526 Franklin Street

500 block south west

526 Franklin, corner of Franklin and Union in Natchez, currently is home to Edward Jones Investments.  The circa 1890 building was restored from a pretty horrid mid-60s or thereabouts “update” when the lower floor was remodeled with jeweler’s windows.  The building was former home of Busch’s Jewelry from at least 1960 to 1979, based on a news item in 1960, and the photograph from the nomination form for Natchez-on-top-of-the-hill historic district (Mary Warren Miller, 1979).  The photograph shows 526 Franklin at the far left edge, and you can discern the dark brick facade with the small square jeweler’s window displays.

500 block in 1979.jpg

Photograph retrieved from Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Historic Resources Inventory database. Natchez-on-top-of-the-hill nomination form for National Register of Historic Places.  Mary Warren Miller, May 20, 1979.

Busch’s Jewelry. Two-story three-bay commercial building with cast and pressed metal facade; first-story unsympathetically altered. 1886-91. (Miller, 1979)

526 Franklin

Retrieved from Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Historic Resources Inventory database.  No Date (Scanned Slide).

Fortunately, at some point, restoration work began.  According to Darius Bryjka of Mesker Brothers blog, this store front is Mesker Brothers Ironwork.  Bernard and Frank Mesker, two of the three sons of John Mesker, learned iron-working from their father.  Bernard and Frank operated Meskers Brothers Iron Works in St. Louis, and their brother George operated George L. Mesker & Co. in Evansville, Indiana.

The corner was occupied by the estate of Mrs. C. Lacrosse in 1869, and in 1884 was listed as No. 118 Franklin, southwest corner of Franklin & Union, Mrs. C. Lacrosse, to be sold in a city tax sale.

The contract for the erection of Mr. S. Haas’ new store at the corner of Franklin and Union streets, was yesterday awarded to Capt. B. B. Davis, whose bid was $3,555.00…The store will have a frontage of twenty-five feet with a depth of sixty feet; will be two stories high with an iron front, with stores on the first and offices on the second floor.  Messrs. O’Brien & Co. will do the masonry, and Capt. Davis expects to commence work at an early date. (A New Store Contracted For. 10 April 1889, p. 5. The Weekly Democrat.)

The cornerstone was laid April 23, and the brickmasons were at work, with a projected date of walls erected in “three or four weeks” after which they would begin construction of the new Phoenix Engine house (The Weekly Democrat, April 24, 1889, p. 8). In June, building operations in Natchez were stopped “on account of the scarcity of lumber and other necessary building materials” and the Haas store was waiting for the completion of the casting of the iron front (The Weekly Democrat, June 5, 1889, p. 3).  Sam. Haas’s Hog & Hominy Store did business next door at 522 Franklin until his new store was completed.  Mr. Haas announced he would sell his entire stock, and had rented his store May 9, 1893.

Haas front close

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Posted in Historic Downtowns, Ironwork, Mississippi | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Mr. Pickens’ Livery Stable: Corner of Main & Canal, Natchez

While preparing for my recent trip to Natchez, and doing a little historic research, I came across an article that featured a photo of this building with a question as to anyone knowing the history of the building. I recalled the building as it is across the street from the convention center where I attended a number of conferences. I do not know if the poser of that question found the answer, but I was off like a dog on the hunt, because now I needed to know.

The Adams County real estate gave the year of construction as 1850, which meant a significant make-over had occurred to give it this 1930s-50s Streamline Art Moderne look. Indeed, the earliest news item I located for the corner of Main and Canal was from 1850.

Mississippi Free Trader and Natchez Gazette, Oct. 23, 1850, p. 1.

In 1852, Bowie and Company purchased Mr. Pickens’ livery stable, and in 1853, P. S. Wood advertised that he had purchased from G. W. Knott, the stable formerly occupied by David G. Pickens. In 1869, a news item appears:

A large brick livery stable, on the corner of the old Tattersalls, south-west corner of Main and Canal, by Mr. Jo Bontura, is also rapidly approaching completion.

(The Weekly Democrat, May 17, 1869, p. 3)

This seems to indicate that the current building was constructed as late as 1869. The 1886 Sanborn Fire Map is the first validation I located that indicates the South West corner is the Kentucky Livery and Stables, with a Roller Skating Rink at the rear of the livery. The skating rink first appeared in the news in 1871. In 1883, the livery stable was operated by W. H. Hendrick (Natchez Democrat, Dec. 7, 1883, p. 4). By 1903, it was listed as McConnichie’s stable with a roller rink on the upper floor (Natchez Democrat, Feb. 18, 1903, p. 4). In 1908, it is referred to as Bontura Stable (recall that Bontura built the new structure in 1869), and again in 1913. By 1918, it was Lippman’s Stables.

