The Project Gutenberg eBook of Beauvoir: Jefferson Davis Shrine

This ebook is for the use of anyone anywhere in the United States and most other parts of the world at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this ebook or online at If you are not located in the United States, you will have to check the laws of the country where you are located before using this eBook.

Title: Beauvoir: Jefferson Davis Shrine

Creator: United Daughters of the Confederacy. Mississippi Division

Release date: December 6, 2019 [eBook #60856]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Stephen Hutcheson and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team at


Beauvoir: Jefferson Davis Shrine





Mr. and Mrs. Jefferson Davis


Jefferson Davis Shrine

Beauvoir, freely translated “beautiful view,” is located on U. S. Highway 90 about halfway between Gulfport and Biloxi on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. It was originally part of a tract of land that James Brown, a prosperous planter of Madison County, Mississippi bought September 2, 1848, by Contract and Agreement from John Henderson of Pass Christian, with the right to build a family residence on it before the title was cleared. Acting upon this legal agreement, Brown paid Henderson $900.00 in cash toward the purchase price of $2,000.00, and gave him a note for the additional $1,100.00, which was to be paid on receipt of a deed proving his title to the land had been cleared.

Although the residence and outlying buildings were completed by 1852, James Brown did not obtain a deed to the property until July 16, 1855, when he bid it in for $3,000.00 at a Harrison County Court Auction. To this tract of land he had added, in the meantime, a small piece bought from the Tegardens for $250.00.

James Brown was said to have been his own architect and building superintendent for both the Mansion and the cottages he built on his new home site. He brought slaves from his plantation in Madison County to do much of the building; but, for the higher grade of work needed, he employed carpenters and decorators from New Orleans. The cypress used was from the Back Bay swamp section, with most of the timber cut at Handsboro and on the place. The slate for the roof was imported from England. The buildings thus planned and constructed were the Mansion, a Louisiana plantation type house known as Beauvoir House since the time of its occupancy by the Davis family, one cottage to the east of this main building and one to the west. A four room cottage in the rear, which was on the property when purchased, was used by the owner and his family while 4 the other buildings were being constructed, and later became the kitchen and servants’ quarters for the families of both James Brown and Jefferson Davis.

Information from Mrs. Hobart D. (Olive Brown) Shaw of Gulfport, Mississippi, granddaughter of James Brown and the daughter of Joseph W. Brown who was born in this, the family home on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, explains the practical use her grandfather made of the two cottages on the grounds, formerly identical in structure—the one on the east, the plantation office, used also as a school room for the younger children who were taught by a governess; the one on the west, the Guest Cottage, often called the Circuit Rider’s House from the frequent use made of it by the traveling Methodist minister in that section.

From September 2, 1848 until May 1873, James Brown was the owner of the Mansion and its surrounding eighty-eight acres more or less, either by Contract and Agreement or by a deed. In May of 1873, after the death of James Brown, it was sold under a decree of the United States Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, and was conveyed by deed of special commissioners to Frank Johnston of Jackson, Mississippi. Through a special warranty deed given by Frank Johnston July 7, 1873, Beauvoir became the property of Mrs. Sarah A. Dorsey, wife of Samuel W. Dorsey.

When Mrs. Sarah A. Dorsey (Sarah Ellis Dorsey) of Tensas Parish, Louisiana bought the Brown property, she gave it its picturesque name, “Beauvoir”. Her ownership of this beautiful coast property was brief, ending Feb. 19, 1879; but her use of it, for the most part, during the years she did own it and her final disposition of it by both will and deed caused Beauvoir to become historic Beauvoir, and made her worthy of outstanding recognition for the splendid contribution she thus made to the welfare of Jefferson Davis.

It was the spring of 1877 that Jefferson Davis, then 69 years old, came back to his beloved Mississippi, seeking rest 5 and a place to write an authentic account of the Confederate government that he had administered for four years as the President of the Confederate States of America. It was fortunate for him that just at that time Mrs. Dorsey, an old schoolmate of Mrs. Davis and one deeply appreciative of his great service to the South, invited him for a visit to Beauvoir; for there he found the place and the congenial atmosphere ideal for the rest he so badly needed and for the work he had in mind. He rented the east cottage, now called the Library Cottage, and fitted the front room with book shelves and furniture at his own expense. He used the second room for his bedroom and prepared the third for his son, Jefferson Davis, Jr. His son made little use of this room, however, occupying it only a few months in 1877, since he died of yellow fever soon afterwards in Memphis. It was later used as a study by Varina Anne (Winnie), youngest child of Mr. and Mrs. Davis.

Memorial Arch—Entrance to Beauvoir

After arrangements were made for board for himself and family, when they could be with him, Davis began work 6 on the history of the Confederate government, which he felt impelled to write. Mrs. Dorsey’s recognition of the value of such a book to the South caused her to donate her services for the clerical help Davis had in writing a part of the first volume of this great two volume history. By this time (April 1878) Mrs. Davis had returned from abroad, leaving Winnie to continue her studies in Carlsruhe, Germany. From the time of her arrival at Beauvoir, Mrs. Davis gave her services lovingly and untiringly as her husband’s secretary, until he finally completed the two volumes, composing “The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government”, and wrote also a “Short History of the Confederate States”.

When Jefferson Davis came to Beauvoir he was, as has been said, “A citizen of no land under the sun, proscribed, misrepresented, and derided”; yet he kept his heart free from bitterness and used the higher mental powers that were still his in his old age, in writing his invaluable elucidation of the government of the Confederate States of America from 1861 to 1865.

