LOOKING BACK: Bodron’s long legacy in the River City

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, October 18, 2023

By Nancy Bell, Vicksburg Foundation for Historic Preservation

The two-story commercial building at 2323 Washington St. was designed in 1912 by architect Michael Donovan for Elias B. Bodron to be used as his general store on the first floor and residence on the second floor.

It was constructed by W.H. Padgett and according to a Vicksburg Evening Post article, had a reinforced concrete foundation and was “supplied with all the modern conveniences, including lights, hot and cold water, and an extraordinary line of finest and latest plumbing work and fixtures.”

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Bodron was from Syria and was treasurer of the Syrian Progressive Aid Society, an organization formed by Syrian (Eastern) Orthodox Christians to perpetuate the faith of their forefathers and to establish a church. In 1910, one of their first tasks was to ask the City of Vicksburg to donate a lot in the city cemetery for the society and its members, which was later granted.

By 1913, the society had 45 members and The Vicksburg Evening Post reported, “We learn that the Society is ambitious to aid in building a church for the Syrian population of this city, and has set apart a considerable sum of money as a nucleus for the proposed most worthy enterprise. No doubt leading citizens, members of other denominations, will give assistance when the time comes for beginning the work.”

In May 1913, the members announced that they would buy the South Washington Street Methodist Church and would make alterations and improvements and that the church hereafter would be known as St. George’s Church. When the church was dedicated, the bishop of North America and the archdeacon came to Vicksburg to assist with the ceremony and stayed at Bodron’s residence on the second floor.

In 1914, Bodron’s advertisement in The Vicksburg Post boasted “Why does everybody point to Bodron’s, just because no long waits, no short weights. Five things you get at E.B. Bodron’s: 1, courteous treatment; 2, quick service; 3, good goods; 4, low prices and 5, a receipt for purchases.”

In July 1920, Bodron had decided to retire from business and he leased the first floor to Piggly Wiggly. The Vicksburg Herald reported that “the proprietors of the original Piggly Wiggly have for some time been trying to get a suitable place in South Washington Street for the purpose of opening another Piggly Wiggly, which will give the people in this part of Vicksburg one of these modern stores nearby, which will save them the trouble of going downtown. Piggly Wiggly is enjoying a fine business and the opening of the Hoggly Woggly has been a strong companion as it enables housewives to shop for their pantry and ice-box almost at the same place.”

Piggly Wiggly, in short order, found that they were unable to “install the standard fixtures of that company” and the lease was taken over by Jitney Jungle. The Vicksburg Post reported that the store gets its name from the fact that the proprietors guarantee to save all purchasers a jitney on every quarter spent with them.

“The new store, which is to be finished throughout in white enamel, will carry a high-class stock of groceries and provisions and will be operated on the cash and carry plan, and with two turn-stile entrances, the purchaser walks in and waits on herself, paying the cashier as she walks out.”

Bodron continued to live in the rear and second floor of the building and in January 1923 he married Helen Ellis. Their son, Ellis Bodron, became a lawyer and was elected to the Mississippi House in 1948 and the Mississippi Senate in 1952. He remained a member until 1984.

By 1935, the Jitney Jungle had moved to 2202 Washington St. and the commercial space of 2323 was vacant. The Bodrons, however, continued to live in the building.

After Elias died in 1947, Helen continued to live there and is listed in the 1962 city directory. In the 1970s, Busby and Sones occupied the first floor.

The building remains today, but the wooden porch, which extended across the front and turned the south corner, and the storefront are no longer extant. However, original plans exist that could be used to reconstruct both.