Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Natchez Under-The-Hill

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This sketch of Natchez-Under-The-Hill was drawn in 1866 by A. R. Waud, for Harpers Weekly

Cotton was King, and so was Natchez, Mississippi. The oldest white settlement on the Mississippi River had become the country’s richest city. Millionaires and mansions were in abundance. Natchez was the picture of Southern grace and charm. But then, there was Natchez Under-The-Hill.

A century and a half ago, and going back, as the rich on “Nob Hill” Natchez dined, the gang under-the-hill emerged. Cutthroats, thieves, working girls, muggers and riverboat gamblers stalked the helpless in the most notorious river port in America.

Up from the docks, the new river travelers would trod, up Silver Street to the heart of the most dangerous bar section on the river, seeking the pleasures these places provided. Newcomers and travelers who wandered under-the-hill unawares were often clubbed to death and robbed with their bodies thrown in the river.

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Under the Hill Saloon Credit: Photo by Debe Branning

Natchez Under-The-Hill had its hayday during the 1840s and ’50s. But as the Civil War changed every town in the South, it changed Natchez. Union occupation after the war and increased railroad commerce spelled the end for the most feared stop on the river. Today, the Natchez-under-the-Hill Saloon is the last reminder of the outrageous history of this once thriving and violent Mississippi River port. –– John Cofield

Email John Cofield at johnbcofield@gmail.com

 

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