Beauvior - Biloxi, MS
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member Benchmark Blasterz
N 30° 23.575 W 088° 58.179
16R E 310766 N 3363971
Quick Description: The Biloxi MS home of former Confederate States of America Jefferson Davis, who lived here with his family from 1878-1889, was a home for impoverished Confederate pensioners and their families from 1903-1957, and is now a paid historical attraction.
Location: Mississippi, United States
Date Posted: 4/19/2016 11:46:20 AM
Waymark Code: WMQZFV
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member Marine Biologist
Views: 6

Long Description:
Restored now from the ravages of Hurricane Katrina, and augmwnted by a "Presidential Library," Beauvior is a busy historical tourism attraction along the OST. However, OST travelers in the 1920-1960s however, would have had a vastly different experience of this site.

A state historic marker in front of Beauvoir reads as folows:


Built 1852-4. Last home of Jefferson Davis, U.S. Senator, Congressman, Secretary of War, and only President of Confederacy. Beauvoir served as a Confederate Veterans' home from 1903 until 1956."

After Jefferson Davis's death in 1889, Beauvoir passed to his daughter Varina Davis, who lived there until 1903, when she sold it to the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) for use as home for impoverished Confederate Veterans, Wives, and Widows who had been approved for state pensions. Mrs. Davis specified that when the last resident died or left, the veteran's home would be closed and the property made into a shrine to her father, Jefferson Davis.

The SCV (not experts at running nursing homes) arranged for the state of Mississippi to operate the home. Beauvoir was home for impoverished, elderly and infirm Confederates pensioners, their wives, and widows for the next 54 years. The state built 12 barracks buildings to house the residents, and a cemetery was dedicated on the grounds for those who died here and whose families could not afford to bury them.

In 1957, the last two resident widows were transferred to a local nursing home. There were so few qualifying residents left that it was less expensive for the state to house them in a private nursing home than keep up the entire Beauvoir complex for only a few people.

The state returned the property to the SCV in 1957, who converted it into a Jefferson Davis shrine as Varina Davis had stipulated. Today the home, grounds, cemetery, and out buildings have been restored and Beauvoir is billed as the Presidential Library of Jefferson Davis. Tours are $12.50 per person.

From the Beauvoir website: (visit link)


Ex-Confederate President, Jefferson Davis lived here at Beauvoir in his retirement life and wrote his memoirs of the Civil War, “The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government.”

A wealthy businessman, James Brown, from Madison County, MS was the builder and first occupant in the home. Construction began in late 1848 and was completed in 1852. During the Brown period of ownership, the property was known as Orange Grove due to the Satsuma Orange trees. Mr. Brown dies in 1866 leaving his widow to take care of the estate. Mrs. Brown maintains the property until she is no longer financially able to maintain the taxes in 1873. Home and property goes into foreclosure.

Sarah Dorsey purchased the property sight un-seen om July 7, 1873 for $3,500. First time she opens the front door facing the beach and stated, what a beautiful view (in French, BEAUVOIR). In 1877, she catches wind of Mr. Davis searching for a quiet retreat to start writing his memoirs. Mrs. Dorsey offers him the Library Cottage and her assistance in writing as she was a published author. Mrs. Dorsey sells the property to Mr. Davis in 1878 for the sum of $5,500 (broken into 3 payments) after she has been diagnosed with a terminal cancer. First payment was due and paid on January 1, 1879. Mrs. Dorsey returns to New Orleans, LA after first payment has been received and revised her will. Mrs. Dorsey named Jefferson Davis sole heir to Beauvoir and forgave Jefferson Davis the last 2 remaining payments.

Jefferson Davis resided in the home until his death in 1889 at age 81. Estate was willed to his youngest daughter, Varina Anne “Winnie” Davis. Ms. Davis dies in 1898 and the property is now under Mrs. Davis’ care.

Mrs. Davis sells the property in 1903 to our 4th and current owners today, Mississippi Division of Sons of the Confederate Veterans with an understanding of 2 provisions. 1). Home would be used as a retirement home for Confederate veterans, wives, and widows of the confederate soldier. 2). Once the last veteran, wife, and/or widow leaves here, then property would be shrine to Jefferson Davis.


The Mississippi Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans arranged for the state of Mississippi to operate Beauvoir as a home for Confederate veterans, conforming to the expressed wishes of Mrs. Davis. On December 2, 1903. the first Confederate veteran, J. R. Climer of Madison County, was admitted.

