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From The Archives Desk

The Archives Committee is interested in anecdotes, short stories, and recollections of people and events about St. Mary Parish and Catholicism in Natchez. Oral history of the parish complements the printed word.

You may be the only person who can recall and relate a specific event, tell about a personality, or reveal pertinent historical information. All submitted material is subject to review and editing by the committee for publication on the archives web site.

Please share your information with the archives committee. (Material can be sent or delivered to the church office.)

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The Visitors


The Archives Committee of Saint Mary Basilica hosted a special group of visitors on Saturday afternoon, April 1. Three sisters and 18 associates of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus (SHCJ) were on a pilgrimage to the sites where Mother Cornelia Connelly… Read more

View our past articles From The Archive Desk

Blessing the Gabriel Gireaudeau cover stone


On July 12, 2016, Father Leopold Keffler, O.F. M. Conv., blessed the grave stone of Gabriel Gireaudeau that was returned in June 2016 to it original location on the grounds of St. Mary Basilica. Several interested parishioners attended the blessing ceremony in the Bishop’s Prayer Garden… Read more

St. Mary's Orphan Asylum for Girls 1847 - 1966


Bishop John Joseph Chanche, S.S. arrived at Natchez on May 18, 1841. As spiritual father he knew provisions must be made to care for orphans. He arranged with Daughters of Charity of St Joseph to found an orphanage for girls in Natchez.

Sister Martha, Sister Philomena and Sister Scholastica arrived in Natchez by boat from Emmitsburg, Maryland, at 11:00 o'clock on the evening of January 28, 1847. They immediately received two girls on January 30, 1847 and the next day received a three-year-old girl… Read more

The Maria Alexandrina as photographed by Stephen Flowers

St. Mary Basilica, the mother church of Mississippi Catholicism is blessed with many beautiful treasures, the magnificent stained glass windows, carrara marble altars, beautiful statuary, frescos, plaques and much more. Parishioners and visitors alike have known the beauty of these treasures daily for years upon years. St. Mary Basilica possesses another beautiful treasure that is not visible to the casual eye, because it is located high above in the bell tower, seen by only a few individuals over the years. It is the magnificent Maria Alexandrina, the beautiful and ornate bell. View the photographs and read the history of the bell… Read more

Student Discovers Lithograph of Archbishop Elder

By J.E. Guercio
Archbishop William Henry Elder has returned to his beloved bishopric in Natchez, Mississippi. The lithograph was discovered by James Walters of Holy Angels Catholic Church in Sidney, Ohio.

James is in the eleventh grade of Riverside High School in DeGraff, and "is big into history", says his dad, Rod Walters. "He had been researching our own church history when he spotted the lithograph of Elder sitting on the floor of an antique shop covered with dirt daubers".

The young Walters recognized Archbishop Elder who founded his church of the Holy Angel. After discovering St. Mary Basilica Archives web site and the link to the Bishops of Natchez, James decided to donate the picture to St. Mary Basilica.

The lithograph (after repairs) will hang in the old baptistry of the basilica where the stature of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is displayed--a gift of Archbishop Elder in 1883.

The memory of Bishop Elder is precious to the diocese as a result of the hardships he and his clergy suffered during the Civil War. He served the diocese from 1857 to 1880, becoming Archbishop of Cincinnati, Ohio… Learn more about Bishop Elder

The Holy Water Fonts in St. Mary Basilica

By J.E. Guercio
After one hundred and fifty years the memory and significance of the two beautiful holy water founts on the left and right entrance, have been lost in time along with a name on the memorials above them.

Let’s examine these artifacts, as they came into being in the early stages of the neo-gothic cathedral. (The term used for the fonts in the 19th century was “vases”.) What appears to be a set--one meant to relate to the other--is actually two different items… Read more

Alfred Bernard White January 27, 1905 — April 13, 1923

Contributed by Michael Murphy
Alfred Bernard White was the adopted son of Clay and Julia White, who co-owned White's Café at 431 Main Street in Natchez. A popular and athletic young man, Bernard was a favorite among classmates at Catholic High School. On April 13, 1923, the Catholic High baseball team ferried across the Mississippi river and defeated the Vidalia High School team in a game between the two rivals. On the return trip, Bernard bet a classmate $1.00 that he (Bernard) could jump off the front of the ferry and grab the back of the ferry… Read more

St. Mary Basilica Archives Honored

The Historic Natchez Foundation honored the Archives Committee of St. Mary Basilica with the Mary Postlethwaite History Award at the annual meeting on December 9, 2010. Mimi Miller, executive director of the Foundation, recognized the committee for the preservation of archival materials and the… Read more

D’Evereux Hall, Natchez, Mississippi

Brother Xavier Werneth, S.C.
In August of 1854, Bishop Jacques Van de Velde, SJ, of Natchez, Mississippi, visited Bay St. Louis where he met several Brothers of the Sacred Heart and Father Stanislaus Buteux, the pastor at Our Lady of the Gulf.

