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Natchez, Mississippi – Stanton Hall

2 Aug

Stanton Hall

Stanton Hall is Natchez’ largest antebellum mansion.  Grand in scale but beautiful and approachable and friendly.  One can come within a block of the home and not know that it is there and then once it is found one wonders how in the world could they have missed this place?

When the mansion was first built, by Frederick Stanton, it was named Belfast.  Yes, Mr. Stanton was born in Ireland but I am not prepared to say that is the reason he named it Belfast.  In walking around the wonderful structure the cost of building such a structure comes to mind and why was it built in Natchez?  Cotton is the reason.  Stanton Hall is a testament to the importance of cotton and to the wealth that cotton brought to the area.

Stanton Hall is also a testament to the skill of the architects and craftsmen that built the mansion.  The house is monumental in many respects but the small details, such as decorative carvings, demonstrate the master skills of the builders.

The home encompasses 11,000 square feet on the two main floors.  Ceilings are 17 feet high and the doors stand at 10 feet tall.  I was wondering too how many people it would take to keep such a place going – not only the house but the grounds?

Yes, Belfast, or Stanton Hall, is a grand monumental place that once expressed the great wealth of the cotton economy, the South, and Natchez.  Yet by the 1930s this magnificent place was empty and in desperate need of repairs.  In 1938 Stanton Hall was purchased by the Pilgrimage Garden Club.  Since then it has been under their maintenance and is open to the public.

Frederick Stanton built this magnificent home in 1857 but in 1858 Stanton died.  Since then the cotton dominated economy has died. If not for the Pilgrimage Garden Club it would not have lasted 75 years.

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Natchez, Mississippi – Routh Cemetery

20 Jul

Behind the brick wall was a well kept cemetery of some age

In April my wife and I had a visitor from England and we decided that a day in Natchez would make a nice trip.  We didn’t realize though that we would spend so much time in Lorman, and in Rodney, and at Windsor Ruins.  Earlier in the day we even stumbled upon what appeared to be the last resting place for fleets of school buses.  All of these places begged to be photographed and appreciated and we happily obliged.

The time soon got away from us and by the time we arrived in Natchez it was getting late.  Our first stop in Natchez was the Natchez City Cemetery.  Again more photos were needed and more time spent but it was worth it.  The cemetery is a very pretty and historic place and worth a visit in itself.  However, a visit to an antebellum home is a necessity when in Natchez and the sun was going down.  Now there is not a shortage of antebellum homes in Natchez but there is a problem in selecting just one, for a picture, and hopefully before the sun goes completely down.

We headed for Dunleith.  It is very open there and good pictures can be taken from the street and as luck would have it there was an empty parking lot for a business that had closed for the day fairly close to the the house.  My wife opted to stay in the car but Sally and I headed toward the house.  As we approached the house I noticed a brick walled area on a small hill on the other side of the road.  It appeared that this may be a cemetery, which meant I had to check it out.  The pictures at Dunleith went quickly as the sun was already behind the beautiful columned house.  The westward light was on the brick walls across the street.  We made our approach in haste and then up the steps to what indeed turned out to be a cemetery.  This was a complete surprise to me.  A very nice cemetery it was too and the graves appeared to be fairly old as indicated by the wear on the tall stones and vaults.  One thing very special caught my eye and that was a large black dog statue that appeared to be sitting beside a larger tomb. It was near the rear of the cemetery and since it appeared to be a private or family cemetery we did not enter  All of this was a mystery so when I arrived home I went to work searching for clues to the mysterious cemetery that we had mysteriously stumbled upon.

Image taken from the front of Routh Cemetery

It didn’t take long to start unraveling the mysteries via the Internet.  It was the Routh Cemetery and as I studied along it became clear why the cemetery was at that location.  Dunleith was at one time named Routhville and it was the Routh family that first established Routhville/Dunleith.  Most of the inhabitants of the cemetery were the old time owners of Dunleith and their relatives. It was interesting to learn the history of the family and the house but I soon discovered there was a story about the dog statue in the cemetery.

The dog was a life size Newfoundland made of iron.  It was next to a tomb and one of the persons interred there was a man named Walton Pembroke Smith.  He was married to Mary Routh if I remember correctly and he was originally from Virginia.  As a child he fell into the Potomac River and was in danger of drowning.  His dog, a large Newfoundland, jumped in and saved him.  When Smith became an adult he described his beloved dog to a New York iron works.  The result was a treasured statue that resembled his well remembered dog.  After Smith died the family was left with the statue.  It was decided that the best thing to do with the statue was to place it in the family cemetery next to the vault of Mr. Smith.  Today the statue, of the dog that once saved Walton Smith’s life, now guards him in death.

A Friend in Life and a Friend in Death

Being an ignorant traveler can be a disaster, however, I do not believe I would have appreciated that cemetery as much had we not discovered it by accident.

There are many places with unknown stories all along the course of the Mississippi River.  I hope to post many more such “discovered places” in the future.