The state eventually constructed 12 barracks for housing the veterans, their wives, and widows. A typical barracks was 126 feet wide, with porches running the entire length of the building, with six rooms in each building. Thus, if four veterans shared a room, each barracks could house 24 persons, and since there were 12 buildings, 288 beds were available. The largest number of soldiers, sailors, wives and widows residing at the home at any one time approximated 250.

At first the rooms were heated by wood fires, but coal later replaced wood. A pitcher and washbowl were placed on each washstand.

Many citizens over the years spent much time and effort in visiting and helping the aging veterans. One of the most devoted of these was Walter M. Lampton, the son of a colonel of the local militia. For years, Lampton was a daily visitor to Beauvoir and was well known to all of the veterans living there, with whom he played checkers and marbles.

One of these veterans was W. T. Bowie, who often sat in the extreme southwestern corner of the grounds gazing out over the Gulf waters. Lampton built Bowie, who was over 80 years old, a small summer house with seats and a roof, which was capped with a sign that read "Bowie's Retreat." Bowie was delighted with the house, but, when he spied the sign, he became indignant. "Bowie lost a leg in the war," he exclaimed, "but never retreated, sir!" He calmed down somewhat when the meaning of "retreat" was explained, but he was not happy until Lampton changed the sign to read "Bowie's Rest."

Another favorite of Lampton's was James A. Cuevas, grandson of a native of Spain to whom a grateful United States government gave Cat Island off the Mississippi coast as a reward for his service in refusing to lead British General Pakenham through the Rigolets and Lake Ponchatrain to attack New Orleans in the War of 1812. Cuevas was blind and was cared for in the hospital at Beauvoir, where Lampton often visited him. Cuevas always recognized Lampton by touching his hands, even when nurses introduced him as someone from far away. Cuevas complained that since losing his sight, he could not till when daylight came, and he wanted a cock to crow and announce daylight for him. Lampton obtained rooster, which was immediately named "Bilbo" by Cuevas, an ardent supporter of Governor Theodore G. Bilbo. Cuevas claimed that every time the rooster crowed, he was shouting, "Hurrah for Bilbo!" Another veteran, who disliked Governor Bilbo, killed the rooster, much to Cuevas' dismay. Lampton then brought Cuevas two bantams, a rooster and a hen, and had the coop built just outside Cuevas' window. Every morning, "Mr. Bilbo" stepped up to the window sill and announced the coming of the day, and "Mrs. Bilbo" joined him. After Cuevas' death, the bantams continued to thrive, and visitors were told their story.

Walter Lampton made many gifts to Beauvoir and to the veterans. During the campaign to build a hospital, Lampton gave a check for 10 percent of the anticipated cost of $40,000, and, when an additional $10,000 was required, he wrote another check for $1,000. He also paid the cost of the fund-raising, amounting to another $1,000. He made many purchases for the home and subscribed annually for 25 copies of the Confederate Veteran for the old soldiers to read.

As time passed the ranks of the veterans thinned, and, eventually, the home contained more widows than actual veterans.

The last veteran to die at Beauvoir was Jim Walton of Winston County. He died on February 2, 1947, at the age of 96 or 97, and is buried in Beauvoir Cemetery. However, Walton was not the last veteran to live at Beauvoir. On August 30, 1949, James A. Thrasher of Smith County was admitted to the home at age 97. He left Beauvoir in 1951 at age 100 and died three months later.

Beauvoir's last two residents were Confederate widows. On February 19, 1957, they were transferred to the Golden Age Nursing Home in Greenwood. It was more economical for the state to pay their expenses there than to operate Beauvoir for only two women. These last two widows were:Mollie Lavenia Bailey of Rosedale, widow of Corporal Zachariah T. Bailey; and Mollie Cottle of Rolling Fork, widow of Private James Cottle.

With the end of state operation of Beauvoir, control of the entire property was returned to the Mississippi Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, which operates the property as a shrine to the memory of Jefferson Davis."

The University of Southern Mississippi is working on a Beauvior Veterans Project: (visit link)


"In 1953, Nancy Hawkins Sellers entered the Jefferson Davis Soldier Home in Biloxi, Mississippi, known more famously as “Beauvoir.” It was created to care for impoverished Confederate veterans, as well as their wives and widows, who had been approved for military pensions. Oddly enough, Nancy Sellers had no direct memory of the American Civil War. Born in 1867, she was the eldest of seven children raised in the Florida panhandle where her father and grandfather worked as laborers with no noted property or personal wealth when the war began. In the 1880s, though, Nancy met John Andrew Sellers, whose prewar life was the exact opposite of hers.

