News from Natchez

Last week several news stories from Natchez popped into my inbox, both of which contain good news for two iconic, and fire ravaged buildings.

Firstly, after sixteen years, the Natchez Preservation Commission is moving forward with a legal battle to save the historic and privately owned Arlington property.  You might recall that the house built in 1818 suffered from a disastrous fire on September 17, 2002.  Shortly after the fire an emergency roof was constructed by the Historic Natchez Foundation to protect what remained of the building, but the owner, Tom Vaughan of Jackson, has done nothing to the house since the fire.

“We’re entering a 90-day period during which the owner has a chance to make repairs,” Riccardo Giani, Natchez planning and zoning director said. “By Jan. 9, the city can proceed with fines. … If the mayor and the board of aldermen decided to hire a team of contractors to make repairs on the building … they could put a lien on his taxes to pay for it.”

Simms, Sabrina “City makes move to save historic house Arlington” Natchez Democrat 18 Oct., 2018

Hopefully this is the start of a bright new future for Arlington.  The house is one of only thirteen properties in the state that holds the distinction of being listed on the National Register, is a National Historic Landmark, and is a Mississippi Landmark.  Bonus points for folks who can name the other twelve off the top of their head.

The second new story is regarding the much more recent fire to the former Prentiss Club building.  Built in 1904-1905 the building was undergoing a rehabilitation that was almost complete when a fire ripped through the building and destroyed the roof back in September.  Originally a red tile roof, a temporary asphalt shingle roof will go back on the building to save the structure from the elements.

I hope these two stories of bad news looking up will get your week started off right!

Categories: Abandoned Mississippi, Antebellum, Demolition/Abandonment, Natchez, News Roundups


11 replies

  1. Where shall I deposit my “off the top of my head” list? Oh, wait…no need. However, good to see some roofing going on. Seriously–16 years?


    • Hmm. I believe I might have misquoted the article. Arlington doesn’t appear to be a Mississippi Landmark. Natchez has five buildings that are National Register-listed that are also a National Historic Landmark, and a Mississippi Landmark. They are Auburn, Connelly’s Tavern, Longwood, Monmouth, and Stanton Hall.


  2. Thanks for the update on these 2 properties.


  3. Would it help preservation efforts to add that Judith Sargent Murray’s twenty letterbooks were found by Rev. Gordon Gibson stored in Arlington Plantation in 1984? Judith was the sister of the Governor of the Mississippi Territories. She is perhaps best known for her 1790 essay, “On the Equality of the Sexes.” The siblings were originally from Gloucester, Massachusetts, and her 1782 home, overlooking Main Street, the Sargent House Museum is open during the season. Judith spent the last two years of her life on her son-in-law’s plantation nearby. Adam Bingaman was related to the Surgets of Arlington. Do descendants of the Surgets, Bingamans and Sargents still live in Adams County?


    • I am researching Adam Lewis and trying to determine if we are related to Peter Bingeman from Pennsylvania. Judith was a woman ahead of her times and have wondered about the connection as her daughter secretly married after he graduated from Harvard.. Can you update me on where the letter books are now?


  4. Short answer, yes – the descendants of the Surgets are still among us – Anne MacNeil of Elms Court and her sister, Dr. Beth Boggess being among them. Another interesting fact: Bingaman’s Fatherland Plantation was located on the historic site of the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians, and much of its acreage is now a state historic site.

    Also gleaned from a trunk in the attic of Arlington, removed pre-2002 fire, the Rice Ballard papers, now at the University of North Carolina. The real twist: one of the letters referenced at the end of this description – about enslaved women petitioning for help with pending sales of themselves or others – is written to S. S. Boyd who lived at Arlington, begging him not to sell his own mixed-race children to Texas. But apparently he did.

    Rice Carter Ballard (c. 1800-1860) was a slave trader based in Richmond, Va., who worked in partnership with the large slave trading firm of Isaac Franklin and John Armfield in the late 1820s and early 1830s. By the early 1840s, Ballard had settled down as a planter with several plantations in the Mississippi Valley. He married Louise Berthe around 1840 and made his home in Louisville, Ky. Ballard and his wife had three children: Ella (b. 1841), and twins Ann Carter and Charlotte Berthe (b. 1847). The collection includes letters, financial and legal materials, volumes, and other material documenting Rice Ballard’s life as a slave trader and planter. Letters include several from Henry Clay about court cases involving the legality of the slave trade and one from Mississippi Governor John Anthony Quitman about payment of a debt. Letters and financial records, 1820s-early 1830s, document day-to-day operations of the interstate slave trade among Ballard in Richmond, Va., John Armfield in Alexandria, Va., and Isaac Franklin in Natchez, Miss., and New Orleans, La. Records, 1840s-1860, document Ballard’s administration, in partnership with Judge Samuel S. Boyd, of a number of cotton plantations in Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi, especially Karnac, Magnolia, and Outpost. There are many letters from Boyd, from the overseers at the various places, and from Ballard’s cotton commission merchants in New Orleans. Letters discuss the slaves, improvements on the plantations, family life, politics (including especially the Know-Nothing Party), and financial arrangements. Also included are letters to and from Louise Ballard about her life in Louisville, Ky. There are also three letters from slaves, 1847, 1853, and 1854, all from women asking Ballard for help with emancipation or with pending sales of themselves or others. Volumes and other materials in the collection supplement the letters with details of the slave trade, Ballard’s other financial activities, and plantation life.


  5. Another interesting Arlington connection – around the year 2000, a 10′ tall armoire was sold at auction in New Orleans, claiming provenience to the William Johnson House in Natchez. Turns out it had been at Arlington for many years, sold by the William Johnson descendants decades earlier to return to Arlington because of their family tradition that William Johnson had originally bought it out of Arlington in the 1840s. So this beautiful piece of furniture that is now displayed upstairs at the William Johnson House is likely an original piece of Arlington furniture that thereby survived the horrific Arlington fire in 2002.


    • I wonder if Johnson’s piece has any of the same attributes that are displayed on the furniture from Gloster Place. Are any photos available from the auction house or the NPS? You can see some of the Sargent House Museum furniture on-line. Look for Winthrop Sargent’s wine cooler carved with entwined grape leaves and grapes and bed carved with motifs of surveyor’s instruments. There is also a breakfront.

      Why do you think such a large amount of correspondence from Ballard was at Arlington?


  6. Outside of Natchez, the Old Capitol, New Capitol, Eudora Welty House, Lyceum at Ole Miss, Rowan Oak, Warren County Courthouse, Beauvoir, Grand Opera House in Meridian, . . . hmmm . . . Are there 12 or 13 total?


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