Monument in memory of Laura V. Mitchell Kelly (1852 -1890). After Mrs. Kelly died, her husband, Charles Clay Kelly, wanted a way to honor her so he ordered a statue to be made in her likeness (dressed in her wedding gown) from a sculptor in Italy. The Kelly's residence located at 309 E. Jefferson Street in Kosciusko was under construction at the time of her death, and it is said that Mr. Kelly had the builder add a third story to the home so that he would be able to look out the window of the third-floor and see his wife's monument.
Saturdays are made for exploration and relaxation. Recently, my mom visited from Alabama and we decided to make a Saturday trip to Laurel, Mississippi to explore and have some fun in this lovely Southern town.
I’ve visited a few times and wanted my mom to experience the charm and hospitality you find when you explore “the city beautiful.”
We arrived in town early and decided to start at Peddler’s JUNKtion Antiques and Vintage. The store was voted Laurel’s #1 Best Place to Find a Bargain in 2017 and #2 Best Gift Shop! So if you're into antiques, anything vintage this is a great place to explore. Plus they have a boutique inside with jewelry and fashions.
Our next stop in town was the Laurel Mercantile. The store is owned and operated by Erin & Ben Napier, of HGTV's Hometown, and two other couples who put a lot of love and attention to detail into this store.
Here's the story behind the launch of the store, from the Laurel Mercantile website:
The mercantile is a perfect reflection of the warmth and charm of this town. As we walked in the door we were greeted by a very sweet woman who offered to help us find anything we needed.
We spent a lot of time shopping and as we were headed out the door the same sweet lady who greeted us, hugged us as we were leaving.
She asked if we were headed to lunch and when we told her we were open to suggestions she immediately said we had to eat at The Pearl Diner. Great food and Miss Pearl Campbell, the owner of the diner, was featured in an episode of Hometown. We had to eat at Pearl’s place!
We strolled down the block and entered The Pearl Diner to find there was already a long line forming.
The diner is open Tuesday- Friday from 11am until “the food runs out.”
I’m glad we got there soon after 11 because before we finished our meal, they were already out of a few options.
You can understand why the food goes so fast when you walk in and begin to breathe in the aroma of the chicken and vegetables being cooked in the kitchen.
The Pearl Diner is the standard for diners in the South. Meats, sides and a dessert option. And of course...sweet tea!
My mom had BBQ chicken with greens and I had baked chicken and lima beans.
I know that sounds like a simple choice but I wish the photo of my food had scratch and sniff capabilities so you could smell this food!
Lord have mercy, the bake on this chicken was perfection. Crispy and well seasoned on the outside, and juicy and tender on the inside!
If you visit Laurel, get yourself to The Pearl Diner for the divine chicken and stellar service.
After lunch we knew we needed to walk off some of those comfort food calories so we decided to walk around downtown Laurel.
We explored a few downtown stores and then headed to the Historic District.
According to Main Street Laurel, the city’s Historic District is:
“the largest, finest, and most intact collection of early 20th century architecture in Mississippi.
Beginning in 1899, stately homes along 5th Avenue were constructed by the lumber barons with development of cottages, bungalows and larger houses on side streets and avenues following quickly.”
Here are just a few of the stunning homes you see as you walk the historic district.
After exploring the district, we were ready for some AC and a cool treat.
We headed to The Knight Butcher to escape the heat, buy a gift for a friend and to get a cool treat.
Yes, you can get all of that at the local Laurel butcher!
Along with this local butcher shop’s selection of beef, pork, chicken, and lamb, they also make jerky in house.
From mild, spicy, atomic and teriyaki - there’s a selection for all preferences.
The Knight Butcher is also known for their house made fudge, Knight Sugar.
Every kind you can imagine from classic to banana pudding to pistachio and many more!
They also sale cool treats we were looking for...LoblolliePops! They’re hand made in Laurel.
The perfect treat as you explore the South on a hot summer day!
Before we left the city beautiful for the day, we stopped by Lee’s Coffee and Tea for coffee. We’re those people who love and drink coffee no matter how hot it is!
We always try to support local coffee shops and it’s easy at Lee’s. Their coffee is perfection and it’s a warm and family friendly environment where you can relax.
