The Pilgrimage: History of Holly Springs, Mississippi
The Holly Springs Pilgrimage is an event that I grew up hearing about here in north Mississippi. It’s a tour through the historic homes and buildings of Holly Springs, Mississippi, all built around the mid-1800s before the Civil War.
We would drive through Holly Springs every Sunday on our way to my grandparents’ house when I was a kid, and it actually is Mark’s hometown! So, it’s never been a secret to us that the town is absolutely full of antebellum homes and rich with history.
This year, the 79th year of the annual Pilgrimage, my mom took the initiative and bought tickets. It’s one of those things that we always said we wanted to do, but then we’d miss it and say, “oh, we’ll go next year!” If you have any tourist attractions or events in your hometown, then I know you know exactly what I’m talking about. Crazy how that happens, huh?
Mark said he can remember the Pilgrimage being a huge, huge deal when he was a kid. Everyone would dress up in their Sunday best, replica war uniforms, or hoop skirts and parade through town. Horses and buggies would trot through the streets and historic homes from all over town opened their doors for guided tours.
This year, only four homes were opened, along with three churches, three museums, and a couple other historic buildings. Needless to say, we did not feel overwhelmed by the choices.
Starting our day off at the library, also headquarters of the Pilgrimage, we picked up some maps and brochures and began our walk around town.
Yellow Fever House
First stop was the Yellow Fever House. It was at this house of W.L. Holland, who cared for those infected during the Yellow Fever Epidemic in 1878. The current owner told us that the first person to die from the fever in Holly Springs passed away in this house, and that they tried to keep the fact that the fever had reached Holly Springs a secret to prevent panic.
First Presbyterian Church (1860)
Across the street, we toured the gorgeous Presbyterian Church. It is the first church I’ve ever seen with the sanctuary on the second floor. Stained glass adorns all of the large windows, and the music from the massive organ vibrated the floor as we wandered through the pulpit.
During the Civil War, the Union soldiers used the first floor of the church as a horse stable. We were told that the church was actually built by slaves.
My sister, Kayla, even got to ring the church bell!
See Related: Spooky Mississippi: The Ghost Town of Rodney
Crump Place (1837)
Leaving the church, we walked about a block to Crump Place. It was built in 1837 and is famous in the area for being the childhood home of a former mayor of Memphis, Tennessee, Edward H. Crump. It was here that we realized these homes are so much bigger than they seem from the street view!
Because Crump Place has had two additions and is a residence, we could see how the original construction had been restored to keep its integrity while being matched with a very modern kitchen. Original wall beams are exposed, but are now a bar area. I was very impressed with the use of the space.
Back in the car, we drove across town, past one of the most recognized homes in Holly Springs known as Walter Place. If you’ve ever driven through, you may have seen this house that absolutely looks like a castle. But, it wasn’t open for tours. Why? It’s for sale. Know anyone wanting an incredible antebellum home?
Next door to Walter Place, we toured a home called Cuffawa, which means “place of abundance.” It was built in 1832 and just so happens to be the family home of one of Mark’s former schoolmates! Of course you always run into someone you know in your hometown, right?
The antiques in this home are gorgeous, and I have to admit that I found myself shopping for paint colors in various rooms.
Cuffawa was originally a log cabin, which has been preserved inside the added walls and rooms of the house.
Our next stop was Hilltop, aptly named since the home sits at the top of a hill. My mom also grew up in this area, with Holly Springs being their teenage hangout, so she shared with us that they used to jump this hill in their cars. You see why parents always worry about their kids? Because they did crazier stuff back in the day.
Hilltop was built on the location of the first Holly Springs settlement, literally right next to the holly trees and springs that gave the town its name. Doesn’t get much more historic than that, huh?
This home was filled with some amazing antiques, from an antique American flag on the wall to the most intricate desk with multiple hidden compartments. I definitely got the itch to hit some antique stores and estate sales.
Ida B. Wells-Barnett Museum (1858)
Nearby, and looking almost identical to Hilltop, is the Ida B. Wells-Barnett Museum. Ida B. Wells-Barnett, famed journalist and Civil Rights activist, was actually born here on this property in 1862. Her parents were the slaves of Spires Bolling, who built both his home and Hilltop, hence the similarities.
