Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Town Called Yazoo City -- Part 2

To continue my previous post, "A Town Called Yazoo City, Part 1," I'd like to share with you the rest of my reflections on and photos of the sleepy little Mississippi Delta town of Yazoo City.

After photographing the downtown area, I visited a couple of shops, one of which is right on Main Street.

Grace Hardware and Knutty Knitters share space in an old building which was once called Saxton Hardware.

I didn't really know what to expect, but when I stepped inside the door I realized that Grace's is not your typical hardware store. Every nook and cranny is crammed with furniture, hand knitted items, art in mediums such as acrylics, oils, and watercolors, and pottery, frames, and accessories.

And tucked into a corner on the left side of the store is "Knutty Knitters" (don't you just love that name!) ...

She offers an exceptional inventory of quality yarns and knitting supplies and they're displayed beautifully on the old shelves. There's even a neat old library ladder to reach the top shelves (I would love to have one of those in my kitchen).

After leaving Grace's, I walked across the street looking forward to browsing in these two antique shops ...

There's just something about the words Estate Sale, that make my heart skip a beat, and I was so disappointed to see the "Closed" sign on the door.

The other one had an "Open" sign on it, so I thought, "Oh, well, at least I'll get to go in this one." WRONG! ... I pulled on the door to find it locked and peered inside and no one was there. I just hate it when that happens, don't you?

As I was leaving the downtown area, I remembered from a past visit another unusual place -- Gilbert's Lumber & Home Center ...

When you walk in the door, you are greeted by the usual stuff you'd expect to find at a lumber company, like shovel and hoe handles, post hole diggers, and garden tools ...

But once you get past all that stuff, you'll discover a treasure trove of unique home decor accessories, quality kitchenware and linens, fine pewter ware, and a wonderful selection of Vera Bradley accessories, including clothing, which I've never seen ...

I just loved these glass trays, and would you believe I stood there happily clicking away with my camera and didn't buy one!

Later, as I was editing my pictures of them, I thought, "You idiot! Why didn't you buy one of those cute "Pig Out" trays and at least try on some of those pretty Vera Bradley clothes!" I may have to go back to Yazoo City soon (and hopefully on a day when the antique shop is really OPEN).

After leaving Gilbert's, I had had my fill of shopping and decided to explore one of the residential areas where some of the older homes are found.

I love those huge old magnolia trees in the front yard of this "homey-looking" house ...

And this one exemplifies the spirit of "southern hospitality" ...

I saved the most exciting stop (to me, anyway) for last -- Yazoo City's renown Glenwood Cemetery.

Established in 1856, the cemetery is "home" to two of Yazoo City's most famous legends and legacies -- renown Southern writer Willie Morris and the notorious "Witch of Yazoo," whose story I will share below.

I could write volumes on Willie Morris, but for brevity's sake, I'd like to just give you a little background on him.

William Weaks "Willie" Morris, was born in Jackson, Mississippi, on November 29, 1934. When Willie was six months old, his family moved to Yazoo City, which he immortalized in his works of prose. Morris's trademark was his lyrical prose style and reflections on the American South, particularly the Mississippi Delta.

He was a Rhodes Scholar, and in 1967, he became the youngest editor of Harper's Magazine. He wrote several works of fiction and non-fiction, including My Dog Skip, Good Old Boy: A Delta Boyhood, The Last of the Southern Girls, Homecomings, and North Toward Home.

Morris was, indeed, a "good old boy," and was admired, respected, and loved by readers from all walks of life, as well as his peers. He died of a heart attack on August 2, 1999, and is buried in Glenwood Cemetery in Yazoo City, exactly 13 steps (the unlucky number) from the "grave" of the fictitious Witch of Yazoo, a character from one of his books, Good Old Boy: A Delta Boyhood.

This is a photo of Mr. Morris's impressive monument ...

I love the inscription on this plaque at the base ...

It reads: "Even across the divide of death, friendship remains an echo forever in the heart." Isn't that beautiful!

After visiting Mr. Morris's grave, I searched for the Witch's "resting place," which wasn't very far away (13 steps, remember?).

As I previously noted, the legend of the "Witch of Yazoo" is detailed in Willie Morris's book, Good Old Boys.

Here is a synopsis for those of you who would like to read it ...

Many years ago there was an old woman living in seclusion along the banks of the Yazoo River. Everyone believed her to be a witch and the good folk of Yazoo City loathed her, for it was rumored that on stormy nights she lured fishermen into her hut, poisoned them and buried their bodies in a densely wooded hillside, nearby. The story goes something like this:

In 1884, Joe Bob Duggett was gliding past her hut on a river raft and heard an ungodly moaning coming from inside. Very carefully he approached the dwelling and through the window spied her cavorting around the bodies of two men.

