Date: 3/13/2003 6:50:40 PM Pacific Standard Time
Today it's been pouring down rain, and I'm mighty glad to be inside. On tuesday night I camped out at Rocky Springs Site on the Natchez Trace Parkway, a 450 mile stretch of road that runs through Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi and is maintained by the National Park Service. It's a stretch of road that started out as a series of hunters paths that eventually developed into a trail that led from the Mississippi up into Tennessee. By 1875, farmers searching for markets started floating their goods down the river to Natchez and New Orleans. Once they arrived down south, they sold their flatboats for lumber and their only way back home was either riding or walking. Because of this growing number of travelers, this trail became a clearly marked path and was heavily traveled. Soon other comforts showed up along this trail. Many inns were built, and by 1820 more than 20 were in operation. Then in 1812 the steamer "New Orleans" came on the scene
and a new form of transportation arrived. Travelers liked the speed and comfort of steamboat travel and soon the once busy trail had quieted down to a forest lane. Nowadays it is a quiet, lesser traveled, unhurried route from Nashville to Natchez. It has many scenic byways, historic markers, restrooms, picnic areas, and a few campgrounds located along the way, while busy Hwy 61 runs parallel to it a couple miles to the east. It's a wonderful stretch of road for hikers, bikers and walkers like me.
Port Gibson is also a quaint, historic town. Established in 1788, it was chartered as the county seat in1803. In 1811, it became the third incorporated town in the Mississippi Territory (Mississippi didn't become a state until 1817.) In 1817, the first public library in Mississippi was chartered here.
By the time the Civil War came charging through this town, it had turned into a bustling commercial center rich with elegant homes, stately churches and booming businesses. Then on May 1, 1863, 24,000 Federal troops under the command of General U.S. Grant encountered a Confederate force of 8,000 in the Battle of Port Gibson. This was the first victory of his successful campaign to capture Vicksburg. According to legend, Port Gibson was spared by Grant, who said that it was "too beautiful to burn."
This town is rich with history, and many historical markers are posted in front of many buildings. While I was here I went to the visitors center and got some information, and I also visited Chamberlain-Hunt Academy, a Christian Military Boarding School. Both the visitors center and the school gave me a t-shirt representing Port Gibson. The Episcopal Church let me stay in its parsonage while I was here.
On fri-sat-sun I'll be walking along the Trace and camping out along the way. I called up the park rangers to make sure that was ok, and they said yes, so long as I kindof stayed out of sight. So I'll be tenting it for the next few nights. By sunday I should be at the Natchez State Park, and on monday I'll arrive in Natchez. There things are already set up for me to stay 3 nights at a house while the owners are gone. Many plans have been made for me to give talks at schools and meetings, and Joanne from the Epilepsy Foundation will be meeting up with me again there, so that should be fun. Hopefully the weather will cooperate for the next few days. Take care and have a great weekend! KB
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