Meridian, Mississippi

Day 1311

     After spending 119 days, 18 hours, 34 minutes, and 11 seconds quarantined, we are again on the road. The only casualty was our frog mascot who lost his head in the violent storm 2 days ago.

     We were one of the last to leave this usually full, 260 site RV park.

     On our way to Indiana, our first stop is Meridian, Mississippi. 

     Previously inhabited by the Choctaw Indians, the area now called Meridian was obtained by the United States in 1830 during the period of Indian removal.

     The Mobile and Ohio Railroad and Southern Railway of Mississippi crossed at what was to become Meridian, Mississippi. The town was chartered in 1860 and built an economy based on the goods supplied by the railroads. Its name was chosen because the townspeople wrongly thought it was synonymous with “junction”.

     Ten years after the town’s founding, Weidmann’s restaurant was opened by Swiss immigrant Felix Weidmann (I wonder if he was documented?). It was first established in the Union Hotel,

now the visitor center, where I got a lot of this information. In 1923 the restaurant was moved to 22nd Avenue where we ate lunch today (excellent, by the way). Weidmann’s is the oldest restaurant in Mississippi.

     We walked the town of Meridian, looking for the Civil War history trail of the city. 

     We came upon the General Supply and Machine Company, still selling windmills.

     The Union Station, still the hub of the town, has a new building.

     We wanted to make a phone call in the station, alas, no phones anymore.

     The sidewalks of the town have embedded plaques  

to mark those famous artists that where born in Mississippi.

     We searched in Rose Hill Cemetery looking for the Confederate Burial Mound, containing the mass burial of unknown confederate soldiers, and the grave of Charles Read, the “John Paul Jones” of the South. 

We found both. 

     Read’s tombstone was toppled, which might have been done by the recent storm. If you look closely, is that his head you see?

     We also found, to our interest, the final resting place of the King and Queen of the Gypsies

    On January 31, 1915, Kelly Mitchell, “Queen of the Gypsies,” died in a gypsy camp in Coatopa, Alabama, trying and failing to give birth to her 15th child at age 47. Her husband, King Emil Mitchell, took her body to Meridian, just across the Mississippi boarder, because it was the nearest place with a refrigerated morgue. The Queen needed refrigeration because it took 12 days before America’s gypsies could assemble for her funeral. It was an elaborate service, attended by over 20,000 gypsies. Emil died 27 years later and was buried next to his wife.

     The graves of the King and Queen are easy to spot in the cemetery, they’re festooned with Mardi Gras bead necklaces, trinkets, flowers, costume jewelry, and offerings of whiskey and loose change. These are not tokens of affection, but are bribes left in the belief that they will entice Kelly or Emil to enter your dreams and solve your problems.

     One of the places recommended in the literature we got from the visitor’s center was F.W. Williams Home, described as

“F.W. Williams Victorian Home, circa 1886, evokes an era of the fashionably rich. Elegant interior decorating details reflect how no expense was spared.”

However, this is what we found:

     It feels great to be on the road again. Keep an eye out for us.

Technical Stuff

Robert, Louisiana to Meridian, Mississippi: 209.0 miles

3 hours 51 minutes

11.0 MPG

Diesel: $2.02/gallon

Infinity Science Center, Mississippi

Day 1228

     Went to the Infinity Science Center in Pearlington, Mississippi. Dedicated in 2012, the 70,000 sq. ft. center features an education wing, as well as indoor and outdoor artifacts.

     The feature exhibits were on Apollo missions, and hurricanes. 

     It was ok, nothing I haven’t seen before on the Apollo missions. Although there is a better museum on hurricanes, and Katrina in particular, in New Orleans, there was one new interesting thing I did learned:

     Anyone out there know what this is? Fabulous prizes could be yours.

Meridian, Mississippi

Day 603

     The area now called Meridian, Mississippi was obtained by the United States under the terms of the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek signed on September 27, 1830 and ratified by Congress on February 24, 1831, between the Choctaw Indian tribe and the United States Government. This was the first removal treaty carried into effect under the Indian Removal Act. The treaty ceded about 11 million acres of the Choctaw Nation in what is now Mississippi in exchange for about 15 million acres in the Indian territory, now the state of Oklahoma.

      After the treaty was ratified, American settlers began to move into the area. Established in 1860, at the junction of the Mobile and Ohio Railroad and Southern Railway of Mississippi, Meridian built an economy based on the railways and goods transported on them. The junction became a strategic trading center. The name Meridian was chosen as the town’s name because the people there erroneously thought meridian” meant “junction”. Silly rabbit. 

