Recollections of Rodney, Jefferson County, Mississippi

  I came to Mississippi from my native state of Kentucky in the fall of 1836, taking up my
residence in the little town of Rodney, in Jefferson County, where I had relatives of such
standing as gave me all of the social advantages which the community could confer.  Though
this town is but little known to history, it is yet one of the oldest settlements in Mississippi, the
county in which it is situated having been one of the first counties settled.  Petit Gouffre, as it
was called by the French, afterwards Petty Gulf by the English, and lastly Rodney as it is now
called, was known as early as 1773.
 At the date of my arrival, the town had an active and profitable mercantile business.  The
planters of the county were generally rich and prosperous, so much so, that numbers of them
had balances in the hands of their commission merchants in New Orleans, while others were
opening new plantations in the swamps along the low land river courses.  Sometimes a three or
five years business would be so profitable to a prudent merchant as to enable him to retire -
sell out to his clerks and go to planting, or to New Orleans to engage in larger operations.
 The society of the town was good and to an extent cultivated.  The physicians and lawyers of
the town were men of respectable attainments, and the merchants were intelligent.  A happy
influence upon the town and country generally was exerted by the proximity of Oakland
College, a flourishing institution of learning under the patronage and control of the Synod of
Mississippi, founded in 1829 through the influence of its longtime venerable President
Jeremiah Chamberlain, and through the liberality of its life-long friend, David Hunt, a wealthy
planter of the neighborhood.
 There was but a single hotel in the town at the time.  The fare was pretty rough and often too
scarce.  The boarders would crowd around the door at the hour of meals and, not infrequently,
the first man in would be pushed forward so violently as to floor him, but he would dive under
the table and rise with a chair in his hand ready to take his seat.
 The ballroom of this old hotel was its most attractive feature to the belles and beaux of the
town and country.  The public room of the hotel, in the absence of anything like a town hall, was
often used as a place for public meetings.
 The old planters of the neighborhood were, very many of them, remarkable men.  Nearly all of
them were men of great force of character.  Arbitrary, self-willed and dictatorial as they were,
they yet exhorted admiration by their good sense and their genuine and hearty hospitality.  The
very circumstances of their lives had made men of them.  It required courage to brook the
exposures of the wild life they had led in the first settlement of the country, and this courage
then displayed, had marked their characters as they grew older.  The fireside discussions
between these old fellows were often well worth listening to.  These men were wise practically -
wise in action, and though sometimes awkward in speech, behind these awkward words was a
vigor of thought, frequently, which surprised and often surpassed the schoolmen.  They were
learned in the practical things of life, hard experience being their Alma Mater.


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Excerpts from
"Random Recollections of Early Days in Mississippi"
Written by H. S. Fulkerson  ~  Published in 1885