“Take any road you please…it curves always, which is a continual promise, whereas straight roads reveal everything at a glance and kill interest.” “Some Rambling Notes of an Idle Excursion” ~ Mark Twain ~
When traveling the Natchez Trace Parkway, it is helpful to follow the Milepost Gazetteer on the Natchez Trace Parkway National Park Service map. I know, that’s a mouthful! This guide helps you to know where you are on the 444-mile stretch of road. As many settlers and farmers in the 1700s looked to the rivers to get their goods to market, it was easiest to get back up the river by an overland route. This is why the mileposts are now numbered from the south and run north. The markers are simple yellow posts with an engraved number. The Trace travels through three states: Mississippi (milepost 1-310), Alabama (milepost 310-344), and Tennessee (Milepost 344-444). The idea of the Trace is to slowdown and enjoy the scenery; speed limits do not exceed 50 mph. As we rode our motorcycles, we would encounter an occasional bicyclist along the route. There are no restaurants or gas stations on the Trace. You would have to familiarize yourself with the mileposts to know where to exit.
One of the detours off of the parkway takes you to the Windsor Ruins (milepost 30.0). All that remains of the Windsor Plantation are twenty-nine 45-foot eerie stately columns. This Mississippi icon was the destination for our group photograph for all those who were involved in the “Motormaids on the Trace” ride.
The antebellum mansion was built by Smith Coffee Daniell, a wealthy planter, beginning in 1859 and finished in 1861 just before the Civil War began. Unfortunately, at age 34, Mr. Daniell died a few weeks after its completion. Before our trip, I purchased “Guide to the Natchez Trace Parkway” and I read: “The four-story house had 25 rooms with 25 fireplaces, and attic tanks supplied water to the interior baths. The basement floor had a school room, dairy, and supply rooms. The roof observatory was used to signal confederate troops about Union advances. Twenty-nine 45-foot-tall columns were joined across the front with an ornamental iron balustrade. Windsor was used as a Union hospital during the Civil War and survived intact.” Further research on the web shows that this plantation has many stories to tell in legends and history. Mark Twain would visit the mansion in his riverboat piloting days and he wrote of its elegance in his book, “Life on the Mississippi.”
So many mansions were destroyed during the Civil War, but this one, on 2,600 acres, had survived. Ironically, In February 1890, a party guest accidentally dropped left a cigar on the third floor balcony, causing the Windsor to burn to the ground. There are no known photographs of the home and historians have had to rely on blueprints to imagine what the mansion would have looked like.
We then “saddled up” and found our way back to the Trace.