Duncan Park houses reveal all-American character of Natchez neighborhoods

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 22, 2009

Natchez — just the name stirs up images of women in hoop skirts and palatial plantation houses. But that’s not reality.

Just a block or two from downtown, or just yards from some antebellum homes, most Natchez folks are just regular middle-class families living in normal neighborhoods.

And nowhere is that more true than in the neighborhood surrounding Duncan Park.

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On a drive down any one of Duncan Park’s streets nothing jumps out that screams “Natchez.”

It’s just an all-American type of neighborhood.

The kids ride their bikes in the streets with dogs not far behind, and the neighbors talk with each other in their front yards.

And the families — they stay close.

It was the late 1980s when Carol Jones bought her house on Magnolia Place, near Duncan Park.

She didn’t know it then, but she was establishing the roots of a family tree that’s now wrapped all the way around the corner.

“I just liked the neighborhood,” she said.

And Jones’ attraction to that neighborhood has turned into a solid, somewhat confusing, lineage that keeps her family close at hand and heart.

When Jones moved to Magnolia Place she was newly divorced and still caring for two of her four children.

“It was a quiet area, and it was a good place to raise a family,” she said. “When the house came up for sale I just bought it.”

Then in 2000 Jones’ family tree started to sprout.

That’s when her daughter Anna Devening, her husband Charles and their twin daughters Kimble and Mollie moved just down the block on Park Place.

Just two doors down from them, Jones’ son Will bought a house.

Will lives with his wife, Stephanie and her daughter Abby, 3.

And if that wasn’t enough family togetherness, Stephanie’s family is just down the street.

From Will and Stephanie’s front yard it’s a straight shot to Stephanie’s sister’s house on Walnut Street.

The Walnut Street residence is home to Priester Byrne, his wife Jessica and their daughter Liza, 2.

While some families have a difficult time making it through an entire family meal together, the Duncan Park clan likes the arrangement just fine.

“It’s wonderful, we all love it,” Carol said. “I love having all my family so close by.”

And Carol isn’t the only one who likes the close-knit arrangement.

Anna Devening said she loves it.

“I don’t know how people handle not having family close by,” she said. “We’re all kind of spoiled with so much family so close by.”

And when Anna Devening refers to her family being spoiled, she is talking about the unofficial arrangement of babysitting and errand running.

Stephanie said one of the best things about having kids and lots of family close by is that there’s always someone around that can watch them.

“If I just need to run to the store, I can leave (Abby) over with Jessica,” she said.

Conversely, Jessica said she has no problems leaving her daughter with her sister.

“It really works out great,” she said.

Stephanie even said it works out well if someone is going to the store, then someone needs something.

“You can just ask them to pick something up for you,” she said.

But Anna Devening said above all else, there’s a sense of security and love that comes with living so close to her family.

“You know there’s always someone looking out for you,” she said.

And that feeling runs throughout the family.

No one in the family said they’d even consider moving.

But Carol said there’s one thing that keeps the peace in all the homes.

“We have an unofficial rule, you don’t just drop in on anyone,” she said. “You have to call them first.”

While Carol said she loves having her family near her, calling first is important.

“It works out fine,” she said.

“We all love it, we’re very lucky to have each other.”