A trick I learned from E. L. Malvaney over at Preservation in Mississippi is to look at the rear of the building for clues as to its age. While not presuming to date this building by the brick, since that is not my expertise, it seems pretty obvious that it is old, and thus, the age of this building is far older than the front elevation would indicate. A remodel clearly took place sometime after the last use as a livery stable/skating rink.

 

Posted in Art Moderne, brick work, Historic Downtowns, Mississippi | Tagged | 5 Comments

Carpenter School No. 1

Natchez Democrat, August 22, 1909.

There is still much to post about the week in Natchez, but a need for software reinstallation on my new computer has left me stranded–photo edit speaking–for a bit longer. I did not make it to the historic Carpenter No. 1 school in person, but the story of this school still bears telling. According to “Carpenter School: Memorial to Mrs. Camille Carpenter Henderson”

…a perfect model of a modern school building, the Carpenter school No. 1 is fast nearing completion at the corner of Union and B streets. Modern science turned its attention to the housing of the young during those hours so important to them later in their careers as men and women and some of the best brains in the country have been employed in improving conditions until today the modern school building embraces all that is best in heating, lighting and ventilation, while the important factor of comfort for the pupils has been recognized and the little ones are surrounded with the very best environment.

(Natchez Democrat, August 22, 1909, p. 1)

Now there is a sentence William Faulkner could have enjoyed. The writer described the school as “almost severely plain” so as not to be distracting to those young minds “prone to wander” during school hours. The school was funded by Mrs. Henderson’s brother, N. Leslie Carpenter, and completed in 1909.

From Carpenter’s School No. 1, Natchez, Miss. Sysid 94343. Scanned as tiff in 2008/07/23 by MDAH. Credit: Courtesy of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History

The school had a main hall front to rear, with intersecting halls from the sides, and equipped with sanitary drinking fountains. The six classrooms had blackboards and were capable of seating 300 students, who entered the classroom through a cloakroom where they could hang coats and hats.

These fountains require no cup and cannot spread disease. The water shoots up with little force while the base is equipped with another stream which prevents the water from returning to the supply thereby doing away with the possibility of germs being conveyed from one person to another, an evil which invariably accompanies the benefits of the drinking fountain where many use the same cup.

Commodious and sanitary toilet rooms are located in the basement…constructed of cement and non absorbent materials and permit of frequent and thorough cleanings…toilet appliances are automatic and nothing is left to do in flushing or otherwise operating them.

(Natchez Democrat, August 22, 1909, p. 1)

The building cost $40,000 and also included a 350 seat assembly hall on the second floor. Architect was R. H. Hunt & Co., who operated a Jackson branch of his Chattanooga office, as well as a branch in Dallas.

Posted in Mississippi, school buildings | Tagged | 4 Comments

The Marsaw Family: Levi, Levi, Jr., & Levi III


While visiting the Triangle Area of St. Catherine Street in Natchez, this unpretentious masonry block building–seemingly out of place amongst the historic buildings in the area–caught my interest. It carries a Streamline Art Moderne appearance with the rounded corner. Close inspection reveals windows and/or doors along the side elevation that have been closed. Of the building itself, what little I can find is the following:

commercial building; 4 St. Catherine Street; c. 1955

One-story masonry commercial building. After 1946

Mississippi Department of Archives & History/HRI and Mary Warren Miller, 1979, NRHP nomination for Natchez-on-top-of-the-hill Historic District

The Google map identifies the building as Marsaw’s Cafe, but I cannot find any verification of that. Delta Computer for property appraisal indicates the row of buildings from the corner of MLK/St. Catherine on this leg of the MLK Triangle were constructed 1930 and identifies them as stores, which fits with the commercial block.

Marsaw’s Cafe (home of the “famous Marsaw biscuits”) was on MLK and Google maps 2018 street views shows a building with Marsaw’s Cafe sign on the corner of MLK and Franklin . However, Levi Marsaw III, who died in 2010 at the age of 81, owned several businesses and restaurants in the city over the years, and he well could have owned the building on the short leg of St. Catherine Street. It was finding Mr. Marsaw III’s obituary that became of more interest than just this building.

