Alabama – Fort Morgan, Dolphin Cruise and Flora-Bama

I really like most places I visit, but some just grab me with a special kind of interest.  From the moment I walked through the entrance way of Fort Morgan and saw the first set of rooms, I was wowed.  This place is really atmospheric and the kind of historic attraction that is fun to explore.  The fort is well preserved and there are so many rooms, passageways and tunnels to see I actually got a little lost wandering around.   Unlike some places I have visited, there were no displays or signboards in most of the rooms,  which I appreciated.  I realized later that I didn’t ever refer to the guide but was simply captivated by the building itself and imagining the soldiers living and working here.

One of the things that is so neat about Fort Morgan is the brick work and there is so much of it here!  The number of bricks supposedly used to build it is over 30,000,000.  Over 200 enslaved people including men, women and children made these bricks by hand and built the fort beginning in 1819.  It took a total of 15 years to complete building.  In 1833, the Fort was named for General Daniel Morgan, a Revolutionary War hero.  It commands a great location on the corner of Mobile Bay and the Gulf Coast.

The Fort’s greatest claim to fame was during the Civil War when it was used as a defense against Union forces.  In 1864,  Admiral Farragut’s Union fleet passed the fort and entered Mobile Bay.  In the ensuing battle, the Fort’s guns damaged some Union ships but failed to sink them.  Only one Union ship was lost when it struck a torpedo and sank.  (Nowadays we call these mines).  Farragut then gave an order which became a famous phrase, “Damn the torpedoes!  Full speed ahead!  The Union fleet forced its way in and Fort Morgan was cut off and bombarded to the point where the Confederate forces were forced to surrender.

The military history here actually stretches over 100 years, with the last involvement during World War II as there were concerns about U-boat activity in the Gulf that resulted in the sinking of 56 ships.   It is now run by the State of Alabama as a historical park.  Below is a picture of the main grounds inside the fort.

Mark didn’t hang around inside the fort as long as I did as it was another cold and very windy day on the bay.  He later sent an amusing text and picture about how he was in the restroom warming his chilled hands on the hot air from the hand dryer.  He does not get cold very easily and hardly ever wears a coat or layers.  Perhaps you can tell in the picture below that he has five layers on.

We came on a day when the ranger talk was about the Civil War battle here.  It was a cold and very windy day and our group sat in one of the dank rooms of the Fort and listened to the lecture.  The young speaker had an encyclopedic mind and remembered numerous names, dates, histories of the people and events that led to the Mobile Bay conflict.   Whew, it was a little much for me to take in, but most of us stayed through the whole lecture.

I like this picture of our guide in period dress uniform that I took while he was showing me where an artillery piece hit one of the walls in a room.

I love boat tours and thought it would be fun to try a dolphin cruise on the Orange Beach waterways.  The captain and assistant were so nice and the ride was pleasant and relaxing.  We saw a lot of dolphins which was great.  I have always thought it is difficult to get a decent picture of a dolphin and this trip was no different.  They move too fast!  There are between 30 and 50 known dolphins in the bay and our guides explained that many of them have been identified and even named using as identification their unique dorsal fins.  The guides also passed out some pictures of the dolphins showing what to look for.

Much of our trip was on the Intracoastal Waterway.  Before we began our traveling, I was not aware of this water route since I had traveled so little in the southern and eastern parts of the U.S.  This is a 3,000 mile inland waterway along the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic coasts.  The waterway consists of rivers, inlets, bays and artificial canals and provides a route for shipping.  We have been seeing the Intracoastal Waterway since Louisiana.  On this trip we came across this large barge which we followed for awhile.

One of the more interesting things I learned on this trip was that artificial reefs are built and placed in the Gulf to provide habitat for marine life since the area lacks natural reefs.  The artificial reefs make it possible to have a healthy fishing industry here.  Below is a picture of reefs that our boat captain showed us on the trip.  Besides these man made reefs, other material is used for habitat such as barges, tanks and bridge rubble.

The boat tour normally goes into an area of swamps and creeks, but the water level was too low for the boat to make it without getting stuck.  What was surprising is that this boat can travel in a depth of only 18 inches, but it was still too low!  So we only went into part of the Bayou to look for wildlife such as alligators, birds and turtles.

