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Preservation group works to save Mississippi ghost town

RODNEY — Although the Mississippi River left the town of Rodney more than 100 years ago, recent floodwaters threaten to take away the last remaining pieces of the Jefferson County ghost town.

A newly formed nonprofit is working to preserve one of the state’s historic treasures.

The newly-formed Rodney History and Preservation Society is working to preserve and promote what was one of the state’s major river towns before a change in the Mississippi’s course left it high and dry.

The group’s vice president William B. Lowrance remembers visiting the town near Lorman with his father who was the minister of the Port Gibson Presbyterian Church in the early 1950s. His father visited from time to time to minister to the congregation at the Presbyterian Church of Rodney, one of the few remaining structures in the town.

“When I visited with my father, there was a good congregation of 20 to 25 people,” Lowrance said.

Bought by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1966, the red brick church with a replica cannonball lodged in its front wall sits on high ground.

“High enough that the floods haven’t reached it,” Lowrance said.

What the floods haven’t affected, the slow march of time has. These days, there are no church services and the building is reportedly up for sale and in need of work, Lowrance said.

The preservation society holds out hope that it will one day obtain the church to preserve it for future generations, Lowrance said, but the group does not yet have the funds to purchase the building from the UDC.

Even still, Lowrance said the preservation society continues to work toward its mission of resurrecting and preserving Rodney’s history and providing educational opportunities to promote the heritage of the area for future generations.

“Over time people are forgetting the history of places like Rodney,” Lowrance said.

Mary Pallon’s grandfather was the last minister assigned to the Presbyterian Church. The secretary of the preservation group, Pallon said the church and the town are vital links to Mississippi history that deserve to be preserved.

Rodney was three votes shy of being named the capital of Mississippi, Pollan points out, and the Presbyterian Church is arguably one of the finest examples of Federal architecture in Mississippi that is not a house. (The First Presbyterian Church in Natchez may be the finest example, Pallon said.)

As the Rodney group continues its efforts to acquire the church, it has also identified other areas that need attention, such as the town’s historic cemetery.

“The cemetery is in horrible condition, and it is something we could make a difference in,” Pallon said.

Fundraising efforts have begun, and the group is actively seeking members and volunteers. The group invites those interested to visit its website at rodneyhistory.org and its Facebook page called RodneyMississippiRemembering.

Donations can be mailed to Rodney History and Preservation Society, P.O. Box 312, Lorman, MS 39096.

Money raised from donations will go to help preserve not just the town of Rodney but a rich part of Mississippi’s history Pallon said.

From the early Native Americans to the booming years, to its rich Civil War history and the 1900s after the river changed course, Rodney offers a rare glimpse into the Mississippi story.

“The history keeps going on,” Pallon said.

Ben Hillyer is the news editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3549 or by email at ben.hillyer@natchezdemocrat.com.