~ Last updated on Aug 29, 2022 ~
On my way through Yazoo City, Mississippi it appeared to be a very colorful and charming little town. I had only travelled here because of it’s mention in the film “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?”, but come to find out it is also home to a chilling legend of a Witch and devastating town fire…
The Fire of 1904
In 1904, Yazoo, Mississippi was the wealthiest town in the Mississippi Delta. On the clear morning of May 25th of that year, legend has it a young woman planning her wedding discovered a small fire in the parlor of her home. Others say it was a young boy playing with matches beneath his house. While it was never confirmed what started the great fire that destroyed Yazoo City that day, what is recorded is that high winds quickly spread the fire across the city, burning 124 buildings and two hundred homes.
It was a perfect recipe for disaster. The rapidly spreading fire quickly overcame the efforts of the volunteer fire fighters who responded to battle the flames. The city water system, amid an upgrade from the original wooden mains, failed, with pipes bursting throughout the city. With no water pressure to help fight the fire, people watched helplessly as an area 12 blocks long and three blocks wide was reduced to ash.
In the aftermath of the destruction, as people came together from all over the region to assist in rebuilding the community, a story began to emerge. A story of witchcraft and her revenge. A tale that provided the city with someone to blame for the devastation.
MANY YEARS AGO…
…there was a mean and ugly woman who lived alone in carefully guarded seclusion near the banks of the Yazoo River. Nobody knew anything about her, but they loathed her nonetheless.
They hated her so much, they didn’t bother to remember her name. She is only know as The Witch of Yazoo.
A broken link in the chains surrounding her mysterious grave on the morning of May 26th has left Yazooans to wonder for decades… was it the Witch of Yazoo?
The Witch of Yazoo
In Glenwood Cemetery, a few feet behind a water fountain, the grave of the Witch of Yazoo sits surrounded by an oval linked chain.
No one now knows the name of the person buried there. All the cemetery records from the time were lost in the fire, but there is a stone over the plot that tells the story of the Witch who broke the chains surrounding her resting place and burned down the town.
Local writer Willie Morris’ 1971 book, “Good Old Boy” recounts that an old, ugly woman lived on the banks of the Yazoo River. She was secretive and private, and hated by the community.
It was rumored that she lured fishermen into her home, poisoned them with arsenic and buried them in the woods nearby. One night a young boy went to the Sheriff and told that he had peeked in the windows of the Witch’s house and had seen the bodies of two men, and the Witch standing over them, appearing to speak incantations.
The Sheriff and a group of other men made way to the Witch’s house and chased her into the swamp, finding her sunk to the neck in quicksand. Just before she sank completely, she declared that she would return in 20 years and burn down the town.
The men retrieved the Witch’s body, and she was buried in the cemetery, with a heavy chain surrounding the grave, in hopes to keep her there. As the years passed, she was forgotten, until exactly 20 years later, on May 25, 1904. After the fires were contained, a group of city elders who remembered the stories of the Witch went to the cemetery to find that the chain surrounding the Witches grave had been broken in two.
Today, you can see the witch’s grave with its broken chains, as well as the grave of Willie Morris, the writer who made her famous, in Glenwood Cemetery.
The stone marker on the grave reads: