Thursday, September 15, 2011

The History of Longwood Plantation

This History was compiled by N.A.P.S. Paranormal Investigator Lauren S.
September 4, 2011

Longwood, aka Nutt’s Folly, is a six-story 30,000 square foot mansion was designed by Samuel Sloan of Philadelphia for wealthy planter Haller Nutt and his wife, Julia Williams Nutt, in Natchez, MS.  As it was nearing completion, the Civil War began and the workmen dropped their tools and went home. Haller died in 1864 and his wife Julia continued to live in the finished first floor that today contains many original family furnishings.  The upper five stories are an architectural wonder - a magnificent work in progress where time just stopped and stayed.  Longwood is the largest octagonal house in America and is listed as a National Historic Landmark. Tours are available year round. [i]   

According to the National Parks Service, the site is architecturally significant because Longwood “is the largest and most elaborate of the octagon houses built in the country, as well as being one of the finest surviving examples of an Oriental Revival style residence illustrating the exotic phase of architectural romanticism that flourished in mid-19th century America. A Moorish-style suburban villa built for Haller Nutt, a wealthy cotton planter, Longwood's interior was never completed." [ii]  
The completed house was to have had 32 rooms, 26 fireplaces, 115 doors, 96 columns, and a total of 30,000 square feet of living space, but only nine of the 32 rooms were finished.[iii]  Click here to see Samuel Sloan’s floor plans and additional photos of the home and site.

The property is located on 87 acres of land. In addition to the main house, the property contained 5 parts: the Necessary; the Kitchen, the Slaves Quarters, the Carriage House, and the Stables. The site of geometrically-patterned gardens, which in 1860-1873 occupied 15 acres of land, is located at some distance to the southeast of the mansion and near the entrance to the estate. At a considerable distance to the southwest of the mansion is situated the cemetery of the Nutt family. [iv]

Current Condition
The floors above the first floor are still unfinished and the home needs repairs. According to the National Historic Landmarks Program review in 2008, “Extensive maintenance is currently needed to maintain the integrity of the structure, particularly to the dome area. Extensive structural repairs have been made on one side of the octagonal sides of the house where the galleries were sinking and shifting." [v]  

Basic Timeline
  • 1840- Haller Nutt married Julia Augusta Williams in Natchez
  • 1841-1863- The Nutts had 11 children, all of whom did not survive childhood.*
  • 1860- Construction began on Longwood.
  • 1861- After the exterior was complete, artisans returned to the North due to the Civil War.
  • 1862- Slaves completed the basement (main level) and the Nutt family moved in. After this, construction on the home stopped.
  • 1864- Haller Nutt died and his wife, Julia, and their 8 children continued to live in the first floor.
  • 1897- Julia Augusta Williams Nutt died at Longwood.
  • 1968- In August of ’68, Longwood and 94 acres of land were acquired by Mr. and Mrs.  Kelly McAdams of Austin, Texas.
  • 1968- In December of ’68, they donated the estate to the McAdams Foundation of Austin, TX.
  • 1969- Longwood was designated a National Historic Landmark.
  • 1970- Longwood was sold to the Pilgrimage Garden Club of Natchez, MS.
                              * See details on the children below.

The Nutt Family History
Haller Nutt, younger son of physician and planter Dr. Rush Nutt and Eliza Ker Nutt, was born at Laurel Hill Plantation in Jefferson County, Mississippi, on February 17, 1816. Nutt was educated at the University of Virginia from 1832 to 1835. Upon returning to Mississippi, he assisted his father in plantation management.

