Natchez Historical Society program to feature Natchez author

Published 12:01 am Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Natchez Historical Society will present its annual Grace MacNeil Lecture featuring Aaron Anderson, Ph.D., at the Natchez Convention Center at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.  Anderson’s illustrated program is titled “Post War Natchez,” based upon his recently released book “Builders of a New South: Merchants, Capital, and the Remaking of Natchez, 1865-1914.” The program is free and open to the public.

Anderson is Assistant Professor of History at Alcorn State University. He received his B.A. and M.A. degrees in History from California State University, Northridge, and his Ph.D. in History from the University of Southern Mississippi in 2009. In addition to his book, published this year by University Press of Mississippi, Anderson has published numerous journal articles on a variety of subjects, including planters and merchants in the Natchez area. He is one of several scholars from California State University, Northridge, who has studied the local court records archived at the Historic Natchez Foundation. His program will provide an overview of the social and economic conditions that prevailed in Natchez from the Union occupation until the early twentieth century.

The Grace MacNeil Lecture Series honors the late Grace M.S. MacNeil, who died in 2000. She was an award-winning conservationist and preservationist, who is also remembered as a philanthropist and community leader. In her will, Grace MacNeil gave a bequest to the Natchez Historical Society, which the Society used to endow the lecture series that began ten years ago. The lecture topics have varied greatly over the years.

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I was fortunate to enjoy Grace MacNeil’s friendship for almost 20 years. She was one of the first people I met when I arrived in Natchez in the summer of 1981 to begin work at the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians. Our meeting wasn’t by accident; I was already aware of her donation of close to 90 acres of land to the State of Mississippi to establish the Grand Village park, a public treasure in a city of treasures. A glance at the Grand Village’s immediate surroundings reveals the importance of this land donation; subdivision development was about to overrun this National Historic Landmark.

Grace MacNeil’s daughters, Elizabeth Boggess and Anne MacNeil, are carrying on their mother’s passion for preservation. In 2007, they gave the Mississippi Department of Archives and History a preservation easement on Elmscourt, their family home. The easement will allow the Department’s Board of Trustees to help protect this irreplaceable part of Natchez history.

The Grace MacNeil Lectures not only pay tribute to the past works of the honoree, they also recognize the family tradition in preservation that she founded.

The Natchez Historical Society holds monthly meetings, except during June-August, with informative programs by guest speakers on a variety of historical topics.  The meetings begin with a social gathering at 6:30 p.m., and the program starts at 7 p.m.  For information, call 601-445-9274.


Jim Barnett is the director of the division of historic properties for the Mississippi Department of Archives and History and is the publicity chair of the Natchez Historical Society.