Today’s post is a reprint from Mrs. N.D. Deupree’s “Some Historic Homes of Mississippi,” from Publications of the Mississippi Historical Society, Vol. VI (1902). There is no photo of Lochinvar in the original article, so I have supplied a public-record interior photo from the 1986 National Register nomination, and a better exterior image from Find-a-Grave that I hope is in the public domain. Lochinvar was badly damaged in the 2002 tornado that also hit Columbus, but has been repaired since then.
In 1832 the United States by a treaty with the Chickasaw Indians acquired possession of all the lands owned by them in Mississippi, excepting certain reservations which were afterwards sold to the whites when the tribe moved to the Indian Territory. Robert Gordon, a younger son of an ancient Scotch family, visiting America in search of adventure, was present and signed the treaty as a witness. He was a gentleman of culture and fine business ability. Although he came to America on a pleasure trip, he was so pleased with the country he concluded to remain and become an American citizen. He soon afterward married Miss Elizabeth Walton, the daughter of a Virginian who belonged to a family distinguished for patriotism during the Revolutionary war; one of the Waltons was a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
When the United States Land Office was located at Pontotoc, Mr. Gordon located there also; and, being a thrifty Scotchman, by speculating in lands he soon accumulated a handsome estate. Two sections became his by purchase, one of them he bought from an Indian woman named Molly Gunn and it was deeded by her to his infant son, James Gordon. Upon this section he built a handsome house situated on the highest hill in Pontotoc county, overlooking a beautiful table-land surrounded by hills and valleys covered with maj estic trees of every variety known to this climate, through whose shadows silvery streams from an hundred gushing fountains flowed on to the sea.
The stately mansion was three years in building; every timber in it was of “heart pine,” the frame work of solid trees with the sap hewn off; it was all hand work, as there were no sawmills in the country at that time. A beautiful self-supporting stairway leads up to the third story; above this, is an observatory overlooking the surrounding country. Beneath the building are three cellars, once stored with rich wines of home and foreign vintage. The house contained fifteen rooms, eight of them 22 feet square; and two large halls and galleries reaching around two sides of the house complete the picture of this palatial old mansion.
Pontotoc was at that time the home of some of the most cultured people in the State, and Lochinvar was kept in the style of the ancient home of the Gordons on the Solway,
“Where the young laird came out of the west
To the Netherby Hall on his swift steed,
And bore off the bride to his nest.”
Oos-ta-ko-wa, Broken Pumpkin, was the Indian name of a small creek on the estate which was once the home of the Chickasaw queen Puccanula, whose dwelling was close to a crystal spring still known as the Queen’s spring. After the exodus of the Indians it received the name of Lochinvar. Molly Gunn, from whom the estate was purchased, was the daughter of a Virginia loyalist—called a Tory during the Revolution. After the defeat of the British and the recognition of the American Republic, Gunn, who owned a large number of slaves, emigrated to Mississippi, married an Indian maiden and spent his life in peace among the Chickasaws. Forbidding any celebration of the Fourth of July, but celebrating the birthday of George III, he was loyal to the last.
When the white people entered the newly acquired territory they found among the Chickasaws a granddaughter of Gunn, named Rhoda, who was surpassingly beautiful, and heiress to a large property. She had many suitors among the adventurous white speculators, but the dusky maiden spurned their addresses and married an Indian brave named “Humming Bird,” who bore the Chickasaw rose away to the West. Cyrus Harris, a nephew of Molly Gunn, who had been educated by Rev. Thomas Stuart, a Presbyterian missionary, was employed as interpreter by Mr. Gordon in his dealings with the Indians; and remained to the time of his death, ten years ago , a true friend of the family.
Mr. Gordon was the founder of Aberdeen, in Monroe county, the Gordon house there being named in his honor. His estate was recorded in the census of 1860 at one million six hundred thousand dollars of taxable property.
When the Civil War called the sons of the South to arms, James Gordon, the only son and heir, armed and equipped the first cavalry company that left the State for Virginia, which was known as company “B,” Jeff. Davis Legion, Stuart’s Cavalry, Army of Virginia. After a year’s service in Virginia, Capt. Gordon raised a regiment of which he was chosen colonel; this regiment was known as the 2nd Regiment of Volunteer Cavalry, Armstrong’s Brigade; served in many engagements under Generals Price, VanDorn, W. H. Jackson, and N. B. Forrest. The son of Lochinvar, like his maternal ancestors, was rebel to the core, and proud of a mother and wife who like the Spartan mothers, buckled on his sword and sent him to the field of battle. Among the trophies sent from the field was the sword of Gen. John S. Coburn, of Indiana, commanding a brigade at the battle of Thompson’s Station. Gen. Coburn requested by a letter to Gen. Frank Cheatham permission to present the sword to Col. Gordon in consideration of kindness shown him while a prisoner. Col. Gordon also won the friendship of Gen. Shafter, who presented him with a pistol, and he did not forget to send a kind message of remembrance, when on his way to Santiago, Cuba.
These incidents are mentioned in no spirit of vain-glory, but to show how Confederates treated their prisoners. These papers, shown to Adjutant Woodward of Grierson’s staff, saved Lochinvar from the torch when Grierson made his raid through Pontotoc county.
Lochinvar was not only known as the most beautiful house in North Mississippi, but noted for the hospitality dispensed. Its spacious halls were often the scene of pleasure where the elite of society assembled and spent the happy hours in feasting, music, and dancing. It can be truthfully said that a free welcome was extended to all who sought its hospitality whether the invited guest, the passing traveler, or the ragged beggar seeking alms; none were refused admittance and entertainment.
Lochinvar was the scene of many romances. During the late war many brides came through the Federal lines, met their Confederate lovers here and were married. The sick and wounded soldiers often sought health and comfort under the leafy shadows and beside the murmuring streams, and were nursed to health by the noble mistress of the home.
After the aged founder and his wife passed away, the son tried to keep up the prestige of the house, but soon found that a great estate requires a great income. Every thing is changed at Lochinvar, the trellised bowers where love’s sweet story was whispered to willing listeners are silent and falling to decay. The tramp of the steed, and the hunter’s mellow horn, the cheery music of the hounds in chase of the wily fox or antlered deer among the hills, are heard no more. The wheel of fortune turned, leaving the grand old home a sad relic of better and happier days; and the exile’s tears that pride withholds from outward flow fall back and scald the heart, as memory brings to view the scenes of long ago. This short story of Lochinvar is the history of nearly all the old Southern homes.
Publications of the Mississippi Historical Society, Vol. VI (1902), pp. 246-249.
This post is part of a series taken from Mrs. N.D. Deupree’s “Some Historic Homes of Mississippi,” published in 1903. Want to read others in the series?