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Published: July 29th 2013
The Visitors Center Is Easy To Find
Biloxi Lighthouse With Biloxi Visitors Center In The Background - Biloxi MS
My departure from Andalusia AL on Wednesday, July 10, 2013 was uneventful. My GPS guided me over a few miles of state and county roads before I made my way onto westbound US 84/AL 12 towards Evergreen AL. There I caught I-65 to Mobile AL and I-10 to Biloxi MS where I exited onto MS 67 and some county roads to the Woodland Farm RV Campground south of Saucier MS. The owner had properly cautioned me over the phone that the location is about 20 minutes from the downtown Biloxi casinos; however, I relished the calm at the end of the day. This small park is rural and quiet and (from all appearances) is a retirement hobby and social outlet for the very accommodating owner.
Thursday was properly forecast for rain for most of the day, but Friday found me stopping at the Biloxi Visitors Center, taking an orientation drive around Biloxi and then driving west along the coast. Along the way, I happened upon the Hurricane Camille Memorial. The names of about 125 known and recovered victims and about 40 known but missing victims are inscribed on the granite memorial. Some are honored as well as possible – Mrs.
Byrd, Mrs. Spaw, Tom Ladner and the Mother of Tom Ladner. The bodies of three victims, Faith, Hope and Charity, were recovered but were not unidentified. A well done tribute.
US 90, or Beach Boulevard, travels along the Gulf Coast with a rarely interrupted view of the water to the south and, for the most part, telltale signs of what once was to the north – a driveway cut in the curb, a few steps leading to a “sidewalk to nowhere” or a carriage mounting block left to remind all of the historic nature of the hurricane razed dwelling. Perhaps ten percent of the lots that once sported stately mansions have been redeveloped. The remainder of the large lots is for sale or otherwise languishes in limbo.
Later in my visit, I was told that any development on these lots must be constructed to withstand a 500-year event. I am not sure who, the government (and, if so, which level of government) or the insurance industry, imposed this rule nor of the accuracy of what I was told; but the expense is obviously not conducive to community redevelopment. One “For Sale by Owner” lot sported a price tag
Will Another Mansion Someday Occupy This Subtle Reminder Of Katrina?
Along Beach Boulevard (US 90) Near The Hurricane Katrina Memorial - Biloxi MS
of $1,000,000. Only the well-heeled can rebuild here!
Along the way, I stopped at Beauvoir - The Jefferson Davis Home and Presidential Library. Jefferson Davis, the youngest of ten children, was born on June 3, 1808, in Christian County KY slightly more than 100 miles from the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln. Davis graduated from the United States Military Academy (West Point) in June 1828.
Following graduation, Davis was stationed at Fort Crawford WI and, at the conclusion of the Black Hawk War; Davis was assigned to escort Chief Black Hawk to prison by Colonel Zachary Taylor. Davis made an effort to shield Black Hawk from curiosity seekers, and the chief noted in his autobiography that Davis treated him "with much kindness" and showed empathy for Black Hawk's situation as a prisoner. While stationed at Fort Crawford, Davis fell in love with his commander's daughter, Sarah Knox Taylor, and sought Taylor's permission to marry her.
When Taylor refused, so his daughter would not have to endure a difficult life on frontier army posts, Davis resigned his commission and married Sarah in Louisville KY on June 17, 1835. After three months of marriage, Sarah died of malaria on the
Davis family plantation in Woodville MS at the age of 21. Davis also contracted the disease and became severely ill. For eight years following Sarah's death, Davis was reclusive and worshipped her memory. He spent time developing his plantation, studied government and history, and had private political discussions with his brother Joseph.
In 1840, he attended a Democratic meeting in Vicksburg and, much to his surprise, was chosen as a delegate to the party's state convention. He was selected as one of six presidential electors for the 1844 presidential election and campaigned effectively throughout Mississippi for the Democratic candidate James K. Polk. Because of his war service, Governor Brown of Mississippi appointed Davis to complete the Senate term of the late Jesse Speight. He took his seat on December 5, 1847 and was elected to serve the remainder of Speight's term in January 1848.
Franklin Pierce appointed Davis his Secretary of War in 1853. In this capacity, Davis gave Congress annual reports, proposed various routes for the Transcontinental Railroad, promoted the Gadsden Purchase (today's southern Arizona) from Mexico, increased the size of the regular army from 11,000 to 15,000 and introduced general usage of the improved guns that
Typical Mansion Bedroom Of The Day
Beauvoir, The Jefferson Davis Home - Biloxi MS
he had used successfully during the Mexican–American War. When the Pierce administration ended in 1857, Davis ran for the Senate and was elected.
