Monday, April 30, 2012

"Dr. Tichenor's Antiseptic"

"Dr. Tichenor's" is a product that's been around a while. If you haven't used it yourself, it's likely you've at least heard of it. Today, it's advertised as a mouthwash, but for many years was credited with many more uses. The subject of this entry is not about the product itself, however, but the famous Dr. Tichenor.

Much of what is "known" about George Humphrey Tichenor (1837-1923) may or may not be true. A native of Ohio County, Kentucky, Tichenor's father was a merchant and a steamboat owner. When his mother died in 1851, his father remarried and brought five additional children into the "blended" family. This arrangement apparently did not suit George or his brother, as both ran away from home. We next find Tichenor in Franklin, Tennessee, where he enlisted in the Confederate Army in 1861. It's at this point that the story gets a bit fuzzy.

First, here is the popular story about George Tichenor's exploits during the Civil War. Enlisting in a cavalry regiment, Tichenor served as an assistant surgeon, and experimented with antiseptics on wounds. Badly wounded in the leg in 1863, an amputation was recommended, but he insisted on treating his wound with an alcohol-based solution of his own. Amazingly, his wound healed, and he regained the use of his leg. With this discovery, the good doctor saved the lives (and arms and legs) of thousands of wounded soldiers. However, Tichenor insisted that his techniques only be used on wounded Confederate soldiers, not on Union prisoners. After the war, Dr. Tichenor (left), using the knowledge gained as a Confederate surgeon, marketed his antiseptic formula and successfully sold it in New Orleans.

Unfortunately, the truth about Tichenor doesn't quite match the legend.* Before the Civil War, George Tichenor was engaged in business in Franklin, Tennessee, and advertised himself in Nashville as "Prof. G.H. Tichenor, Operator in Oriental and Positive Pictures." Although he apparently had an interest in chemistry, his practice was as a photographer, not in medicine. He did indeed enlist in the cavalry, and served in the Second (Tennessee) Regiment (Barteau's) Cavalry, also known as the 22nd Tennessee Cavalry, where he was present during several engagements in Mississippi, including the Battle of Iuka. On October 9, 1862, he suffered a self-inflicted, accidental wound in his left arm and went to Palo Alto, Mississippi, to recover. Although his arm wasn't amputated, there is no evidence that he  used an antiseptic on his wound (although he might have), nor is there any evidence that he was ever wounded in the leg or served as a surgeon or in any medical capacity in the army whatsoever. In fact, his enlistment papers states his occupation as "artist" rather than "doctor."

After recovering for several months in Palo Alto, Tichenor was ordered to Tennessee to act as a recruiting officer, and given the rank of Captain. Whether he ever made it to Tennessee or how much recruiting he did is unclear, but he was discharged from the army in June 1863 because of his wound. Thereafter, he seems to have settled in Canton, Mississippi, where he married Margaret Ann Drane, whose parents had moved there from Memphis to escape the Union occupation of that city. In Canton, where they lived until 1868, he once again engaged in the photography business and even opened a studio there. He also may have practiced some form of medicine while in Canton, as he patented an inhaler device in 1869.

After leaving Canton, Tichenor and his family moved to Baton Rouge, perhaps by way of Liberty, Mississppi, where legend says he first developed "Dr. Tichenor's" (that "fact" is included on a state historical marker in Liberty). The couple did have a son in Mississippi in 1876, so they presumably lived in Mississippi at the time. Regardless, the family eventually moved to Baton Rouge and then to New Orleans, where he began bottling "Dr. Tichenor's Patent Medicine," which was patented in 1882. The elixir consisted mostly of alcohol, with a bit of oil of peppermint (for flavor) and arnica (used widely in linaments) thrown in. The product was marketed for a wide variety of uses for "man or beast," both external and internal, including as a remedy for mosquito bites or aching feet. The fact that the "medicine" was mostly alcohol probably accounts for its popularity through the years. It was so popular, in fact, that a march was written for it, called, appropriately, "Dr. Tichenor's Antiseptic March." Arrranged by Louis Blake, the piece (above, right) was copyrighted by the Sherbouse Medicine Co., of New Orleans in 1895, which was the distributor of "Dr. Tichenor's" at the time. The present-day company was incorporated in 1905 and is still in New Orleans.

Whatever the truth about "Dr." Tichenor's military service in the Confederate Army, he was very active in post-war veterans' organizations, and was the Division Commander of the United Confederate Veterans in Louisiana in 1916-1918 with the rank of Major General (the U.C.V. regularly gave military-style ranks to their officers). This medal (left) was used during the 1912 UCV reunion, held in Baton Rouge, no doubt attended by Dr. Tichenor. A clear indication of his devotion to the Confederate cause is the original illustration on bottles of "Dr. Tichenor's," which featured a scene of a soldier carrying a Confederate flag into battle. Needless to say, today's version of the product no longer bears this image.

Dr. Tichenor lived until the ripe old age of 85, perhaps due to liberal use of his own elixir. He died in 1923, and is buried in Baton Rouge. Interestingly, his gravestone identifies him as a doctor.

* Detailing many of the facts of Dr. Tichenor’s life is a excellent article written by Dr. Michael Trotter of Greenville, Mississippi, in a recent issue of the Journal of the Mississippi State Medical Association.

