Museum of the Mississippi Delta in Greenwood, MS

March 9, 2012 · 0 comments

in Mississippi River Delta

We had driven past The Museum of the Mississippi Delta, formerly named Cottonlandia Museum many times without taking notice of it. All visitors to this museum enjoy how it is authentic to the area yet diverse in displays. In its displays Indian lore, agriculture, history and art flow together beautifully.

The museum contains six galleries with a wide range of features. I’m not sure what drew me into the museum today, but I’m glad it did. The museum focuses on the five “A’s”: art, archaeology, agriculture, antiques and animals. There are four permanently fixed gallery displays and two in which exhibits alternate  four times per year. Consult the museum’s website for descriptions of current exhibits.

We had the good fortune to visit during a special display on Robert Johnson, famous Mississippi blues singer. Two of his greatest songs are “I Believe I’ll Dust My Broom” and “Sweet Home Chicago.” Album covers, celebrity photos, Gold Records and other memorabilia are on display. It was fun to go through the showcase and listen to his songs playing in the background. There is a famous myth about Johnson. The story is about how he gained his musical talents by making a bargain with the devil. He died at age 27 as the suspected victim of a deliberate poisoning. Although his name was not mentioned in the movie, he has to be the musician who joined the famous road trip in the movie “O Brother Where Art Thou.” In his brief career, Johnson wrote and recorded 29 songs which have sold millions of records.

My wife and I love to take day trip/road trips to Greenwood, MS. It is only a 68 mile drive for us, which means we can amble around, enjoy the sights, then eat at one of our favorite restaurants and still drive home. You will probably want to stay the night and there are lots of pleasant hotels and good places to eat. The Aluvian Hotel in downtown Greenwood, Ms is one of the finest boutique hotels in the south. There are several hotels on the Hwy 82/49 bypass.

Mississippi River Delta

Greenwood is located at the junction of US Hwy 82 which runs east/west and US Hwy 49 which runs north/south. The Mississippi River Delta ends abruptly about 3 miles east of Greenwood. Driving east out of Greenwood on US Hwy 82, you enter the hill country with a decided 3 mile climb up what locals call Valley Hill.

The museum has a permanent display of the largest collection of Indian Trade Beads in the south. The collection is loaned to the Museum by the L. B. Jones Trust. The collection includes trading beads, authentically crafted Indian artifacts, pottery and arrowheads. It is an interesting and large collection of Indian artifacts. I confess my lack of knowledge in this area, but I am told by those who know this subject well, that this is a rare collection.

Swamp Creatures of the Night

As you enter a semi-darkened gallery, you dimly discern the shapes of night creatures from the swamp. You have entered a diorama of a Mississippi Swamp. The creatures are positioned in a designed natural habitat complete with night sounds. The Delta has thousands of acres of swamps. Be respectful, these creatures are the original natives of this region.

My favorite gallery is the one displaying local art. Each year the museum sponsors an area-wide art contest. Contestants submit art from any discipline they wish. Winners have been carvings, pottery, sculpture and painted art. Some of the winning entries are on display. This has been a highly motivational program for artists in the region.

One gallery is dedicated to Greenwood Le Flore, a distinguished Choctaw Indian Chief. His last name is alternately spelled Le Fleur. Carolyn Hinton’s Bedroom furnishings from Malmaison are on display in this gallery.  The city of Greenwood chose the chief’s given name as its name. The county in which the city of Greenwood, Ms is located, is Leflore County.

Le Flore was a wealthy and influential Choctaw Indian. His father was a wealthy Canadian, who had influential connections in state and federal government. His mother was from an elite Choctaw Indian family who provided him with influential connections among the Choctaw.

In 1830, Le Flore led the Choctaw Indian chiefs to sign The Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, which consented to removal to Indian reserves while it granted those who wished to remain a provision for protected Indian lands. Retrieval of Chief LeFlore’s artifacts is ongoing and a restoration of his home, Malmaison, is also proposed. About 50 miles east of Greenwood, at French Camp, MS, you can see other interesting artifacts of Greenwood LeFlore, including his luxurious Chariot. Wikipedia has pictures of the lovely home (Malmaison) and his chariot.

Mastadon Bones found near here

There have also been numerous archaeological finds in the area. There are skeletal remains of a Mastadon which were discovered on the land of Mr. T. E. Kimes near Carrolton, Ms about 15 miles southeast of Greenwood. A complete gallerie is dedicated to this large collection of prehistoric finds from the area.

Tools used to amputate limbs during the Civil War

No mention of any area in the south can ignore the era of the Civil War. This museum has a dedicated area to memorabilia from this era. I was stunned to see this Amputation Kit on display. If I ever must have an arm or leg removed, I vote for another set of tools to be used.

God only, knows how long the flood waters of the mighty Mississippi River covered this area and created the marvelous agricultural region known as the Mississippi River Delta. One thing is for sure, no museum from the Mississippi River Delta would be complete without honorable mention of the agricultural dynamo which put this area on the map permanently. For more than a century, cotton was king. As time has passed the region has been forced to diversify to remain viable. Cotton is still grown in massive amounts, but other crops have been added. Soy beans, grains and pond-raised catfish have taken equal shares of this industry.

Semi-Primitive Tools Used in Agriculture

The display commemorating the past agricultural history of the Mississippi  Delta fills a large room. It is full of objects from that era. There are tools of all descriptions, bales of cotton, a horse-drawn carriage, an old John Deere Tractor, fabrics, clothing and surprises I won’t attempt to describe.  There is an old poster announcing the Mule Races as well as a whiskey still, which is a working model, but local law enforcement will not “permit” it for production.

You might think that you aren’t interested in museums. If that is so, you just haven’t visited a large enough variety of these amazing collections. Each museum is different. I have visited some in which I felt I could have spent my time better examining a collection of toe nail shards, but that was not here.

The folks who run The Museum of the Mississippi Delta are a congenial bunch. They are genuinely pleased to have guests and go out of their way to make you feel comfortable as you tour their beloved facility. I want to personally thank them for the great afternoon they shared with us.

We’ve got to pull over for some shuteye, but you just drive on ’til you get tired enough to sleep. Hope to see you soon. Keep running up the miles and dialing up the smiles. Road trips are supposed to be fun.

Bill Taylor

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: