Blood of County Slaves Flowed from Plantation

(Editor’s note: This is a reprint of the column “This and that” written by the late Bee King of Mendenhall which appeared in the Simpson County News on Jan. 9, 1941.)

In the year 1824 William Massey located in Simpson County on the east side of the Pearl River, a short distance north of the present Rockport Road. At that time all that part of the county was uncleared wilderness and Massey had to cut a road to get to his land. He carried a considerable number of slaves with him and entered more than 600 acres of land from the United States Government. With the slaves he had at the time and others that he afterwards bought, he cleared the greater part of his land and put it into cultivation. At one time, it is said that he owned about 80 slaves.

His dwelling is built on what was known as Massey Springs Lake and was a log structure, but about 1845 he built a large two story frame dwelling near the site of the first house. The new house was built on the same plan as the L.C Gibson home near Merit, which was built a few years later. On all large plantations in those days it was the custom to establish slave burial grounds, not only for the slaves who died, but for family members as well. Massey followed this custom and set apart a small plot of ground near the lake and a short distance from his dwelling for that purpose. It was afterwards known as the Massey graveyard.

By 1855 Massey had become a large slave owner and one of the wealthiest men in the county, and was continually buying more slaves and more land. As was too often the case, he became cruel in his treatment of his slaves, so perhaps to avoid censure of his neighbors on account of his cruelty, he had a whipping post set up in one of the upper rooms of his dwelling, where slaves would be taken to be whipped. A great many whippings would be done by overseers on the plantation, who as a rule had no mercy on the poor slaves. At one time it is said, that a young slave woman was beaten to death while she was tied to the whipping post, and her blood from her bare back ran over the floor and down the stairs. Whether that was true or not, she died, and it was afterwards said that no amount of scrubbing could ever clean the floor or stairs. Not long after that Massey’s wife and two of his sons died and were buried in the little burial ground near the lake and a few years later Massey also died and was buried at the same place.

Soon after that the Massey property was purchased by Turner Wilson and for many years the Massey dwelling stood vacant. The place soon acquired the reputation of being haunted, and for long years it was believed by all the negroes and by many white people of that community that smoke could be seen coming out of the Massey’s grave and that lights could sometimes be seen there when the night was dark. It was also said that strange noises that a shadowy ghost-like figure of a woman could sometimes be seen at the upper windows.

The burial ground is no longer used and is covered with briars and vines and the old house burned long ago. Massey’s only remaining son was murdered on the 30th day of June 1870. For what reason or by whom was never known.