In fact, everything about Laurel is warm and family friendly. That’s why I love exploring this city whenever I can.
And you should too!
Explore Laurel, Mississippi
Laurel Visitor Center
401 Central Ave, Laurel MS, 39440
St Mary’s Episcopal Church (c 1874). Located in the East Enterprise, Mississippi Historic District on St. John Street.
St. Mary’s is still a place of worship today. Most of the present members of the church can trace their ancestry to the founders of this beautiful little church.
Stephenson-Allen House in Enterprise, Mississippi.
The Greek Revival home was built around 1820, and named "Acquinasaw" the Indian word for "our home". During the Civil War, the house served as headquarters for Confederate officers in the area.
Around 1900, the house was purchased by Laura Stephenson, a prominent citizen of the community. The home is still occupied by her family.
Remembering Dr. King on the anniversary of the day his life was cut short while he was staying in room 306 at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. His final speech was his most prophetic, these words were delivered on April 3, 1968: "Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter with me now, because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life — longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over, and I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. So I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything, I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord." — the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr
How beautiful is this Mormon Church in the country in Clarke County, Mississippi?
Spring in bloom adds such lovely color to a quaint little church.
This is one of the oldest churches in Clarke County, Mississippi. Built around 1900 with the first burial in the graveyard behind the church in 1915. It’s now owned by the Quinnelly Family Corporation
Located east of Quitman just off County Road 511 on County Road 6752. Directions: Turn left from County Road 511 on to County Road 675.
Take first unpaved road to the right (County Road 6752). Church is approximately one mile on the left
Looking for a peaceful and beautiful place to explore? Visit Alabama's Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville. Exploring the gardens, grotto and beautiful church and chapel is a relaxing experience and offers a peaceful environment for contemplation.
Indianola, Mississippi has been selected by Budget Travel as one of the top 10 Coolest Small Towns in America. That title is, in large part, due to the it's deep rooted Blues history. B.B. King was born near Indianola and played in public for the first time at the age of 17 at the corner pictured here, known as BB's Corner. You can visit this corner at Church Street and Second Street in Indianola. Then take a short drive to the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center to learn more about his life and pay your respects at his final resting place, located on the grounds of the center in the city he loved.
If you're planning a trip along Louisiana's Great River Road, you're more than likely looking to tour old plantation homes. It's Louisiana Plantation country so you have many homes to choose from. If you're limited on time and can only choose one, I would highly recommend you visit and tour, Laura: A Creole Plantation. Unique French Creole architecture and an emphasis on history make this an exploration that's worth your time when you're in Louisiana!
I've toured countless homes here in the South but I've never experienced a historic tour like the one that you experience here at Laura. The tour guides are well versed in the history because there are so many historical records that allow the story of Laura to be told. According to Laura's website, the tour is based on over 5,000 pages of documents from the French National Archives, Civil War Pension Records & Laura Locoul’s own memoirs.
To me, the South means beauty in unexpected places. Mount Helena, off old Highway 61 in the Mississippi Delta, is a unique Southern home because it sits atop a ceremonial Indian mound. It's the last thing you expect to see when you're driving along the flat Delta region. But I think that speaks to the South you encounter day after day. Just when you think you've seen it all, something beautiful and unexpected comes into view and you're reminded why you love calling the South home.
The movie, The Help, was filmed in a few Mississippi cities, including Greenwood. Fans of the movie will surely recognize this beautiful farm house that was used for the exterior shots of Skeeter's house in the film. The farm house is Whittington Farm, located at 7300 County Road 518 (Money Road) in Greenwood, MS. If you ever have a hankerin' to see it, the owner welcomes visitors to explore the grounds. There's even a sign on the main gate that invites visitors to "help" themselves to a visit on the grounds. It's a lovely place and the owner is more than kind to allow visitors. There were a few in the driveway when I arrived early on a Saturday morning. Just a reminder of the hospitality that you'll only understand and experience when you explore the South. And if you plan to visit, The City of Greenwood has a handy driving tour map that will guide you to the filming locations in town.
