It is considered the smallest incorporated community in the state. In fact, it’s not even referred to as a town but rather a village. And with a population of less than 60 people and a total area of .2 square miles, the village of Satartia fits the definition of a true tight-knit community.
But things are happening in Satartia, considered by some as a revival. The small village in rural Yazoo County has opened its arms to several projects and people that are gaining attention, stirring a feeling of nostalgia and true community.
A former store has reopened under new owners, who are excited about the future within the small community that “welcomed them as family.” An author took a children’s bedtime story and has used the Satartia bridge and a catfish named Eli to create a local legend. A Bentonia artist recently completed a massive 3,000-pound catfish woodcarving to coincide with the new catfish tale. A storage trailer was transformed into a Tiny Town Snack Shack, a local ministry to provide food and beverages for small donations to all who pass through the village. And on Easter Sunday, a large crowd gathered at the Satartia gin for a morning of praise and worship.
It is a revival of neighbors, business, faith and legends. And for the place named by the Native Americans as the “pumpkin place,” Satartia is rallying around each other and the movement that is sweeping through the area.
Owners Larry and Michelle Douglas celebrated the grand opening of their business, The Village Mercantile, last Thursday. The original store closed its doors on March 31, 2019, and its absence was felt inside the small community. It was the only store in the area, and patrons used it frequently for gasoline, food, tools and other items rather than driving to Yazoo City or Vicksburg.
Larry and Michelle Douglas moved to the Satartia area about a year ago from Flora, and they saw an opportunity.
“When we would cross the bridge at Big Black coming from Flora, the air just smelled different,” Michelle said. “We raised our kids in Bentonia, and we ran Phoenix Grocery years ago. We saw the need for a community store in this area. We had the experience and were retired so we decided to come back home.”
The country store has a rustic feel to it, with small grocery items from fresh eggs and produce to nuts and bolts. There is even a Women’s Corner that holds candles and other small gift items. The Douglas couple is also in the works of preparing the store to cook food and offer breakfast and lunch bags. The idea of a steak dinner is also on the table for the future.
“The people and the kindness are what gives this place its hometown feeling,” Michelle said. “We are all family here, and we live right up the road. It all just fits in perfectly with what a community is supposed to be.”
That hometown feeling is what attracted author Danny Brown to the Satartia area. Traveling on rural roads as a salesman, it was the Satartia bridge that sparked an idea inside the Illinois native.
“It started as a bedtime story for my son,” Danny said, sitting inside the Village Mercantile. “I had cut through the area as a salesman, and I saw this unique bridge here in town. I pulled into this very store here and got a drink. I started to wonder about the possibility of a giant fish being in that water. That is how the legend of a giant fish started, and I used it in my son’s bedtime story.”
Using an old typewriter, Danny decided to see what would happen if he tried to print his son’s bedtime story. A Boston publishing company turned it down, but Danny stuck the manuscript in old box and put it in the family garage. Thirty years later and now with grandchildren, Danny revisited that old box and the legend inside it.
“I sent it off again, and a Denver publishing company wanted it,” Danny said. “They located an artist to illustrate it, and we were off with it. It even won the Mom’s Choice Award. And it all started as a simple bedtime story that grew and grew.”
Once Danny got a copy of his published children’s book Eli: The Pride of the Yazoo River, he mailed a copy to the Satartia gin’s office. He had no idea that gin office was closed. The postman decided to drop the book off in the truck of Todd Hart, whose family now owns the gin property and lived right across the street.
Todd’s father I.N. Hart said it was the perfect time.
“Todd was considering moving from the area, and then he got a copy of this book,” I.N. said. “It overjoyed him to see his family’s house being used in the story. We are a five-generation Satartia family, so the book reminded me of what the community meant to him. He decided not to move because of that package. We never saw any of this coming to our community.”
The story and idea soon landed in the lap of Alex Brown, an artist in Bentonia. After communicating with I.N. Hart, the two men considered an idea using some trees from the area that had been cut down.
“We picked out a log, but there ended up being a rotten spot,” Alex said. “So, we ended up using a white oak log that was bigger than the original piece. It was a 5,000-pound log.”
Alex transformed the log into a massive woodcarving in the shape of a giant catfish. With its curled tail, the catfish is a replica and size of what Danny created in his children’s books. Many children have already paid a visit to Eli, the pride of the Yazoo River, taking photographs sitting on top of it.
“There is a lot going on in Satartia, and we are just getting started,” I.N. said. “The old gin office will be an art gallery for Alex. We have applied for a boat ramp here. And we are planning an Eli Festival to hopefully kick off in June of 2022.”
“There is just something and familiar about this place,” Danny added. “There is just something poetic about the roads less traveled.”