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Today is February 25, 2021

Rodney

Saving a church to preserve a link to history

By Steven Ward

Rodney

Visit rodneyhistory.org for more information about Rodney or to make a restoration donation.

“People either get Rodney or they don’t.”

That’s how Angel Puckett recently described the allure of the tiny Mississippi River-area community in Jefferson County that was once a bustling port town.

Today, known by tourists and most Mississippi residents as a “ghost town,” Rodney, Mississippi is home to about 8 residents.

But it wasn’t always that way.

Various histories of the area report that the town was three legislative votes away from becoming the state capital due to its status as a boomtown and important shipping point along the Mississippi River.

Puckett, a United States Post Office mail carrier who lives in nearby Lorman, lived in Rodney for 30 years beginning in 1980.

Even back then, when there were about 100 residents, Puckett remembered people calling Rodney a “ghost town.”

Continual flooding from the nearby river forced younger families over the years to move away from Rodney, she said.

But Puckett loved living there and that love for the community has carried over into a mission with others with connections there to preserve a large part of Rodney’s history.

Puckett is the president of the Rodney History and Preservation Society, a 501 c3 nonprofit group formed in 2018 to save and restore the community’s 200-year-old Rodney Presbyterian Church. The society now owns the church.

“We want to save one of the few remaining buildings in what was almost the state capital. It’s one of the finest examples of federal style architecture in Mississippi and has stood proud for nearly two hundred years,” Puckett said.

Right now, construction work is underway to restore the church’s south wall. The church, a two-story gable-roof brick structure with stepped gable ends and an interior- end bell tower, was built in 1832 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. The church is also designated a Mississippi Landmark. That classification requires that Puckett’s group rebuild and restore the church with the approval of the Mississippi Department of History and Archives.

Following the restoration of the south wall, the group plans on addressing the structural weaknesses of the bell tower.

Throughout the time since the group was formed, fundraising and some state money has been utilized to restore the church, Puckett said.

“Jefferson County has a rich history and Rodney is basically in our backyard here in Lorman,” said Kevin Bonds, CEO of Southwest Electric. “We applaud the efforts of the Rodney History and Preservation Society to restore the church building and keep the history of this area alive.”

Located along a wooden bluff east of the church is the Rodney Cemetery. Although it’s not owned by the society or part of the group’s official restoration efforts, the group and other volunteers have assisted members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans in graveyard cleanups.

The SCV had asked for help in the cemetery with work which included fixing and cleaning broken markers and cutting markers out of canebrake.

The volunteer work at the cemetery is part of the society’s love for Rodney.

Puckett said the group is made up of members with various connections to Rodney including some past residents.

Mary Pallon of Pine, Arizona is one of those society board members with an important connection.

“My grandfather, The Rev. Allen Washington Duck, was the last assigned pastor to Rodney Presbyterian Church, Pallon said.

Duck and his wife lived in nearby Red Lick in the late 1920s and served the church once a month.

“He loved Rodney. The church paid him $200 to come at least one Sunday a month. He served the church in Red Lick and a church in Hermanville at the same time. He first served Rodney via horse and buggy,” Pallon said.

Pallon’s grandfather was part of a Presbyterian effort in the 1950s to help preserve Rodney Presbyterian. The church was sold in the 1960s due to only a handful of members, she said.

Pallon said she’s trying to continue the effort her grandfather started.

“The church is a concrete link to a vibrant, rich, wild history of Old Southwest Mississippi. Rodney Presbyterian is the only distinct building left in Rodney, of the original town,” Pallon said.

“Rodney Presbyterian serves to inspire us to understand its history to future generations. Why? Because a historical perspective helps all to navigate in the p Mt. Zion Baptist Church Society president Angel Puckett resent and in the future.”

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