Ghost Town of Rodney
Rodney, once a thriving Mississippi River port, is merely a shell of what it once was. The settlement had the name Petit Gulph in 1798. There are maps carrying that name as early as 1715 and it is believed that it is the location that Native Americans used to cross the river. In 1814 the name was changed to honor the territorial magistrate, Judge Thomas Rodney. When voting for the territorial capital, Rodney missed becoming the capital by three votes.
Rodney hosted many notables of the day, Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay and Zachary Taylor. Taylor liked the area so well, he purchased the Cypress Grove Plantation with 81 slaves. It was at this time that Taylor's daughter, Sarah, eloped with Lt Jefferson Davis. Taylor's property, south of Rodney, would later cave in and fall into the Mississippi.
Dr Haller Nutt came to Rodney in 1815. He discovered new methods to grow cotton which would combat the problem of rot developing which killed half of the crops planted. He also improved Eli Whitney's cotton gin by connecting it to steam power. It was now a more practical and useful piece of machinery.
With the prospering of the town, local inhabitants decided that a college was needed. They built Oakland College. The auditorium, president's home and one other building are part of today's Alcorn State University.
In the 1840s and 50s, Rodney was at it prime. In 1850, it was the busiest port between New Orleans and St Louis. The steamboats Natchez and Robert E Lee made Rodney a chief port call. Rodney had 1000 permanent residents, a hotel with a ballroom, a bank, thirty-five stores, two widely read newspapers and the first opera house in the state.
By 1860, there were 4000 residents. The most notable thing that Rodney is known for occurred 12 Sep 1863. A small gunboat, the Rattler was stationed in front of Rodney to keep watch for unusual activities. The admiral had ordered that no one was to leave the ship. However, on that Sunday, twenty-four sailors, including a lieutenant and captain, dressed in their finest military attire and went to the Presbyterian church. As the second hymn was being sung. Lt Allen of the Confederate Calvary walked down the aisle to the pulpit. Apologizing to Rev Baker, he announced that his men had surrounded the church and demanded the Yankees surrender. Shots were fired alerting the skeleton crew on board the Rattler. Four home were hit with cannonballs, as was the church. There is still cannonball lodged in the front of the church. Local history claims that the original fell out so a new one was put in.
When the dust had cleared, the Confederates had seventeen prisoners. They refused to let the town be destroyed, claiming that if there were any more shots fired at the town they would begin hanging their prisoners. The crew of the Rattler were a laughingstock as it was the first time an ironclad had been captured by calvary. Located outside of town is the abandoned cemetery where the confederates had camped.
When the river changed course, the town began fading away. In the 1870s, the town attempted to revive, but with the Reconstruction, it didn't happen. At one point, the railroad looked at Rodney, but it didn't happen either. There are still a few residents there, but it is not what it once was.
© 2010 Jeanne Hicks Warning: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.