One man can make a difference! Jefferson Davis (1808-1889) certainly made a difference in the course of our nation’s history, and now, Ernesto Caldeira is making a difference in the town where Mr. Davis spent much of his youth.
A quick history lesson: Jefferson Finis Davis was president of the Confederacy from 1861-1865. It didn’t quite turn out how he had planned, but nonetheless, he did give his life for the service of this country as a representative, senator and statesman, and as a strong Union supporter following the Civil War.
The youngest of 10 children, Davis was used to attempts at compromise. Much of his adult life was interlaced with tragedy. He lost his first wife Sarah Taylor, daughter of President Zachary Taylor, after only three months of marriage, to malaria. With his second wife Varina Howell, he fathered six children, of which only one reached adulthood. Davis’ thirst for knowledge dates back to the time he spent in Woodville, Miss., where he began his education at the Wilkinson Academy near the family plantation, Rosemont. He later attended Saint Thomas at St. Rose Priory—as the only Protestant student in a Catholic school—before going on to Jefferson College and Transylvania University, and then finally to West Point.
Rosemont was built by Davis’ parents, Samuel and Jane Davis, in 1810, and remained in the family until 1895—the only Davis-built home still standing. The property was purchased in the 1970s by Ernesto Caldeira and his partner, both of whom have a background in the entertainment industry and were based in New York City.
They were visiting Woodville and had heard that Jefferson Davis’ family home was in the area. Upon locating the home, they met with the current owner and discussed plans to purchase the property. Following the sale, Caldeira and his partner left New York and took up residence at Rosemont. Because the home had so few owners, there were still many Davis furnishings that remained intact in the residence.
Since then, the home has been painstakingly restored. The original kitchen is an outbuilding and still used to this day, updated with modern cooking equipment. A new visitor’s center has been added and guests can take picnic baskets on the terrace or on the lawn. The Davis family cemetery is present on the grounds and maintained by Caldeira and his staff.
Caldeira also has taken Woodville by storm and rallied its citizens to put their hamlet back on the map. The downtown area hosts historical museums, shops and eateries. Local historic homes cheerfully open their doors during Pilgrimage time and share their Southern hospitality with everyone. Make this gem a definite stop on your next trip to Mississippi!
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