Taken Largely From Ms. Rosie Estridge’s Last Interview – Robert Johnson’s Final Moments.
Some of us – well, most of us, have heard the story.
Thanks in large part to the research and dedication of Steve LaVere, we know that Robert Johnson is buried in that little church graveyard outside Greenwood on Money Road. We know he was buried beneath the old pecan tree. We know that Tom Estridge was hired to dig the grave, and that his wife, Rosie, brought him water on that hot August day. But is that all there is of the story? Where are all the details? Turns out there is more.
For one, there is still some dispute as to where Robert Johnson died. Yes, I know, he was poisoned…blah blah blah. But where? I heard the tales – he died in so-and-so’s arms, he was howling like a dog, the devil got a hold of him… but where idd he die? It all depends on who you ask. One of the more commonly accepted answers is in Baptist Town. Of course, this is a black neighborhood in Greenwood, and according to HoneyBoy Edwards, he died here at 109 Young Street. This house has been torn down, and a new one is built in its place. However, I have trouble with Mr. Edwards recollection.
I believe Johnson – despite the huge sign now erected in Baptist town in his honor – did not die on Young Street. The Bar –
Three Forks, where Robert was allegedly poisoned – was where Route 82 intersects with 49E. From there to Baptist Town in a long haul. However, Money Road is right up the street – as is the Star of the West Plantation. According to other witnesses all tied on to the Rosie Estridge interview, Johnson died in a house due south on the cemetery church yard he was buried in. In fact, if you stand at his grave and look south, you will see a cotton gin right off of Wade Plantation Road. Of course, Luther Wade was the owner of the Star of the West Plantation. Witnesses say houses once stood near that cotton gin – and it was in one of these houses that Johnson died in.
According to Ms. Estridge, he was carried to Tush Hog’s house where he was laid down. Tush Hog saw to Robert Johnson, because Johnson had been romantically involved with Tush’s daughter (“little girl” as Ms. Estridge puts it). There is speculation that this was the “jealous bar owner” that poisoned RJ, but that is not the case. A “Tush Hog” has various meanings and origins; in modern times, it refers to a kind of lower income guy who likes to fight and cause problems. Back in the 20’s and 30’s, the term had more to do with a man who had a kind of moral authority, and could back it up by his physical size. In other words, a type of daily bouncer. When Johnson finally died, “J.P.” the truck driver was told by Luther Wade to go get a county coffin from the county barn – which was very close to the plantation at the time. Tom Estridge was then instructed to dig the grave where RJ would be laid to rest.
Here’s some more details often left out. Ms. Estridge had been married to Tom only about a week when he was hired to dig the grave (i use “hired” loosely here – he was more or less told). Rosie, 21 at the time – along with two other women – took water to Tom while he was digging, because it was a hot August day. The grave that was dug for Robert was a standard grave, in that it was at least 6 feet deep. There has been speculation he was buried in a shallow grave, but that is not the case – the grave was at least 6 -7 feet in depth. Ms. Estridge also “refused” to let the coffin be put in the ground without a preacher there to emit the body to the ground. Ms. Estridge went and got Jack Star, or as she calls him, “Jack Leg Preacher”, to come and emit Robert’s body to the ground. A song – a Hymn most likely – was definitely sung, and some words were said before Robert was laid to rest.
Just more details in the old Robert Johnson mystery! Enjoy!