Uncle Henrys

In 1926, the Clarksdale Elks Club built a large two story lodge on Moon Lake.  There were rooms for people to stay on the second floor and a kitchen and eating place on the first floor.  The club was built on the Yazoo Pass and faced Moon Lake.  Members would come up on the weekend and meetings would take place.

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Around 1933, the property was purchased by William “Billy” Wilkerson who opened a restaurant called Moon Lake Club.  Sometimes people referred to it as the Moon Lake Casino because gamblings went on upstairs.  There were rumors that Chicago organized crime got involved in the action, but those were only rumors.  Both Tennessee Williams and William Faulkner referred to the building as either Moon Lake Casino or Moon Lake Hotel in some of their stories.

People said that the Moon Lake Club served Kansas City Steaks and even flew lobster from Maine for it’s big spending patrons.

Before his death, Tennessee Williams said that his casino was really imaginary and he didn’t know one actually existed.  Williams knew about Moon Lake because he lived for awhile in Clarksdale, but only chose the name because it sounded “strange and poetic.”

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In a newspaper interview years later, Steve Wilkerson who was the son of Billy Wilkerson described the Moon Lake Club in the following way:

“We had a few cabins, six or seven, and my parents lived upstairs and the children lived in one of the cabins.  There were two bedrooms upstairs.  Downstairs, there was a kitchen, dining room, and dancing place.  We served primarily steaks and chicken.  They had craps and roulette upstairs in the casino room.  We had a band about once a week and on special occasions. During the week, we had a juke box.  The clients were very well to do people who could afford to gamble – primarily from Memphis and Delta people.”

He was then asked how his father could operate a casino when gambling was illegal in Mississippi. His response was:

“We had friendly officials.  His father was known as the last of the honest gamblers.  We not only had Memphis down, we had church groups down for picnics.  We had the best food between Memphis and New Orleans. The club only sold beer, but we had bootleggers within 100 yards either direction you went.”

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During World War II, business declined and the Moon Lake Club changed hands several times.  Henry and Vedah Trevino bought it on May 15, 1946 and renamed it Uncle Henry’s Place.  There was a restaurant and rental cabins on the front.  He continued to operate a bar throughout the 50’s and 60’s too.  Locals would come to drink, dance, and have fun.  Sometimes a fight might happen, but Uncle Henry’s became known as a great place to enjoy yourself.  On August 16, 1976, Trevino died and Uncle Henry’s closed for awhile.  In 1986, after a long legal issue, Sarah Wright who was his daughter reopened Uncle Henry’s Place.  I remember going by and eating when I was younger.  Then Sarah Wright  passed in 2017.

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