Copyright © Janice Tracy, Mississippi Memories

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Lady in Red, A Poem

A few years ago, I wrote a post on my other blog, Cemeteries of Dancing Rabbit Creek, about The Lady in Red, the body of a young woman unearthed in 1969 at Egypt Plantation near the town of Cruger, in Holmes County, Mississippi. Identification of the woman, dressed in red and encased for burial in a glass-sealed, cast iron coffin, was attempted, but was never made. Included below is a partial account of the event as it appeared in Jackson's Clarion-Ledger on August 2, 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."

No one knows how or why The Lady in Red was buried underneath the deep Delta silt and heavy dirt that make up Egypt Plantation's rich fields.Rumors have been rampant for years that her body may have fallen off a wagon on its way to be buried, that it had been lost in a flood, or that it had washed ashore after a steamboat that was transporting her body for burial was grounded after an accident.  Later, the young woman's remains were placed in a grave in the Odd Fellows Cemetery in Lexington, Mississippi, where they were marked with a small headstone that identifies the mystery woman simply as "The Lady in Red." In more recent years, a few people have claimed publicly and privately to either know or to be related to The Lady in Red. Certainly she must be someone's long lost ancestor, but her true identify remains a mystery still.

Recently, a distant cousin of mine, Arthur Pickett, who grew up in that area of Holmes County, told me he had written a poem in tribute to the unknown, but not forgotten, Lady in Red. I asked to read it, and I subsequently obtained permission from Arthur to reprint his work here today. So, with Arthur's permission, it is with pleasure that I introduce his beautiful and poignant poem. 

The Lady in Red, A Poem

One day workmen came to rake the earth
With backhoe; it was then they found her berth
As she patiently waited rebirth;
But not one knew her life's worth.

No marker was found to name her face;
None to tell when she went to grace.
Was a eulogy before God to make her case?
Was there a new star to mark her place?

From that time-worn home taken she was
By a coroner, an undertaker, and his entourage
Taken by them with a limosine'd barge
East to the Lexington hills in a wooden cooperage

Mourn no more for her oh ye mortal
For now she has a new heavenly portal
Amongst pauper graves with no body corporal
Given name by poets knowledgeable.

She is now known as The Lady in Red
No more is she unknown and dead
Perhaps someone, somewhere will be led
To give her an ancestral name, instead.

Rest in Peace, My Lady, you will never leave us
For yes, we have seen that new star in Cygnus.

Arthur Pickett
Copyright 2009

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