Natchez-Under-the-Hill, the neighborhood at the bottom of the bluff where the American Queen landed, was notorious during steamboat days.  Violence and vice attracted the rough adventurers from the boats on the river, but the location kept the behavior isolated from the town’s more prominent citizens.

Those “prominent” citizens were wealthy, thanks to cotton—and their slaves who harvested it.  In 1860, it was the richest city in the U.S., and there were many antebellum mansions that were spared during the Civil War when the town surrendered to Farragut’s fleet.

We toured the restored Rosalie Mansion, after getting a hop on-hop-off bus tour of the town.  Hurricane Harvey was passing through, so it was nice to get out of the high winds and pouring rain, bag up our dripping plastic ponchos, and have a look at how the one-precent’rs lived back in the 1860’s.




Like all of the other mansions, Rosalie was owned by a wealthy white cotton plantation owner and owner of slaves who was part of a small group that dominated the antebellum South.  (Acquiring land and slaves provided the surest route for a person to achieve elite status in the South.)

Ronald L. Davis, author of The Black Experience in Natchez, describes what life was like for those blacks in Natchez who were not owned as slaves: “Freedom for Natchez blacks was not the opposite of slavery.  Each ‘free person of color’ was expected to function as an essentially marginal person.  The extent of one’s freedom depended upon one’s deportment as well as one’s conformity to a role in life accommodating the white community… the free blacks of Natchez lived, in other words, somewhere between slavery and freedom.”

Another mansion we toured was Magnolia Hall, where we learned that during the Civil War, a cannon ball had been fired by the Union that blasted through the kitchen wall and landed in a soup terrine.  How’s that for a soup garnish?

Hurricane Harvey had blown through town by the evening, so we went for a stroll to enjoy the beautiful sky that Harvey left behind:





The “Mayor” of Natchez-Under-the-Hill






Although President Lincoln described the Siege and Battle at Vicksburg as “the key to victory” of the Civil War, and Vicksburg is full of Civil War history, we opted to pass on seeing the battlefield, monuments, cemetery, U.S.S. Cairo, museum, etc.  Civil War buffs we are not.

It was a bit of a dreary, rainy day in Vicksburg; however, we didn’t mind walking the town with our umbrellas in hand, after we took the hop on-hop off bus tour for an overview.

Being the glass buffs that we are, we chose to spend time viewing and learning about the six priceless Tiffany stained-glass windows at the Church of the Holy Trinity, listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  In all of Mississippi, there are only eleven Tiffany stained-glass windows, so the windows at this church are quite significant.  A husband-wife docent team gave an informative talk about the gorgeous windows.

When the church was built, the original church windows were clear.  The stained-glass windows were paid for by contributions from Civil War veterans around the country, dedicated to the soldiers who died in battle during the Siege of Vicksburg.  The front wall windows were the first ones installed at the church as a memorial of reconciliation in the South following the Civil War.  (It’s interesting to note that Vicksburg was 70% Union.)


Six of the windows were created by Tiffany Studios in New York under the supervision of Louis Comfort Tiffany.  Opalescent glass was used for the windows, giving them a watercolor-like appearance.  Tiffany felt that not only should the color be part of the design, but the texture as well; so, texture was added to the glass to give a life-like appearance.  In one of the windows, the woman is wearing a robe that has wrinkles, created quite effectively with added layers of glass.  Surprisingly, we were encouraged to go ahead and touch the textured glass in these priceless windows.  (Since no insurance company will insure the church, a value for the windows cannot be determined.)

Tiffany was also a genius in how he worked with color to capture light.  In this window, “The Good Shepard,” we were told that no matter what time of day or ambient light, the lantern always looks lit.


Having the opportunity to see and photograph those incredible windows was well worth visiting Vicksburg.


For a fun bit of nostalgia, we popped (no pun intended) into the nicely restored Biedenharn Candy Co. building to have a look around the Beidenharn Coca-Cola museum.  Owned and operated by The Vicksburg Foundation for Historic Preservation, they did a nice job restoring the building and creating enjoyable exhibits about the Biedenharn family who were the original bottlers of Coca-Cola. Alongside reproductions of the first bottling equipment used to bottle the iconic soda-pop, they explained the bottling process.  In addition, Coca-Cola memorabilia and advertising from past to present were on display.




When the stopper was pulled out of the bottle, the rubber made a popping noise– “soda pop”.

Bruce and I also checked out the Old Courthouse Museum (built in 1859) and Lower Mississippi River Museum.  Most memorable was exploring the river museum’s M/V Mississippi IV, a former river workboat that plied the river for the Corps for over thirty years and hosted public Mississippi River Commission (MRC) meetings, until she was decommissioned in 1993.


