Monday, January 24, 2011

Rodney Postscript

Last week, I shared a recent trip I made to a place called Rodney, Mississippi. The purpose of this follow up is to "tie up some loose ends."

If you missed the first chapters of my story, you may want to read them before you read this last one (I promise, it really is the LAST one).

A Place Called Rodney

The Rise and Fall of the Rodney Presbyterian Church

A Visit to Rodney, MS: The Cemetery

In my previous posts, I forgot to include my pictures of what remains of another old building in Rodney — the Alston Grocery Store. I'm sure that during its heyday, the old general store was the center of activity in the little community. It was opened by the Alston family in 1915, but has been closed for many years.

Here is what remains of the store today ...

I love the rusty old gas pump, and can just imagine the stories it could tell about the townspeople who lived during that era of Rodney's history — if only it could talk!

Down the road a little and across the street from the grocery store are these dilapidated buildings, one of which I believe was a drugstore.

Due to the interest expressed by several of my readers, I would also like to take this opportunity to share a few additional facts about Rodney's history, which I purposely omitted in my previous posts, for the sake of brevity.

Rodney was originally settled by the French in 1763, and named Petit Gouffre meaning "Little Gulf." The town was later renamed Rodney in 1828, in honor of Judge Thomas Rodney.

Thomas Rodney was born June 4, 1744, to a wealthy family with political ties. He served as a Continental Congressman from Delaware, and a Justice of the Delaware Supreme Court until 1803, at when President Jefferson appointed him as the chief justice for the Mississippi Territory. Judge Rodney bought land in what was then Jefferson County, Mississippi, and moved to Natchez to assume his new duties as the senior federal judge for the Mississippi Territory, from 1803 to 1811. Judge Rodney died January 2, 1811, at Natchez. He was the younger brother of Caesar Rodney, Revolutionary President of Delaware, who was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

During its heyday, Rodney was host to many notable visitors, including Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay, and Zachary Taylor. Taylor was so taken by the area that he purchased Cypress Grove Plantation, complete with 81 slaves, in 1842.

I found it interesting that it was around this time that Taylor's daughter, Sarah, eloped with Lt. Jefferson Davis, much to her father's dismay. In 1861, Jefferson Davis would become President of the Confederacy.

Although Rodney entertained some important political figures, one of its own residents made quite a name for himself. Dr. Haller Nutt, a native of Virginia, came to Rodney in 1815. Dr. Nutt was a successful cotton planter and plantation owner in Mississippi, and developed a strain of cotton that would lead to the South's becoming the cotton kingdom of the world. He also improved Eli Whitney's cotton gin by connecting the gin to steam power.

Haller Nutt became a very wealthy man, and he and his wife Julia had 11 children. In 1860, Dr. Nutt began construction on Longwood Plantation in Natchez, and that's another story I would like to tell someday.

If you are ever in the Vicksburg or Natchez area, I hope you will put Rodney on your "Places to See" list. There are several other Mississippi historical treasures nearby — Port Gibson: The town "too beautiful to burn" during the Civil War; the truly awesome Ruins of Windsor; and, of course, the Vicksburg National Military Park — so, it would be well worth your time to wander off the beaten path to explore them all.


Deb said...

you should really write a travel make us feel like we are walking along right next to you...

Anonymous said...

Janie...I've certainly enjoyed your photos of Rodney. The photos are amazing. Interesting to imagine the town as it was.

Janie said...

Thanks once more for your wonderful blog. I love history. We have been talking about a trip ti Mississippi this summer. My husband's family roots sprang up there. Definitely will keep these places on our list.

Jenni said...

I was so excited to see that you had taken another look at Rodney, today, and couldn't wait to read it. How interesting that all of those important people walked the now dusty streets...
My brother - in - law's family is related to Henry Clay....
Thanks for the postscript today. Hmmm. One question: "I wonder where Janie will lead us next, when her feet and lens go wandering?"

I can't wait! (But I enjoy ALL of your posts; the flowers, the plants, the little creatures great and small, and glimpses of your lovely home) Thanks for sharing,

andrew1860 said...

This old Grocery Store reminds me of the movie "Fried green tomatoes".