Doors open wide for pilgrims

Published 12:03 am Sunday, October 2, 2011

ERIC SHELTON | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Nathalie Harris gives a tour of the Selma home Saturday afternoon during the 2011 Fall Pilgrimage Tour.

NATCHEZ — As Natchezian Nathalie Harris and her colorful hoop skirt swished through indigo-tinted rooms at Selma, she pointed out details in the beauty of one of Natchez’s smaller antebellum plantations.

ERIC SHELTON | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Glen and Barbara Joyner, of Hernado tour the house, which will also be on tour Oct. 4, 7, 10 and 13. z

Tucked away in Washington on 55 oak-dotted acres, sits Selma with its sunlit parlors, spacious porch, bedrooms, dual staircases and wine cellar.

Glen and Barbara Joyner, visitors from Hernando, said they had a free weekend and wanted to get out of town. So Barbara clicked around on the Internet and realized Natchez was just close enough for a weekend getaway.

“We wanted to take a short weekend vacation,” Barbara said. “So we thought we’d try Natchez — we’d heard a lot about it, and we knew pilgrimage was going on.”

The Joyners were enthralled with the house tour Harris led.

“We like architecture, old homes, and Glen loves the history of the Civil War period,” Barbara said.

The Joyners said they also visited Sweet Auburn, and were headed to Brandon Hall as part of the red tour Saturday.

Barbara said she was moved by letters about life during the Civil War read at Sweet Auburn by one of the owner’s daughters.

“Natchez was occupied by Union troops,” Barbara said. “Mail had to be sneaked out.”

Glen said he appreciates the intricate craftsmanship of antebellum homes.

“They had pride in the job they did,” Glen said.

Barbara said to her family, having a grasp on history is important.

ERIC SHELTON | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Marcia Adams prepares to give a tour of the Selma home Saturday afternoon during the 2011 Fall Pilgrimage Tour.

“As you get older, you learn to appreciate it more,” Barbara said. “Especially Southern heritage. We have to take it all — good and bad. What we like and don’t like. We need to know history, so we can draw upon (those lessons), and not make the same mistakes again.”

Selma was built in 1811 by Gerard Brandon, and has been owned by the Bornman family since 1977.

“We love it,” John Bornman said. “I was in the oil business, and (Selma) is a long way from that. It’s not nearly as stressful, even though I have to cut grass two hours a day. I get it done in a week, and start all over again.”

Because Selma was an indigo plantation at one time, the color called “Selma blue” stuck — to everything. The light bluish, slightly purple tint is consistent throughout the house.

Mimi Bornman said no one is sure why the house is called Selma, but she has an idea.

“Gerard Brandon had daughters, Sarah, Suzanna, Elizabeth, Margaret and Mary Anne,” Mimi said. “So we think it came from a combination of names.”

Mimi said earlier in the day, a descendant of Suzanna’s came to tour Selma, which was as much a thrill for her as it was the Bornman family.

Mimi said on the first day of the red tour, visitors came from Chicago, Missouri, California, Mississippi, Louisiana, Oregon, Arkansas, Florida and even Australia to visit Selma.

Mimi said the Australians noticed Fred, their Australian sheep dog, right away.

“Fred thinks everyone comes to see him,” Mimi said. “He’s a herder, leading people over to the door. And he welcomes everyone too.”

Fall Pilgrimage continues today with the orange tour, featuring Magnolia Hall and Auburn from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The yellow tour begins at 1:30 a.m. and ending at 5 p.m., and features The Towers, Wigwam and The Gardens.

Visit the Natchez Visitors Reception Center for tickets.