Abandoned: Vaughan, Mississippi

Vaughan, Mississippi, with an older aerial image showing the depot/museum just to the right of the intersection and along the railroad bed.

Recently I decided to take the Vaughan exit off I-55 to see how this little hamlet was doing. It’s been a while since I was through, maybe 2004 or 2005, but even then it seemed like things were slipping away. Vaughan was never a big town–maybe it would have qualified as a “village” back when that designation was still an official one. Vaughan’s primary claim to fame was the train wreck that killed engineer Casey Jones and that was made famous in “The Ballad of Casey Jones.” The wreck, which happened in 1900, occurred about a mile north of the Vaughan downtown.

Wikipedia actually has a detailed account of the accident and its aftermath.

Downtown Vaughan, once the home of the Casey Jones Museum (located to the left of this picture)

After the wreck, Vaughan continued as a small-time railroad stop and later Highway 51 hamlet, but it was the opening of a museum dedicated to Casey Jones that kept it as a going concern until the twenty-first century.

According to Elmo Howell’s helpful Mississippi Home-Places: Notes on Literature and History, 

In 1980, near the site of Casey Jones’s wreck in 1900, the state Bureau of Recreation and Parks opened a museum in a restored train depot moved to the Vaughan site from Pickens, Mississippi. Vaughan itself is a ghost town with only a store, post office, and a few vacant buildings. The state has restored a large commercial building across from the museum.

Howell’s book was published in 1988, so obviously the museum wasn’t even enough to keep the few “downtown” buildings going if he was already describing it as a “ghost town.” I’m not sure how successful the museum was, since Casey Jones’ hometown, Jackson, Tennessee, has its own Casey Jones Museum. Not to be left out, Water Valley, up the mainline, has a Casey Jones Museum too, housed in a reconstructed railroad building on the old railroad line in downtown.

The Vaughan museum, like several other historical state parks such as Florewood, was closed in 2004, and whatever chance Vaughan’s few buildings had withered away. In 2008, the town of West got a grant to have the depot moved up the tracks to its downtown, where it stands today as a visitor center. By my count, this little intrepid depot is now in its third location–is that a record? You can see a picture of the depot when it was at Vaughan here.

While the two-story building in downtown Vaughan is clearly too far gone for realistic hopes, the one-story old post office may still have a few years of life left in it, and at least two older homes still stand in varying stages of abandonment within a few steps of downtown.

Abandoned nineteenth century house in "downtown" Vaughan still could be fixed up.

Another abandoned house in downtown Vaughan

From my brief observation, it seems that the recycling bins across from the downtown buildings are probably the main draw for people to stop here anymore.

Usually I end posts in the “Abandoned Mississippi” series with a call to action. This post may be more of a remembrance and an elegy. Vaughan, like many many Mississippi places once full of life–a particular kind of agricultural and railroad life–is slipping away. But its passing should not go unnoticed; it should be pondered. We can’t stop moving toward the future, but Mississippi will be different when all the places like Vaughan and Hot Coffee and Rodney have rotted away and disappeared back into the forest.

Categories: Abandoned Mississippi, Demolition/Abandonment, Depots, Historic Preservation, Urban/Rural Issues

38 replies

  1. The old hotel is owned by West, Ms. as well. I’m sure there are some material in it worth salvaging. If nothing else, but to say where it came from.


  2. I think these losses are SO SAD–


  3. I was there with my girlfriend about a year ago . We stopped and wandered as you did. I thought at the time that there was a lot of ‘energy’ in that area , who owned the buildings and what someone could do with the salvaged wood. It was kind of ‘weird’ at the time , all the feelings that seem to persist. thanks


  4. I remember well as a young boy, attending the big celebration and bar-b-que at Vaughan when the historical plaque commemorating Casey Jones’ wreck was installed. Jones’ fireman, Sims, was in attendance. It was a big day in little Vaughan! Every time I visited the town after that more deterioration was evident. Even the historical plaque disappeared. The loss of the Vaughan Post Office and the closing of the Illinois Central main line were the end of the town. The town was named after my great, great grandfather, Major Henry Vaughan, one of the largest landowners in the area and a signer of the Mississippi Succession Ordinance.


