Do you know the story of Auburn?

Published 12:02 am Thursday, August 2, 2012

Auburn is celebrating its 200th birthday this year. It would be my guess that the majority of the citizens of Natchez and the Miss-Lou don’t really know anything about Auburn, other than it is the large mansion that sits at the entrance to Duncan Park.

Today is your day to have a history lesson.

Auburn was built by Levi Weeks for attorney Lyman Harding, who had moved to Natchez from Massachusetts. The house was completed in 1812. It was the first mansion to be built in Natchez.

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Weeks wrote to his friend that “this is the first house in the Territory on which was ever attempted any of the orders of architecture.”

Attorney Harding died in 1820, and the second owner of the house was Dr. Stephen A. Duncan, who had moved to Natchez from Pennsylvania. He and his wife, Catherine, moved into Auburn around 1821 and lived there until 1863 when they left Auburn by a Union gunboat, which conveyed them north and eventually to New York City. Dr. Duncan died in New York in 1867.

Stephen Duncan Jr. elected to stay at Auburn and lived off and on there until his death in 1910. His heirs decided to donate Auburn, all the furnishings and 210 acres to the City of Natchez with the stipulation that the land would be made into a public park in memory of the Duncans, thus we have Duncan Park.

The second stipulation was that the house and land remain together. Because of this stipulation, the city decided to sell all the furnishings, thinking that the house would be easier to take care of.

The city made an apartment upstairs for the caretaker of the park and his family to live, but downstairs remained virtually empty and became a play house for children of the city.

In 1972, the Town and Country Garden Club (later to be named the Auburn Garden Club) set up a lease with the city to open the house for tours on a daily basis and operated a bed and breakfast until 1992 to earn money to furnish Auburn with period furniture. Over the years, a few of the Duncan original pieces of furniture and fixtures have been returned to Auburn. We would be very interested in acquiring more.

In 2009, the members of the Auburn Garden Club petitioned the city and the state for a name change and new bylaws. The Auburn Antebellum Home is the new name, with a focus on Auburn preservation.

We are a small group of male and female volunteers who still lease the house from the city and manage it. If anyone wishes to join our group, please contact Auburn at 601-442-5981, and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

Our current project is to restore the detached kitchen with servant’s quarters on the second floor. This building (ca. 1830) has been identified by Mississippi Archives and History as one of only four such structures still standing in Mississippi.

There is much black history connected with this building, and we wish to tell the story, especially of George Davis, a house servant who stayed at Auburn and was taught to read and write by Stephen Jr.

If anyone is interested in learning more about Auburn and the history, please call at 601-442-5981 or e-mail

The Auburn Antebellum Home is a 501c3 for federal income tax purposes, and donations for our restoration purposes will be appreciated.

A receipt will be provided upon request. Auburn doesn’t receive any tax money, so we operate on only tourist dollars and donations.

Also, come visit us at our annual open house and 200th birthday party from 1:30 to 4 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 9.


J. Clark Feiser is the president of Auburn Antebellum Home.