Julia Augusta Williams, daughter of Austin and Caroline Routh Williams, was born at Routhlands in Natchez, Mississippi, on August 11, 1822. Much of her youth was spent at Ashburn, also in Natchez. Williams was eighteen at the time of her marriage to Haller Nutt in 1840. [vi]  

Haller and Julia Nutt had eleven children:
  1. Caroline Routh Nutt was born ABT 1841, and died 03 JAN 1867 in 'Longwood', Natchez, Adams Co., MS. She married Charles S. Forsythe ABT 1865.
  1. Mary Ella Nutt was born ABT 1843, and died 19 AUG 1901 in Natchez, Adams Co., MS.
  1. Fanny Smith Nutt was born ABT 1845, and died AUG 1848 in Araby Plantation, Tensas Par., LA.
  1. Haller Nutt Jr. was born ABT 1846, and died in Winter Quarters, Tensas Par., LA.
  1. John Kerr Nutt was born ABT 1850.
  1. Austin Williams Nutt was born ABT 1852, and died 09 JAN 1860 in Winter Quarters, Tensas Par., LA.
  1. Sargent Prentiss Nutt was born 1855, and died 1939.
  1. Julia Agusta Nutt was born BEF 1858, and died 1932 in 'Longwood', Natchez, Adams Co., MS.
  1. Calvin Routh Nutt was born ABT 1859, and died 29 APR 1909 in Memphis, Shelby Co., TN.
  1. Lilly Frances Elizabeth Nutt was born 04 JUN 1861, and died 12 JUL 1930. She married James Williams Ward 13 JAN 1885 in Washington Co., MS, son of George Viley Ward and Maria Louisa Williams. He was born 13 SEP 1858 in Scott Co., KY, and died 23 APR 1930 in Staunton, VA.
  1. Rushworth Nutt was born 1863, and died 1863. [vii]  
Haller Nutt acquired several plantations through inheritance or purchase, including Araby, Evergreen, and Winter Quarters in Louisiana and Cloverdale and Laurel Hill in Mississippi. The cultivation of cotton, sugar cane, and other cash crops on these plantations brought him considerable wealth. Nutt owned nearly 43,000 acres of land and 800 slaves, and he had made a net profit of more than $228,000 from agricultural enterprises in 1860. His fortune prior to the Civil War was estimated at more than three million dollars.

When Haller and Julia Nutt were ready to build Longwood in the late 1850s, they chose Philadelphia architect Samuel Sloan. The couple worked closely with Sloan to create plans for the mansion. Sloan designed a multistory octagonal villa in the Oriental Revival style, with a domed cupola, full basement, and more than thirty rooms. Construction on Longwood began in the spring of 1860, and the exterior was virtually complete at the beginning of the Civil War. However, work on the interior was soon halted as Sloan’s artisans, fearing for their safety, hastily returned to the North. The basement story was completed by slave labor and was ready for occupancy by 1862. Although Julia Nutt later received bids for the completion of the interior of Longwood in the 1890s, the upper floors were never completed.

Haller Nutt suffered large financial losses during the Civil War from the destruction of cotton and real estate and the expropriation of stores and supplies by the Union and Confederate armies. This situation caused severe cash-flow problems that ultimately led to the foreclosure on the mortgages to Nutt family plantations in Louisiana. During the war, Nutt took steps to document the value of assets lost to the Union army in the hope that reparations would someday be paid. After the war, these records were filed with the federal government to substantiate the reparations claim of the Haller Nutt estate.

The Nutt family continued living at Longwood after the death of Haller Nutt from pneumonia on June 15, 1864, but Julia Nutt was left with the responsibility of rearing and educating several minor children. The remaining plantations, Cloverdale and Lochland, were not always productive, thus creating financial difficulties for the Nutt family. Nevertheless, Julia Nutt managed to support her children and provide them with what educational and social opportunities she could afford. However, without the counsel and support of Julia Nutt’s son, Sargeant Prentiss, her task would have been nearly impossible.

Sargeant Prentiss Nutt (later Knut) was educated in Philadelphia and at the University of Virginia. After reading law in Natchez, Knut moved to Washington, D.C., to pursue a legal career. Knut persistently lobbied for the passage of a bill that would partially compensate the Nutt family for losses due to the Union army. The total of payments for reparations actually received by the Nutt family probably never amounted to more than $100,000. [viii] 

