Shannon has worked in radio for over 20 years. In her spare time, she enjoys photography, traveling, and exploring historic sites.
Port Gibson, Mississippi is 60 miles southwest of Jackson. The town, and surrounding area, is full of fascinating sights to visit on a road trip to this part of the state.
Windsor Ruins is a sight you don't happen upon in Mississippi—you have to know what you're looking for. Travel down the Natchez Trace to mile marker 30, exit onto Mississippi Hwy 552, and drive west. You'll follow signs that direct you to Windsor Ruins. As you drive into the wooded area where the home once stood strong, you'll have a moment of surprise as you drive into a clearing and then see the 23 columns that remain of this once magnificent home. It's awe-inspiring to know how long these columns have survived, especially knowing what happened here in 1890.
The Windsor plantation was built by Smith Daniell, from 1859 to 1861. Sadly, Daniell died only a few weeks after the home was completed. The Daniell family continued to occupy the home. As the Civil War began, Confederate troops used the plantation home as a signal station and observation platform until 1863, when Union troops took control of Windsor and used the home as a hospital. There are many legends associated with Windsor, but the most infamous is that of Mark Twain, who is said to have stayed at Windsor. He used the roof observatory to stand and look out at the Mississippi River and muse about life, inspiring many of his works.
Windsor Plantation Home became Windsor Ruins on the night of February 17, 1890. There was a party at the home and it's believed a guest left a lighted cigar on a balcony of the home which caused the house to burn to the ground. Only the 23 columns, balustrades and iron stairs survived the fire. It's an inspiring and haunting place to visit. You'll be impressed by the intricate artwork of the columns that withstood the fire and have stood strong for over 156 years.
Grand Gulf Military Park
Grand Gulf Military Park is an ideal place to combine exploring history with a love of the outdoors. You can explore Fort Cobun and Fort Wade, along with many restored buildings and a museum that tells the history of Grand Gulf. One of the most notable buildings on the site is the Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church which is one of the few examples of carpenter gothic architecture that remains in the state of Mississippi.
After you explore the buildings, you can explore the surrounding area on one of many hiking trails and then camp for the night on the property. There's so much to see here and it's worth the price of admission. Grand Gulf Military Park is located at 12006 Grand Gulf Road in Port Gibson, just 10 miles from the Natchez Trace. Admission for adults is $4 and children 12 and under are $1. Information about camping is available on the park website.
Wintergreen Cemetery dates back to 1807 and is known as one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the state. When you see it, you'll understand why it holds that claim to fame. As you enter the cemetery you'll note the shade that covers all of the souls buried here and the Mississippi Spanish moss hanging from the trees gives it an eerie and beautiful appearance. Many notable people are buried here, including Samuel Gibson, the man known as the founder of Port Gibson. You can visit the cemetery from sunrise to sunset. It's located at 613 Greenwood Street in Port Gibson
First Presbyterian Church
This Romanesque Revival-style church has many a unique feature that leads people to drive along Church Street in Port Gibson. Many just want to get a sight of the noted gold hand pointing to Heaven. Most days you'll see someone outside of the church trying to get the perfect photograph of the infamous gold hand. According to the church history page on their website, there have been two hands. The first was carved by Daniel Foley, but time took its toll and it was destroyed by 1901 A new hand was then carved and installed. There is a lot of focus on the golden hand above the church, but the interior is quite impressive with three brass chandeliers that were once a part of the steamboat, Robert E. Lee. The church is located at 605 Church Street in Port Gibson. It is free to visit, but apart from designated church services, it's hit and miss as to when the church is open to explore the interior.
St. Joseph Catholic Church
Built in 1849, this church is the oldest in Port Gibson. It is open most days of the week and the interior is must see. Its blue stained glass offers a beautiful blue hue throughout the church that adds to the spiritual feeling of the space. St. Joseph Catholic Church is located at 909 Church Street in Port Gibson. It is open most days and the church welcomes visitors. They do ask that you consider leaving a donation, which is noted when you enter.
© 2017 Shannon Ballard