Stephen Marsaw

Stephen Marsaw was born February 1830 in Mississippi, and census records indicate his father was born in Africa. This seems to indicate Stephen was probably born into slavery. Stephen’s mother was born in Maryland, which might indicate she was one of the enslaved who walked the “Slave Trail of Tears” on the route from Baltimore. A coffle [line of animals or slaves fastened together or driven along together; from Arabic qafila, ‘caravan’] route to Natchez had a number of origins and routes to end in Natchez. The Baltimore route indicates travel by ship to Norfolk and from there, two direct overland routes to Natchez.

Levi Marsaw

Levi Marsaw was estimated to have been born in 1888, son of Stephen and Susana. Levi was 12 at the 1900 census. However, other census records give dates of birth as early as 1884 and as late as 1890. Levi identified as born 1887 and who lived in Pine Ridge (Adams County) registered for the draft 1917-1918. A newspaper article from 1918 indicates he was classed, but no other information as to service. He was still in Pine Ridge in the 1940 census, occupation of farmer, and his spouse was Elizabeth. The elder Mr. Marsaw died in 1967 at the age of 80.

Levi Marsaw, Jr.

Levi and Elizabeth’s son, Levi, Jr., was born 1908 or 1909. He married Alberta, and he was 31 at the 1940 census. Levi, Jr. and his wife Alberta had Levi III in 1929, so III would have been 10 or 11 at the 1940 census.. Levi, Jr. died in 1998 at the age of 89.

Levi Marsaw III

Levi III was born June 13, 1929. He served in the US Army from 1949-1951 and returned to Natchez and married. He was honored with a living ceremony in 2007 to recognize his contributions to the community, his church, family, and the cause of civil rights.

As a civil rights activist, he was there the night Wharlest Jackson, Sr., was bombed after leaving his job at the tire plant. He was one of the individuals who helped to pick up the body of the late Mr. Jackson. Due to the condition of the body, rope had to be used to keep what remained of his flesh together in order for him to be transported to the local funeral home, Williams and Williams.

Prayer Tower to honor Levi Marsaw, The Natchez Democrat, May 18, 2007.

According to the above article, this experience led Mr. Marsaw to become active in the movement in Natchez. I found myself–as I often have since moving here–thinking about that moment and trying to think about that moment, for Mr. Jackson’s son, his wife, the neighbors who responded, and for the aftermath in the community as people came to terms with what cannot be rectified.

I thought about it today in class, when we were talking about structural racism, and how we fail to consider what opportunities were available to someone when we evaluate their “fitness” for some arbitrary standard. I see the looks on the faces of the students–those who are pained, those who are angry, those who are unsure what to do or feel. It reminded me of a conversation with a colleague who worries about further wounding students, and then the conversation with a student who said, “But that shuts down the conversation.” Yes, it does, but is it fair to have the burden of the conversation always be unequal?

I do not have an answer for that, but I do know that for the week+ I have tried to write this post, it stays in the forefront of my conscious thinking.

Levi Marsaw III died in October 2010 at the age of 81.

Among his many business ventures included the Savoy Grill, Club Delisa, Texaco Station, Cab Company, Afro Lounge, Hayes Cafe, and Marsaw Cafe.

The Natchez Democrat. October 22, 2010.
Posted in Art Moderne, Historic Black Business Districts, Historic Downtowns, Mississippi | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Dr. John Bowman Banks

Banks house

Dr. John Bowman Banks’ home and first office was in this house, which was constructed sometime between 1886 and 1892.  Dr. Banks was issued his Mississippi medical license in 1885, and filed to practice in Natchez in 1889.  The first instance I found of Dr. Banks in the news was 1897 when refugees from the Davis Island flood were brought to Natchez (The Weekly Democrat, Apr 21, 1897, p. 5).  Louis Kastor (son of Sarah Smith Russell),  was elected treasurer of the committee for relief, and Dr. J. B. Banks was a member of the finance committee, as was C. H. Russell (also son of Sarah Smith Russell).

The above named committee [including many other members of the African American community in Natchez] proposes to co-operate and act in conjunction with the white committees having the same purposes in view, and will be pleased to undertake any duties that they may be designated to perform in connection with the relief work in hand.

Although Dr. Banks did not file his medical license in Natchez until 1889, he was obviously involved in the community some time prior.  In 1889, he visited the city in consideration of establishing his medical practice.

