Who do you think should manage Ferriday water?|
Story Archives: Poindexter's fall at Mansion House in Natchez
- 2013 - 340 articles
- 2012 - 856 articles
- 2011 - 635 articles
- 2010 - 1276 articles
- 2009 - 1591 articles
- 2008 - 1763 articles
- December 2008 - 148 articles
- November 2008 - 147 articles
- October 2008 - 183 articles
- September 2008 - 128 articles
- August 2008 - 150 articles
- July 2008 - 143 articles
- June 2008 - 120 articles
- May 2008 - 148 articles
- April 2008 - 147 articles
- April 30th, 2008 (Wednesday) - 12 articles
- April 24th, 2008 (Thursday) - 16 articles
- April 23rd, 2008 (Wednesday) - 14 articles
- April 18th, 2008 (Friday) - 1 articles
- April 17th, 2008 (Thursday) - 25 articles
- April 16th, 2008 (Wednesday) - 20 articles
- April 15th, 2008 (Tuesday) - 1 articles
- April 10th, 2008 (Thursday) - 24 articles
- April 9th, 2008 (Wednesday) - 1 articles
- April 3rd, 2008 (Thursday) - 20 articles
- April 2nd, 2008 (Wednesday) - 13 articles
- March 2008 - 143 articles
- February 2008 - 146 articles
- January 2008 - 160 articles
|Poindexter's fall at Mansion House in Natchez|
(Fifth & Final in a Series)
In November 1836, George Poindexter, with whiskey on his breath, checked into the Mansion House hotel in Natchez.
At the time, news had only recently reached town of the death of James Bowie and his comrades at the Alamo in Texas in March.
Bowie and Poindexter had much in common. Both had been involved in duels and led confrontational lives. Bowie was at the Vidalia sandbar in September 1826 for the duel between Samuel Levi Wells III, whom Bowie supported, and Dr. Thomas Harris Maddox. The two duelers each fired but missed, and a brawl broke out. Bowie disemboweled a man with his knife and was severely wounded himself. The fight and his "Bowie" knife made him a legend.
Even before the news reached town of Bowie's death, Poindexter's mood was low and he was drinking heavily. His political life was also taking a turn. He had been defeated a year earlier for re-election to the U.S. Senate.
In the years prior he was unbeatable. Appointed to a judgeship in 1808, he was also elected to several positions -- attorney general, Mississippi Territory Legislature, Congress, governor of the state.
For the next two decades -- the last years for George Poindexter -- life was a misery, not that any particular period of living gave him great personal joy.
When he checked into the Mansion Hotel, Natchez' economy was booming. A sign of that wealth was in the number and style of hotels in the city.
Today, Natchez is once again rich with beautiful new hotels, anchored by the graceful Eola, and on the Concordia shore, a pretty hotel now stands on the riverfront, not that far from the Concordia dueling grounds. Others are planned on both sides of the river.
We may be re-entering an age of great hotels in Natchez country. These establishments are frequented not only by out-of-towners but by the local populace, too. While tourists and visitors may fill the guest rooms, local folks keep the restaurants, banquet halls and bars abuzz.
In 1835, traveler J.H. Ingraham, described what was then a golden era of grand hotels:
"In hotels, Natchez is rich. The Mansion House, and Parker's Mississippi Hotel, have both been recently enlarged, and both rank among the best hotels in the Union. By the character of hotels, the wealth and enterprise of a city may be pretty accurately estimated. In no city is the traveler better taken care of than here."
Parker's Mississippi Hotel, located near the bluff, was three stories high.
Ingraham said it was "handsome, costly, and very extensive...with a stuccoed front, in imitation of granite, and decidedly the largest edifice in the city. Its rooms are large, spacious, and elegantly furnished; suited rather for gentlemen and their families, who choose a temporary residence in town, than for transient travelers and single men, who more frequently resort to the Mansion House."
In the years before George Poindexter's misfortune at the Mansion House in 1836, it was under renovation. Said Ingraham, the "proprietor is enlarging it, on an extensive scale. It has long been celebrated as an excellent house.
