May 2009
Nation official web site
- Mahan, A.T., Capt. USN. The Navy in the Civil
War. Sampson Low, Marston, & Company, Ltd. London, UK.
- USS Essex (1861-1865), Department of the Navy --
Naval Historical Center.
- Magnolia Hall...shelling by the Union gunboat Essex
damaged the home. In fact, a cannonball landed in the
- Rosalie Beekman ... Natchez’s only casualty during
- A Brief History of Rosalie Mansion.
- Battle Report of Brig. Gen. Wirt Adams, C.S. Army,
commanding Cavalry Brigade, of operations against Natchez,
Mississippi on December 6-7, 1863
- Natchez, Mississippi. Tutor Gig
- National Fire Protection Association.
- ISBN 1299648517
- Barnes & Noble
- Cox, James L. The Mississippi Almanac. New York?:
Computer Search & Research, 2001. ISBN 0-9643545-2-7.
- Davis, Jack E. "Race Against Time: Culture and Separation in
Natchez Since 1930", Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press,
- Gandy, Thomas H. and Evelyn. The Mississippi Steamboat Era
in Historic Photographs: Natchez to New Orleans, 1870-1920.
New York: Dover Publications, 1987.
- Way, Frederick. Way's Packet Dictionary, 1848-1994:
Passenger Steamboats of the Mississippi River System Since the
Advent of Photography in Mid-Continent America. 2nd ed.
Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 1994.