Photo sources:
Photo and flier:
Music: From the Special Collections of Christopher Newport University,

Friday, April 27, 2012

"Crazy" Dow

Lorenzo Dow was born in Coventry, Connecticut in October 1777. A sickly child, Dow was always troubled by religious questions. After great deliberation, he decided to join the Methodist Church and applied unsuccessfully for admission to the Connecticut conference in 1796.  Two years later, he was accepted and sent to New York, Massachusetts and Vermont as a traveling preacher, against the wishes of his family.

In the same year, Dow went to Ireland and England to serve as a missionary to convert Catholics (which was quite a undertaking in Ireland). Because he was a bit eccentric, he drew large crowds and introduced the concept of camp meetings to England. Due to poor health, however, he returned to the United States, no longer officially associated with the Methodist Church, though he still preached Methodist doctrine. In 1802, Lorenzo Dow was in the Albany, New York area, where he railed against "atheism, deism, Calvinism and Universalism." This part of western New York would be known as the "burned-over district" because of the religious fervor which swept through it in the early 19th century, generating such movements as the Mormons, Shakers and the Millerites. Long before these groups took hold, however, Lorenzo Dow moved south to Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.

Just as he had in Britain, Dow drew large crowds wherever he went. Preaching mainly in the open, his appearance and technique was probably the main attraction for many who came to hear his message. Known widely as "Crazy" Dow, he was not known for cleanliness, and sported long hair and a beard that appeared to have "never met a comb." He owned just one set of clothes, carried no luggage other than a box of Bibles, and rarely, if ever, bathed. Dow would wear his clothes until they were ragged and full of holes, and relied on the kindness of strangers to donate replacement clothing items whenever needed. His style of preaching was almost as striking as his appearance. He would shout, scream, cry and use any other gimmick to attract attention. Usually traveling by foot (unless someone donated a horse), he had the habit of appearing unannounced at public gatherings and proclaiming for all to hear that Lorenzo Dow would appear in the same place in exactly one year. To everyone's astonishment, he almost always appeared as promised and was able to attract huge crowds as a result. He was also a confirmed abolitionist, and often driven out of towns in the South with stones, eggs and rotten vegetables. Despite all this, Lorenzo Dow is said to have preached to more people than anyone else during the period, and he even managed to find a wife (said to be almost as eccentric and "tinged with a small portion of fanaticism and superstition.").

In 1803, Lorenzo Dow was preaching in the Natchez and Washington, Mississippi, area. With few people attending his sermons at first, he proclaimed that it was doubtful if there were even three Christians in Natchez, black or white. He got lucky, though, when Andrew Marschalk, the publisher of the only weekly paper in Mississippi, found some very critical articles about Dow from papers in Kentucky and decided to reprint them, right next to a meeting notice submitted by Dow.  This did wonders for attendance, and "Crazy" Dow eventually did well in the Natchez area, helping to establish Methodist congregations up and down the river. In 1803, Dow sold a watch that had been given to him in order to purchase land for a church at Kingston, upon which a log meeting house was built. Kingston United Methodist Church is still going. The present structure, a brick church, (above) was built in the late 1850s.

Dow also held a series camp meetings near Port Gibson with members of Randall Gibson's family in attendance. At one such meeting, the people were just about to leave when Dow shouted in a loud voice that he had the latest news from hell! Curious, they stopped packing and waited until he had finished preaching. Not everyone was impressed with "Crazy" Dow's antics. In Kentucky, William Winans, another early Methodist leader in Mississippi, heard that Dow was in the vicinity and rode ten miles on a cold December night to attend the meeting, expecting to see a man of "dignity and piety." What he heard was "Dow's doggerel about someone who supposedly 'vomited three black cows' and 'the Fable of the Old Man, his Son and their Ass.'" He concluded after witnessing several more meetings led by Dow that apart from his being eccentric, he was mediocre at best. Fame, Winans determined, was not necessarily a mark of merit or greatness.

Unfortunately for Winans, he would later find himself serving in the same area with Dow near Port Gibson (on the Claiborne Circuit). By this time, Dow had finally settled down and was part owner of a mill on Clark's Creek, where he had lived long enough "to sink down, in public estimation, to the ordinary standard of respectable humanity." Lorenzo Dow could not stay in one place too long, however, and soon sold his interest in the mill and left Mississippi. Dow eventually moved on to South Alabama and Georgia, where he could again dazzle onlookers with his eccentricities. Rev. Dow died in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 2, 1834, and is buried in Oakhill Cemetery in Georgetown. As a testament to his influence and popularity, thousands of children were named for him in the mid-19th Century. Despite his odd behavior, he is credited with taking the Gospel into the wilderness and helping to establish the early church in Mississippi.

Photo sources:

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Palestine Gardens

Fifteen miles from Lucedale, Mississippi, there is a unique attraction built not for entertainment per se, but for educational purposes, specifically Biblical geography. The Palestine Gardens,* opened in 1960, is a one yard equals one mile scale model of the Holy Land constructed from cinder blocks and concrete. The attraction was the brainchild of the Reverend Walter Harvell Jackson, a native of Jefferson Davis County (below) and his wife Pellerree. In 1930, Jackson was in seminary at Columbia Theological Seminary in Atlanta. During a class taught by Dr. W.T. Ellis, the lecturer challenged his students to "study the Bible as a 'place book.'" With that seed planted, Jackson began thinking about how to make the land of the Bible come alive. 

