In the 1770’s the Mississippi River was a bustling waterway. Laden with goods for sale, ships and flat river boats floated downstream from the north, stopping in towns like Natchez, Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Even then Natchez was the oldest port on the southern part of the river and an important point for commerce. The town had already existed for over 50 years but was just beginning to boom. There were no Antebellum mansions yet, or charming neighborhoods. Building was in the early stages. The boatmen would sell their cargo but be unable to sail back up stream, the invention of the steam boat wouldn’t happen for another few years. So they would do what any good businessman would do. Tear apart the boat and sell the wood, which was in high demand because houses and buildings were being steadily built in this town along the river. Once everything was sold, they would set out on foot, or horseback if they were lucky, to make the 400 plus mile trek to Nashville, along the infamous Natchez Trace.
Some of the wood from these boats eventually came to be part of what we know as King’s Tavern. The oldest structure still standing in Natchez.
The exact date of the buildings’ completion is not certain but we do know that it was purchased by Richard King in 1789, who operated it as an inn, tavern, and mail stop, as well as his home. He was very successful, offering rest for the night, drinks, meals and a place to get your mail.
He and his wife became popular and well respected residents of Natchez and business was thriving. So much, in fact, that Richard brought in some help. Madeline was a young girl hired to assist with serving drinks and food. Unfortunately for her, Richard found her irresistible and seduced her. The love affair didn’t last long, and neither did Madeline, as she disappeared and was never seen again….or was she?
In 1817 Richard King sold The Kings Tavern. With the invention of the steamboat, men were able travel down river, sell their goods and then go back up the river again with no need to walk or ride back along the dangerous Natchez Trace. Men had no need to spend the night in Natchez and this had severely cut into Richard King’s thriving business.
A family purchased the building as a home and lived in it for over 150 years. During that time renovations needed to be made to the house. The fireplaces were in disrepair and needed to be expanded. In the mid 1930’s workers were brought in to do the necessary work. Work began, only to be abruptly halted when they discovered the skeletal remains of three bodies in the fireplaces. One woman and two men. Was it Madeline and the men hired to kill her perhaps? We’re the men killed to silence them? Did Mrs. King have her husband’s mistress murdered and then hide her body in her own home? Theories abound, but we will never know the truth.
Today, Kings Tavern is once again a thriving bar and restaurant offering delicious lunch and dinner, including their popular braised brisket flatbread with horseradish cream. The other flatbreads are delightful as well. Be sure to save room for dessert. They make their own ice cream. Open only Wednesday through Sunday, they also make their own Rum in the distillery next door, offering it in the numerous unique cocktails listed on the menu. Want to learn how to make the drinks yourself? Sign up for one of their mixology classes. The Rum and other local items are available for sale in the gift shop upstairs.
The wary diner should be careful though. One never knows when Madeline, or one of the other resident ghosts may decide to pay a visit. Patrons and employees of this establishment are sure she’s still there. After all, Kings’ Tavern does offer “spirits of all kinds”.
Plan your stay and book your getaway to our Natchez bed and breakfast today!