Angels on the Bluff is Thursday through Saturday

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, November 6, 2019

In October 2000 a new event debuted on the bluffs overlooking the majestic Mississippi River. This unusual tour was not of historic homes or sites in the Natchez area, rather it was the telling of history through the life stories of residents of the Natchez City Cemetery.

Led by Bee Byrnes and Don Estes and later by members of the Natchez Cemetery Association Board, volunteers who serve as actors, musicians, dancers, tour guides, behind the scenes workers, as well as faithful supporters from near and far, have made this much-anticipated event a success for 20 years.

The proceeds from Angels on the Bluff are invested in the maintenance and improvement of the Natchez City Cemetery.

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This year’s tour, Thursday, Nov. 7, through Saturday, Nov. 9, will continue the tradition of education and entertainment. Along with musical entertainment, the following life stories will be told:

Ethel Mae Clagett (1882-1965) (Portrayed by Judy Wiggins) After working several years as secretary-treasurer of the local Chamber of Commerce, she and her business partner, former school teacher Mabel L. Porter, opened a Dodge automobile dealership in downtown Natchez. It eventually became one of the most successful dealerships in the state.

Marty Nathanson (1911-1999) (Portrayed by Neal Nathanson) A native of Brooklyn, New York, Nathanson enjoyed successful careers in law, business, and real estate — in New York City, Natchez, and Vidalia. He was also a talented musician who often played the piano at local benefits. An active member of Temple B’nai Israel, he served there for nearly twenty-five years as lay rabbi.

Sallie A. Wensel Dix (1867-1932) (Portrayed by Wensel Conroy), a founding member and long-time treasurer of the “Natchez City Cemetery Preservation and Improvement Association,” which received its charter from the State of Mississippi in 1908. This organization is now known as the Natchez Cemetery Association.

Holmes Col. Thornton Alexander (1790-1842) (Portrayed by Rusty Jenkins) A native of Virginia, Alexander arrived in Natchez in the late 1830s. He soon opened the popular Steam Boat Hotel at the landing on Silver Street, where his “first rate cook” served elegant cuisine until the spring of 1840 when a devastating tornado struck Natchez.

Capt. Richard Holmes (1828-1904) (Portrayed by Sam Jones) A native of Massachusetts, Holmes arrived in Natchez in the 1840s. A steamboat captain, he was a familiar figure on the Mississippi River in the 1850s. After “leaving” the river he worked as a steamboat agent and served for a time as Postmaster at Natchez.

Dr. Henry Joseph Dumas (1875-1946) (Portrayed by Jamel McCullen) a native of Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana. Dumas graduated from Meharry Medical College’s School of Pharmacy in 1901.

Soon afterwards he opened his own business in Natchez where his older brother, Dr. Albert W. Dumas, had already established a successful medical practice. The “Dumas Drug Store” sign can still be seen on the side of the brick building erected on Franklin Street in 1906.

John Davis (1811-1897) (Portrayed by John Grady Burns) born “Anthony Aversi” in Sorrento, Italy, immigrated as a young man to New Orleans, where he became a successful restaurateur. He became known as the “Hero of Last Island” for his bravery during a devastating hurricane that struck the Gulf Coast in 1856. He later moved to Natchez where he continued in the restaurant business and was active in local civic and religious affairs.

Monsignor Patrick Cahill “P. C.” Hayden (1849-1921) (Portrayed by Mike Roboski) a native of County Kilkenny, Ireland, arrived in Natchez in 1890. He served the parishioners of St. Mary’s Cathedral for more than thirty years, until his death in 1921 — just one year after being invested with the title of Monsignor at a ceremony conducted by the Rt. Rev. Bishop E. Gunn. He was instrumental in building Assumption Catholic Church on Morgantown Road.

To commemorate the 20th anniversary, a booklet recapping the characters and entertainment for the past 20 years has been compiled and will be available for purchase at the Visitors Center on the nights of the tour. The booklet will also be available for purchase at the Natchez City Cemetery office. The price is $10.

Thank you for your support of Angels on the Bluff. For information on ticket availability, contact the Natchez Visitors Center 601-446-6345.

Teri Tillman is a member of the Natchez Cemetery Association.