Monday, July 31, 2017

Magnolia Grill, a Casino and More River Traffic

Just one more posting from our visit to Natchez Mississippi…

This is a view downriver from the Under-the-Hill neighborhood.  The view shows the Natchez Mississippi/Vidalia Louisiana twin cantilever bridges over the broad Mississippi River.  We crossed them headed west to our next major stop…

These bridges are all used by US Highways 65, 84 and 425.  They aren’t exactly twins as the oldest span, (now carrying the westbound traffic), was built in 1940.  The newer eastbound span was completed in 1988.  These bridges are about 4,200 feet long…about 8 tenths of a mile.  At 125 feet above the water, these are the tallest bridges in Mississippi.

Looking south along the riverfront, this unassuming building is the Magnolia Bluffs Casino.  Via a steep road, the casino is just below the bluff where the main downtown area of Natchez is situated.  The casino has over 450 slot machines, 16 table games and a live poker room as well as 3 restaurants.  The associated Magnolia Bluffs Hotel is up on top of the bluff on Canal Street. 
FYI…I actually walked out of the casino with more money than I had when I went in!  I was up $18.50!  

For more information on the casino and hotel, go to   

What can I say!  I like boats, ships, cars, trucks, planes and trains…and I don’t get to see too many ships and big boats in East Tennessee.
This is the “Bettye M. Jenkins”.  She was moored across the river from Natchez in Vidalia Louisiana.  As a matter of fact, she was built in 1959 by the Vidalia Dock and Storage Co., Inc.  She is small in comparison with most of the towboats I saw…measuring only 58 feet long with a beam of 20 feet.  Her original name was the “Shelia Ann Parker”. 

This is the “Vidalia Dock”.  This 100 foot long towboat was built in Greenville Mississippi back in 1968.  She has had quite a history, having been sold to 7 different owners over the years.  Her original name was the “Bessie Burton”, then the “Harewood”, later the “Senator Sam” and finally the “Dana Jo” before she was acquired and renamed again by the Vidalia Dock and Storage Company.  She burned in 1975 and was rebuilt in Ohio.  Then she burned again in 1977 and was rebuilt a second time, this time in West Virginia.

Perhaps much to my reader’s satisfaction, I couldn’t identify this very large towboat that was seriously in need of fresh paint… But it did get me wondering. Just how big do these towboats get?


Appropriately enough, the largest diesel towboat on the Mississippi River is the “M/V Mississippi”, which is operated by the United States Army Corps of Engineers.   

The “Mississippi” was built in 1993.  It’s 241 feet long, 58 feet wide and it has a shallow draft of only 8 feet.  It has a crew of 36.  Most of the time it’s moving barges, equipment and supplies in support of mat sinking operations.  It also serves as an inspection boat for the Mississippi River Commission during a high- and low-water inspection trip each year.  Commissioners hold meetings at river towns in the boat's hearing room which can seat 115 people. Its dining room can seat 85 people. The “Mississippi” has 22 staterooms and can handle 150 passengers.

One final towboat… This is the “Paula A. Fortier”, a “Z Drive” 100 foot towboat owned by the Southern Towing Company based in Memphis Tennessee.  She was built in 2013.  Southern Towing Company owns and operates 26 towboats ranging in size from 90 feet to 147 feet. 

Enough about towboats… On to the food!

This little unassuming restaurant in Natchez’s Under-the-Hill neighborhood is the Magnolia Grill.  Although it looks very old, it was actually constructed in 1990 by the family who is responsible for the preservation of most of the buildings on Silver Street.  The restaurant was built to look like the saloon that originally occupied this same spot.

The dining room has a full bar but, like its neighboring restaurant, The Camp, Magnolia Grill is very casual.  The big difference is all about the menus...

For those who enjoy outdoor dining, Magnolia Grill does offer a screened in porch that overlooks the Mississippi River.

