The marvelous phrase, “Lord willing and the creek don’t rise,” occurs frequently in Southern dialogue with some changes (i.e. “God” or “Good Lord” instead of just “Lord” and sometimes plural creeks or “Creek” capitalized). Initially, this phrase did not refer to “creek” as in a body of water, but to the Creek People (now known as the “Muscogee”). According to Google Knol, this phrase originated with the great Indian Agent, Benjamin Hawkins, in the 18th century when he responded to a presidential request to travel to Washington with, “God willing and the Creek don’t rise.”
In a recent news piece from WLBT News, the NBC station in Jackson, Mississippi, a mistake in the spelling of a word made me think of this wonderful turn of phrase. A reporter from the station spent an evening investigating one of the historic showplaces on Lake Washington. He described the group as hearing “a few knocks and creaks downstairs,” though the article reads “a few knocks and creeks downstairs.” It certainly made me chuckle.
The group was investigating the exceedingly atmospheric Susie B. Law House. Neglected for quite some time, this house now hides under a shroud of vines. Underneath this organic, house-shaped shroud is a two-story, white Greek revival house with a columned portico extending from the front. Barbara Sillery in her magisterial The Haunting of Mississippi (which I reviewed here), mentions that a smaller version of the house exists as a playhouse not far from the main house and crushed by a tangle of vines. The house’s appearance has led to its use as a filming location twice, though I cannot find the identities of either film.
|Vines cover the portico of the Susie B.|
Law House. Photo 2010 by Tinkerbrad.
Released under a Creative Commons
The reporter, Walt Grayson, and the paranormal team, Delta Paranormal, investigating the house recently encountered more than groans and creaks from downstairs. An upstairs door closed itself and was moments later caught on tape opening and closing. The proprietor of a local bait shop, Bait n’ Thangs, who is interviewed in the video also appears in Sillery’s book. He had an odd experience while passing by the Law House a few years ago before the house became so covered in vines. He saw a light in the empty house and as he got closer witnessed a little old lady in a white nightgown ascending the staircase with an oil lamp in her hand. He considered calling the sheriff, but he knew the house was empty and something just wasn’t right. After reporting the woman to descendents of the Law family, he discovered that he’d seen the apparition of Susie B. Law.
The house is one of the showplaces built near Lake Washington, considered the “most beautiful lake in the world.” In the early 19th century many families were attracted to the oxbow lake and built magnificent mansions on its shores along East Lake Washington Road in the hamlet of Glen Allan. Among the most important homes was the Italianate red-brick house, Mount Holly. It was important enough that the 1938 WPA guide to the state devotes a paragraph to describing the home’s “walls […] 2 feet thick and the ceilings 14 feet high.” It goes on to note the “rosewood staircase, rounded niches for statuary, frescoes, walnut woodwork and great oven.” The circa 1856 home was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, but more recently, it has become known for its ghosts.
|Mount Holly, 2010, by Tinkerbrad.|
Released under a Creative Commons
Like the nearby Law House, Mount Holly sits derelict. It is here that the bait shop owner also had a bizarre experience. Whilst showing a couple historians through the house, the local fishing guide had a door slammed in his face. Moments later, he witnessed a figure running away from the door. Evidently spirits in both houses enjoy their door closing abilities.
Neglect shows on both of these magnificent homes. Neither is currently open to the public so I have not added addresses to this entry. In the video, the bait shop owner mentions that he hopes paranormal investigations could provide the money to at least stabilize the Law House. Mount Holly needs just as much work and could also benefit from paranormal investigations. It’s also noted in the video that the area has received a great deal of rain recently; rain that can cause damage to both edifices. Lord willing and the creeks don’t rise these houses can be saved.
Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration.
Mississippi: A Guide to the Magnolia State. NYC: Viking Press,
Grayson, Walt. “Look Around Mississippi: Historic Home needs
saving.” WLBT NBC News. 17 April 2012.
Sillery, Barbara. The Haunting of Mississippi. Gretna, LA; Pelican
Vaney, Elmal. “Abandoned Mississippi: Mount Holly, Lake
Washington.” Preservation in Mississippi. 25 February 2010.
Williams, Nicole. “Origin of the Phrase ‘God willing and the Creek
Don’t Rise.’” Version 3. Knol. 2009 Jul 31.