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The Burning of Bowling Green

by Stella M. and James N. Pitts

 

Judge Edward McGehee ( 1786- 1880 ) Owner of Bowlin Green Plantation.  Bowling Green Plantation Home was burned in October, 1864, by a  troop of Northern soldiers.  Judge McGehee, 78, the county's wealthiest and most prominent citizen, was having breakfast with his wife Mary and two of their daughters, Mary Louisa and Augusta Eugenia.  Also in the house at the time were their young Grandson George Stewart, and his mother Caroline Stewart remained bedridden, she was expecting another child with in days.

Judge McGehee was a native of Georgia, and was born in 1786.  At the age of  21, his father Micajah McGehee gave him $5.000 and money to buy slaves and supplies.  The next year Edward headed out for  Wheeling, Virginia where he bought a horse, a flatboat, his seven slaved, flour and other supplies.   He then put everything on the flat boat and headed down the Ohio River and then down the Mississippi.  Edward landed at Fort Adams, in the Mississippi Territory.  Edward traveled inland,   and admired what he he saw in this lush forested wilderness and bought land on Thompson's Creek.

Two years later he returned to Georgia, married Peggy Louisa Cosby, and returned with her to his tiny cabin on Thompson's Creek.  He also brought with him a small library.  Before her death in 1821 at the age of 33, Peggy Louisa had given birth to five children.  Two years later Edward married again; his second wife, Harriet Ann Goodrich, had three children before dying in 1827 at the age of 25.  Life was hard indeed for women in the wilderness: condition were primitive, infants often died at birth, or within a few weeks of their births, and the mothers themselves frequently succumbed, worn out by too many pregnancies an suffering form woefully inadequate medical care.

During these years, Edward McGehee had steadily increased his land holdings, and he eventually established his residence on a tract he named Bowling Green.  It was located about two miles form the flourishing village o Woodville,  which had been incorporated in 1811 when the region was still the Mississippi Territory, six years before Mississippi was made a state.  With his third wife Mary Burruss, whom he would have 11 children, he built a frame house at Bowling Green.  By 1831, increasingly wealthy and desiring a handsome residence for his growing family, he replaced it with a three story brick mansion, fronted by four high columns and surrounded by lush gardens.  

A second Bowling Green Mansion served as the home of several generations of the McGehee family until it, too, was destroyed by fire, which began in the attic on a Sunday morning in 1941.... Because the fire moved so slowly, the throng of friends and neighbors who came to help the family were able to remove nearly all of the contents of the house, including the piano form the original house.  One family member recalled seeing tow burly men carrying a glass-fronted china cabinet across the lawn and placing it gently on the grass, all of its fragile contents still inside and unbroken.  

Today (2000) Mary Magruder McGehee, the great-great-granddaughter of Judge McGehee, is the last remaining descendant of that name in Woodville.  She and here sister, Elizabeth McGehee Watt (who lives in nearby Baton Rouge, Louisiana), still own what is left of the Bowling Green property.  They maintain the old grove, its surrounding acreage and the nearby family cemetery with reverent tenderness and enormous pride.

 

 

 

 

 

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