Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Historical House Wednesday- Three

Today is another Historical Home Wednesday and I'm really excited to share this one with you. I've chosen the Beauvoir house. The Beauvoir is located in Biloxi, Mississippi. I can't tell you how many times I've driven by this home or taken out-of-town house guests for a tour. The house belonged to Jefferson Davis.

Jefferson Davis is best known for serving as the President of the Confederate States of America (between 1861-1865). However, he had a very interesting life filled with many achievements. He was a West Point graduate, fought in the Mexican-American War as a colonel, was the U.S. Secretary of War for President Franklin Pierce, and served as a U.S. Senator representing the State of Mississippi.

Here is a picture of Jefferson Davis and his wife, Varina Howell. However, Varina wasn't his first wife. Davis was married to President Zachary Taylor's daughter, Sarah Knox Taylor. President Taylor didn't approve of the match at first. However, in June of 1835, the two married at her aunt's house near Louisville, Kentucky. Tragedy struck when they were visiting his oldest sister in Saint Francisville, Louisiana, when the newlyweds contracted malaria. Sarah died three months after the wedding on September 15, 1835. He moved to Mississippi where he spent the next eight years as a recluse. He was heartbroken after losing the love of his life. He spent that time studying politics, government, and history. Although, he met Varina Howell (granddaughter of New Jersey Governor Richard Howell) in 1844. A year later they were married at her home in Natchez, Mississippi.

The couple had six children, but only one survived young adulthood and married. Davis experienced much tragedy in his life. He lost his first wife, five of his children to illness, and lost the Civil War. On May 10, 1865, he was captured after trying to sneak pass Yankee soldiers dressed in Verina's clothing. The Union charged Davis with treason, though not tried, and stripped him of his eligibility to run for public office. After they tried publically humiliating the man, they robbed him of his personal possessions. However, Southerners empathized with his defiance, and still hold much pride and admiration for Jefferson Davis. His ideals made him a Civil War hero to Southerners and his legacy has lived on.

Beauvior was the last home Jefferson Davis owned. The house was built by James Brown, a wealthy plantation owner from Madison County, Mississippi. It was originally built as a summer retreat for his wife and 13 children. Hard times hit after Mr. Brown passed away and she was forced to sell the house at auction after being forced to pay taxes due on her husband's estate. Frank Johnson, a land speculator purchased the home and sold it Sarah Dorsey. When she first looked out from the large front porch she said "Oh my, what a beautiful view. That's what I'm going to call this property: Beauvior!" French for beautiful view.

Jefferson Davis was friends with Dorsey. He stayed with her and used the pavilions to write his books and papers. He fell in love with the house and wanted to purchase the home from Ms. Dorsey. She agreed and set up a payment plan of $5,500.00 to be paid in three lump payments. However, she died shortly after receiving the first payment and he was surprised to learn that she left the house to Davis in her will.

Look passed the pavilion and you can see the Gulf of Mexico. The house sits literally across the street from the beaches. It's a gorgeous view and I can see why Jefferson Davis fell in love with the property. It's so relaxing rocking on the front porch. They have several rocking chairs on the porch. It's so wonderful to look over the Gulf while relaxing. I can't imagine what it must have been like to have lived on the property at that time. I would love to have an office like this one. AMAZING!!!

Varina, Jefferson's widow, sold the property to the Mississippi Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans with two stipulations. The first was that the property be used for a Confederate Veterans Home for veterans and their widows at no charge. The last widow was transferred to a private nursing home in Greenwood, Mississippi, in 1957. The second stipulation was to sale the property as a memorial to Jefferson Davis and the Confederate Soldier. It has been honored as so since 1993.

There is a Tomb of a Unknown Confederate Soldier on the grounds of Beauvoir.The remains were discovered in the late 1970's by Rick Forte, Chairman of the Combined Boards of Beauvoir, on a battlefield of Vicksburg, Mississippi. A Tomb was created in honor of the Unknown Confederate soldier. The soldier's remains were buried in a cypress wooden casket in 1980. It reads on the side of the tomb, "Known but to God."


Trish said...

Hi Gigi!!

Another gorgeous historical home feature from you, I am so impressed with them each and every week! I am going to definitely put this on my list next time we fly into Gulfport (we do so from time to time because my MIL has a condo in Diamondhead MS and sometimes we'll stay there and go to the beaches). I had no idea about this home, and no clue that it was one of Jefferson's! You are teaching me so much!

Happy weekend sweet friend! xox

Jill said...

Oh my gosh... this house is breath taking! I was just in Biloxi. I didn't have a ton of time but I drove by several amazing homes. Oh how I wonder what they look like on the inside!