Traveling the Natchez Trace: Narrative 6

Mississippi (Part 3)

Bynum Mounds   is located on the Natchez Trace Parkway at milepost 232.4. Indian History – 10-20 minutes

Prehistoric Trade – Raw materials and articles from distant areas reached the Indians of the Bynum site by trade along early trails that were the forerunners of the Natchez Trace. Spool shaped objects made of copper filled with lead were found with Bynum materials. Flint for tools and weapons came from as far away as the region of Ohio. Green stone for polished celts (axes) was obtained from the Alabama- Tennessee Piedmont. Marine shells came from the Gulf coast.

A Living From the Land – The Indians hunted, fished and gathered wild berries, nuts and fruit. They supplemented these activities by farming. Deer was the most common game animal. The Indians used the bones for tools and the skin for clothing. Cooking pots were made of clay mixed with sand or grit. The surfaces were decorated with the impressions of fabrics or cords. You may see specimens from the Bynum Mounds in the Parkway Visitors Center near Tupelo.

Summer Shelters – In summer the Indians probably lived largely out of doors under temporary brush lean-to shelters. Most of their time was spent caring for their crops, hunting and gathering wild plants, fish and shellfish from the surrounding area. New winter homes were built as necessary for the winter months. Three permanent house foundations were discovered during archaeological excavation. These were built by placing timbers upright in a circular pattern, weaving willow or reed stems into them and finally plastering mud on the outside. Roofs were thatched with grass and bark with a center hole for smoke to escape.

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Chickasaw Village Site    is located on the Natchez Trace Parkway at milepost 261.8. Hiking Trail, Indian History – 10-30 minutes

Here once stood an Indian village of several houses and a fort. During the summer they lived in rectangular, well-ventilated houses. In the winter they lived in round houses with plaster walls. In times of danger, everybody – warriors, women, children – sought shelter in strongly fortified stockades. Original foundations of four of these structures are overlaid with concrete curb on the ground.

The Chickasaw Nation – This tribe, population about 2000, lived in the Chickasaw Old Fields, a small natural prairie near Tupelo, Mississippi. Although their villages occupied an area of less than 20 square miles, the Chickasaw claimed and hunted over a vast region in northern Mississippi, Alabama, western Tennessee and Kentucky. The Chickasaw were closely related to the Choctaw, Creek and Natchez, as well as some the smaller tribes of the Mississippi Valley. De Soto’s followers were the first Europeans to see the Chickasaw with whom they fought a bloody battle in 1541. The Chickasaw, after ceding the last of their ancestral lands to the United States, moved in 1837-1847 to Oklahoma to become one of the 5 civilized tribes.

The English-French Conflict 1700-1763 – England and France, after the founding of Louisiana fought four wars for control of North America. The Chickasaw became allies of the British, who used them as a spearhead to oppose French expansion. This tribe, with British help, not only remained independent, but threatened French shipping on the Mississippi. The French conquered or made allies of all the tribes along the Mississippi except for the Chickasaw. They made great efforts to destroy this tribe, sending powerful forces against them in 1736 and 1740 and incited the Choctaw and other tribes to do likewise. The Chickasaw successfully resisted and remained a thorn in the side of France, until she in 1763, lost all her North American possessions.

The French-Chickasaw War in 1736. The Chickasaw threatened French communications between Louisiana and Canada, and urged the Choctaw to trade with the English. Bienville decided to destroy the Chickasaw tribe. In 1735, he ordered a column of French and Indians led by Pierre D’Artaguette from Illinois to meet him near Tupelo. Bienville, leading a French Army joined by the Choctaws, proceeded via Mobile up the Tombigbee. Arriving at the Chickasaw villages, May 25, 1736, he saw nothing of D’Artaguette. D’Artaguette was dead. Two months earlier the Chickasaw had defeated and killed him and forced his followers to flee. Ignorant of D’Artaguette’s defeat, Bienville attacked the fortified village of Ackia, May 26, 1736. Bloodily repulsed, he withdrew to Mobile, leaving the Chickasaw more dangerous than ever.

Black Belt Overlook milepost 265.   We had not planned to stop at this overlook which shows countryside that use to be under water.  The area use to be under a prehistoric ocean.  However, we stopped to view some of the antique automobiles that were touring the Trace.  I spoke with a coupe of the people who stated they were headed to the French Village for lunch.  I forgot to mention in the previous post that Pam and I both stopped at the French Village for lunch.  The Broccoli Salad was to die for – it was that good.

