Rocky Springs and Grindstone Ford on the Natchez Trace Parkway

September 23, 2011 · 0 comments

in The Natchez Trace Parkway

Just off the Natchez Trace are the remains of a once bustling town called Rocky Springs. Enough of its history has been uncovered to give a rare window into the past. A marker at this exit points you to historic Grindstone Ford which played a significant role during development of this region.

We were on a road trip to Natchez, MS with two family members and taking time to see some scenic and historic sites along the way. The Natchez Trace Parkway is as an excellent roadway, but it is maintained to be a parkway. The speed limit is never above 50 mph. During the hundreds of years it has been used as a trade and migration route, hundreds of interesting places have come into and passed from usefulness. Some are primitive, some are modern, most have some special historic significance.

Few roadways anywhere in the world have seen the variety of travel and travelers, settlers and explorers, presidents and peasants, doctors and lawyers and Indian Chiefs, as the Natchez Trace Parkway. It is a well maintained road, and I think most of the historic sites have been marked. The park Rangers and Staff who maintain this road  earn their pay.

Every few miles, sometimes more often than that, you find a historic marker pointing you to a site filled with relics from the past, a scenic overlook, or picnic and restroom facilities. These pull-overs range from mountain vistas on the north end of the Parkway, to swamps, Indian mounds, road-side inns, and abandoned towns through the rest of it. I write about these things, because it is my experience that people who read and enjoy, share these same interests. I believe and  hope I am among friends.

We turned off near Mile Marker 55 where the sign reads “Rocky Springs.” There is a very good parking area at this popular site with restrooms, picnic tables and hiking trails. It is a short walk  from the parking area to the site of  the old abandoned town, but it would be worth an even longer walk. The town site is so close to the parkway that you can hear the traffic. The trail that you walk to Rocky Springs from the parking area is the “old Natchez Trace.” It is not much wider than a wide path, but is beautifully lined by a split rail fence.

Rocky Springs was founded in the early 1800’s Church just off Natchez Trace Parkwaybecause of the ‘sweet water” spring that flowed here. We take water for granted in Mississippi, because it is in abundance almost everywhere and wells usually do not need to be very deep in the state. But in primitive times, locating a good supply of water was the first matter to be considered. Entire towns were built simply because there was a good water supply. This town had the added attraction of the ancient road which passes less than a half mile from the old town’s location.

A Methodist Church was built here in 1837 and it still stands. It is a beautiful brick building with hardwood floors and handmade pews. Regular services are still held here, but not year ’round. Each spring there is an annual homecoming. The building and grounds are well maintained.

One of the most attractive features of the church is the ancient graveyard. Inside the cemetery you find another ‘family site’ which is fenced with a formidable brick fence about 5′ high and easily two feet thick. Entrance is through a gateway which no longer has a gate on it. Tombstones are in good general repair although, as one would expect, some show considerable signs of aging.

Rocky Springs, MS had 2,616 residents in 1860. In the mid 1800’s it had a church, Masonic Lodge, Post Office, two or more stores, 2 artisan shops and a school. These, plus the water supply, made it a desirable location for its time. At this time you can see the beautiful church, two rusted out safes, two cisterns and numerous markers which tell the story of the old town. An epidemic of Yellow Fever contributed greatly to the demise of the town.

As you leave Rocky Springs going back to the Parkway, you pass a sign for Grindstone Ford.

Grindstone Ford marked the beginning of the wilderness of the Choctaw Nation and the end of the old Natchez District.

Nearby Fort Deposit served as a supply depot for crews clearing the Natchez Trace Parkway in 1801 to 1802. Troops were assembled here during the Aaron Burr conspiracy, allegedly to separate the Western States from The Union.

The site takes its name from the nearby old Water Mill.

Hope you enjoyed these stops with us. We have to pull over for a few hours and catch some shuteye. You don’t pay us no mind … you just keep rolling up the miles and dialing up the smiles.

We’ll catch you next time.

Bill Taylor

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