A Landing a Day

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Duck Hill, Mississippi

Posted by graywacke on September 19, 2010

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (then every-other-day blog and now a two-or-three-times a week blog), I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48).  I call this “landing.”  I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near.  I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location.  To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is and what the various numbers and abbreviations mean), please see “About Landing,” (and “Abbreviations” and “Cryptic Numbers”) above.

Dan –  Wow.  All the way up to 6/10 with this landing in . . . MS; 30/30; 6/10; 4; 154.9.  Note that MS is no longer a USer, and has joined TN (26/26) as the only two members of the PS club.

Here’s my landing map, showing my proximity to Duck Hill:

Here’s a broader view:

I landed in the watershed of Big Bogue, which flows to Batupan Bogue, which flows to a new river, the Yalobusha (my 1081st river); on to the Tallahatchie (7th hit); on to the Yazoo (10th hit).  I’ve never landed in the watershed of a “bogue” before.  Apparently, it’s a southern term (from the Choctaw) for a bayou or creek.  Speaking of a Choctaw connection, I think that “Yalobusha” is a Choctaw word for “place of the tadpoles.”

Anyway, my GE shot shows that I landed in the middle of a broad expanse of farm fields surrounded by woods:

Here’s a StreetView shot looking east, with my landing about 3/4 of a mile away (past the trees):

If you’re headed north on I-55 and are approaching the area of my landing, this is what you’ll see:

Here’s a Panaramio shot, showing the Yalobusha from I-55 (north of Duck Hill):

From Wiki, this about the name “Duck Hill:”

Supposedly the name came from an Indian, named Sitting Duck, that lived on top of the big hill just as you enter the town coming from Grenada.  Chief Duck, as he was called was also a Medicine man who treated not only the Indians, but, was also known to help out the general population of the town. He was a member of the Choctaw Indian tribe.

Another Choctaw connection.  I love that his name was “Sitting Duck.”  Here’s a downtown Duck Hill picture:

So, Duck Hill has quite the notorious past.  A quick perusal of internet resources shows a nasty train crash (1862), a notorious lynching (1937), and the “Battle of Duck Hill” (1943).  First the train crash.  Two trains crashed head-on in 1862, resulting in the death of 34 Confederate soldiers.  Here’s an eyewitness account, from the Montgomery County portion of MS GenWeb.com:

“While enroute to Holly Springs, I narrowly escaped being crushed to death in a railroad collision, near Duck Hill Station, south of Grenada. The coaches being crowded, another man and I had taken a seat on the platform between two passenger coaches. The train making a short stop at Canton, and without any thought of danger or accident, we proposed to go to the rear and get a seat in another car. When we vacated our position, two others took our places and were later killed in the accident.  As we came around a considerable curve into straight road in full view of Duck Hill Station, there was a fearful crash, resulting in the destruction of two engines, several cars, and the death of thirty-two men. About forty others were wounded, bruised and mangled…some mortally, some seriously and others only slightly.

“We remained at the wreck from 2:30 A.M. until 4:00 P.M. We buried the dead, mostly Arkansas and Texas volunteers, in one long pit grave, wide enough to lay the men crosswise…with only their blankets for coffins. I have been on the battlefield, seen men torn and mangled with ball and shell, but never have I seen such a heartrending scene as this. From that day to this, I have never felt safe on a railroad car.”

This, about the notorious 1937 lynching, from Wiki:

Duck Hill was the scene of two of the most infamous lynchings in U.S. history. In 1937, a white mob, in broad daylight, seized two black men who had just been arraigned for murder.  The men, Bootjack McDaniels and Roosevelt Townes, were transported by school bus to the lynching site, where they were tied to pine trees,  Before a mob of some 500 white men, women, and children, McDaniels was repeatedly burned in the chest with a blowtorch; the mob then finished him off with intense gunfire.  The lynchers then turned the blowtorch on Townes; they then burned him to death on a gasoline-soaked pyre.  Although congressmen from other southern states, who at the time were fighting a federal antilynching bill, demanded that the lynchers be punished, no one was ever arrested for the mob murders of McDaniels and Townes.  The main effect of the outcry over the Duck Hill murders was to drive lynching in Mississippi underground—i.e., to efforts to disguise it as something more palatable (e.g., the death of black people who allegedly resisted arrest), or to keep reports of it out of Mississippi newspapers.

Then, from a 1943 Time Magazine article about the “Battle of Duck Hill:”

It was the night after the Fourth of July. The little town of Duck Hill lay quiet in the hot dark of the North Mississippi hills. Suddenly rifle fire crashed out. Bullets hit the watertower and the post office, ripped into homes. As lights flashed on, the volleys grew ragged and firing ceased. There was only frightening quiet.

The trouble at Duck Hill had the historic elements of race friction: Southern Negroes quartered close in a Southern military camp. On the Fourth, some Negro troopers in Starkville to the east were roughly treated. At Camp McCain, resentment smoldered. Next night hot heads grabbed their rifles, broke into a supply house, crammed their pockets with cartridges, set out for Starkville, some 70 miles away. At Duck Hill their weariness equaled their anger. They took up a position along the Illinois Central tracks, shot away their anger with their ammunition, retreated when the lights came on.

There were no casualties at the battle of Duck Hill.

As is my wont when landing in the heart of Delta country, I feature a local bluesman.  Born in nearby Grenada (see landing map) was Magic Sam.  Here’s some bio info:

Sam “Magic Sam” Maghett (February 14, 1937 – December 1, 1969) was an American blues musician. Maghett was born in Grenada, Mississippi and learned to play the blues from listening to records by Muddy Waters and Little Walter.  After moving to Chicago at the age of nineteen, he was signed by Cobra Records and became well known as a bluesman after his first record, “All Your Love” in 1957.

Sam’s breakthrough performance was at the Ann Arbor Blues Festival in 1969, which won him many bookings in the United States and Europe.  His life and career was cut short when he suddenly died of a heart attack in December of the same year.  He was 32 years old. He was buried in the Restvale Cemetery in Alsip, Illinois.

Click here to check him out on YouTube.  Here’s a picture of his Illinois gravestone:

That’ll do it. . .



© 2010 A Landing A Day

4 Responses to “Duck Hill, Mississippi”

  1. L. Robinson said

    Your site is really cool. I was born in Duck Hill in 1961. I knew about the train wreck during the civil war and the lyching in 1937, but I didn’t know about the battle of Duck Hill in 1943. My parents bought a farm in west of Duck Hill on what is now highway 404 west between highway 51 and interstate 55 in the late 1940s. My is dad is a WWII vet. He bought the farm with his G.I bill benefits. I learned about the train wreck via the Internet a few years ago. Stories about the lyching were whispered in hushed tones in my African American community when I was a kid, but never discussed or taught in school. I left Duck Hill in 1979 when I joined the air force. It is amazing you can be born and grow up in a place and know little about its real history.

  2. James Elliott said

    James Elliott, born in Duck Hill in I942, Did not know about the train wreck, but my mother told us about the lyching as a warning on how we should conduct ourselves, I was also there during the Emmitt Till lyching. I Ieft Duck Hill in 1962 After attending MVC for two years, got drafted in the Army and never returned to live there, but always visit my family and attend the blues fest.

  3. william david proctor said


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