Word has been spreading for the past 10 days on Facebook and beyond about an act of bold thievery, of pure thugery, perpetrated on the National Historic Landmark Shaifer House out in the woods near Port Gibson, but yesterday I saw the first “official” post (on the Rodney Remembered Facebook group) recounting what has happened and offering a generous reward for information. This is really shocking and disgusting.
$5,000 REWARD – OFFERED BY THE PORT GIBSON HERITAGE TRUST BATTLEFIELD COMMITTEE – FOR INFORMATION LEADING TO THE ARREST AND CONVICTION OF THIEVES RESPONSIBLE FOR DAMAGES DONE TO THE SHAIFER HOUSE IN PORT GIBSON, MS
As some of you may know, on April 1, 2017 at 10:00 A.M., a massive amount of damage was discovered at the historic A.K. Shaifer House in Port Gibson, MS. Apparently, a group of criminals vandalized and stole wood, bricks, and materials from the interior and exterior of the home. A broken chain was also discovered, where the criminals backed a vehicle or truck up to the house and used it to pull out and steal major structural beams located underneath the house. The Port Gibson Heritage Trust Battlefield Committee is looking for ANY information regarding the crime. A reward of $5,000 is also being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the thieves responsible for this act. If you have ANY information AT ALL, please send an email to email@example.com. You can remain anonymous if you’d like. We are looking for suspicious activity, vehicles someone may have seen with large beams or wood loaded up, someone who might have been spooked when you or a friend visited the home, etc.
We are also attempting to narrow down the day of the damage and as close as we can get, so far, is between 4:00 PM on Monday, March 20th, 2017 to 10:00 AM on April 1st, 2017. Also, if you or anyone you know visited the house between these dates, please let us know if you saw the house and if it was damaged or not when you visited. This will assist in us narrowing down the time frame even more.
The Port Gibson Battlefield is one of the most pristine Civil War battlefields in the South. Much of the land, road, and the Shaifer House is EXACTLY the way it was during the Civil War. We can all work together to help keep it this way.
(Sorry I couldn’t get this Facebook post to embed into WordPress like usual because WP considers it an “album,” so to get to the live post with its comments and larger pictures, click here.)
Make no mistake. This is not an act of vandalism, not some foolish kids out for a fun Saturday night. This is a criminal act that was planned and took some time to execute, probably by more than one person, possibly by locals who know the confusing backroads of Claiborne County. They apparently targeted specific large timbers, such as a sill on the side and joists, and had the tools and wherewithal to get at them, which probably means they’re contractors or carpenters or someone who fancies himself as such. According to MDAH sources, several brick piers were pulled out and a chain was left at the site, wrapped around a brick foundation pier in the center of the building, which means these guys weren’t done when they left. Maybe they got spooked when unsuspecting tourists stopped by while the work was going on and assumed this was work by a contractor hired by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Maybe you were that tourist and all the sudden you realize you witnessed a crime. Contact MDAH or the Port Gibson Heritage Trust Battlefield Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Someone knows about this, beyond the people who did it. For one thing, like the dufus who stole Biloxi’s Golden Fisherman, these salvagers have taken some really big items, in this case 20-foot-long timbers, that are harder to hide than, say, a diamond ring. Maybe someone noticed a trailer with the sills and joists on it and didn’t think much of it. Maybe someone noticed that their neighbor showed up with such a trailer recently. Turn them in! Get your reward (or better yet, turn them in just for the fun of it), and enjoy the prospect of them squirming in jail. These people don’t deserve our pity or sympathy. They knowingly began tearing apart one of Mississippi’s nationally significant buildings (and apparently would have continued if they had had time) so that they could, I don’t know, create a faux-rustic table or whatever to sell to somebody looking to furnish his new mansion with “authentic timber.” Architectural salvage can be done legitimately when a building is too far gone to repair, but let’s shut down thieves like this who destroy with malice aforethought the historic places that define us.
Even if you haven’t been to the Shaifer House recently, spread the word to friends who might have and keep up the pressure. Let’s nail ’em so this doesn’t happen again.