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A Visit to Abandoned Hushpuckena, Mississippi (With Video)

A Visit to Abandoned Hushpuckena, Mississippi (With Video)

Walk among the ruins of abandoned Hushpuckena, Mississippi with fine art photographer Keith Dotson

In this video, we walk the ruins of abandoned Hushpuckena, in the Mississippi Delta.


Scroll down to see the black and white photographs I shot on this visit.


Hushpuckena is a small community with a collection of abandoned, ruined buildings standing along a dirt road officially called Highway 61, in Bolivar County — not far from Shelby, Mississippi. Highway 61 is an offshoot of the modern Highway 278, which runs deep into the Mississippi Delta. Hushpuckena was once a flag stop on the Illinois Central train line.

Hushpuckena was mentioned in a line from the 1999 song ‘Pony’ by Tom Waits, where he sings, “I walked from Natchez to Hushpuckena …”

There are a couple of old houses, one partially collapsed, and another standing back from the road behind a screen of trees. The partially collapsed house had a post office in front (now collapsed), and living space in the rest of the house.

There are also two adjoined commercial storefronts on the corner of Hwy 61 and 2nd Street. The corner building features a very faded, painted sign that says “R.C. Tibbs & Sons” on one row, and below that, it says what I have interpreted as “Merchants and Planters.” I read references elsewhere calling R.C. Tibbs a merchant and planter, so it seems to fit the barely legible text on the sign.

The 2nd Street wall of the Tibbs building features a large ghost sign — a faded wall ad that has become incomprehensible over time. It may have multiple layers of old signs showing through, making the message more difficult to read. The only part I can decipher are the words “Muscular Aches,” along the bottom.

Photograph of the ghost sign on the wall of the ruins at Hushpuckena, Mississippi. The only part I could decipher were the words "Muscular Aches" across the bottom. Photograph copyright 2021 by Keith Dotson. All rights reserved.
Photograph of the ghost sign on the wall of the ruined R.C. Tibbs & Sons building in Hushpuckena, Mississippi. The only part I could decipher were the words “Muscular Aches” across the bottom. The brand name appears to start with a P and E — it could have been Penetro brand. Photograph copyright 2021 by Keith Dotson. All rights reserved.

On the day I visited Hushpuckena, I found the interior of the Tibbs building littered with pieces of the fallen ceiling, a dirty old mattress, and bunch of black, plastic trash bags that had spilled forth their contents, which appeared to be mostly old receipt books and papers from a doctor’s office. I didn’t enter the building, but from what I could see, it appeared the documents were from the 1980s. Everything is dusty, and there’s a lot of evidence of rodents.

I found the interior of the Tibbs building littered with pieces of the fallen ceiling, a dirty old mattress, and black plastic trash bags that had spilled forth their contents, which appeared to be mostly old receipt books and papers from a doctor's office. Photograph copyright 2021 by Keith Dotson. All rights reserved.
I found the interior of the Tibbs building littered with pieces of the fallen ceiling, a dirty old mattress, and black plastic trash bags that had spilled forth their contents, which appeared to be mostly old receipt books and papers from a doctor’s office. Photograph copyright 2021 by Keith Dotson. All rights reserved.
Ceiling plaster lies on the floor among papers and an old mattress. Photograph copyright 2021 by Keith Dotson. All rights reserved.
Ceiling plaster lies on the floor among papers and an old mattress. Photograph copyright 2021 by Keith Dotson. All rights reserved.
The Tibbs store occupied a vast space. Photograph copyright 2021 by Keith Dotson. All rights reserved.
The Tibbs store occupied a vast space. Photograph copyright 2021 by Keith Dotson. All rights reserved.
Looking up at the top of the storefront windows, now broken and covered in poison ivy. The Tibbs store occupied a vast space. Photograph copyright 2021 by Keith Dotson. All rights reserved.
Looking up at the top of the storefront windows, now broken and covered in poison ivy. Photograph copyright 2021 by Keith Dotson. All rights reserved.

Based on older photographs found online, there used to be a few wooden counters in front of long rows of wooden shelves that lined the walls. The counters are all gone now, but some of the shelves remain, although in poor condition.

The flooring along the back of the store has collapsed. I could hear deep inside the long space the sound of water dripping from the rafters. Just a single, occasional drip.

In addition to the front entrance, there are open doors on both sides of the building. One opens into the building next door, the other opens out into tall grass and weeds along 2nd Avenue.

A rusty old safe on the ground

Just outside that 2nd Avenue door on the side of the Tibbs building rests a rusty old Mosler safe, turned onto its side among the weeds and tall grass. It looks as if someone tried to remove it from the building but couldn’t manage the weight. It tumbled over on its side and there it still lies. It’s one of the old models with a small landscape scene pasted onto the safe door, above the combination dial.