Twelve years Jefferson Davis lived at Beauvoir. It was in his second year of residence there, Feb. 19, 1879, that he contracted with Mrs. Dorsey, widow of Samuel Dorsey, to buy for $5,500.00 the Beauvoir property, that she had owned for approximately six years. This deed of sale is found in Book 16, Harrison County, Mississippi Record of Deeds, pages 328-329. But, less than six months after the first payment was made for the purchase of this property, Mrs. Dorsey died leaving a will dated the previous year, January 4, 1878, which made Jefferson Davis heir to all she died possessed of—Beauvoir and five plantations. But regardless of his inheritance of Beauvoir through the terms of Mrs. Dorsey’s will, Davis based his claim to Beauvoir on the deed, recording his purchase of it February 19, 1879. One explanation found for this claim is that the notes still due on the purchase price of Beauvoir were paid in liquidating the debts against Mrs. Dorsey’s estate.


Among the Harrison County court records is a Contract and Agreement entered into by the two parties, Mrs. Sarah A. Dorsey and Jefferson Davis, signed March 20, 1879, which provided for their joint interest in the Beauvoir vineyard and orange grove during their natural lives—same to be cultivated and gathered on joint account.

The following clause of Mrs. Dorsey’s will expresses her great admiration and reverence for the ex-President of the Confederate States of America: “If Davis should not survive me, I give all that I have bequeathed to him to his youngest daughter Varina. I do not intend to share in the ingratitude of my country toward the man who is in my eyes the highest and noblest in existence”.

This last will and testament of Mrs. Sarah Anne Dorsey was probated July 15, 1879 in the office of the Second District Court for the Parish of Orleans, the home State of the testatrix. It is interesting to note that there was no record made of this will in the office of the Chancery Clerk of Harrison County, Mississippi, until Judge A. McC. Kimbrough, acting for Mrs. Davis in the sale of Beauvoir in 1902, had the Louisiana records of the probation of the Dorsey will made a part of Harrison County records of wills.

Due, no doubt, to the provision in Mrs. Dorsey’s will for his youngest daughter’s inheritance of Beauvoir if he (Davis) did not survive her, Jefferson Davis willed this particular piece of property to his daughter Varina Anne (Winnie). However, there is no question as to its being in accord with his own heart’s desire to have Beauvoir pass to Winnie who as a child had been, as he said, “His only gleam of light in that long night” while imprisoned at Fortress Monroe; and who as a young lady had been, as Mrs. Davis said, “The harp of their lonely hearts”.

Winnie’s ownership of Beauvoir was from her father’s death, Dec. 6, 1889 until her death, Sept. 18, 1898, when it then through her will became the property of her mother. 8 During the years that Winnie owned Beauvoir, both she and her mother spent much of their time in New York, where she used her talent as an artist and writer, and her mother, hers as a writer, as an added source of income. The years they spent in the North were made more interesting and enjoyable through their acquaintance and, in some cases, friendships with certain men and women of like culture and talents from that section.

When about to leave on a trip to Egypt, Feb. 11, 1898, Winnie wrote her will naming her mother as heir to Beauvoir. This will was recorded in Louisiana, Oct. 27, 1898, but was not put on record in Mississippi until April 20, 1902.

When Mrs. Davis became the owner of Beauvoir, her failing health and her lack of sufficient income for the upkeep of the property, and her own needs as well, made it necessary that she sell this property, which she and Winnie had always valued more for their treasured memories associated with it than for its material worth. Proof of the depth of feeling Mrs. Davis had for Beauvoir as the last and greatly loved home of her beloved husband, the only President of the Confederate States of America, is found in her refusal of the offer of $90,000.00 from those planning to purchase it for hotel purposes, and her acceptance of $10,000.00 from the Mississippi Division Sons of Confederate Veterans, whose plans for its use were in accord with the provisions upon which she conditioned the sale.

Regardless of how the plan originated for the conversion of Beauvoir into a home for Confederate veterans, and their wives and widows, great credit is due Mrs. A. McC. Kimbrough for leaving no stone unturned in her efforts to induce the Mississippi Division Sons of Confederate Veterans to make the offer that Mrs. Davis so readily accepted. However, other UDC members throughout the state had a part also in influencing the purchase of Beauvoir for a Confederate Soldiers home and in helping raise the money for the purchase.


Reception Hall—Extends the Length of the House

The Mississippi Division Sons of Confederate Veterans took title to Beauvoir on October 10, 1902, and in so doing accepted the obligation to carry out the conditions imposed by Mrs. Davis, the most important of which were the requirements that Beauvoir be used as a Jefferson Davis Soldiers’ Home for ex-Confederate soldiers and sailors, their wives and widows, orphans and slaves, as long as there was need for such a home; and that Beauvoir House be set apart as a memorial solely to Jefferson Davis and his family and be maintained as it was during its occupancy by them.

As soon as the Mississippi Division Sons of Confederate Veterans purchased Beauvoir, their organization together with the Daughters of the Confederacy influenced the passage by the Mississippi Legislature of Bill 179—Chapter 25 of the Laws of Mississippi of 1904, which accepted for the State temporary control of the entire Beauvoir property, and obligated the support and maintenance of it as a Jefferson Davis Soldiers’ Home for Confederate veterans, their wives and 10 widows, without accepting Mrs. Davis’ provision for the care also of orphans and slaves.

