Today’s post is a reprint from Mrs. N.D. Deupree’s “Some Historic Homes of Mississippi,” from Publications of the Mississippi Historical Society, Vol. VII (1903).
Longwood, the home of Sargent S. Prentiss, stood in the center of a noble forest of live oaks. The trees were of gigantic height, lifting their plumy heads heavenward as the lower limbs fell away. A tiny stream flowed between the highway and the enclosure and was spanned by a small rustic bridge, with cedar boughs twisted into a balustrade. Along the banks of the winding stream blue violets, primroses and ferns grew rankly in the cool, moist ground. Heavy iron gates admitted to the law; a smooth broad carriage road lef up the hillside to the residence; along the margin of the drive tall elm trees stood at regular intervals; their long branches meeting overhead formed a leafy bower along the way. As one climbed the hill the outlines of the house became visible, a stately, typical Southern mansion like hundreds that formerly opened wide their doors to welcome the coming guest, but which alas! are fast becoming traditional to this generation. No mansard roof here, no Queen Anne hybrids, no feeble imitation of Elizabethan facades and Tudor towers, that in these latter days do duty as the vanguards of culture. Instead, one sees a substantial square-built house of lofty height and wide dimensions; the central halls, on both stories, divided the space equally, into four rooms on each side. Along the wide front ran a lofty piazza, the roof supported by smooth, round pillars. The broad, square windows of the upper rooms looked down on the floor of the piazza where generations of children had played, and lovers had promenaded in the silvery moonlight. This spacious colonnade extended around the northern and eastern sides of the house. Across the western side the conservatories were built.
This was the home of the beautiful Mary Williams, who became the wife of Mississippi’s silver-tongued orator, Sargent S. Prentiss. Here he wooed and married the gentle girl “who never seemed to know that he was lame.” Prentiss was never so happy as when at Longwood with his wife and children. He often wrote to his mother, in a far away State, of the fruits and flowers; the quiet, and the joys of delightful Longwood. The room he loved best and where he delighted to gather his loved ones around him was the southwest room, which was fitted up half library and half playroom; the south windows opened on the lawn and gave fine views of the elm avanue, and the brook and bridge at the foot of the hill; the west windows opened to the floor and lef to the conservatory. In this home and this room, with nature and his little ones about him, Prentiss forgot the cares and vexations of public life, and became the charming, genial host, the loving father and devoted husband. He breathed his last in the beloved home July 1st, 1850, and lies buried in the family burying ground of Winthrop Sargent, first governor of Mississippi. The great orator sleeps under a coverlet of ivy leaves. The place is more like an old-fashioned garden, crowded with shrubs and flowers that mingle their sweet perfume over the resting place of this distinguished citizen of Mississippi.
After the death of Mr. Prentiss, the family removed to New Orleans, and the old home was torn down to make room for a more magnificent structure, which was in course of erection when the Civil War came on. It has never been completed, but even in its unfinished state it is one of the handsomest places in the South.
Publications of the Mississippi Historical Society, Vol. VII (1903), pp. 329-330.
This post is part of a series taken from Mrs. N.D. Deupree’s “Some Historic Homes of Mississippi,” published in 1903. Want to read others in the series?
- Eagle’s Nest
- Mount Salus
- Shirley House (Wexford Lodge)
- Jacob Thompson House
- Blue Mountain