(this image from a visit in 2005)
Margaret’s niece, Ella Shines Goldsmith, has a website where she’s written about the history and — so terrific — she has pics of it in 1985 (Margaret married Rev Dennis in 1984) and another pic from 1988 which shows just how her husband was truly fulfilling his promise to her of transforming it into a showplace.
Here’s the thing: this is not the first time Margaret’s Grocery has gotten state-wide attention. In 2011, Governor Barbour signed a resolution that made March 20-26 “Reverend Herman D. Dennis and Margaret’s Grocery Awareness and Preservation Week” — the text of it here:
Senate Concurrent Resolution 625
A CONCURRENT RESOLUTION RECOGNIZING MARCH 20-26, 2011, AS THE “REVEREND HERMAN D. ‘PREACHER’ DENNIS AND MARGARET’S GROCERY AWARENESS AND PRESERVATION WEEK” IN VICKSBURG, MISSISSIPPI.
WHEREAS, Reverend Herman D. “Preacher” Dennis and his late wife, Margaret Rogers Dennis, owned and resided in the establishment on Old Highway 61 North in Vicksburg, Mississippi, known locally and worldwide as “Margaret’s Grocery”; and
WHEREAS, “Miss Margaret” operated Margaret’s Grocery for over 60 years and was a faithful member of Cool Springs Missionary Baptist Church where she taught Sunday School for many years; and
WHEREAS, Preacher was an ordained minister who shared his faith in God, and his belief in equality and respect for all people; and
WHEREAS, Miss Margaret was, and Preacher continues to be, devoted to their community, their country and their faith; and
WHEREAS, Miss Margaret’s Grocery was a neighborhood gathering place where locals shopped and partook in the kinship, friendship and wisdom of Miss Margaret and Preacher Dennis; and
WHEREAS, Preacher promised Miss Margaret that if she would marry him he would build her a castle; and
WHEREAS, true to his promise, Preacher lovingly honored Miss Margaret by transforming the small country grocery into a “Bible Castle to Gd,” hammering, laying brick, painting and adorning it with bright colors, objects and religious verses; and
WHEREAS, Margaret’s Grocery became a draw for tourists from around the world and became and continues to be the subject of folk art and cultural tourism research, discussion and appreciation; and
WHEREAS, Miss Margaret passed away in 2009 and Preacher retired from the Grocery to reside in a Vicksburg nursing home; and
WHEREAS, citizens of Vicksburg, friends of Miss Margaret and Preacher, and folk art enthusiasts from around the world have expressed interest in maintaining, restoring and preserving Preacher’s folk art as a symbol of Mississippi’s creative spirit and cultural heritage; and
WHEREAS, Preacher will celebrate his 96th birthday on March 25, 2011; and
WHEREAS, March 22, 2011, is the Mississippi Arts Commission’s Arts Advocacy Day at the Mississippi Legislature. The Governor of the State of Mississippi has declared the week of March 20-26, 2011, as the “Reverend Herman D. Dennis and Margaret’s Grocery Awareness and Preservation Week”; and
WHEREAS, it is with great pride that we commend those individuals who have made significant contributions to their community and to the State of Mississippi:
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE SENATE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES CONCURRING THEREIN, That we do hereby commend The Reverend Herman D. Dennis for his contributions to the community and the world in creating a unique “Bible Castle” and for sharing his preaching and the gospel with visitors from around the world.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That we honor the memory of the late Margaret Rogers Dennis for being a pioneer African-American businesswoman, teacher and faithful member of the Kings Community and Cool Springs Missionary Baptist Church.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That we recognize that March 20-26, 2011, has been proclaimed as the “Reverend Herman D. ‘Preacher’ Dennis and Margaret’s Grocery Awareness and Preservation Week” in Mississippi, and join the citizens of Vicksburg in honoring this location.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That copies of this resolution be presented to Reverend Dennis; his daughter, Cora Lee Dennis; Ida Mae Spooner on behalf of Miss Margaret’s family; the Cool Springs Missionary Baptist Church in Vicksburg, Mississippi; forwarded to the Mississippi Arts Commission; and made available to members of the Capitol Press Corps.
The environment continues to decline. One pic from our visit this summer:
I’ll be contacting the Trust on Monday to see what we can do this time to really move things forward this time and will report back.