Flora-Bama Lounge is a coastal landmark which straddles the borders of Alabama and Florida, hence the combined name.   This is one of the more unique places we have visited on our travels.  More than just one thing – it is a lounge, a store, a music venue, an oyster bar and a beach front eating establishment.  This is the kind of place you wander around and just soak up the atmosphere.  There are a variety of rooms to sit both inside and out.  Nobody cares if you wander around, everyone does their own thing, including writing their names on every available surface.  I have never seen so many autographs in one location; people had written on the shelves in the store, on the steps and walls of the buildings, on the tables, almost any where there was a hard surface.  Can you see our names included below?

The Flora-Bama hosts a number of special events throughout the year including the polar dip in January and the Mullet (type of fish) toss and beach party in April.  I read that there is music here every day of the year.  Mark and I heard some country and western songs we hadn’t heard in some years and found ourselves searching You Tube for the songs for our drive home.   (Look up the London Homesick Blues).  Kenny Chesney once played here for thousands of people.  Even more noteworthy is our friend and former co-worker John claims to have worked here in his younger years.  Although, we couldn’t find his name any where!

In the next blog I talk about our six month anniversary on the road!

Hanging Out by the Bay

I was excited to travel to our next RV destination, a secluded tree covered park on Mobile Bay near the town of Gulf Shores on the Alabama coast.   Our park was on a narrow peninsula just a few miles wide in most places with the Bay on one side and the beach on the other.   This would be our first time staying this close to water as our site was literally a few steps away.  It is also the smallest park where we have stayed.   In the picture below, I am hanging out by the bay.

Most of the people camping here return every year for the winter season.   Mark and I thought it was interesting that since the park has numerous Canadian guests, there was a Canadian flag next to the American at the entrance.  This is the kind of intimate park where guests get together daily at 4:00 p.m. for the “board meeting” to visit and enjoy the fire in the stove.  They also have a book club and celebrate birthdays.

We enjoyed the scenery and ambience – there is a small pier on the water and Adirondack chairs are placed next to it for relaxing.

Our trailer was located under a huge oak with hanging moss, a sight I never get tired of.

We really enjoyed watching the bird life that came and went, especially the pelicans which in my opinion are one of the most entertaining sea birds.  Mark and I marveled at how close they can skim over the water at high speed just inches from the surface without crashing.   They are also acrobatic dive bombing their odd shaped bodies for fish.  Mark caught some great closeups of them.

After a week or so here, I had to chuckle at the park’s name “Bay Breeze.”  We encountered more than just pleasant breezes here.   A few icy storms blew in during our stay and coming off the bay there was nothing to block the cold north wind, it was fierce and like a gale.   A few times we tried to go outside but even though I had several layers including a heavy coat, I could only stand the cold and wind for about 10 or 15 minutes.  The temperature plunged below freezing at night and was in the low 40’s during the day.   Although it had been a cold winter all through our travels in the southern states, this was much colder than I would have expected for the Gulf of Mexico.  The returning guests talked about how unusual the weather was, as temps in the 70’s and 80’s had been the norm during last year’s winter.  One benefit from the cold weather was that Mark was able to get rid of his stash of warm hats he had knitted over the past several months of RVing.  It was great to see the park owner wearing one of the beanies as he made the rounds to turn the water off at sites to keep hoses and pipes from freezing.

I was looking forward to seeing the white sand beaches and emerald blue water of the Gulf and when the weather was finally clear and sunny, we visited a beach located only a few miles down the road from us.

The sand here is so white because it is made almost entirely from grains of quartz that have come down from the Appalachian Mountains.    As you can see from the picture above, there were almost no visitors the day we were there.   Mark sits pretty bundled up as the temperature hadn’t gotten up above the high 40’s and still felt a little icy.  He had just bought a portable beach chair and was determined to try it out, weather be damned.

I enjoyed walking along the beach and marveling at how clear and sparkling the gulf water is.  It was also fun to look for seashells.  When it is too cold to swim or wade, walking beaches and collecting shells is the next best thing.

Our park was close to a wildlife refuge called Bon Secour (French for safe harbor) with beautiful scenery and several trails.   My favorite walk (Pine Trail) starts near the road and travels through a forest of tall loblolly pines and palmettos.  I thought it was neat to see such tall pines with little palms underneath.  The loblolly pines are found in the southeastern United States mostly in lowlands and swamps.

This walk was interesting because it traveled through different habitats and plant life including by a swamp, marshes and a lake where I watched a flock of pelicans.

The walk continued over sand dunes ending at the ocean after two miles.

It was a beautiful trail through a variety of topography and plant communities like the coastal scrub below.  I hoped there would be more bird life but we didn’t see much.  We did get a quick glimpse of an armadillo.

Shrimping is an important industry here with several places selling shrimp and other seafood “fresh off the boat.”  One of the things I wanted to do was buy some fresh shrimp to cook so one day we headed to Billy’s Seafood.

There was a nice variety of shrimp but I was curious to try the Royal Reds which are primarily found in the deep waters off the Alabama coast.  It has been called “poor man’s lobster” because the sweet taste is similar to lobster.  We bought a few pounds of the very large, unshelled shrimp to take back with us.

That afternoon at the Board Meeting I found out another guest had been to Billy’s that day and also bought Royal Reds.  He asked me if I had a tool to devein and shell the shrimp.  I looked blankly at him as my mind considered deveining a shrimp, something that had escaped me when I purchased them.  On the few occasions when I have bought shrimp, they were always processed and ready to be cooked.  He offered me the use of a tool since he had bought two.  It took awhile to take off the heads, shell, devein and cook all those shrimp, but Mark and I really enjoyed the taste of them.  We ate them over cheese grits, a popular way to eat shrimp in the south.  I have actually developed a liking for grits during our travels.  I used to think they were kind of bland, but now enjoy having them from time to time and a little cheese mixed in doesn’t hurt the taste.

Speaking of food, I thought I would mention a restaurant we found that we liked well enough to eat at several times.  At Lambert’s Cafe, they throw rolls and you do your best to catch them.  As soon as the rolls are hot out of the oven, they put a large pan of them on a cart and wheel them out to the dining area.  These rolls are huge and because they are so hot, it is hard to hang on to them!  The first time we came, the roll thrower just lobbed them to customers while standing close to their tables.  On our second visit, a different roll thrower had a great arm and tossed them across the room.  I tried to take pictures of the rolls in flight but it was hard to get a good photograph.  Discovering my dilemma, our long distance roll thrower tried to make it easier by juggling several at once.

The rolls here are homemade and delicious as is the rest of the southern inspired menu.  Along with a meat entree, you get a choice of two sides plus what the restaurant calls “the pass arounds.”  The pass arounds are circulated by wait staff who offer servings from big bowls throughout your meal.  The dishes include fried potatoes, cabbage, pasta in tomatoe sauce, fried okra, black-eyed peas as well as sorghum and apple butter for the rolls.  Even before our plates arrived, we found ourselves eating hot fried okra off a napkin.  There is definitely too much food here!  The Lambert family started this restaurant in 1942 in Missouri and still have two restaurants there and this one in Foley, Alabama.

The towns of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach were about a 20 minute drive from our park.  A popular destination for tourists, there are 32 miles of white sand beaches.   We were surprised to see how many high rise condos and apartments were located along the coast here.

There were lots of surf and souvenir shops in the area, some with a huge shark head for an entrance or other garish sea decorations and signs to lure tourists.  We decided to drop into a few and I was amazed at the amount of t-shirts, sweat shirts, hats, bathing suits and beach towels that filled row after row of these large stores.  Not surprising, they were almost empty since this is not beach season.  Mark joked that they should have included some parkas with the beach wear!  One day while Mark and I were eating a pizza lunch in town, we laughed to see a variety store across the street with a bunch of beach rafts and inflatables in front of the store.  The previous night the temperature had been below freezing and it was barely in the 40’s that day.

During an evening walk on the beach at Gulf Shores, I took the photos above and below.  There were a lot of grey clouds, but the sun was trying hard to peak through and cast some light on the beach.

As always, thanks for reading the blogs, we appreciate your support.  In my next one, I will be talking about further adventures on the Alabama coast before we move on.

Mobile Bay and the U.S.S. Alabama

The city of Mobile sits on Mobile Bay, an inlet of the Gulf of Mexico. We visited the Gulf Quest National Martime Museum which celebrates this area with 90 interactive exhibits.  It is a large and creative building designed to look like a container ship with ramps leading up to six different “decks” or floors.

The museum features exhibits on weather, hurricanes, marine life, shipbuilding, navigation and shipwrecks to name just a few.   Some of the exhibits are geared for the younger set, but I found it a pretty good learning experience.   I think that Mark got a little bored with it after awhile and found a place to sit and wait.  He said he really doesn’t miss being in the 6th grade.   As so often seems to happen since we have been traveling, there were few people in this beautiful and modern museum on a weekday.  My favorite exhibit was the ship simulator where you could pilot several different vessels in Mobile Bay.  Below is a picture of me captaining a huge cargo ship. We were told by museum staff that it was designed to be realistic with an accurate modeling of the Port of Mobile.

