Big Thicket N PRES in TX, and Natchez Trace Parkway MS-TN

August 11, 2013

As we were driving to TX on July 23rd we received a call from Chad telling us that Seamus Padraig Martin was born at 11:18am!  He was 7 lbs, 20 in and has red hair!  We drove 13 hours that day (900 miles) and stayed the night in Texarkana.  We drove 6 hours the next day (300 miles) and were at the Martins at 12:30pm.



Liz, Drago, Chad and Seamus



Our job was Watching/Walking/Playing with Drago.  Chad and Liz had just won the “Home of the Month” award for their community.


Drago Man – 21 months



8/1/2013 – Big Thicket N PRES, Chad and I drove to the Visitor Center and then hiked the Kirby Nature Trail and Sandhill Loop.

We then rented a canoe and paddled from Hwy 327 to Baby Galvez in the Village Creek Corridor Unit, only 2.1 miles. The water was too low, so we decided to take-out at that point and return to Katy.


8/4 – Leaving, the tigress is MaMoe (Drago’s name for Liz’s Mom). She stayed for another week to help out.

Our first stop on the way back to OH was the Natchez National Historical Park Visitor Center in Mississippi.  All of the sites that follow are on or near the Natchez Trace Parkway.



We then did a self-tour of the William Johnson House.  William was a mulatto slave named after his owner.  He was given his freedom in 1820 at the age of eleven.  He went on to be a very successful businessman owning 3 barbershops, a bath house, a farm and having other substantial land holdings.  He died in 1851 before the Civil War.


Interestingly, Johnson purchased slaves and put them to work on his properties


Melrose – “A Cotton Kingdom Estate,” was our next stop


Melrose (1849) was an antebellum mansion (meaning before the Civil War)


We had a great one hour tour from a NP ranger.  Melrose was built by John McMurran , purchased in 1865 by Malin Davis and lived in by his descendants (Kelly family) until 1976, when it was sold to John and Betty Callon.  Public tours began in 1932.  It was acquired by the NP service in 1990.


Front parlor – note 14k gold leaf


Dining room with “pukah” (hanging mahogany fan) that was operated by a slave to shoo flies from food


Master bedroom with day bed, only three families have lived in the home and it has many original furnishings


Child’s room, Melrose is considered by many to be the finest home in the Natchez region


There were three sets of slave accommodations.  These are the houses of the slaves that worked the grounds


We next visited Monmouth (1818), which is now a B & B and restaurant with beautiful gardens



Sunset on the Mississippi River

8/5Start of the Natchez Trace Parkway, 444 miles from Natchez MS to Nashville TN



The Natchez Trace originated from a series of Indian trails.  The Trace was economically, politically, socially, and militarily (e.g. Andrew Jackson, War of 1812) important to the U.S. during its early development.  Indians, traders, soldiers, postriders, settlers, slaves, circuit-riding-preachers, outlaws and adventurers traveled the Trace.  Also, “Kaintuks,” river boat men, floated the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to Natchez or New Orleans with their goods and then returned by way of the Trace.



Emerald Mound – the second largest temple-ceremonial mound in the U.S.


Built and used by the “Mississippians” between 1200 and 1730


Mount Locust Inn and Plantation – one day’s walk from Natchez


The first stand (Inn) opened at this location in 1801


The home has been restored to its 1820 appearance



Called the “Sunken Trace” because this sandy section was worn down by travelers


Rocky Springs Town Site



Rocky Springs Church and Cemetery – 1837 Methodist church is preserved by former congregation members who hold regular services here and gather at an annual “homecoming’ each spring.



Mississippi Mud Cake at the French Camp Academy’s Council House Café


Brices Cross Roads National Battlefield Site – in the beginning of 1864, President Lincoln made Gen. Ulysses Grant the supreme commander of all Federal forces.  Grant now accompanied the Army of the Potomac and Maj. Gen William Sherman was put in charge of the western armies.  Sherman sent Brig. Gen Samuel Sturgis and 8,100 Federal troops to northern Mississippi in order to protect his supply line, the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad, from attack by Maj. Gen. Nathan Forrest and his cavalry (3,500 men) as Sherman marched toward Atlanta.  The armies met at Brices Cross Roads on June 10, 1864.


After fierce fighting, the Federals retreated back to Memphis.  There was a bottleneck when a wagon overturned at Tishomingo Creek Bridge and Forest was able to capture artillery pieces, guns, supplies and over 1,000 Federals.  The loss would have been much greater had it not been for the United States Colored Troops who were in rear guard positions and slowed the Confederate pursuit of the Federal retreat.


Brices Cross Roads was a Confederate victory.


Sherman now put Maj. Gen Andrew Smith in charge of the Federals and ordered him to pursue the Confederates.  They marched from Memphis and the armies met and fought in Tupelo Mississippi on July 14-15, 1864.


Knowing the Federals were coming, the Confederates (Maj. Gen Steven Lee and Maj. Gen Nathan Forest) attacked them five times but were unsuccessful – the battle was considered a draw but it prevented the Confederates from attacking Sherman as he “marched to Atlanta and the sea.”


You have just read about two battles.  The Civil War has been an interest of mine since I was young.  However, battlefields and cemeteries are not Helen’s favorite places.  Our next stops in Tupelo were not on my bucket list but were of great interest to Helen.  That’s called cooperation.


Elvis Presley was born on 1/8/1935 in this house, which was built by his father.  He died in Memphis on 8/16/1977.



This is a car similar to the one Elvis’s father drove when the family moved to Memphis when he was eleven.


Ice cream cone at Drive In where Elvis “hungout” – oldest restaurant in Tupelo


Elvis’s booth

On the way out of town we stopped at the Hardware Store where Elvis’s mother bought him his first guitar.  Helen tells me that Elvis really wanted a gun or a bicycle for his birthday but his mother thought that a gun or bicycle would be too dangerous for him.  Now wasn’t that interesting?


After leaving Tupelo we continued on the Parkway through the northwest corner of Alabama and on to Collinwood TN.  The info we had stated that there were cabins there.  Well, there was one cabin and it was taken.  We asked about and found a room in the back of the Video/Game/Hardware store.



Everything at the local restaurant was fried, so we chose a salad for dinner.  Helen ordered hot tea and the waitress said “Great I just made some, do you want sweet tea or unsweetened?”  Helen said “unsweetened.”   Well, she brought a 16 oz plastic glass with warm unsweetened tea.  Check out the sign!

8/6 – Our first stop back on the Natchez Trace Parkway was Metal Ford of the Buffalo River


The stone bottom reminded frontier travelers of stone-surfaced “metaled” roads of the day


Our next stop was the grave of Meriwether Lewis of the famed Lewis and Clark Expedition.



Meriwether was only 35 when he was shot or committed suicide (remains a mystery) on October 11, 1809 as he was traveling the Trace back to Washington.



Swan Hollow Falls


The Gordon House (1818) – Gordon was a Captain with Andrew Jackson and served on and off with him from 1812 to 1818. He was able to operate a ferry across Duck River, stand (inn) and trading post at this location by forming a partnership with a Chickasaw Chief.


Double Arch Bridge near the northern terminus of the Natchez Trace Parkway and Nashville


Completed in 1994

Stones River National Battlefield Murfreesboro TN, southeast of Nashville


New entrance for the 150th year anniversary of the battle

The Emancipation Proclamation was to go into effect on January 1, 1863. Lincoln pushed his generals to strike a blow.   In December of 1862 the Army of the Potomac met with disaster at Fredericksburg Virginia and Grant’s Army of the Tennessee was unable to crack defenses north of Vicksburg MS.  Lincoln’s only hope was the Army of the Cumberland in Nashville TN.


On December 26, 1862 Gen. William Rosencrans led his army of about 43,000 out of Nashville to seek victory against Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg’s Army (about 38,000) of the Tennessee at Murfreesboro.


At day break on December 31, 1862 Bragg’s Confederates struck first as the Federals were having breakfast.


The Federal line gave way except for Hazen’s Brigade in the Round Forest



Built in 1863 by Union soldiers, just six months after the battle, the Hazen Monument is the nation’s oldest intact Civil War monument.




Four attacks on Hazen’s position were beat back.  At dusk the fields of Hell’s Half Acre were covered with hundreds of Confederate dead and wounded.


Fierce fighting took place all day across the battlefield and thousands were killed and wounded.

The next day, New Year’s Day 1863, both armies buried their dead and cared for the wounded.


On January 2, 1863 the battled resumed with the Confederates again attacking the Federals.  At one point during the battle, 57 Union cannon killed or wounded 1,800 Confederates in a matter of minutes!  At the end of the day Bragg’s forces retreated and this was a major victory for the Union.  In this picture you can see part of the Stones River National Cemetery.  The Battle of Stones River cost 13,249 Union and 10,266 Confederate casualties.  About one third of each force!

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