Lochinvar Plantation is a true part of the old south, steeped in the lore of the southern states and drenched in the traditions of long ago. Built in the late 1830's, the mansion was home to the Gordon family for many years and watched over by an old caretaker. The Gordon family is long gone now.... but the old caretaker still watches over the place.
Lochinvar was built by Robert Gordon, a Scottish adventurer, in the late 1830's as a gift for his wife. At the time, Gordon owned a strip of land which stretched all of the way from Pontotoc to Aberdeen, sixty miles away. Aberdeen was Gordon's own town. He had founded a trading post there in the early 1830's and named the place Dundee in honor of a town in Scotland. He later changed to the name to Aberdeen. It was near Pontotoc where Gordon found the land where he wanted to build his home. The location that he chose had been the land of the Choctaw Indian chief, Chinubi and once the Indians were gone from the area, he began building the new house.
After moving into the grand mansion, the Gordons would have one child, a son named James. His earliest memories of Lochinvar included magnificent parties and his personal servant, named Ebenezer. He could not remember a time when Ebenezer had not been a part of his life. He taught James to hunt and fish, told him stories, supervised his manners and when he was old enough, packed his trunks and watched him leave for the University of Mississippi at Oxford in 1851.
As the years passed, the beloved slave grew older and became known by the respectful name of "Uncle Eb". He remained particularly close to James Gordon and their relationship went far beyond master and servant.
In February of 1856, James married Virginia Wiley and in December of that year, their daughter Annie was born. From that time that she could walk, Annie was attached to Uncle Eb. She followed him everywhere and begged him to push her on the swings and to tell her stories.
Delighted, Uncle Eb took under his wing a new generation of Gordons.
Then came the Civil War. Robert Gordon, now too old to be involved, gave his support and advice to James and they raised a company of Confederate cavalry, the first from northern Mississippi. Before James Gordon left for service, he called Uncle Eb to see him. "Take care of my family and the plantation," he told his mentor, "My father needs your help and I need to know that you are here with my family. Don't let anything happen to them and I'll be back home soon." He embraced the older man and told him goodbye.
This began Uncle Eb's role as the caretaker and guardian of Lochinvar. Every afternoon, he would begin his rounds of the property, making sure the gates were closed, the doors to the house were locked and that there were no strangers lurking around the plantation. He moved his bed to the hallway outside of Annie's door, where he slept from that night on. He took to roaming the grounds at various times throughout the night, carrying an oil lantern and making sure that everything was secure.
As time passed, he learned other skills and began making repairs on the house and the farming equipment. He learned to cook and prepare the meals and even to dark socks and make repairs on clothing.
Night after night, the light from Uncle Eb's lantern circled the house, the barn, the garden, the pasture and the orchards, reassuring himself that nothing was amiss and that the people he loved were safe.
One night, while Uncle Eb was on his rounds, a rider approached. It was Captain James Gordon, home for a brief stay at Lochinvar. A few days after he left, he was promoted to the rank of Colonel, returning to combat with the 2nd Mississippi Cavalry Regiment, Armstrong's Brigade.
Colonel Gordon and Uncle Eb would never meet again.
One rainy night, Uncle Eb was roused from his sleep by a strange sound. He took his lantern outside and crossed the grounds in the storm. He was soaked to the skin before he was sure that everything was secure. A day or so later, what seemed to be a cold developed into pneumonia. In less than a week, old Uncle Eb was dead.
It was a long time before Colonel Gordon received word of his friend's death. He was in England at the time on a mission for President Davis. On his way home, he landed in North Carolina and was captured and imprisoned. He soon escaped and made his way to Canada. There, he met and befriended an actor named John Wilkes Booth. This casual friendship with Booth later pointed suspicion to Gordon when President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. Luckily, Gordon was able to prove his innocence.
After the war, Gordon finally learned that Uncle Eb had passed away while carrying out his duties to the plantation.
Many believe that since Uncle Eb died before the war ended and before his guardianship of the Gordon home came to an end.... he has not rested in peace in the years since the Civil War. As the years have passed, his oil lantern is still seen roaming the grounds of the Lochinvar estate. It has been seen for decades and locals believe that the light belongs to the spirit of Uncle Eb, watching over his beloved family throughout eternity.
Lochinvar is a private residence north of the town of Pontotoc. The town is located about 20 miles west of Tupelo on Highway 6.
Copyright 1998 by Troy Taylor
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