"Its accommodations for ladies are also very good, their rooms opening into ventilated piazzas, or galleries, as they are termed here, which are as necessary to every house in this country as fire-places to a northern dwelling. These galleries, or more properly verandas, are constructed not like the New-England piazza, raised on columns half the height of the building, with a flat roof, and surrounded by a railing but by extending a sloping roof beyond the main building, supported at its verge by slender columns; as the houses are usually of but one story in this country, southerners having a singular aversion to mounting stairs."
Yet a third hotel caught Ingraham's eye -- the City Hotel, which he compared to fine hotels in Boston and New Orleans. At the City Hotel the "country people usually put up when they come in from the distant counties to dispose of their cotton. It fronts on 'Cotton-square,' a triangular area, formed by clipping off a corner of one of the city squares...which is filled every day, during the months of November, December, and January, with huge teams loaded with cotton bales, for which this is the peculiar market place...lately enlarged and refurbished, (the City Hotel) is now becoming quite a place of fashionable resort."
During this time, James S. Buckner, an Englishman, counted 12 hotels in Natchez, noting that the top three were the City Hotel, Mississippi Hotel and Mansion House.
He found Natchez' population to be "in constant motion, and so many of the permanent residents live at hotels and boarding-houses..." Bucker said that the large hotels accommodated about 100 persons each while the "many private establishments" would sleep up to 50 persons each.
Despite this, Buckner said there weren't enough hotels in town "to supply the demand," making it "difficult to get a sleeping-room at all, and very rarely a sitting-room..."
Visitors at the hotel came from far and wide. In 1844, the statesman Henry Clay was a guest at the Mansion House, then owned by Elijah Bell.
DOWN ON LIFE IN 1836
In November 1836, during Poindexter's stay at the Mansion House, he was at a low period personally and professionally and down on life. His defeat for re-election to the U.S. Senate was disappointing. He had served as President Pro Tempere during the 23rd Congress.
He served Natchez and Adams County quite well as attorney general, the territory legislature and as a judge. Statewide, he was said to be one of Mississippi's better governors, responsible for leading the effort to write a constitution in 1817 and later in making state laws sound and responsible.
As a U.S. Representative and U.S. Senator, he became a national figure, instrumental in party politics and influential. He and Andrew Jackson were good friends and great enemies before finally reaching a truce.
But he served during a time when slavery was growing and thriving, and he was a believer in the institution. While judge, he handed down all the usual punishments -- imprisonment, whippings, branding and time in the pillory, a wooden structure with holes through which the head, arms and legs were secured for hours. To make the process even worse, the pillories were located in the public squares so that all -- adults and children -- could watch the offender suffer his punishment.
He was said to have detested these sentences, but was a stickler for following the law. He pushed for the establishment of a penitentiary in Mississippi as local jails swelled with inmates.
Poindexter's stay at the Mansion House cost him 50 cents a day and another 20 cents a day to board his horse. According to a hotel receipt, a Doctor Lawrence, his wife and a servant spent about six months at the hotel around that time and paid a bill of $756, which included room and board, wood for the fireplace and the stable fee for the doctor's horse.
When Poindexter arrived at Mansion House in the late fall of 1836, he was sinking into a depression. This was a man who would go on drinking benders and would fight with his fists, especially when younger, at the blink of an eye. He disowned his own son because he suspected another man had slept with his wife, who came from a very well respected family in the Natchez, the Carter family. Poindexter divorced her.
He shot Abijah Hunt in a duel in Concordia in 1811 in a fair fight but his opponents said Poindexter shot before the signal and never let the issue die. Angered over constant attacks by a newspaper editor, he walked into the man's office one day in 1815 and beat him savagely with a cane.
Said Dunbar Rowland in his 1907 book on Mississippi: "Life during his time was impulsive, touch and go. We dare not say it was bad. But it was different from the present. His early life in the Territory was wild, his quarrels many, but his disputes were generally settled peaceably. Like many others of his time he enjoyed intoxication, the race track and gaming table, and the facilities at Natchez for this sort of entertainment were unsurpassed. Such were his frailties."
