Primping for pilgrimage

Published 10:55 pm Wednesday, September 28, 2011

NICOLE ZEMA | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT Brick masons Randolph Hargrave and Duncan Morgan secure fireplace bricks in the former doctor’s office of Dr. Johny Wesley Monette, which sits outside of Sweet Auburn, one of three new antebellum houses on tour for Fall Pilgrimage. The doctor’s office and Monette’s library, which also sits outside the house, will not be finished in time for tours, but they will be open to explore.

NATCHEZ — The slight autumn nip blowing in at sunset and the sight of hoop skirts and top hats usher in a new season of antebellum splendor with Fall Pilgrimage.

Tours begin 9 a.m. Friday and end Oct. 14.

With group tour reservations up 20 percent from last fall, and three new houses on display, Natchez Pilgrimage Tours Executive Director Marsha Colson said it should be an exciting Fall Pilgrimage.

Sweet Auburn, Cherokee and The Towers have been added to Fall Pilgrimage tours.

Colson said it has been several years since Cherokee was on tour. While much of the brick at many of Natchez’s grand houses’ was covered in stucco and painted to resemble brownstones, the portico on Cherokee features a sandstone look.

“It has been beautifully restored in recent years,” Colson said.

Cherokee is on the blue tour with The House on Ellicott Hill.

The Towers was occupied by Union forces during the Civil War, like the other houses on the yellow tour — Wigwam and The Gardens. Colson said a family lived at The Towers during the occupation, and were eventually made to leave, but a friendly relationship with Union soldiers remained — and especially one relationship.

“One daughter fell in love with a Union officer,” Colson said. “But she said, ‘I can’t marry a Yankee!’”

But, though they never married, Colson said the family continued to visit and correspond with that Union soldier.

Colson said equally significant to The Towers’ history, are the unusual and eclectic collections of homeowner Ginger Hyland. Hyland has hundreds of beautiful items on display from an eyewash cup collection, to intricately beaded evening purses, costume jewelry, carvings, costumes and more.

Sweet Auburn has been a work zone the past few weeks, as workers hurry to fix original shelving, apply fresh paint and repair the fireplace in the doctor’s office of Dr. John Wesley Monette.

Besides being known for his published works on Mississippi’s geographical society, Monette was renowned for his research in preventing the spread of Yellow Fever through quarantine, which he discovered at his doctor’s office, which sits just outside and to the left of the house. His library also sits separately of the house, to the right.

Brick masons and painters crawled the two small buildings Tuesday, preparing for this weekend’s pilgrimage tourists. The buildings won’t be finished in time for the tours, but they will be open to explore.

Sweet Auburn’s owners, Marlon and Charlotte Copeland, said their house is a simple but elegant federal style antebellum house.

This is the first year in Sweet Auburn’s history for the house to be open for tours.

The Copelands reside in the house, which was in a state of disrepair when they purchased it 17 years ago. But it’s come a long way, Charlotte said.

“It’s a very sturdy house,” Charlotte said. “And the original millwork is intact — it’s a miracle. It has a different look.”

Sweet Auburn is part of the red tour with Selma and Brandon Hall — all owned by members of the Brandon family at one time.

Springfield, on the red tour, may be of interest to pilgrimage tourists as well, Colson said. Located further up the Natchez Trace, the trip is a scenic drive into American history.

Colson said legend has it that President Andrew Jackson married Rachel Stockley Donelson at Springfield, though the story is not necessarily provable.

“A lot of people want to see it for that reason,” Colson said.

Colson said tour organizers are always considering new houses for tours.

“We’re not desperately looking,” Colson said. “But if you have a house in mind, let us know.”

Longwood, Rosalie and Stanton Hall are also available for tours during pilgrimage and year-round.

Joseph Stone, at the Stone House, will present a 19th century musicale at 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights during pilgrimage and year-round. Stone is a classical pianist.

A Jazz and Juleps event will have guests relaxing Southern style at the Carriage House. This event is available for groups and individuals with advance reservations. Call 800-647-6742 for availability.

Also available for groups is Flags Over Ellicott Hill. Witness a view from the gallery, learn a little history and see where the first American flag was raised in the Mississippi territory in 1797 with brief reenactment of the event.

Amos Polk’s Voices of Hope Spiritual Singers

will be featured with a plantation dinner and a gospel concert at 6:45 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday at the Carriage House Restaurant.

Mississippi Medicine Show will feature a host of performers singing popular music of the 1800’s, performed in period costumes by the Natchez Little Theatre. The shows will be at 8 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays throughout Fall Pilgrimage, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 16.Admission is $15. Tickets can be purchased at the pilgrimage website, and www.natchezlittletheatre.org, or 601-442-2233.

Tour tickets are available the Natchez Visitor’s Reception Center from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Or they can be purchased at www.natchezpilgrimage.com, or call 800-647-6742.