He was very fond of the home in which he exercised to their fullest all these attributes during the last years of his life. Beauvoir, the name of Mr. Davis's country seat, is about seventy-five miles from New Orleans. It was presented to him by Mrs. Dorsey, an enthusiastic Southern woman, who at her death left him all her property. It was here that I first visited the ex-President of the Confederacy, and enjoyed long hours of social converse with him upon subjects connected with his public career. His estimate of many public men, both in war and peace, was exceedingly interesting; but his home and its surroundings as I first saw them are first worthy of description.
Sitting well back irom the road is a large, square cottage, two stories high, with broad porches running around the entire building. On each side of the main house are two single-story cottages, built in plain but comfortable style. A well-worn packet fence runs along the whole front of the place, and incloses a few acres of good-sized shade trees, mostly of live oak, with now and then a pine or cedar. A broad gravel walk leads between two lines of trees to the steps of the porch. At the foot of the porch steps large iron urns holding evergreens stand on each hand, and as I cast my eye over the inclosure it presented an air of quiet comfort, yet of sorrowful cast. Doubtless the mass of crape-like moss which hung over the trees in the inclosure gave it the sombre appearance. The old mansion and the cottages are time-streaked as well as the trees, and the tenantless servants' quarters, which but a few years ago were full of happy darkies, tell a silent story of the change freedom has wrought. There seemed to be little or no cultivation about the place, or opportunity therefor. A few bleating sheep, led by a knowing-looking bell wether, fed about on the grass, which here and there grew rank. Beyond the house quite a vineyard of Scuppernong grapes were growing.
The scene around and before the late residence of the ex-President of the Confederacy is in many respects charming. A great sheet of water stretches before the house as far as the eye can reach, and the gentle surf from the Gulf washes the white sand almost up to the gate. The bracing breeze from the sea makes fans of the air moss, which hangs from the limbs of every tree. Now and then a cheering sail relieves the long monotony of water, and occasionally a steamer or a tug breaks through a bank of trees, and in a moment is lost in another.
There is a great hall to the mansion, which cuts the house in twain and takes up fully one half of the building. It is the greatest room in this quiet home, and is filled with comfortable sofas and tasteful ottomans, and decorated with paintings of great age and value. The first doors to the left and right on each side of it lead to the parlors, which, like the hall, are tasteful and comfortable but plainly furnished. Over the mantel in one of them hangs a small portrait of Mr. Davis, and around the walls upon easels and in quiet corners, beautiful and rare paintings are tastefully grouped. The whole house is well and substantially built. The ceilings are un- usually high and splendidly decorated with fresco work of neat design and excellent finish. Taking it all in all, it is a gentleman's home -- quiet, very quiet; away out of all bustle.
In this home lived Mr. Davis, his wife and daughter, an only child. This young lady is known as "The Daughter of the Confederacy," for she was born in Richmond during the War. The two children by the first wife, a boy and a girl, died in 1877, during the yellow-fever scourge in Mem- phis. Their mother was the daughter of General Zach Taylor. Mr. Davis married his second wife while in the Senate. The child who has been left to cheer his declining years, was educated abroad, and has much talent as an artist. She painted sev erai pictures while in Paris, of which her father was very proud. Three years ago last Spring when Mr. Davis made his last trip and received the homage of the South, this daughter was his companion and received a great share of the adulation that was showered upon her father. But these recent events are known to all. Mr. Davis's fund of reminiscence was to me exceedingly interesting, and amidst the surroundings of his own home I listened to them.
The Life and Death of Jefferson Davis, Ex-President of the Southern Confederacy: together with comments of the press, funeral sermons; A. C. Bancroft, 1889
Beauvoir Home Memorial Association, Greenwood, Mississippi
The Jefferson Davis Home Memorial Association was organized in Biloxi, Harrison County, Mississippi, on Monday, February 23, 1903. Its objects and purposes being the same as that of other memorial associations in Mississippi, and other States, namely, the owning, maintaining and repairing of monuments, and places of interment, for the Southern Soldiers who died on the field of battle during the late war, or served creditably, and for the collection and preservation of the history of said soldiers, and for active participation in all memorial work.