There's a rusty old Mosler safe lying in the weeds along the side of the ruined R.C. Tibbs & Sons building in Hushpuckena. Photograph copyright 2021 by Keith Dotson. All rights reserved.
There’s a rusty old Mosler safe lying in the weeds along the side of the ruined R.C. Tibbs & Sons building in Hushpuckena. Photograph copyright 2021 by Keith Dotson. All rights reserved.

History of the old buildings in Hushpuckena

Robert Clinton Tibbs

The R.C. Tibbs listed on the sign of the old building was Robert Clinton Tibbs (1859-1946), a merchant and planter. Born in Harrisburg, West Virginia, he married an Illinois girl named Susan Norman. They lived in North Dakota for a while, where some of their children were born.

R.C.’s father Eugene Tibbs served in the Confederacy under General Robert E. Lee.

In 1895, at age 37, R.C. Tibbs moved to Hushpuckena, where he operated a mercantile store and worked as a planter. Presumably, his namesake building was raised shortly thereafter, but we can safely say that it did not exist prior to 1895.

Our best clues to R.C.’s activities and interests comes from this obituary on Find-a-Grave, which says this about his life:

“Mr. Tibbs always manifested a commendable interest in civic affairs. He helped build the first school building of Hushpuckena, and served as a member of the county school board, while under President Theodore Roosevelt he served as Postmaster. His religious faith was indicated in his membership in the Baptist Church and throughout his entire life he had ever been true to any cause which he had advocated.”

It’s interesting that R.C. Tibbs is listed as a Baptist, because some of his descendants are listed as Catholics. Regardless of his civic accomplishments, his most visible legacy is his ruined but still standing mercantile store on the dirt road in Hushpuckena — and of course the accomplishments of his descendants, many of whom became educated professionals.

The couple’s children included Clara Murphree of Tunica, Mae Harris of Duncan, Maud Taylor of Hushpuckena, Robert Norman Tibbs, and Eugene Clinton Tibbs, both of Hushpuckena, with eleven grandchildren and three great grandchildren. 

Daughter Maud (or Maude) graduated from college and worked as a school teacher in Hushpuckena and did bookkeeping for the “Tibbs store” prior to her marriage in 1916.

R.C. Tibbs died in 1946 at age 87 after four years of illness. He is buried at Shelby Cemetery.
Photographs of R.C. Tibbs and his wife Susan can be seen on Find a Grave here

Doctors in the family

R.C.’s son Eugene Clinton Tibbs (1904 – 1969), and grandsons Eugene Edward Tibbs (1934 – 2008), and Robert C. Tibbs II (1931 – 2005) all became physicians. There are still Tibbs family members serving as doctors in the Cleveland, Mississippi vicinity today.

Dr. Robert C. Tibbs also wrote a memoir, which was published post-mortem. The book is called This Petty Place, and is still available on Amazon.

Here is the Amazon synopsis of This Petty Place, quoted verbatim:

“Often times the history of the Miss. Delta is lost in the effort to make more exciting and glamorize its past. The travail of the ordinary working classes, the plebeians and lower elements, who exerted most of the physical toil and sweat and anguish of clearing this land, draining its forbidding mosquito swamps, saving it from the raging river, then bringing some aspect of civilization to it, are painted over completely or glossed with an imperfect brush and sometimes left out entirely. These tales are about some of these people. How their ranks are encumbered by long generations of consanguinity, isolation, fear and superstition and how their disposition, character and religion are molded by this. They evoke a closeness and affinity to place and an almost palpable perception of some of their simple pleasures and fears, their cravings and needs and their response to the daily burden and elation of living. THIS PETTY PACE is the tale of the author.”

The adjacent building

The building attached to Tibbs Store is more mysterious. The only clues I have about it are based on this shipping information stenciled on the ironwork columns that were sent from the manufacturer in Memphis. The company name appears to be Mott & Ward, although the first letter in “Mott” may not be an M.

Perhaps a reader or someone from Hushpuckena will be able to provide information about this place.

One of the derelict storefronts still features the stenciled delivery information on the ironwork. I didn’t notice the ironworks manufacturing company, but another blogger claimed these ironworks were made by Chickasaw Ironworks in Memphis, Tennessee. Photograph copyright 2021 by Keith Dotson. All rights reserved.
Can you read it? I rotated the image and adjusted the contrast. Unfortunately, the corrosion in the metal is interfering with some of the letters. Photograph copyright 2021 by Keith Dotson. All rights reserved.
Can you read it? I rotated the image and adjusted the contrast. Unfortunately, the corrosion in the metal is interfering with some of the letters. Photograph copyright 2021 by Keith Dotson. All rights reserved.
This photograph shows the wall adjacent to the Tibbs store with parts of a former wall ad visible under the wall plaster. Apparently this building was constructed later than the Tibbs building. Photograph copyright 2021 by Keith Dotson. All rights reserved.
This photograph shows the wall adjacent to the Tibbs store with parts of a former wall ad visible under the wall plaster. Apparently this building was constructed later than the Tibbs building. Photograph copyright 2021 by Keith Dotson. All rights reserved.

