Women’s History Month tours at Melrose

Published 3:56 pm Wednesday, March 6, 2024

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NATCHEZ – In commemoration of Women’s History Month, Natchez National Historical Park is offering women’s-history-centered tours of the Melrose mansion during March.

These tours will focus on the women who lived and labored at Melrose and their cultural contexts.

The stories will include several happy weddings, including John and Mary Louisa McMurrans’ daughter Mary and boy-next-door Farar Connor, whose 1856 wedding took place in the elegant drawing room at Melrose; and Patrick and Mime, an enslaved couple who married the same year in the area back of the big house.

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There are happy births of McMurran grandchildren in the upstairs bedrooms – two within one week.

Then there is the unending grind of constant on-call servitude: enslaved men and women at Melrose always having to answer to the ringing of service bells summoning them to various rooms inside the big house for personal attendance to the needs of the McMurran family members, cleaning, tending fires, minding children or cooking in the kitchen building behind the mansion.

Some of these women’s names are known to us, such as Mamey Helen and Rachel.

The saddest stories are the deaths that marred life at the estate. Mary McMurran Connor was sickened and died of an unidentified disorder at age 29 while her husband Farar was off fighting for the Confederacy – leaving behind three young children, the youngest born after his father left for war.

Two of these soon followed their mother in death, victims of the dysentery that filled the town during the Union occupation.

We know only the first name of Laura, the servant girl with the unfortunate distinction of being the first person buried in the estate’s evergreen-bordered cemetery for the enslaved.

Guided tours of the Melrose mansion are available seven days a week at 9 a.m., 10 a.m., 11:00 a.m., 2 p.m., 3 pm. and 4 p.m. The tour costs $11.00 for adults; children 15 and under are free.

Tickets can be purchased at Melrose or in advance online at Recreation.gov (https://www.recreation.gov/ticket/10089703/ticket/10089704).

The grounds and outbuilding of the Melrose estate can be toured free of charge and are open from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. daily.

The South Slave Cabin at Melrose will continue to display the photographic works of Mikael Levin (“Critical Places: Sites of American Slave Rebellion”) through the month of March.

For more information, visit www.nps.gov/natc.