His service in the Senate was interrupted by an illness that threatened him with the loss of his left eye. Still nominally serving in the Senate, Davis spent the summer of 1858 in Portland ME. On Independence Day, he delivered an anti-secessionist speech on board a ship near Boston and again urged the preservation of the Union on October 11 in Faneuil Hall in Boston. He returned to the Senate soon thereafter. Following the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860, South Carolina adopted an ordinance of secession on December 20, 1860. On January 21, 1861, the day Davis called "the saddest day of my life," he delivered a farewell address to the United States Senate, resigned and returned to Mississippi.
As Davis explained in his memoir The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government
, he believed that each state was sovereign and had an unquestionable right to secede from the Union; however, he counseled delay among his fellow Southerners because he did not think that the North would permit the peaceable exercise of that right
The Ceiling Of The Foyer
Beauvoir, The Jefferson Davis Home - Biloxi MS
and, having served as Secretary of War under Pierce, also knew that the South lacked the military and naval resources necessary to defend itself in a war.
Davis expressed regret at the Lincoln assassination, knowing that he would have been less harsh with the South than his successor, Andrew Johnson. Johnson issued a $100,000 reward for the capture of Davis and accused him of helping to plan Lincoln's death. As the Confederacy fell into disarray, the search for Davis by Union forces intensified. President Davis met with his Confederate Cabinet for the last time on May 5, 1865, in Washington GA, and the Confederate government was officially dissolved. Davis and his wife were captured on May 10, 1865 at Irwinville GA.
After two years of imprisonment, Davis was released on $100,000 bail, which was posted by prominent citizens of both Northern and Southern states, including Horace Greeley, Cornelius Vanderbilt and Gerrit Smith - a former member of the Secret Six who had supported John Brown. In 1877, Sarah Anne Ellis Dorsey invited Davis to stay at Beauvoir. The widow provided him with a cabin for his own use and helped him with his writing through organization, dictation, editing,
Elegant – Note The Rounded Corners
Beauvoir, The Jefferson Davis Home - Biloxi MS
and encouragement. Knowing she was severely ill, Dorsey made over her will in 1878, leaving Beauvoir and her financial assets to Jefferson Davis and, in the case of his death, to his only surviving child, Winnie Davis. Dorsey died in 1879, by which time all three Davises were living at Beauvoir.
Davis completed A Short History of the Confederate States of America
in October 1889 and left Beauvoir to visit his plantation at Brierfield MS. On the steamboat trip upriver, he became ill and left Brierfield on November 13 to return to New Orleans. Davis arrived in New Orleans three days later and was taken to the home of Charles Erasmus Fenner, an Associate Justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court. Davis remained in bed but was stable for the next two weeks; however, he took a turn for the worse in early December, lost consciousness on the evening of December 5 and died at age 81 on December 6, 1889. His funeral was one of the largest in the South. Davis was initially entombed in New Orleans, but his widow decided to have his remains reinterred at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond VA in 1893. The grave marker lists many
of his accomplishments but his tenure as President of the Confederacy is not mentioned.
After the death of Winnie in 1898, Varina Howell Davis inherited Beauvoir. She sold it in 1902 to the Mississippi Chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, with the stipulation that it be used as a Confederate veterans home and later as a memorial to her husband. Barracks were built and the property was used as a home until 1953. At that time, the main house was adapted as a house museum, and a library was completed and opened on the site in 1998. During Hurricane Katrina on August 29, 2005, the main house was badly damaged and all other outbuildings were destroyed. The house has been restored and re-opened, a new library has been built and recently opened and several outbuildings have been rebuilt. Beauvoir is not as elegant as other mansions I have visited, but the history lesson is remarkable. Jefferson Davis was much more than President of the Confederacy. By the way, don’t miss the movies in the Visitor Center.
Saturday, July 13 found me trying to take advantage of the weather patterns (afternoon heat with showers) and join in for
the Biloxi Shrimping Trip. This attraction has been in business since 1955 – it must be doing something right. The trip times that day were 10:30 AM, 1:30 PM and 3:30 PM. Since reservations are not taken, I wanted to secure my place in line early so I could be on (and thus off) the water as early as possible! This attraction is a “real shrimping expedition” that is unique, entertaining and extremely interesting. Upon leaving the harbor, the 16-foot shrimp trawling net was deployed and an explanation of how and what makes the net spread and operate correctly was given. The net will catch any and all sea creatures in its path along with the coveted shrimp. After retrival of the shrimping trawl, captured specimens were identified for the guests and (except for the shrimp) were returned to the bay. This reasonably priced, 70 minute trip offers a glimpse into the life cycle of a shrimp and a shrimp fisherman. Very worthwhile.
