Historic Rodney, MS
Our #waybackwednesday post comes from one of our favorite places, the abandoned town of Rodney, Mississippi. The area was first settled by the French in January, 1763 and called Petit Gulf, meaning Little Chasm. The Spanish took control of West Florida from the British in 1781. Spain would hold the site until 1791, when a Spanish land grant deeded the site to Thomas Calvit, a prominent territorial Mississippi landholder. As settlements along the Mississippi River grew, so did the importance of the port of Petit Gulf. In 1814, the name of the town was changed to honor Judge Thomas Rodney, the territorial magistrate. When Mississippi was admitted as a state in 1817, Petit Gulf very nearly became the state’s first capitol, missing out to old Washington, near Natchez, by only three votes. Rodney was officially established in 1828
Even though today only 2 churches, an old store, and the Masonic Lodge, Rodney was once one of the busiest towns on the Mississippi River. In 1832, the red-bricked Presbyterian Church was built and in 1850, Mt. Zion Baptist Church was constructed. The Presbyterian Church was fired upon in 1863 from the nearby Union gunboat, the USS Rattler after a skirmish in the church with Confederates. By 1830, Rodney had grown to a population of about 200 and it sported some 20 stores, a church, a newspaper, and the state’s first opera house. Before long, the city was known for its county fairs, a jockey club, a lecture hall, thespian groups, and its own quality schools. On a number of occasions, traveling actors and musicians on the passing steamboats provided entertainment for Rodney residents at the Masonic Hall. Rodney suffered a Yellow Fever Epidemic in 1843 and 1847 but bounced back. By 1860, 4000 called Rodney home and Commerce and Magnolia streets were lined with businesses including banks, wagon makers, tinsmiths, barbers, doctors, dentists, general mercantile stores, hotels, saloons, and pastry shops. Though Rodney and the surrounding area had been spared any great battles, the Civil War left its mark, as the land was stripped of food, livestock, and slaves by Union troops. Reconstruction further stripped away the prosperity of Rodney, as well as much of the south. The Civil War would spell the beginning of the end for this once thriving port city. In 1869, the town was almost destroyed by fire and in 1870, large sand bar had formed in the nearby Mississippi River, causing the grand waterway to alter its course. This eventually spelled the end to the amazing town of Rodney. Today, Rodney sits nearly a mile from the Mississippi River.