Joe Bob raced off to town and with the sheriff returned a short time later. Confronted, the old woman ran into the swamp and was pursued by the men who found her trapped in quicksand. "I shall return, " she shouted her warning. "You people never liked me here. I will break out of my grave and burn down the town on May 24, 1904, " And with a gurgle and a retch she sank beneath the muck and mire.

Twenty years later, in 1904, her curse was realized when a fire occurred and almost completely consumed the town. The next day a group of citizens, remembering the witch, visited her grave in Glenwood Cemetery and found, to their astonishment, that a heavy chain that had been wrapped tightly around the crypt as a precaution twenty years earlier had been snapped as if by some supernatural force. Many believed that the Witch of Yazoo had, as promised, returned to wreak vengeance on the townspeople.

Many people think that the entire story is a figment of Morris's imagination, but others quickly point out that the grave in Glenwood Cemetery was there many years before Willie was born, and that the chain has been broken for a long, long, time.

The stone headrest was cracked, but I think you can make out the inscription, and you can see part of the chain at the top of the photo ...

After visiting the "witch," I drove slowly through the cemetery and this beautiful old monument caught my eye. [You may remember my recent post entitled, "In the Arms of the Angels," which featured several old memorials to children who are buried in the Cedar Hill Cemetery in Vicksburg, and I just couldn't pass this one by.]

This sweet memorial honors a three-year-old little girl named Amy, who died January 8, 1883, and it is truly a work of art.

Notice the exquisite detailing in the closeup below. You can even see the texture of her stockings ... and that sweet little hand brought tears to my eyes.

I was excited to discover that this monument was signed and the sculptor was from Vicksburg ...

I think he, or she, may have created some of the beautiful old monuments I featured in my previous posts about Cedar Hill Cemetery.

Well, that ends my tour of "a town called Yazoo City." I hope you enjoyed reading about it as much as I enjoyed sharing it with you. If you're ever in Mississippi, I hope you will put it on your list of places to visit and experience for yourself its charm and the gracious southern hospitality of its people.



Unknown said...

I couldn't help but get a little tickled on the part about an Estate Sale making your heart skip a beat!
That is a perfect way to describe the feeling I get too!

I enjoyed your Yazoo City Tour and especially the information about Willie Morris.
And I really think you need to go back and get one of those trays!

Picket said...

Loved this post girl!!! Such a great field trip and history lesson!! I especially loved that lumber store!!! lol lol Hope you are having a great weekend!

Cottage Rose said...

Hello; Thank you for your tour of Yazoo City. I really love both stories. they were so great, I hated that it ended. It was like reading a book you told it so well. Have a great weekend.


Karin said...

I'm still marveling at the details in the beautiful monument you found. Look at the layers of her dress. And those chubby little knees! I wonder how the sculptor went about creating these. Do you suppose he had a...what were those things called...daguerotype or a painting loaned by the family? Or do you suppose the family had to describe their sweet baby girl in detail for the sculptor. Or maybe the monument doesn't resemble their child at all. Maybe he made generic boy or girl monuments and the family went to his studio and chose one that best represented their child. Hmmm. I wonder.

Anyway, lovely post, once again. I so enjoy your blog. Go back and get a tray!

Sarah Taylor said...

Oh my Janie! I could just pack my bags for a visit right now! lol Thank you for such a lovely tour of a place I may never have known about!

Anonymous said...


I love exploring in old hardware/feed stores in small towns. They are usually packed with "treasures" that you cannot find these days. I enjoyed going vicariously through your "finds" on your Yazoo City trip. Thanks for the ride! Your ability to view the unusual out of the usual is a priceless gift. Sharron M.T.

PAT said...

Hi Janie
I've certainly enjoyed my visit here tonight! What a wonderful time catching up with you!


Linda said...

Thanks for the wonderful descriptions and pictures. I have my own fond memories of Yazoo City from the time my grandmother lived there while I was a young child. I used to LOVE walking to the Jitney Jungle (grocery store-it's still there but has been renamed) and browsing through the old stores downtown. My granddaddy used to own a barber shop there and from your pictures, I believe it was in either the currently lime green or yellow building.

I cannot wait to go back and visit. All through these years, it has still maintained that feeling of an old little town reminiscent of by-gone days.

Thanks for the trip down memory lane! I hope the tornado that ripped through it today has left the structures of the down without too much damage.