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Elvis Presley’s Home.  Since the Trace passes through the outskirts of Tupelo, we would have been remiss if we didn’t stop in to see Elvis’s birthplace.  The home was a very plain shotgun style home.

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Parkway Visitor Center    is located on the Natchez Trace Parkway at milepost 266.0. History/Nature Exhibit, Visitor/Info Center, Hiking Trail, Restroom – 15-45 minutes

The Natchez Trace Headquarters is located adjacent to the parkway in Tupelo. Information Center, bookstore, exhibits, short movie, restrooms, nature walk and offices. A hiking trail will take you from the visitor’s center to Old Town Overlook and the Chickasaw Village Site.

The visitor center is open 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily. Closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Years Day.

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Confederate Gravesites and Old Trace    is located on the Natchez Trace Parkway at milepost 269.4. Civil War History, Old Trace – 15-30 minutes

Much of the Old Trace had been abandoned by the start of the Civil War. However, the war did leave its mark on the Trace as it did upon the rest of the South. The soldiers marched, camped and fought along portions of this historic old road. A 5 minute walk on the Old Trace here takes you to the gravesites of 13 unknown Confederate soldiers, a mute reminder of bygone days and of the great struggle out of which developed a stronger nation.

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Pharr Mounds    is located on the Natchez Trace Parkway at milepost 286.7. Indian History, Picnic Area, Restroom – 10-20 minutes

Pharr Mounds is the largest and most important archaeological site in northern Mississippi. Eight large dome shaped burial mounds are scattered over an area of 90 acres (100 football fields). These mounds were built and used about 100-1200 A.D. by a tribe of nomadic Indian hunters and gatherers who returned to this site at times to bury their dead with their possessions.

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Near mile marker 310 the traveler will find Bear Creek Mound and the Cave Spring.  This is where the Natchez Trace crosses into Alabama.

Colbert’s Stand mileage marker 329. George Colbert operated a ferry across the Tennessee River from 1800 to 1819.  His stand or inn offered travelers a warm meal and shelter during their journey on the Old trace.  Colbert looked after his own well-being and once charged Andrew Jackson $75,000 to ferry his Tennessee army across the river.

The site of his stand is a short 50 yards up the path from the parking area. An additional 20 minute stroll will take you along the Old Trace to the bluff overlook and back. After a venison supper, one guest at Colbert’s Stand spent the night in an outbuilding (Wilderness Haven) with “not less than 50 Indians, many of them drunk.” Here and about 20 other stands along the Trace, Kaintuck riverboatmen, money-laden businessmen, Indians and outlaws shared a spot of fellowship on a long hazardous road.

“Shrewd, talented and wicked” thus a traveling preacher characterized George Colbert, the half-Scot half-Chickasaw chief. But for more than 30 years he helped negotiate with the U.S. for Chickasaw rights as the tide of settlement advanced from the east. His successful farm showed his people the way of the future.

Leaving the Colbert’s Stand, we encountered a very strong rain squal as the below video will attest.

After crossing the Tennessee River we headed into Muscle Shoals to spend the night.  We by-passed Rock Spring to cross into Tennessee near mile marker 340.

Rock Spring   is located on the Natchez Trace Parkway at milepost 330.2. Hiking Trail, Nature Area – 10-60 minutes
Across the Tennessee River from the Colbert’s Stand is Rock Spring. – The nature trail offers visitors an opportunity to explore a small natural spring as it bubbles forth from the ground. Small fish dart about in the deep pools created as the stream wanders through the rich bottomland soil and limestone rock. Vegetation and trees change as you move through an abandoned field past the stream into a rocky hillside. After completing the 20 minute walk you may decide to pull off your shoes and dangle your feet in the swift cool water.

The trails and stepping stones in the area lead you across Colbert Creek past Rock Spring and through the woodlands. Since 1977 numerous beaver dams have been built then abandoned by the beaver or destroyed by high water. Walk the trails and enjoy a changing environment of this once free flowing spring-fed stream.

Hummingbirds – Tiny Jewels of the Air: Few birds are as distinctive and charismatic as hummingbirds. From their iridescent plumage to their incredible aerial antics, hummingbirds are an irrestible attraction at Rock Spring. Each fall, hundreds of Ruby throated hummingbirds pass this way to feast on the nectar of the abundant jewelweed and other wildflowers.

To view the complete images for this page  Click here to travel from Bynum Mounds to Colbert’s Stand.

Natchez Trace: Narrative 7

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