Friday, June 10, 2011
Paul J Rainey, Just Down the Road.
Paul J Rainey lived less than 100 miles from me when he was at Cotton Plant. I remember going by the hunting dog/hardware store of Mr. Dunn," Wilson Dunn", now (Dunn's Sporting Goods, Mr. Dunn started the museum in the back of his store) that is now the Bird Dog Hall of Fame, Retriever Hall of Fame and National Field Trial Hall of Fame. There were several dog men there from around Grand Junction where the Grand Nationals are held every year. My Dad said they were professionals, professional dog trainers. He said their dogs would sell for more than our house. I saw a pic of Er Shelley once, he had become the head trainer for Rainey's bird dogs and later trained his Hounds Curs and Airedales to hunt African Lions. He (Shelley) was sitting with an English Pointer right there in that store but he was already dead and gone when I was there with my Dad, I was four when he passed. Although Rainey was a great outdoors man and adventurer, Shelley was just as important when it came to accomplishments and overall development of the great traditions of our Southern Culture. Er Shelley was world famous for his dog training abilities as was many of his apprentices, have you heard of Clyde Morton? Look him up. Shelley was the one who came up with the idea to chloroform the Polar bear and ride him through the streets on the back of a flat bed truck to the zoo. I think he rode on the back with a rag and a bottle of chloroform and Rainey drove. I hate I missed those two. Shelley died at the age of 85, he was inducted into the National Field Trial Hall of Fame in 1957.
The name Paul J. Rainey may have been forgotten by most of the world, but in the hills of northeast Mississippi he has become a legendary figure.
In 1898 Rainey, a multi-millionaire adventurer and big game hunter, arrived in Tippah County and purchased 11,000 acres of land in the community of Cotton Plant with the intention of making it into a hunting preserve. He later purchased the Ratcliff property and converted the small home located there into one of the largest estates in Mississippi. By the time he completed the additions, the lodge contained twenty-three rooms and featured a large, indoor, heated swimming pool at a time when few homes in Mississippi had running water. At the opposite end from the pool was a large trophy room filled with mounted heads and skins from his hunts around the world.
The nine bedrooms, kitchen, dining facilities and living rooms were encompassed in the middle section of the dwelling. On the grounds were fish ponds, a sunken garden and a round, brick polo barn designed to hold fifty horses. Rainey continued to purchase land until he owned or controlled over 30,000 acres in Tippah and Union Counties, which he stocked with wolves, bears, foxes and pheasants.
Tippah Lodge, as Rainey called it, became known for its gala parties and hunts. He was a renowned host who spared no expense to entertain his guests. Well-known figures from all over the nation and the world attended; when the lodge became inadequate for the hordes of guests, he built a large hotel in New Albany to accommodate them. This hotel boasted Italian marble floors and was one of the most luxurious in Mississippi at that time. In front of his estate beside Highway 15 the GM&O Railroad built a special siding and station where Rainey in his private Pullman car or his party guests could arrive.
More and more Rainey came to look on Tippah Lodge as home and sponsored many lavish parties and fox hunts there. He also owned a large plantation in Kenya, Africa, a twenty-three thousand acre duck preserve in Vermilion, Louisiana, and a racing stable in Long Island, New York. He was active in car racing, steeple chase riding, and his feats in polo caught the attention of the King and Queen of England when his team became the first American team ever to defeat the British. His hunting expeditions are legendary and his bravery was unexcelled. He pioneered the field of motion pictures on safari in Africa and was the first to successfully hunt lions from horseback with hounds. While on an expedition to the Artic, he single-handedly lassoed the great white Polar Bear called the "Silver King" and brought it back to New York where he donated it to the Bronx Zoo.
As a wealthy, handsome, international playboy, Paul Rainey attracted many women but never married. The circumstances of his death have been the source of much speculation even until this day. In 1923 he was on a journey to Africa on yet another safari when he reportedly had an angry encounter with a dark, mysterious stranger. This man supposedly told Rainey, whose birthday was the following day, that he would not live to see the next day. True enough, Rainey became ill that evening and died. He was buried at sea. However, many people refused to believe that he was dead but speculated that he was living in Europe under an assumed name.
One of the stories that circulated for several years was a supposed sighting of Rainey by a former servant at Tippah Lodge. It seemed that when the servant recognized the tall, well-dressed man walking about the property, he approached him and called him by name. The man didn't reply but thrust a large bill in the old servant's hand and walked away... just another story typical of the myths that circulated around that time.
According to the headlines of the September 20, 1923, issue of The Commercial Appeal, his death was reported by radio message from his sister, Mrs. Grace Rainey Rogers, who was accompanying her brother to Africa on this expedition. Also with Rainey on this trip was his long-time companion, May Peters Graham. At the time of his death on September 18, 1923, he was 46 years old.
From William Faulkner's "The Reiver's"
"But in winter of course (as now), it was different, with the quail season and the Grand National Trials, with the rich money of oil and wheat barons from Wall Street and Chicago and Saskatchewan, and the fine dogs with pedigrees more jealous then princes, and the fine breeding and training kennels only minutes away now by automobile--Red Banks and Michigan City and La Grange and Germantown, and the names--Colonel Linscomb, whose horse (we assumed) we were going to race against tomorrow, and Horace Lytle and George Peyton as magical among bird-dog people as Babe Ruth and Ty cobb among baseball aficionados, and Mr. Jim Avant from Hicory Flat and Mr. Paul Rainey just a few miles down Colonel Sartoris's railroad toward Jefferson--hound men both, who (I suppose) among these mere pedigreed pointers and setters, called themselves slumming; the vast rambling hotel booming then, staffed and elegant, the very air itself suave and murmurous with money, littered with colored ribbons and cluttered with silver cups."
I'm researching more on Er Shelley and Mr. Wilson Dunn for later.
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- Just Another Savage!
- I’m a Southern Boy, just 56 last November, I get around here and there, Central America, Africa, Red Bay. I’m a Father, Grandfather, Husband, Artist and general flunky of sorts. Live in a little historic town in an old building I remodeled. Just wanted to hear myself think I guess, talk about the need of simplification, show some art, express an interest or two, brag on my dogs and see where it goes. That’s it!, That’s the deal, Thanks