From 1904 to July 1940 the State continued its control of Beauvoir in accordance with the provisions set forth in the Legislative Act passed. But during the months that intervened between the purchase of Beauvoir by the Mississippi Division Sons of Confederate Veterans and the State’s acceptance of control of it as a Jefferson Davis Soldiers’ Home, the Mississippi Division United Daughters of the Confederacy was granted permission to take over the property, furnish and manage it as a Jefferson Davis Soldiers’ Home for those ex-Confederate soldiers, sailors, and their wives and widows in need of immediate care. Mississippi Division records show that $3,000.00 was expended by the organization for this purpose, in addition to the necessary furniture and linens donated for the most part by the Daughters on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

In 1903 there was a great need for the Jefferson Davis Soldiers’ Home for Confederate veterans, their wives and widows. In 1940 that need had so lessened that the Mississippi Division Sons of Confederate Veterans had a bill passed by the Legislature, authorizing the conversion of Beauvoir into a Jefferson Davis Shrine, but setting aside the southeast grounds of the property for use by the State in its continuation of the maintenance of the Jefferson Davis Soldiers’ Home, as long as there was need for such an institution.

According to the decision of the State of Mississippi, the need for this Confederate Soldiers’ Home ended June 30, 1956; so the State returned these southeast grounds to the Mississippi Division Sons of Confederate Veterans, and it became thereafter a part of the Jefferson Davis Shrine.

The act of the Mississippi Legislature authorizing the conversion of Beauvoir into a Jefferson Davis Shrine, provided for the management of the Shrine by a Board of Trustees composed of six members—two from the Mississippi Division 11 Sons of Confederate Veterans, two from the Mississippi Division United Daughters of the Confederacy, and two appointed by the Governor of the State.

In July 1940 the first Board of Trustees of the Jefferson Davis Shrine began the work of converting Beauvoir into a shrine. In six months time, February 8, 1941, the restoration program had progressed so rapidly the doors were open to visitors. Five months later, June 3, 1941, the restoration plans were completed; and Beauvoir was formally dedicated as the Jefferson Davis Shrine.

To accomplish so much so soon and so successfully took the whole hearted backing of the members of this first Board of Trustees and the splendid cooperation given by others from whom information and assistance were sought. But it must never be forgotten that the real credit for planning and carrying to completion the program for the restoration of Beauvoir is due the late Dr. W. A. Evans of Aberdeen, Mississippi, who was the first Chairman of the Board of Trustees and Resident Director of the actual work done.

A leading part in both the initial and the follow-up work necessary to bring about this conversion of Beauvoir into a Jefferson Davis Shrine was taken by Mr. W. K. Herrin, at that time Commander of the Mississippi Division Sons of Confederate Veterans and Mrs. J. P. Pentecost, at the same time President of Mississippi Division United Daughters of the Confederacy. Honorable Maxwell Bramlett, State Senator from Wilkinson County, was in charge of the bill which authorized the establishment of the Shrine. He also worked untiringly with the other Sons for the passage of the Bill, appropriating $20,000.00 for the restoration of Beauvoir as a Jefferson Davis Shrine.

Through a per capita assessment, the general organization of the United Daughters of the Confederacy contributed $5,482.66 toward the restoration. However, the Mississippi Division accepted a much larger per capita assessment, and 12 by raising the $55,000.00 thus obligated, paid heartfelt tribute to Mississippi’s greatest citizen, the embodiment of Confederate ideals—the first and only President of the Confederate States of America.

Around 1954 the Mississippi Division Sons of Confederate Veterans changed the management of Beauvoir by placing Beauvoir property under the over-all control of their Board of Directors, and the Shrine proper under a Board of Trustees, appointed by and from their organization except one member chosen by them from the Mississippi Division United Daughters of the Confederacy.


The granite boulder on the Jefferson Davis Highway, marking the last home of Jefferson Davis, was erected in June 1929. It was obtained through the efforts of Mrs. A. McC. Kimbrough and the generosity of T. A. McGahey of the Columbus Marble Works.

The marble Jefferson Davis Memorial Highway marker on Highway 90 was erected in 1944 by the Mississippi Highway Department. It was dedicated June 3, 1945.

The marker in front of Beauvoir House on Highway 90 was dedicated by the Mississippi Historical Marker Commission on November 7, 1953.


The imposing marble Memorial Arch, serving as a gateway for the main entrance to Beauvoir, was erected in 1917 by the Mississippi Division United Daughters of the Confederacy.


Some of the attractive features of the approach to Beauvoir House are the huge live oak trees, festooned with gray moss; the few remaining ancient cedars, marking the dim outline of the once circular driveway; the flowers and shrubs, planted to simulate the use made of them in the old days; the broad brick walk, replacing the old shell walk, leading direct to the fan shaped steps of hand dressed cypress with hand turned spindle bannisters; the inviting broad galleries, extending far around on either side of the house; and the large double doors, with the upper portion small panes of choice etched glass, serving as an artistic entrance doorway.


Front Parlor

Winnie Davis’ Rosewood Knabe Piano in Front Parlor




The spacious reception hall that extends the length of the main part of Beauvoir House immediately claims attention by its now seldom seen rounded corners, unusually high ceiling, and beautifully frescoed walls and ceiling done by the German artist Meuhler, later retouched by a talented decorator. But there is great interest also in the furnishings, almost all of which were used by Jefferson Davis and his family during their occupancy of Beauvoir, and either kept there or returned later.