While the Tibbs Mercantile building still has a roof and walls and remains somewhat intact, the building next door — I’ll call it the Mott and Ward building (for lack of a better name) — is wide open. The roof is long gone, and the floor resembles an unkempt garden, filled with greenery and dead leaves.

The front doors and window glass are all gone. Some of the plaster on the adjoining wall has fallen away revealing vividly colored paint, but not enough to make out the design. This makes me think that the Mott and Ward building was constructed later than the Tibbs building, and the construction covered what was once an ad or sign on an exterior wall.

The post office someone lived in

The old house with the collapsed front was a private home with a post office in the front. The postmaster lived in the house for decades. I’ve gathered these facts from people who lived in Hushpuckena or had relatives there, based on their comments on photos found in various places online.

Photographing the partially collapsed old house in Hushpuckena, Mississippi. The peak visible on the left once stood above the post office portion of the house. In the video, we peek inside the old house through a window. Photograph copyright 2021 by Keith Dotson. All rights reserved.
Photographing the partially collapsed old house in Hushpuckena, Mississippi. The peak visible on the left once stood above the post office portion of the house. In the video, we peek inside the old house through a window. Photograph copyright 2021 by Keith Dotson. All rights reserved.
Shambles inside the living area portion of the house that had a post office in the front. Photograph copyright 2021 by Keith Dotson. All rights reserved.
Shambles inside the living area portion of the house that had a post office in the front. Photograph copyright 2021 by Keith Dotson. All rights reserved.
Note the gold stiletto shoe in the center of the frame. Photograph copyright 2021 by Keith Dotson. All rights reserved.
Note the gold stiletto shoe in the center of the frame. Photograph copyright 2021 by Keith Dotson. All rights reserved.
The bright green wall coverings are intense. Photograph copyright 2021 by Keith Dotson. All rights reserved.
The bright green wall coverings are intense. Photograph copyright 2021 by Keith Dotson. All rights reserved.

Black and white photographs of the ruins at Hushpuckena

Fine art prints are available. Click the photograph to go to my e-commerce page and learn more.

Hushpuckena Abandoned Storefronts, Black and white photograph by Keith Dotson. Click to buy a fine art print.
Hushpuckena Abandoned Storefronts, Black and white photograph by Keith Dotson. Click to buy a fine art print.
Abandoned R.C. Tibbs & Sons Building in Hushpuckena - Black and White Photograph by Keith Dotson. Buy a fine art print here.
Abandoned R.C. Tibbs & Sons Building in Hushpuckena – Black and White Photograph by Keith Dotson. Buy a fine art print here.
Black and white photograph of the antique Mosler safe found lying in the tall weeds next to the R.C. Tibbs & Sons building in Hushpuckena, Mississippi.
Black and white photograph of the antique Mosler safe found lying in the tall weeds next to the R.C. Tibbs & Sons building in Hushpuckena, Mississippi.
Detail photograph of the iron and wood door step of the R.C. Tibbs & Sons building in Hushpuckena, Mississippi.
Detail photograph of the iron and wood door step of the R.C. Tibbs & Sons building in Hushpuckena, Mississippi.
Black and white photograph of a collapsed house among the trees and tall grass. Fine art prints available up to 40 x 60 inches. Click here to learn more.
Black and white photograph of a collapsed house among the trees and tall grass. Fine art prints available up to 40 x 60 inches. Click here to learn more.

My book about abandoned places

If you’re fascinated by abandoned places, you may enjoy my book Unloved and Forgotten: Fine Art Photographs of Abandoned Places

It was the result of ten years of road trips and exploration. It’s available on Amazon or on my website here.

My book is available in print or as a digital edition.
My book about abandoned places is available in print or as a digital edition.

Thanks for reading.

Be sure to visit me on FacebookInstagram or Pinterest, or on my website at keithdotson.com.

~ Keith

Sources

Find a Grave: Robert Clinton Tibbs

Find a Grave: Susan Minerva Norman Tibbs

Find a Grave: Eugene Edward Tibbs

Legacy.com: Dr. Eugene Edward Tibbs

Suzassippi’s Lottabusha County Chronicles: Hushpuckena on old highway 61

Urban Decay: “The Mississippi Delta 9: Hushpuckena and Shelby”


NOTE: This blog post contains Amazon Affiliate links. I may earn a small commission on qualifying purchases.

2 comments

  1. Fascinating stuff, Keith! I read a lot of detective novels and I think of you as a “history detective”. I started following you because I really liked your photography (and I still do!). But, between your blog and YouTube channel, you provide a lot of other interesting stuff not related specifically to photography. Thanks for all the time and effort you put into it!

    1. Hey thanks Terry. I appreciate your consistent support! Yes I really enjoy digging into these places and learning more about them — to me it feels hollow to just post pictures of old buildings without context. Images with a story are much more interesting! I’ve been divorced for years and my kids are grown so I have plenty of time to spend going down rabbit holes.

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