Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Jewel Head Metallic Coffin

From “Between the Rivers”, Florence Stewart McKoin
There is an Indian mound - or was - in West Carroll Parish, located east of Oak Grove on the Jewel Head farm where Highway 2 crosses the Macon River to Lake Providence. According to Mr. Head, this mound was about 60' high and covered nearly one acre. He employed Henry Tyson to clear land and level this mound so the area could be cultivated. This took place some fifteen or twenty years ago (1951 or 1955). Mr. Tyson uncovered an iron casket, without seams on either side or bottom, indicating it was made in a mold several centuries before. When the lid was removed the remains faded like ashes; however, they were able to tell it was a white man with grey, reddish hair. He had on an apron with the Masonic emblem. The buttons on his coat indicated an officer of some army.
This casket was reburied with no one knowing the age, where he came from, or who was in it. Mr. Head believes this type casket was once made in England. It was narrow at the head and feet, wide at the shoulders, to exactly fit the man. Several have speculated that the man was with an expedition on the Mississippi River and died in the vicinity of Lake Providence. The Indians, being friendly, allowed his comrades to bring him across the swamp, no doubt dry at the time, and bury him in their burial ground, where high water never came.
Joe Kelly, who viewed the remains in the casket, believed the man was the husband of a rich heiress, who came to this area where she had acquired a large tract of land . He saw this land record in the Clerk of Court Office, and he could be right about the man in the casket. No one will ever know for sure.
Several years later while the highway department was building a new road along Macon River, graves were unearthed with mussel shell in them. These were on the edge of the old mound, and Mr. Head believes these were Indian graves as they were filled the depth of several inches with mussel shells, used probably for preservation.
We will never know what history this mound or those at Poverty Point held as many have been completely destroyed, but one thing we can be sure of, the Indians were here many hundreds of years before the white man came.
*NOTE:
In 2007 I made a trip into East Carroll Parish, doing more research and taking pictures along the way. My sister, Sherryl Miller, and her husband, Jack and I, all made the trip together. We decided that we would like to get a bunch of the ‘Oak Grove tomatoes' to take back to Lonoke with us as we were traveling along the backroads along the river. As we approached Highway 2 at the bridge, on the East Carroll side of the Macon River, we noticed the sign “Jewel Head Farm Produce” just ahead of us. We decided this would be a good place to get our tomatoes, and then I thought about something I'd read and started scrambling through my notes seeking to find something I'd written down that clicked with the surname contained on this advertisement sign. Yes, it was the same location contained in my notes. Finding what I was looking for - I wondered if this could possibly be the same family concerning the metallic coffin that was discovered many years earlier and hoping that the owner of the produce stand had some family connection. The produce owner told me that HE was the son of Mr. Jewel Head of whose land the coffin was found. I asked him to please tell me his recollection of it, and he graciously responded with his story. He had remembered almost as clear as if it were yesterday. He had seen it as a young child, when it was unearthed, and his description of it. (same as in above story) and their decision to return it to the ground. “After I grew up I asked my mother about the coffin.” he said. “But I was not sure of the particular spot of where it had been layed to rest. Mom took me out in the yard and showed me right where she remembered it was placed. She had a bush in the yard at that time... and the coffin had been placed along side of it. Though the bush was no longer there she knew that it was right at 15 feet straight out from our back door, and I was able to dig it up again. I recovered the Masonic emblem, but the mud and water had seeped in and destroyed everything else inside. I cleaned up the coffin and stored it in a building on my property here.”
After telling me the story of the metallic coffin I was then privileged to be able to view this wonderful historic relic. Above is a picture I took of it.

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