Ordained as Presbyterian minister in 1933, Rev. Jackson served churches in Kentucky, North Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi. In each place, he looked for a place suitable to create a Biblical landscape. He found it when he came to Lucedale as the pastor of First Presbyterian Church in the mid-1950s and used his life's savings to purchase the forty acres of land that would become a miniature Holy Land. 

With very limited resources, and few tools other than a shovel and wheelbarrow, Reverend Jackson and his wife began constructing the gardens. First, they created the Dead Sea. Then, using concrete and cinder blocks, they created the cities of Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Cana, Jericho, and others. In all, it took seven years to complete, but on Easter Sunday in 1960 they held a sunrise service and then welcomed visitors. During the first year, 3,200 people toured the Gardens. While many visitors were curious locals at first, the literature for the site asserts that in the years since visitors have come from every continent except Antarctica. 
In 1971, Jim Kirkpatrick retired from the Air Force and moved to Lucedale with his wife Jackie (the Jackson's daughter) to help with the site. With his help, the attraction expanded to include the Mediterranean Sea, the Sea of Galilee, and more Biblical cities. In fact, Mrs. Jackson, a teacher in the Lucedale Public Schools, worked an extra year in order to have the resources to build the Mediterranean. The entire area is landscaped with dwarf evergreens, azaleas, lilies, camellias, and mountain laurel, etc. At one time, Rev. Jackson, an experienced gardener, even tried to plant olive trees. However, they apparently could not survive in the climate.

Rev. Jackson died in June, 1992, and his wife passed away the next year (also in June). Together, they had labored for almost forty years to bring their vision to fruition. The Kirkpatricks, who had also worked on the site for twenty-three years, tried briefly to take on the task of keeping up the Gardens, which requires a tremendous amount of physical labor. Due to health concerns, they decided to pass management of the site on to someone else. In 1994, Don (above) and Cindy Bradley answered the call and continue today as curators. They have continued to expand the Gardens and provide costumed guided tours on a regular basis. The Palestine Gardens now encompasses more than 20 acres. Throughout its history, admission has been free, and remains so today.

After visiting Palestine Gardens, tourists may wish to go into downtown Lucedale, where a 4x4 post with serated sides is located in front of a Chinese restaurant on Main Street. The post is known as "The Presidential Scratching Post" because Ronald Reagan is said to have scratched his back on it (after all, the sign does say "Scratch Your Back")!

*  Originally known as the 'Palestinian Gardens,' the current curators changed the name in 1994 to "prevent any misconception that we may be of the Islam religion."

 Photo sources:
(1) Palestine Gardens: 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The General With Two Memorials

James Birdseye McPherson* was born near Clyde, Ohio, in 1828. Raised in an extremely poor family, McPherson's father, a blacksmith, had a history of mental illness and was suddenly unable to work when James was thirteen years old. To help his family, he went to work in a store owned by Robert Smith. Impressed with the young man, Smith helped obtain an appointment for McPherson to West Point. After studying at nearby Norwalk Academy for two years, McPherson entered West Point, where he graduated first in his class in 1853. Appointed to the Corps of Engineers, McPherson worked on several projects, including the construction of defenses on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco (long before it was a prison). There, he met Emily Hoffman of Baltimore, Maryland. They soon fell in love and were engaged to be married.

When the Civil War erupted, McPherson decided to cast his lot with the Union. "My mind is made up, " he wrote to his mother back in Ohio "and I see that I have but one duty to perform and that is to stand by the Union and support the general government." Unfortunately, this did not sit well with his fiancé's mother, who was a Southern sympathizer and whose only son had joined the Confederate cause. As a result, she refused to allow her daughter to marry a Yankee officer. With war afoot and facing a determined Mrs. Hoffman, James and Emily decided to postpone their wedding.

McPherson's experiences are well-documented and does not bear repeating here, other than to say he was well-liked by Grant, Sherman and other officers and advanced rapidly in the army. McPherson served a good bit of time in Mississippi, commanding the Union forces at the battle of Raymond on May 12, 1863, and one of Grant's corps during the Vicksburg Campaign. Although he did not always perform well when given independent command, he continued to advance in rank and was given army command during the Atlanta Campaign. He also made some headway with Mrs. Hoffman, who reluctantly decided that Emily could be married during McPherson's next furlough.

The image to the right is of McPherson in 1864. The painting was done in Huntsville, where McPherson sat for the portrait just a couple of months before his death.

Unfortunately, the furlough did not arrive soon enough. On July 22, 1864, McPherson was killed outside Atlanta by Confederate skirmishers. Upon hearing the news of his death, Confederate General John Bell Hood, who was a West Point classmate of McPherson, wrote that "the death of my classmate and boyhood friend...caused me sincere sorrow." McPherson was just thirty-five years old. When the telegram arrived at the Hoffman home announcing his death, Mrs. Hoffman read the note and proclaimed loudly that at last there was "some good news." Needless to say, the news was not taken as "good" by Emily, who locked herself in her room and did not emerge for a year. Taking nourishment in her darkened room, only her sister Dora was allowed in. Due to the darkness, Dora's eyesight was damaged trying to read to her grieving sister. Emily Hoffman never married, and mourned the loss of her soldier fiancé for the rest of her life. The story does not end there, however.

