Natchez turns 300 in 2016, an impressive milestone for a southern city. The quaint town known for its hundreds of historic buildings is the oldest continuous settlement on the Mississippi River and predates New Orleans by two years.
If you’re looking for history, the oldest building in Natchez dates back to about 1760 and there are some lingering there who might remember its origin. King’s Tavern at 619 Jefferson St. is now a restaurant serving up specialty cocktails and delicious flatbreads but in its day, the building served as a resting stop for those traveling the Natchez Trace. And it was about this time that Madeline worked as a barmaid.
Story has it that Madeline became the mistress of Richard King, the owner, and that the owner’s wife paid two men to have her killed. In 1932, three bodies and a dagger were recovered from the walls of the tavern when a chimney was being installed — two men and a woman.
Ricky Woolfolk is the tavern’s manager and bartender, who teaches mixology classes on the weekend. Ricky has his own take on the story, believing that the men killed Madeline, and the owner, upon discovering what had happened, killed the two men and buried them in the tavern’s walls to keep the crime from being discovered.
As for the dagger, that instrument of death appears to be missing. The original story, according to Ricky, was that the bodies and dagger were found in the chimney but he insists the chimney came after 1932.
I had to wonder where this information came from — doubtful that King or his wife recorded the incident or it was reported in the newspaper — but I’m happy to go along with the story. People who have worked at the tavern have reported electrical anomalies, doors opening and closing and other noises unaccounted for. Ricky showed us a video of the bar refrigerator opening on its own after hours and I can vouch that these fridges don’t open without a good pull.
Ricky also claims the tavern saw some unsavory people in its time, due to its proximity to the Natchez Trace where criminals waited to rob those returning home with newly acquired cash. The notorious Harpe Brothers, for instance, were two examples, men known for murdering many people including small children.
“There are numerous reports of paranormal activity in the tavern; sources report that scores of witnesses have seen images of a young female, believed to be the ghost of Madeline, the slain mistress,” reports the History, Science and Paranormal Research Blog hosted by the Mississippi Society of Paranormal Investigators. “She appears at odd times and is sometimes a prankster, knocking jars off of shelves, pouring water on the brick floors, turning the lights on and off, and breaking glasses. Some have claimed to have witnessed tables vibrating, chains on the walls moving by themselves, footsteps, when no one is there, water taps turning on by themselves, sounds of a baby crying in the attic room, maintained by the legend that Big Harpe had killed another baby in the upstairs room because he was annoyed by its crying. There are also claims of seeing a man with no face wearing a red hat, hearing male voices talking when no one is there and the shadows and apparitions of both a large man and an Indian.”
"Ghost Adventures" visited the King’s Tavern and you can watch the episode here.
Ghosts aside, we recommend the flatbread — we sampled the delicious artichoke and olives but heard the brisket is to die for — and the Natchez Gentleman, which incorporates Charbonneau Rum made next door with Solerno blood orange liqueur.