THE LOWER RIVER 111 MURRAY HOUSE The dilapidating state of the Murray House, shown when this photo was taken, depicts the turn of Fort Adams no longer serving as a vital river port. The structure of the Murray House is much like other plantation homes built in the area but little history is known about the family that lived here. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS crops. John Carmichael Jenkins was a member of a group of Natchez-area planters led by Benjamin L.C.C. Wailes interested in scientific agriculture. He cultivated fruit trees, especially peaches, apples, and pears, and carried out pioneering experiments with soil quality and fertilizers. Later, these early attempts at crop diversification would be overwhelmed by the need for cash brought on by the Civil War and its aftermath. A Prelude to War The demand of the cotton economy for field labor fueled a thriving slave trade that continued to be centered at the Forks of the Road. By the 1830s, this market brought more than 1,000 slaves a year overland from Virginia to Natchez to be sold locally or shipped to the slave marts in New Orleans. Author and Episcopal minister Joseph Holt Ingraham estimated that between 1820 and 1835 this operation was responsible for two-thirds of the slaves brought into the Lower River counties. “The number of slaves introduced into the south-western market is annually increasing. Last year, more than 4,000 were brought into the state, one-third of whom were sold in the Natchez market,” Ingraham wrote. Aside from small but durable communities of free AfricanAmericans centered mostly in Natchez and Vicksburg, almost all in the Lower River counties were slaves, most of whom worked as field hands. For these slaves, plantation life was a yearly cycle of dusk-to-dawn labor built around cultivation of cotton. When laborers were not tending cotton, they were tending livestock, gardens, or food crops such as corn.Afew slaves were house servants who tended to their masters and their masters’children. Whether field hand or house servant, slaves were property and had no personal rights under the law. Slave owners had the right to sell slaves at will and could separate families as needed. If slaves failed to perform as instructed or violated their owners’orders, they were subject to any punishment without recourse or legal appeal.