McPherson's body was taken by train to his boyhood home in Clyde, Ohio, where the citizens embraced their fallen hero, burying him in the town cemetery across from the McPherson family home. Wishing to properly memorialize McPherson, the townspeople decided to raise funds for a monument, and worked for more than a decade to achieve their goal. Then, in the spring of 1876, a delegation from Washington, D.C. arrived unannounced to remove McPherson's body for reburial in Washington. To this affront, the town exploded in anger and formed a committee of citizens to guard the cemetery. "Our people did not take kindly to the idea of having our dead hero removed," recalled a town councilman. The gentlemen returned to Washington empty-handed.

As it turns out, Emily Hoffman was behind the plot to take McPherson's remains to Washington (and closer to Baltimore), where she planned to bury him underneath a suitably large monument. Calling on both Grant and Sherman, as well as a brother-in-law (one of the founders of Wells Fargo), Hoffman managed to raise the necessary funds for an equestrian statue and even managed to convince Congress to pay for the base of the monument. Grant had convinced McPherson's mother to allow her son to be reinterred in Washington. Despite her agreement to the plan, the people of Clyde were determined, at gunpoint if necessary, to prevent it. And so, James McPherson remained in Clyde, Ohio.

In the fall of 1876, thousands of veterans, including Grant and Sherman, gathered in Washington to unveil a large memorial statue (above) of McPherson (minus the body), located just blocks from the White House. Six years later, on July 22, 1881, the townspeople in Clyde finally erected their own monument, with help from outside contributors (below). Both monuments were designed by sculptor Louis Rebisso, an Italian immigrant, and were based on items related to McPherson's life provided by his former comrades, including Andrew Hickenlooper, who loaned McPherson's dress sword to Rebisso as a model for the Washington statue. Approximately 20,000 people, including President Rutherford B. Hayes, made the journey to Clyde to once again pay homage to McPherson - this time with the body present. Unveiling the new bronze statue, erected seventeen years after McPherson's death, was his old comrade U.S. Grant. According the program for the event (above, right), the two musical pieces selected were both about Sherman, who gave the address. One of the songs, "Marching Through Georgia," was one that Sherman absolutely hated, and Grant was tone-deaf and had no appreciation for music whatsoever. After the ceremony, McPherson could rest in peace. As for Grant and Sherman, they were probably just happy to have the music stop.

* McPherson's middle and last names are pronounced "bird-zee" and "mac-fur-son." A simple way to remember the pronunciation of his last name is that "there is no fear in McPherson."

Photo sources:
(1) McPherson:
(2) McPherson painting:
(3) Washington statue:
(4) Programme:
(5) Clyde monument:

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Gladys Noel Bates

Gladys Noel Bates, born March 26, 1920, in McComb, Mississippi, was raised in Jackson. She attended Alcorn A&M College (now Alcorn State University), earned a B.A. degree from Tougaloo College and a Masters degree from West Virginia State University in 1952. In 1938, Gladys Noel married John M. Bates, a native of Alabama and also a graduate of West Virginia State College. After joining the coaching staff at Alcorn, he completed his Masters degree in 1941. Both John and Gladys Bates then became teachers.

In the early 1940s, the Bates moved into her parent's house in Jackson. Andrew Jackson and Susie H. Noel were also college graduates (her mother graduated from the University of Chicago). Hired as a teacher in Jackson, Gladys Bates taught at Smith Robertson Junior High School. At the time, salaries for black teachers in Mississippi were half the salary of white teachers and in some school districts the percentage was even lower. Pay scales were entirely based on race. Wishing to change the discriminatory practice, the Mississippi Association of Teachers in Colored Schools (MATCS) quietly discussed the possibility of filing a lawsuit for equal pay with NAACP leaders. Because John and Gladys Bates (and the Noels) were already active in the Jackson NAACP chapter, she was approached about taking on the issue.

Before filing the lawsuit, all parties had to keep the effort secret, as Mrs. Bates would be fired from her teaching job (or worse) if word got out about the lawsuit. At the time, the chief counsel for the NAACP was Thurgood Marshall. Marshall (left), who would later become the first African American appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, informed the MATCS that they would need $5,000 on hand to file the suit. To raise the money, membership dues were increased by $1. To maintain secrecy, the funds would be called "a benevolence fund."

With Meridian lawyer James A. Burns on board as the lead attorney, the lawsuit was filed on March 4, 1948. Before the trial began, the attorneys had to convince the judge to refer to Bates as “Mrs. Bates” rather than of “that Bates woman.” Also, the attorneys had few option on where to stay in segregated Jackson, and to opt for a boarding house, sharing meals in private homes.