Headquartered in Vicksburg, the MRC was established by an act of Congress in 1879 with the purpose of controlling the Mississippi River.  In addition, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers has its research headquarters in Vicksburg, and the town boasts more Phd’s per capita than any city in the U.S.A.  Who knew?

In addition to Cape Girardeau and Paducah, Vicksburg also did a wonderful job turning an ugly river flood wall into a beautiful work of art.  Here are some of the murals that graced the wall where American Queen was tied up:









Content with spending our days seeing each river port via hop on-hop off bus and hoofing it on foot, Bruce and I didn’t sign up for any premium excursions during our three-week American Queen Steamboat adventure down the Mississippi River— except for one: “Small Towns, Big Legends:  The Story of B.B. King—A Musical Journey Through the Mississippi Delta.”  This tour was scheduled for our stop in Greenville, Mississippi, and we had looked forward to it with the anticipation that it would be one of the highlights of the cruise.  We were not disappointed.

The brochure description summed it up nicely, “Join us on a journey to Indianola, Mississippi, the hometown of legendary blues artist, B.B. King.  Built to tell the story of B.B. King and how the Delta Region shaped his legacy, the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center captures the story of the Delta Blues.  Enjoy a live Gospel performance as you enter, followed by a self-guided tour of the museum.  Finish the day off with a visit to Club Ebony, an iconic night club built at the end of WWII and featured entertainers such as Ray Charles, Bobby Bland, Albert King, and of course—B.B. King.



Designed by B.B. King and housed in a former cotton gin where B.B. King worked in the 1940’s, the B.B. King Museum opened in 2008.  In addition to an extensive collection of artifacts owned by B.B. King, there are excellent exhibits about his life and other blues musicians from the region that was the birthplace of Delta Blues.


It is also the burial site of Riley B. “Blues Boy” King, who was buried in the planned memorial garden shortly after his death in 2015, at the age of 89.


Upon our arrival, we watched an excellent film about B.B. King and his childhood home of Indianola.  I was tickled, because one of the musicians who played with B.B. King and was interviewed about him in the documentary was Nathan East.  A phenomenal world-renowned bassist, Nathan was the childhood best friend of one of my adult best friends (of 26 years), Carl Evans Jr, who died in 2008.  During high school, both Nathan and Carl performed in “Power,” a state award-winning band.  Nathan went on to become one of the most recorded bassists ever and was one of the founding members of contemporary jazz quartet “Fourplay”.  Carl, meanwhile, formed contemporary jazz group “Fattburger” along with four other top San Diego musicians, including Hollis Gentry, one of the other “Power” members.  (Hollis has since died.)

Back to the film about “Blues Boy” King, we learned that he had moved away from Indianola to further his music career; however, he never forgot his Delta Blues roots.  Determined to piece together his early childhood, but not remembering where in Indianola the house was where he was born, King used a recording of his father describing the location of his birthplace home to find his way back.  It was all documented in the film, and his reaction to finding that spot was touching.  The house is no longer there, and the land is now a cotton field.

Following the documentary, there was a fabulous musical performance by a few of the local musicians, which we thoroughly enjoyed before continuing on to our self-guided tour of the exhibits.

One of the things I wanted to learn from the exhibit was why B.B. King named his guitar (actually, 49 of them throughout his career) “Lucille”.   Well, that’s an interesting story!  Lucille originated in 1949 following a bar fight in Twist, Arkansas where King was playing.  Two guys, whose rambunctious fight caused a fire, were fighting over a waitress… named Lucille.  During the fight, they had knocked over a container of kerosene, which started the fire, and burned the bar down.

When it was time to leave the museum, we weren’t ready.  There was so much to see and so much great music to listen to; we could have spent the entire day there!


Our bus took us on to Club Ebony, an iconic blues night club that King bought in 2008 and gave to the museum in 2012.  Until his death, King returned once each year and performed with his band as part of a blues festival.  He would perform at night, but stayed through the morning to sign autographs and pose for pictures for every single fan.  He would then stay and talk with the bar staff.



Although we were told that during our visit to Club Ebony, we would be enjoying a “Southern snack” while being entertained by a local blues band, we arrived to find a full buffet meal being served by a local caterer whose servers were eager to ensure that nobody left hungry!  The food was tasty, and the music was top-shelf, including an excellent guitarist who turned out to be the grandson of Muddy Waters.





Muddy Waters’ Grandson














The club was old and funky; you could just imagine B.B. picking at “Lucille” and Ray Charles singing, “Georgia On My Mind.”  Thanks to King turning over the club to the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center, it will continue to draw great blues musicians to its front door for years to come.






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