Green River Deaden

Between Six Mile Lake and the Tunica/Quitman County line lies an area known as Green River Deaden.  Not many people live here today.  In fact, there are only a few houses left, but this region was home to hundreds of people at one time. There was a church and a store, but today that’s all in the past.  Only a few reminders of that period are left. Many of the people who lived there have passed away or their families have moved on. Yes, Green River Deaden is a name from history. Kellars, Vines, Dukes, and Sanders were just some of the names from the story of Green River Deaden. A few family members still remember those days with fond memories, but they are becoming distant now with time.

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In the 1920’s and 30’s, this area was known as the Green River District.  It was owned by the Green River Lumber Company of Memphis.  As hundreds of people moved into the Mississippi Delta, the demand to get at farmland increased. Lumber companies also needed to meet the demand of growing cities in the North and West so they were more than happy to move in and take down the virgin timber resources of Tunica county and the Delta.  Railroad tracks were put into place and roads built to move the lumber out and connect with the main lines. An article appeared in the The Southern Lumbermen, Volume 104 of 1921 describing this new operation in Mississippi.

Green River Lumber Company Preparing to Develop 13,000 acres of Mississippi Hardwoods

Coldwater, MS: December 14- A logging road now being built by the Green River Lumber Company to connect at Lost Lake with the Yazoo & Mississippi Valley Railroad will tap one of the few remaining virgin tracts of the thousands of acres of which this county boasted of only a few years ago. The road will also carry large quantities of logs from acreage in the east part of  Tunica County.  It is to be eight miles long, five miles of which are to be built on piling. A substantial bridge over Coldwater River has just been completed and trains are now running over that portion of the road.  The Green River Lumber Company owns 13,000 acres of virgin timber that lies in one tract in Tate, Tunica and DeSoto counties.  Camps have been established along the line of the new railroad and logging operations are now being gotten under way.  The timber consists largely of ash, hickory, gum and several varieties of oak. Many of the trees are said to be particularly fine and will measure from five to seven feet across the stump. 

It wasn’t long after this that a problem arose for the Green River Lumber Company.  A number of landowners in 1922 got the governments of Tunica and Quitman to sue the company in order to create the Pompey Lake Drainage District.  This would prevent flooding and open up the land more to farming once the timber was removed. It was appealed all the way to the Mississippi Supreme Court where the Lumber Company won. The case was dismissed on May 1,1922. (The Southern Reporter, Volume 91 – 92: 1922) The company moved in and over a period of years removed the lumber opening up the land for farming.

Deadening was the process of cutting through the bark of a tree some four to eight inches so the tree would die. Once the tree died and the thick foliage above was gone, the sun could make it down through to the ground and farmers could get to the land.  Gradually over the years, they would be able to clear the stumps out of the fields. Sometimes these lumbermen and the farmers afterward were nicknamed deadeners and so the district became nicknamed Green River Deaden because of all the stumps. Sometimes it is just referred to as Green River.

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In the late 1930s, WPA reporters moved in to record information about Green River.

Green River is a new cut over wooded section along Six Mile Lake.  It is very low and having no gravel roads leading into it, is practically “cut off from the world” through the rainy winter months.  The lumber company put up rough and crude tenant houses to rent out.  These tenants would pay a small rent to cultivate and improve the land. It is more like homesteading because the tenants have the privilege of buying it at a low price and on good terms. It is truly pioneer life, the children cannot get out during the winer months to attend school, and the older people lay up enough rations in the early fall to last till spring, for they have no contact with the “outer world” during these months. 

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By the 1960s things had only improved modestly.  There was a gravel road leading into the area and a bridge over Six Mile Lake.  However, during times of heavy rain, the people of Green River would still be cut off since the roads would flood. Many families would still stock up groceries and some stores would pick up these hardy people to shop and then carry them back home. Sometimes they would only get out only once a month. Eventually a small church was built to preach to the people of the area. Nevertheless Green River couldn’t stop the modern world from coming in. Like other parts of the Delta, older people passed away and the young moved off to find better opportunities. Empty homes were torn down and even the little church closed. Today there is a single paved road running through Green River from Highway 61 to Sledge. The fields produce rice and beans, but this is done through commercial farming now. All of the small “homestead” farmers are gone today, but the memory of Green River lingers on.

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