Laurie started out with a Magnolia Salad with ranch dressing.  This salad included baby greens, cherry tomatoes, Mandarin oranges, boiled eggs and shredded parmesan cheese.  She really enjoyed it!

There were several salad options but one dinner salad on the menu was really out of the ordinary.  It was the Fried Crawfish Spinach Salad.  It consists of lightly breaded crawfish tails, fried golden brown resting on a bed of fresh spinach with sliced mushrooms, apple wood smoked bacon and toasted pecans.

For my side, I had one of my favorites…grilled asparagus.  Despite the fact that the ends were quite large, they were also tender so nothing went to waste! 

You may have noticed that we skipped an appetizer.  That was because we’d had a snack earlier in the afternoon.  However, Magnolia Grill offers several options as starters.  These include: Bacon-Jalapeno Cheese Fries; Crabmeat Crimini Stuffed Mushrooms; Fried Green Tomatoes (topped with crawfish tails, shrimp and a Louisiana hot sauce hollandaise); Spinach and Artichoke Dip with toasted pita chips; Cream Cheese Sausage Rotel; Bayou Egg Rolls, and; Fried Dill Pickles. 

If we hadn’t had a snack earlier, I would have had to try the Bayou Egg Rolls.  They are stuffed with smoked chicken, tasso and sausage jambalaya, and they’re served with a sweet chili dipping sauce.

Laurie’s main dish was this nice order of BBQ Shrimp. ($19.95) They had a nice flavorful bite to them and they were cooked perfectly.

Other than the entrees, other options on the menu include 3 different soups, a number of hamburgers and a long list of sandwiches and “PoBoys”.

Our meals also came with this generous serving of crusty bread…a necessity for dipping in all the sauce that came with our meals!  The bowl contained Laurie’s side of Cheesy Grits.  They were very nice…

My entrĂ©e was very much like Laurie’s.  I had the shrimp and grits. ($24.95) The shrimp were great and I really liked the grits in the sauce…lots of flavor!

The list of other available entrees at Magnolia Grill is extensive.  There are steaks, surf and turf, beef medallions with crabmeat and mushrooms, grilled duck breast, chicken, Alfredo style pasta, jambalaya, pork tenderloin, catfish, crawfish, pan fried redfish and a daily fish special. 

Well…we probably should have stopped eating but when we heard that Magnolia Grill offered Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce, ($6.00), we surrendered our common sense and decided to share a dessert.  This was a scrumptious comfort food style treat!    

Service was pleasant and the food was both nicely presented and very palette pleasing!  Magnolia Grill is located in the Under-the-Hill area of Natchez at 49 Silver Street.  Phone: 601-446-7670.  This restaurant is open on Sundays.  Website:

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Friday, July 28, 2017

Rosalie – Natchez Mississippi

Just one more antebellum home in Natchez… Keep in mind that there are over 100 antebellum mansions and homes in Natchez and the surrounding area!  In addition, there are a number of fine Victorian and Craftsman style homes as well and as many commercial buildings and churches that are at least 100 years old.

The last historic mansion that we visited while in Natchez was Rosalie.  This early mansion was completed in 1823. 

In 1716 the French had built a fort on the bluffs of Natchez and named it Rosalie in honor of the Countess of Pontchartrain.  In 1820, Peter Little, who had moved to Natchez from Pennsylvania, purchased a portion of the land adjacent to where the actual fort had been on which to build his home.  In order to honor the fort, its history and its settlers, Little decided to name his house Rosalie. 

Fort Rosalie was built in the territory of the Natchez Native Americans.  The fort was the primary French stronghold and trading post among the Natchez.  Settlements and tobacco plantations were established in Natchez territory and the fort served as the local seat of colonial government.  But growing tension between the French and the Natchez erupted into violence several times during the 1720s.  This culminated in a massive Natchez attack on November 29, 1729. The Natchez destroyed the entire French settlement, killing nearly all the men and taking hundreds of women and children captive. 

