Ghosts of the Yockanookany

Admittedly, I’ve been a little down since the spring. With the sale of our deer camp, I haven’t been looking forward to the upcoming deer season as much as I would have in the past. Fortunately, there’s always another opportunity knocking. Last week, I took an afternoon to go check out the new hunting grounds for the season. On the drive up, I had a renewed sense of energy about deer season. I was excited for the first time in a while. I had no idea what I was going to find out about the property when I arrived.

As I got a little closer to the property the pine trees never turned into hardwood. Part of me knows this isn’t a good sign when it comes to deer hunting. The other part of me knows that I know how to hunt piney woods, due to having grown up in the Pine Belt. Plus, there’s gotta be hardwoods somewhere on 1700 acres of property. This particular piece of land is situated just outside of Carthage, MS on the Yockanookany River in Leake County. As I arrive at my destination, my heart leaps with excitement, followed by a strange feeling of uneasiness.

Now, I’m not the squeamish type. I don’t scare easily, but this property almost immediately gave me the heebie-jeebies. My kids often ask me if I ever get scared walking through the woods, especially in the dark. I have to remind them that when their dad is in the woods I am the baddest thing in the woods. That being said, any person that tells you they’ve never been a little uneasy, or frightened, at one time or another in the dark is a liar. I’ve been startled by deer jumping up and running off, or by birds that fly up in front of me while walking along a trail. And the close sounds of coyotes howling is always enough to make the hair on your neck stand up. Those things aside, I’ve never had much else to fear in the woods…until possibly now.

After riding around the property for a while, I met a couple of guys that have hunted this place for years. They knew the history of the land and the surrounding area. I’m a sucker for a good history story, so I was eager to know the backstory. According to the story, the land was first settled by Choctaw Indians. The chief of this particular band of natives was Chief Red Dog. That explained the name of the road, Red Dog Road. Chief Red Dog was one of the signers of the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit, which moved the Choctaw Tribe from Mississippi to Oklahoma. The treaty was the first under the Indian Removal Act in 1830. Four years later, the road was named “Red Dog Road” in honor of the chief.

The story continued to the next land holders. The Harkins family moved to New Orleans from Ireland. While in the Big Easy, they were making a name selling Irish whiskey. However, they soon wore out their welcome and had to quickly leave town. They landed just outside of Carthage on Red Dog Road where they opened up a plantation. They continued their whiskey business, as well as plantation life, until things took an awful turn.

It takes a lot people to make a plantation work. Just as with any business, you will have good employees and bad employees. The Harkins family experienced one of those bad employees. One of the workers on the plantation was unhappy with the way he was treated. In lashing out, he hooked a mule up to a plow and plowed right through a flower garden of Harkins’ wife, upsetting her and the rest of the family. When told to leave, he proclaimed he would return that night and kill everyone. He did return that night and stood outside calling for the owner to come out and fight. The story said that the owner continued to ask the man to leave, but instead the man rushed the front porch of the house. Harkins shot the man dead on the front porch. A year or so went by after the shooting and Harkins’ mental anguish over the event continued to grow. He was so distraught over the ordeal that he was no longer his self. One day he disappeared, never to be heard from or seen again.

The locals are terrified of the old Harkins land and the house, which still remains on the property. It’s said that kids would often drive to the end of the road and dare one another to go down to the house. Other local stories include seeing lanterns in the woods. They say it’s the Harkins family going out to check the crops at night. Either way, it’s pretty eerie being in the house and on the land, especially knowing the history of the property. Now, I definitely can’t wait until deer season!

Across the street from the old house is the St. Ann Catholic Cemetery. Many of the Harkins family members are buried here. The cemetery adds to the mystique of the property, and the dates on the tombstones, many from the late 1800s, show just how long this place has been around. I messed up and told Mackenzie a little of the backstory on the property, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be hunting solo this year any time I go to Carthage. Who knows, maybe this year I won’t be the baddest thing in the woods.

The old Harkins Home still remains on the property.

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