The original pieces found here are the two hall seats, octagon in form, built under the supervision of Mrs. Davis; the large sideboard, unusual in design, placed here for use when the guests were too many to be served in the regular dining room; the silver tray on the sideboard, and the painting above it, La Bella de Tiziano from a collection of Baroness Alphonse de Rothschild of Paris; the much admired pier mirror and console table of rosewood, purchased in Paris by Mrs. Davis in 1870; the large square table with its fine marble top, said to have been used by Jefferson Davis while in the first White House of the Confederacy; and the handsome mahogany secretary at the far end of the room. Also of interest in this inviting hall is the painting of Joseph Davis, favorite brother of Jefferson Davis, sent the Shrine by his great-niece from New York.



The Front Parlor used by the Davis family as their parlor has, as has the back parlor or library, the same rounded corners, high ceiling, and frescoed walls and ceiling found in the reception hall. It is furnished almost entirely with original pieces; but the fine portrait of Jefferson Davis made after his 81st birthday is not one of these. It was painted by G. B. Matthews and presented to the Shrine by Mrs. Darling of New York. At the left of the door is a portrait of Mr. Davis’ mother.

The original pieces are the rosewood Knabe piano and the music book on it, loved possessions of Winnie Davis; the Davis Coat of Arms, painted by Winnie; the handsome center table, never moved from Beauvoir; the rosewood sofa and two armchairs and later the four matching little side chairs, returned by a great-granddaughter of Mr. and Mrs. Davis; and the small painting by the piano, done by Mrs. Davis of the hotel where she last lived—Hotel Gramatan, Lawrence Park, Bronxville, New York. It was given by a faithful servant of Mr. and Mrs. Davis to the UDC Chapter No. 858 of Chicago, and presented by the Chapter to the Shrine. The draperies, carpet, small pecan wood chair, and harp, are not Davis pieces.


The Library, used also for daily family gatherings by Mr. and Mrs. Davis, contains the following furnishings originally in use there and later returned to the Shrine by Davis descendants in Colorado; a pair of sofas (gentleman’s in leather and lady’s in fabric); marble bust of two year old Samuel Davis, first child of Mr. and Mrs. Davis; desk with double section of drawers and the large book on the desk, Winnie’s dictionary. Here also is the large Oriental rug just recently returned to Beauvoir House. Other interesting pieces in the room are the cane seated chair, used by Jefferson Davis in the United States Senate Chamber, and the bookcases, with grilled doors of heavy wire, filling every inch of wall space. These bookcases, copies of ones Jefferson Davis saw in use in Washington, were built and installed under his supervision.


View of West or Hayes Cottage, Beauvoir House and East or Library Cottage

Bedroom of Jefferson Davis


East Cottage or Library Where Jefferson Davis Wrote “The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government”



The front room on the right of the reception hall was, according to Mrs. Davis’ will, the room of Miss Varina Anne (Winnie) Davis, “The Daughter of the Confederacy”. Her request was that this room and the other rooms of members of the family, who lived in Beauvoir House, be kept and preserved as a memorial to each occupant. In planning to refurnish this front room on the right as a memorial to Winnie Davis, it was found that only a few pieces of the original furnishings were left. It was then that the ever constant lover of Confederate ideals and the exponent of those ideals, the late Walter Lampton of Columbia, Mississippi and the Gulf Coast, supplied the money for certain members of the UDC to purchase the necessary period furniture which was to be as similar as possible to the suite of furniture formerly used by Winnie in this room. To this period furniture was added the following original pieces already there, or returned to the Shrine by members of the Davis family—the washstand, washstand set, two little cane seated chairs, little slipper chair and rocker, the table, flowers pressed by Winnie, framed and hung; the book, “An Irish Knight”, written by Varina Anne (Winnie) Davis and published in 1888, and one of her favorite books, “The Poetical Works of Sir Walter Scott”.

Topping in interest the other pieces in the room is the oil painting of Winnie hanging over the mantel. It was painted by the Swiss artist, Rupel, for Mrs. A. McC. Kimbrough who presented it to the Shrine to make sure that a true likeness of this favorite daughter of the South would be preserved. In this picture Winnie is shown in the crown jewels and robe she wore as Queen of Comus for the New Orleans Mardi Gras in 1892. She had served as a Maid of this Court in 1884 when Mildred Lee, the daughter of Robert E. Lee, was its Queen.



The second room on the right is a memorial to Margaret Davis Hayes. It contains the bedroom suite of burled walnut formerly used in this room. This furniture had been sent from Beauvoir after it was no longer the Davis home, and thirty-nine years later it was shipped back in the same crates with labels in Mrs. Davis’ handwriting still on them. The pillow cases on Margaret’s bed were among the linens used by Mrs. Davis, when newly wedded to Jefferson Davis. Grouped around the mantel in this room are pictures of the homes, important in the lives of both Mr. and Mrs. Davis—the one in the center, Mrs. Davis’ girlhood home, “The Briars”, in Natchez, where she and Jefferson Davis were married; the one on the right, “Rosemont”, at Woodville, Mississippi, Davis’ boyhood home; and the one on the left, “Beauvoir”, the last home of Mr. and Mrs. Jefferson Davis. The most important of the Hayes family photographs, making this room distinctive as a memorial to Margaret Davis Hayes, is the one of Margaret herself with her baby, Jefferson Addison Hayes, whose name was legally changed to Jefferson Hayes Davis to make it possible for the renowned name, “Jefferson Davis”, to be passed from son to son for years to come.


