A Landing a Day

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Posts Tagged ‘Rabbit Foot’s Company’

Port Gibson, Mississippi

Posted by graywacke on April 17, 2013

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now pretty much a twice-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 in the first paragraph), please see “About Landing,” (and “Abbreviations” and “Cryptic Numbers”) above.

Landing number 2004; A Landing A Day blog post number 422.

Dan –  My hot streak continues (barely, as you’ll see) – I’m now 5/5 and 7/8.  My landing turned this USer into a PSer . . . MS; 32/32 (see?); 8/10; 4; 152.3.

 Here’s my regional landing map:

 port landing 1

A closer view shows that I landed near good ol’ U.S. Route 61; I figured I’d be in for a Delta Blues kind of landing (and I was right, as you’ll see).  The closest town of any size is Port Gibson:

 port landing 2

My GE shot shows that I landed in a lovely setting, along a pond, at the edge of the woods:

 port GE 1

Backing out a bit, you can see that I landed deep in an extended forest area:

 port GE2

Backing out even more – the woods stretch all the way to the Mississippi River!

 port GE 3

Here’s a GE StreetView shot from the road that passes just south of my landing.  Yup – there’s woods, all right . . .

 port GE 3 just south of landing

If you look back at the GE shot that shows the Mississippi, you can see streams north and south of my landing.  To the north is the Big Black River, and to the south is the Bayou Pierre.  It turns out that I landed in the Gunns Bayou watershed, which flows north to the Big Black (sixth hit); on, of course, to the MM (789th hit). 

 A quick word about Gunns Bayou.  Some streams named “Bayou” are included on my rivers list.  But I use discretion; Gunns Bayou would be just a creek in other more northern states.  Had I landed a little further south, I’d be in the Bayou Pierre watershed, which would have been substantial enough to make it to my rivers list . . .

 Moving right along –  if you look back up at my closer-in landing map, you’ll see the Natchez Trace Parkway just south of my landing.  Like the above StreetView shot, it’s also a two-lane ribbon of asphalt wending its way through the woods.

 Of course, I had to Google “Natchez Trace.”  From Wiki:

ThNatchez Trace is a historical path that extends roughly 440 miles from Natchez, Mississippi (located about 50 SW of my landing, along the Mississippi) to Nashville, Tennessee, linking the Tennessee and Mississippi rivers. It was created and used for centuries by Native Americans, and was later used by early European and American explorers, traders and emigrants in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Today, the trail is commemorated by the 444-mile  Natchez Trace Parkway, which follows the approximate path of the Trace.  Parts of the original trail are still accessible (see photo below, very close to where I landed).

 The first recorded European explorer to travel the Trace in its entirety was an unnamed Frenchman in 1742, who wrote of the trail and its “miserable conditions”.

Here’s a picture (Panoramio by Monc) of an old section of the Trace located just a few miles southeast of my landing:

port pano by monc old natchez trail

On to Port Gibson, from Wiki:

Chartered as a town in 1803, Port Gibson is Mississippi’s third-oldest European-American settlement, and was occupied in 1729 by French colonists.

Port Gibson was the site of several clashes during the American Civil War and figured in Ulysses S. Grant‘s Vicksburg Campaign. The Battle of Port Gibson occurred on May 1, 1863, and resulted in the deaths of over 200 Union and Confederate soldiers. The battle was a turning point in the Confederates’ ability to hold Mississippi and defend against an amphibious attack.

Port Gibson has many historic buildings, which survived the Civil War because Grant proclaimed the city to be “too beautiful to burn.” These words appear on the town’s city limits signs.

Although Port Gibson no longer has a Jewish community, it boasts the only Moorish Revival building in Mississippi and the oldest synagogue in the state, the Gemiluth Chessedsynagogue, built in 1892.

Here’s a picture of the synagogue from (of all places) TexasEscapes.com:

pg  from texas escapes  TempleGemiluthChassed709JT

While I’m at it, check out the classy Claiborne County courthouse in Port Gibson:


Back to Wiki:

A historic marker has been placed by the Mississippi Blues Commission in Port Gibson commemorating the contribution The Rabbit’s Foot Company has made to the development of the blues in Mississippi.  This places the site on the Mississippi Blues Trail.

As all of you regular followers of A Landing A Day know, I’ve had numerous posts that feature the blues, the Delta blues in particular.  Just for the heck of it, I did a quick review.  Here’s what I found:

Red Lick MS, featuring John Byrd

Durant MS, feature Elmore James

Smithville MS, featuring Lucille Bogan

Crockett TX, featuring Lightin’ Hopkins

Angola LA, featuring Lead Belly

Pickens MS, featuring Elmore James (once again)

Como MS, featuring Mississippi Fred McDowell

Duck Hill MS, featuring Magic Sam Maghett

A couple of these posts feature “Junior’s Juke Box” a great Delta Blues website.  Click HERE to check it out (it’s a hoot).

So, it turns out that no Delta Blues performer hails from Port Gibson, but the Rabbit’s Foot Company spent many years headquartered in Port Gibson.  From Wiki:

 The Rabbit’s Foot Company was a long running minstrel and variety troupe that toured as a tent show in the American South between 1900 and 1950. It provided a basis for the careers of many leading African American musicians and entertainers, including Ma RaineyIda CoxBessie SmithButterbeans and SusieTim MooreBig Joe WilliamsLouis JordanBrownie McGhee, Arthur “Happy” Howe, and Rufus Thomas.

Founded in 1900 by Pat Chapelle in Jacksonville FL, the show soon expanded to fill three railroad carriages, and was describing itself as “the leading Negro show in America”.

By 1906 Chappelle was able to maintain multiple tent shows on the road. However, growing competition from other companies took its toll, and Chappelle died in 1911. The company was then sold to a white carnival owner, Fred S. Wolcott, who continued with the touring show. 

By 1918, Wolcott had moved the show’s headquarters to Port Gibson, Mississippi.  Each spring, musicians from around the country assembled there to create a musical, comedy, and variety show to perform under canvas.  In his book  The Story of the BluesPaul Oliver wrote : “The ‘Foots’ travelled in two cars and had a 80′ x 110′ tent which was raised by the roustabouts and canvassmen, while a brass band would parade in town to advertise the coming of the show.  There were no microphones; the weaker voiced singers used a megaphone, but most of the featured women blues singers scorned such aids to volume…”

The company continued to tour among southern states until it disbanded around 1950.

A historic marker has been place by the Mississippi Blues Commission in Port GibsonMississippi, commemorating the enormous contribution the The Rabbit’s Foot Company has made to the development of the blues in Mississippi and placing them on the Mississippi Blues Trail.

Here’s a picture from aintnothinbut.com:



Here’s a picture of an old Rabbit Foot truck from Vimeo.com:


Seaking of Vimeo, here’s an excellent historical video that tells the Rabbit Foot story.  I highly recommended clicking HERE to view the video.  It certainly shows you a lost slice of Americana . . .

 I’ll close with this shot of the “Windsor Ruins” in Port Gibson.  The Windsor Plantation included a mansion built in 1826 that burned down in 1890, leaving only these columns:



 That’ll do it.




© 2013 A Landing A Day

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