Ida lost her parents in the aforementioned Yellow Fever Epidemic in 1878. Now, this property is the home of the Ida B. Wells-Barnett Museum, which not only tells her life story and the story of Civil Rights, but is also home to both African and African-American art.
See Related: The Mississippi Hills Heritage and Cultural Center: 5 Reasons to Visit Local Museums, Cultural Centers, and Tourist Sites
After grabbing some lunch, we continued on to what is the most well-known home in Holly Springs, Montrose. One of my cousins got married at this estate when I was young, and I can remember being so extremely excited to get dressed up and be a part of the wedding. I felt like a princess in this huge home with columns and a spiral staircase! More recently, my mom’s side of the family got together for family photos here.
This time, we’d get to hear about the house, its history and about its contents, and we weren’t at all surprised when some of our young tour guides turned out to be cousins as well!
Loved seeing these girls, 3rd or 4th cousins of ours, in these precious dresses and hoop skirts! All of the guides did an amazing job and were so professional.
The Holly Springs Garden Club now owns Montrose, and it is available for weddings and other events.
The Depot (1850’s, 1886, 1940’s)
From Montrose, we drove towards the railroad tracks to one of my favorite spots in Holly Springs. The Depot is the name of the building that we were able to enter next. I never thought I’d see the inside of this place. I have taken family photos and senior photos outside, and we’d always peek in the windows. The ceiling had fallen in, and it was just full of rubble. Now, the building is being remodeled as an event venue.
Just outside are train tracks, so I always thought this was just a train station that survived the Civil War. As it turns out, it was also a hotel and restaurant, often frequented by author William Faulkner, who lived in nearby Oxford, Mississippi.
Across the street is Phillip’s Grocery, famous hamburger restaurant, housed in an old saloon/brothel. Just a short walk down the train tracks is the little house that my father-in-law was born in!
Marshall County Historical Museum
Our last stop was at the Marshall County Historical Museum, full of Victorian toys, clothing, war uniforms and other memorabilia, Native American artifacts, fossils from the area, and the sassiest stuffed bear we’ve ever seen.
The third floor is filled with the senior composite photos from former schools in the area, including my mom’s high school! We were so tickled that our mom was actually IN the museum! We found our aunt, Mark’s uncle, and a few other family friends. So fun! I was actually just really happy to see that these huge photos have homes since the schools are no more.
Overall, we had a great day spending time together and learning more about our home area. If you are a history buff or love old homes, I would definitely recommend getting tickets for the Pilgrimage next year (pretty sure it’s always in April, so check the websitethe website closer to time).
This year, we were able to tour all of these buildings for $25 (and the ticket was good for 3 days, though we only came out for one). This deal is great when you compare it to the prices of touring the homes in Natchez, Missississippi (which are beautiful and worth it!).
See Related: 30 Things To Do in Natchez, Mississippi
Obviously, this town has a lot of sentimental value to us, but we think outsiders will love it too!
I urge you not to take your local tourist attractions for granted. Luckily, we were able to visit the eccentric home known as Graceland Too, which just so happens to be one of those antebellum homes in Holly Springs, before the owner passed away.
The home of Elvis’ number one fan, that was stacked floor to ceiling with memorabilia and often painted crazy colors, is now closed and auctioned off. Fate unknown. While at the Pilgrimage, my mom and sister mentioned that they never got to see the inside of the home, yet we always lived about 20 miles away.
See Related: Graceland Too: The Legacy of Elvis’ Number One Fan
Have you ever been to the Holly Springs Pilgrimage or toured other antebellum homes? Let us know in the comments below!
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Jennifer is the founder of Just Chasing Rabbits travel blog. She lives in Mississippi with husband/travel companion, Mark, and three fur babies. After obtaining a BA degree in studio art and working in the field of photography for years, Jenni has combined her love of travel and photography to form this blog. Mark and Jenni share their experiences in hopes of inspiring others to have wonderful adventures and see the world.
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