     At the start of the Civil War Meridian, still a small village, was used by the Confederates because of its strategic position at the railroad junction. They constructed several military installations there to support the war. During General Sherman’s “March to the Sea” Campaign, he burned the city to the ground in the Battle of Meridian, February 3–28, 1864. Despite the destruction, workers rapidly repaired the railroad lines and they were back in operation 26 working days after the battle.

Technical Stuff:

Ardmore, Tennessee to Meridian, Mississippi: 252.8 miles

4 hours 44 minutes

11.0 MPG

Diesel: $2.70

Shrimp Boat, Biloxi, Mississippi

Day 321

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    Took a trip on a shrimp boat to see how it is done. I didn’t know shrimp had heads.  Day 320 Shrimp boat Biloxi MS1336_Fotor

     The local gulls tried to cash in on the catch:

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     Tidbit of information: More blue crabs are caught in Louisiana than in Maryland. While Maryland blue crap season is 4 months, here it is all 12. Most of the crabs we eat in Maryland come from Louisiana.

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     I bet you never saw this type of blue crab:

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     It is a pregnant female, and they are illegal to possess. 

     In our quest for the unusual: here is a witch on a broom

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     The largest Indian Head in Ocean Springs, Mississippi

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     The largest rocking chair in the world is in Gulfport, Mississippi Day 320 Shrimp boat Biloxi MS1359_Fotor

     The red mark on the pole is the high water mark of Katrina in Biloxi

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Beauvoir, Mississippi

Day 318

     Jefferson Davis, who became the first and only President of the Confederate States of America, was born June 3, 1808 in Fairview, Kentucky. His father, Samuel Emory Davis was born in 1756 and served in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary. Davis grew up on his older brother Joseph’s large cotton plantations in Mississippi. His brother, who was 24 years older, also secured Jefferson’s appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. After graduating, toward the bottom of his class, Jefferson Davis served six years as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army. He fought in the Mexican–American War as the colonel of a volunteer regiment. He served as the U.S. Secretary of War from 1853 to 1857 under President Franklin Pierce, and as a Democratic U.S. senator from Mississippi. As Secretary of War, he was considered one of the best up to that time. 

     On June 17, 1835, Jefferson Davis married Sarah Knox Taylor, the daughter of his commanding officer, Colonel Zachary Taylor, a future President of the United States. Unfortunately, she died 3 months after the wedding of malaria. At the age of 36, Davis married again, to 18-year-old Varina Howell. 

     Davis had a distinguished military career. He returned to Mississippi and got involved in politics, ultimately being elected Senator from that State. In 1853 Franklin Pierce was elected President and made Davis Secretary of War. Pierce only served one term, and in 1857 Davis was re-elected to the Senate. 

     Upon succession of Mississippi from the Union, Davis returned from Washington.  On January 23, 1861, the Governor of Mississippi made Davis a major general of the Army of Mississippi. On February 9, 1861, a constitutional convention met at Montgomery, Alabama and considered Davis and Robert Toombs of Georgia as a possible President of the new Confederacy. Davis, who had widespread support from six of the seven states, easily won.

     Do you know who Thaddeus Stephens of Georgia was?

     At the end of the war and the assignation of President Lincoln, President Andrew Johnson sought the capture of Jefferson Davis. Davis was captured on May 10, 1865 and was indicted for treason and imprisoned at Fort Monroe, Virginia. He was never tried and was released after two years. He ultimately retired to Beauvoir, the home in Biloxi Mississippi we visited today, where he wrote his memoirs.

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     Davis called Beauvoir his home until his death on Friday, December 6, 1889 at 12:45 a.m. from bronchitis and complications from Malaria, which he caught the same time his first wife had it. 

     An interesting note: Throughout my travels through the South, I referred to this flag

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as the Stars and Bars. Eventually, this is a common misconception among us northerners.

     This flag, raised in Montgomery, Alabama on March 4, 1861, was the first flag of the new confederacy and is correctly referred to as the Stars and Bars.

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     It originally had six stars, but increased to 13 as States seceded. It got it’s name from the circle of stars and wide bars. 

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     The first flag of the confederacy was used at the First Battle of Bull Run in September, 1861. Because of the heavy smoke from gun and cannon fire, there was confusion on both sides between this flag and the United States Stars and Stripes. This resulted with soldiers from both side shooting their own men.