The rooms occupied by Jefferson Davis and Mrs. Davis, with a connecting door between, form an offset on the west side of the house to the left of the back parlor or family study. Jefferson Davis’ room faces the Gulf and has the advantage of being entered from the front or back without passing through any other room. The furnishings in this room, that were there when Jefferson Davis was an occupant of it, are the large rocking chair, the bed, the washstand and washstand set, towel rack, cigar stand, and the leather foot locker or small trunk used by him during the Mexican War and for trips abroad, when ex-President of the Confederate States of America. Hanging over the bed is a framed garland of flowers made from pieces of cloth, similar in color to the flowers copied to make this attractive but unusual piece. On the back of it is this explanation, written by Mrs. Davis—“Hearing Jefferson Davis was dying and lacked comforts in Fortress Monroe, the Southern women made this piece of work as a cushion cover and sent it to him among other things. 350 women took a few stitches on this gift sent in 1866”. The painting over the mantel is Mrs. Davis as she was in 1898. The photograph below on the left is Mrs. Davis as a young girl. On the right is one of Winnie as a child, and below it, one of Jefferson Davis, Jr., in costume.


Bedroom of Mrs. Jefferson Davis

Floor Plan of Residential Floor

1. Porch or Gallery
2. Reception Hall
3. Front Parlor
4. Winnie Davis Memorial Room
5. Back Parlor or Library
6. Margaret Davis Hayes Memorial Room
7. Rear Porch or Galley
8. Jefferson Davis’ Room
9. Mrs. Davis’ Room
10. Dining Room
11. Butler’s Pantry and Children’s Dining Room
12. Inside Stairway to Museum on Ground Floor

Varina Anne “Winnie” Davis Memorial Room

Margaret Davis Hayes Memorial Room



This room, opening into Jefferson Davis’ room, has the added attraction of having in it two of the five closets in Beauvoir House, as well as a north window overlooking Mrs. Davis’ rose garden. The original furnishings are the armoire, sewing machine, spool washstand table, washstand set, the candle stand or bedside table, and a treasured book, “Manual of Family Devotion”, presented to Mrs. Davis by Bishop C. T. Quintard (Bishop of Tennessee—1865-1898), and inscribed as follows: “To Mrs. Davis with God’s blessing from C. T. Quintard”. The sampler over the mantel was made by a granddaughter out of a black alpaca dress that belonged to Mrs. Davis. The wild turkey feather fan, displayed in a frame, was made for and used by Mrs. Davis. Two interesting pictures in the room are the picture of the Davis children made in 1865, and the one of Jefferson Davis, Jr., the last one made of him before he died.


The table, chairs, and large sideboard in the dining room are original Davis pieces, given to Judge and Mrs. A. McC. Kimbrough of Greenwood, Mississippi and the Gulf Coast, when Beauvoir was dismantled. They were kept intact by them as long as they lived, and by their family after their deaths. Later, responding to the need of these original pieces in making Beauvoir a Jefferson Davis Shrine, the Kimbrough 23 family loaned them for use in their original setting. The painting on the board, forming a part of the mantel in this small but attractive dining room, was done by Winnie Davis. Draperies and glass curtains are replacements.


These rooms have been restored to their original state. In the children’s dining room separated from the well arranged butler’s pantry by a partial partition are a round oak table and chairs in a size suitable for children. The willow ware seen on the shelves was used by the Davis family when they lived at Beauvoir. The original kitchen, used first by the Brown family then the Davis family, was burned about 1927. A covered walkway connected the old kitchen with Beauvoir House, where the back stairway led to the butler’s pantry for dining room service.


The front portion of the ground floor has been put to excellent use as a Davis Museum. Its theme is Jefferson Davis and His Family. On this same ground floor, just back of the museum, is a bricked-in room in which the meat was hung and the wines stored. To the left of this room is the dry well which served, to some extent, the purpose of a refrigerator.


The phaeton, used by Mrs. Davis on her visiting days, has been loaned by the Kimbrough heirs. Since Mrs. Davis was short in stature, it was necessary to have special steps put on the phaeton for her convenience.

The buggy that belonged to Jefferson Davis was purchased by Dr. A. D. Harmanson, and has been given to the Shrine by his daughters, Mrs. Pearl Harmanson Atkinson of Biloxi, Mississippi and Mrs. Lillie Harmanson Marsh of Dallas, Texas. Near the phaeton and the buggy is Winnie’s sidesaddle, used by her on many rides on her favorite saddle horse, Kitty.


The boat, Barbashela, is another interesting museum piece. Captain Boland Leathers, a friend of long standing of the Davis family, built this little boat for Winnie on the bow of his steamship, Natchez. He gave it its Choctaw Indian name, Barbashela, meaning “friend”. It also is on loan to the Shrine by the Kimbrough heirs.


During the occupancy of Beauvoir by Jefferson Davis and his family, this West Cottage was enlarged to serve as their Guest Cottage. But later, because so frequently used by the elder daughter, Margaret Davis Hayes and her family, it became known as the Hayes Cottage.

In the front room of this cottage is an attractive cottage bedroom suite that was formerly used by Winnie Davis. The Gulfport Chapter UDC No. 1068 obtained possession of it and presented it to Beauvoir in 1907.


This cottage, called the Pavilion by Mrs. Davis, was first used by Jefferson Davis as both his living quarters and his library. Later, when Mrs. Davis returned from Europe, he used it as a library and office in combination. It was here that he wrote “The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government”, and a “Short History of the Confederate States”. The office chair and desk were returned to Beauvoir by the Davis heirs. His original desk in the left hand front corner of the room and the desk in the center of the room were returned to Beauvoir by the White House of the Confederacy in Richmond, Virginia in 1956. The easel is the one Winnie used while painting either inside the cottage, on the porch, or on the grounds. The book shelves were built under the supervision of Mr. Davis. The valuable books now on these shelves are largely Davis family books. Many of them are autographed by members of the family. Added to this collection are Volumes I and II of the Memorial Edition of “The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government”, presented by the publishers, Garrett and Massie, for use in the cottage where the manuscript for the two volumes was written. It was in regard to Volume II of this great book, that President Davis’ friend, Judge C. E. Fenner, said, “The whole argument of secession is practically comprised in the fifteenth chapter of Part II of ‘The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government’”.


