Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Fort Mitchell Historic Site - Fort Mitchell, Alabama

Civic minded citizens in and around Russell County, Alabama, have turned one of their historic treasures into one of the South's finest newly developed historic parks.

Fort Mitchell was built on a high hill overlooking the Chattahoochee River by Georgia Militia troops during the Creek War of 1813-1814. General John Floyd had marched an army of Georgians to the Chattahoochee River as part of a three-pronged attack on the Creek Nation. He built a log stockade on the west side of the river to serve as a base for his operations.

The outpost was named Fort Mitchell after Governor David B. Mitchell and served as the supply point and base for Floyd's movements prior to the Battles of Autossee and Calabee Creek, both in Alabama.

The fort also served as a key point during the U.S. campaign against what American officials called the "Negro Fort" on the Apalachicola River and was a supply point during the First Seminole War of 1817-1818.

The original stockade deteriorated and was replaced with a second fort during the 1820s. By 1836, Fort Mitchell was the last U.S. military post bordering the Creek Nation. The Creek War of 1836 erupted that year when Hitchiti, Yuchi and other Creek warriors, outraged over frauds and demands that they be removed from their lands, attacked settlements almost within earshot of the fort.

They uprising was quickly suppressed and Fort Mitchell then became a primary concentration point for thousands of Creek men, women and children being forced west on the Trail of Tears. As such, it became the easternmost point for the Creek Trail of Tears.

A company of the 15th Alabama Infantry was raised at the site during the Civil War, but the fort by then had all but rotted away.

Over the last 5 years, a major community effort has taken place in Russell County to develop the site as a heritage park. The 1813 stockade has been beautifully restored and the park now includes an impressive visitor center, a restored log home, cemetery sites associated with both the fort and local residents, a museum housing one of the finest collections of historic carriages in the South and much more.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Great Flu Epidemic of 1918 in the South

There is a great deal of discussion this week on the national news about the possibility of a new flu pandemic, which basically means there is a fear of a flu outbreak that could spread across large areas of the world.

If you've watched any of this coverage, you have likely heard mention of the Great Flu Epidemic of 1918. Also called the Spanish Flu Epidemic, this outbreak killed between 500,000 and 650,000 Americans and millions of people worldwide.

In the South, it was a horrendous human disaster of a magnitude almost unimaginable today. In Birmingham, Alabama, for example, it was reported that as many as 26,000 people were sick in a single week. In Virginia, health officials estimated as many as 200,000 people were bedridden with the flu in that same week.

The death toll was schocking. In Georgia, for example, there were 514 deaths in October of 1918 alone, and that number only included people able to make it to the hospital or a doctor. The situation was so bad that the town of Quitman even went so far as to ban church services.

Virginia reported 15,678 deaths from flu in 1919, the year after the main outbreak.

In addition to its human toll, the epidemic devastated the economy of the South. Businesses closed, food supplies were interrupted and misery spread that would only deepen with the arrival of the Great Depression ten years later.

To learn more, please visit

Monday, April 27, 2009

Showboat Branson Belle - Branson, Missouri

One of my favorite modern attractions in the South is the Showboat Branson Belle in Branson, Missouri.

I like the Branson Belle because it is a throwback to the romantic days of the big paddlewheel riverboats in the South. Many of these vessels featured live entertainment, and the Branson Belle is a floating show palace.

The showboat sails on Table Rock Rock Lake and is one of the largest landlocked vessels in the United States. Constructed on the banks of the lake, the Branson Belle is 278 feet long and 78 feet wide. She rises 112 feet from her hull to the top of her twin stacks and is powered by twin 16-foot paddlewheels.

Launched in 1995, she cruises the lake offering a variety of cruises, all of which feature live showboat-style entertainment and a chance to roam the decks as the boat is underway. She can carry up to 700 passengers on each cruise and is a popular Branson area attraction.

To learn more, please visit

(The photo above is courtesy of the Showboat Branson Belle.)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Riding the Rails in the Ozarks

Like most Americans with a love of history, I am fascinated by trains.

In my travels across the South over the years, I've always made a point of seeking out railroad museums and excursion trains. I guess in a way they remind me of the days when passenger trains stopped in every town and were an important part of daily life. All of that is gone now and I think our country lost something in the process.

