- Natchez, the oldest town in Mississippi, was founded in 1716 and continues to thrive today.
- Located in southwestern Mississippi, Natchez is situated on the famous Mississippi River.
- Natchez has a long and storied history, including being a major slave trading center before the Civil War.
- The town is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including over 120 species of fish in the Mississippi River.
- Visitors to Natchez can explore historic homes, visit museums, take ghost tours, and enjoy outdoor activities like fishing and camping.
If you want to see the historical towns of the amazing state of Mississippi, then you absolutely must add the small town of Natchez to your list. Natchez was founded way back in 1716, and it continues to exist and thrive. We explain its history, fun attractions, and the animals that call the area home. Let’s dive in and discover more about the oldest town in Mississippi.
The Oldest Town in Mississippi is Natchez
This quaint little town has always been a big part of U.S. history, and it holds a solid place on our list of the oldest cities in Mississippi. Technically, Natchez is the oldest town in Mississippi, and the location is still thriving today. Let’s learn more about the ins and outs of Natchez.
Where is Natchez Located on a Map?
Natchez is located in Southwestern Mississippi, about 70 miles from Vicksburg. It’s also 90 miles from the town of Jackson, the capital of the state. It’s also 85 miles from Baton Rouge. The town is right on the famous Mississippi River.
Natchez is also not too far of a drive from New Orleans. It is about a 3-hour drive north, northwest along Highway 61.
History of Natchez
Natchez has a long and storied history. It was originally established by French colonists way back in 1716. It’s one of the original European settlements that makes up the lower Mississippi River Valley. After the French and Indian War, the French ceded the town of Natchez to Great Britain as part of the Treaty of Paris of 1763.
The British then provided land grants in the area to officers who served with great pride and distinction during the war. These folks originally came from colonies of New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. They established plantations, gentrifying the area.
After a defeat in the American Revolutionary War, Great Britain gave the town of Natchez to the United States as part of the terms of the Treaty of Paris. However, before the U.S. act, Spain took control of the land for themselves. But their possession was short-term. In 1797, U.S. forces set up camp in the area and took it back.
Heading Into the Modern Area
Because of its location, Natchez became the capital of the Mississippi Territory. It is situated on a bluff that overlooks the Mississippi River, so it was ideal for trade and commerce. However, Jackson replaced it as the state capital in 1822.
Unfortunately, this beautiful city has a dark past. Back before the Civil War, Natchez was the second largest slave trading center, second only to New Orleans. Some of the most notorious slavers of that time conducted business throughout the city.
In 1840, the town was the site of a deadly tornado that killed and injured more than 400 people. It continues to be the second deadliest tornado in the United States. Many slaves were also killed, and unfortunately, their numbers weren’t even counted.
As the 19th century plugged away, the city continued to be synonymous with slavery, as wealthy southerners built mansions and plantations. Because so much sugarcane was grown in the area, Natchez became a principal port for crop exportation.
After the Civil War
During the course of the Civil War, the Confederate forces surrendered the city of Natchez without a fight. After the Union won the war, the slaves were freed, and many of them moved into Natchez as citizens. Unfortunately, it was not a comfortable life as the Union Army didn’t have the resources necessary to provide suitable housing. The army created a camp where the freed slaves could live, but it was not well maintained, and many slaves died. The area was nicknamed the “Devil’s Punchbowl.”
As we approached the 1870s, the town started to improve, and it even had a few African-American mayors. In the last 80+ years, the town of Natchez has outlived its past, and it has become a nice place to live for many people from different backgrounds and demographics. However, it’s far from being a utopia. Many jobs have left the area in recent years, and there’s been a decline in population since the 60’s. On the bright side, it’s considered a heritage tourism hot spot, so the history is not lost.
Wildlife in Natchez
The oldest town in Mississippi is also home to many different animal species. Since the town is set on the Mississippi River, there are many notable creatures that you may spot if you visit this humble city.
The Mississippi River is home to hundreds of species, including more than 120 different fish. Among them are some of the typical fish you find across the country, including various species of bass and carp. There’s also northern pike, catfish, walleye, bluegill, and freshwater drum. There are even American eels and river redhorses. This is just a selected list of the amazing fish that you could encounter during your visit to Natchez.