Dining Room

Back Parlor or Library


The picture of Franklin Pierce to the left of the period clock on the mantel was given by President Pierce to Jefferson Davis, his Secretary of War from 1853-57. The picture to the right is one of Senator Jesse Speight whose death in 1847 created the vacancy in the United States Senate which Jefferson Davis filled by appointment from the Governor of Mississippi.


To the east is the large building that was the hospital for the Confederate Veterans Home during the many years it served the Confederate veterans, and their wives and widows. Today this hospital structure is the entranceway for the home.

This building houses a collection of valued gifts which has grown up with the home. Many items of historic interest in this period of history, not directly connected with the Davis family, were moved to this museum.

Also in this building, an interesting Souvenir Shop is owned and operated by Mrs. Salome Brady.



A hallowed spot on the land, comprising the property of the Jefferson Davis Shrine, is the Beauvoir Confederate Cemetery where about 800 inmates of the Jefferson Davis Confederate Soldiers’ Home lie buried. The grave of Samuel Emory Davis, father of Jefferson Davis, is near the center, 27 the remains and marker having been moved from the Brierfield Plantation on the Mississippi River, south of Vicksburg, Mississippi.

On the way to this secluded but loved burial ground, visitors pass along the woodland pathway once used by Jefferson Davis in his frequent walks around the grounds of this home of his old age. Almost daily in these walks he would turn off, as the visitors might find it interesting to do, to the little spring that he loved to sit by for its quietude and surrounding natural beauty.

Somewhat as it was in Davis’ time, there are magnificent trees, some old and many young, bamboo, palmettos, ferns, wild flowers and other native plants which give the Beauvoir grounds today the special appeal they have to sightseeing guests. But of late years, along with this native growth, has been added an informal planting of azaleas, camellias, sasanquas, loquats and other flowering shrubs close by the winding lagoon that has replaced old Oyster Bayou. Further on toward Beauvoir House is a mass planting of camellias and shrubs, while on the opposite side is a pretty rose garden, significant because of its being in the same plot used by Mrs. Davis for her loved rose garden. It is this combination of native and cultivated spots of beauty that makes the rear of Jefferson Davis Shrine in keeping with the front of it, widely known for the architectural attraction of the buildings and the almost unadorned beauty of the surroundings.



1808, June 3—Born in Fairview, Kentucky; moved to Woodville, Mississippi when a small child.

1813-1823—First 10 years of his education: home town log-cabin school; St. Thomas’ Catholic College near Springfield, Kentucky, when only 7 and 8 years old; Jefferson College near Natchez, Mississippi; back home to Wilkinson County Academy; and 3 years at Transylvania College, Lexington, Kentucky.


1824-1828—Attended West Point Military Academy 4 years, graduated at the age of 20; commissioned Second Lieutenant, 1st Infantry, July 1, 1828.

1828-1835—Promoted to 1st Lieutenant during his outstanding service on the Western Frontier.

1835, June 17—Resigned from the U.S. Army effective June 30; married Colonel Zachary Taylor’s daughter, Sarah Knox Taylor, who died September 15.

1835-1844—Virtually a recluse for 7 years—time spent, for most part, in study of philosophy and Constitutional Law, then followed a period of travel with an enlivening interest in people and public affairs.

1845, February 26—Married Varina Howell of Natchez, Miss.

1845—Elected a member of the House of Representatives of the U.S. Congress.

1846, July 21—Resigned from the House of Representatives for volunteer service with the Mississippi troops in the Mexican War; appointed Colonel of the First Mississippi Regiment which, under his heroic leadership, won great renown at Monterey and Buena Vista.

1847—Received a rousing welcome on his return from Mexico; appointed to fill a vacancy in the U.S. Senate, then elected to the Senate for the following full term.

1853-1857—Recognition given him for the outstanding worth of his services to the nation, while Secretary of War under President Franklin Pierce.

1857—Again elected to the United States Senate.

1861, January 21—Resigned from the Senate when Mississippi seceded from the Union.

1861, January 25—Commissioned Major General of the State’s Military Forces by J. J. Pettus, Governor of Mississippi.

1861, February 9—Elected President of the Confederate States of America by the legally appointed delegates to the Convention of the Seceding States in session at Montgomery, Alabama.

1861, February 18—Inaugurated as President of the Confederate States of America at Montgomery, Alabama, the first capital of the new nation.

1862, May 6—Baptized at the Executive Mansion and later confirmed in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church by Bishop John Johns.


1861-1865—Gave 4 years of dedicated service as Chief Executive of the Confederate States of America and Commander-in-Chief of the Nation’s Military Forces.

1865, May 10—Captured with some of the members of his cabinet at Irwinville, Georgia, while in flight from Richmond, Virginia to set up a temporary capital elsewhere.

1865, May 22—Imprisoned at Fortress Monroe on two charges—treason and taking part in a conspiracy to assassinate President Lincoln.

1867, May 13—Released from Fortress Monroe, Virginia on a bail bond signed by Cornelius Vanderbilt, Horace Greeley, Augustus Schell and others.

