Celebrate anniversary of college

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 18, 2007

We all know the Natchez area is steeped in history, but sometimes just how much can still amaze.

Let’s take the time machine back 20 decades to 1802. Natchez would certainly not have looked a thing like it looks now. Steamboats hadn’t arrived yet. Cotton was just beginning to take over as the soon-to-be king.

Across the Mississippi River, Louisiana was still in French control. The Louisiana Purchase was another year away.

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And an excitement filled the air as a fledgling government of the new Mississippi Territory learned to stretch its wings.

Just north of what’s now downtown Natchez, in Washington, Mississippi’s first higher educational institution was formed — Jefferson College.

Named for then President Thomas Jefferson, the school was eventually transformed into a preparatory school. With the exception of a three-year period during the Civil War, the school remained a prep school, eventually known as Jefferson Military College, until 1964.

This year, Historic Jefferson College celebrates its 30th year as a state-operated museum.

The facility is one of Natchez’s best-kept secrets, at least to many of us who live nearby and drive past routinely.

Hidden behind the huge, stately oak trees that shield it from U.S. 61, the site is among Mississippi’s oldest and most historic places.

And this time of year is among the best to see it as the 27-year tradition of Christmas trees, decorated by area groups, continues.

Congratulations to Historic Jefferson College on the celebration of their anniversary and we hope more people will stop by and see the charm and beauty evident at the site.