Rosalie sits on the bluff overlooking the Mississippi River.  This home is located near the southern end of the commercial area of downtown Natchez.  The grounds contain several gardens but they were past peak bloom when we visited.  

Fort Rosalie was renamed Fort Panmure and it was controlled in turn by Great Britain, Spain and the United States.   Although the site of the fort has been part of the Natchez National Historical Park for years, it hadn’t been open to the public until about a year ago.  It is now open and it is basically an active archeological site. 

The following year after the massacre of French settlers and soldiers at Fort Rosalie, the French and their allied Choctaw forces forced the Natchez to evacuate, leaving the fort in ruins.  By 1731 the French and their more numerous Indian allies, had killed, captured, or dispersed most of the Natchez.  They ceased to exist as a tribe.  The surviving Natchez were sold into slavery, many destined for French plantations in the Caribbean.  The French rebuilt Fort Rosalie in the early 1730s.

All of the remaining photos in this posting are photos of the interior of Rosalie that I purchased in the gift shop.  Unfortunately, although they are quite good, they don’t really capture the feeling of the house.  Visitors are not allowed to take pictures while visiting Rosalie…

The Rococo style furnishings so popular with the wealthy in the early part of the 1800s dominate the interior of Rosalie…

Peter Little also purchased large areas of land in Louisiana and he used the ferryboat at Natchez Under-the-Hill to cross the river to check out his property.  A strong relationship with the ferryboat owner led to Little’s marriage to their daughter Eliza.  Eliza’s parents both succumbed to yellow fever but Peter promised that he would take care of Eliza…who was only 14 when her mother died.  He did what he thought was best for her…he married her!  He was 25 and with her being so young, he sent her off to a finishing school in Baltimore Maryland.  When she returned from her studies, they moved into Rosalie…  

Peter and Eliza never had children of their own but in 1816 Eliza helped found the Natchez Children’s Home.  Many of those children found a loving home at Rosalie.  In addition, Peter and Eliza also raised Peter’s niece after his sister’s death.   The couple remained deeply devoted to each other throughout their 45- year marriage.  Unfortunately, in 1853 at the age of 60, Eliza died of yellow fever. Three years later Peter died, at the age of 74.  As there wasn’t a valid will, the estate was auctioned off…

In 1857, the Wilson’s acquired the home.  They never had children of their own and in keeping with their predecessors’ practice, they took orphaned children into their home.   They became especially close to one of the girls.  Her name was Fanny McMurtry.  The Wilson’s adopted her and in 1866, she was married in the parlor.  Fanny and her husband Stephen lived in the home the rest of their lives.  They had 6 children, all of whom were born at Rosalie. 

Rosalie and most of its furnishings were preserved throughout the Civil War.  A week after the Battle of Vicksburg, General Grant took possession of Rosalie to use as Union Army headquarters.  General Walter Gresham took command of the Union Army at Natchez and his headquarters remained at Rosalie.  Fortunately, General Gresham had most of the owner's furnishings stored in the attic and put under guard to prevent theft or destruction. 

Due to hard times during the Depression, in 1938 Fanny and Stephen’s daughters Annie and Rebecca sold Rosalie to the Mississippi State Society, Daughters of the American Revolution.  The two ladies continued to live at Rosalie and gave daily tours of the house.  In 1958 Annie passed away.  She was the last of the Wilson family line to live at Rosalie.

As noted above, the Mississippi State Society Daughters of the American Revolution acquired Rosalie in 1938.  They still own it and continue to operate it.  Rosalie is open for tours seven days a week with expanded hours during the warmer seasons of the year.  Our tour of Rosalie cost us $15.00 per person. Website:

The genealogical library of the Mississippi State Society of the Daughters of the Revolution is housed in the Carriage House on the Rosalie mansion’s grounds. Entry is free to the public.  There also is a large gift shop on the premises.

