Last Saturday on this page I reported on some of the secrets of Chatawa, including a pair of stacked boulders in the woods at Highway 51 and St. Mary Road, and a pair of secluded gravestones for a mother and two infants.
This past week I got some answers to both mysteries.
Malcolm Allen of the Pike County Historical Society called to say he knows the story behind the standing stones both from research and personal knowledge.
In the 1930s the Works Progress Administration replaced the old Highway 51 between Magnolia and Osyka with a new “demonstration highway.”
The old highway turned east at Osyka, crossed the railroad and Tangipahoa River, meandered past St. Mary of the Pines and entered Magnolia from the east. The new highway was a straight shot north and south.
Back then highways like 51 and Route 66 were major thoroughfares, and Allen’s father’s cousin, Jewell Allen, moved here from Trigg County, Ky., to build a tourist attraction at Chatawa. His operation, some of which is still standing, included a roundhouse restaurant, tourist court and service station, all built out of the massive sandstone boulders dug up during highway construction.
“They had to cut through those hills. That’s where all the rocks came from to build those buildings,” Allen said.
The stones were used on buildings throughout the area, and others can still be seen off the sides of the road.
“If you go from the Chatawa post office to St. Mary, you will see them sticking out by the side of the road,” Allen said.
The construction crew stacked one boulder on top of another at Highway 51 and St. Mary Road as part of the overall tourist attraction, Allen said. Workers also planted thousands of trees for beautification.
“I talked to first-hand-account people who saw the construction of the highway,” Allen said.
The road project was also described in the WPA history of Pike County.
Siblings born a month apart
The cemetery, located in the woods off Scott Furr Road, contains two gravestones, one for a woman and the other apparently for her two infant children.
The mother was Emily Amanda Scott Knapp, wife of Dr. J.S. Knapp. She died Feb. 15, 1871, at age 45.
The other stone gave the names and dates of two infants:
• Horace Dresser Knapp, born Oct. 19, 1855, died Aug. 2, 1856.
• Lillie Courtney Knapp, born and died Nov. 20, 1855.
In other words, the girl was born a month later than the boy. He lived less than a year, whereas she was either stillborn or died the day she was born.
I checked with some medical folks and got various possible explanations.
First, twins can be born at separate times. Retired Pike County public health physician Dr. Lynda Lee said they’re called disparate twins.
Dr. Lee suspected the babies were born prematurely and said she wished she knew their birth weights.
It’s also possible for a mother to give birth to one twin and retain the other, alive or dead.
My son Andy, a family doctor in Jackson, Tenn., knows of an 80-year-old woman who gave birth to one twin and opted not to have the fetus of the deceased twin removed. Its little fossilized remains are visible on MRI.
OB-GYN nurse Kate Slonaker of Summit suggested the possibility of separate conceptions. A woman can conceive, become pregnant, then conceive again before the first baby is born.
Infant mortality was high in the rural 1800s. While the Chatawa mother was married to a doctor, even doctors didn’t have much to work with back then.