Mrs. Bates and her husband were indeed fired from their teaching positions by the end of the school year and barred from all public school teaching positions in Mississippi. Gunshots were fired through the windows of the Bates’ home and it mysteriously burned to the ground in 1949. One of many similar lawsuits filed throughout the South, Gladys Noel Bates vs. The State of Mississippi was in litigation for four years (1948-51), making it as far as the U.S. Court of Appeals. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case, ruling that all administrative remedies had to be exhausted before the case could be heard by the Supreme Court. By 1951, however, enough attention had been brought to the issue that equal pay for black teachers was achieved in Mississippi through legislative action.

While equal pay was eventually won in Mississippi, John and Gladys Bates would never again teach in their home state. In 1960, the Bates family visited Denver, Colorado, where both successfully applied to teach in the Denver Public Schools. In 1979, John M. Bates earned his doctorate from the University of Northern Colorado. As residents of Denver, the Bates were active in numerous civic organizations and were recognized nationally for their service in the community.

In 2009, Gladys Bates finally returned to Mississippi, where a historical marker was erected at the site of her parents' house.* Speaking to the audience with tears in her eyes, the Civil Rights pioneer said that never in her wildest dreams could she have imagined the day when Mississippi would honor her. Gladys Noel Bates died on October 15, 2010. Her husband John preceded her in death in 1995, never knowing that Mississippi had finally recognized the sacrifices they had made.

* As one of the invited speakers, I was in attendance at the marker dedication, along with my wife. 

Photo sources:
Bates (modern): 

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Life and Death of Charlie Bowdre

William Henry McCarty, Jr. died at the hands of a lawman in the New Mexico Territory on the night of July 14, 1881. Also known as Henry Antrim and William H. Bonney, the death of 'Billy the Kid' has become the stuff of legend. Less well known is one of "The Kid's" gang, a Mississippian by the name of Charlie Bowdre. Charles Meriwether Bowdre was born in Georgia in 1848 but moved to DeSoto County, Mississippi, with his parents at a young age. By the time he was six, Charlie had already started working on the family farm and continued to do so until 1874, when he abandoned the farm and headed west.

Charlie eventually arrived in Arizona, where he became friends with Doc Scurlock.  Josiah Gordon "Doc" Scurlock, about the same age as Bowdre, was a native of Alabama. After studying medicine in New Orleans, Scurlock headed to Mexico, where he got into an argument over a card game with a man and they both drew pistols. Although a bullet went through his mouth and out of the back of his neck, Scurlock fired back and killed the man. After that, Doc returned to the United States, where he eventually met Charlie Bowdre. Oddly enough, the two opened a cheese factory, where, according to some accounts, one of their first employees was William McCarty. In 1876, Doc and Charlie closed the cheese factory and moved to Lincoln County, New Mexico. That fall, Scurlock married Antonia Herrera and Charlie married Antonia's half-sister, Manuela Herrera, making Doc and Charlie brothers-in-law. In the image above, they are seen together, with Charlie on the left. In New Mexico, they worked as ranch hands and rode in several posses to catch and occasionally hang horse thieves and cattle rustlers, even though Scurlock had himself been accused of stealing cattle in another state.

With the outbreak of the so-called Lincoln County War in 1878, which was in essence a turf battle between rival factions of cowboys, outlaws and lawmen, Bowdre and Scurlock joined the Tunstall-McSween side, which included, among others, Billy the Kid. During the "war," Charlie was present with the "Regulators" at the gunfight at Blackwater Creek on March 9, 1878, and at Blazer's Mills on April 4, 1878. It was here that both Doc and Charlie were shot by "Buckshot" Roberts. Roberts was in turn shot by Charlie Bowdre, and Roberts later died. As a result, Bowdre was charged with the murder of Roberts.

Winding up on the losing end of the Lincoln County War, Doc and Charlie moved to Fort Sumner, New Mexico, to work as ranch hands, but still participated with some of Billy the Kid's gang in rustling cattle (now appropriately named "The Rustlers"). For his part, Doc Scurlock was tired of the outlaw life and moved to Texas, where he became a teacher and a postmaster (and even wrote poetry). When he died in 1929 at age 80, he did so as a respected citizen. Charlie Bowdre, meanwhile, was also ready to quit riding with Billy the Kid (right) and decided to surrender himself and face the charges levied against him for the murder of Buckshot Roberts. However, he went on one last mission with Billy the Kid to ambush Pat Garrett, who had been appointed sheriff by Territorial Governor and former Union General Lew Wallace* to hunt down Billy the Kid.  A gun battle ensued and Tom O'Folliard, another of the gang members, was killed. Bowdre and the rest escaped alive. On December 23, 1880, the gang was holed up in a rock house (above) at Stinking Springs. Unbeknownst to them, Pat Garrett's posse had surrounded the building during the night. At dawn, Charlie came out to feed the horses and was gunned down by Garrett's men, who mistook him for Billy. Later that day, Billy the Kid and the rest of the gang surrendered. Charlie Bowdre was dead at age 32. The image at the top of the page is of Charlie and his wife Manuela, and was supposedly taken from his bullet-ridden corpse, with a bloodstain still visible.

After escaping from jail and killing the two guards in the process, William Henry McCarty was killed - some say murdered - by Sheriff Pat Garrett on July 14, 1881. He was just twenty-one years old. Billy the Kid is buried at Fort Sumner's old military cemetery beside his old outlaw friends Tom O'Folliard and Charlie Bowdre. Vandalized through the years, the grave stones are now protected by a metal cage.