     General P.T Beauregard commissioned the battle flag (first flag above). It was used through out the rest of the war on the battlefield, and is the flag we are all familiar. You learn something new everyday. 

D’Iberville, Mississippi

Day 317

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     The City of D’lberville lies across the bay from Biloxi. The community of d’Iberville has always had a somewhat distinct identity from that of its neighbor. For many years, the settlers on the north shore were disconnected by the natural barrier of the bay itself. It wasn’t until 1901 that a pedestrian bridge connected the two communities, followed by the Biloxi Bridge in 1927. The City of Biloxi, bound on the west by Gulfport and on the east by Ocean Springs, was continually making attempts to annex north of its boundaries. Many citizens of the community of d’Iberville had been fighting such attempts as early as the 1930s. On February 23, 1988 the community was incorporated and the City of D’Iberville was born.

     Today they celebrated the landing of Pierre LeMoyne, Sieur d’Iberville, it’s namesake, with a re-enactment. Phrases such as d’Iberville were used after proper names as a reference to a noble title, either inherited or issued by a sovereign. “D’Iberville” referred to a fief held by his father’s family in Dieppe, a province of Normandy, France.

     It appears the re-enactors were not fanatic about authenticity, as the priest who blessed the landing had a can of sprite,

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     This sailor communicated on his cell phone.

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     The aid to d’Iberville had a button that said I love D’lberville

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     This indian is talking on a walkie-talkie

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     But the townspeople showed up in costume, and a good time was had by all

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     Being on the water, pelicans also had a good time

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     Plus, it was a beautiful day

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City of Biloxi, Mississippi

Day 316

     Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville, was born July 9, 1661 in Montreal, Canada of French colonist parents. He was a soldier, ship captain, explorer, colonial administrator, adventurer, privateer, trader, and founder of the French colony of La Louisiane of New France. On February 13, 1699 d’Iberville, on orders of King Louis XIV, landed here looking for the mouth of the Mississippi River from the Gulf of Mexico. Native Americans were present on the mainland when d’Iberville came ashore. They greeted d’Iberville with a “belly-rub” ceremony. The name they called themselves sounded like BIL-OX-EE to the French and they gave the bay and the area that name.

     The beachfront of Biloxi lies directly on the Mississippi Sound, with barrier islands scattered off the coast and into the Gulf of Mexico

     One of Biloxi’s most known features has been the Biloxi Lighthouse, which was built in Baltimore and then shipped south and completed in May 1848. With more than 160 years of service, the lighthouse has weathered 20 hurricanes. The lighthouse is displayed on the Mississippi license tags. 

    Biloxi has come under the jurisdiction of 8 entities : France 1699, Great Britain 1763, Spain 1783, Republic of West Florida 1810, United States 1811, Confederate States of America 1861, Magnolia State 1861, Mississippi 1894. 

Technical Stuff:

Ponchatoula, Louisiana to Biloxi, Mississippi:  97.1 miles

2 hours 26 minutes

10.6 MPG

Diesel: $2.27

Battle of Vicksburg, Mississippi

Day 274

     The battle of Vicksburg is unique in that during the 47 day siege, May 19 to July 4, 1863, of the 100 skirmishes the union was only successful in taking one hill, which they were not able to keep. The Union Army, led by General Ulysses S. Grant, could not take the city of Vicksburg by force because the city was bordered by the Mississippi River on the west and by 300 foot bluffs on the remaining sides. However, Grant was able to cut off all supplies to the city. 

     Grant’s counterpart and defender of the city was General John C. Pemberton. (See day 272). On July 4, 1863, Pemberton surrendered 2,166 officers and 27,230 men, 172 cannon, and almost 60,000 muskets and rifles to Grant. This combined with the battle of Gettysburg, being fought also July 1-3, 1863, irrevocably turned the tide of the Civil War in the Union’s favor. 

     Interesting note: Following the surrender on July 4, 1863, the city did not celebrate Independence Day for 82 years. It appears Mississippi is a sore loser, as their state flag still displays the stars and bars. 

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     We toured by car and walking the 16 mile loop of the Vicksburg Battlefield. Markers were placed at the location of each encounter, blue for Union, red for Confederates. 

