A Legendary Figure
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
1898 Rainey, a multimillionaire 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 on it 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 there 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.
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 and 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.
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 and steeplechase
riding, and his feats in polo caught the attention of the king
and queen of England when his team became the first American team
to ever 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.
a wealthy, handsome, international playboy, Paul Rainey attracted
many women, but he 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 forty-six years old.
many years Tippah Lodge remained vacant and just as it was when
Paul Rainey lived there. In the early sixties I was given permission
to tour this sprawling, frame structure and was impressed to see
so many of the furnishings remaining in it. The most impressive
room of the lodge was the vaulted, trophy room, featuring an oversized
couch covered with elephant hide, large tables, chairs and an
antlered deer staring down at me from above the stone fireplace.
There were heavy, velvet draperies framing the windows, iron beds
in the bedrooms appearing to await the arrival of the guests,
and the large, gaping swimming pool a forlorn reminder of
its glorious past. Although most of Rainey's game trophies had
been donated to the Pink Palace Museum in Memphis, I was told
that an alligator had resided in one of the ponds on the grounds
for many years after Rainey's death.
the huge acreage was sold off in parcels, and my father purchased
the farm Rainey's sister had given to May Peters Graham, who passed
away in 1956. It was a remote location with a two-story, brick
home and must have afforded Ms. Graham the privacy she sought
and time to reflect on the exciting life she had led with Rainey
both abroad and at Tippah Lodge.
the mid-sixties the twenty-three-room lodge, along with 4,200
acres remaining in the Rainey preserve, was sold to the Jeff Haynes
family of Jackson, Tennessee. The majority of the furnishings
were auctioned off at bargain prices, including the huge couch
covered with elephant hide, which went for a mere $10.00. The
Haynes family then began the enormous job of repairing and repainting
the house which had scarcely had any upkeep since Paul Rainey's
death in 1923. They then decided to use the place as a weekend
retreat, and various members of the family brought down furniture
to fill most of the rooms. In the fall of 1971 Mrs. Haynes opened
the lodge to the public for a benefit tour and fashion show. Many
local residents found themselves browsing through the rambling,
old structure for the first time in thirty or forty years and
trying to catch a glimmer of its glorious past. The proceeds went
to the Parkway Methodist Church in Jackson.
few years later Tippah Lodge was torn down except for the game
room and the polo barn. A beautiful, plantation-style house, now
occupying the site of Paul Rainey's illustrious hunting lodge
and belonging to the Hugh McLarty family, gives little evidence
of the legendary figure who once entertained there so royally.
Ashmore Scobey was born in Lafayette County, Mississippi,
and proudly admits to having just reached the stage of octogenarian.
She graduated from Booneville [Mississippi] High School and received
her B.A. and M.A. degrees from the University of Mississippi with
majors in French and English. Mary then began a career of teaching
and has been employed in recent years as counselor for the American
Intercultural Student Exchange. She and her husband, Eugene Scobey,
reside in Cordova, Tennessee. They have two children: Dr. Eugene
Scobey, Jr. who serves as Hospitalist at Baptist-East in Memphis
and Julianne Scobey, who is Director of Programming at WMC-TV
Writing short stories and poems has always been a favorite pastime
of Mary's. She wrote her first poem at the age of eleven, got
it published in The Commercial Appeal, and has been "hooked"
ever since. She has had several stories published in The Oxford
So & So and The Tombigbee Country Magazine and
currently has a book of her father's World War I memoirs entitled
French Memoirs - World War I for sale on the shelves of
Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi, and Davis-Kidd Booksellers
Mary Ashmore Scobey