A Lone Survivor of the War Between the States
Winter Quarters State Commemorative Area stands today as a rare survivor of the ravages of the Civil War and as a tribute to the courage of one woman. Julia Nutt not only saved her home, but preserved the architectural work of her talented planter/inventor husband, Dr. Haller Nutt. The large, airy structure is the only one of its kind preserved in the region to remain as a reflection of the state's early heritage.
Development of Winter Quarters
In 1805, Job Routh built a winter hunting lodge on a Spanish land grant located on the Mississippi River flood plain in what would become Tensas Parish. The original house was only three rooms, but Routh's daughter later added several more rooms and a gallery during the early 1830s. After Dr. Haller Nutt bought the property in 1850, he began making improvements to the original structure and Winter Quarters developed its distinctive look and operations. Surviving documents show that the plantation grew to over 2,000 acres, housed more than 300 slaves and included an extraordinary scope of operations-several cotton gins, a sawmill, barns, machine shops, a hospital, a smokehouse, boat docks, a milk house, and various other supporting operations.
Planter, Inventor, Physician
Dr. Haller Nutt compiled an impressive list of credentials during his lifetime. He studied arts and sciences at the University of Kentucky and received his medical training at the University of Louisville. Those formal studies plus the background he gained from his researchist father equipped him to pursue a variety of ambitions.
Among other accomplishments, Dr. Nutt built the famous Longwood plantation in Natchez, Mississippi, and he invented a specially designed cotton press. He compiled The Book of Receipts, Prescriptions, Useful Rules, etc., For Plantation awl Other Purposes, which contains medical cures for human and animal illnesses, plus advice on the art of measuring the height of a tree, computing the volume of a cistern, and planting a profitable crop of cotton. This useful book, reprints of which are available at Winter Quarters, even gives instructions on how to "kill cockroaches, make a whitewash that will last a century, or cure an egg-sucking dog." Of course, Dr. Nutt could also list as a great accomplishment the completed design, construction and operation of Winter Quarters plantation.
The Survival of Winter Quarters
The spring of 1863 brought many changes to Winter Quarters. As General Ulysses S. Grant's powerful army marched south through Tensas Parish, his soldiers were enthusiastically carrying out General William Tecumseh Sherman's orders to destroy everything not needed by the Union, including most of the plantations that lined their way. With her husband, a well-known Union sympathizer, out of town, the task of saving Winter Quarters fell to Julia Nutt. The
determined lady made her way through Federal picket lines and met General Grant at his main camp at Milliken's Bend. "Miss Julia" offered to feed and quarter his soldiers; in return, Grant ordered that the home be spared. Winter Quarters was saved. Unfortunately, Union stragglers returned later in the year and destroyed all the outbuildings and drove off all the livestock. Only the mansion was left standing.
Today, Winter Quarters houses the mementos of an era long gone. In addition to period furnishings, copies of diaries and other personal records provide an invaluable link to the Antebellum period. Also included are displays dedicated to Dr. Nutt's contributions in the fields of medicine and agriculture.
One of the most significant items of furniture on display at Winter Quarters is a rare and perfectly preserved billiard table made circa 1845 by the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company. There is a letter on display inviting some associates to enjoy a game of billiards after they conduct their business. The modern-day Brunswick Company has made inquiries, unsuccessfully, about reacquiring the table.
In 1978, Winter Quarters State Commemorative Area was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, an honorary designation for significant historic sites.