The last decedents to live at Longwood were the five children of Lilly Nutt and her husband, James William Ward. In time, only an elderly grandson of Haller and Julia Nutt remained in the house. [ix] The five children were Julia Nutt Ward, James Haller Ward, Robert Julian Ward, Isobelle Carolyn Ward, and Merritt Williams Ward. [x]  Merritt (Unknown - 14 Mar 1939), James (04 Feb 1888 - 02 Sep 1950), and Robert (29 Nov 1889 - 01 Jun 1962) are buried with their parents at Longwood. [xi]  

Reports of Hauntings
According to reports, Julia, Haller and their children still haunt Longwood. According to one source, Julia Nutt is usually seen inside on the staircase while Haller Nutt seems to prefer the garden area. [xii] 

According to Alan Brown’s book, Haunted Natchez, full apparitions have been spotted in the home including a woman in a pink hoop skirt standing on the stairs. A Longwood tour guide also reported that the lights flickered on and off when she made an unintentional error in the description of the mansion. She also reported that the photos of Haller’s mother and father often shift and need to be straightened when she comes in the house in the mornings and sometimes in the mornings the little children’s furniture is scattered all over the place. [xiii]   

According to another source, “Scores of people have witnessed strange aberrations, odors, and noises, over the years… A groundskeeper spied Dr. Nutt, in period clothing, standing under a tree. Others have noticed the sudden appearance of localized perfumed odors, presumably carried by Julia. A grandson of the current resident director once observed Dr. Nutt sitting in a chair. Another grandson saw Julia Nutt standing on the stairs. Thinking the lady was an employee dressed in period costume, the grandson thought nothing of it, until he realized that the lady he had seen looked just like the portrait of Julia Nutt. An investigation failed to reveal any employees dressed in costume…

Louise Burns, the Resident Director at Longwood for over 20 years, experienced perhaps the most frightening encounter. Awakened in the dead of night, Mrs. Burns found her head lifted and held off the pillow [but] No one was there. Mrs. Burns tried unsuccessfully to extricate herself, and felt a moment of fear. As she related the story to this author: "I had a choice. I could allow Dr. Nutt to scare me away from Longwood, or I could let him know who was boss." Suddenly her head was released." [xiv]

End Notes:  [Many of these references are HYPERLINKS - CLICK ON to go to Site for more info.]
[i] "Antebellum Mansions Open Year-Round." Natchez Pilgrimage Tours. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Sept. 2011.
[ii] "Longwood." National Historic Landmarks Program. National Parks Service, 2008. Web. 4 Sept. 2011.
[iii] The Broken Dream of Longwood. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Sept. 2011.
[iv] Heintzelman, Patricia. "National Register of Historic Places Inventory - Nomination Form." National Register of Historic Places. National Parks Service, 3 May 1975. Web. 4 Sept. 2011.
[v] "Longwood." National Historic Landmarks Program. National Parks Service, 2008. Web. 4 Sept. 2011.
[vi] "PILGRIMAGE HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION COLLECTION: NUTT FAMILY PAPERS 1841-1911." Archives & Library. Mississippi Department of Archives and History, n.d. Web. 4 Sept. 2011.
[vii] RootsWeb. Ed. David Lawrence., 4 Apr. 2003. Web. 4 Sept. 2011.
[viii] "PILGRIMAGE HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION COLLECTION: NUTT FAMILY PAPERS 1841-1911." Archives & Library. Mississippi Department of Archives and History, n.d. Web. 4 Sept. 2011.
[ix] Brown, Alan. Haunted Natchez. Charleston, SC: Haunted America, 2010. 28. Print.
[x] RootsWeb. Ed. David Lawrence., 4 Apr. 2003. Web. 4 Sept. 2011.
[xi] Oberscmidt, John. "Nutt Family Cemetery." Adams County, Mississippi Genealogy and History Network. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Sept. 2011.
[xii] Taylor, Troy. "Ghosts of Natchez." Haunted Mississippi. N.p., 1998. Web. 4 Sept. 2011.
[xiii] Brown, Alan. Haunted Natchez. Charleston, SC: Haunted America, 2010. 29-30. Print.
[xiv] "Folk Lore and Ghost Stories of Adams County, MS." Adams County Genealogical and Historical Researc, n.d. Web. 4 Sept. 2011.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting. I would like to learn more about these hauntings