The Girl in the Iron Coffin

On February 3, 1955, an iron coffin was unearthed.  Workers were laying a water line to a construction site on Lakeshore Drive in Monroe when they dug into an underground brick vault.  When the workers hit the wall with their picks and shovels, the wall crumbled and there before them wasan iron casket.  Articles at the time described the casket as “…six feet long and at the foot measures seven and one half inches.  The widest part of the casket, which is cast iron and bears traces of orange and black paint, is 16 inches.”  Peering into the glass faceplate, they found a beautiful woman perfectly preserved.  Near her face were magnolia blossoms and leaves.  A lace handkerchief and the top of a black silk dress could also be seen. She was taken to Hixson Brothers Funeral Home where hundreds of people came to see her.  The glass had been cracked during the ordeal and she began to deteriorate rapidly.  After a few days, she was taken off display and quietly buried in Mulhearn Memorial Park Cemetery in an unmarked grave.  She is still referred to as “The Girl in the Iron Coffin”.  Who was this woman?

            Researchers at the time noticed a deteriorated nameplate attached to the coffin.  They could seethe name St. Clair Wade” and an age of either 30 or 39.  There was also a date of September 7, 1814 inscribed.  After a little research, it was determined that the woman was Mira St. John Tennille Hall.  Mira was the eldest daughter of one of Ouachita’s Revolutionary War soldiers, Benjamin Tennille.  It was thought that the flowing script on the plaque could be mistaken for an H, W or M. The Tennilles were rich and could afford the iron coffin.  St. Clair was also a common name in the Tennille family. For many years this identification stood.  Within the last couple of decades, a new identification has been put forward by Historians. 

            Mary Catherine St. Clair Morrison was born September 7,1814.  She was the daughter of JohnMcCagg and Sarah Ginn Morrison.  She was married to Joseph F. Wade but had no children. When she died, she was buried in the Morrison family cemetery on the grounds of Magenta Plantation.  Over time the gravestones deteriorated and crumbled away. Homes and businesses were built on top of the cemetery.  The plantation home known as Magenta disappeared as well.  There Mary slept in peace till her rest was disturbed in 1955. Misidentified for forty years, she now can be identified properly.  (Note: We now know Mary Morrison is NOT the Girl in the Iron Coffin. See “A Correction …” blog post.)

The Girl in the Iron Coffin.

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