Living

You might be surprised by the subject of this interment in the old soldiers graveyard at Beauvoir

One-hundred-eighty residents were buried at the old soldiers home. But, this picture of Polly the mule’s burial is the only photo of an interment at Beauvoir that has been found.
One-hundred-eighty residents were buried at the old soldiers home. But, this picture of Polly the mule’s burial is the only photo of an interment at Beauvoir that has been found. Mississippi Gulf Coast College Dixie Press Collection

The Oct. 4, 1930, Daily Herald newspaper carried an article titled “Mourn Polly’s Death At Beauvoir Home.”

Who was Polly? She was Polly the mule, Beauvoir’s 50-year-old pet and mascot. This photo pictures some of Beauvoir’s old soldiers, widows, and employees gathered at Polly’s graveside.

The article reported that Polly’s death had cast gloom and sadness over the old veterans who loved her dearly for her long years of faithful service to them.

It was shortly after Beauvoir opened as a home for Confederate veterans and widows in 1903 that Biloxi’s former mayor, Harry Howard, donated the then 25-year-old Polly. There were only 15 residents at the time, and the wagon mule was one of their first gifts. But, Polly was not just a pet, she knew her duties well. The wagon driver just had to follow her lead as he kept the yard free of trash, and as she carried coal and ice to dormitories.

As she became more beloved, no one was allowed to scold, strike, or drive Polly off of a walk-way. She would never kick or balk or run away. Any unkind word or deed and the driver was fired on the spot. During public events, Polly was brought forward to see and be seen. Her eyes gazed upon every Mississippi governor who held office during her years and many legislators and notable visitors. For 25 years, Polly was shooed by only one blacksmith, Tom Collins, who drove from Biloxi when needed.

At Polly’s graveside, Beauvoir’s superintendent, Elnathan Tartt (second from left) said: “If there is a mule heaven, an eternal paradise for good animals after death, then Polly will surely be there with many stars in her crown.” Polly’s grave on the north side of Oyster Bayou is marked with a small brick monument, which bears her name.

Murella H. Powell, a local historian, writes the weekly Flashback column. Do you have a local photograph to submit to Flashback? It can be of any subject or event in the Coast’s distant or recent past. Please send a description with your name, address and phone number to Flashback, Sun Herald, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi MS39535; call 896-2424; or email living@sunherald.com.

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