As you walk up the ramps there are many historical nautical sayings that are now common phrases today.   Below is a picture of one that I liked.  I was actually surprised at how many sayings are nautical in origin.  For example, “Make a Clean Sweep” is when you win every contest.  Centuries ago, the Dutch navy hoisted brooms aloft boasting they could “sweep” their enemies from the seas.  This practice continued into modern times aboard submarines returning from successful patrols.

The museum has outdoor decks where you can view activity in the port.  Shipbuilding is an important industry here and we had a view of the Austal Company, one of the largest ship builders on the Gulf Coast. They build combat ships for the U.S. Navy, like the one pictured below.

The Port of Mobile is a deep water port, the 9th largest in the nation and the only one in Alabama.

A Carnival Cruise ship was docked right next door to the museum.   When we were done at the museum, we heard that the ship was getting ready to leave so we went outside and waited for it to depart.  A tugboat with darkened windows was parked right next to the ship waiting to escort it out of the harbor.   All of a sudden a voice from the tug boomed out, “What are you waiting for, why don’t you get on the cruise ship?”  So, we had a little back and forth conversation with the unseen tugboat operator while we waited for the cruise ship to leave.

Mark and I have not yet been on a cruise ship.  I wouldn’t mind giving it a try some day, but I don’t think Mark is game.  As the cruise ship backed out of port, the tug followed along on the side.

The most famous resident of Mobile Bay is the Battleship U.S.S. Alabama, the centerpiece of Battleship Memorial Park.

The ship was commissioned August 16, 1942 and served during WWII in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters.  The Alabama led the American fleet into Tokyo Bay on September 5, 1945, the day after the surrender documents were signed.   The ship was decommissioned on January 9, 1947 and docked at Bremerton, Washington.

When the Alabama was to be scrapped, a statewide campaign began in 1963 to fund the ship’s voyage back to Alabama.  I think the most interesting appeal was made to the school children of Alabama.  If a child contributed any amount of money, they would receive a ticket of free admission to see the battleship once it arrived.  The children alone raised $100,000 with 300,000 tickets issued.  This was a huge amount of money in 1964.  In all, $800,000 was collected to bring the ship back to Mobile Bay.

It took three months to tow the ship 5,600 miles from Bremerton to Mobile Bay with arrival on September 16, 1964.   It was not an easy trip as along the way, one of the two tugs towing the ship sank with two men aboard losing their lives.  In addition, the ship had to wait out two hurricanes.  The Alabama passed through the Panama Canal with only eleven inches of clearance.     Battleship Memorial Park first opened for public tours on January 9, 1965, dedicated to Alabama veterans of all branches of the armed services.

Outside there are many gun placements to climb on to see what it would be like to handle and sight the big guns.

Battleship Memorial Park is very large, with not only the battleship to tour, but also the U.S.S. Drum submarine, a pavilion of aircraft and a variety of tanks and other weaponry on the grounds.   Just touring the ship takes hours, because there is a lot to see here with several floors of exhibits beginning at the deck and going below via stairs/ladders.  In addition there are several levels above that can be explored.

At first being in the “bowels” of the ship and going up and down the stair/ladders felt a little confining to me but the more I was there, the more I didn’t want to leave but continue exploring the passages and rooms.  In order to stay on track, you follow a series of routes marked with either red, green or yellow arrows depending on which tour or area of the ship you want to visit.  Ideally, it is great to walk it all so you can experience as much as possible what it was like to serve here.

Did you know that ships have hatches and doors?  Above, Mark is standing by a hatch which leads down to the second level.  (Hatches go up and down and doors go across).  Below, a picture of one of the watertight doors designed to protect the ship in case of flooding.

The Alabama had a crew of about 2,500 and as I wandered about, I was amazed that so many could work and be housed here.  People had to eat and sleep in shifts (watches as they call them).  It was really like operating a small town.  We were able to see all the main compartments that took care of the basic necessities of the crew and the original furnishings and equipment displayed were very interesting.   Below are pictures of sleeping rooms with hanging bunks.  You had to be pretty trim to fit into those beds!

