The Natchez Trace begin as an animal trail used by the Choctaw & Chickasaw Indians. In the 1700s settlers & trappers began to use it. Later in that century, goods were floated down the Mississippi to Natchez or New Orleans to sell. The boatmen couldn’t pole the flatboats up river, so the boats were sold for lumber & the farmer/boatmen walked or rode 444 miles through Indian territory along this path to reach the civilized area of Nashville where other transportation could be had. Jefferson made it a mail route in 1801 so some federal protection was provided. It was a dangerous proposition; anyone walking north was presumed to have money from goods sold down river. Gradually land owners built stands or inns, allowing travelers a place to stay. Fifty of these were opened along the route, but only 2 remain. Mount Locust was the most interesting. It has been lived in by the same family since the 1700’s. Almost everything displayed was on the property when the Park service purchase it in the 30’s! Astounding! Travelers were feed & generally slept on porches because the families took up the house.
Prior to European infestation the Mississippian Indian mound culture thrived in this area for five hundred years. Emerald Mound is the second largest ceremonial mound left. Thirty-five feet high, covering 8 acres, built basketful by basketful. Pretty awesome anything remain!
We stopped at every sign post & pull through exhibit & walked on the parts of the old Trace that still exist. In many places the soil is loess, a fine dirt left by ancient glaciers. It erodes so easily that places are in a gullies 12 feet deep. Tree roots are exposed like buttresses of cathedrals.
Rocky Springs was a settlement of 2600 (2000 slaves!) south of Tupelo. It barely survived the Civil War only to lose half of the remaining residents to yellow fever. The boll weevil was the last nail in the coffin! A Methodist Church built in 1836 still remains & is used periodically. The gravestones tell the hard tale of their lives. Children died so young & many women in childbirth. All that remains of the town is the two cisterns for water & the safe from the general store!
We covered a 120 miles on our first day on the Trace, about ten times more than in 1750!