     Also on the battlefield was The Cairo, a Union ironclad warship that engaged the Confederates on the Mississippi and surrounding rivers. Contrary to my high school memory, that there were only two ironclads during the Civil War, there were hundreds. This gunboat was sunk on December 12, 1862 at 11:52 AM by a mine on the Yazoo River, north of Vicksburg. This was the first sinking of a vessel by a mine. The mine was manually operated electronically by soldiers hidden on the banks of the river.

     Quire: Does anyone know why the South is referred to as Dixie?

Vicksburg, Mississippi

Day 273

Do you know what this is?

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     We are now in Vicksburg, Mississippi. In 1814 Newit Vick, a Virginia born methodist minister, erected a log cabin for worship here which he called “Open Woods”. Vick was the first methodist minister in this part of the country, and before his death in 1819 of yellow fever he purchased 612 acres of land, which he laid out as a town. To honor his death this town was named Vicksburg. It was incorporated on January 29, 1825.

     While John C. Pemberton invented Coca Cola in 1886 (see day 259), it was a candy merchant in Vicksburg, Mississippi who came up with the idea to bottle the soda fountain drink and ship it outside Vicksburg. Joseph A. Biedenharn, born December 13, 1866, was a confectioner who in the summer of 1894 came up with the idea of bottling the soda fountain drink Coca-Cola at his wholesale candy company building in Vicksburg, Mississippi. The bottles at the top where the originals. When the stopper was pulled, it gave a popping sound, hence the name soda pop. 

     An interesting note: In 1925 Joseph and his son, Malcolm Biedenharn,  purchased a crop-dusting business. They added eighteen planes, making it the largest privately owned fleet in the world. That company eventually developed as Delta Air Lines.

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Edwards, Mississippi

Day 272

     We stayed at the Bridgeport Plantation, now an RV Park. Located near the Big Black River, the plantation was established by Duklet Askew in 1859. He and his brother traveled from North Carolina to Mississippi searching for land to build a cotton plantation. Duklet bought 2,000 acres northeast of Edwards Mississippi, along the old Bridgeport Road. He began by clearing more than 500 acres, farmed cotton, and built and operated a ferry across the Big Black River. Some time later, he built a cotton gin and operated a general store close to the ferry on the Big Black River. The park is now operated by Dan Askew. 

     John Clifford Pemberton, born August 10, 1814, was a career United States Army officer who fought in the Seminole Wars and the Mexican–American War. He served as a Confederate general during the Civil War and was noted for his defeat and surrender in the critical Siege of Vicksburg in the summer of 1863. On May 17, 1863, Pemberton’s 4th brigade, commanded by Col. Reynolds, and portions of Grant’s 15th Corps, commanded by Gen. William T. Sherman, fought here, at our campsite, as Confederate forces retreated from their Champion Hill defeat. Subsequent skirmishing took place near here on June 13, 1863 when a Confederate cavalry force challenged the union picket guarding Grant’s eastern line. 

     I think I just put my lawn chair where General Sherman had his latrine. 

 

Technical Stuff:

Tupelo, MS to Edwards, MS: 249.1 miles

5 hours 19 minutes

10.2 MPG

Diesel: $2.21

 

Tupelo, Mississippi

Day 269

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     Tupelo, Mississippi, is best known as the birthplace of Elvis Presley. Of course we visited his home. He was born here January 8, 1935 at 4:35 AM. 

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     We also visited the Tupelo Automobile Museum.  This museum had cars that I had not seen before, such as:

     Toyopet Crown Deluxe (1958). First Toyota offered for sale in the US:

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     Benz (not yet Mercedes-Benz) (1886)

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     Olds (1902)

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     Carter Car (1912) a friction drive automobile – no clutch, no transmission, no driveshaft, no gears.

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Quiz:       (what, you didn’t study?):

     Can you name these hood ornaments?

day-269-tupelo-ms-9862_oneday-269-tupelo-ms-9849_twoday-269-tupelo-ms-9817_threeday-269-tupelo-ms-9815_fourday-269-tupelo-ms-9812_fiveday-269-tupelo-ms-9807_six

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1. Plymouth (1959) 2. Lincoln Mark IV (1976) 3. Packard (1929) 4. Pierce Arrow (1929)    5. Cadillac (1939) 6. Triumph (1949)  7. Stutz (1927)  8. Lincoln (1931)

Of course, you remember this grill: day-269-tupelo-ms-9838_fotor

Engines were so much simpler in the 50’s

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Technical Stuff:

Huntsville, AL to Tupelo, MS 179.5 miles

3 hours 57 minutes

9.8 MPG

Diesel: $2.26