Back in 1848 when the Melrose Mansion opened, I’m positive the property didn’t look like it does now. The out buildings have been well preserved, many trees planted and grasses grown but as we toured the grounds and I was in awe of my surroundings, I felt a sadness.
Melrose Mansion Part 2
The picture above is the back of the main house. The building on the left was the dairy and laundry building. The first floor was the working area and the second floor housed slaves. There is a matching building on the opposite side of the lawn that was the kitchen and again rooms for the staff on the second floor. These slaves worked for the family and took care of the main house. They were also called “dependencies”. If the slaves were called that because they were so needed, you think the family were called “the lazy’s” behind their back? Hmm, something to think about.
The tour guide/Ranger (how cool is that) said it was mostly dirt and small trees back in the late 1800’s. Now the trees are gorgeous and master of their domain. They tower over everything and definitely demand respect. Just look at them!
The Slave Housing and a Little Insight:
There are two cabins about 70 yards from the main house with one shared cistern in between them. The staff that were responsible for the property, the carriages and animals lived inside. Each cabin has two rooms; one for dining and the other for sleeping. We read each one held up to 17 slaves. It seems awfully small for 17 people and it certainly couldn’t hold that many beds. In the exhibit, one cabin is furnished and has interactive slavery exhibits. The exhibits aren’t just about slaves as a whole but give insight to the people that lived and worked at the Melrose Mansion.
One of the exhibits has this sheet below from Charlie Davenport. He was one of the children born and raised as a slave at the Melrose Mansion.
The Barn, Carriage House and Garden:
These areas are on the self-guided tour so we didn’t hear much about them. The barn was a bit of a surprise to me. I believe the large groove in the floor was for easier cleaning of the stalls. It slopes to the back which makes sense if they are washing away the yuck-genius!
It’s fun to see carriages I’ve seen in old movies. I began to wonder what it was like to ride in one behind a smelly horse; hearing the clippity clop of the horseshoes. Then of the conversations the chauffeur may have heard while taking them places in the big black covered carriage. It was probably reserved for the more exciting excursions and the other less fancy carriages for the more mundane trips. You start to think you understand how they lived back then but the reality is we will never understand what the slaves really went through or how they felt. Never.
Why do you think the gardens were so far away from the house? Was it their excuse to get out and walk? I would have thought they had had enough of that in the 15 thousand square foot house. Maybe they wanted everyone to see the fabulousness of the estate? Maybe it was cooler under the trees or being out there had more of a breeze? Who knows.
Either way you slice it, the entire place is remarkable. Next time y’all are out and about in Natchez Mississippi drive by, take the tour and take cash. They don’t take credit cards but it’s only $10.00 per adult. Oh bonus! The house is now air-conditioned. So even if it’s 100 degrees with 90% humidity, you’ll enjoy it.
If you’d like to learn a teeny bit more about the McMurrans, click on this link. If you’d like to read more details about the Melrose Mansion, here’s another link. Or if you missed Part 1 – you can read about it here.
Hope you liked the Melrose Mansion Part 2 – the stop is seriously worth it. 😉