The_Weekly_Democrat_Wed__Feb_13__1889_

The Weekly Democrat, Feb 13, 1889.

Meharry Medical College (not Mehany) was founded in 1876 and was the first medical school in the South for African Americans.  When his medical degree was conferred, John Bowman Banks was awarded second prize of a clinical thermometer for having “reached  the highest percent” during his studies (The Tennessean, 27 Feb 1885, p. 4).  J. B. Banks of Summit was issued a license from the Board of Medical Examiners in Jackson, Mississippi in 1885 (The State Ledger, 10 Apr 1885, p. 4).

Banks house side and front

Indeed, according to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History and Mary Warren Miller (1995), Dr. Banks opened his offices in this c. 1890 Queen Anne house on St. Catherine Street.  The frame house

…rests on brick piers…main hipped roof with multi-gabled dormers…novelty grooved siding…pressed metal shingles…metal wave crests on dormer peaks…balcony…octagonal bay…fluted Colonial Revival columns on porch…

Sometime between 1904 and 1910, the house was remodeled into a Colonial Revival style.

Dr. Banks was a valued member of the Natchez community, and in 1905 was one of six incorporators of the Bluff City Savings Bank (Natchez Democrat, Dec. 15, 1905).  In 1907 he went to Nashville to assist his son, Dr. O. M. Banks (Natchez Democrat, Mar. 21, 1907).  The son Dr. Banks returned to Natchez for a period of time, and then moved to Colorado “out West for his health”, where Dr. J. B. Banks visited him in July (Natchez Democrat, Jul 19, 1907).  Dr. Banks was president of the Bluff City Bank in 1909, at the same time Charles Banks was president of the Mound Bayou Bank (Natchez Democrat, Feb 28, 1909), one of nine banks owned and operated by African Americans in Mississippi.  In March 1909, Dr. Banks moved his office from 608 Franklin street to 121 North Union street, next to the Bluff City Savings Bank.

Dr. John Bowman Banks died at age 49 from a cerebral hemorrhage on December 30, 1912 (Natchez Democrat, 12 Jan 1912, p. 2) leaving behind a wife and children.

The more I learn about the history of African Americans in Natchez, the more I realize how much more there is to discover.

Posted in Historic Black Business Districts, Historic Downtowns, Mississippi | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Sadie V. Thompson House, former home to John Stevens and Frances Smith

Thompson house

Right next to the Sarah Smith Russell house was originally home to another of Eliza Smith’s daughters, Frances, and her husband John Stevens.  Stevens was a police patrolman in Natchez, and retired in 1918 after 30 years of service.  The house is a c. 1890 (Mary Warren Miller dates it between 1886-1892) Queen Anne that appears to have the same type of replacement front doors as the Smith home next door.  Additionally, the upstairs balcony door is an aluminum glass whose size does not match doors or windows, and bears evidence the clapboard siding was altered for the new door.

A corner octagonal tower with finial is on the northwest corner, and a rear gabled ell extends from the southwest corner.  The earlier design included a turned baluster railing with Colonial Revival columns, which have been replaced by metal pipe.  An historic photograph showed a one-story bay on the east elevation “that echoes the details and shape of the tower, but the bay is now incorporated into a side addition” (Miller, 1995).  Sadie V. Thompson, an African American educator who moved to Natchez in 1899 to teach school dedicated her life to the education of the city’s African American children.  She taught at Union School and later at the Brumfield school where she also was principal.  She purchased this house in 1928.  The 1954 new high school was named in her honor.  When she died in 1963, Ms. Thompson willed her house to John Eddie West and George F. West, Jr., who used the house as a law office. 

The iron fence and gate were made by the Rogers Iron Company in Springfield, Ohio.  This design was patented November 22, 1881.  The Rogers Fence Company was established in 1882, and in 1891, changed the name to Rogers Iron Company until 1905, when it was succeeded by the William Bayley Company.  Bayley continued manufacturing until c. 2000 according to the Chicora Foundation.