Two of my favorite railroad exhibits can be found about one and one-half hours apart in Branson, Missouri, and Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

Branson is home to the Branson Scenic Railway. This outstanding railway takes visitors from the depot in downtown Branson for beautiful excursions through the Ozark Mountains. The railway's train, the restored "Ozark Zephyr," follows a functioning line that was built between 1902 and 1905. The train features a variety of passenger cars and passengers can move from one to the other as the train is underway. Please click here to learn more.

In Eureka Springs can be found the ES&NA Railway. Operating from the depot on North Main Street (Highway 23 North), the Eureka Springs train takes passengers on a much shorter ride than the Branson one, but is still a fun ride. It travels from Eureka Springs north into the mountains, recreating the days when passenger cars were the way to travel. Please click here to learn more.

By the way, if you haven't checked out the main page at lately, I hope you'll take a few minutes to check it out. The site has grown by leaps and bounds and I think you would enjoy seeing all the new locations that have been added.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Branson marks 50 years of Live Music

2009 marks the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the live music scene in Branson, Missouri. From that initial spark, Branson has grown into what 60 Minutes calls the "Live Country Music Capital of the Universe."

That makes the Branson Strip a historic landmark. From an initial start with one or two shows, Branson now features more than 100 live shows, featuring all types of music and entertainment, amusement parks, the Branson Scenic Railway, the Showboat Branson Belle, resorts, hotels, restaurants and much more.

What many people do not realize, however, is that the Branson area is rich in historic sites. From Big Cedar Resort, which preserves structures from a private wilderness resort built before the Great Depression (and also boasts its own ghost) to the historic Silver Dollar City amusement park, which you might recognize because some of its buildings where used as sets for the "Beverly Hillbillies" tv show, the Branson area has numerous points of historic interest. The mountain scenery of the Ozarks is also quite beautiful.

To learn more, please visit our new Branson pages at

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Anniversary of the Battle of Poison Spring, Arkansas

Today is the 145th anniversary of the Battle of Poison Spring, Arkansas.

Fought on April 18, 1864, this Civil War battle was a bloody Union defeat fought near Camden in southern Arkansas during the Red River Campaign. The battle developed when Confederate troops under General John S. Marmaduke cut off a Union raiding force sent out from Camden under Colonel James Williams to collect supplies.

The Union raiding force was making its way back to Camden with 200 wagons loaded down with confiscated corn and other stolen supplies and valuables when the fighting started. Williams' command, consisting of around 1,160 men and 4 pieces of artillery, began to encounter Confederate scouts. He sent men forward to drive them away, but as the column continued to move forward, the number of Confederates grew and the fighting intensified. Halting the long line of wagons in the road near a trickling water source called Poison Spring, Williams moved his men into a line of battle to protect the badly needed supplies.

He did not know it at the time, but he was severely outgunned. Marmaduke commanded a force of 3,600 men and 12 cannon. The Confederates opened with a massive artillery barrage and then attacked the Federals on their right flank while a second charge went forward directly against their center. One charge was repulsed, but so many Union soldiers fell that Williams knew he could not hold back the second attack, which was quickly developing.

The Federals tried to withdraw from the field, but the retreat turned into a rout. By the time the smoke had cleared, the Confederates had captured 170 wagons (30 were burned), 1,200 mules and all four Union cannon. Confederate losses were reported at 13 killed, 81 wounded and 1 missing, but the Union troops suffered a staggering 204 killed or missing and 97 wounded. A Union African American regiment, the 1st Kansas Colored, lost 117 killed and 65 wounded.

To learn more, please visit

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Last General Killed in the Civil War - West Point, Georgia

Brigadier General Robert C. Tyler is often overlooked in writings about Civil War generals, but the Tennessee born Confederate commander holds a unique place in the history of the war. He was the last general of either side killed in action in the Civil War.

Born in 1833, Tyler lived in Tennessee, Maryland and even California before the war. In 1856 he took part in one of filibusterer William Walker's expeditions to Nicaragua. By 1861 he was back in Tennessee, where he volunteered as a private in Company D, 15th Tennessee Infantry. His military abilities were apparent and Tyler quickly advanced through the ranks.

A devoted supporter of General Braxton Bragg, Tyler achieved a staff position with the army and went on to command the combined 15th and 37th Tennessee Infantries. At the Battle of Chickamauga, "with the yells of demons" he led his men in a wild charge that ovewhelmed a Union battery. Falling wounded in the second day of fighting at Chickamauga, he was praised by other officers for his bravery, with one lieutenant colonel noting that "never did I see greater courage and daring."

