First a little history. Natchez, Mississippi was first settled by Europeans in 1716. Long before New Orleans.The French came first, followed by the British, the Spanish, and finally the United States. The original occupants, the Natchez Indians were eliminated by 1800.
From 1800, till the years just before the Civil War, Natchez grew by leaps and bounds. King Cotton, grown on the backs of slave labor, created a landscape like no other in America. It has been said that half the millionaires in the United states lived in Natchez in 1850. They built magnificent mansions, of which many still stand today. It was a life of leisure for those that lived in those homes. It was the best of times.
Natchez surrendered early in the Civil War, preserving most of the town. After a painful reconstruction period, and the loss of all their millions, many of the owners of the old mansions were looking for ways to make ends meet. Lots of ordinary people wanted a peek inside those walls. In 1932, the two garden clubs in Natchez began the Natchez Pilgrimage. Working with the home owners, the put together tours of many of the homes. They also started a play, or pageant, of the history of Natchez, beginning with the interaction of the French and Indians, and ending with the start of the Civil War. It was first called the Confederate Pageant, then the Pageant, and now the Natchez Tableaux.
I call it a fairy tale, as it only portrayed the good times, and the lifestyle of the very affluent. It started with the Indians giving the French food, the raising of the American flag on Fort Rosalie, and then on to the lifestyle of the wealthy. This pageant, or tableaux, is still going on today. It is a major fundraiser for the garden clubs and attracts people from all over the United States, as well as many European Countries. Tour bus’s unload nightly at the old Municipal auditorium to be taken back in time.
I’ve said all this to help this post make sense. The tableaux makes use of the youth of Natchez. They are the principal actors.
Placard bearers make sure you don’t miss a scene.
Kindergarteners make up the Little maypole dance.
Elementary age get to dance around the Big Maypole.
Younger teens do a Polka.
And the Showboat come to town with a load of “floozies”.
Old man River was sang with such feelings that you had chill bumps,
as the river flowed past in beautiful dance.
There was the wedding of Jefferson Davis to Varina Howell.
And then there was word of secession, with the farewell dance’s. Mostly high school kids.
The farewell ball. College students, portraying the Southern Belles saying goodbye to their Beaus. They’re off to win the war.
Another end of an era.
Our grand daughter has participated in just about all these rolls through the years. From the Little Maypole to a Southern Belle. The Tableaux doesn’t accurately portray History as we know it to be. As mentioned in the title, it’s a fairy tale. But it’s still a good show that keeps entertaining folks year after year.
My real Southern Belles.
Thanks to a friend of the family for most of these pictures. A few are mine, but most are hers…..jc