Matagorda Dringling

Delta Bohemian® Back Road Excursion with local ladies

Matagorda Commissary. Photo by Poor William

Matagorda Commissary. Photo by Poor William

By POOR WILLIAM

Clarksdale, Mississippi

Recently, I had the privilege of taking a covey of local ladies, superbly seasoned with intellect, on a Delta Bohemian® Back Road Excursion. Identities can’t be revealed as they might eviscerate me with a literary quill, and I hate when that happens! These grand dames must and will remain anonymous!

This flaneur, idle man-about-town, can attest that the ringleader is a self-described dringler, one who enjoys wasting time. She may dringle, but she ain’ always engaged in such nefarious behavior. She was a thinkin’ and workin’ machine back in the day, and she still thinks and works, but just not for the proverbial “man!”

Said fair lady decided to treat her own fine self along with two erstwhile friends to a DB Back Road Excursion, even though she has long been a late-afternoon rider. See, even local folks with years of experience chasing sunsets can enjoy seeing parts of the county they have yet to visit. Her main request, other than a good time exploring Rumsfeld’s known unknowns, was to visit the site of the historic Matagorda Plantation.

I visited the no-longer-there plantation home north of Jonestown, MS back in the early 70’s during a birthday sleepover for a classmate with family connections to the infamous house. I vividly remember walking up the dusty, wide-as-an-axe-handle staircase to the vacant second floor. There was nothing tangible in the home except for a young boy’s fear of seeing something that wasn’t supposed to be there, possibly a specter-laden chimera. I don’t believe in haints, but I sure am afraid of ‘em! Where’s a portable bottle tree when ya need one?

Matagorda haunted me for more than just a moment after the late-afternoon visit. I had a hard time sleeping that night only a few miles away, afraid as if something from the Southern gothic home had attached it’s non-corporeal self to my childish but very real fears.

I remember visiting a long, rectangular shed on the property said to have been servant quarters. Someone pointed out what appeared to be manacles; I didn’t stick around. All that is left today of the fabled plantation home is what appears to be the old commissary.

Col. D.M. Russell founded the home after the Civil War. Russell bought 120 acres and built a two-room log cabin. He named his plantation Matagorda, after a particular type of long-stapled cotton. Both land and home were later expanded.

The storied plantation is steeped in intrigue and Delta whodunits, including the son of a famous Civil War General adopted by D.M. Russell and second wife Maggie, who married her adopted son when Col. Russell died. The new couple had two sons: John Bell Hood and Robin Hood. When John Bell Hood died, Robin was renamed John Bell Hood, after his older brother.

The outlaw Jesse James reportedly spent a night in the commissary on a trip to the Delta with the intention of robbing a prominent Friars Point citizen. James was recognized and persuaded not to carry out his plan. Starting to get how wonderfully serendipitous the Delta is?

Sparky Reardon, my high school English teacher and recently retired Dean of Students at Ole Miss, Pride of ALL the South, told Madge and me a few weeks ago over a brew (hush, he ain’ the dean anymore) at the Lamar Lounge in Oxford, MS that he penned a piece about Matagorda Plantation while writing for the Clarksdale Press Register during the summer of 1972.

I searched for it on the old microfiche at the Carnegie Public Library in Clarksdale and given the luck of Poor Williams everywhere, it was the only page not scanned from that day’s paper. Undaunted, I am still searching and researching. Stay tuned for more info on Matagorda in a few weeks, ladies and gentlemens, the plot thickens like a good file’ gumbo…pw

Matagorda Plantation home. Photo from Elizabeth Rodgers Collection

Matagorda Plantation home. Photo from Elizabeth Rodgers Collection


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Comments

  1. Interesting. I remember the home looking like it did in Liz Rodgers’ photo in the mid 1960s. But what about the buried treasure?

  2. Debi Maxey says:

    Would love to hear more on this topic! 🙂

  3. Will Nance says:

    Poor William,
    I’ve got lots of great Matagorda stories when you are ready for them! I’ve even got an old fireplace mantel from the mansion in my living room here in Virginia. …and yes, it WAS haunted! 🙂

  4. Dawn Parsonage-Kent says:

    Hello there,
    I have an old album filled with pictures of the plantation. I’ve added them to an Alum on Flickr which you can find here:

    If you would like to use them then do feel free but please do pop a credit for me on the picture and maybe a link to the Flickr page?
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/parsonago/albums/72157662403757201

    Thanks so much

    • Thank you for this! We will check it out. How is it you have this old album? Are you from here? Do tell!

      • Hey there,

        I’m from Oxford in England and I found the photo album at an antiques market here. It’s the family album of an author called Shaw Desmond. In the 1920’s he toured the US to showcase about his beliefs and in 1924 he stayed at the Matagorda plantation. The pictures have notes at the back on them with the info I’ve added the pictures on Flickr.

        It seemed like a rather fascinating place and my limited research showed that there wasn’t that many photographs of the planation on the web so I thought I’d share these! 🙂

  5. Karen Kohlhaas says:

    Billy I have a pdf of that 1972 article, I will message it to you!
    Did you see Noel Workman’s article this past year in Delta Mag? I think I have a pdf of that too. Matagorda is a story I keep running into. Ask Floyd Graham, he is also interviewed in the Workman article. I had sent him scans of some photos I’d seen; some of them ended up in that article too.

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