  5. :(( So Sad to See Houses that once had Life, people, children, Love, Gone. But that is what is need to bring it back !


  6. Do you know how much Florewood brought at auction?


  7. Wonderful job that your doing!


  8. Henry A Vaughan is the son of Henry Clader/Braford Vaughan, plantation owner of Cherryvale Plantation in Sumter, SC. He was born on that plantation on 31 Mar 1800, Cherry Vale Plantation, Stateburg, Sumter County, South Carolina and died on 13 Dec 1870, Madley, Yazoo County, South Carolina. Family oral history says I am a direct descendant through the slave Thisby and Henry Clader/Bradford Vaughan.


  9. Has anyone ever visited Ellison Methodist Church, which according to googlemaps is located near the intersection of Vaughn and Brown. The picture on googlemaps shows a cemetery. I have old photos from my grandmother, who was one of the daughters of James Anderson Ewing, which show a stained glass window that they donated to Ellison Methodist Church. I’d love to go and see it.


    • Tori..Ellison church is a beautiful church less than 10 min off I-55..you should go see those windows..you’ll probably run in to someone you’re related to!…Its still a great community….my family is from there and I pass it often…Dave Deason


  10. I lived in Vaughan from 1959 to 1961. My father, Clint Cummins, was section foreman for the Illinois Central Railroad there and we lived in the section house (now demolished) located not far from where these photos were taken. The “abandoned nineteenth century house” photo is a picture of “Rose Hill” the home of Ms. Nineta Brewster and Ms. Virgin Reed. These sisters were little girls at the time of Casey Jones wreck and were the resident historians on the wreck at the time we lived there. Ms. Nineta was a poet and Ms. Reed was an artist (as I recall). They said that they actually carried food to the workers who cleared the wreck. Their mother ran Rose Hill as a boarding house for railroad men in 1900. Their story can be found in the book “The Choo-Choo Stopped at Vaughan” written by former postmaster Massana Jones. The second house is I believe the home of Mr. and Ms. “Tot” Dixon. I may have this confused with the former home of Mr. Sam Phillips. Mr. Tot ran the Dixon grocery store in Vaughan which was the town center for all practical purposes. I remember his store well and how good the cheddar cheese smelled when he cut it from the cheese “round” in his store. Vaughan was indeed a busy place in 1960. Dad leased land and grew cotton (hiring many in the neighborhood to help him) and had it ginned at the cotton gin located and operating in Vaughan at the time. Passenger trains travelled through Vaughan (although stopping only at Canton and Pickens) several times a day and you couldn’t keep count of the freight trains that passed through. I remember well the Wilson family, the Dixons, Clarence, Mary Ester, Joe Louis, and many others who were good friends to us while we were there. Thank you for a wonderful online surprise and bringing all these memories to me. Bill Cummins


    • Bill, there is just one correction I’d like to make, the house that Ninetta and VIrgie lived in and ran as a boarding house, is called “ROSE REST.”
      These ladies were cousins to my grandfather, John Henry Fowler, who lived just a few miles past the Vaughan Road Ellison Church, off of Fowler Road. John Henry Fowler was my mother’s father.
      I spent the night once or twice in the old house, ROSE REST, while there I heard delightful stories from my cousins, who delighted in showing me and all my cousins, their albums filled with pictures, letters, and articles pertaining to Casey Jones and his wife, and the ‘accident’…the sisters did walk right up the road to see the results and I am pretty sure they told me that they saw Casey’s body. There were, after all, just a few steps away. My grandfather also went to the scene to see the aftermath. This story has long haunted me, being brought up and raised in Canton, to which Casey was racing with the mail, when the accident occurred. He had almost made up the 95 minutes of lost time, when the tragic accident took place. He had been filling in for another engineer who was SUPPOSED to taken that mail run to Canton, but the other engineer became ill and Casey got called in. I firmly believe that in the foggy mist and darkness, that Casey did miss that signal to stop the train! I have a signed copy of Massena Jones’ book, The Choo-Choo stopped at Vaughan…given me by my aunt the late Susie Maie Fowler Wilson, who was a resident of Vaughan all her life.
      What always intrigues me, is Casey’s Whistle–which he could make sound just like a whippoorwill…they said that even when he was miles away, everyone that heard that moanful sound knew when Casey Jones was at the throttle!
      There has been a stamp made for the USPS with his likeness on it. If you ever were in the museum you would have seen his portrait, that the stamp was patterned from.


