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Back to their roots: Family returns to Melrose for reunion

Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat — Marian Williams, left, talks about the family pictures that sit on a table in the second floor hallway of Melrose. Williams is one of the three children of Marian Kelly Ferry, who grew up at Melrose.
Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat — Marian Williams, left, talks about the family pictures that sit on a table in the second floor hallway of Melrose. Williams is one of the three children of Marian Kelly Ferry, who grew up at Melrose.

NATCHEZ — Borne down by the hands of her family, one of Natchez’s own will return home today.

Marian Kelly Ferry was the daughter of George Malin Davis Kelly and Ethel Moore Kelly of Natchez, and grew up at Melrose when it was still a private residence.

Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat — Hannah Quigley, her sister Marin and their dad Kevin look up the three flights of the house’s stairway during their visit Sunday.
Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat — Hannah Quigley, her sister Marin and their dad Kevin look up the three flights of the house’s stairway during their visit Sunday.

She left the area when she married her husband, Dexter, but every spring sent her three children Julie, Mason and Marian down south to take part in the Spring Pilgrimage with their grandparents.

“When we were here as children, we were expected to act like adults on the first and second floors, but we had a good run of the basement and the attic,” Ferry’s daughter Julie Hale said.

“Our mother instilled in us a love of this place and a respect for it. It has been a home away from home, and this house is important enough for us and our history — even though I live in Maine, my sister lives in New York and my brother lives in Michigan — to come back.”

Sunday, the three children — and 37 other family members — gathered at Melrose once again to honor Ferry’s memory. She died in 2009 at 99, and had a private memorial service in Michigan.

But Ferry had a secret wish to have some of her remains scattered in Natchez, and her granddaughter Julia Williams said even five years later, when the family found out, it made sense to take the time to fulfill that wish.

“She loved Natchez, she maintained many relationships here, she kept an apartment here, she was a lifelong subscriber to The Natchez Democrat no matter where she lived,” Williams said.

Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat — Julia Hale plays with her daughter Sarah Jane before the family takes a group picture in front of the house.
Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat — Julia Hale plays with her daughter Sarah Jane before the family takes a group picture in front of the house.

“When she died, I gave the eulogy, and I talked about how for our family, she was home. But me, stupid northerner that I am, I neglected that she never used the word ‘home’ without the word, ‘roots,’ and this was her roots.”

The family will gather again today at the Davis family cemetery plot and have a brief memorial before scattering some of Ferry’s ashes, Williams said.

“We are bringing her home,” Williams said.

The Kelly family lived in Melrose until Ethel Kelly died in 1975.

It was sold to the Callon family, and in 1990 became part of the National Park Service’s inventory in Natchez.