In 1832, Cornelia and Pierce Connelly moved to Natchez, Mississippi due to Pierce’s assignment as the rector of the Holy Trinity Episcopal Church. Natchez was very different from their home city Philadelphia. Located on the banks of the Mississippi River, Natchez was an important port city in the antebellum South. Natchez’s proximity to many plantations allowed it to become one of the southern cities that operated as a center of slave trade besides New Orleans, Louisiana. Pierce acted as rector of the Holy Trinity Church. Cornelia’s role as rector’s wife required her to be welcoming to the community and followers of her husband’s church while Pierce worked to meet the spiritual needs of his congregation and attracted others to join the parish. The Connellys’ role as parents began in Natchez when Cornelia gave birth to their first child, Mercer Connelly, on 17 December 1832. Their second child, Adeline Maria Duval was born on 6 March 1835.
Politics and policies would change the opinions and faith of the Connellys’ during their time in Natchez. During the 1820-30s the United States saw an influx in immigrants that would go on to change the political attitudes of the country. Previously Roman Catholics took up a relatively small population of the country but these numbers changed with the arrival of Catholic Irish and German immigrants. As a result nativist sentiments were born and developed into a political movement that encouraged Anti-Catholicism. Protestant publications would attack Catholicism and its beliefs as this new group of immigrants created a perceived threat. The nativist movement went beyond written attacks and led to physically aggressive attacks on Catholics and for some time the movement was nationally accepted.
The Connellys would have clearly been aware of this movement. The attacks upon Catholics led him into a study of the controversy. Together, Pierce and Cornelia met with significant Catholics who encouraged them to learn more about the faith. In a letter to her sister Adeline, Cornelia writes that Pierce motivation for resigning from his role as rector at Holy Trinity would allow him to take more time to study the doctrines of Roman Catholicism.
Click here to download a detailed timeline of Cornelia in Natchez juxtaposed with then-current events.