And another picture of one of the sleeping areas with a locker demonstrating how a crewman had to fit everything in.  Boy, those mattresses were thin!  Reminds me of summer camp or a road trip I went on with my sister Barbara to Idaho and Montana when we stayed in KOA cabins with mattresses that looked similar to these, ha ha.

This is a picture of the dining area or mess deck.  During the day, there were more tables here, but at night they were removed and hammocks were slung from the ceiling.  That would make sense, since there were so many men that needed to sleep some where on this ship!

Below, it looks like a yummy breakfast is being served in the mess deck!  Not a sausage and white gravy fan so it would probably have been corn flakes for me.  But I know what Mark would have chosen, he is biscuits, sausage and gravy all the way!

This would have been my favorite part of the ship – the soda fountain which was called the “Gedunk” stand.  It was here that ice cream, candy, sodas and other small snacks were given to crew members.  I read that more than 100 gallons of ice cream (made on the ship) and sodas were served here daily.

If I were to have a favorite, I also would have my least  – the dental office where all dental work was completed including oral surgery and denture work.  An x-ray dark room was next door.   That chair doesn’t look quite as comfortable as the ones we get to recline in today.

This was a great visit and I hope you have enjoyed seeing some of what the U.S.S. Alabama offers for visitors.


Thanks for checking in!

Mobile – Mardi Gras and Moon Pies

When I think about our visit to the city of Mobile, Alabama, the importance of Mardi Gras celebrations comes to mind.  Although Mardi Gras is often associated with New Orleans, the first Mardi Gras was held here in 1704, so Mobile considers itself the founder of the festival.  In 1702 French Catholics began a settlement in Mobile and it became the first capitol of French Louisiana.  The settlers brought with them the tradition of Mardi Gras.  To celebrate Mardi Gras “mystic societies” build colorful carnival floats and create costumes around the year’s theme.  They then put on parades and fancy balls which are usually held in the month of February.  Kings and queens are also selected each year and they dress in lavish suits and gowns with custom made trains.  I was sorry to miss seeing one of the parades, but our schedule necessitated us moving on before the celebrations were to begin.

The best place to get a taste of Mardi Gras is at the Mobile Carnival Museum which is located in a historic home.  I thought this museum was fascinating and a feast for the eyes, one of my favorite museums during our travels.  There are 14 gallery rooms filled with memorabilia and lavish attire of past kings, queens and members of the court.  This includes costumes, robes, trains, crowns and scepters.  In some of the rooms videos were playing of past balls or parades where the costumes were worn.   The museum really gave me a sense of how important the celebration is in Mobile and how much money it must cost to create the outfits and pay for the parades, balls and parties.

The first room in the museum has a large decorated float to give visitors an opportunity to experience being in a parade.  The first parade was held in 1830 and has been an annual tradition ever since.

The very expense trains reflect the personality of the king and queen and have a great deal of ornamentation.  The trains all looked very heavy to me and I could not imagine wearing them.  In the room above I was able to watch a video of the king and queen who wore this attire at their coronation.

I learned that each season the Mobile Carnival Association and Mobile Mardi Gras Association, made up of prominent families choose the king and queen.  Sometimes several generations of a single family may wear the crown.  The expense of the costumes and numerous parties, balls, etc. precludes this being possible for the average family.

Mardi Gras is the final day before the start of lent with lots of revelry before settling down for the Lenten season, a time of self denial and repentence.

The museum has exhibits of costumes from some of the mystic societies.   I was surprised to learn that there are about 60 different societies.  The societies have names such as Santa Claus Society, Order of Jesters, Order of Polka Dots, Jokers Wild, Comic Cowboys to name just a few from Mobile.

You can’t help but see Mardi Gras inspired merchandise when going into stores in Mobile with even Walmart in the spirit with a whole row dedicated to wreaths, masks, beads, etc. in the standard purple, green and gold colors.

Besides decorations, I had been seeing the traditional “king cake” for some weeks at Walmart and grocery stores throughout the South.  The King Cake is a ring or oval shaped cake that has a coating of purple, green and gold sugar or Icing.  Inside the cake is a plastic baby and whoever gets the baby has to buy the next king cake.  Traditionally the baby was to symbolize baby Jesus.

