Saturday, May 23, 2009

Panola Cemetery and the Gossypia Plantation

by Sandy Guthrie Moore
On my previous visit down to Lake Providence I was unable to locate the Panola Cemetery. I couldn’t find a soul around the Brown’s Plantation, or any of the homes in the area to ask where it was located, but my luck changed completely on my return trip.
On May 20th, 2009, I made a another trip down there to take pictures of some of the headstones at the L. P. Cemetery. Going into the state of Louisiana passing through Millikin, Lebonon, and Gassoway. I decided to give it another try after doing a little more research. I pulled into the enchanting driveway into what I had always referred to as the ’Bubba Brown Farm’. I was thrilled to see a truck parked near the home with the door opened, so I figured someone was near. As I exited my vehicle and neared the door a man appeared at the side door of the house. He introduced himself as Michael Brown, and I knew that he might not know me but I knew he would recognize my Dad‘s name. My Dad had poisoned a lot of the plantations‘ cotton. His family also owned the Gailliard Gin for which my brother had worked at so many years. He was a very nice gentleman, as I had been told by my Dad. We talked about the cemetery, how I had tried to find it before. He asked about my interest in it, and I was eager to tell him why. But when he started mentioning the old Gossypia Plantation and where it stood, unbeknowst to me I had no idea that the 'Bubba Brown Farm' was a part of that old Plantation! He asked me if I would like to see where it once stood, and I could not refuse the offer. He explained that the old plantation home had burned and that he had rebuilt his family home on it's very location. I was so excited to find out all of this information. As we trekked down a road leading past the Panola Pepper Plant and along the meandering Mississippi River levee, I immediately envisioned the sweet plantation life, the extradinary balls, the bountiful Bar B Que's, the magnificent steamboats plowing the river, etc. flashed through my head. Mr. Mike Brown was a very sweet and courteous man. He invited me in his wonderful home and I was introduced to his wife. She too, was sweet and gracious host and a very lovely lady. They told me some of the history of the Gossypia Plantation. The top floor was a jail and the house had 16’ ceilings… the grandness of it all. He showed be a beautiful water colored painting of Gossypia, pictures of his ancestors standing in front of it, and stories of it that had published in books. I could have stayed a long while, but I knew Mr. Brown had to get to his cotton and I too had a long day ahead. He told me that the drive around the backside of the farm would lead me right to the old Panola Cemetery and that I was welcomed to visit it. Mrs. Brown offered to take me there, but their description of the old cemetery, I thought it best if she didn't accompany me. I didn’t want her to have to wade through the water, weeds, and poison ivy to show me it’s location… I would find it. Before I started on my way Mr. Brown made mention of an old headstone next to his home and I never expected it to be that of Mr. George W. Goza of whom I had read so much about. Mr. Brown said that an infants grave lays beside this headstone, very old and sunken in. It was that of an infant of Mr. & Mrs. George Goza. I was thrilled to get a picture of it. As we said our goodbyes I told him I had a picture of Gossypia that he did not have in his collection, and I would be glad to send it to him (its the picture located at the top of this story). He seemed excited to hear of it… and the least I could do was to send it to him. As I started down the little pathway behind his farm, just where the dirt road ended and a tiny pathway began - I began to think that I might have a problem finding the graves. Johnson grass, weeds, and vines had taken over the entire area back there which probably covered several acres, and they could be overlooked very easily. There was a large open gate, though overgrown with vines, drew me to go in that direction. As I entered through it I caught a glimpse of a grey headstone. The headstones that I located seemed all to be of more recent graves than I expected. Some were of soldiers, of which I was very pleased to locate, and will do some research to find out who they were. I am going to return to it at another time for I had been told of some really old ones back there and some of my images I took did not turn out as clear as I'd hoped. Well, I fought off mosquitoes, poison ivy, ants, and the like, but I will be more prepared for my next trip to the mysterious Old Panola Plantation Cemetery.