Sketches & Engravings

Early Natchez: 1854 River Scene

This post is the second part of a short series of items from the collection related to the early days of Natchez, one of the early settlements in Mississippi and the center of government and society during the territorial years (1798-1817) and early days of statehood.

Natchez, 1854. Call Number: PI/1989.0001.1 (MDAH Collection)
Natchez, 1854. Call Number: PI/1989.0001 (MDAH Collection)

This 1854 engraving shows Natchez from the Louisiana side of the Mississippi River. Notice the steamboat traffic on the river and buildings in Natchez “Under-the-Hill.” Describing it as a “colorful, ribald old river port” one writer said:

There were times when flatboats were tied to its banks 14 deep in a stretch two miles long. Ships from Liverpool and other foreign ports came to its wharfs. All that remains is a single desolate street and a few moldy buildings; year by year the river eats away the soft rockless land.[1]

This was written in 1938, because now things couldn’t be more different–Natchez “Under-the-Hill” is a popular tourist spot that is proud of its colorful past.[2] 

Holiday Closing

All MDAH offices will be closed on Monday, January 17, 2011 in observance of the birthdays of Robert E. Lee and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Offices will reopen on Tuesday, January 18, 2011 at 8:00 a.m.

[1] Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration, Mississippi: A Guide to the Magnolia State, The American Guide Series (New York: The Viking Press, 1938), 244.

[2] Natchez Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, “Natchez Under-the-Hill,” (accessed December 16, 2010).

Sketches & Engravings

Early Natchez: Fort Rosalie/Panmure

This post is part one of a short series of items from the collection related to the early days of Natchez, one of the early settlements in Mississippi and the center of government and society during the territorial years (1798-1817) and early days of statehood.

“View of the Fort of the Natchez,” 1797. Call Number: PI/CI/N38.3, Item 1 (MDAH Collection)

This sketch shows Fort Panmure, formerly Fort Rosalie, which was constructed on the site of present day Natchez by Lieutenant Governor Bienville in the early 1700s. At that time, the French ruled the Mississippi-Louisiana area. The fort was renamed in the 1760s during British rule of the colony. In 1797, the date of this sketch, Natchez was under Spanish rule.

For a handy summary of Mississippi colonial and territorial history see the text of the “Mississippi: The Magnolia State” historical marker or check out the marker itself on its blog entry from the historical marker series:

Explored, 1540-1, by De Soto. Colonized first by French, 1699. Became a colony of British, 1763; Spanish, 1779. Territory organized by U.S., 1798. Became 20th. state, 1817.

The area under the bluff by the Mississippi River would later become Natchez “Under-the-Hill,” the more boisterous part of town, owing to its proximity to the river traffic and their boat crews.

The site of Fort Rosalie is now famous as the site of the antebellum mansion “Rosalie,” name after the fort, and built by Peter Little in 1823. It still stands today.


Westley F. Busbee, Jr., Mississippi: A History (Wheeling, Illinois: Harlan Davidson, Inc., 2005), 29, 39-40, 55.

Mississippi State Society Daughters of the American Revolution, “Rosalie Mansion,”, accessed December 15, 2010.

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New Civil War Sesquicentennial Website!

Sesquicentennial website screen shot
Screen shot of the new website (click the image to go to the site).

Check out the new website from the Mississippi Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission! It was recently unveiled and will serve as a clearing house for the various statewide events commemorating the 150 anniversary of the Civil War. Other fun stuff on the website: a timeline of Civil War action, photos, videos, reading lists, visitor information, related collections at various institutions (including MDAH) and more!

The website was developed by the Mississippi State University Libraries Web Services Department.

Photographs Sketches & Engravings

Marshall County Courthouse

Call Number: PI/CW/B38.8, Item 77 (MDAH Collection)

Marshall County, named for Chief Justice John Marshall of the U.S. Supreme Court, was formed in 1836. The courthouse and town of Holly Springs, Mississippi are depicted in this sketch from Harper’s Weekly Magazine, January 10, 1863. The courthouse was burned during the Civil War, and rebuilt in 1872.

Call Number: PI/SF/COL/1987.0127, Item 127 (MDAH Collection)

This photograph of the courthouse was taken at some point before 1925, when east and west wings were added to increase office space.

The Marshall County Courthouse, with its clock tower and Greek revival architecture, is an example of the classic courthouse style employed in Mississippi in the 19th century. You can view other courthouses from around the state in the Cooper Postcard Collection, just type in “courthouse” as the search term.

Source: Bill Gurney, Mississippi Courthouses: Then and Now (Ripley, Mississippi: Old Timer Press, 1987), 99-100.

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Welcome to “A Sense of Place,” the Mississippi Department of Archives and History’s new blog, where we will explore historic documents, photographs, artifacts, and sites that tell the story of our state.

Created in 1902, MDAH is the nation’s second-oldest state department of archives and history. The department oversees the finest existing collection of documents and artifacts related to the history of Mississippi. MDAH is a comprehensive historical agency, administering the official state archives in Jackson, historic preservation programs, and museums and historic sites around the state.

On some days the blog will highlight specific dates and events in Mississippi history. At other times we will present an interesting item from the collection. Check back regularly and explore the rich history of Mississippi with us.

Please contact us with any questions or comments:

Mississippi Department of Archives and History
P.O. Box 571
Jackson, MS 39205
Email us