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Vicksburg History

The Tournalaid house, one of R.G. LeTourneau’s many inventions

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Vicksburg riverfront mural: R. G. LeTourneau Industries: Building an Industry and God’s Kingdom. Dedicated: May 14, 2009. Artist Robert Dafford. (Photo by Thomas Parker)

Robert Gilmore “R.G.” LeTourneau, founder of the LeTourneau Corporation, was a prolific inventor. At one time, as many as 2,000 people were employed at the company’s Warren County facility. The area surrounding the plant was a city unto itself with a grocery store, post office, credit union and a couple of hundred concrete bungalows known as Tournalaid houses.

One of the homes’ unique features was piping in the floor that circulated hot water for heat.

The technology for the houses was invented in the 1940s to accommodate returning veterans and a housing shortage after World War II. LeTourneau created a machine with huge tires that would pour the concrete houses in just about one day’s time. LeTourneau used this same technology to build houses for his employees around the world.

This home on MacArthur Street in Longview, Texas, is one of the few Tournalaid homes remaining. (Photo by Les Hassell/Longview News-Journal, used with permission)

Recently, a newspaper article revealed that there are a handful of the houses still standing in Longview, Texas. The 720-square-foot homes with flat roofs were extraordinary in their durability.

LeTourneau had built a series of steel homes for his employees in the 1930s near Peoria, Illinois. When he moved south, he found concrete would be a more cost-effective solution to house his workforce.

During his lifetime, LeTourneau held 299 patents for various equipment and machines. He is the man that invented earth moving equipment and kept building bigger, better and faster machines. All the equipment in use today are direct descendants of his inventions. He also built hundreds of oil rigs using various technologies that have continued to evolve.

R.G. LeTourneau was a devout Christian who reportedly tithed 90% of his income. The Tournalaid houses were one way he took care of his vast workforce. His legacy lives on through the evolution of his inventions.

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The widow Bourne and her ‘terrifically terrible’ tale

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Mary Maybin Bourne was the object of two men’s affections. (Photo source: Old Court House Museum collection)

She told a tragic tale: Her name was Marie, and her husband had been a Union soldier who moved to Vicksburg and married her after the Civil War. He had been murdered by an unrepentant Rebel, shot down in cold blood just because he was a Yankee.

The woman and her three small children had moved to New Orleans. When the children grew up, she told them the story, and they repeated it from one generation to the next.

Wanting to know more of the family history, a lady and her college-age son came to the Old Court House Museum some years ago for genealogical research. They didn’t find what they expected. The lady was mortified, and her son laughed heartily, for the Vicksburg newspapers in 1884 told a different tale from what Marie had said.

The not-very-grieving widow had changed not only the facts but also her name. In Vicksburg she was Mary, not Marie, and according to the newspaper accounts, she was the cause of a double murder.

Joshua Bourne, who first came to Vicksburg as a captain in a Missouri Union regiment, came back after the war and married 14-year­-old Mary Maybin. During the carpetbagger rule he was elected chancery clerk of Warren County.

The other man in the triangle, James. T. Metzler, was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, but grew up in Vicksburg. He was a member of Swett’s Battery in Confederate service, performing with “marked gallantry and bravery.” He did not marry, lived at home and after the war was a riverboat pilot on the Mississippi.

The Bourne’s were having family problems, and Mary filed for divorce and moved out of the house. Joshua Bourne went to court, seeking custody of the children. It was rumored that Metzler was the cause of the separation, but he said he simply represented Mary Maybin Bourne as a business agent and that Joshua had been a brutal husband.

Both men went armed, and rumors were rampant that things would come to a head — and they did on Sept. 5, 1884, a Friday morning. Metzler was downtown chatting with a friend when Bourne approached, drew a pistol and opened fire just 5 feet away, the bullet penetrating Metzler’s bowels. He fled to the Famous Dry Goods Emporium nearby, Bourne in pursuit, pistol in hand, firing rapidly.

Metzler got behind a counter, managed to draw his pistol, and both fired until their guns were empty. Then they clutched one another in a death grip until bystanders separated them. Metzler had struck Bourne twice, wounding him above the heart and in the abdomen.

Clerks and customers screamed and fled in what the Herald described as “terrifically terrible” and “perfectly appalling.” Bourne was left on the floor as it was thought he would die any moment, and Metzler was removed by carriage to his parents’ house on Jackson Street. Bourne was later taken to the Madrid House, a hotel on Veto Street, but before that, lying in a pool of blood, he had asked to see a priest and his wife and children. Father Picherit and the two oldest children came, but Mrs. Bourne chose instead to go to the bedside of her supposed lover.

The Vicksburg Evening Post reported that it was a “pitiable and touching sight” to see the children and the priest kneeling beside the dying man. The scene at the Metzler house was equally tragic as his “gray-haired old parents” stood beside their mortally wounded son.

Both Bourne and Metzler died the day of the shooting. Their funerals were expensive, and both men were buried in Cedar Hill Cemetery. Mary Bourne paid for her husband’s funeral, but records don’t state whether or not she attended.

More than a century later, her descendants found out that family history isn’t necessarily what has been repeated, but stories such as that of Mary Bourne make it a lot more interesting.


Jeff and Marion Richardson own the former Bourne home on Fort Hill Drive. If it were ever put on tour, what a story they could tell.