In the movies Young Guns and Young Guns II, Charlie Bowdre is portrayed by actor Casey Siemaszko, whose father was a Polish resistance fighter in World War II and a survivor of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. Interestingly, Doc Scurlock's character, played by Kiefer Sutherland, dies in the shootout at Stinking Springs, along with Charlie Bowdre. In reality, of course, Doc had already moved on to his new life in Texas. Apparently, the non-historic script change was because Kiefer Sutherland demanded it in order to be part of the big scene.

* Lew Wallace is also known as the author of the novel "Ben Hur."

Photo sources:
Lincoln County War:
Billy the Kid:

Friday, April 20, 2012

Heavens to Murgatroyd!

It's Friday, so let's have some fun...

The other day, one of those seemingly endless 'dancing' shows was on the television. For some reason, I said 'Heavens to Murgatroyd!' about something or another and then asked 'I wonder where that saying comes from?' Almost instantaneously, the television announcer introduced a dancer by the name of 'Murgatroyd!' I couldn't believe it. I had never really thought about anyone actually being named Murgatroyd, so I decided to find out what this strange saying means, if anything. Here's what I discovered.

The phrase "Heavens to Murgatroyd' was a favorite saying of 'Snagglepuss,' the sometimes pink, sometimes purple cartoon lion featured on the Yogi Bear Show in the 1960s. Another one of his catch phrases was 'Exit, Stage Left!' "Snagglepuss's voice, performed by Daws Butler, was based on actor Bert Lahr, who played the cowardly lion in The Wizard of Oz (left). Butler was very adept at imitating Lahr, so much so that when 'Snagglepuss' became a spokesman for Kellogg, Lahr sued. The suit was settled when Kellogg agreed to prominently credit Butler so it would not appear that Lahr was promoting the cereal. Interesting, but it doesn't solve the question of where 'Heavens to Mergatroyd' came from.

As it turns out, the first time the phrase was used was not by Snagglepuss but was from the 1944 film Meet the People, starring Lucille Ball. Made during WWII, the film was shown overseas to the troops before being released in the U.S. In the movie, the character called "the commander" uses the phrase 'Heavens to Mergatroyd,' and the actor who played the part was (you guessed it) Bert Lahr. OK, but where did the writers come up "Mergatroyd" in the first place?

Meet the People was a musical directed by Sig Herzig and Fred Saidy. No doubt, as any director of a musical would be, Herzig and Saidy were influenced by Gilbert and Sullivan. In their 1887 comic opera Ruddigore, Sir Rupert Murgatroyd, the first Baronet of Ruddigore, persecuted witches and one of his victims, as she was burned at the stake, cursed all future Murgatroyd Baronets to commit a crime every day or die in agony. So, every baronet since had died in agony once he could no longer continue a life of crime. In the opera, no less than ten of the characters were named Murgatroyd, most of them ghosts. But where did Gilbert and Sullivan get the name?

Well, it is old English name, originating in Yorkshire, and East Riddlesden Hall (right), a restored 1642 manor house now owned by the National Trust in Britain, was the home of a wealthy clothier named James Murgatroyd. Apparently, Gilbert stayed at the Hall numerous times and was thus very familiar with the reputation of the Murgatroyd family, known "for their profanity and debauchery." The Hall is also known for its ghosts, and has been featured on various ghost hunter shows. To close the loop, Ruddigore, the opera, was performed at East Riddlesden Hall on at least one occasion. Why and how this developed into the phrase 'Heavens to Murgatroyd' in Meet the People is a bit of a mystery, but it may be nothing more than a tip of the hat to the comic genius of Gilbert and Sullivan.

Now back to the present. The female dancer introduced on the dancing show was named Peta Murgatroyd (left), and is from New Zealand. Her dancing partner on the show is former Green Bay Packer wide receiver Donald Driver, a product of Alcorn State University near Lorman, Mississippi. I honestly do not know how good a dancer Donald Driver might be (and don't really care), but I wonder if some Snagglepuss aficionado out there might utter the phrase "Exit, Stage Left!" when and if he loses the competition.

Photo sources:
Movie Poster:
Murgatroyd and Driver:

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Day It Snowed in New Orleans

Spring is here in full force and summer, no doubt, will be here shortly. Winter, it seems, hardly made a showing this year in central Mississippi. Unless I'm mistaken, we had no measurable snowfall this time around. Even the traditional "Easter cold snap" failed to show up (although it's a little bit chilly this morning). So what happened? Is it global warming? The Mayan calendar perhaps? Who knows. Based on snowfall statistics, though, the answer might be that this year is the norm and snowfall, particularly heavy snow, is simply a rare event in the deep south. I remember a good snow in 1968 or so, and then another one in 1981-82. That was fun because we were "trapped" on the Millsaps College campus for a week and enjoyed such things as sledding down North State Street on cafeteria trays. The snow that year that blanketed central Mississippi was significant, but it was nothing like what happened on New Year's Eve back in 1963.
That year, a surface low-pressure system moved up from the Gulf of Mexico and into Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee. With heavy snowfall and high winds, the winter storm completely paralyzed the deep south for several days, and at least three people died during the storm. In southeast Louisiana, and in New Orleans particularly, more than four inches of snow fell. In parts of eastern Mississippi, in northwest Alabama, and into Tennessee, more than a foot of snow fell in the span of one day. Meridian, Mississippi, recorded fifteen inches. Even Bay St. Louis saw more than 10" of snow! In Alabama, Huntsville recorded 17.1 inches, making it the worst snow storm in the area since 1899. Roads were impassable for days.