Tyler recovered and commanded a brigade in Bragg's siege of Chattanooga. He was severely wounded at Missionary Ridge. Surgeons amputated his leg after the battle and while most such wounded soldiers would have gone home to recuperate, Tyler had no home. Instead he wound up at West Point, Georgia, where there was a Confederate hospital and where his friend, Captain Celestine Gonzalez of the 1st Florida Infantry commanded the small post.

When the Union column of Colonel Oscar H. LaGrange arrived in West Point on April 16, 1865, General Tyler took up positions in Fort Tyler overlooking the town. Despite an overwhelming superiority in numbers, it took the Federals almost an entire day to reduce the fort. When they finally did, Tyler lay dead beneath its flagstaff. According to local legend, he swore to the citizens of the town that he would either defend them or die in the effort. He kept his word.

The last general on either side killed during the Civil War, General Tyler was laid to rest in the Fort Tyler Cemetery, located opposite the Chattahoochee River from the fort. He is buried in a common grave with his friend, Captain Gonzalez, who also fell in the defense of Fort Tyler.

To learn more, please visit

Battle of Columbus, Georgia (Girard, Alabama)

Today is the 144th anniversary of the battle for Columbus, Georgia, an engagement fought on an Easter Sunday seven days after the surrender of Robert E. Lee in Virginia.

Variously known as the Battle of Columbus or Battle of Girard, the engagement was fought on both sides of the Chattahoochee River in both Girard (today's Phenix City), Alabama, and Columbus, Georgia. As a result, both sides of the river claim the battle and it has two names.

The battle was still developing while a second Union column attacked and captured Fort Tyler in the upriver town of West Point. As the fight at Fort Tyler was underway, Union forces advanced on Columbus and swept up to the west bank of the Chattahoochee in a rapid effort to take the Dillingham Street bridge. Confederate forces used turpentine and other flammables to fire the bridge, however, and the initial Federal advance fell back.

The Union commander, General James Wilson, then waited for additional reinforcements to come up before launching his second attack. The focus of the action shifted to the Summerville Road, which approached Columbus from the northwest. Southern troops occupied a series of positions there along a commanding ridge and prepared to dispute Wilson's advance.

Advancing as darkness fell, the Federals overran an advanced Confederate position and thought they had broken through the main Southern lines. Wilson ordered two companies of Missourians to move forward and seize the upper or 14th Street bridge. When the men advanced, however, they ran headlong into the main Confederate positions.

A swirling night battle developed as Confederate artillery and musket fire swept down the slopes from forts and breastworks on each side of the Summerville Road and a Southern battery planted directly in the road opened fire on the Union advance. The Federals charged again, breaking through the line along the road and capturing nearby forts. They pushed rapidly toward the upper bridge.

Southern troops had positioned two cannon to fire directly across the bridge and also had prepared for to fire the span as the Union troops approached, but the attacking Federals became mixed in with the retreating Confederates and the gunners held their fire rather than slaughter their own men as the mass of humanity made its way across the bridge.

The fighting moved across the bridge to the city itself, but quickly came to an end. The Federals had won the day and awaiting them in Columbus was one of the largest hauls of military hardware and industrial capacity seized during the entire war.

Fort Tyler - West Point, Georgia

One of the last significant battles of the Civil War took place in Georgia on this date, April 16th, in 1865. It claimed the life of Brig. Gen. Robert C. Tyler, the last general on either side killed during the war.

The fierce battle developed when Union troops led by Col. Oscar H. LaGrange approached the town of West Point, Georgia, and its strategic bridge over the Chattahoochee River. A second Union force, commanded by Gen. James Wilson, moved on the downriver city of Columbus, Georgia, at the same time.

When he received news that the Federal force was approaching, Gen. Tyler moved his small force (variously estimated at 120-265 men) of Confederate regulars, convalescents, militia and local volunteers into Fort Tyler. The small but powerful earthwork fort stood on a high hill overlooking West Point and the Chattahoochee River bridge. Armed with three pieces of artillery (two field guns and a 32-pounder), the fort commanded a sweeping view of the surrounding area.

Local tradition holds that local citizens gave Tyler a flag before the battle and that he pledged to them that he would defend it to the last breath.

As LaGrange reached West Point, he sent three regiments of dismounted cavalry to attack Fort Tyler while he joined the rest of his men in a bold dash to seize the bridge. He succeeded in taking the bridge, but was then stunned by a shot from the fort's 32-pounder that killed his horse and sent LaGrange sprawling into the road.

