Monday, May 9, 2011

The "Rest of the Story" about a House

This is a follow up story to a post I wrote last month featuring an "off the beaten path" photo tour of Natchez. You can click on the link to read that post if you missed it.

Included in the story were pictures of an old house, about which I wrote:

"I would love to know its history, and how and why it has fallen into such a sad state of disrepair and neglect. The expression, "gone with the wind" comes to mind, and I'm sure it would take a small fortune to restore it to its former glory. Perhaps, therein lies the tale of its demise."

This past week, I received a comment on that post from Luke, who cleared up some of the mystery about the house. Here is Luke's note:

I'm from Natchez, and the abandoned dilapidated house you photographed is named Melmont.

Construction began in 1850, and was completed in 1854, it's Greek revival, with Italianate influence. It was built by Henry Basil Shaw (I think he was a doctor, but I'm not sure). His wife's name was Mary Elizabeth, maiden name Latimore. She named the home Melmont, "Mel" coming from her maiden initials, and "Mont," French for being mounted in the center of its average.

Their descendants lived there until 1912, when it was sold to the Henderson family (they had lived at Magnolia Hall), and they remodeled the interior to colonial revival.

The home was then sold again in 1957, to a family (name withheld for privacy's sake) whose three children still have possession of the home, and live out of town. Hopefully it will be restored one day!

I appreciate Luke taking the time to write and fill me in on the history of Melmont. I hope its history doesn't end there. Perhaps someone will come to its rescue before it's too late.


racheld said...


You have no idea how long I delved into your archives---both blogs---while you were away the other day, in search of EXACTLY this house, which I'd thought of often and put down a few words for possible future posting.

So---since it'e here today, I finished it out a bit, and linked it at Lawn Tea.

I'm so glad you shared it again!!


Janie said...

What a beautiful old home. Saddens me to watch her sit empty without the love she deserves. Can't you imagine how gorgeous she could could be?

Janie@ Romantic Domestic

Unknown said...

very interesting. I too hope that it will be restored!

Unknown said...

In the words of Henry's son, Frank, Henry "was a distinguished Louisiana lawyer." Henry lived in the Western District of Concordia Parish. Henry was born in Tennessee, I think it may have been Smith County. He graduated from University of Nashville at 17 and admitted to the bar at age 21. He and his father settled in Natchez about 1837. Henry married Mary in 1839. Mary was the daughter of Doctor David Lattimore. David and brother William successfully vaccinated against smallpox the entire population of Natchez District in February and March 1802 as requested by Gov. Claiborne. David and William were from Northumberland County, VA. I'm descended from Henry and Mary's youngest son, Arthur, who was born at Melmont in 1862. I, too, hope the old place will be restored some day.

Southern Lady said...

John, thank you so much for taking the time to share this additional information about your family's history ... and your connection with Melmont. Hopefully, one day I will be able to write a follow-up story about its restoration.

Unknown said...

My family visited Natchez several years ago from Florida and were told about this house after inquiring about a plantation home in need of renovation by one of the house owner's whose home is on the pilgrimage tour. We attempted to find out information on it as we have always wanted to purchase and renovate a plantation home. We've made several phone calls and attempted to search often for more information on this exact home, but never have had luck!! For some reason, the home came to my mind today and I googled "Melmont" because we did know that much of the home, I am so happy to see it is still standing.

If anyone has information on this home or any connections with the owning family to get us into contact with them, please let us know! My email is


Unknown said...

I too am descended from the original owner of this old home, Henry Basil Shaw. His daughter Emily North Shaw married by great-grandfather William Edward Lively of Weston, West Virgina in 1869. Would love to know how they found each other.. they lived almost 1000 miles apart! Herny Basil is buried in the Natchez City cemetery. There is also some connection between this family and Grand Cutoff Plantation, across the river in LA. Would love to know more about that if anyone has researched it.

Unknown said...

To John Lively:
There are actually two Henry Basil Shaw's on the family tree. Josiah Shaw and his wife Mary Bryan "Polly" Tooley had three sons and two daughters. Only two of the sons survived into adulthood: Henry Basil Shaw (1812 to 1869) and William McMurray Shaw (1818 to 1903). Both were born in Carthage, Smith County, Tennessee.
After graduating from law school Henry served on the staff of General Winfield Scott. His health would not allow him to continue in the military. Josiah and Polly moved to Concordia, LA followed by his two sons and daughter, Mary Shaw (1814 to 1823?).
In 1839 Henry married Mary Elizabeth Lattimore, a second generation Natchez resident. In 1855 they moved across the river to Melmont. Together they had 11 children. I am descended from the youngest boy, Arthur Edgar Shaw (1862 to 1945). Arthur married in Natchez, moved to Georgia where my grandmother was born. He tried his hand at gold mining. It didn't work out, so he moved to Birmingham, AL in the steel industry (I think), then moved to Philadelphia where his family, including his brothers and sisters and parents, would vacation prior to the war. His oldest sister was married in Wilmington, DE in 1866.
That brings us to William McMurray Shaw. He married Jane E. North (1821 to 1852) from Berlin, Hartford, Connecticut. She had 6 brothers and one sister, all of them born in Berlin. Jane and two of her brothers moved to Natchez. The rest of the family stayed in Connecticut. One of the brothers who moved to Natchez, Ralph North, was a judge. Perhaps he and Henry Shaw were associates at law.
Now to the second Henry Basil Shaw. William and Jane Shaw had two children: Henry Basil Shaw (1845 to 1901) and Emily North Shaw (1847 to 1889), both born in Concordia Parish, LA. This Henry Basil Shaw did not marry and had no children. Emily married William Edward Lively (1830 to 1901), from Williamsburg, VA. You know the rest of the story from there. William and Emily had seven children.
William Edward Lively shows up in the Glenville, Gilmer County, (West) Virginia 1860 census. At 20 years old he was still in Williamsburg in the 1850 census. He was a private in the 10th Virginia Calvary during the war. He and Emily were married in 1866 in Concordia Parish, LA. I'm guessing that William made it to Natchez area due to the war, met Emily, married, and lived there for a number of years.
The Henry Basil Shaw from your side was born in Louisiana and stayed in Mississippi where he died. William and Jane Shaw and their daughter Emily and son-in-law William moved to Weston. Jane may have died in Dickinson, Kanawha County, but the others died in Weston.
Our common ancestor, our third great grandmother, Polly Shaw also moved to Weston with her son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter and her husband. She also died in Weston. I suspect all of them moved to Weston shortly after her son Henry died (1869). Josiah died many years before that (1787 to 1839) in Natchez. I'm thinking that William Edward Lively took good care of his wife, children, father-in-law, and mother-in-law. One of his 7 children, Fanny Shaw Lively, died in Philadelphia, the rest in West Virginia.