As its was New Year's Day, most folks in New Orleans were probably elated to find snow on the ground, a rare event indeed. One person not at all happy was Coach Bear Bryant, whose eighth-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide was set to play Coach John Vaught's sixth-ranked Ole Miss team in the 1964 Sugar Bowl. Earlier, Coach Bryant had said that the only thing that could mess with the Tide's chances against the Rebels would be if it snowed. Incredibly, there were four inches of snow waiting on Bryant at Tulane Stadium (top right) on the day of the game. Alabama had suspended Joe Namath, too, so things looked pretty good for Ole Miss, who was undefeated in 1963 (with two ties). Still, the Crimson Tide managed to win, edging Ole Miss 12-7 on the strength of four field goals. Ole Miss scored the only touchdown of the game. Playing in place of Namath at quarterback was Steve Sloan, later to become head coach at Ole Miss.

Photo sources:
(1) Snow scene:'s_Eve_1963_snowstorm
(2) Weather map:
(3) Stadium:
(4) Cheerleaders:

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Robert Lee Burnside

He was born Robert Lee Burnside on November 23, 1926, at Harmontown in Lafayette County, near Oxford, Mississippi. R.L. Burnside was an blues singer, songwriter, and guitarist who spent most of his life in north Mississippi, working as a sharecropper and playing guitar in juke joints and bars. In the 1940s, Burnside headed to Chicago to seek a better life. There, he dabbled in music and was acquainted with Muddy Waters, another Mississippi transplant and one of the first blues musicians to use an electric guitar. Burmside  married Alice Mae Taylor in 1949, with whom he would have twelve children (eight sons and four daughters). Life in Chicago changed, however, when Burnside's father, uncle, and two brothers were killed in the span of a year. In fact, his brothers were murdered on the same day. To escape the violence, he left Chicago and went back to Mississippi, where he drove a farm tractor during the day and played in juke joints at night near his home in Holly Springs.

He could not escape the violence, however. During a dice game, Burnside killed a man, was convicted of murder and sentenced to a six months' prison sentence at Parchman. At the time, it was reported that Burnside's boss pulled some strings to keep the sentence short because he needed Burnside's skills as a tractor driver. Burnside later said "I didn't mean to kill nobody...I just meant to shoot the son-of-a-bitch in the head. Him dying was between him and the Lord."

Although he played music for most of his life, R.L. Burnside did not receive national attention until the early 1990's when a documentary film based on author Robert Palmer's book "Deep Blues" featured him as one of the film's highlights. Subsequently, Palmer produced Burnside's "Too Bad Jim" for the fledgling Oxford, Mississippi, label "Fat Possum Records." In the latter half of the 1990s, Burnside repeatedly recorded with Jon Spencer, garnering crossover appeal and introducing his music to a new fan base. One of his songs, "It's Bad You Know," was included in the HBO series "The Sopranos" and is on the show's soundtrack album that sold over 400,000 copies.

One commentator noted that R.L. Burnside, along with Big Jack Johnson, Paul "Wine" Jones, Roosevelt "Booba" Barnes and James "Super Chikan" Johnson, were "present-day exponents of an edgier, electrified version of the raw, uncut Delta blues sound." Burnside died in Memphis in 2005 and is buried at the Free Springs CME Church cemetery in Harmontown.

- Thanks to John Cofield of Oxford, Mississippi, for today's guest column.

Photo sources:
(1) Burnside #1:
(2) Burnside #2:
(3) Grave marker:

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Bethany A.R.P. Church

Organized on June 5, 1852, the Bethany Associate Reformed Presbyterian (A.R.P.) Church had a charter membership of twenty-five, including four slaves, three of whom came with their owner, the Rev. J.L. Young, one of the first pastors of the congregation. Like most of the early members of Bethany Church, Young moved to Mississippi from Providence Church in South Carolina. At first meeting in a log house owned by a nearby Methodist congregation, the members of Bethany built a small frame church building for approximately $800 in 1853. Located at an obscure cross roads near Guntown, Mississippi, the first worship service in the new building was held on July 31, 1853.

Like most congregations, Bethany experienced its share of highs and lows. The year 1857, however, was a particularly difficult one in the history of the church, as twenty members died of dysentery. In a September 2, 1857 report to the Presbytery, the congregation reported that "...God, in his inscrutable wisdom, has seen fit to cause us to pass through the furnace of affliction. For more than two months past, dysentery, or flux, as it is usually denominated, has prevailed to a most alarming and fatal extent – the angel of death has been sweeping over us, hurrying from our society and our sight in rapid succession, many of our friends, neighbors, and acquaintances, consigning them to that narrow house appointed for all the living.” During August and part of September, burials occurred almost every day, and the burial-ground "filled up wondrously fast."