The presence of the aged widow of the Confederacy, Mrs. V. Jefferson Davis, gave a tender and pathetic interest to the Southern women gathered to do honor to her husband and their "Chieftain," and her sweet sympathy and words of encouragement were an inspiration and Godspeed to the new born Association.
Mrs. Davis was made Honorary President for life, and her daughter, Mrs. Margaret Davis Hayes, an honorary member, and the Secretary instructed to notify Mrs. Hayes of her election.
In May, delegates were elected to represent the "Jefferson Davis Home Memorial " at the Convention of the Confederated Southern Memorial Association, to be held in New Orleans at the time of the annual reunion of the Confederate Veterans, and Mrs. Joseph R. Davis and Mrs. Theresa Hoxie were the ladies honored by selection.
The recent purchase of Beauvoir, the home of Jefferson Davis, by the " Sons of Veterans of the State of Mississippi for a soldiers home, has awakened an interest in Confederate matters, which has long lain dormant in the Sea Coast Counties of Mississippi. The women of Biloxi, by their close proximity to historic Beauvoir, will have the opportunity of assisting the Sons of Veterans in their noble work, the care of the feeble survivors and heroes of a just and holy cause, and of perpetuating by deeds of kindness and love to the helpless inmates of Beauvoir, the memories of a cause and its great leader.
And what a greater monument to Jefferson Davis, than to shelter and protect, in the place made sacred by his occupancy, the men who followed him through the four long years of hardship and suffering, to put memorials there of his devoted wife, who made Beauvoir the haven of rest to " our Chieftain and to the idolized Daughter of the Confederacy, Sweet Winnie Davis, whose girlish presence, in the days, alas! no more, has left an ineffaceable memory.
The Jefferson Davis Home Memorial is pledged to perpetuate these cherished memories, and to aid the Sons of Veterans of Mississippi. In the march of time the ranks of the Southern heroes are rapidly thinning, and very soon all will rest neath the shadow of the trees, where the majority of their comrades have long since pitched their silent tents, but as long as time will be, the memories of their gallant deeds and their perpetuation in history and marble, will be the work of the devoted women of the memorial associations.
With the death of Mr. Davis, while Southland yet mourned that her Chieftain was not, came the thought of preserving his home, beautiful Beauvoir, the home in which were spent the last days of his noble life, a life consecrated to his country and its cause; Beauvoir, bound to us by a thousand heart stirring memories, a shrine for worshippers of our beloved Cause, a Mecca for those who honored our great Chief, a haven sweet and restful for those who followed him through the bloody days of shot and shell; Beauvoir fragrant with the memory of the sweet young life spent there, the life of the fair "Daughter of the Confederacy", Winnie Davis; Beauvoir, made dear to us by the touch of that noble and unselfish wife, Varina Jefferson Davis, who shared with her distinguished husband those cheerless days of imprisonment, days of sorrow within the walls of Fortress Monroe.
After the bloody strife was ended and the cloud of war had cleared away, leaving to view naught but desolation in our once fair and beautiful Southland, President Davis, the great leader of an Aristocracy of Southerners, turned to the State of his love and adoption, disfranchised, his property confiscated, home less, to find a quiet restful place to give to the world a true history of "The Rise and Fall of the Confederacy."
While in Memphis where he had entered the life insurance business came an invitation from Mrs. Dorsey to visit " Beauvoir," her home.
This invitation was accepted and Mr. Davis, finding it an ideal place for his purpose, away from the noise and strife of the world, proposed to buy the place. His proposition was accepted and thus "Beauvoir," beautiful or Fair View, was destined to take its place in history.
Mr. Davis enjoyed this home, where his tender and loving wife lavished her every energy to make it a haven of rest for her husband; a home of true Southern hospitality for the concourse of visitors who daily frequented it for the privilege of grasping the hand of the man who was the vicarious sacrifice on the altar of his country.
