Tupelo Jerry Lee Lewis Ranch - Elvis Graceland 2 Vicksburg Duff Green Mansion - Stained Glass Manor Natchez the Dunleith mansion - the Natchez Trace Articles the Vicksburg campaign | the Natchez Trace Other pages other states | articles
This is an extract of what to see in this state, with small photos. You will find the full description, history and full-sized photos, in my e-book View America: South East
In the travel series View America, South East covers Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee. It is not a traditional travelogue, but a non-commercial and more or less objective chronicle of an in-depth exploration of these states. Each state is described with its own brief historical background and its main sights, tourist attractions and points of interest.
This e-book does not describe directions, lodgings, restaurants, casinos or entertainment, except where these may interact with the narrative. It is illustrated with more than 80 full-sized photos.
~ ~ ~ ~
MISSISSIPPI is also known as the Magnolia State, because of the many Magnolia trees. The name Mississippi comes from an Algonquin word for "great river", and this river has played a dominant role in the development of the state. In 1817 Mississippi became the 20th state to join the US. The capital and largest city is Jackson. The population is around 2.8 million inhabitants, with a density of 24 per km2.
The state's surface is some 125,000 km2, and originally the entire state was covered with forests, but it was heavily deforested for agriculture and cotton growing. In more recent years, the surface of abandoned farms was replanted, so that approximately 65% of the state is forested again. Deforestation and continuous cotton cultivation made the land barren.
There used to be buffalos, wolves and cougars, but the only species that remains are the deer. Except of course in the swampy south, where you'll find alligators and snakes... Summers are long, hot and humid, and winters are usually mild. However, sometimes ice storms occur, and supercooled rain settles in a layer of ice. In 1994, a storm covered everything with a 15 cm thick layer of ice, and almost disabled the entire state for several weeks. Hurricanes and tornadoes also occur.
Mississippi was ideally suited for cotton planting, which became the main culture from the late 1700's unto well into the 20th century. Many British settlers from older colonies moved en masse to Mississippi, attracted by cheap land and high cotton prices, and they brought black slaves with them to work the plantations. Besides cotton, Mississippi produces more than 75% of the catfish in the USA.
Unfortunately, most plantations and railroads were destroyed by the Union, during the secession war. In the Natchez region, some Antebellum homes can be found, and the cities of Jackson and Vicksburg still carry the stigmata of the Civil War. By law, the Mississippi casinos must be located on the rivers, and they all have been housed in large docked ships, except for the Choctaw casino in Neshoba County.
In Nesbit, next to Memphis, you'll find the ranch of "the Killer', Jerry Lee Lewis. Unfortunately no visitors were allowed at the time. More recently though, the ranch seemed to be open for tourist visits. And even more recently, the ranch has been put up for sale...
Elvis Graceland Too is located in Holly Springs, whereas Elvis Graceland version 1 is located in Memphis, Tennessee. Just outside Tupelo, it is possible to visit Elvis's birthplace.
The Stained Glass Manor (built in 1885) was the home of Fannie Vick, granddaughter of Major Burwell Vick, the founder of Vicksburg. We discovered quite a lot of history, including the remarkable fact that the Civil War relegated Mississippi from the richest state in the nation to the poorest !
The owner, Mrs. Shirley Smollen, provided a guided tour through the entire house, whereby everything was explained most thoroughly. We learned for instance that the name of the game of Craps actually stems from the French word "Crapauds", and that the French love to eat frog legs...
She also showed us an ancient piece of cotton cloth. Surprisingly, even after one hundred years it was still as soft as silk. No wonder that the old cotton was so immensely successful! The difference with present day cotton is that this substance was not machine-made, but picked and spun by hand.
The slaves carefully removed all the fragments of the surrounding seedbox and only saved the finest fibers, which then were spun. Machines can obviously perform all of these procedures much faster, but they simply crush all of the raw material, including the impurities.
Next to an almost encyclopedic historical knowledge, Mrs. Smollen also had strong personal opinions and undoubtedly an extraordinary lung capacity, for she managed to provide us with an uninterrupted forty-five-minute stream of entertaining information. A very recommended visit!
The Vicksburg campaign was a major military offensive during the Civil War.
We drove along the Natchez Trace, which is the path of Indian origin, that brought thousands of colonists and traders from Natchez, Mississippi to Tennessee. Now it is a two-lane road of approximately one hundred miles long, that leads through a beautiful forest.
Natchez is also a former glory, that once was the commercial trade center for all the goods that came from the north, and went via Mississippi to the Port of New Orleans. The city also had many cotton plantations. Prosperity was high, and several wealthy people who built expensive Antebellum houses (pre-secession-war). Unfortunately, much of this ancient glory was lost during and after the Civil War.