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Sarah Smith Russell house

Sarah Smith Russell house

The circa 1880 one-story frame house at 28 St. Catherine bears “echoes of the Italianate style” or Vernacular Italianate and was constructed by at least 1886″ at the beginning of Queen Anne period in Natchez” (Mary Warren Miller, 1995, NRHP nomination form for Holy Family Catholic Church Historic District).  The house

…rests on brick foundation piers and is surmounted by a v-crimp metal, hipped roof.  The house is sheathed in clapboard.  Inset beneath the roof is a full-width gallery that is supported by bracketed chamfered posts linked by a sawn balustrade and frieze.  Windows are filled with six-over-six, double-hung sash.  The center-bay doorway consists of a replacement six-panel single-leaf door set within a transom and sidelights over molded panels. (Warren, 1995)

Sarah Smith Russell was one of Eliza Smith’s daughters.  Eliza Smith was a free woman of color who purchased property on St. Catherine street sometime in the 1850s, according to Natchez Trails.  Ms. Smith’s property was located on the south side of St. Catherine street (Natchez Bulletin, 19 July 1869, p. 3).  Her daughter Sarah was emancipated in 1853, along with two other women of color who were “for a long time in my service” at the death of Daniel Webster (Natchez Daily Courier, 19 January 1853, p. 3).

20-30 St Catherine Street

E. Sidney Russell was the collector of Internal Revenue tax at Natchez in 1867, and appeared throughout the newspaper notices in his capacity as Chancery clerk in the 1850s.  By 1855, he purchased the Mansion House hotel, and offered it for sale in 1856, leaving the business in 1858 to pursue the Rosalie Club in 1859.

The_Saturday_Evening_Banner_Sat__Dec_8__1894_

Sarah Smith’s son Louis Kastor was a successful businessman, and very influential.  He was re-elected for a number of terms as a trustee of the Union school.  His shop was on the corner of Franklin and Union.  Kastor’s house was no. 41 St. Catherine, on the north side of the street in 1898, which is now identified as 7A St. Catherine street, across from the Russell house.  The Louis Kastor house is now the Webb Funeral Home, remodeled around 1955 to its present state from a Queen Anne style.

Louis Kastor home

Charles Russell, Sarah Smith Russell’s youngest son, ran a confectionary and ice business on Franklin Street.

Posted in Historic Black Business Districts, Historic Downtowns, Italianate architecture, Mississippi | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Holy Family Catholic Church Historic District

St Catherine Historic District

Holy Family Catholic Church Historic District includes buildings around St. Catherine Street, which begins at the site of the Forks of the Road historic slave market, and ends at Martin Luther King Street–formerly Pine Street.  I first spied the steeple of the Holy Family Church while leaving Natchez several years ago, and posted about it on Lottabusha County Chronicles.  While HFCC Historic District clusters around Aldrich, Old D’Evereux, St. Catherine, Abbott, and Byrn Streets, I will just be focusing on St. Catherine buildings in the next few posts.

St. Catherine is one of the city’s most historic streets and was once a portion of the Natchez Trace, the historic trail that led from Nashville to Natchez. (Mary Warren Miller, 1995, nomination form for Holy Family Catholic Church Historic District, National Register of Historic Places)

Holy Family Catholic Church was designed by Natchez architect William Kendall Ketteringham in 1894, in what MDAH Historic Resources inventory defines as Gothic Revival/Queen Anne.  Miller (1995) further adds that along with other Queen Anne style buildings in the district, it

left its mark on Holy Family…the city’s grandest example of the Victorian Gothic Revival style, in the design of the entrance portico with its turned posts and Queen Anne ornament.

Holy Family Catholic Church architecturally dominates the district due to its siting on a hill, its monumental size, and the elevation of the sanctuary above a fully raised basement.

Architectural features of the church include:

  • the single stage tower with spire terminating in a finial in the shape of a cross
  • belfry features Gothic-arched windows infilled with louvers on each elevation
  • corner buttresses with pinnacles
  • stained glass windows with original shutter blinds
  • transoms of Gothic tracery
  • gaslight reflector

Holy Family was dedicated in 1894, the first African American Catholic Church in Mississippi.  The first pastor was Father A. N. J. Peters, who established “this mission” and in 1895, 21 were baptized at the Easter service.  Father William Dermody had pastored for “nearly five years” in 1899.  The Holy Family school had attendance of 90-100 pupils in 1895.  The Josephites financed the construction of this new building, following the establishment of the parish in 1885.  The first headquarters of Holy Family was in a frame building on Beaumont Street that had served as a convent for the Franciscan Sisters.

