Roselawn got its start thanks to IP

Published 1:41 am Sunday, June 27, 2010

NATCHEZ — Roselawn, a subdivision practically at the center of Natchez, got its momentum much like modern day Natchez did — by the dollar of International Paper.

But the residential area’s history begins and ends with different stories.

Roselawn — originally a large plot of land under the ownership of a Natchez family — became a subdivision in the 1920s.

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Frances and Lemuel Connor originally purchased the Roselawn property in 1849 as part of a family compound, which included Melrose, Woodlands and Monmouth mansions, Natchez Historic Foundation Director Mimi Miller said.

Local attorney Marion Smith said his grandfather, William J. Kaiser bought the property of the existing Roselawn neighborhood from the Frances Connor in 1894. They operated a small dairy on their acreage that provided dairy products to local residents.

Kaiser, a businessman, sold existing property to L.E. Hodges for $18,000 in 1920, according to a deed record.

Smith said the Roselawn area was subdivided and sold in the 1940s, most likely, to earn money on the land for its owners.

“Roselawn was a prime property to subdivide,” Miller said. “And the owners didn’t have a lot of money.”

Smith said after World War II, Roselawn was a popular place for war veterans to settle down and start families.

“It was considered a nice place to live,” Smith said.

Miller said Roselawn developed into the neighborhood as it appears today, with 239 lots, in response to the opening of industrial plants, such as IP in 1950.

Local resident Edward Eidt lived in one half and rented the other half of a duplex he purchased in Roselawn from 1964 to 1966. He said the homes in Roselawn were fairly inexpensive, and the neighborhood was home to many young, married couples.

“The location then was great because it had nice, big trees and everybody seemed to keep the grass cut and everything,” Eidt said.

Working class people from nearby counties moved to Roselawn when they got jobs at IP because downtown Natchez could not accommodate the influx of factory workers, Miller said.

Such a subdivision for factory workers was a common pattern occurring in Natchez in the 20th century.

Similar patterns occurred in the Kenilworth and Oakland subdivision.

After the factories left town, Roselawn became a popular destination for young couples starting families and retired residents, Miller said.

“It was one of those neighborhoods that people lived in on their way up or on their way down,” she said.

But in the late 1990s, the feel of the neighborhood saw yet another shift. Many properties went from owner occupied to rentals.

Houses weren’t maintained like they once had been, grass grew taller and crime went up.

Former Natchez Police Chief Willie Huff said problems in the neighborhood really picked up steam between 1999 and 2000.

Huff said when he tried to establish a neighborhood watch in 2001 to 2002, it was difficult to keep interest in the program because many who were trained for the program moved out of the neighborhood.

“You can’t keep interest up if they don’t stay,” Huff said.

Today, some local leaders estimate the neighborhood has up to 80 percent renters. And with time and change has come worry over safety and the devaluation of property.