Other tragedies occurred as a matter of course. John Haddon, for example, a fifty-year old elder in the church, was killed when a rotten tree stump fell on top of him. The greatest tragedy to strike the church, however, was man-made. In June, 1864, two armies arrived at Brice's Crossroads and the church found itself at the center of a whirlwind.

At the beginning of the Civil War, as with most places in the south, men from Bethany volunteered for service in the Confederate army, most of them marching off with the 32nd Mississippi Infantry. Back home, much of the war was spent just trying to survive. Then, on June 10, 1864, the battle of Brice's Cross Roads engulfed the church and the area in a storm of shot and shell. When the fighting finally ended, there were hundreds of corpses to take care of, some of them buried in the Bethany Cemetery and others buried where they fell. Dead and dying men were lying throughout the church yard and in the burial ground, and by necessity the church and grounds became a hospital. Although the church and the congregation would survive the day of battle, it was, to say the least, a most difficult and trying time.

Much of what we know about Bethany Church, Brice's Cross Roads and the surrounding area is because of a diary kept by the Rev. Samuel Agnew. Born in 1833 and a native of South Carolina, Samuel Andrew Agnew attended Erskine College and Seminary in Due West, South Carolina, and received a doctor of divinity degree in 1852. After the war (in 1867) he became pastor of Bethany A.R.P. Church, and preached regularly at other congregations in the area. He would remain as pastor at Bethany for thirty-two years. Agnew's diary, kept daily throughout his adult life, is an important resource for historians. The diaries are now part of the collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and are available online. Agnew's diary entries during the period surrounding the battle of Brice's Cross Roads are especially interesting, and written in a style befitting someone older than thirty years (Agnew's age during the battle). Agnew's house, known as the "White House," also became part of the battlefield, and in the days following the battle Agnew writes extensively about the carnage left behind by the armies. The "White House" photo below was taken in 1896.

Rev. Agnew continued preaching and lived near Brice's Cross Roads until his death in 1902. He is buried in the Bethany Cemetery (below), across the road from the modern Bethany A.R.P. Church. A state historical marker is located at the church, and new interpretive signs mark the site of the White House and other sites associated with the battle as part of a driving tour.

Photo sources:
(1) Bethany:
(2) Brice's Cross Roads:
(3) Agnew:
(4) White House:
(5) Cemetery:

Monday, April 16, 2012

The National Museum of Funeral History

Today's subject is not in Mississippi, nor have I ever visited this place. Trust me, though, it's on my short list. You could even say that I'm just "dying" to go there. I'm talking, of course, about the National Museum of Funeral History in Houston, Texas. According to one newspaper's review, visitors to the museum will find a place "where soft music and hushed words waft from the sound system, the sweet scent of flowers leaves a faint trail in the air and exhibits extol everything from the birth of embalming to the mourning rituals of the Victorian Era." Another reviewer, noting that no one else was there at the time, said it was as "quiet as a tomb."

Located in a rather nondescript building surrounded by residential neighborhoods, the National Museum of Funeral History was founded in 1992. Privately owned, the museum has plenty of space (of course - it's Texas!) with over 35,000 square feet of exhibit space. Among the numerous exhibits are a model Victorian funeral parlor, a large collection of caskets and coffins, an exhibit on the history of embalming, and hearses of all shapes and sizes, including one designed specifically for children (below, right). In 2008, the museum, in cooperation with the Vatican, added a 10,500 square foot exhibit called "Celebrating the Lives and Deaths of the Popes'" and includes the Popemobile used by Pope John Paul II in 1982.              

Among the more unusual items is a casket built for three (left). Apparently, it was made for a Colorado couple in the 1930s whose baby died. Grief-stricken, they had planned to commit suicide and be buried together in a single coffin. When they decided not to go through with it, the coffin went unused. Then there's the 1972 Toyota Crown station wagon on steroids that served as a Japanese hearse; a funeral sleigh (probably not much use in Texas), and a 1916 Packard funeral bus for a coffin, pallbearers and twenty mourners (see below). The funeral bus was used in the San Francisco area in the 1920s. With the driver up front and the deceased behind him, the pall bearers and mourners sat in the back of the bus. One day, so the story goes, the bus was climbing a steep hill in San Francisco and turned over, sending all the passengers, including the deceased, on a roll down the hill. That was the end of the funeral bus.

Naturally, the museum has a gift shop, where one can purchase a coffee mug or a  huggie with the museum's motto ("Any day above ground is a good one") on it, or perhaps a DVD on the "The History of Embalming." Other items include a coffin golf putter, a necklace with coffin charms or chocolate casket candy bars. If you'd like to do a little vacation planning, the museum is hosting its annual golf tournament, casino night and cocktail party in May.

And while you're in Houston, don't miss the giant armadillo at "Goode's Armadillo Palace," which features a 14' long, 22' tall, steel-plated armadillo with longhorns and glowing red eyes! Come to think of it, after seeing something like that, you might just need the services of a funeral director...

Photo sources:
(1) Parlor:
(2) Papal:
(3) Casket:
(4) Children's Hearse:
(5) Bus:
(6) Armadillo: