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Coopwood: Preserving The Past

There is no shortage of history in the Mississippi Delta. From our ground breaking “firsts” in agriculture, to our blues music, to our civil rights, our history is significant.
However, every day, some of our history is disappearing. The lack of funds needed to preserve it and the lack of interest contributes to this problem. Several years ago, Dr. Luther Brown, founder of the Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University in Cleveland mentioned he felt the best way to preserve our history here in the Delta was for Deltan’s to adopt portions of it … document it, archive it, and spend their own money helping preserve it. I agree.
Toward that end, I’m attempting to do my part.
A mile north of the small town of Gunnison in western Bolivar County on the Mississippi River, lies Concordia Cemetery, the oldest cemetery in my county. Some of the first burials date back to 1840 and many of our county’s early leaders are buried there. So are some of the members of U.S. President Andrew Jackson’s family.
For decades, the cemetery has been neglected and this small plot of land is the only remaining evidence the town of Concordia once existed.
Concordia was established as a town in the 1830s. For many years, it was the entry way into that part of the Delta from the Mississippi River. In its heyday, Concordia had a newspaper, hotel, several stores, and a Baptist church that was also used as a school house. During the Civil War, troops didn’t land at Concordia, however, Union warships blasted their cannons into the town’s river banks on several occasions.
The first blow to Concordia began with the yellow fever epidemic in 1879. That year, the small town lost forty percent of its residents.
Then, in 1889, the Mississippi River changed course and Concordia was no longer located on the Father of Waters. In fact, after the river changed course, Concordia was located five miles away from it and therefore the town no longer provided a landing for river boats in that part of the Delta. Finally, when the Yazoo & Mississippi Valley Railroad was built three miles east of the town, people began to move away and Concordia disappeared except for the dilapidated cemetery.
In recent months, several from my area have come together to preserve the cemetery and in doing so a second goal has established and that is to officially document where the town of Concordia was located. I’m proud to be a member of this group. A cleanup effort has begun of the cemetery and in their archives, the Mississippi Levee Board in Greenville found a map of the town from 1840. Our group gave the map to the GIS Center at Delta State and Talbot Brooks and his team were able to place it on top of a modern day map and through their amazing technology, for the first time in 130 years, we now know exactly where the town of Concordia was located and where the buildings once stood, the roads, and etc.
The Delta and our state is full of history. However, unless we do our part to preserve it, portions of our history will be erased forever.
I’m looking forwarding to helping preserve a small segment of my area’s history.
You should as well. Pass it on.

scott coopwood
Scott Coopwood is a seventh-generation Deltan who lives in Cleveland, Mississippi with his wife Cindy and their three children. Scott is the publisher and owner of Delta Magazine, one of the South’s leading lifestyle publications, the Delta Business Journal, the first business publication in the Mississippi Delta; and Cleveland’s weekly newspaper, The Cleveland Current. He can be reached at scott@coopwood.net
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