“A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.” -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
The drive into Afton Villa Gardens in Saint Francisville, Louisiana is magical. It’s like entering a secret garden of sorts. And this is only the driveway to get to the gardens! If you’re planning a trip anywhere near West Feliciana Parish in Louisiana, make sure to add Afton Villa Gardens to your list. It only takes about an hour to tour the gardens and it’s worth your time. Read about the gardens and then go explore them!
To me, the South means beauty in unexpected places. Mount Helena, off old Highway 61 in the Mississippi Delta, is a unique Southern home because it sits atop a ceremonial Indian mound. It’s the last thing you expect to see when you’re driving along the flat Delta region. But I think that speaks to the South you encounter day after day. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, something beautiful and unexpected comes into view and you’re reminded why you love calling the South home.
The movie, The Help, was filmed in a few Mississippi cities, including Greenwood. Fans of the movie will surely recognize this beautiful farm house that was used for the exterior shots of Skeeter’s house in the film. The farm house is Whittington Farm, located at 7300 County Road 518 (Money Road) in Greenwood, MS. If you ever have a hankerin’ to see it, the owner welcomes visitors to explore the grounds. There’s even a sign on the main gate that invites visitors to “help” themselves to a visit on the grounds. It’s a lovely place and the owner is more than kind to allow visitors. There were a few in the driveway when I arrived early on a Saturday morning. Just a reminder of the hospitality that you’ll only understand and experience when you explore the South. And if you plan to visit, The City of Greenwood has a handy driving tour map that will guide you to the filming locations in town.
On the campus Tennessee Weslyan College, you’ll find a marker and sculptures that tell the story of the legend of Nocatula and Connestoga.
An officer from a nearby fort had been wounded and was found and befriended by an Indian Chief. The chief’s daughter, Nocatula, cared for the soldier and the two of them fell in love and were eventually married. Over time, the officer was accepted into the tribe and took the name Connestoga which means, “The Oak”. A man who had been a suitor of Nocatula in the past became enraged over her new love. He attacked and stabbed Connestoga. Nocatula knew her love was dying and ran to him to pledge her undying eternal love. Connestoga died and Nocatula plunged a knife into her own chest, killing herself next to her love.
In preparation for the burial of Connestoga and Nocatula, the chief put a hackberry in Nocatula’s hand and an acorn in Connestoga’s hand. The acorn and the hackberry were symbols of undying love it and legend says that from the hackberry and the acorn, two trees grew and stood on the spot of Nocatula and Connestoga’s grave for over 150 years. A testimony of their eternal love.
The St. Helena Chapel of Ease was built around 1740 to serve planters in St. Helena Parish who lived at great distances from the parish church in Beaufort. During the Civil War, Federal troops occupied St. Helena and the church was used by several of the Northerners who had come to the island to educate and train the freedmen. It was also used as a sanctuary by Methodist freedmen as early as 1868. The chapel of ease was burned by a forest fire in February 1886 and was never repaired.