      • Thank you for the correction Nina. I think you are correct that the name of the house was “Rose Rest.” I believe an article in the Illinois Central Historical Magazine has helped me understand how the accident could have happened at all. According to that article, Casey knew when he left Goodman, MS of the congestion on the rail lines at Vaughan because he received train orders telling him that there would be what was known as a “saw by” at Vaughan allowing him to pass three trains all of which were too long and obstructed the main line. Casey was travelling southbound and would have assumed that the trains were arranged so that he could pass the northern most switch without difficulty and then “saw by” the obstructing trains at the southern most switch. This assumption is not without merit because I believe that railroad rules and procedure would have dictated such an arrangement in order to save time in accomplishing the manuver. However, due to a malfunction in one of the trains Westinghouse brakes, it was the northern switch that was obstructed, shortening the distance of Casey’s scheduled stop considerably. As you indicated, he had been running fast and had made up most of his time by the time he reached Vaughan. However, he had slowed to about 35 miles per hour at the time of the impact. I think he was able to accomplish this because he was already slowing down as he approached Vaughan for the “saw by.” If he heard the torpedo at all, he could have reasonably mistaken it as a warning of the obstruction at the south switch (which he anticipated) rather than the north switch (which would have come as a tragic surprise). The follow up report of course placed all of the blame on Casey Jones and the railroad made certain in its report to note that Casey had been cited about 10 times in his career for various infractions, several involving speed. They did not, however, indicate that he had also been promoted to the Cannonball for that very reason, his ability to make up time and bring in his trains on the “scheduled.”

        Thank you again Nina for your comments on what to me is a cherished footnote in personal and local history. I enjoy the dialogue.


    • Hi Bill, I know it has been at least a year since your post was written, but just wanted to ask you about any old grave sites or cemetaries in Vaughn. I am the gr gr granddaughter of Norman Birmingham and his wife Mildred Davenport Birmingham. Norman was the owner of the stage line that ran from Vaughan’s Station to Yazoo City and up to Rolling Fork. His wife died in 1870 and he died in 1882. I have read in his obituary that he was laid to rest in Vaughan next to his wife. From your experience living there all of those years, do you know of any cemetaries in the area? I have explored one on some property that is now a horse farm just down the road from “downtown”, but other than that do not know where else to search for their graves. Thanks for any info! oh yes. One of Norman and Mildred Birmingham’s granddaughters was named Ida Norma Tucker, ( my great aunt) remembered the night of the Casey Jones wreck and used to tell me about it when I was a little girl. She was 15 years old at the time and I found it fascinating to hear her stories! Lourene Stebbins Johnson

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Looks like an awesome place to metal detect. I would love to get out there and use my F75 to locate some lost history. I live in New Albany and donate all my finds to the Union County Haritage Museum. If I found anything it would be donated to a museum as well. I don’t care for the value of my finds, I just enjoy finding stuff and learning about our history.


    • Please remember to always ask for written permission of a landowner before visiting an archaeological site on private property. Never take anything from a site or disturb it in any way unless the landowner has given permission and you know how to keep a careful record of what is removed. It can be a trespassing violation to gather artifacts on private property without the written permission of the landowner.

