A Hidden Treasure in Vicksburg, MS

                A Hidden Treasure in Vicksburg, Mississippi 
                         by Ella Shines Goldsmith

    While traveling down a long country road along the Mississippi River
     hidden in a tucked away place, among the many historical Civil War and Antebellum
     Mansions tourist attractions lies a tiny old grocery and general store that has been 
     transformed into a folk art design legend by a man known as Rev. H.D. Dennis and his 
     loving wife, my great aunt Margaret Martin Dennis.   They have since passed away
     Rev. Dennis in 2012 at the age of 96  and my aunt Margaret 3 years earlier in 2009 at the
     age of 94.  The grocery store slash "Temple of Faith" folk art work by Rev Dennis 
     is  sadly slowly decaying and fading away.
     Margaret's Grocery Store was originally started by my great aunt Margaret and
     her former husband Abie L Rogers who was murdered by a young male in a robbery at
     the grocery store in 1979.  The first photo below shows how Margaret's Grocery store
     appeared in 1985 and below in 1988 just 3 years later (below photo by Andrew Morang) it             was slowly beginning to transform

into the "Palace" that Rev. Dennis promised his wife he would build for my great Aunt
Margaret.  Margaret is the younger sister of my grandmother - Mentha Martin.  I first
photographed the store while visiting my grandmother in 1994 in Vicksburg, MS she lived in the trailer that was next to the grocery store which is still there today. She passed away at the age of 94 in 1995.   Below are pictures from my personal collection of family photos, never before published.  The first is a picture of my Aunt Margaret, the next is a photo of myself in front of Margaret's Grocery Store in 1994. The third photo is one I took of  myself and my grandmother, Margaret's sister,  a year before she passed away in 1995 while she was living in the trailer on the property.  The last photo is one I took of the grocery store at that time in 1994.

 Margaret's Grocery Store has been photographed many, many times and books, magazine articles, newspaper articles, blogs and documentaries have been published to the testament of it's rich folk
art history and significance in the history of  Vicksburg, Mississippi and the folk art community.

Rev. Dennis promised Margaret that he would turn her store into a palace if she would agree to marry him, she did and the rest is pure history. They married in 1984 at the same church they met where she was a sunday school teacher, after he returned to live there from Detroit Michigan where he worked for the United Auto workers in Detroit, Michigan . He was also member of the AFL-CIO there in Detroit.  Prior to that he served in the South Pacific in WWII as a military police for a POW camp  where Germans were held, He attributes his brick laying masonry to the German POW's who taught him the trade.   He transformed her small country grocery store into a place where people would come to visit and photograph for many years to come. He wanted it to be a place that would grab people's attention and he could preach the gospel of Jesus, Christ to them and they could buy something from the store while visiting.   He slowly and methodically turned the small grocery store into a work of art using wood and cinder blocks and bricks by painting them red, white, yellow and blue and painting signs in his own writing of a message of hope and inspiration to all who wanted to see and hear what he had to say about the Lord.

    Above  is a photo of Rev. Dennis and below is a photo of  Margaret in front of the store
   welcoming and greeting visitors.  She always had a smile and friendly hug waiting for you or anyone who would come by.   Many people stopped by to photograph her and Rev. Dennis over the years. Now unfortunately the store is in ruins and the signs have been vandalized and removed. The bricks are falling down and the wood has been eaten by termites and succumb to the elements.  There have been several efforts to restore and save the work of art over the years but none have made a significant difference.  Margaret's Grocery store has been nominated as on of Mississippi's 10 Most Endangered Places for 2015 and efforts are currently underway to help preserve the work of art and a large piece of Mississippi History.
Margaret's Grocery was the oldest black owned grocery store in Vicksburg, Ms.
Margaret and her late husband Abie Rogers bought the store in 1944 which was rare for blacks to own stores in Mississippi during that time, She owned the store for over 60 years.  

Margaret and ex-sister in law Adie Rogers would help him paint many of the bricks and signs.
Margaret was born in Bolton, Mississippi on February 8, 1915. She had 6 sisters and 1 brother.
She was a very intelligent woman and after she joined the Cool Springs Baptist Church she taught
the children in her Sunday School class how to read as many will testify to today.  She and Rev. Dennis never had any children together.
 If you have a comment or suggestion, please feel free to contact the author at ellagantevents@gmail.com
               All info and photos copyright. All Rights Reserved
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1. Narrow Larry's World of the Outstanding  http://www.narrowlarry.
2. Detour Art by Kelly Ludwig - http://www.detourart.com/margaret-dennis-

3. Margaret's Grocery , Vernacular Art Environment, Vicksburg, http://www.arts.state.ms.us/

4. Urban Decay, Margaret's Grocery, Vicksburg, Ms, the Early Days, by Andrew Morang, 2011
-  http://worldofdecay.blogspot.com/2011/02/margarets-grocery-vicksburg-mississippi.html

5. Bruce West, The True Gospel Preached Here, Professor of Art and Design at Missouri State University.

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