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by to check out another historic home in Natchez Mississippi!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A Snack and the Busy Mississippi River

The exploration of Natchez has to include some time along the mighty Mississippi River… We decided to have a snack and in the process we found another little historic area to check out and a way to get right down along the river itself.

This is a downhill view along the only street for the “Under-the-Hill” neighborhood in Natchez.   This little enclave literally sits right on the river just under the bluff where the center of town is situated.  The Natchez MS/Vidalia LA twin span bridges over the Mississippi are off in the distance. 
The "Under-the-Hill" area was once the entire town of Natchez…about 20 buildings at the time of the Revolutionary War. Gradually houses were built on the bluffs above and an "Upper Town" emerged.  The landing site area was where the Natchez Trace actually began.  The area was frequented by gamblers, river pirates, highwaymen and prostitutes.  In 1810 it was described as a place such that “...for the size of it, there is not, perhaps in the world, a more dissipated spot.” 

To learn more about the “Natchez Trace”, you can go to

This is a partial view of the Under-the-Hill neighborhood looking up the hill.  There are a number of shops and a couple of restaurants along the street.  We only visited one gift shop but it had better than average quality goods for sale.
Back in its bad old days, taverns, gambling halls and brothels lined “Under- the-Hill’s” principal street.  Allegedly, the only thing cheaper than the body of a woman was the life of a man.  Enslaved people were also sold at the landing at Natchez-Under-the-Hill, as well as on the city streets and especially at the “Forks of the Road”, which was the second largest slave market in the South.

To learn about the “Forks of the Road” slave market, which by city ordinance, was actually located just outside the city limits of Natchez, go to

This is the “Merrick Jones”, a towboat owned and operated by Canal Barge Company, Inc.  This towboat was built in 1981.  Its 33 feet tall, 140 feet long, has a beam of 42 feet with a draft of 11 feet.  The Merrick Jones’s engines produce 6,000 horsepower.

Canal Barge Company, Inc. is a family-owned, independent marine transportation company headquartered in New Orleans, Louisiana.   The company was founded in 1933.  The name “Canal Barge” dates back to their early years when they operated one barge exclusively along the United States’ Intracoastal Waterway in the Gulf of Mexico.  This company owns 32 towboats and 800 barges.

This very large towboat is the Ron W. Callegan.  It was built in 1979 and, before being acquired by AEP River Operations LLC, it operated as the “Lily M. Freidman” and the “Norb Whitlock”.  This towboat is about 54 feet high, 46.5 feet wide and 190 feet long.  After purchasing the Callegan, AEP refurbished her.  They repowered her with 12,000 horsepower and they provided each of her 11 crew members with separate rooms and baths.  They estimated that a new towboat of this size and capability would cost $30,000,000 to build!

I found an article that reported that in early 2016 the Callegan and her tow of several dozen barges had struck the Vicksburg railroad bridge.  Nine of the barges containing coal broke away and four sank.

In 2015, American Electric Power sold AEP River Operations to American Commercial Barge Line.  The sale included 56 towboats, 2,300 barges and about 1,100 employees.  

This little boat that was hovering around the Under-the-Hill shoreline is an essential and valuable part of the barge/towboat traffic on the Mississippi River.  Upriver Boat Supply LLC provides groceries and other supplies for the passing towboats.  They also service heating and cooling needs, refrigeration repairs, welding services and other electrical and mechanical work.  Upriver Boat Supply’s list of available groceries plus meat and seafood put the selection at our local grocery store to shame!  Check it what they offer at

How about these 2 big American Commercial Barge Line towboats working in tandem headed upriver from Natchez!  The power needed to go upriver, especially with the Mississippi River in moderate flood stage is a bit mind boggling.   The nearest towboat is the relatively new (2011) 180 long “Michael G. Morris”.  The second craft, built in 1991, is the 168 foot long “Capt. Shelby House”.  She was formerly the “Cindy Celeste”.  Both towboats were built in shipyards located in Louisiana.

