Celebrate 75 years of Natchez Trace

Published 12:02 am Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Natchez Trace has been an integral part of Natchez and Mississippi history for hundreds of years, with a very notable event occurring 75 years ago on Oct. 28, 1937.

On this date at 11 a.m. at Brandon Hall, the Natchez Trace Association had the inaugural celebration of construction on the Natchez Trace Parkway.

The Depression-era ceremony was a grand celebration of leaders from several states, as well as federal and Mexican government officials. This event was this culmination of several decades of work by the Daughters of the American Revolution and the association to marshal public support for creating a national park to commemorate the old Natchez Trace.

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On Oct. 27 and Oct. 28, 2012, the association will return to Natchez for a commemorative anniversary celebration to provide an opportunity to honor those who helped make the parkway possible.

The weekend’s most significant historical event will recreate, exactly 75 years from the actual date of Oct. 28, 1937, the symbolic tree-planting ceremony, the inaugural ceremony, and culminate with a barbecue meal, this time prepared by Brandon Hall Chef Jason Roland.

The tree-planting ceremony will begin at 3:15 p.m. near the Brandon Hall entrance on the parkway (milepost 9) with the inaugural celebration starting at 4 p.m. at the Brandon Hall Plantation, followed by the meal.

Just prior to the event on Sunday afternoon, starting at 12:30 p.m., Smokye Joe Frank will host a special Natchez tour on board the Natchez trolley.

On Saturday, Don Estes will officiate at a ceremony at the Natchez City Cemetery to honor Natchez resident Roane Fleming Byrnes, affectionately known as the “Queen of the Natchez Trace.”

She served as president of the association from 1935 to 1969 and tirelessly promoted parkway construction to state and national leaders. A plaque honoring Mrs. Byrnes’ contribution will be dedicated at her grave at 4 p.m.

The historic Natchez Eola Hotel, where the association hosted a reception for the 1937 event as well as numerous fundraising venues for building the parkway, will revive the Natchez Trace Ball and Dinner at 7 Saturday evening. In keeping with the 1930s weekend theme, music from the ’30s and ’40s will be performed by Tommy Sebrell and his Top Hats Orchestra, featuring vocalist Kim Coalter.

The Brandon Hall Plantation barbecue, the Natchez Trace Ball and Dinner and the special Natchez tour are ticketed separately and are available at Natchez Pilgrimage Tours, www.natchezpilgrimage.com.

Tickets will be needed for each of these events, but there is no registration fee for the plaque dedication. Though Mrs. Byrnes cannot be with us in person to share the festivities of the weekend, she will certainly be with us in spirit and extends her personal invitation to everyone to enjoy the many events planned for the 75th anniversary celebration. As she always ended her note or personal request, “Be sure to come.”


Janet Sullivan is a member of the Natchez Trace Parkway Association.