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The 75th Anniversary of the Natchez Trace Parkway was celebrated exactly 75 years from the day the Natchez Trace Parkway became an independent unit of the National Park System. Longtime supporters, legislators, NPS and Federal Highway Administration officials recognized the efforts that made the parkway a reality. As Senator Roger Wicker reminded the crowd, it may seem now that completion of the parkway was inevitable, but for many years, people doubted that it would ever be finished. Malcolm Gardner, Jr., whose father was the first Natchez Trace Parkway superintendent, and Stephen Harriman, who father was its first chief ranger, attended the ceremony. Harry Martin and Jean Ratliff, who were critical parts of the “Finish the Trace” work that completed the motor road were present. The public enjoyed a vintage car show, Choctaw culture, living history, as well as musical entertainment.
The Natchez Trace Parkway Association commemorated the bicentennial of the 1813 Natchez Expedition on the Natchez Trace Parkway through a ten-day living history event from Natchez to Nashville. The event re-created events from the landing of the troops at Natchez and the parade through the city, the encampment at Fort Dearborn, camp sites at Brashears’ Stand and the Choctaw Agency, a ceremonial crossing of the Tennessee River at Colbert Ferry and the dismissal of the troops at Grinder’s Stand. Along the way, ceremonies were held in the Old Mississippi State Capitol building and at the War of 1812 Memorial Site, Tuscumbia and the Hermitage. A period reception for the troops was held at the Natchez Prentiss Club and a period dinner was hosted at the Eola Hotel. Ladies held an 1813 tea at Auburn Historic House. Education camps reached about 2,000 students in Mississippi.
To commemorate the bicentennial of the 1813 Natchez Expedition for the War of 1812, and to acknowledge that Andrew Jackson became “Old Hickory” on the return march, the Natchez Trace Parkway Association planted bicentennial Hickory trees at sites associated with the expedition The history of the expedition was recounted at events, and the assistance the Chickasaws and Choctaws provided to help Jackson and his troops was acknowledged. He became “Old Hickory” with their help.
Thanks to the DAR, the U.S. Daughters of 1812 and the Pontotoc Historical Society for sponsoring the trees, and to Greg Smith, and the National Park Service for their help in planting them on sites on the parkway and to the Hermitage for its help in planting the tree at its site.
Trees were also planted near Jackson’s camp site on the old trace in Pontotoc and at Grinder’s Stand, where troops were dismissed. The design for markers for the trees is in progress.
Special thanks for the donations of the trees from the following:
1. Natchez on the Bluff- Natchez Chapter DAR
2. Historic Jefferson College- Fort Dearborn- Pathfinder Chapter DAR of Port Gibson, MS
3. Camp Jackson (Elizabeth Female Academy) – James Gilliam Chapter DAR of Marks, MS
The Nathcez Trace Parkway Association celebrated the 75th Anniversary of the Inaugural of the Natchez Trace Parkway on October 18, 1937 at Brandon Hall Plantation in Natchez by returning to Brandon Hall for the 2012 Annual Meeting. Special honor was given to Roane Fleming Byrnes, who served as president of the Association from 1934 to 1969. A plaque was unveiled at her grave. The Natchez Trace Ball, a popular fundraiser in the early years, was recreated at the Natchez Eola Hotel, with music from the period. Returning to the same porch at Brandon Hall where the ceremony was held in 1937, the Association honored its early founders whose vision and persistence made the parkway dream a reality. The Memorial Park area on the parkway, created during the 1937 inaugural event with treess planted by the states and by the U.S. and Mexican governments, was restored. A 75th Anniversary tree was planted near the remaining 1937 tree, planted by New Orleans Times-Picayune editor George Healey in 1937, Mrs. Byrnes neices,, and Mr. Hollis, who was present at the 1937 ceremony, assisted in the planting. Also, as in 1937, a barbeque at Brandon Hall concluded the event. Thanks to the Garber family for their hospitality at Brandon Hall.
On the bicentennial of U.S. declaration of war against the British, the U.S. Daughters of 1812 dedicated a monument honoring the soldiers who marched and died on the Natchez Trace during the war. Superintendent Cam Sholly announced that the site would be renamed the “War of 1812 Memorial Site.” A large stone wall separates the site from the parkway and creates a contemplative space on the hilltop. The visitor is guided by the road and a sidewalk to the crest of the hill along a section of the old trace where the monument may be viewed.
The Natchez Trace Parkway Association, in partnership with the 7th U.S. Living History Association and the National Park Service, began a four-year living history program on the parkway to re-enact events associated with its role in the War of 1812. Captain John Gordon’s house and ferry site was the location of the Memorial Day 2012 event “Muster on the Natchez Trace 1812.” As in the spring of 1812, a muster was held of volunteer militia, when word arrived that a settler had been taken hostage. A debate ensued over whether the nation should go to war. Military recruiters enlisted volunteers, as fife and drum musicians created a patriotic mood. A period church service was held before the soldiers marched from their families to meet the enemy. A memorial was held for Captain Gordon. Members of his family were present. Captain Gordon was the Captian of the Company of Spies for Andrew Jackson. General Jackson sent Gordon as the sole spy into Spanish-held Pensacola. Based upon the intelligence that Captain Gordon provided, Jackson attacked Pensacola. Jackson noted that Captiain Gordon frequently moved to the front of action during battle. Gordon moved with his family from Nashville to the ferry site in 1812, as war was threatened.