Have you ever eaten a moon pie?  It is a round graham cracker cookie filled with marshmallow and then dipped in a coating.  They are a big deal in Mobile.  Our first introduction to Mobile’s fascination with moon pies was when we arrived to our RV park and were told that on New Years Eve, (the next evening), the mayor would be dropping the “moon pie.”  This particular moon pie is electric, weighs 600 pounds and is dropped from a tall building downtown.  After it drops, there are fireworks and a laser light show.  In addition, earlier in the evening the largest edible moon pie is served in one of the hotel courtyards.  Moon pies first became popular here in the 1940’s and 50’s when Mardi Gras parade organizers decided to replace the cracker jacks they had been throwing with the softer moon pies which were easier to toss.   Today, around 500,000 moon pies are thrown each year during Mardi Gras parades in Mobile.   Although popular here, they are actually made in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Moon Pie General Store is located in downtown Mobile and while there, we stopped in to check it out.  They had a variety of miniature moon pies so we got a few to try.  I am not a big fan of them as I find them pretty bland and even though there were different flavors, I could tell no difference between them.  (Mark does say though that I only have one taste bud left, ha, ha).  I do think the whole culture around them is interesting though.

The store also featured the RC cola and moon pie combo which many years ago got the nickname, “working man’s lunch,” because it was popular with laborers and miners.   To finish my discussion of moon pies, below is a picture of a dessert Mark and I shared at the Spot of Tea restaurant in downtown Mobile.   It was a moon pie banana pudding that was quite delicious.

Thanks for checking in and next post I will talk about Mobile Bay and the Bay’s most famous resident.

Biloxi, Beauvoir and Bay St. Louis

Located in Biloxi is the home, museum and presidential library of perhaps the city’s most famous past resident, Jefferson Davis.  Jefferson was the only president of the Confederacy and Beauvoir was his last home.  We had visited presidential libraries and museums of two other presidents on this trip, but I had not expected to come across the home and museum of the Confederate president.  Since I knew so little about him, it was an interesting and informative visit.

Beauvoir was built in 1848.  Our tour guide told us the home was named by Sarah Dorsey who came to see it as a potential buyer.  She first walked into the house from the back and when she came onto the front porch and saw the view of the Mississippi Sound and Gulf before her, gave it the name Beauvoir, which comes from the french term, “beautiful view.”  In 1877, Davis came to Biloxi and his friend Sarah offered him the use of one of the cottages next to the house.  He agreed and said he would pay her $50.00 per month.  In 1879, he offered to buy the property for $5, 500, paying her in three installments to which she agreed.  She passed away before he could finish paying and willed the property to him.  Even though Davis had the right to live in the home, he refused until he had paid the last installment, continuing to live in the cottage.  Davis lived at Beauvoir with his wife Varina and two of his children.

When Hurricane Katrina hit, it greatly damaged the house, destroying the porch, much of the roof and flooding after a nine foot wall of water hit.  Although the home’s foundation was raised on pillars, the interior was still flooded with about a foot of water.  In spite of the damage much of the furnishings and personal effects could be saved.  Our guide explained that the original roofing company (still in business) was able to replace the same slate.  In addition the original glass company was also able to replace the panes for the doors.  The restoration cost around $4,000,000.  Today the house is a real beauty and a source of pride to Biloxi.  I find it amazing that the home still stands after surviving two major hurricanes and other storms.  Many other historic homes and buildings in the area are no longer standing.

One of the most beautiful parts of the house to me, was the hand painted ceiling in the entry way (above).  The entry way was designed with doors on opposite sides so that breezes could circulate through the house and cool down the rooms.

The home has eight furnished rooms to view including the parlor (above).  Below is a statue of Jefferson with his two sons, one that was adopted named Jim Limber, a child of mixed race.   Jim was rescued by Jefferson’s wife when she saw him being mistreated by his father.  After the Davis family began caring for him, it was arranged for him to be freed from slavery.  A year later in 1865 when the Davis family was captured by the Union army, Jim was taken from them and they never saw him again.

The small cottage where Davis lived before he moved into Beauvoir can be seen behind the statue.  It was destroyed during Katrina and a replica built in its place.  It was here that Davis began writing his two volume set, “The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government.”

The museum and library were built in 1998 and are located in a large and impressive looking building (above).  There were some interesting artifacts inside from the Civil War era but overall, I was a little disappointed with the museum.  One of the main rooms was so poorly lit, that Mark and I had a hard time reading the descriptions and seeing the exhibits well.  Here are a few of my favorite items from the museum:

This piano belonging to Winnie Davis, Jefferson’s youngest child could not be restored after damage from Katrina.