The St. Helena Chapel of Ease was built around 1740 to serve planters in St. Helena Parish who lived at great distances from the parish church in Beaufort. During the Civil War, Federal troops occupied St. Helena and the church was used by several of the Northerners who had come to the island to educate and train the freedmen. It was also used as a sanctuary by Methodist freedmen as early as 1868. The chapel of ease was burned by a forest fire in February 1886 and was never repaired.
Starr's Mill is such a scenic Fayetteville, Georgia (about 40 minutes south of Atlanta). If you're ever in the area and want the perfect place to enjoy a picnic and stretch your legs, it's a must visit. Here's the history of the site, courtesy of Georgia Info:
The property that became Starr’s Mill was owned by Hananiah Gilcoat who built the first mill here before his death in 1825. This site, on Whitewater Creek, was less than a mile from the boundary between Creek Indian lands and the State of Georgia. Hilliard Starr, who owned the mill from 1866 until 1879, gave the site its current name. After the first two log structures burned, William T. Glower built the current building in 1907. This mill operated until 1959, using a water-powered turbine, instead of a wheel, to grind corn and operate a sawmill. The Starr’s Mill site also included a cotton gin and a dynamo that produced electricity for nearby Senoia.
There's something special about covered bridges. Even the oldest of covered bridges have a picturesque quality to them. Alabama appreciates the beauty of them and even has a Covered Bridge Trail you can drive along to see the 11 remaining historic covered bridges across the state.
One of the bridges on the trail is the Kymulga Covered Bridge in Childersburg, Alabama. The 105 foot covered bridge, built in the 1860s, spans Talladega Creek. Nearby you'll find the Kymulga Grist Mill, which is still operational. The Kymulga Covered Bridge leads park visitors to a series of nature trails, perfect for romantic walks and exploration of the land that was once populated by Native Americans, farmers and craftsmen. You can learn more about the bridge, mill and events held here throughout the year here.
Ornithologist, naturalist, and painter, John James Audubon (April 26, 1785 – January 27, 1851) was known for his detailed illustrations of birds in their natural habitats. 32 of his Birds of America series of paintings were completed here at Oakley House in Saint Francisville, Louisiana, where he served a short term tutoring the owner's daughter.
The house is within a 100 acre-forest that now serves as the Audubon Historic Site. If you need a peaceful escape, you'll love hearing a wide variety of birds singing throughout the site forest. It's easy to understand why Audubon was so inspired while he lived and worked here. Visiting may just inspire you too!
UPDATE: Since launching this blog I've launched a podcast called Southern Mysteries. I just released an episode about Natchez City Cemetery with new details about Florence Irene Ford (grave in photo above) and her family.
A mother will do anything to protect her child, even beyond this life. This is the grave of Florence Irene Ford in Natchez City Cemetery. Florence died when she was 10. Yellow fever took her from her family. During her life she was extremely frightened of storms. Whenever one occurred she would rush to her mother to find comfort. Upon her death her mother was so struck with grief that she had Florence's casket constructed with a glass window at the child’s head. The grave was dug to provide an area, the same depth of the coffin, at the child’s head, but this area had steps that would allow the mother to descend to her daughter’s level so she could comfort Florence during storms. To shelter the mother during storms, hinged metal trap doors were installed over the area the mother would occupy while at her child’s grave. In the mid 1950s a concrete wall was erected at the bottom of the stairway covering the glass window of Florence’s coffin to prevent vandalism. This photo shows the grave and you can see the trap doors, which cover the stairway her mother used.
Notice the pennies on the headstone? There are many reasons people leave coins on graves but it is generally meant to be a sign that the life lost had value and meaning and will never be forgotten.
Take a walk through Wilderness Park in Prattville, Alabama. Wilderness Park is a bamboo forest that was used by the U.S. military for Vietnam-era combat training. The forest provided a humid environment with vegetation more similar to that found in Southeast Asia than most training sites on this continent. Thankfully, the park was preserved as a place of beauty and peace. Areas of the forest have 60-ft.-tall bamboo with trunks 6 inches in diameter. Hundreds of varieties of plants are found here, including one of Alabama's largest beech trees.
The Butler Island Plantation are located just south of Darien, on what is now US Highway 17. The site is owned by The Nature Conservancy, and the land is open for picnicking, fishing and birding.
