Buttercups planted by Virginia Goodpasture ca. 1950 in the yard at Old Town (Photo: Laura Turner, ca. 2012).

After moving into Old Town in the late 1940s, Virginia Goodpasture undertook a monumental project — filling the margins of Old Natchez Trace (and the Old Town yard) with buttercups. Laura Turner, advocate and educator with Citizens for Old Natchez Trace, has long appreciated the springtime beauties along the Old Natchez Trace. Click here to read a Letter to the Editor published in 1999. Laura has recently partnered with the Old Town Heritage Project to restore and expand the efforts of Mrs. Goodpasture. We are pleased to offer an on-going blog by Laura on this project.

February 6, 2017 — Announcing the Old Town Historic Daffodil Project — Laura Turner.

For generations, travelers on the Old Natchez Trace by Old Town have enjoyed the bright yellow early harbingers of spring planted by Mrs. Goodpasture who lived at Old Town from 1948-1977. I know these flowers of hope as daffodils, but they have numerous names depending on where you live. Native Tennesseans call them “buttercups” and at the other end of the Natchez Trace in Mississippi they are called “lent lilies”. When I moved near the Trace in 1984, Catherine Cooper, who lived at Old Town from 1977-1991 told me it was Mrs. Goodpasture who planted the buttercups. Catherine added to the original bulbs and those are called “eggs and butter” a double version of the historic bloom. Officially this sweet spring flower is called Narcissus pseudonarcissus. I know this now because Senator Bill and Tracy Frist who live at Old Town are generously adding to the Old Town tradition and planting this historic daffodil along the entire frontage of Old Town on both sides of the Old Natchez Trace. The Cromlings who lived at Old Town from 1999-2015 also planted daffodils which are showing their green shoots now by the Old Town gate. This will be a yearlong project with planting of transplants from the City of Natchez, Mississippi now and then a significant fall planting of these historic bulbs for a spectacular spring display in 2018. I can hardly wait!

Everyone involved in this project is very excited. Not only is this project a tribute to the past, a joy to all now present but it is a legacy gift for generations to come. I hope you will join us on the Old Town Heritage page as we journey through time and place with these amazing daffodils. This week we will be transplanting lent lilies from the City of Natchez, Mississippi to our end of the Old Natchez Trace at Old Town. It is truly amazing how these two ends of the Natchez Trace will now not only be tied together in history but also by this bright beloved flower.

February 14, 2017 – Planting Begins — Laura Turner

Today is Valentine’s Day! It is a day when we celebrate love and devotion. The Old Town Historic Daffodil Project is most certainly a labor of love to those involved and surely a Valentine gift to the Old Natchez Trace. Last Friday, February 10th, Chris and Josh with Southeast Landscape, planted over 1200 daffodil transplants from the City of Natchez, Mississippi. These ‘lent lilies’ were gently put in the ground around the original dirt roadbed of the Natchez Trace by the old Old Town Bridge.

Natchez “Lent Lilies” planted at Old Town on 10 Feb 2017.

They had already bloomed in Natchez and were carefully dug up and shipped to us by David Atkins a retired engineer for the City of Natchez. David has been “rescuing” these lent lilies for decades from road and construction projects. Citizens for Old Natchez Trace did the same for the daffodils near the pavement on the ONT before the sensitive template redo of the Old Natchez Trace took place in 2014. You could say that we are kindred spirits as we share the same fond affection for this sweet historic daffodil that lives in the memories of many.

Since David had planted many of the bulbs he “rescued” in the City of Natchez, he asked Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell if he could dig up some to donate to our end of the Old Natchez Trace for this project. We are all very grateful for Mayor Grennell’s generous donation of these lovely flowers which has now become part of this joyful generational gift to the future along the frontage of Old Town.

Discovering David down in Natchez, Mississippi would not have been possible without the expertise of Sara VanBeck, author of the Historics Daffodil Handbook, which I came upon on the internet. Sara has been a godsend of information on daffodils. I feel like I have been back in college learning the amazing history of this bright spring flower. There is much more to these bright flowers than where they came from and how they grow.

Did you know? Historians use blooming daffodils in the spring in research to mark the footprints of old homesteads, outbuildings and cemeteries.

Daffodils are poisonous to eat. That is why deer leave them alone so they can return year after year to decorate fields and roads.

Legend says that Roman soldiers carried the bulbs to plant with fallen soldiers or to eat if mortally wounded for narcotic effect.

The daffodils Mrs. Goodpasture planted in the 1940’s are beginning to bloom on the Old Natchez Trace at Old Town. The Natchez “lent lilies” are ending their blooming season and getting acclimated to our end of the Natchez Trace. We welcome them and look forward to continuing to collect historic daffodil bulbs which will be planted this fall by the Frists who love and cherish this harbinger of spring. When daffodils bloom, hope is in the air and hope springs eternal.

A Note From Laura Turner – May 21,2020

Two of my favorite flowers are daffodils and wild violets.  Both of which decorate Old Town along the Old Natchez Trace with their rich colors and perennial presence each spring.

Photo taken at Old Town by Laura Turner

Catherine Cooper, who lived at Old Town with her family, gifted me some lovely wild violets the spring of 1985.  With the pandemic this spring, many of us turned to nature to nurture ourselves.  Those few violets have created a rich tapestry of purple flecked with white ones among the verdant greens of the grasses along the hillside of my home.  Catherine also told me it was Mrs. Goodpasture who had planted the bounty of historic daffodils along the frontage of Old Town when she lived there before the Coopers.  The Cromlings added more daffodils when they lived there.  And when Senator Bill and Tracy Frist bought Old Town they planted thousands of daffodil bulbs. 

And so began the Old Town Historic Daffodil Project in 2016.  The City of Natchez, Mississippi donated 1200 daffodils to this project.  In Mississippi they are called “lent lilies”.  Those special historic daffodils, Narcissus pseudonarcissus, were planted along the original roadbed of the Old Natchez Trace leading to the old Old Town Bridge.  It takes several years for transplanted daffodils to get their footing and this spring their show of bright yellow blooms, sometimes called “angels’ trumpets” was overwhelmingly glorious.  I lament the 2020 pandemic kept this lovely spring sight from the travelers along the Old Natchez Trace because of the national call to shelter at home.  But those of us sheltering nearby were able to enjoy this glory of nature as we endured this troubling spring.

Daffodils symbolize rebirth and new beginnings and wild violets represent love, affection, modesty and faith.

Daffodils are poisonous to eat.  Historians use blooming daffodils in the spring to mark the footprints of old homesteads, outbuildings and cemeteries because deer, horses and other animals leave them alone allowing them to return yearly to decorate the fields and roadways. 

Wild violets, on the other hand, are edible.  Violets strengthen the immune system and reduce inflammation.  They are a source of Vitamins A, C and E.  Spring is a time for sore throats and colds.  Violets eaten or taken as a tea can help sooth these issues.  They can be used raw in salads or added as a thickener to soups.  You can even make wild violet jelly which is delicious and has a lovely gemlike amethyst color. 

I find comfort that amid this global pandemic Nature continues to do her seasonal dances and decorating around the globe.  She has been doing it down through the ages.  She is perennial just like the daffodils and violets.  And oh how I love all her things bright and beautiful.