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.