After a stop for lunch, I made my way to the West End Hose Company No. 3 Museum in Biloxi. This attraction is open only on Saturdays from 9 AM TO 3 PM. I believe this
Unpretentious, But Effective
Hurricane Katrina Memorial - Biloxi MS
is the first fire museum I have visited since “The Great Adventure” began in March 2010. This small facility has a number of interesting artifacts. I had never heard of Fire Fighters Cola nor another product that makes a lot of sense – Fire Fighters Coffee! This museum is of marginal interest to the casual observer but takes only an hour or less for most. I found chatting with the retired firefighter and the newly appointed chief of Biloxi Fire qiite interesting.
My final stop of the day was at the Hurricane Katrina Memorial. The black granite marker is inscribed with the names of about 150 area residents who were lost or became missing in the disaster. Next to the memorial stands one of the Hurricane Katrina Tree Sculptures. It turned out to be the most intricately carved sculpture I saw and the only one that is also colored. Adjacent to the memorial is an enclosed case with recovered artifacts and reminders of lives that once were and a plaque outlining, “The Hurricane Katrina Memorial Story.” Very worthwhile.
After being rained out on Sunday, I again headed west along the beach on Monday, July 15. The tourism information
Destroyed Trees Were “Resurrected” In Sundry Places
Adjacent To The Historic Bay Saint Louis City Hall - Bay Saint Louis MS
boasts of three historic properties - Bay Saint Louis City Hall, Hancock County Courthouse and Bay Saint Louis Railroad Depot. The City Hall property has signage in front that indicates the existence of a Bed and Breakfast or Restaurant of some sort so I skipped it; however, an adjacent cemetery has a pair of Hurricane Katrina Tree Sculptures. The courthouse is still a functioning governmental building so I didn’t investigate.
The literature says the railroad depot houses the Hancock County Tourism Bureau and Visitor Center and the Alice Moseley Folk Art Studio. On the first floor I found numerous visitors keeping the attendant busy with their questions and several Mardi Gras costumes on display. This, I thought, was the folk art studio only to learn later that the Alice Moseley Folk Art Studio is housed on the second floor of the depot. The 1928 depot is a "Mississippi Landmark" and was once the heartbeat of the County. It also was the backdrop for the Tennessee Williams film, "This Property is Condemned" starring Robert Redford and Natalie Wood.
On my way back to Biloxi, I drove the inland route to the Naval Construction Battalion Center - Seabee Heritage Center
in Gulfport MS. The “Pass Office” is located outside the facility gate. I was given a clipboard with an extensive questionnaire and the attendant commented she didn’t know if anybody was available to run a criminal background check on me. I replied, “I hope this museum is worth the trouble.” She answered that the museum and much of the collection had been destroyed in Katrina and that the attraction wasn’t even called a museum anymore but was now a heritage center – JUST as the name says. I chose to skip the attraction and returned to Biloxi.
My final “must see photo op” in Biloxi was some additional Hurricane Katrina Tree Sculptures. Hundreds of trees in South Mississippi were destroyed by the intense storm surge and winds that accompanied Katrina. Marlin Miller, a professional wood sculptor from Fort Walton Beach FL, donated his time and over a period of three years created a trail of sculptures that stretches for 40 miles – from west of Bay Saint Louis to Ocean Springs. The Biloxi Visitors Center (and probably others) has a “Location Map” available; however, space constraints do not allow detailed placement information. Many of the sculptures are grouped together
Remarkable Work – Even Without Coloration
Hurricane Katrina Tree Sculptures - Biloxi MS
and most are on the median of divided highway US 90.
US 90 is VERY busy with a speed limit of 45 m.p.h. My suggestion is to travel eastbound along US 90 and pull into every available “off ramp”/beach parking area. There you can drive slowly and look for the sculptures – parking when one is identified. Interspersed traffic lights will provide an opportunity to safely cross to the median to examine/photograph the sculpture and then return. Near the Biloxi Visitors Center there is the Katrina Sculpture Garden which contains half-dozen sculptures.
Biloxi is a great city with lots of interesting activities – and I never even made it to the casinos! I hope to return again to see some more attractions that didn’t land high enough on my priority list for this one-week stay. There are some other attractions that have yet to be reopened post Katrina. The Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum was high on my priority list but has yet to reopen. Unfortunately, when a museum is ravaged by whatever force of nature, many of the lost artifacts are irretrievable and irreplaceable.
My next stop will be Houma LA to visit Rudy’s family. For
The Detail Is Awesome
Hurricane Katrina Tree Sculptures - Biloxi MS
those who know me well, that will be meaningful.
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