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|The rise and fall of Windsor on land Bruin once owned|
ELIZABETH TAYLOR WALKED THE GROUNDS; THE STAIRS ARE AT ALCORN
(Fifth & final in a Series)
Although the Windsor mansion burned to the ground more than a century ago, it still draws visitors to the land once owned by the first judge to take the bench in Natchez country.
Years after his death in 1827, Judge Peter Bryan Bruin's land along Bayou Pierre in Claiborne County, Miss., became the property of Smith Coffee Daniell II, who built a magnificent mansion near the Indian mounds that he named Windsor.
The mansion was completed in 1861 just weeks before Daniell died.
During the Civil War in 1863 Gen. U.S. Grant's Union Army crossed the Mississippi from Tensas Parish to Claiborne County and while at the Windsor grounds a Union soldier sketched the mansion.
Nineteenth Century Mississippi historian John F.H. Claiborne wrote that Bruin's place of residence "has a historic celebrity as being the point where General Grant crossed the Mississippi and commenced his masterly march on Vicksburg."
You can still see the ruins of Daniell's Windsor there on the old Bruin property where the judge first settled in 1788. Windsor is maintained by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.
The agency's director, Jim Barnett of Natchez, said documents in his office reveal that the mansion was built at a cost of $175,000. Our inflation calculator translates that amount into about $4 million in today's currency.
"We don't have any way to gauge visitation at Windsor, but every time I visit the site I meet folks from around the USA and the world," said Barnett.
The mansion had many modern features for its day including bathrooms on the second floor supplied with rainwater caught in large tanks located on the roof. In 1890 a fire destroyed the building. Only the columns, wrought iron stairs and railing survived.
The stairs and railing are no longer at Windsor. Today they beautifully adorn Oakland Memorial Chapel at nearby Alcorn State University. Barnett says the stairs were installed there at least by 1912.
In 1956, Eva Marie Saint, Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor posed atop a replica of the Windsor stairs there at the old site for a publicity shot during the filming of the movie "Raintree County," which was released by MGM in 1957.
The film was based on a novel about the American Civil War by Ross Lockridge Jr.
Elizabeth Taylor was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Actress for her role in the movie and during the production Montgomery Cliff was seriously injured in an automobile accident which left physical scars and reportedly life-changing emotional scars.
Just a few steps away from the Windsor mansion are the Indians mounds where Bruin settled. He built his home atop one and was buried atop the mound which today is the site of the Freeland Cemetery.
The mounds are on property privately owned and posted. A marker near Windsor on Hwy. 552 denotes the site.
Bruinsburg, which surrounded Bruin's home place, vanished years ago. The community was located one mile from where the mouth of Bayou Pierre drained into the Mississippi. The bayou's water level was high enough much of the year to float flatboats.
Years ago when the Mississippi River changed its course to the west and abandoned Rodney, it also abandoned the old site of Bruinsburg.
But part of Windsor still breathes there near the judge's old home place and rises above the broken hills and deep hollows of Claiborne County.
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