There are also many amazing mammals along the Mississippi River. Some of them are more common, while others can be a surprise. These are the pets that the citizens of Natchez can see on a regular basis:
- North American River Otter – The otter thrives as it swims in the water or burrows near the water’s edge. They love to build tunnels, and they’re very resourceful. They mostly eat fish, but they may also eat turtles.
- Southern Red-Backed Vole – It may look like a mouse, but the vole is actually more like a hamster. They mostly feast on fungi and vegetation.
- Masked Shrew – This is the most common shrew in North America, and it prefers to roam among the grasslands. You can often find them laying in nets that they make in decaying stumps or logs.
- American Mink – This guy is in the weasel family, and when it’s not swimming in the water, it’s climbing trees. Minks are carnivores that eat frogs, small mammals, and birds.
- Muskrat – This is a small little critter that’s often mistaken for a beaver, but it’s not. The muskrat spends most of its time in the water, and it can hold its breath for 17 minutes straight.
- American Beaver – This is the largest rodent in the country, and its ancestors go back to seven million years ago. You’ll see them in rivers and streams building their dams.
- Virginia Opossum – These are the famous creatures that play dead when threatened, and you can find them near Natchez. You’ll see them in the woodlands and near the water.
- Striped Skunk – You’ve seen the skunk before, and you can see it near Natchez as well. Just keep your distance.
- White-Tailed Deer – Be quiet as you walk through the woods, and you could see the white-tailed deer. You’ll find them closer to the streams and rivers.
- Red Fox – The red fox is a resourceful little creature, and you can find it in Mississippi and other parts of the country. This species is red with a bushy tail.
Look up at the skies, and you’ll see many different majestic birds flying in the forests and closer to town. A few species that you can expect to see include:
- Great Blue Heron – With a wingspan of up to six feet, the great blue heron is not hard to spot. You can see this bird species close to the river as they hunt in the shallow water.
- Bald Eagle – Yes, if you’re lucky, you can spot the majestic bald eagle near Natchez. They get to flourish due to many regulations that protect their safety.
- Wood Duck – This duck with the vibrant colors in its feathers is no stranger to the waterways around Natchez. You’ll often see them near the parks.
- Red Tailed Hawk – They can be a bit of a rarity, but you can see this awesome hawk in this and seven other states.
- Belted Kingfisher – This is a small, unique, pigeon-sized bird that’s known for its head of spiky feathers that stick straight up. They also make a rattling call that’s unmistakable.
Things to do in Natchez
If you find yourself in this corner of America, then pull up a seat and stay a while because there’s a ton to do in this little town. This is just a sampling of some of the fun activities:
As we mentioned, there were many rich folks who moved into this town in the earlier years, and they bought/built some enormous and impressive homes. If you’re in the area, you can visit a few, including Longwood, Rosalie Mansion, Stanton Hall, Melrose Mansion.
Natchez Museum of African American History and Culture
If you want to learn more about the rich history of the oldest town in Mississippi, then stop by this amazing collection of African American cultural treasures. There are pieces that date all the way back to the early 1700s.
Because of the history of Natchez and some of the darker times, it’s only natural that there will be some ghost stories that are still alive until this day. Several companies in the area provide ghost tours so you can learn some of the real and made-up history.
Magnolia Bluffs Casino
Adults who like to partake in a bit of gambling can visit the local Magnolia Bluffs Casino and test their luck on the many slot machines and table games. It’s not Las Vegas, but it’s worth a few hours of fun.
Natchez Trace Parkway
If you want to try to see much of the wildlife we mentioned and really get the full experience in Natchez, then visit the parkway. While here, you can take a long walk and bask in nature. You can also go fishing or camping.
Natchez Mississippi is a truly historic town that’s had its ups and downs, but it continues to be a fixture of the great state of Mississippi. Consider taking a tour of this fine city if you’re ever in the area.
|Oldest Town in Mississippi||Natchez|
|Location||Southwestern Mississippi, on the Mississippi River|
|Historical Significance||One of the original European settlements in the lower Mississippi River Valley|
|Wildlife||Home to hundreds of species, including over 120 different fish, various mammals, and numerous bird species|
|Attractions||Famous homes, Natchez Museum of African American History and Culture, Ghost Tours, Magnolia Bluffs Casino, Natchez Trace Parkway|
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Dietmar Rauscher Dietmar Rauscher/Shutterstock.com
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