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Digital Exhibition

New from Old Natchez


"We that think the South behind the times certainly so far I have seen nothing to prove it. Beautiful residences, well-kept grounds, fine and certainly the elegant establishments that have driven up to the door at Melrose magnificent hundred-dollar dresses but I have looked in wonder and astonishment certainly in the forty calls I had before leaving . . . There is a great wealth mostly planters having residences around Natchez Oh these grandees. I wonder if they would be so polite, so wondrous prompt in their attention if they knew Mrs. McMurran was a plain farmer's daughter."

So wrote Alie Austen McMurran, newly married to Natchez's John McMurran, Jr., to her mother in November 1857, of her impressions of Natchez and Natchez society. A native of Maryland from a non-slaveholding family, Alie McMurran's correspondence offers a view of antebellum Natchez and plantation and slave society from the perspective of an outsider suddenly expected to participate in it as new member of the elite.

Her letters are part of the McMurran-Austen Family Papers, a recent addition to LSU's Special Collections. Examples of her writings are featured in New from Old Natchez, an exhibition of manuscript materials recently acquired by the LSU Special Collections about the Natchez area. The physical exhibition will be on display at the Historic Natchez Foundation from mid-February to August, 2002, as part of the Historic Natchez Conference.

huntthumbThe exhibition is comprised of reproductions of a sampling of letters, photographs, scrapbooks, and ledgers. Items from the David Hunt Letters illustrate the financial concerns of an antebellum planter. The McMurran-Austen Family Papers, described above, also relate to women and family life, plantation administration, and the Civil War. The papers of B.G. Farrar, a Union officer who raised a regiment of African-American soldiers in the Natchez vicinity and commanded Vidalia, address those activities. The Muggah-Glover-Guyther Family Papers and the Pierce-Haralson-Rumble Family Papers also pertain to women and family life, as well as social life and customs in the Natchez area.

baptismthumbAdditions to collections previously held by LSU the J.C. Schwartz Records, Robert H. Stewart Family Account Books, and the Lemuel P. Conner Family Papers are also represented. Newly acquired ledgers of the merchants Schwartz and Stewart document yellow fever epidemics, Civil War and Reconstruction economics, and deaths of local residents. A scrapbook from the Conner papers that includes late 19th-century photographs of former slaves and African-American baptisms at Natchez Under the Hill is also featured.

laBelle1Preserved in the Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections at LSU are more than 5,000 manuscript groups, totaling 25,000 linear feet in extent. The collections include the papers of individuals and families; the records of plantations, merchants, and financial institutions; and the records of political, social, and labor organizations. The most important of these collections relate specifically to the families and enterprises in the Lower Mississippi Valley, from Memphis to New Orleans, and are especially strong in the Natchez, St. Francisville, and Baton Rouge areas.

The Historic Natchez Foundation is located at 108 S. Commerce St; Natchez, MS; 39120; phone 601-442-2500. Contact them for more information about the physical exhibit. Both physical and electronic exhibitions were prepared by staff of the LSU Libraries: Tara Zachary, Assistant Curator for Manuscripts, Special Collections, prepared the exhibition texts; Buddy Ethridge mounted the physical exhibition; Joe Scott scanned the items displayed; Matthew Mullenix designed the electronic exhibition. For more information about the collections, contact Tara Zachary at or 225-578-6546.

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