This was once one of the largest plantations in the South. The story of the plantation and former owners is an interesting one that began in the 1790s with Major Pierce Butler, an officer of the American Revolution who helped to draft the U.S. Constitution. Butler planted rice on his land on the Altamaha Delta. The marshlands and surrounding area provided perfect conditions for growing rice which led to a wealthy Southern enterprise.
When Major Butler died in 1822, the Butler Island Plantation passed to his grandson, Captain Pierce Butler. He was married to the noted English actress and writer Fanny Kemble who became a major advocate for the slaves on the plantation. She deplored the living conditions of the slaves on the farm and complained to her husband about the horrible treatment of the slaves by his manager, Roswell King, Jr. Kemble became an advocate for the abolition of slavery which created ongoing tensions with her plantation-owner husband. He threatened to take her daughters away from her if she published her views about slavery. Following their divorce, and after her daughters were grown, Kemble published her Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation.
At the time her book was published, Great Britain was considering the possibility of intervening in the Civil War, on behalf of the South. Kemble's book is credited with persuading the British to oppose slavery and ending any possibility of the British joining the Confederacy's fight during the Civil War.
(Source: Explore Southern History)
UPDATE: Rodney History and Preservation Society has launched a fundraising effort to preserve history here. You can learn more and help with the effort here
Visiting Rodney, Mississippi takes some patience and intention. If you get there, you were headed there. The drive involves back roads and some dirt roads and once you arrive you have no cell service. But once you see this old place and the architectural treasures and historic sites here, it's worth the bumpy roads! There are two old churches here including Old Rodney Presbyterian Church that holds a unique connection to the Civil War.
When I was standing in front of the church taking photos I heard a fellow visitor ask a friend "Why on earth would someone attack a church?" He was responding to someone's mention of Confederate troops shooting in Old Rodney Presbyterian Church. It really happened. The reverend of this church invited crew members of the Union's USS Rattler to join the church service on Sunday, September 13, 1863. After all, there was a Sunday truce in place and the reverend believed he was doing the right thing. Confederate scouts heard there were Union troops in the church and showed up at the door to demand they leave. When the troops refused to leave, the Confederates starting shooting into the church. Retaliation from the Union followed soon after when they fired a cannonball at the church and damaged the front. The cannon ball was removed, replaced and returned which you can see in the church. You can see it above the window in the photo below.
Rodney is one of those places where you feel like time stood still. And you can clearly hear and see history here because there are few distractions and little noise to cover up the story of what happened here. If you plan a trip to Rodney, do not rely on your GPS. Look up directions and screen shot them like I did. Or follow the basic direction below. You may need a back up because at some point your phone will not have service.
From US 61 go west on 552 towards Alcorn. Turn left on Fellowship Rd (it's a big hill) and then take Firetower Rd to Rodney Rd on right. Go 10 mi., Rodney Rd is paved until near Rodney.
Have fun and enjoy stepping back in time in Rodney!
Thomas Wolfe, an Asheville native, reached international fame after his first full length novel, Look Homeward, Angel, was published in 1929. There are many incidents in the book that reference his mother's boardinghouse that was known around town as "Old Kentucky Home". In the book, he referred to it as "Dixieland". The Victorian home was constructed in 1883.
Wolfe's vivid references to Asheville and his "Old Kentucky Home" led to Look Homeward, Angel being banned from public libraries in Asheville for seven years. Time heals all wounds and Wolfe is now honored as one of the city's most famous sons and the "Old Kentucky Home" is a well preserved memorial and museum that honors one of the giants of 20th century literature. Asheville is a lovely city with such a diverse history. If you're ever passing through I highly encourage you to make the time to visit the "Old Kentucky Home" and take a tour.
Anytime I visit Asheville I stop by my favorite local coffee shop, Izzy's Coffee Den, and I grab a coffee to go. Then, I head over to Tom's place at 48 Spruce Street to pay my respects and sit in a rocking chair on the front porch and have a cup of coffee. If you ever come here, I recommend you do this after the tourist center closes and it's quiet and peaceful. And if you're looking for some great books to add to your reading list, add one of Wolfe's four novels to your list: