- Mississippi - by Tommy Ford
History and mystery mix liberally
in Natchez, high on the bluffs overlooking the rolling Mississippi
River. Natchez is one of our favorite places and we visit often.
Founded by the French in 1716, Natchez is the oldest
town on the Mississippi River, predating New Orleans by two years.
Later both the Spanish and British ruled the area, which finally
became the capital of the Mississippi Territory in 1798.
Prior to European settlement, Natchez was the site of the "Grand
Village" of the mysterious Natchez Indians. These native people
had a complex and fascinating social structure revolving around
a chieftain known as the "Great Sun." They were a mound
building people with a ceremonial center located just off what is
now Highway 61 south of Natchez. The Natchez possessed a thriving
culture until conflict with the French led them to massacre the
garrison at Fort Rosalie in 1729.
The French retaliated brutally. The remnants of the Natchez tribe
were soon scattered throughout the southeast and they ceased to
function as a cohesive tribal unit. The site of the "Grand
Village" is today a park administered by the Mississippi Department
of Archives and History. The park museum displays artifacts excavated
at the site. A walking trail leads the visitor through the ceremonial
mound complex, which saw desperate battles in the war with the French.
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