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Bluff City Undertaking Company: Robert D. Mackel and Sons Funeral Home

Corner Jefferson-MLK

One-story hipped-roof brick commercial building with brick cornice and altered facade. Mid-19th century. (Mary Warren Miller, 1979, Natchez-on-top-of-the-hill historic district National Register of Historic Places nomination form)

That is the extent of the “official” information about this building (featuring my favorite corner entrance, of course!).  It is situated on the corner of Jefferson Street and Dr M L King Street (formerly North Pine) near historic downtown Natchez.  It is located diagonally from the historic Triangle at Pine/St. Catherine Streets.  It does not appear in the MDAH historic resources inventory, although it is on the 1886 Sanborn map, and on the 1882 and 1897 maps with alterations, identified as a grocery store with ware house.

Corner Jefferson-MLK 3_

It is the current home of the Robert D. Mackel & Sons Funeral Home, which bears the signage “since 1898.”  Indeed, the Bluff City Undertaking Company at Pine & Jefferson, comprised of S. C. Caraway, Robert Mackel, Sr., and Robert Mackel, Jr. was established in 1898 (Natchez Democrat, Sept. 24, 1916, p. 9).   The company was relocated to the larger quarters that included office, morgue, chapel, and parlor from the earlier location at 118 S. Commerce Street.  Mackel completed a course at the Cincinnati College of Embalming in 1910.  Joseph Henry Clarke established the school in 1882 and it was renamed from Clarke College of Embalming in 1899.  It was renamed the Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science in 1966.  Bluff City Undertaking served the African American community in Natchez.

A timeline of businesses using this building or portions of it included:

  • Julius Roos “stand” was located there in 1899
  • 1902 Prosper DeMarco bought the store house
  • 1904 Anchor Supply Company appears in newspaper ads
  • 1905 P. DeMarco
  • 1906 Miss DeMarco advertises “desirable store building on corner of Pine & Jefferson for rent with or without ware rooms”
  • 1907 Bernstein’s Livery
  • 1910 Bernstein’s Livery relocates to Main Street
  • 1913 Whodine operates a grocery and supply store & Hutton’s Furniture is housed at the location
  • 1914 the lot is sold by Mary DeMarco at auction
  • 1916 Bluff City Undertaking relocates to this corner
  • 1917 Mrs. C. J. Parsons Grocery Store is advertised at the location
  • 1918 Bluff City Undertaking and Whodine

The number of warehouses and/or store fronts in the buildings on this corner could have allowed co-occupancy at the site at least a portion of time.

1897

According to the Natchez Trails marker, Mackel opened his first business at the corner of Jefferson and North Rankin, and “about 1911” relocated to the current location.  The name was changed to Robert D. Mackel and Sons in 1950.

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Zion Chapel A. M. E. Church of Natchez

front elevation

Zion Chapel was originally built as the Second Presbyterian Church, and designed by architect J. Edward Smith, whose offices were over Johnson’s barber shop on Main Street (Mississippi Department of Archives & History, Historic Resources Inventory). The Greek Revival style building was constructed in 1858.

Mr. Smith, also designed the new Presbyterian Church, now nearly finished, on Pine Street.  This building, though not nearly so ornate as the other, is still very chaste in its simplicity and harmonious in the style which pervades the whole structure. (The Natchez Bulletin, Oct. 23, 1857, p. 3)

The Zion Chapel A. M. E. Church acquired the property in 1868 and Hiram Revels was the minister.  Revels, the first African American senator following emancipation, was also the first president of Alcorn State University.

front and side elevation-2

“Heaven Bound” was presented four nights during Pilgrimage in 1935.  First produced by Bethel Church of Atlanta in 1930, the play toured other churches in the state in 1931, and later sites outside of the church.  As the exact contents were guarded by Bethel Church, it it was likely a presentation by other than the original developers of the play.

Because Heaven Bound was peculiar to Big Bethel Church, other churches trying to duplicate it failed. (Coleman, G. D. (1992). We’re heaven bound! Portrait of a black sacred drama. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press)

The show was never legally copyrighted followed a difficult and complex legal battle.  Articles in the Natchez Democrat and Clarion-Ledger did not specify who was involved in the cast, although 1935 represented the third year the show had been staged as part of Pilgrimage.  As evidenced by news articles in both 1933 and 1934, local residents were performers.  The WPA program for the arts also produced the play and a three-movie series silent film version was created that appears to have been based on the play.  In November, Big Bethel in Atlanta celebrated the 88th year of the production first staged and performed by their congregation in 1930.

Zion Chapel marker

 

 

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