The full strength of the Union force then moved on Fort Tyler. LaGrange planted a battery on a nearby hill to shell the fort and for hours an intense battle raged. One by one the cannon in the fort were dismounted by Union fire, but Tyler and his men continued to hold out. At one critical moment, a Union shell cut loose the flag of the fort, but a 17-year-old Confederate sergeant climbed the pole and nailed the flag back in place.

In the end, his fort reduced to a smoking ruin and his men falling dead and wounded around him, Gen. Tyler made one final, defiant gesture. He exposed himself to Union fire by walking in front of the walls of the fort. He was shot and according to eyewitnesses never moved again. His friend, Captain Celestine Gonzalez of the 1st Florida Infantry, fell dead as well.

Left with no other choice, the survivors in the fort finally lowered their flag late in the afternoon. The Battle of West Point was over while, to the south, the Battle of Columbus was just heating up. Union troops blew up Fort Tyler the next day.

Fort Tyler has been reconstructed and is the focal point of an outstanding park interpreting the history of the battle. To learn more, please visit

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Alamo - San Antonio, Texas

If you've been watching television today, you have probably seen video of the massive Tea Party at the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas. Thousands of people were on hand but, uniquely, they did not walk on the grass in front of the historic chapel.

In Texas, the Alamo is sacred ground. Originally built as the Spanish mission San Antonio de Valero, the complex was later converted into a fortified post by Spanish soldiers. In 1835 it was captured by Texans and in February and march of 1836, because the setting for one of the most dramatic events in American history.

For thirteend days, a force of fewer than 200 volunteers held the Alamo against overwhelming odds as thousands of Mexican troops led by General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna attacked the crumbling mission. Their stand was among the most heroic in American history and the defenders included Texas-born Tejanos, volunteers from across the South and at least one free African American. Leaders inside the mission included William B. Travis, David Crockett and Jim Bowie.

The defenders held out knowing that they would die if the Alamo fell. Santa Anna had raised a blood red flag of no quarter from a church tower in San Antonio. Instead of slipping away while they still could, however, Travis and his men remained and fought to the death. With the exception of a few noncombatants, a Tejano soldier who was mistaken for a Mexican prisoner of war and possibly one man that went over the wall on the last night, every man in the Alamo died.

In recent decades, revisionists have tried to recast the nature of the fight at the Alamo, even using extremely sketchy evidence to suggest that David Crockett surrendered near the end of the battle. The strongest evidence, however, indicates that Crockett went down fighting and despite such efforts, the story of the Alamo remains one of the most inspiring in American history.

To learn more, please visit our new Alamo pages at

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park - Pine Mountain, Georgia

President Franklin D. Roosevelt once predicted to a neighbor that Georgia's Pine Mountain would become a great resort for residents of the Deep South. It offered them, the President said, the opportunity to explore beautiful mountain scenery that was remarkably close to the Gulf Coastal Plain.

Roosevelt's prediction, made more than 70 years ago, has come true. Pine Mountain is now the setting for the Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park and hundreds of thousands of people come each year to enjoy the mountain and such attractions as the Little White House, Warm Springs and Callaway Gardens.

Some of the most spectaculat scenery on the mountain can now be seen at Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park. Established as a W.P.A. (Works Progress Administration) project during the Great Depression, the park features dramatic views, waterfalls, hiking trails, cottages, campsites, picnic areas, a Liberty Bell shaped swimming pool, scenic Lake Delano and historic Dowdell's Knob. The latter place was a favorite picnic spot of President Roosevelt and his original grill can still be seen there. Visitors can also absorb the spectacular view he often enjoyed and see the beautiful statue of the former President.

To learn more about the park, please visit

Monday, April 13, 2009

Warm Springs, Georgia

In the last post I mentioned the Little White House and President Franklin Roosevelt's association with the historic city of Warm Springs, Georgia.

Warm Springs is a charming little community nestled in the hill country of western Georgia about 45 minutes north of Columbus and perhaps an hour south of Atlanta. It is known today as a popular resort area and is rich in historic sites and natural landmarks.

According to legend, warriors of the Creek and other Indian nations came to Warm Springs for centuries before the first white settlers arrived. They believed the natural warm water flowing from springs near Pine Mountain held medicinal properties that would help them recover from war wounds and other injuries. During the 19th century, however, it became a popular resort for residents of Georgia and other southern states who came either for their health or just for a break away from their daily lives.

