The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 53, July 1949 - April, 1950 Page: 341
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home of the Ellis-Farar-Mercer-Butler family for almost two cen-
turies. Dean Butler has drawn from miscellaneous family records
and from memory the basic materials for his description of "a
pattern of living long since obsolete," including a history of
Laurel Hill and a series of character sketches of individuals
prominent in the development and maintenance of the planta-
tion. In a leisurely style the author has presented a wealth of
original material on plantation life in the Natchez region. Al-
though Dean Butler professes to dismiss from this record "the
fanciful and distorted trimmings and the sweet perfume of mag-
nolias," the reader of this book will nonetheless acquire a pleas-
ant nostalgia for the unhurried years.
The plantation fostered a number of planters, soldiers, schol-
ars, and physicians. Richard Ellis began the development of
Laurel Hill in the 176o's. Mary Ellis married Captain Benjamin
Farar, a capable, enterprising planter whose detailed accounts
included such things as a trip to New Orleans, for which there
were "incidental expenses, $1o,ooo," presumably spent on horse
racing and roulette. Jane Ellis married impulsive Major Rapalje,
a soldier of fortune who broke his neck during one of his fre-
quent wild sprees. Margaret Ellis, a granddaughter of the founder
of Laurel Hill, married Stephen Duncan, one of the more prom-
inent men of antebellum Natchez. Among many relatives who
enjoyed the hospitality of Laurel Hill was Duncan F. Kenner,
who was "destined to play a prominent and too-little-recognized
part in the story of the Confederacy." These and many others
appear on the scene during the unhurried years.
The complex economy of Laurel Hill may be described as
generally prosperous and almost self-sufficient until the begin-
ning of the present century. During the most prosperous period,
the thirty years before the Civil War, Dr. William Newton Mer-
cer, his wife Anna Farar, and their family enjoyed an extended
tour of Europe. In the same period a beautiful Gothic chapel
was erected at Laurel Hill. In fact, the most interesting of the
five very good illustrations in the book are the two which portray
the interior and the exterior of the chapel with its stained-glass
oriel window, its alabaster christening font, and its statues.
The plantation is no longer a flourishing and practically self-
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 53, July 1949 - April, 1950, periodical, 1950; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101126/m1/417/: accessed May 29, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.