CORNBREAD & WINE
Six feet tall and slender, his eyes were said to be "keen and penetrating." The great Mississippi historian of the 19th Century, John F.H. Claiborne, said Poindexter had a voice that was "powerful" but not "melodious."
Socially, he mixed with rich and poor, high class and low class, good and bad. He was remembered by a Natchez editor this way: "He was with the people in a log cabin, with nothing but whisky-grog to drink, and cornbread and bacon to eat, the same as he was in a decorated parlor, with Madeira wine and plum pudding."
Claiborne said Poindexter was "not a man of education. He had little fancy, and no partiality for rhetoric. He never quoted poetry or evinced any acquaintance with literature. There was no refinement in his countenance or manner...
"He was a profound lawyer rather than a statesman capable of arguing on both sides of a question, and of making the most of the side he adopted; adroitly covering up all his weak points; concentrating all his efforts on the vulnerable points of his adversary; worrying and tearing and tormenting his victim, even when he had him prostrate at his feet...
"His style was incisive and peremptory; his manner dogmatic and overbearing. He had a keen appreciation of humor told a good story and his sarcasm bit like vipers...
"He never loved refined society; indulged freely in cards and liquor; was a habituι of the racetrack, and was seldom without a quarrel on his hands...
"His personal courage has been doubted, but there is nothing in his history to sustain the doubt. Until he became paralyzed and unable to visit the gaming table and race grounds, he was never twelve months without a personal difficulty on his hands. In most of these, where challenges passed, and no fight occurred, the correspondence shows that he never yielded an inch. He occasionally made explanations, but he was contentious, and a stickler on every point of the established etiquette. Men of his irritable, domineering temper seldom lack personal courage. "
A FALL FROM LIFE
At the Mansion House one night, Claiborne said Poindexter "had lost heavily, and was somewhat fuddled (drunk), he set out for his room, and opening a door, which he supposed opened on a gallery," he fell 20 feet onto a brick bench. He broke his right leg in two places, dislocated both ankles, fractured his left leg above the knee and was cut and bruised all over his body.
"Such an accident would have killed most persons of his years, but in a few months he was on his crutches," said Claiborne.
The day after the fall a preacher called on Poindexter to minister to his spiritual pains.
"Governor," said the preacher, "what did you fall against."
"By God, sir," shouted Poindexter, "I fell against my will!"
From this point on, life was downhill for Poindexter. His fall at the Mansion House symbolized the beginning of a two-decade spiral from which he never recovered.
"The last years of his life were chiefly spent at the card table, and with bar-room companions, sneering at his former friends, and inciting the sectional hatreds which, in a few years, produced such bitter fruits.
"His mind was well preserved...(his) countenance had assumed a harsh, suspicious and cynical expression, and his heart, could it have been revealed, was doubtless a whited sepulchre (inwardly evil, outwardly virtuous) of dead men's bones. He had contracted the habit of looking frequently over his left shoulder, as though he heard unexpected and unwelcome footsteps.
"Were these spectres of a guilty conscience? The vision of an innocent wife, blighted in her youth and beauty, by his shameful suspicions; of a son driven from his household, to live the life of a vagabond, and die the death of a pauper of bloody feuds of friendships severed of faith and covenants sacrificed for gold all these doubtless came like chiding ghosts, to embitter and disturb his last days.
"Neither the rattle of dice, the lucky run of cards, nor the jests and gibes of low associates, brought a smile to his lips. His licentious eye, glazed and frozen, knew not the luxury of a tear. In the largest crowds, amidst ribaldry and revelry, he felt the solitude and the torments of Prometheus chained to the rock of his own remorse!"
Poindexter died in Jackson, where he had made his home years earlier, on Sept. 5, 1853. He was 75 years of age.
He lived, said Claiborne, a life "perpetually embroiled."
|Frank Morris Murder Series|