Gordon Cotton is the curator emeritus of the Old Court House Museum. He is the author of several books and is a renowned historian.

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History

A piece of Vicksburg history is officially no more

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The former WQBC studio, (photo by Thomas Parker)

WQBC radio was believed to be the oldest radio station in the state of Mississippi. Operating on AM frequency 1420, the call letters were reportedly for the words “We Quote Better Cotton” from radio’s heyday when farm market prices were a staple of daily programming.

The station dates back to 1928 when it was first licensed to Utica. In 1931 the station was purchased by the Cashman family and moved to Vicksburg. FCC rules against cross ownership with a newspaper forced the family to sell the station.

Notable alumni include world renowned blues musician Willie Dixon, Adrian Cronauer, who was the inspiration for the movie “Good Morning Vietnam,” and Woodie Assaf, who cut his teeth in radio before becoming the nation’s longest serving weather man on WLBT.

On Sept. 28, 2020, the last owners, COSTAR Broadcasting, surrendered the license to the Federal Communications Commission.  

The station last operated from a studio and tower location on Porter’s Chapel Road. Those facilities have been torn down. With the license surrender, a piece of Vicksburg and Mississippi broadcasting history died along with it. 

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Marguerite Stegall: the first woman to hold countywide office in Warren County

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“I’m thinking of running for the office of tax collector,” the voice on the phone said. “What do you think about this?”

The caller was Marguerite Stegall, a longtime friend. The legislature had separated the office of sheriff and tax collector, which had been state law since the 1890s. The new law took effect in 1971, with the winner taking office in 1972.

Marguerite had plenty of experience. She had majored in office management classes at Southwest Junior College in Summit, and in Vicksburg she had run the office for former Sheriff John Hynes Henderson Jr.

There were many things to think about in the upcoming race, one of which was that a woman had never been elected to countywide office in Warren County. A half-dozen or so men had already stated that they planned to run.

I reminded Marguerite that only one person could win, and then I asked, “Are you prepared to lose? Could you handle defeat?” Her instant reply was, “I’m not going to lose.”

Marguerite was from Gloster, and she married Oree Stegall from Crystal Springs. They moved to Vicksburg where he had an industrial job. He and Marguerite raised two daughters, Sherry and Connie. The girls went to school at Culkin, and the family were members of Shiloh Primitive Baptist Church where Oree was a deacon and Marguerite was church clerk.

The typical, tranquil life all changed when Oree was killed in an industrial accident.

A campaign card for her reelection made no promises. She always says her only promise was to do the best job for voters. (Photo courtesy Gordon Cotton)

I had never tried my hand before at advertising, but I agreed to handle Marguerite’s ads in the local paper and on the radio.

It was a lively campaign. Most of her male opponents were well-known and popular. There were few doors in Vicksburg and Warren County that weren’t knocked on by Marguerite or her daughters. Things looked good for her, but Charlie Faulk, editor of the Vicksburg Post told me that in a straw pole at the Lions Club, Mrs. Stegall didn’t do very well.

“What do you think of that?” he asked.

My reply: “I don’t think the members of that club are representatives of the voters in Warren County.”

I was right. When the votes were counted for the first primary, Marguerite was the leader, and though she had a runoff vote she almost won in the first primary. She won the election, taking office in January 1972. In future elections she had little opposition winning easily for several terms. Because of health issues she resigned in November 1993, and Pat Simrall was appointed to take her place.

Marguerite served three or four terms and faced little opposition. She made sure her staff were capable and courteous.

No one told her she had to do this, but among the workers was a Black lady, Delores Nichols. Marguerite had simply done the right thing in breaking the color barrier among office personnel.

Marguerite was active in the state organization of tax collectors and was in the lead in persuading the legislature to abandon the practice of a vehicle owner having to buy a new metal tag each year. A small sticker would be a lot less expensive and simply made good sense.

Her efficiency was noted by the state, and she was honored by having the most efficiently-operate tax collector’s office in Mississippi.

I knew Marguerite best through church as we were both members of Shiloh Primitive Baptist on Warriors’ Trail. Most of the congregations of our denomination do not take up collections — we just put money on the alter after services. I was treasurer for a number of years, and others didn’t know it, but Marguerite quietly paid all the utility bills.

I recall a few lighthearted moments. One evening she took several of us to a church meeting in Jackson. Archie Anderson was driving — he was a high school student — and she was giving directions. He just about lost it — as did the rest of us — when Marguerite told him to turn off Highway 55 “onto Fornication Street.” Of course she meant Fortification.

At church we sing a lot — for about 30 minutes with no interruptions — and the hymns are chosen by the congregation. Whatever number is heard gets sung next. Marguerite was always quick with her favorites. Most people have the habit of sitting in the same place each Sunday, and after Marguerite’s death I discovered, in the hymnal holder, a list of her favorite hymns and their numbers. I had to laugh — she had a cheat sheet!

She once gave me good advice concerning a business meeting. If there is any disagreement, have the chair recognize you, and raise your voice an octave and the opposition will usually melt.

When Marguerite died, her daughters asked me to be one of the speakers at her funeral. I don’t recall much of what I said except for my closing remark: If you look up the meaning of public servant, the answer should be Marguerite Stegall.


Gordon Cotton is the curator emeritus of the Old Court House Museum. He is the author of several books and is a renowned historian.

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