1867-1876—Visited relatives, friends and noted acquaintances in Canada, Cuba, England, Scotland, and Europe before returning to the United States, where he accepted the presidency of a new Life Insurance Company at Memphis, Tennessee.

1877—With the failure of this Life Insurance Company, he gladly accepted Mrs. Sarah Anne Dorsey’s solicitous offer of her home, Beauvoir, as the quiet, restful place needed for concentration on the books he was writing.

1879-1889—Significant were these last 10 years of Davis’ life—because of the completion of his great contribution to the history of the South, “The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government”; his satisfaction and deep-seated emotions over being the owner of loved Beauvoir; and his sweet contentment and reserved happiness in being again with his family and seeing, from time to time, his close friends as well as interested and admiring associates.

1889, December 6—With his wife at his bedside, died in New Orleans, Louisiana at the home of his dear friend, J. U. Payne—(was on his way back to Beauvoir from his Brierfield Plantation near Vicksburg, Mississippi).

1889, December 12—Body moved to City Hall, where it lay in state for over four days before temporary burial in Metairie Cemetery in the semi-underground vault of the Army of Northern Virginia, surmounted by the statue of Stonewall Jackson. Reporting on the funeral, the New Orleans Times Democrat said editorially: “This generation will never again look upon the like of this day’s funeral pageant—”.


1893, May 27—The remains of Jefferson Davis in a heavy brass trimmed oak casket removed from the temporary vault to Confederate Memorial Hall. On the following day, in a touching speech, Governor Murphy J. Foster of Louisiana, delivered the casket to the committee of Veterans from Virginia sent to receive it.

1893, May 28 to May 30—“The Great Chieftain’s Last Ride”—funeral train made a brief stop at Beauvoir before making three full stops for the body to lie in state in the capitols of Alabama, Georgia, and North Carolina.

1893, May 31—After lying in state in the Capitol at Richmond, Virginia during the morning, the funeral procession, with Mrs. Davis and her daughters, Margaret and Winnie, in a carriage directly back of the caisson drawn by six white horses, slowly made its way to Hollywood Cemetery, where there and along the streets leading to the cemetery were gathered at least 75,000 people. A 21-gun salute and taps were the final acts in the burial of the First and Only President of the Confederate States of America.


The following data were obtained from the Department of Archives and History, Jackson, Mississippi, and “Jefferson Davis’—Private Papers, 1823-1889” selected and edited by Hudson Strode—1966.

Morgan Davis, ancestor of Jefferson Davis, came to Pennsylvania in 1684 from Wales—the line of descent follows: Morgan Davis, father of John Davis; John Davis, father of Evan Davis; Evan Davis, father of Samuel Emory Davis; Samuel Emory Davis, father of Jefferson Davis.

The children of Jefferson Davis and wife, Varina Howell Davis, follow:

1. Samuel Emory: born July 30, 1852; died June 30, 1854.

2. Margaret Howell: born February 25, 1855; married J. A. Hayes January 1, 1876; died July 19, 1909.

3. Jefferson Davis, Jr.: born January 16, 1857; died October 10, 1878, unmarried.

4. Joseph Evan: born April 18, 1859; died April 30, 1864.

5. William Howell: born December 16, 1861; died October 16, 1872.

6. Varina Anne (Winnie), “The Daughter of the Confederacy”: born June 27, 1864; died September 18, 1898, unmarried.



“Historic Beauvoir” was compiled in 1932-1933 by Mrs. A. D. Spooner and Mrs. R. C. Herron, Group Chairmen. It was revised and reprinted in 1939 by Mrs. I. F. Galloway, Group Chairman.

“Beauvoir—The Last Home of Jefferson Davis” was revised and renamed by the Beauvoir Historical Committee, Mrs. H. D. Lindsey, Chairman, Mrs. Rucks Yerger, Mrs. J. W. Atkinson, Mrs. W. F. O’Donnell and Dr. Margaret Caraway.

“Beauvoir—Jefferson Davis Shrine” was revised and renamed in 1945 by a committee, Mrs. John L. Heiss, Chairman, Mrs. J. W. Atkinson, Mrs. J. P. Pentecost and Mrs. George P. Hopkins.

“Beauvoir—Jefferson Davis Shrine” was republished in 1958 by Mrs. John L. Heiss, Chairman, Mrs. Hobart D. Shaw, Mrs. Salome Brady and Mrs. George W. Taylor.

“Beauvoir—Jefferson Davis Shrine” is again republished in 1968 by Mrs. Salome Brady, Chairman, Mrs. E. V. Shove, Mrs. J. L. Heiss, Mrs. Lillian Phillips, Mrs. Roy Craig and Mrs. J. O. Jones.


Jefferson Davis, Constitutionalist, His Letters, Papers, Speeches Dr. Dunbar Rowland, Editor

Jefferson Davis—ex-President of the Confederate States of America “A Memoir by His Wife”

Harrison County, Mississippi, Chancery Court Records.

Abstract of Title to James Brown’s Gulf Coast property.

“The Great Chieftain’s Last Ride”—February 1955, L&N Magazine.

Chapter 25, Laws of Mississippi—1904 Session.

“Historic Beauvoir” Mrs. Wilbur M. Jones

“Questions and Answers”—several pamphlets concerning Beauvoir and the Jefferson Davis family Dr. W. A. Evans

Up-to-date information supplied by W. A. Blackledge, resident manager of the Jefferson Davis Shrine, Mrs. M. M. Murphy, Shrine hostess, and Mrs. Salome Brady.

Photographs by W. M. Cline Company, Audrey Murphy and Chauncey T. Hinman.