      Digging disturbs evidence and destroys part of the scientific value of a site and its artifacts. Refrain from digging at archaeological sites. The locations of artifacts and other fragile archaeological remains are evidence of the behavior of the people who made them. Only through careful, scientific excavation can the archaeologist recover and interpret this evidence. Archaeological sites are considered “non-renewable resources”: once a site is excavated or disturbed in any way, the information the site contained is no longer available and cannot be gained from another source.

      If you are going to dig it is very important to keep good records. You should mark each of your sites on an accurate map, such as a USGS 7.5’ topographic map, USDA soil maps, or a highway map. Keep artifacts from different sites separated. Label each of your pieces in a way that will tell you from which site they came. For example, mark your own site name or number on artifacts with indelible ink.

      It might be worth contacting the archaeology division at MDAH before visiting a site.


  12. I spent every summer in Vaughn from 1973-1986. My Grandparents, Grady and Clora Kuhn spent their entire lives there farming cotton. I can still remember the amazing smell from Mr. Tot’s store and have told my family about that store many times. Vaughn Mississippi holds the best memories of my childhood. It truly hurts to see it slip away. I have many pictures tucked away I need to pull out now.


  13. I spent every summer in Vaughn Mississippi from 1972-1986. My Grandparents, Grady and Clora Kuhn spent their entire lives there farming cotton. I remember Mr. Tot’s store well and can still remember the amazing smell of his store. Vaughn holds the happiest memories of my childhood and it truly saddens me to see it slip away. I have so many pictures tucked away I need to pull out. Thanks for this article!


  14. Major Henry Vaughan was my 4 or 5X grandfather. I find all this stuff very interesting and know many things about my familys history but would always like to know more! Are there pictures, that anyone knows of, of Maj Henry Vaughan or Madely (Madley) Plantation? Or any pictures of my ancestors? My dad is Reece Vaughan, my papaw was William Lee (Bill) Vaughan.


    • Would you share info with me? Henry Vaughan was also my 4x great grandfather. Very interested.
      Thanks –
      Leslye Lyles Anderson


    • Hi Josh. Major Henry Vaughan is also my 5x grandfather..my great grandmother was Charlie Vaughan..have researched a bit on family..found grave site and some pictures I’d be happy to share..you can email me at maandpaws@comcast.net


    • Hey Cuz! I have a picture of the Major and his wife Emma Rees on my mantle at home. They were my 3X grandparents. I’d be glad to get you a copy if you like. My Dad has done some extensive research and has a ton of info on our family. He found where Cherryvale plantation was in Sumter Co SC. I wish we had a picture of the home at Madley. If anyone has one please let me know. Dad described it in detail to me and I also have a letter that talks about it. Sounds like it was an amazing place.


      • Hugh (& others!),
        I feel like I just hit the lotto with some info on Major Henry Vaughan. I believe my husband is a possible descendent (which makes my son a possible descendent too). I’ve been trying to find when he moved from SC to Mississippi. But I’m very interested in all that exists to help fill in some gaps of family history. would you be so kind as to email me the photos/letter/stories you referenced above? we would so appreciate it!! thanks!
        Email: lkgeneology(at)gmail.com
        Ps: @ = (at)…trying to avoid spammers ;)


