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Portraits of pilgrimage: Faces, stories line walls at Stone House

LAUREN WOOD / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Joseph Britton Stone stands near the oil painting portrait of Charles Henry Stone, the first of the Stone family to settle in Natchez, in the dining room of the Stone House Bed and Breakfast. The painting dates back to circa 1840. Stone family portraits, above and below, line the walls of the Washington Street house, which will be on tour during Fall Pilgrimage which begins Thursday.

The faces on the walls of the Stone House on Washington Street may not talk, but they do tell a story of more than 300 years of the Stone family history.

Perhaps the story starts with a large portrait of Charles Henry Stone that hangs in the dining room of the Stone House. Stone, a New Jersey doctor who relocated to Natchez, married Mary Giddings Newman in 1833. Newman was the granddaughter of the first mayor of Natchez, Samuel Brooks.

The couple had five sons who served in the Civil War, one of which, Joseph Newman Stone, bought the Stone House in 1877.

The oldest part of the house was built around 1850 as a billiard hall by David Stanton, whose brother Frederick built Stanton Hall.

Joseph Newman Stone married Theodora Britton, whose brother was the co-founder of Britton & Koontz Bank.

And that is where current Stone House owner Joseph Britton Stone gets his name.

Stone said sometimes he feels as though the generations of his family are watching him as the eyes of Stone’s ancestors gaze upon him from their portraits.

“I do often wonder about what it was like when they lived here, which bedrooms they used, what they did, you know, because you’re living in this house that they lived in, you’re a descendant of them,” Stone said.

Other family portraits and photographs hanging in the Stone House illustrate decades of Stone family lineage and also include Stone’s mother’s side of the family all the way up to photographs of Stone and his siblings.

Stone moved back to Natchez in 1999 to care for the house and now incorporates the portraits and photographs into the stories that weave the legacy of his family for Pilgrimage visitors who tour his home.

“I think (the portraits) give the tourists a sense of continuity in the history of the houses,” Stone said. “And they get to come to the house and meet someone who is in a sense a link to that past.”

The Stone House is one of several houses on tour for Fall Pilgrimage, which begins Thursday and lasts until Oct. 14.

Stone will host soiree musicales at his home at 6 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays during Fall Pilgrimage.

Natchez Pilgrimage Director Marsha Colson said individual tour ticket sales were up in August, and she said she hopes the trend continues through pilgrimage.

“It’s a beautiful time of year to be in Natchez; it’s not too hot and not too humid,” Colson said. “It’s a great time to be here not just touring houses, but also strolling around the city in the beautiful weather.”

The Natchez Little Theatre will present “Sordid Lives” during Fall Pilgrimage starting Friday and running through Oct. 14. The show will be at 7:30 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. Oct. 14.

Amos Polk’s Voices of Hope choir will perform Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday throughout Fall Pilgrimage at the Carriage House, with dinner at 6:45 p.m. and the concert from 7:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m.

Tour tickets are available at the Natchez Visitor Reception Center.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit natchezpilgrimage.com or call 601-446-6631 or 1-800-647-6742.