I included this photo even though it’s hard to see…just click on it to expand it.  The photo provides some context of size… It shows the Michael G. Morris and the Capt. Shelby House side by side working upstream with very long strings of barges.

FYI… The Mississippi River has the world's fourth-largest drainage basin.  The basin covers more than 1,245,000 square miles, (almost the size of India), and it includes all or parts of 31 U.S. states and 2 Canadian provinces.  The drainage basin empties into the Gulf of Mexico, which is part of the Atlantic Ocean. The total drainage basin of the Mississippi River covers nearly 40% of the landmass of the continental United States! 

Finally…onto our mid-afternoon snack!

While many of the ‘on the bluff’ and around Natchez restaurants are closed on Sundays, one big “Under-the-Hill” draw for visitors is that its dining establishments are open for business.  This is “The Camp” at Silver Street.
The Camp is basically a sports bar that serves basic items and which boasts a great beer selection.  They bake their own bread every day.  They have 18 beers on tap, most of which are from Southern breweries plus they frequently rotate beers bringing in new styles.

This is the cozy bar area at The Camp.  I noted that it was completely populated by the ladies…

We sat in this room.  The blackboard lists different drinks and beers available.  The Camp also offers outdoor seating in their Beer Garden at the back of the restaurant or seating on the porch overlooking the Mississippi River.

I admit to unimaginative tastes when it comes to beer and I ordered my usual Miller Lite. ($3.00) After the very helpful waitress brought us some samples, (no charge!), Laurie ordered a “Dark Saison” from the Southern Prohibition Brewing Company. ($5.50)

As per the Brewery, some dark fruit and caramel notes lay down support for the rich Bohemian Pilsner malt in this lucid projection that tastes much "lighter" than it would appear. It is hopped entirely with El Dorado and fermented with a blend of traditional Belgian yeast and French Saison yeast.  She did enjoy the beer but it was rather filling…

To learn more about this brewery from Hattiesburg Mississippi, just go to

Other than the beer, we weren’t that far from dinner time so we limited our snack to this huge basket of Fried Pickles with Ranch Dressing. ($6.95) They were very good. 

The menu at The Camp features Appetizers, Sliders, Burgers, Sandwiches, Melts, Tacos and Quesadillas, Soups and Salads, plus 3 entrees...a Catfish Plate, Chicken ‘N Broccoli and Chop Chop…2 breaded and fried pork chops.  Bread Pud’N and a Hot Brownie Sundae provide a sweet treat if desired.

The Camp is located at 21 Silver Street in Natchez Mississippi. Phone: 601-897-0466.  Website:

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by to see what we’ve been up to!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Story of Longwood – Natchez Mississippi

In addition to the photos we took of historic homes and other sites in Natchez plus the post I published on Magnolia, the historic estate operated by the National Park Service, we visited 2 other historic homes in the area.  There are so many options in the area for home tours that I will admit that we had some trouble choosing which ones to visit.

After Magnolia, we tried to pick the 2 that seem to be the most popular with visitors…

This is Longwood.  Because a tent had been erected in front, I used this postcard to show off the exterior of this unusual and unique home.   This home, also known as Nutt's Folly, is an historic antebellum octagonal mansion that is topped with a byzantine onion-shaped dome.  Longwood is the largest octagonal home in the USA. 

Construction on this home began in the spring of 1860, not long before the outbreak of the Civil War.   It was planned to be the home of Dr. Haller Nutt and his family.  He was a successful planter and plantation owner who grew cotton and sugar.  Nutt owned 5 plantations in Louisiana and Mississippi with a combined total of 43,000 acres and 800 slaves.  His estimated worth prior to the Civil War was $3,000,000.  By comparison with today’s dollars, the historic standard of living value of that wealth is around $88,200,000.  In purchasing power, it would now be in excess of $1 billon dollars.


·       Dr. Nutt also developed a strain of cotton that became commercially important for the Deep South.

