300 Block of Martin Luther King Street
formerly North Pine Street
— Natchez Trails —
300 North Martin Luther King Street (above) is home to the city's oldest funeral business.
Robert D. Mackel (below) opened Bluff City Undertaking in 1898 at the corner of Jefferson and North Rankin Streets. About 1911 he relocated the business to its present location at the intersection of Martin Luther King, Jefferson and St. Catherine streets.
In 1950 Bluff City Undertaking became known as Robert D. Mackel and Sons to honor the founder.
Mackel family members are descendents of Robert Wood, one of the first African American mayors in the country. Natchez was the only city in Mississippi to elect an African American mayor during Reconstruction. Wood also served as sheriff, postmaster and tax collector.
Mourners filled the sidewalks and lined the streets around Bluff City Undertaking as the African American community attended visitation and funerals for some of the 209 casualties of the Rhythm Night Club fire in April 1940.
The Funeral homes were overwhelmed by the number of deaths, and some victims were buried in a Mass grave at the Watkins Street Cemetery.
For more than a century the city's African American funeral operators
The photographer who took the picture of mourners in front of Bluff City Undertaking also recorded the small wood houses that once lined the east side of the 300 block of North Martin Luther King Street.
Elected in 1973, George F. West, Sr. served as the city's first African American alderman since Reconstruction.
Pictured on the left is a view of paving of the 700 block of Jefferson Street, On the right side of the street is the rear annex of Bluff City Undertaking. The large building on the left side of the street is St. MAry's Orphanage, which was demolished in the 1960s and is now a parking lot behind Zion Chapel A.M.E. Church.
Pictured above is the Rhythm Night Club after the fire. Ironically the club stood in the midst of three funeral businesses.
227 North Martin Luther King
People's Undertaking Company
Natchez Colored Undertaking Company
Williams and Williams Funeral Service
300 North Martin Luther King
Bluff City Undertaking
Robert D. Mackel & Sons.
409 North Martin Luther King
George F. West Funeral Home
7 St. Catherine Street
Natchez Mutual Burial Association
West-Webb Funeral System
Webb Funeral System
Curtis Funeral System, Inc.
Erected by City of Natchez.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African Americans • Industry & Commerce • Roads & Vehicles • Settlements & Settlers. In addition, it is included in the Mississippi - Natchez Trails series list.
Location. 31° 33.563′ N, 91° 23.894′ W. Marker is in Natchez, Mississippi, in Adams County. Marker is at the intersection of Martin Luther King Street and St. Catherine Street & Jefferson Street, on the left when traveling north on Martin Luther King Street. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Natchez MS 39120, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Zion Chapel A.M.E. Church (here, next to this marker); Churches in the St. Catherine Street Neighborhood (within shouting distance of this marker); Zion Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church (within shouting distance of this marker); Views of St. Catherine Street - Western End (within shouting distance of this marker); Rhythm Night Club (within shouting distance of this marker); Rhythm Club Fire (within shouting distance of this marker); Intersection of Jefferson and North Rankin streets (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Hospital Hill Neighborhood (about 400 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Natchez.
More about this marker. Part of the "St. Catherine Street Trail" of Natchez Trails. All markers are on the LEFT when traveling west of St. Catherine Street, as it is one way.
Credits. This page was last revised on November 23, 2023. It was originally submitted on September 22, 2017, by Cajun Scrambler of Assumption, Louisiana. This page has been viewed 575 times since then and 133 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on September 22, 2017.