Case Filed: 10/29/03 - Hickory, Mississippi
Executive Producer: Rick Garner
In rural Newton County, near the small town of Hickory, sits a small lake with a big history - Lake Juson (Jew-zon). Barely an acre in size, tales and lore surrounding Lake Juson run as deep as its cool water. Murder, stolen gold, and insanity. All attributed to the lake's namesake, Pierre Juson, an early French settler.
"He was quite a guy," says local historian Melvin Tingle. "I think Pierre came up here about 1810, the best that we can figure, and established his trading post at Chunky Chitto trading town. He was one of the first white settlers to Newton County."
Juson set up a trading post just off the military highway which ran past the lake. For years, Juson traded with settlers but it was the Choctaw Indians he identified with best.
Tingle says, "He could speak French, he could English, he was fluent in Choctaw. He married a princess. You know that everybody that married an Indian, married a princess, but he did. He married the niece of Pushmataha, who was a famous Choctaw Indian chief."
Juson would even lead a band of Choctaw Indians in the battle of New Orleans alongside Andrew Jackson, where Juson is credited with giving us the everyday word of "okay."
"He said, 'Pierre, how goes it?' and he says okay. That's where the word "okay," if you look and it goes back the origin of it is Andrew Jackson, gives credit for the word okay coming from the Choctaw word "okey." So, hey, Pierre, done a lot for us!"
These stories alone make Juson an interesting historical figure. However, residents of Newton County say there's much more to the tale of Peirre Juson.
"Where the real thing gets creepy is in his later years, prior to leaving here in 1840, they said he went crazy."
"I guess the story I remember the most is the story about the treasure that was supposed to have been dumped in here." Johnny Burkes lives right next to Lake Juson and he owns the property where the trading post was likely located and for decades he's been hearing tales about the dark side of Pierre Juson.
"I understand that he would trade with the trappers and beat the trappers out of what money they had gotten for their furs. And I have even heard that he robbed some of them, and killed them, and thrown them into this lake. The story on the gold is one of the stage coaches was coming through here and he robbed the stage coach of gold shipments."
That's when legend says law enforcement came looking for Juson.
"He took the gold and paddled out in this lake and dropped it in the bottom of the lake."
From there, some stories say Juson was caught and hung for his crimes. Although, Tingle says that's probably not the case and that Juson actually moved to Tennessee and was buried along the Tom Bigbee River.
Many believe Juson is still at home along the lake. Tingle adds, "I know some friends of mine who coon hunt. They won't go around there. They say that on a moonlight night, hunting around that lake...you see shadows that's uncalled for. You see movement."
"There were some ghost stories told here that Old Man Juson had come back and walk around the lake in a ghost form. That was later on. I never seen him."
But what we do know is that the gold has never been found, despite many attempts to locate it.
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