The city's real claim to fame, of course, was its association with Franklin D. Roosevelt. He first came to Warm Springs in 1924 in hopes that the warm water might help him recover from his polio-related paralysis. While Roosevelt never regained the use of his legs, the swims at Warm Springs and exercise in the clean mountain air did him worlds of good. He fell in love with the area and built his Little White House there in 1932. It was the only home he ever owned and where he died in 1945.

Warm Springs today is the centerpiece of a popular area for vacations and outdoor recreation. Visitors can explore the charming downtown area, visit the restored pools where Roosevelt once swam, see the Little White House and explore both the Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park and nearby Callaway Gardens.

To learn more, please visit

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Anniversary of the Passing of President Franklin D. Roosevelt

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt died at the Little White House in Warm Springs, Georgia, on this date, April 12th, in 1945. Sixty-four years have now passed since FDR went to his final rest.

The longest serving President in American history, Roosevelt was also a fixture in the Deep South. He came to Warm Springs, Georgia, in 1924, in hopes that the natural warm water flowing from springs near Pine Mountain might cure him of the paralysis he suffered following a battle with polio. The water did not cure Roosevelt, but the aquatherapy and exercise did improve both his strength and outlook. In 1927, with help from a philanthropist, he purchased the springs and a surrounding farm. It was the beginning of the organization we know today as the March of Dimes.

The Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute was the only such facility available for those recovering from polio in his day. The disease terrified many Americans and the people it affected were often ostracized from their family and friends. The work at Warm Springs, however, gradually changed such perceptions.

Although he came in search of a medical cure, Roosevelt soon fell in love with the beautiful scenery of Warm Springs and Pine Mountain. In 1932, while serving as Governor of New York, he built the Little White House at Warm Springs. It was the only home he would ever own. Later that same year Roosevelt was elected President of the United States.

The story of his association with Pine Mountain and Warm Springs is one of the most remarkable in American political history. The Little White House became a refuge for the President as he struggled to guide the nation first through the dark years of the Great Depression and then through the difficult times of World War II.

On April 12, 1945, as World War II entered its final months, President Roosevelt was sitting for a portrait in the Little White House in Warm Springs when he suddenly collapsed. Carried to his nearby bedroom, he died later that day.

It is difficult today to understand the impact that the death of President Roosevelt had on the people of the United States. He had been the determined figure that led the nation through some of its most difficult times. He had told Americans that they had "nothing to fear, but fear itself." And as a man with severe disabilities, he guided the nation through World War II with a will of iron. The outpouring of grief experienced across the country was perhaps the greatest explosion of emotion in American history. People from all walks of life and from all races mourned the passing of the man who introduced himself to his rural Georgia neighbors as simply a farmer from Warm Springs.

To learn more about the Little White House and other sites associated with President Roosevelt in and around Warm Springs, please visit

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Callaway Gardens - Pine Mountain, Georgia

One of the most beautiful, historic and popular spring destinations in the South can be found at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Georgia.

The spectacular gardens were conceived more than 70 years ago when Cason J. Callaway, the son of a hard-working and successful Georgia merchant and industrialist, discovered rare native azaleas growing at the site. He and his wife, Virginia, decided to convert the over-worked cotton fields to a beautiful playground and soon began acquiring property at the site. Callaway Gardens have been open to the public for more than 50 years and now encompass 14,000 acres of some of the most beautiful land in the United States.

The gardens themselves are a major historic landmark and are the centerpiece of a recreational complex that features 13 lakes, biking and walking trails, a golf course, restaurants, accommodations and a wide array of other amenities. Several unique historic landmarks can also be found scattered across the grounds. A charming pioneer log cabin dating from 1830 is beautifully preserved and in Mr. Cason's Vegetable Garden can be found benches made from stone slabs that were once part of a cotton mill that escaped destruction during the Civil War because of the Masonic symbols found on them.

The azaleas and other spring plants are in full bloom at Callaway Gardens, although this week's freeze did impact the blooming season a bit. To learn more about Callaway Gardens, please visit

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Flooding forces temporary cave tour halt at Florida Caverns State Park

Flood conditions on the Chipola River have forced a temporary halt to cave tours at Florida Caverns State Park as well as the temporary closure of much of the park.

The Chipola crested earlier this week at its highest level in years and water covered much of the flood plain area of the park, a major attraction near Marianna, Florida. The latest information from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection indicates that the cave tours, Blue Hole swimming area, campgrounds and Hickory Picnic Area are all closed. The Visitor Center remains open for day use visitors.

To learn more about Florida Caverns State Park, please visit

A number of other Florida State Parks are also completely or partially closed due to flooding, including the popular Suwannee River State Park (completely closed) and Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park (partially closed). Here is the complete list of closings as of today from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection:

Continued state park closures include:
Adams Tract River Camp
C/o Troy Springs State Park
674 N.E. Troy Springs RoadBranford, Florida 32008
*Closed until further notice.

Holton Creek River Camp
C/o Suwannee River State Park
3631 201st Path
Live Oak, Florida 32060
*Closed until further notice.

Dowling Park River Camp
C/o Suwannee River State Park
3631 201st Path
Live Oak, Florida 32060
*Closed until further notice.

Fanning Springs State Park
18020 N.W. Highway 19Fanning Springs, Florida 32693
*Closed to swimming until further notice. The cabins and park remain open for day use visitors.

Madison Blue Springs State Park
8300 N.E. State Road 6Lee, Florida 32059
*Closed until further notice.

Lafayette Blue Springs State Park
799 N.W. Blue Spring RoadMayo, Florida 32066
* Closed until further notice.

Manatee Springs State Park
11650 NW 115th Street
Chiefland, Florida 32626
*The Usher Boat Ramp, swimming and diving are closed until further notice. The park remains open for campers and day use visitors.

Peacock Springs State Park
12087 SW US Highway 27
Ft. White, Florida 32038
*Portions of the park, including swimming and diving, are closed to visitors until further notice.

Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park
U.S 41 North
White Springs, Florida 32096
* Hiking trails and other portions of the park are closed to visitors until further notice.

Suwannee River State Park
3631 201st Path
Live Oak, Florida 32060
*Closed until further notice. Adjacent U.S. 90 bridge is also closed to traffic.

Troy Springs State Park
674 N.E. Troy Springs RoadBranford, Florida 32008
*Closed to swimming and diving until further notice. The park remains open for day use visitors.

Florida Caverns State Park
3345 Caverns Road
Marianna, Florida 32246
*Campground, cave tours and the Blue Hole use area, and hickory picnic area are closed until further notice. The visitor center and is open for day use visitors.

Topsail Hill Preserve State Park
7525 W. Scenic Highway 30A
Santa Rosa Beach, Florida 32459
*The isolated day use area accessed by Topsail Road, off of Highway 98 is closed until further notice. The rest of the park remains open for day use and overnight visitors.

Visitors can contact state parks directly for the most up to date information on park closures, or visit For additional information on flood conditions, visit, or visit for traffic updates.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Home of a Princess in Tallahassee, Florida

It is a little known fact that Tallahassee was the home of a French princess during the antebellum and Civil War eras.

Catherine Daingerfield Willis Murat, the Princess Murat, lived on Belleview plantation in Leon County, Florida, from 1854 until the time of her death in 1867. Even prior to that, however, she was a resident of Tallahassee and a distinguished member of international society.

The wife of Prince Achille Murat, a nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, Catherine Murat was a great-grandniece of President George Washington. The couple traveled the world together and lived in Tallahassee, New Orleans, Europe and Jefferson County, Florida, until the prince's death in 1847.

By the time she purchased Belleview, a 520 acre cotton plantation, in 1854, Catherine was recognized as the Princess Murat by the court of Emperor Napoleon III of France and received financial support from the Empire. The charming little house on the plantation, typical of most plantation homes in North Florida, had been built in around 1840 and served as her home for the last 13 years of her life.

The home was relocated to the grounds of the Tallahassee Museum of History and Natural Science (formerly the Tallahassee Junior Museum) during the late 20th century and has been beautifully restored to its appearance and condition at the time of the Princess Murat's residence there. It can be visited daily.

For more information on the history of the house and to see additional photos, please visit

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Muskogee Azalea Festival is Under Way in Oklahoma

The 2009 version of the Muskogee Azalea Festival is officially underway in Muskogee, Oklahoma. The annual event begins today and runs through the end of the month.

Held annually at Honor Heights Park in Muskogee, the Azalea Festival is one of the premier spring events in the South and draws visitors from all over the United States and even foreign countries.

Honor Heights Park is a beautiful and historic facility located high on a ridge overlooking the city of Muskogee. It features 40 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens with more than 625 varieties of azaleas as well as dogwoods, redbuds and a host of other blooming trees, shrubs and plants.

The main day of the festival will be on Saturday, April 18th, with a parade and numerous other events, but the festival is now officially underway at Honor Heights Park. Visitors are welcome to drive through the gardens or walk and take their time.