Copyright © Janice Tracy, Cemeteries of Dancing Rabbit Creek.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Odd Fellows Cemetery - The Lady in Red

Cruger, Mississippi, in Holmes County, Mississippi, is home to barely 400 residents. Located on the west side of U. S. Highway 49, the town is roughly 70 miles north of Jackson and about 175 miles south of Memphis, Tennessee. It lies within the confines of the large area of fertile agricultural lands known as the Mississippi Delta. Places nearby have unusual names, such as Alligator Bayou, Mosquito Lake, and Mossy Island. Located near Cruger is Egypt Plantation, an active farming area of almost 2,000 acres that sees it share of heavy equipment during farming season. But in the summer of 1969, a backhoe dug up more than Delta soil. It unearthed a coffin buried only a few feet deep that contained the body of a young woman who became known as "The Lady in Red."

Below is a partial account of the event as it appeared in Jackson's Clarion-Ledger on August 29, 1969:

"The method of preservation used for the Lady In Red was common prior to the Civil War, when custom-made caskets, shaped to the body, were ordered as one would order a dress. The glass that sealed the coffin was placed over the body, and alcohol was poured inside until it was level full, and then sealed with a cast iron tip. When the back hoe machine hit the coffin, alcohol spilled from the casket and spots of the liquid were seen on the folds of the woman's dress."

Aptly named for the red dress she allegedly was wearing, the young woman in the cast iron casket was said to be well-preserved. It is any one's guess how The Lady in Red came to be buried in the soils of Egypt Plantation, and there is no information to suggest a cemetery was located in the immediate area. One theory is the casket could have "dropped off" something that may have been carrying it to her final resting place.


Gravestone for The Lady in Red
Final Resting Place in Odd Fellows Cemetery
Lexington, Holmes County, Mississippi
(Photographed by Natalie Maynor)

The date of birth shown on the Lady in Red's grave stone is the result of expert analysis of her age. Since there is no way to determine her date of death, the date shown on the grave stone is the day her body was discovered on Egypt Plantation.

8 comments:

  1. This is brand new information for me, Janice. I have never heard of this method of body preservation before. Thanks for posting this. I wonder if the Lady in the Red Dress and the Egypt Plantation had any other connection?

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  2. At the time, it was thought that Egypt Plantation was a stop for river boats coming up the Yazoo River to Greenwood. There was some speculation that the Lady in Red could have been a passenger on a paddlewheel riverboat when she died.

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    1. I was reared in Tchula and have heard about this Lady in Red all my life. I too have heard that there is speculation she was hurriedly buried when it was thought she had a fever of some unknown origin, probably yellow fever. For fear of being contagious, she was buried at the first river port available for the river boat. I've heard two versions; one is she died on the boat and the other that the body/casket was being taken somewhere. Either way both versions end with the burial where it was to get her off the boat as quickly as possible to prevent anyone from possibly catching the fever she supposedly died from. Like I said these are just the legends I've heard all my life and some were related to me by descendants of workers at Egypt plantation. Perhaps the Thomas family from Cruger that owns Egypt plantation could shed more light on the subject. johnh38668@gmail.com

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  3. I heard this story about the lady in red from the father of a young lady I was visiting in the hospital up in Jackson who just had a baby (I am a Catholic priest serving in Yazoo City and Belzoni.) The father asked me if I was related to the family in Egypt because he said I resembled them so much. I found your blog entry very interesting. Thank you.

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  4. Hi! I am the granddaughter of Tol Thomas who farmed Egypt at the time. I, of course, heard this story too, mostly from my Uncle Sanford who has a tendency to embellish his stories - It was told to me in childhood as an eery ghost tale. The origin of the Lady in Red's story is a mystery to us too -- John from Tchula, I've heard both of those hypotheses, both seem probable. Egypt Plantation used to have a fairly busy port on the Yazoo up until the 1920-30s, and she was likely an affluent traveler who died unexpectedly.

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  5. I've read this account more than more backwards and forwards. I have a tale of my own to enter here. My great grandmother lived just north of that area around Cruger when she died shortly after childbirth. I know they said they thought civil war era, but bear with me a moment. There was a flood of high water the year she died around 1900, no place dry to bury her, so they put her in a boat and went out to find a spot of dry land. The location at Egypt was 7 miles down from where she lived. They would have drifted that way in a boat. The story goes that they found a dry spot and buried her in it. Now here is why I think they may be the same - she was a petite woman, my grt grdmtr was very petite. My own grandmother and her sisters were all under 5 ft. The lady in Red was estimated in her mid 20's - my grt grd mother was 26 when she died, very small feet. The right age, the right size and taken by boat to that dry ground south of Cruger - Also Hattie was caucasion. Both had red hair. How many caucasion, petite under 5 ft, with small feet, in their 20's do you think would be buried in a field below Cruger instead of a burial plot? This Lady in Red and my great grandmother Hattie was buried there somewhere too. And according to the description, they could have passed for the same person. According to their story and mine, they both were brought to their burial on a boat. Now figure those odds for me.

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    1. What a great theory! After hearing the Lady in Red story, I've looked all over the web and this is the best I've found. Do you have pictures of your family? The state may even pay to have DNA testing done for you. How wonderful that would be to give her, her name back? I also have to agree with you on the red hair theory..lol. My mothers family is red/orange hair (altho I don't have it) but they're so easy to point out as being related. Sometimes you just know. I wish you the best in your journey of finding out and I wish her continued peace.

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    2. Very interesting! I have never heard of the Lady in Red, until I started reading Carolyn Haines book, "Smarty Bones". I have family in MS.-wish I knew of this the last time I was there! A mystery, within a mystery!

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