Mound family selling off history

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 14, 2005

The old Mound train depot, built in the early 1900s. (MEREDITH SPENCER The Vicksburg Post)

[1/14/05]MOUND Andrew and Darlene Federick are ready for the past to leave them behind.

They want the century-old buildings on their six acres to leave, be moved or be razed, so they can put up a new, modern home.

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“We’re moving into a new chapter of our lives,” Darlene Federick said.

The land on which the Federicks live makes up most of the small community of Mound, where only 16 people live. Darlene Federick said she and her husband are ready to downsize.

“It’s just a lot of upkeep.”

“It” is the early-1900s railroad depot they’re advertising for sale and a building from the same era that once was an 11-room hotel. It had one bathroom.

They’re still debating whether to get rid of a two-room shotgun that once was a doctor’s office and library and now is their teenage daughter’s lime-green hangout.

“We might keep it for grandkids there are just too many memories there,” Darlene Federick said.

Where these buildings stand just eight miles west of Vicksburg history is evident.

The 1,200-square foot depot has paint-peeled doors where “white” and “colored” can still be read.

If the depot, built in the early 1900s, doesn’t give a hint of a railroad community that once had more than 400 families, perhaps some of the other structures on the Federicks’ property can help paint the scene further. The Old Mound Hotel has been renovated since its birth in the early 1900s when it was used to house an anti-mosquito task force.

“The mosquitoes were so bad, they needed workers to get rid of them,” Darlene Federick said.

The Federicks had the building renovated in 1991 when Andrew Federick inherited the land where the depot, hotel and the little green house all sit. The collection of buildings all with stories as deep as the foundations that hold them can distill feelings of a ghost town with a past long gone and few structures remaining. But, it won’t be long before only pictures and stories of the old town’s structures remain.

The couple has already advertised to sell the train depot now piled high with decades of storage for $25,000 on condition that it be moved. They are packing things to move out of the old hotel, which they will also sell and, hopefully, also have moved, Darlene Federick said.

Little by little and they hope by May the Federicks will have their land cleared of Mound’s oldest structures so they can build a new home. By the time they’re done, the only glimmer of the historical town may be the green house, which, if they keep it, will be painted a shade of brown, Federick said. Across the street, a rundown schoolhouse that peeks its shattered windows and withered frame through overgrown brush, will also give a hint of what once was Yerger land.

Andrew Federick’s great-grandfather, George Yerger, owned the land in Mound, which was filled with tenant farmers, Federick’s sister Margaret Crews said. She now lives two doors down from the old hotel in the same house where her grandparents lived. The only building in use by the time she was born 47 years ago was a general store her grandparents ran. It was called the George S. Yerger Company.

She said the depot has not been in use since before she and her brother, who is a year younger, were born.

The store was the first of the old buildings to go. The Federicks, who now own the piece of land where the Kansas City Southern Railroad separated the general store from the train depot, sold the store for lumber in 2002.

The store was a place that harbored memories for Crews and her brother. Susie and Dave Walters of Vicksburg rented the building from Crews’ grandparents and renamed it The Mound Plantation General Store. They sold sausage and old souvenirs, Crews said.

The train depot was used only for storage, Crews believes.

“The store was the focal thing. The depot we never really thought about it like you would the store,” she said.

Holding to its past, Mound remains incorporated.

“I think it’s still the smallest incorporated town in Louisiana. We have a mayor, alderman and a chief of police,” she said.

“Andrew’s the sheriff,” Darlene Federick said. “We laugh. He doesn’t carry a gun, but he’s got a badge.”

Because of small town traditions, it’s possible the town can stick to its roots without the buildings that have made it stand out.

The depot, a place where the Federicks’ three teenage daughters used to play, might become someone else’s hunting camp or maybe just a pile of lumber from which another structure can be built.

Darlene Federick said she hopes someone will use the original structure, although moving it will be tough.

“They might have to split it down the middle or take it apart and rebuild it,” Darlene Federick said.