        • Hi,

          This is related to your recent post regarding the Vaughans, I just thought I’d relay to you some information about my own family at Vaughan! My mother was born and raised there, later married my father and moved to Canton, raised four daughters, of which I am one.
          My grandfather was John Henry Fowler–if you have ever noticed Fowler Road (off the Vaughan Road and just a few miles from Linwood) …just off that road named for him he had land and the family raised their own crops, cattle, hogs, etc, and I spent many years of my youth there visiting my grandmother, Perrye Brister Fowler and my grandfather John Henry Fowler, and my aunts, uncles, and cousins!
          John Henry Fowler was born in 1874, Died in 1960. (Married my grandmother Perrye Lee Brister in Holmes County in 1908.)
          His father, Henry H. Fowler was born in Georgia …came to MS at some point –I am presuming early 1900s–and died on the family farm in 1913. (Married Sarah L. Jefferson cCormack in 1867.)
          Many of my family members are buried in Ellison churchyard–including the Hargons–you may recall the murders (which occurred in 2005) of Michael, Rebecca, and their little son–James Patrick Hargon. (Michael was my second cousin–he was my mother’s sister’s grandson.) And my first cousin, Dan Haywood Fowler–also murdered, in 1995 in his store that later became Michael’s house. These tribulations can not be expressed in a mere email so I won’t try, but suffice it to say those deeds really took a toll on everyone in the family, and the community.
          I just thought I would share some of my history and Vaughan background, because the community out there was basically my second home–after Canton.
          When you are in Ellison cemetery–you might note the tombstone of my uncle–Dan Haywood Fowler, he was my mother’s youngest brother who sadly was killed in April of 1945 on the USS HANCOCK while serving in the Navy, he was buried at sea but I often visit his gravestone there to pay honors to him.



  15. Just to clarify, the email is Lkgeneology (sometimes the L is mistaken for an i). thanks!


  16. Would love pictures or any information on Vaughn family. Also looking for information on Charlie Vaughns husband Taylor.Charlie was my great grandmother.
    Thank you for any and all info.


    • To Lauren: Trying to send a personal email, but gmail keeps changing the spelling of the word ‘genealogy,’ so can you please reply to this Email for some information I would like to share with you regarding my ancestors and family residing at Vaughan, beginning in the mid-1800s era. Thank you! ninacres@gmail.com


  17. The perfect Segway to raise an alarm as to the possible loss of another Mississippi landmark in Crawford; not by neglect, but by deliberate design to accommodate the wishes of the Lapeyrouse Grain Corporation, which operates a grain elevator near the M&O RR section house. In the past two years, Crawford has lost two historic landmarks: Both The Wayside Inn and the old George Hairston Commissary Building were destroyed by arsonist(s). The identity of the Wayside Inn arsonist is known to the Lowndes county DA, but he walks the streets of Crawford, today. In January of this year, by happenchance, I discovered that two parcels of property were deeded to the Town of Crawford by Wells Fargo after a foreclosure. One parcel consists of the section house located on 1.9 acres. I inquired as to the future of the section house and was told that the Mayor of Crawford had already concluded a “done deal” with Lapeyrouse to convey the 1.9 acres in swap for “something of equal value.” The intent of Lapeyrouse was to demolish the section house. I appeared before the Crawford Town Council at its May meeting and told the mayor that certain protocols–Notice of Intent– that must be followed before public property can be conveyed to private ownership. The mayor said that he would “list it in classifieds.” The board members sat there and said nothing. I cannot say if they were aware of the “done deal swap.” A member of the Commercial-Dispatch staff was present at the May town hall meeting–Slim Smith.. as was the town council legal advisor from a Columbus law firm. She offered no comments. I followed the advice of Mulvaney(not his real name) and filed a Notice of Intent with the MDAH. At the June town hall meeting, I informed the Mayor that I had filed a Notice of Intent with MDAH. His only comment was to say, “It’s time to move on.” I pushed a copy of the MDAH form towards him at the table; he, nor any board member, reached out to examine the form.
    I have been all through the section house and even into the attic. IMO, it is in pristine condition, in part because the exterior was covered in vinyl siding that had protected it from the elements. An asphalt shingle roof protected the roof framework. The original floor plan is intact. The family that occupied the house–my in-laws– lived a Spartan-like lifestyle. I will post photos this coming week.



  18. I awoke this morning realizing that I had misspelled segue. It’s a word I hardly ever use and I cannot explain the error.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 760 other followers

%d bloggers like this: