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Oral and Written Histories
Written history of Mrs. Susie Marshall, “The Old Depot Story.”
“In 1929 my family (Mr. and Mrs. William Mitchell) moved from
the small Phillip farm outside of Oxford during the Depression to what
was called at that time, Depot Street. We moved into a larger house
on 404 Depot Street (now known as Jackson Avenue) in Freeman Town. The
house was a short distance from the railroad station.
On Sunday afternoons, my teenage sister and our friends would go down to the old depot and enjoy watching the passengers unload and load off the Old Bilbo Passenger Train coming and going from Jackson, Mississippi to Memphis, Tennessee. It was both a pleasure as well as frightening to hear the train whistle blow.
Once my sharecropper father and his friend were hired to unload coal from the railroad cars. At lunchtime they would wash their hands and faces before eating. My dad said that his friend would wash his face and ask, “Is the black off Mitchell?” My father would reply, “No” for three time until the friend realized that it was a joke.
My mother ran a boarding house and fixed meals for six to eight workers who came and went on the train each week while building the dormitories at Ole Miss for three years, 1930-33. Hobos, who stole rides on the rail train, would come to the backdoor of our house and ask for food. My mother accommodated them most of the time. Then a well-dressed man called Dr. Perry came to rent a room for $5.00 per night. This was considered good money at the time. Then he confidenced my father by telling him that he knew where there was a large sum of money buried along the railroad track.
He asked my father to get two additional friends (honest friends) to bring a pick, shovel, and galvanized tub for water in which to put three dimes, three quarters, and three ten-dollar bills. Each night at 1 o’clock Dr. Perry would call them into his room and perform a cantation of sorts! This was meant to convey where they needed to begin digging.
On the third night, my dada knocked on his door and called three times, “Dr. Perry, Dr. Perry, Dr. Perry.” Receiving no answer, he pushed the door open and found no Dr. Perry. Dr. Perry had slipped out of the window having scammed them out of sixty hard-earned dollars. My mother said, ‘I told you so.’ Susie Marshall.”
Fact about Freedmantown related in April 7th, 2004 interview:
In the early 1930’s the depression caused men seeking work to travel hundreds of miles. Men from Mississippi and surrounding states flooded into Oxford, to work on a government funded building project to construct girl’s dormitories on the University of Mississippi campus. Mrs. Susie Marshall, a long time Oxford resident, recalls that “This gave work to African-Americans, many of whom boarded in Freedmantown and later settled there.” She remembers that the area grew substantially during this period due to the transport provided by the railroad.