Above is the hearse that carried the body of Mr. Davis during his funeral procession in New Orleans after he died there on December 6, 1889.

After Hurricane Katrina, the bronze bust of Davis was found undamaged except for the broken wooden pedestal.  It was buried in the mud in a bayou on the property.  The mystery is how the heavy bust traveled 100 yards across the the bayou and fell on the other side.

The museum did help me learn about Jefferson Davis’ political career.  He once served as a senator and U.S. Secretary of War and was instrumental in getting repairs done to the U.S. capitol building.   He arranged for the Gadsden Purchase which included parts of Arizona and New Mexico and advocated for the federal government to build a transcontinental railroad.  He was also on the committee that founded the Smithsonian Institution in 1846.  Above is a painting of Mr. Davis and his beloved dog Traveler, a constant companion.

Jefferson was never officially pardoned by the U.S. government for his role as the Confederate President.  In 1876, Congress passed a universal amnesty law which restored citizenship to all former confederates except one, Jefferson Davis.  He died a citizen of no country.  One hundred years later in October 1978, his citizenship was restored when President Jimmy Carter signed into law a resolution from Congress restoring citizenship to the last confederate, Jefferson Davis.

Bay St. Louis is a delightful little coastal town about 30 miles west of Biloxi.  We drove there twice and the second time stayed a little longer to have lunch in a cafe, look at a few of the shops and enjoy the ambience.   As expected, the town was hit very hard by Katrina with half the homes destroyed.  The shoreline was subsequently rebuilt including a new marina, sea wall, pier, restaurants and shops.

The Bay St. Louis bridge to the town of Pass Christian was also destroyed and had to be rebuilt with a higher bridge.   The bridge is pictured above in the background of the marina.

Here is a view of the town taken from the pier:

Below is a view is of the Bay St. Louis pier with Our Lady of the Gulf Catholic Church which survived Katrina.

I loved seeing this tree sculpture called the “Angel Tree.”  It was carved from an oak killed by Katrina.  The tree is very intricate with not only angels but also numerous heron like birds carved on the branches.

There is a story associated with this tree.  The owner of a local Inn, her dog and two friends had to flee from the building when it was destroyed by Katrina.  They ran to the oak tree in the yard and clung to it for several hours waiting out the storm.  They consider it their lifesaver.  After the tree was carved, it was moved to a new spot above the marina and shore for all to view.

This is not the only tree sculpture on the Mississippi Coast.  In 2007, Biloxi began a project to sculpt marine related figures from the dozens of standing dead trees in the median of Beach Boulevard in Biloxi.  The trees had all been killed by Katrina.  There are now 20 sculptures that can be found in Biloxi and other towns along the coast.   They include dolphins, pelicans, marlin, seahorse, eagle and heron to name some of them.

The beautiful, historic L & N Train Depot in Bay St. Louis was built in 1928.  It survived Katrina and underwent some restoration.  It houses a visitor center and two separate museums.  Downstairs are historical and cultural displays of the area, but the best exhibit are the lavish Mardi Gras costumes that take up one big room.  There are over a dozen of them and they were such fun to look at.


Upstairs is another museum of the folk art of Alice Moseley, known as “Miss Alice.”  Alice was a self taught artist who began painting at the age of 60 while caring for her mother who had Alzheimer’s.  After visiting Bay St. Louis and falling in love with the town she moved here at the age of 79 even though she didn’t know anyone.   Her whimsical and colorful paintings show scenes of every day life in Mississippi including cotton plantations, farms and villages.  Many of her original paintings are showcased here and I really enjoyed seeing them.  She had a great deal of talent!   (Sorry but photographs were not allowed).

Miss Alice reminded me of the artist Grandma Moses whose museum we visited on a trip to Vermont.   Alice lived in a little blue house across from the depot until she died at 94.  Tourists used to come to her home and studio to visit with her.   I was told that another artist now lives in the home, carrying on her tradition.

And now for something completely different.  Horseshoe crabs are said to be one of the oldest species on earth.   We found this one washed up on the beach.  Scientists say they have been around for “millions of years.”  Horseshoe crabs are actually not related to the crab family but closely related to the arachnids (spiders).  Who remembers Arachnophobia?   They have a long tail that they use to flip themselves if they are overturned.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for the next post where we move on to Mobile, Alabama – a new state and city for us!