By BARBARA GAUNTT / The Clarion Ledger
Alston Grocery Store rests at the intersection.
Wire fencing wrapped around the building keeps unwanted visitors out of the aged wooden structure. A vine snakes its way up the fence at the front corner, making its way onto the circa 1920s gas pump. Life in the bright green leaves of the vine compliment the red rust of the corroding metal.
But Rodney, Mississippi, isn’t deserted. Eight people still call it home.
Incorporated in 1828, the city was once a bustling river town boasting 500 residents, two newspapers, 25 stores and two banks. Established as an important shipping point along the Mississippi River, the U.S.S. Rattler docked at Rodney during the Civil War.
In 1863, while attending services at Rodney Presbyterian, Union soldiers were captured by the Confederacy, which caused the Rattler to fire on the church and town.
The Confederates threatened to kill their prisoners unless the bombardment stopped. It did. And Rodney Presbyterian still stands in silent beauty to this day.
Now, the Rodney History and Preservation Society, started in 2017, is raising money to restore it to its former glory.
“Now we’re at the point where we’re almost ready to begin construction, we do have an engineering company, architect… and we will start the emergency structural support, that is not a renovation… the next part is permanent structural support,” says Mary Pallon, secretary for Rodney History and Preservation Society.
Rodney is quiet now. The only sound to be heard besides the rustling of the wind through the trees is if that of stones popping and creaking under the weight of the car as it pulls off the road.
Before walking south to see the iconic Mt. Zion Baptist Church, stained and long damaged by time and floodwaters or heading north to take in the Masonic Lodge or Rodney Presbyterian, pause and take a moment.
Close your eyes and think about Rodney at its peak. Feel the spirit of those who walked those streets. Imagine Rodney long before the Mississippi River changed its course; before the fire of 1869 wiped out the north end of Rodney; before the railroad was built in Fayette in the 1880s causing cotton shipments to bypass the town — before Rodney’s decline.
Imagine the townspeople stopping at the grocery store to shop, fill up or just to pass the time of day.
Think of the Masons gathering at the Masonic Lodge.
Feel the energy of Rodney’s people filling Mt. Zion and Rodney Presbyterian. You can almost hear their voices raised in praise.
Be respectful as you explore. Rodney was — and still is — a place some call home.
“We don’t have funds to do the full renovation, so we have a lot of needs that are still out there… we don’t have a community like a lot of nonprofits have, we have a ‘Ghost Town’ so our community has become social media.”
– If you go
What: Historic Rodney
Where: Rodney, Mississippi
Distance: Rodney is about 80 miles southwest of Jackson near Alcorn University and 143 miles northwest of Hattiesburg.
Things to know: All buildings in Rodney are private property and in severe disrepair. Explore from the outside. Also, there are still about eight people still living in Rodney. Be respectful.
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