Raised on a farm in Jones County, Mississippi, John Andrew Sellers was about 26 years old when the war began with an estate valued at $1000 and estimated his personal wealth estimated at $15,000, likely tied to the eight slaves he or his father (also named John) owned. The elder John Sellers’s estate was even larger, valued at $15,000 with a personal wealth close to that of his son’s. Sellers joined the “Rosin Heels” in August 1861 “for the war” and mustered into Confederate service as a private in Company B, 27th Mississippi Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Captured at Lookout Mountain in November 1863, Sellers was sent to the Union prisoner of war camp at Rock Island, Illinois. He remained in captivity for the next year and a half until he was paroled in the spring of 1865.

The Sellers’ postwar world differed drastically from the life they had known. In 1870, John Andrew Sellers was farming again, but his estate had dwindled to $220 with a personal wealth of $660. His father had been similarly reduced and noted nearly the same wealth to the census taker, and things do not appear to have improved by 1880, which found John and his first wife, Mary Easterling, still farming in Jones County with nine children and one on the way. Mary died in 1881 and John remarried five years later to Lydia Bynum, but she died a year later in June 1887. A year after that was when John, then 54, married Nancy Hawkins, just 20 years old.

John and Nancy Hawkins Sellers had eight children of their own amid the poverty that continued to plague them. When he finally applied for a Confederate pension in 1917, Sellers listed himself as a farmer with the same wealth he had claimed almost fifty years earlier. Ironically, he never lived at Beauvoir. Sellers died in 1922 in Forrest County, Mississippi, where he and Nancy lived with five of their children. But his Confederate pension made it possible for Nancy to enter the home, though she waited until 1953. It could be that her grandchildren — she was living with three of them, listed as the head of household, in 1940 in Hattiesburg, Mississippi — could no longer care for her, but the exact cause for the move is unknown. And her stay was brief. In early 1953, Nancy Sellers entered the Beauvoir home, but she received an honorable discharge at the end of May that year, and died that August back home with her family in Hattiesburg.

The post-Civil War South is remembered for its social, political, and economic chaos and the rise of the Ku Klux Klan. It is studied as an age of great possibility as enslaved peoples embraced their hard-won freedom, and it is popularly remembered for Tara-like plantations crumbling amid broken fortunes and dark futures.

Rarely mentioned, though, are those Southerners like John and Nancy Sellers who lacked the postwar security to preserve and publish their wartime writings, assuming these veterans and their families were sufficiently literate to have written during the war. In John Andrew Sellers’s case, he was certainly literate. But that is not true of many of the Beauvoir residents. And even in Sellers’s case, we have found no record of wartime letters or other papers to help us learn more about this family.

With the majority of our Civil War soldier studies based on wartime and postwar correspondence and publications, we have a gaping hole in our knowledge when it comes to those impoverished Southerners who entered Confederate homes from Richmond to Austin in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. Due to the limited record keeping at places like Beauvoir and modern privacy laws that hinder historians’ ability to access what papers do exist, we know very little about veterans’ lives within the homes. Existing studies of institutions like Beauvoir indicate that those who lived there were known as inmates, not residents, and they often complained of the controlling habits of their administrators and governing boards. Homes served as monuments to the Lost Cause where residents became caricatures of “old times … not forgotten.” Indeed, historians of the Civil War veteran experience have argued persuasively that our understanding of these men and their families have been shaped more by what the public — then and in subsequent generations — chose to preserve, share, and remember than any true sense of who these men and women where and what their postwar lives were like.

In the fall of 2014, my colleague, Deanne Nuwer, and I launched “The Beauvoir Veteran Project” (BVP) at the University of Southern Mississippi. The BVP seeks to cut through the mists of memory to understand the lives and experiences of the veterans, wives and widows who found themselves at the Jefferson Davis Soldier Home — Beauvoir in Biloxi, Mississippi, between 1903 and 1957. . . ."
Submission Criteria:

Period Culture
Distinctive or Significant Interest

Website with More Information: [Web Link]

Address of Waymark:
2244 Beach Blvd
Biloxi, MS USA

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