The bishop was so impressed by the brothers that he wrote in French to Brother Polycarp Gondre, superior general of the brothers in LePuy, France, asking for three brothers right away to teach in Natchez and some later for Vicksburg. "I prefer your brothers to all others," he insisted.

Bishop Van de Velde died the following year, and it was not until eleven years later, on November 1, 1865, that three Brothers of the Sacred Heart went to Natchez to conduct the Cathedral School… Read more

A Brief Biography

By Brother Xavier Werneth, SC
Louis Stanislaus Marie Buteux was born in Paris, July 2, 1808, into a well established Catholic family. The Buteux family of France had given a martyr to the Church in the 17th century. Father Jacques Buteux, a Jesuit missionary priest working among the Attikamegues Indians in Canada, was put to death by the hostile Iroquois on May 10, 1652. Inspired to become a priest, young Stanislaus entered the Seminary of St. Sulpice in Paris where he proved himself to be a brilliant student. With the Sulpicians, Stanislaus received a solid theological education and pastoral training with a strong emphasis on spiritual formation… Read more

St. Thérèse Chapel (Donated by A. W. Berdon 1936)

By J. E. Guercio
This dedication is on a small bronze plaque that has recently been reinstalled in St. Thérèse Hall. When you enter the hall look on the left wall. Thank you Walter Maier for returning this memorial to a place of honor. In this brief historical article we give thanks to all our benefactors that have supported the Catholic Church in Natchez. Thank you Anne Berdon-Allmand and Bernice Berdon in keeping our church history alive. Mrs. Peter (Thérèse) Burns shares a beautiful story… Read more

St. Mary Chapel, Laurel Hill Plantation

The following information is a quotation from The Unhurried Years, which explains the history of St. Mary Episcopal Chapel and Laurel Hill Plantation.

"I do not know who designed the building , but the builder of the Chapel was a competent, and very eccentric, carpenter and contractor, old Mr. Hardy of Natchez. It is a brick building, stucco covered, about fifty by twenty-five feet, with a Gothic spire capped with an iron cross. The window frames and all the woodwork are beautifully made and the tall, pointed windows filled with glass of excellent quality, the one at the back over the chancel being an oriel window about four feet in diameter, of lovely stained glass… Read more

The Immaculate Conception of the Virgin

By J.E. Guercio
What's in a name? Plenty, when it concerns the dogma of the Catholic Church.

Recent research of the large painting of Mary in the Rectory parlor has revealed that the name Assumption of the Virgin after the 17th century Spanish artist Murillo is actually The Immaculate Conception of the Virgin. There are over twenty known versions of The Immaculate Conception by Murillo and his studio. Ten of these are easily found on the internet in museum collections. Of these ten, one is the source of the copy in the Rectory parlor. The original The Immaculate Conception is presently in The National Gallery of London, England… Read more

History of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church

By Donnie Verucchi
An Italian from Vicksburg, a man named Tirelli, who worked for the large plantation owners as an agent, conceived the idea of introducing Italian peasant farmers to the nearby sections of Louisiana and Mississippi. He was known to be ruthless… Read More


By Joseph N. Latino, Bishop of Jackson
I would like to thank the St. Mary Basilica Archives Committee for inviting me to share some thoughts on their web site. I have always been very interested in history. The events that have shaped civilization… Read More

St. Mary’s Archives: A Personal Recollection

By Charles E. Nolan
My first visit to the St. Mary’s in Natchez was in early October of 1975. As part of the Archdiocese of New Orleans’ gift to the nation in honor of the upcoming U.S. Bicentennial, I was commissioned to prepare and publish “an inventory of the oldest Catholic documents in the province.” At the time, Alabama and Mississippi… Read More

Chevalier Joseph Nicolas Nicollet and the Reverend Pierce Connelly in Natchez

By Jeanne Marie Guerin, SHCJ
Two brilliant men encountered each other in Natchez, Mississippi, in the early 1830s. Most likely they met at a social gathering in the home of Major Henry Chotard, a successful planter who owned the lovely Somerset house. Major and Mrs. Chotard and their three daughters… Read More

Gilbert's Place: 1818-2009, Jefferson County, Mississippi

By: Sister Virginia Delaney, D.C.
God certainly knows where Gilbert’s Place is because He sent some special people there to live and many that came to minister to the people. The home, which was completely built with logs and no nails, was constructed… Read more

Accomplishments, Donations and Discoveries

By J. E. Guercio
St. Mary Basilica Archives Committee was founded on 24 October 2005. It evolved out of the Religious Education Committee. We meet every Tuesday morning after Mass… Read More

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Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton - Canonized September 14, 1975 - Stained glass panel above the sacristy door - In Memory of Mary Agnes Burns Frye

Lithograph on stone - St. Mary Cathedral