John Hankinson, a postmaster in Natchez, built Monmouth in 1818, during the depression that followed the War of 1812. During a yellow fever outbreak in the city shortly thereafter, Hankinson and his wife caught the disease and died. In 1825, the house was sold at a public auction to Calvin Smith, who one year later sold the property to John Anthony Quitman, the future Governor of Mississippi. Quitman stayed in the house until his death in 1858 and became well known for volunteering in the movement for Texan independence in 1835 and for fighting in the Mexican-American War.
When Quitman purchased the plantation, the house had a cellar under half of it, a detached brick kitchen behind it, a garden house, and several outhouses. Originally a Federal style house, the house was extensively renovated by Quitman in 1853 in Greek Revival style. The original brick was covered by stucco, and the portico was added to the front, along with the four square columns supporting it. Quitman also added the rear gallery and southeast wing of the house, along with a second story for the detached kitchen.
After Quitman died at the plantation on July 17, 1858, and his wife died a year later, their three daughters married and remained at the plantation. In 1862 when Natchez was attacked by the Union army during the American Civil War, most of the slaves escaped, and some joined the Union forces. Most of Quitman's original possessions were either stolen in 1863, when the house was occupied by Union soldiers, or sold by Quitman's daughters in 1865 due to financial difficulty.
Antebellum Monmouth was a grand estate house embellished with the finest furnishings and landscaped gardens tended by enslaved servants, field hands, stock minders, and gardeners. All of this changed, however, with the coming of the Civil War to Natchez, and Monmouth thereafter experienced the plight of numerous southern estate villas when their once wealthy owners could no longer afford the trappings of the elite. For years after the Civil War, Monmouth survived as but a memory of its notable history, as its once impressive structure and gardens fell into ruin and disarray, overrun at times with vermin, vagrants, and weeds.
After several changes of ownership, Mr. and Mrs. Ron Riches of Los Angeles, California, purchased the property in 1978 and planned to restore it to its original condition. The restoration of the house took three years and restored the use of the plantation's two gasoliers and two gas sconces along with the original brick kitchen. In 1982, after archaeological research determined the location of two small houses used as slave quarters, the buildings were reconstructed on the original sites. Though most of John Quitman's original furnishings had been lost, the house still contained a few pieces such as a sofa, a carved settee, and several chairs. The Riches searched for other furniture and memorabilia from Quitman, and they were able to recover his desk, two four-poster beds, and the Quitman family bible. Other memorabilia now include the gold sword presented to Quitman by James K. Polk and the United States Congress for his services in the Mexican-American War, as well as the red handkerchief Quitman used to rally his troops.
The painstaking restoration of Monmouth from Southern plantation to luxury inn represents the majesty of an age that has passed. A registered National Landmark, the antebellum mansion and grounds "create a quiet, genteel atmosphere sought after by John and Eliza Quitman to the tiniest detail. From the colour palettes chosen for each suite to the garden flowers growing in colorful abundance, all reflect the once-upon-a-time splendor of Monmouth's still-unfolding history.
A stay at a plantation like Monmouth is the perfect ingredient for a truth Deep South travel experience and with numerous members of our team who have experienced the region and indeed stayed at plantations we'd love to hear from you today to discuss a unique Deep South travel plan for you. Call us today on 0115 9610590.