This project encountered a very large problem…the US Civil War!  This is a view looking up at the unfinished dome of Longwood.  The lights were up for an event...
Construction of the exterior of this huge Oriental Revival style mansion was completed by the beginning of the Civil War.  However, with the threat of the Civil War looming, Sloan's skilled artisans feared for their safety, halted construction and fled back to the North.

Nutt suffered massive financial losses during the Civil War due to the destruction of his cotton fields and much of his real estate.  General Grant spared one plantation because, despite being born in the south, Nutt was pro-Union.  Despite Grant’s assistance, the expropriation of stores and supplies by the Union and Confederate armies led to the foreclosure on Nutt's plantations in Louisiana. 

When the craftsmen left this construction project just before the outbreak of the war, they left many pediments and other architectural bits and pieces behind.  

The basement level of the home was completed by slave labor and the family moved in during 1862.  Dr. Nutt died of pneumonia in 1864 before the close of the war.  He had married Julia Augusta Williams in 1840.  They had 11 children.  Julia Nutt lived in the finished lower level of the home until she died in 1897.  Two additional generations lived in the home before it was purchased by a foundation that began restoring the deteriorating structure in 1963.

When you consider the age of exterior of this structure and the lack of care that it had for many years, it is a testament to the expertise and skill of those craftsmen as well as the building’s architect that it is still standing today. 

The tour of Longwood includes a tour of the family’s finished ‘temporary’ living quarters in the lower level/raised basement of the home.  I was disappointed that no photos were allowed.  While it was nicely furnished for the era and there are a number of windows, it still felt a bit like living in a basement and it had to be quite frustrating to have that magnificent unfinished space above the residents…

I love these big windows and the arch over the door!  When completed, plans for the house would have resulted in a finished product with 32 rooms, 26 fireplaces, 115 doors, 96 columns and a total of 30,000 square feet of living space.  In reality, only 9 of the 32 rooms were finished…and they were all in the basement/lower floor. 


·       The more than one million bricks used to build Longwood were all made on the grounds of the estate.

The previous 2 photos show the original shipping containers, tubs, kerosene tins, nail barrels, etc. that were all left behind by the craftsmen fleeing the Civil War back in 1861.

Julia Nutt was left with the responsibility of raising and educating the children. While she ended up retaining 2 plantations, Cloverdale and Lochland, they weren’t always profitable…creating continuing financial difficulties for the Nutt family. Nevertheless, Julia Nutt managed to support her children and provide them with what educational and social opportunities she could afford.  She always held out hope that she’d find or receive the money needed to finish Longwood. 

The family persistently lobbied for the passage of a bill that would partially compensate them for their losses due to the Union army.  However it appears that the total of all payments (reparations) actually received by the Nutt family never came to much more than about $100,000. 

One can only speculate on how magnificent this home would have been had it been completed before the Civil War.  The exterior is exquisite!  Note these beautiful columns and woodwork along one of the porches.

Longwood is located on 87 acres of land.  In addition to the main house, the property contains 5 structures: the Necessary; the Kitchen, the Slaves Quarters, the Carriage House, (with Julia’s buggy), and the Stables.  The estate’s geometrically-patterned gardens are located at some distance to the southeast of the mansion near the entrance to the estate. The family cemetery is at the southwest corner of the property. 

The upper five stories are an architectural wonder…a magnificent work in progress where time just froze in place.  The chimney-like shape of the house was intended to funnel warm air up toward the top of the cupola, creating an updraft that escaped through windows high in the building, thus drawing fresh air into the lower floors.  The 2 'skylights' in the floor were installed to increase the lighting in the Nutt's actual living quarters...

Longwood was presented to the Pilgrimage Garden Club of Natchez in 1970 and it is one of 2 properties that they utilize not just for tours but also for weddings, receptions and other gatherings.  As you can see, remnants of the previous day’s event had yet to be taken down during our tour.  

To learn more about this organization, you can go to their Facebook page at or their related website at

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave