Natchez Antiques Forum remembers former giant in industry

Published 12:05 am Wednesday, November 6, 2013

NATCHEZ — Daniel Brooks vividly remembers the exceptional time he had at his first Natchez Antiques Forum in 1986.

“I thought it was wonderful,” Brooks said. “It was so well done. There were great speakers, and they were speaking about things relative to my interests.”

Brooks hasn’t missed a forum since. He was a featured speaker in 1997 and served as assistant to chief moderator Wendell Garrett in 2011. Garrett died days after the 2012 event, and this year’s Pilgrimage Garden Club’s 36th Natchez Antiques Forum, which takes place Thursday through Saturday, is the first without Garrett’s guiding hand.

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Brooks is serving as forum adviser and will speak about Garrett’s impact during Friday’s opening remarks.

“Wendell (Garrett) was a giant in his field, a great American historian, as well as a great antiquarian,” Brooks said. “Wendell loved Natchez and loved coming to Natchez. As a result of that, Natchez loved Wendell. Many people developed great friendships with him.”

Garden club member and forum cofounder Jeanette Feltus said she credits Garrett as the driving force behind the forum, which has lasted more than three decades and routinely draws internationally known speakers and many visitors.

“He was unreal, superb, super,” Feltus said. “He gave us our title and our speakers. He got us outstanding speakers from all over the United States.

“Without him, we wouldn’t be here. It was he who gave us all these outstanding speakers and subject matters. They love coming to Natchez because it’s all here.”

This year’s theme is “On the Home Front: Antiques Behind Union Lines.”

“It’s commemorative of the Yankees coming to Natchez in 1863,” Feltus said. “It’s nothing negative; it’s all positive. They were good to us. They only burned two houses (during their Civil War occupation).”

The forum will have presentations by Ulysses Dietz, the great-great-grandson of the Union general and later President Ulysses S. Grant, and Bertram Hayes-Davis, the great-great-grandson of Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederate States of America.

Dietz is senior curator at the Newark Museum and a member of the family that owns the Dietz Lighting Company.

Hayes-Davis is executive director of Beauvoir, the Davis family’s post-Civil War home in Biloxi.

Each man will speak Saturday.

The discussions of other lectures during the forum will center on the Fort McPherson area of Natchez, the north side of the city where the Union occupation was concentrated.

Brooks said this year’s historic pairing of Dietz and Hayes-Davis is a tribute to Wendell Garrett and his deep connection to Natchez and this forum.

“Wendell said to me on many occasions that his annual pilgrimage to Natchez, which was not during the regular pilgrimage season, was something that meant so much to him and he drew inspiration from coming here in November of each year,” Brooks said. “I just can’t emphasize what a close relationship he had with this community and with the people.”

The forum starts at 9 a.m. Thursday and a full list of speakers and events is listed at

Tickets can be purchased by phone at 601-446-6631.