Zachary Taylor at Melrose
Contact: Jennifer Clemetson, 601-445-5347
Visitors to the Melrose mansion now have a chance to see a Natchez classic, a life-size, marble bust of Zachary Taylor completed in 1848 by Natchez sculptor Edwin Lyon, probably at the request of John Quitman of Monmouth, who once owned the statue.In 1846, Quitman had commanded a brigade under Taylor during the Mexican War before being promoted to Major General and then Military Governor of occupied Mexico City.
Nicknamed "Old Rough and Ready," Zachary Taylor had a forty-year military career.In addition to being a Mexican War hero, he became the 12th President of the United States in 1849.Taylor owned a plantation in Jefferson County, Mississippi and was the last president to utilize enslaved labor.In 1835, Taylor's daughter, Sarah Knox, had married Lieutenant Jefferson Davis who later became Taylor's second in command in Mexico. Unfortunately Davis and his new bride both contracted malaria, and she died three months later.
John McMurran of Melrose and John Quitman of Monmouth were close friends and business partners, and McMurran had commissioned an oil painting of Zachary Taylor for his library at Melrose. However, the painting left Melrose after the death of Mrs. Ethel Kelly in 1975.In the absence of the painted portrait of Taylor, the marble statue now sits in John McMurran's library.
The bust of Taylor remained at Monmouth until Quitman's granddaughters gave it to the City of Natchez in 1911.It sat in City Hall for many years, then moved to the city-owned Auburn Antebellum Home, and most recently was displayed back at Monmouth.Last week the bust was placed on loan by the City to the National Park Service for display at Melrose.
The sculptor, Edwin Lyon, trained at the Liverpool Academy in England and worked in Dublin Ireland before coming to the United States.He arrived in Natchez in 1840 and opened a studio where he created busts, mantelpieces, table-top statues, and more.
Natchez National Historical Park Superintendent, Kathleen Jenkins, commented, "This is a magnificent piece of artwork by one of Mississippi's most renowned sculptors.It is truly a Natchez treasure."Visitors to the Natchez City Cemetery can find tombstones sculpted by Lyon, and the Zachary Taylor bust is featured in Patti Carr Black's celebrated volume, Art in Mississippi.
Visitors touring Melrose may see the bust on its marble pedestal in the library on the first floor of the mansion. Tour's of Melrose are offered throughout the day for $10.00 per adult and $5.00 for students and those 62 and over. Please contact 601-446-5790 for more information.
Did You Know?
During the antebellum period, Natchez Mississippi was the home of over two hundred and fifty free blacks. The largest number of free blacks lived in New Orleans and numbered over two thousand.