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A History of Rodney MS and Oakland College
by John A. Limerick


Office of Limerick & Co., Druggists and Booksellers
Rodney, Miss, August 16, 1901

Prof. J.A. White
Agriculture College Miss.

My dear Sir

Enclosed you will find a little sketch of Rodney and vicinity. It may be that you may find something in it of interest to your society. Will say however that my manner of life has been such as to totally unfit me for such work. Hoping my imperfections will be excused. I am
Respectfully &c
J. A. Limerick

The Town of Rodney Mississippi, named in honor of Judge Rodney, was settled or laid out about the year 1826. The locality was first known as far back as 1765 as "Little Gulf" and afterwards as "Petit Gulf." Until about the year 1864, the current of the Mississippi river ran in front of the town but since then a bar has gradually formed until now the Town is more than a mile and a half from the river. The country surrounding the town is known as "Petit Gulf Hills" and at one time the cotton raised in the vicinity was known as "petit gulf cotton" commanding in the cotton market the highest price for lint and seeds.

The Town was almost entirely consumed by fire in the year 1852, and again in 1869. The following description of the last fire was given by the officers of the Steamer Richmond, as she passed the Town during the fire. "Wednesday night, shortly after we left Vicksburg, a bright lights was observed in the southern horizon. All manner of speculation was rife on board concerning the cause and as the light grew nearer and nearer the interest grew in proportion. At last after several hours of eager watching we bore in sight of the beautiful Town of Rodney and lo, we beheld it the object of the wrath of the fire king. The whole village was wrapped in a mantle of flames and as at two o'clock in the morning our boat glided swiftly down along the other shore, the scene was grand beyond description, lit up as it was by the lurid lights from burning buildings, mingled with the moon's pale beams."

County Fairs were held in the Town of Rodney during the fall of 1858, 1859, and 1860. No finer display of blooded stock was ever presented at any fair in this state, than that shown at the Rodney fairs. And no finer premiums were ever offered in this state; they being solid silver, cups, vases &c. A number of Mississippi raised horses taking premiums over blue ribbon horses that had been brought from other states and from other fairs. The visitors at these fairs were largely from New Orleans, Vicksburg, Natchez, Port Gibson and neighboring Louisiana Parishes.

During the latter part of the summer of 1863, Rev. Mr. Baker, pastor of the Presbyterian Church, at Red Lick, (this Jefferson County) being at heart a union man, resigned his pastorate, and came to Rodney, to get transportation north. While here awaiting a north bound boat, he was the guest of Acting Master E. H. Fentress of the U.S.S. Rattler, lying off Rodney. On the morning of September 12, 1863, [13-Sep-1863 sic] Rev. Robt. Price, pastor of the Rodney Presbyterian Church, invited Mr. Baker to come ashore and preach for him. Mr. Baker accepted the invitation and at the same time extended an invitation to the officers and men of the Steamer Rattler, to go with him to the church and hear him preach. Acting Master E. H. Fentress, Acting Ensign S. Strunk, and some eighteen or twenty seamen accompanied him to the church, and just after the services had begun, Lt. Allen, a Confederate scout and some fifteen men surrounded the church and demanded the surrender of the Federals. Instead of surrendering however the Federals opened fire upon the Confederates in the church, crowded mostly with women and children, but strange to say although there was fifteen or twenty shots fired in and around the church, no one was killed and only one seaman slightly wounded. Acting Master E. H. Fentress and Ensign Strunk, and fifteen seamen were captured. Before the congregation had time to disperse the Steamer Rattler began shelling the Town, one shell striking the Presbyterian church. After the Confederates had retired to a place of safety with their prisoners, the Federals came ashore and made an attempt to burn the town. The citizens notified Lt. Allan of the fact and he sent word to Federal Commander that if any house or property was destroyed he would hang every prisoner in his charge. This message had the proper effect and upon receipt of same they returned to their boat and in a short time left for Natchez to make report to the commander of the naval fleet of this District.

Oakland College, situated near Rodney, was first chartered by the Legislature of Mississippi under the name of "The Institution of Learning Under the care of the Mississippi Presbytery" in the winter of 1830-1831. Said charter gave the Board of Trustees power the change the name, and on the 4th day of February 1832, the name of Oakland College was assumed, by which name it was known up to the time of its sale to the State of Mississippi in 1871. The State purchased the property for the establishment of a school for the higher education of her colored youth under the name of Alcorn University, which name was changed by the Legislature in 1878 to Alcorn Agriculture and Mechanical College.

The origin of Oakland college can be traced to a meeting of the Presbytery of Mississippi, held in the Town of Baton Rouge Louisiana, April 1829. Mississippi Presbytery at that time consisted of the Presbyterian Ministers and Elders of the Presbyterian Churches in the States of Louisiana, Mississippi and the Territory of Arkansas.

Rev. Jeremiah Chamberlain, first President of Oakland College, first opened school on the 14th day of May 1830, with three pupils at a house on a tract of land called Wooley's Mound, belonging to Mr. Dromgoole, near James Creek, and on the 15th of June 1830, the school was removed to Bethel Church Claiborne County, and on the 4th day of January 1831, the school was removed to the college ground, at which time the buildings consisted of six cottages in an unfinished state, and the English school house and Professors house were under construct.

Judge James M. Smyly was the first graduate of Oakland College, receiving the degree of A.B. in 1833. His classmate William Montgomery, who expected to receive his degree at the same time, was removed by death about three weeks before commencement. This is believed to have been the first commencement south of Tennessee, and James M. Smyly, the first native of the state who received his degree in his own state.

The first subscription to supply the necessary funds for the purchase of a site and the erection of the necessary buildings was twelve thousand five hundred dollars payable in five annual installments. During the summer of 1830, Mr. Robert Cochran made a deed to the Board of Trustees for two hundred and fifty acres of land for a site of the collage, in consideration of subscriptions which he had made. A number of citizens living near the College in after years gave largely during the life of the College. Mr. David Hunt of Jefferson College gave near two hundred thousand dollars.

During the life of Oakland College, Rodney enjoyed exceptional advantages. The influence of the College giving a culture and refinement rarely enjoyed in rural districts. The Presbyterian Church was the leading one, and its pulpit was often filled by the brightest men in the church. Such men as Palmer, Stratton, Chamberlain, Calvin, Price and others.

Transcribed by Annette Bowen from manuscript original at the Mississippi State Archives in Jackson, Mississippi.

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Last Updated

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All rights reserved. This information may be used by libraries and genealogical societies, however, commercial use of this information is strictly prohibited without prior permission of the owner. If copied, this copyright notice must appear with the information.

 

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