Life on the Nashville-Natchez Trace

Map of the Lower Trace
History of the Trace
Historic Locations Along the Lower Trace
The Travelers


Biographical and Historical memoirs of Mississippi;  The Goodspeed Publishing Compnay, Chicago, 1891.
Natchez on the Mississippi, by Harnett T. Kane;  Bonanza Books, 1957.
Natchez Trace, A Road Through the Wilderness;  History and Self-Guided Driving Tour;  Six stereo audio Cassettes;  Produced by Misty owl Music, P.O. Box 153, Iuka, MS 3885-0153;  Copyright 1994 Thomasfilms, Inc.  ISBN 1-885154-47-X
The Devil's Backbone, The Story of the Natchez Trace by Jonathan Daniels;  McGraw-Hill Book Company, inc, NY, Toronto, London

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History of the Trace
This marker was placed on the bluff in Natchez 
by the Daughters of the American Revolution. 
It reads:

The Natchez Trace
Marked by the
Daughters of the
American revolution
in Mississippi 1903
This historic thoroughfare
From Natchez to Nashville
Tenn. was used as a mail
route in 1796.
Although it was a well
known Indian trail in
far earlier days.

Originally an Indian trail that followed the spine of a low mountain ridge, the Trace was for many years the most popular land route connecting the northern and eastern states to the Mississippi Territory.  The Trace ran from Nashville, TN, through Jackson, MS, ending at Natchez, in Adams County, MS, a distance of about 500 Miles.

Prehistoric Indians used portions of the Trace which, at that time, consisted of animal trails.  The first white man to record the area was Hernando DeSota in 1540-41, and the French mapped the Trace as early as 1733.  But the Trace was most frequently used by white men during the period following the Revolutionary War through about 1830.   It was used as a US mail route in 1796.

During the early years of white settlement, beginning about 1785, merchants and farmers would float their produce and goods down the Mississippi River on flatboats.  Upon reaching their destination, usually Natchez or New Orleans, the boats would be dismantled and the wood sold to local residents.  The proceeds would be used to purchase a horse or mule, and the merchant would travel the Trace back to his home.

After years of use, and some improvements, the path became a clearly marked trail.  By 1810 the Trace was an important wilderness road, and it is estimated that in that year over 10,000 travelers made their way north along the trail.  A number of inns, or stands, had been built along the route, numbering over 20, by 1820.  Most of the stands offered little more than a roof over one's head, and a plate of food, but they provided a welcome relief from the hardships of a wilderness that included swamps, wild animals, biting insects, torrential rains, floods, hostile Indians, and thieves and murderers.

The decline of traffic on the Trace was foretold in 1812 when the first steamboat reached Natchez.  Though early steamboat travel was encumbered with its own inherent perils,  travelers began to chose the relative comfort, speed, and safety of river travel.  By 1830, travel along the trace had fallen off sharply, and in time, many areas along the Trace were reclaimed by the wilderness..

During the 1930's, the National Park Service began construction of a parkway that, closely followed the course of the original Trace.  This two-lane parkway begins at the south edge of Nashville, and terminates just north of the town of Washington in Adams County.  The Parkway is dotted with historical markers, picnic areas, nature trails, and the remnants of old towns and inns.

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Historic Locations Along the Lower Trace
61 Lower Choctaw Boundary The north/south boundary between the Choctaw lands and the settled portion of the Mississippi Territory.  The boundary ran from a point 12 miles east of Vicksburg, southward to the 31st parallel.  This was the eastern boundary of the Natchez District.   Established in 1765, it was first surveyed in 1778, reaffirmed by Spain in 1793, and by the US in 1801.  Marked by a line of trees.  Since 1820, this has been  the dividing line between Claiborne and Hinds Counties.
61 Red Bluff Stand Established in 1802.  The last place north-bound travelers could buy provisions.
54.8 Historic Town of Rocky Springs Photos and History
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54 Loess hill country Loose soil found only in this part of the country.  The soil was deposited here hundreds of thousands of years ago by windstorms.
52.4 Owens Creek Waterfall Area used to contain many fresh-water springs.  Owens Creek was fed by one of the springs, now dried up.  Today there is no waterfall, except for those brief periods after a heavy rain.
45.7  Grindstone Ford on Big Bayou Pierre This ford marked the beginning of the wilderness of the Choctaw nation, and the end of the North South boundary of the old Natchez District.  Nearby Fort Deposit was a supply depot for troops clearing the Trace in 1801-02.  The site takes its name from a nearby water mill.
45.7  Magnum Mound  This burial mound represents a Native American culture that inhabited the area as far back as 500 years, ancestors of more recent  MS and LA tribes, including the now extinct Natchez Indians.  These Mound Builders are referred to today as the Southern Cult.  Through artifacts exhumed at this site, the mound is linked to other similar sites in GA, northern  AL, and eastern OK.
US Dept. of Interior sign at Magnum Mound.
41.5  Sunken Trace A section of the original Old Trace.  The trail, originally the level of the surrounding terrain, was worn down over the years, the result of thousands of footsteps, wagon wheels, horses, and mules.
18.4  Bullen Creek A nature trail through hard pine wood trees.  The portion of the Trace from Jackson to Natchez is the lowest in elevation on the Trace, averaging only about 200 feet above sea level. 
17.5  Coles Creek Today a picnic area.
15.5 Mount Lucust Click here for history and photographs.
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12.4 Loess Bluff Loose soil blown in during the Ice Age that formed hills and bluffs.  This soil is easily eroded, and accounts for the Old Trace being worn down as much as 20 feet into the Loess, from it's original level. 
12.1 Turpin Creek Today a picnic area.
10.3 Emerald Mound Originally named Selsertown Mound, after the now extinct village of Selsertown, an early way station along the Trace located not far from here.
Photos and History
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8.7 Old Trace A section of the original Old Trace

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The Travelers

"The deep ruts through the Loess soil...were put there not by the talk of powerful people, but by the reality of the land, and of the times. By white man, and red man. By horses of post riders, by Indian ponies. By foot soldiers and generals of the armies of the United States, the British, and the French. The warriers and chiefs of the Chickasaw, Choctaw, and the Natchez. By the Mississippean Indian culture, and the Woodland Mound Builders. By the first users of the spear-thrower, and by man migrating here during Paleo times. By herds of buffalo roaming the land at the end of the last Ice Age."

- Natchez Trace, A Road Through the Wilderness;  History and Self-Guided Driving Tour;  Six stereo audio Cassettes;  Produced by Misty owl Music, P.O. Box 153, Iuka, MS 3885-0153;  Copyright 1994 Thomasfilms, Inc.  ISBN 1-885154-47-X

Did your southwestern MS ancester travel on the Trace?
Would you like to submit the information?
Click HERE.

AUDUBON, John James - -
BURR, Aaron - -
JACKSON, Andrew - -

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