Mother, daughter visit the Johnson house

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 3, 2003

What most see as a historic landmark, Mary Louise Miller once saw as home.

&uot;The bedroom used to be over there,&uot; 89-year-old Miller said, supporting herself with the help of a cane as she pointed to the far wall. Outside, she toured the back yard where she once played.

&uot;I’m greatly impressed with it,&uot; Miller said, smiling brightly. &uot;They’re putting so much back the way it was.&uot;

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The &uot;it&uot; to which Miller was referring is the restoration of the State Street house that once belonged to William Johnson, Miller’s ancestor by marriage.

Johnson was a free black man who was known as &uot;the Barber of Natchez&uot; and kept an extensive diary in post-Civil War days &045; what some believe to be one of the most complete records of Natchez at that time.

When the National Park Service, which owns the building, completes its renovations, the Johnson House will contain exhibits related to him and the family life and Natchez society of his time.

The McCallum House, which is being rebuilt next door, will contain an information center and Park Service offices.

As of Monday, crews have installed new floor joists and doing masonry work at the Johnson House and excavating soil around the McCallum House to prepare for rebuilding, said the Park Service’s Kathleen Jenkins.

And on Monday, Miller and her daughter, Lois Hawthorne &045; who was actually born in the house &045; toured the Johnson House along with Jenkins.

The pair last visited the house several years ago, when the Natchez Garden Club conveyed the property to the Park Service.

Hawthorne, who now lives in Gulfport, spent time at the house every summer well into the 1970s. She remembers seeing the house as a young child and thinking &uot;it was impressive Š and massive, but warm and inviting,&uot; and filled with relatives’ hospitality.

Standing in what used to be the building’s bedroom, Miller and Hawthorne stood for just a minute, looking around to take it all in.

&uot;I remember the more modern furnishings, and I know that won’t be what it looks like when it’s finished,&uot; since it will be furnished as it was in William Johnson’s day, Hawthorne said.

&uot;Still, it will be historically accurate,&uot; she said. And it’s exciting.&uot;

Park Service officials have said the work should be completed early next year.