After his death, which occurred at New Orleans, December 6, 1889, at the residence of his life long friend, Hon. Chas. E. Fenner, Mrs. Davis and Winnie, the dream of the South and the cherished love of every Confederate Veteran, lived there a lone and desolate life. Their protector was gone and with breaking hearts they realized that the separation from their beloved home must come. They could not live longer there alone. It was their dearest hope that this hallowed spot should be kept in memory of their illustrious dead, and that there might be a home for the homeless men who wore the gray.But how could this be accomplished? They could not, as they desired to do, give it to the State. "God works in a mysterious way his wonders to perform."
Shortly after Mrs. Davis and Miss Winnie had gone to New York to superintend the publication of Mrs. Davis; book, the life of her husband, the Beauvoir Historical and Improvement Association was inaugurated by Mrs. A. Kimbrough, of Greenwood, Mississippi. Soon after the storm of 1893, which wrought great destruction on the Mississippi coast, this good woman visited this historic home. Being deeply touched by the dilapidation and ravages of the storm, she wrote an article, calling attention to the condition of the place. She said: "I saw a sight to-day that filled my eyes with tears. It was the wreck of Beauvoir, where our Chieftain lived for years. I saw laid low the giant oak, the cedar and the pine, beneath whose shade he used to sit and dream away the time."
Mrs. Kimbrough and her co-workers, with the earnestness of purpose which characterizes Southern women, undertook to restore the old home as nearly as possible to its former condition. Their intention was to keep it as a home for Mrs. Davis and her beloved Winnie, the Daughter of the Confederacy. This Association was formed in Greenwood, Mississippi. The organization formed auxiliaries at other places, but the only one which continued its long and determined efforts was the one at Greenwood. Later on, finding that it was Mrs. Davis wish to have the place owned by some Confederate organization, they bent every effort to gratify her wish, and kept up their exertions in this direction until the Sons of Veterans undertook the purchase. With this, the Association changed its name to the "Beauvoir Home Memorial Association" and now continues its efforts to assist the Sons. This movement to preserve Beauvoir was inaugurated by Mrs. A. Kimbrough. Mrs. Kimbrough succeeded in enlisting the Sons of Veterans of Mississippi in the cause of the preservation of Beauvoir. The home of Jefferson Davis will become the "Confederate Soldiers Home" of Mississippi.
Beauvoir was Jefferson Davis' last home. It was designed and built between 1848-54 by James Brown, who resided there until his death. The beachfront property passed briefly through the hands of Frank Johnston in 1873 before being sold to Samuel and Sarah Anne Ellis Dorsey. The Dorseys moved to the home, which Sarah named Beauvoir ("beautiful view"), because of Samuel's failing health. He died two years after their arrival, in 1875.
Sarah Dorsey was not alone at Beauvoir for long, however. In December 1876 she encountered Davis, who was looking for a place along the Gulf Coast to settle and write his memoirs. She offered him the use of her library cottage, and he moved there the next month. He began dictating Rise and Fall to her in February 1877.
When Varina Davis returned to the States from London in the fall of 1877, she at first refused to live at Beauvoir, but she finally joined her husband there in July 1878.
Davis made arrangements to purchase the home in February 1879, but before the transaction was completed, Dorsey died, leaving Beauvoir to Davis in her will.
Beauvoir faces the Gulf of Mexico, and Davis enjoyed spending time on the beach during his later years, as did his grandchildren, who visited often before the Hayes family moved to Colorado.
After Davis' death in 1889, Varina remained at Beauvoir and there wrote Jefferson Davis, A Memoir. She and Winnie subsequently moved to New York City in 1891.
Davis actually left Beauvoir to Winnie in his will, but ownership reverted to Varina after Winnie's death in 1898. Five years later she sold the property to the Sons of Confederate Veterans for use as a Confederate soldiers' home.
The Papers of Jefferson Davis, Rice University
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