Sketch of Beauvoir Grounds



In 1932 members of the three Gulf Coast chapters of the Mississippi Division United Daughters of the Confederacy conceived the idea of the publication of a Beauvoir Booklet, proceeds from the sale of which would be used for UDC projects. Representatives of these chapters—Gulfport No. 1068, Beauvoir-Biloxi No. 623 and Beauvoir-Gulfport No. 621, have revised and enlarged the original booklet as improvements and development of the Home into a Shrine arose. This group is now designated in the Division as District V.



No. 1. The “Stars and Bars,” the first “National Flag.”
No. 2. The “Battle Flag.”
No. 3. In 1863 replaced No. 1 as the “National Flag.”
No. 4. In 1865 replaced No. 3 as the “National Flag.”
No. 5. “The Bonnie Blue Flag.”

No. 1. The “Stars and Bars” was the first National Flag of the Confederate States of America. It was adopted by the Confederate Congress, and raised at sunrise over the Confederate Capitol at Montgomery, Alabama, March 4th, 1861, where the Provisional Congress was holding its first session. At the time of its adoption, it was ordered that a star be added to the flag for each new state joining the Confederacy. This flag is used as the emblem of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

No. 2. The “Battle Flag” was designed after the first Battle of Manassas, and afterward was adopted by the Confederate Congress. The reason for its adoption was that, in battle, the “Stars and Bars” was frequently mistaken for the “Stars and Stripes”. It remained the Battle Flag until the close of the war. This flag was the insignia of the United Confederate Veterans, and is now the insignia of the Mississippi Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

No. 3. To prevent further confusion arising from the mistaking of the “Stars and Bars” for the “Stars and Stripes”, the Confederate Congress on May 1, 1863, adopted a new National Flag. This flag is used as the emblem of the Children of the Confederacy, and is well worth remembering for its use on Stonewall Jackson’s casket.

No. 4. On March 4, 1865, the Confederate Congress again changed the design of the National Flag. This new design was adopted because the second National Flag, when hanging limp, looked too much like a flag of truce. For a time this flag was used as the insignia for the Mississippi Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

No. 5. Before the “Stars and Bars” had been designed and adopted by the Confederate Congress, a beautiful blue silk flag bearing a single star, presented at the open meeting of the Mississippi Secession Convention in the State Capitol at Jackson, Mississippi, January 9, 1861, was the inspiration for the new Republic’s first Battle Song—“The Bonnie Blue Flag”. The Irish comedian, Harry McCarthy, filling an engagement at the Jackson theatre at that time, was a witness to the thrilling scene following the adoption of the Ordinance of Secession, and penned the original verses of The Bonnie Blue Flag as an expression of his aroused emotion. He sang the song that night to a loudly applauding audience overflowing the theatre.

By Mildred Lewis Rutherford, Historian

1. Distinguished services in the Black Hawk War.

2. Served valiantly in the Mexican War.

3. Hero at Monterey; wounded at Buena Vista; scaled the walls of the City of Mexico.

4. He introduced the wedge movement and saved the day at Buena Vista.

5. United States Senator from Mississippi.

6. Secretary of War in Pierce’s Cabinet.

7. First to suggest transcontinental railroads connecting the Atlantic with the Pacific.

8. First to suggest camels as ships of the uninhabitable West to convey military stores.

9. First to suggest buying Panama Canal Zone.

10. First to suggest buying Cuba.

11. He planned American Trade with China and Japan.

12. He suggested closer relations with South America.

13. He urged preparedness in the event of an enemy attack.

14. He enlarged the United States Army by four regiments.

15. He organized cavalry service adapted to our needs.

16. He introduced light infantry or rifle system of tactics.

17. He caused the manufacture of guns, rifle, and pistols.

18. He rendered invaluable service to Colt’s Armory.

19. He ordered the frontier surveyed.

20. He put young officers in training for surveying expeditions.

21. He sent George McClellan to Crimea to study the military tactics of British and the Russian armies.

22. He appointed Robert E. Lee as Superintendent of West Point.

23. He advanced Albert Disney Johnston to important posts.

24. He had forts rebuilt and repaired.

25. He strengthened forts on the Western frontier, frequently drawing on arsenals in the South to do so.

26. He had the Western part of the continent explored for scientific, geographical and railroad work.

27. He was responsible for the new Senate Hall, the new House of Representatives, and for the extension of many public buildings in Washington, especially the Treasury Building.

28. He was responsible for the construction of the aqueduct in the National Capital.

29. He was responsible for Armed Liberty on the Capitol having a helmet of eagle feathers instead of the cap of a pagan goddess.

30. He had Cabin John Bridge with a span of 220 feet built.

31. He was United States Senator under President Buchanan.

32. He was nominated for President by Massachusetts men in 1860.

33. He refused to allow his name to be presented for President at the Charleston Convention.

34. He stood strongly for the Union, but stressed the constitutional right of a state to secede if it wished.

35. He did secede with Mississippi, as he had been taught at West Point.

36. Nowhere did his genius display itself more significantly than as Secretary of War under Franklin Pierce.

37. When it was known that he was to make his “Farewell Speech” to the Senate in 1861, the building was crowded to overflowing. He was one of the most gifted orators of the Congress. At West Point he studied “Rawle’s View of the Constitution” and was taught that if a state seceded the duty of a soldier reverted to his state—hence Davis, Robert E. Lee, Thomas J. Jackson, the Johnstons, and others acting upon this instruction cast their lot with their States in 1861.

Transcriber’s Notes