Today I spent a leisurely morning at Mike and Deb’s house. The forecast called for rain, so I wasn’t in a hurry to jump into more crummy weather. I thought I would try to catch up my blog, but for some reason it seems like my posts take longer and longer with each new day; therefore, I’m still days behind. I thought by now, I’d be an expert writer, but having used all the words in the Thesaurus, I’m facing writer’s block! For the afternoon, I continued down the Trace, stopping at Rocky Springs, Windsor Ruins, Mount Locust, and Emerald Mound.
Rocky Springs, settled in 1790 grew to 2,600 people by 1860 before it was finally deserted. All that is left of Rocky Springs is a church, its cemetery, a few cisterns, and the remains of two postal safes. The Civil War, yellow fever, destructive crop insects, and poor land management led to the town’s demise. The town was originally established on the Trace (the main road between Natchez and Jackson until the Civil War) by a rocky spring which no longer flows. Its post office was constructed in 1821. A sign posted by one of the rusted safes states its postal receipts were listed as $82.52 in 1827, $57.06 in 1828, and $49.23 in 1828. By comparison, the second largest postal facility in the state located in nearby Port Gibson collected $1,400 per year for the same period. After looping around the ghost town, I stopped for two caches, one conveniently hidden in the trees near the church and the other that required either walking along a paved road that curved outside of the area or taking a short cut down a steep incline through some brush. I opted for the short cut; but frankly, I’d rather find caches closer to the beautiful sites rather than in a nearby poorly, groomed area. Regardless, I found them both!
The Windsor Ruins were located eleven miles off the parkway on Route 552, a two lane country road that wound through nothing but forest. In fact, the surrounding area felt so rural, it caused me to glance down at VANilla’s fuel gauge. After exiting the parkway, the only sign (a piece of brown painted plywood with white lettering hanging by chains from a metal post) pointing to the ruins was located at the dirt road entrance. As we rattled through the bumpy passageway encompassed by dense forest, we arrived at a clearing containing 23 massive columns capped in ornate ironwork. My jaw dropped in sheer astonishment. I felt like I was a character in Land of the Lost or Back to the Future…one minute I was rambling along the back roads of Mississippi and after passing through the magical forest I had arrived in Greece. The columns were once part of the largest, most impressive antebellum home in Mississippi. Smith Coffee Daniel II, a cotton planter, completed the construction of his mansion just weeks before his death in 1861 for a staggering cost of $175,000. Windsor served as an observation post for the Confederate troops and later as a Union hospital. Ironically, Windsor survived the Civil War only to succumb to a fire in 1890 caused by a careless smoker.
We reached Emerald Mound and Mount Locust only 5 miles apart around dusk. The gate to Mount Locust was closed, so I settled for a long distance photo. In the early 1800s, Mount Locust was one of fifty stands erected along the Trace. The stands or “inns” provided a bowl of cornmeal mush and a spot to sleep on a wooden floor to weary Kaintucks who had guided their boats down the Mississippi to Natchez or New Orleans to deliver goods, sold their boats for lumber, and trekked home on foot. The stands were separated by a day’s walk. Due to the significant traffic, the footpath was eventually widened to 12 feet by order of Thomas Jefferson to make it passable by wagon. Mount Locust is the only remaining stand on the Trace.
Indians also used the Trace as they tracked buffalo into the woodlands. The Indians’ heritage is evidenced by the second largest ceremonial mound in the United States, Emerald Mound. Emerald Mound was built in the 1300s by Mississippians, ancestors of the Natchez tribe. The 35-foot high mound supported temples and ceremonial structures. After walking around the 8 acres, the dogs and I rested for the night at the Natchez Walmart.