Monday, August 23, 2010

Noxubee County Library

103 East Martin Luther King Street
Macon, Mississippi

Jefferson Street, Macon, Mississippi, probably just after
the turn of the 20th century. Courtesy of the Mississippi
Department of Archives and History, Forrest Lamar Cooper
Postcard Collection.

As I stated in the first entry of this blog, Mississippi is the one Southern state whose ghosts have not been well researched. I have found all of two books specifically on the state though there are stories scattered throughout many other books. Online, there’s very little good information on the state's ghosts as well. This article is the beginning of my attempt to do some justice for Mississippi’s ghosts who have haunted in obscurity for far too long.

So far, I’ve preferred to cover locations that I have quite a few sources for, but, in this case, I only have one source for information on the haunting, though it is a fairly good source. My search for historic resources on the location has been fruitless, indeed finding much information on Noxubee County or the town of Macon has been difficult and the historical sources I have found are fairly old, though still reliable.

Allow me to set the scene with a bit of local history. In 1830, sixty Choctaw leaders met with government agents at a place with the marvelous name of Dancing Rabbit Creek. It was there that the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek was signed on the 27th of September that ceded some 11 million acres of Choctaw land east of the Mississippi River to white settlers in exchange for some 15 million acres in Oklahoma. The ceded land became a huge swath of what is now the state of Mississippi and a small portion of western Alabama. In 1833, the portion of the ceded lands around Dancing Rabbit Creek was established as Noxubee County, so named for the Noxubee River (meaning “stinking water” in the Choctaw language). Near the center of the county, on the Noxubee River, the town of Macon was established as the county seat. The town prospered and, according to the 1938 WPA guide to Mississippi, “the big white- columned homes are the remaining evidence.”

As Sherman burned the state capital during the Civil War, the state government moved to Macon temporarily, setting up business at the Calhoun Institute, one of a handful of schools in and around Macon. Two sessions of the state legislature met in these school buildings while one of them, as well as many of Macon’s church buildings, were commandeered for hospitals. Most histories of the area seem to stop just after the turmoil of the Civil War, so one might be tempted to assume that the town returned to being a sleepy hamlet. Judging from the population numbers in the 1938 WPA guide (2,198 people) and the numbers provided by the more recent Wikipedia (2,461 people), it seems that little has changed throughout the bulk of the twentieth century.

Author Alan Brown in his 2004 book, Stories from the Haunted South, writes about the haunting of the Noxubee County Library in Macon. Brown is a professor of English at the University of West Alabama in Livingston and one of a handful of marvelous authors on the subject of Southern ghosts. His books are well researched and cited as well as being wonderfully readable.



The Noxubee County Library is a Richardsonian Romanesque building that was originally built as the county jail in 1907. It served its purpose as a jail for seventy years when a modern jail was constructed nearby. The empty building garnered the attention of local historians and was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. In 1983, the local library board took over the building and began renovations to transform the structure into a public library. In preserving the historic integrity of the original structure, many of the jail’s features were preserved including some of the iron cell bars, original doors, barred windows, and the gallows which remain in working order.

Brown mentions only one incident of paranormal phenomena at the jail; he tells the story of Si Connors, who was the last man executed by hanging in the state of Mississippi. Connors had killed his wife after learning she had had an affair. Following the murder, he walked into Macon still covered in his wife’s blood and announced what he had done. He was arrested and sentenced to hang, though he requested that he not be hung on the gallows inside the jail, but in a public spectacle. According to the Macon Beacon, he claimed to have been visited in jail by his wife’s spirit and Jesus, who forgave his sins. It was noted that he walked to his death so resolutely that the crowd was moved. Shortly after his execution, Mississippi outlawed hanging as a form of execution and the gallows in the Noxubee County Jail remained unused.

Connors’ ghost was later reported to appear in his cell in the jail though no indication has been given that the jail is still haunted. It can be noted that spirits do sometimes fade away as time goes on, though, being a former jail, it’s not hard to imagine the location may still harbor spiritual activity. I have yet to find any other information on paranormal phenomena, and I would be very interested in hearing from anyone who has experienced anything odd in or perhaps has investigated the Noxubee County Library.

Further information on visiting the Noxubee County Library can be found at the library website.

Sources

Brown, Alan. Stories from the Haunted South. Oxford, MS: University
     Press of Mississippi, 2004.
Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration. Mississippi:
     A Guide to the Magnolia State. New York: Viking Press, 1938.
"List of National Register of Historic Places Entries in Noxubee County, Mississippi.”
     Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 11 August 2010.
Macon, Mississippi.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved
     11 August 2010.
Rowland, Dunbar. Mississippi: Comprising Sketches of Counties, Towns,
     Events, Institutions and Persons Arranged in Cyclopedic Form, Vol.
     II, L-Z. Atlanta: Southern Historical Publishing Association, 1907.
Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.
     Retrieved 11 August 2010.

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