Moon Lake: picture by James Dean
Moon Lake in Northern Coahoma County was known as a resort for the surrounding counties during the 1920s and 1930s. Young and old flocked to the lake’s banks to fish, picnic and enjoy parties held at any number of lodges and homes. One of the most well known of these clubs in 1930 was the Rendezvous Lodge owned by Dustin “Dusty” Bullard. Hundreds of merrymakers would gather at this large home to dance and enjoy other more illegal vices like gambling and drinking. Prohibition was still law of the land and had been that way since 1919, but that didn’t stop liquor from flowing on Moon Lake.
On August 29th, over three hundred party goers gathered at the Rendezvous Lodge. With a band playing, the young people were dancing and having a great time. This was Moon Lake on a Friday night. Just outside the party, a group of men had a dice game going. That really wasn’t unusual as gambling was a popular pastime on those weekend nights, but this night was not going to end with a normal fight or someone losing all their money. Among this group was a nicely dressed man named Ira Allen. Although he was thirty-three and from Senatobia, it wasn’t unusual for visitors to come to Moon Lake from Tate County. Whether he was cheated by his fellow game players or not, Allen became angry and stormed off.
About 2 a.m. two men appeared outside the Rendezvous Lodge. They were masked and carried revolvers. One had a sawed off shotgun. After robbing gamblers outside, they moved into the lodge. According to Miss Virginia Perkins, hostess, “when the music stopped the guests were lined up against a wall. ” Dusty Bullard, the owner, was mysteriously not there and usually handled security so the victims were defenseless.
“Put ’em up – we mean business,” shouted one of the two men. The young people were searched and their money was taken as a shot gun was leveled at them. With their loot in hand, the men fled the scene in a sports coupe. Although police quickly arrived and blocked off roads at each end of Moon Lake, the criminals got away. Different sources claimed their take varied from $300 to $1000. Newspapers around the country carried the story.
On September 9th, Ira Allen was arrested in Senatobia and brought back to Clarksdale. Although party goers identified him as one of the robbers by the clothes he wore, Allen denied the act. He claimed to be fishing on the Coldwater River when the robbery happened. He even had two witnesses.
On October 3, 1930, Ira Allen’s trial began in Clarksdale. Judge W.A. Alcorn presided. Greek Rice of Clarksdale was Allen’s attorney and C.S. Longino was county attorney. Some of the witnesses called to testify against Allen were Dr. H.G. Johnson of Dundee, Joe Moore and W.G Crigger of Lula, and Jim Morris and D. Levine of Friars Point. All identified Allen as the robber by the clothes he wore that night. The jury began deliberations at 10 o’clock on the morning of October 7th and had a verdict by 4 o’clock in the afternoon. Ira G. Allen was found guilty on three counts of robbery and sentenced to ten years in the penitentiary. Upon hearing the verdict, Allen broke down citing his life in crime but denying this robbery. As he was being led out of the courtroom, he yelled, ” I have gone straight since then. I was framed by gamblers. I’m not, I’m not guilty of that robbery!” No other men were ever arrested for this crime. The Mississippi Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s decision and Allen quietly went away to prison.
On December 24, 1930, the Rendezvous Lodge burned to the ground together with all its contents. Employees of the club, who were asleep in the building, barely escaped with their lives. Dusty Bullard said he was only partially covered with insurance. The club wasn’t rebuilt and Bullard moved to Memphis.
Several years later in 1934, a group of prominent Coahoma County citizens petitioned Governor Conner to pardon Ira Allen. They cited the following reasons: he is a tubercular patient and his condition has worsened, guilt is still doubtful, he has been punished long enough for the crime, a veteran of the World War, and the American Legion promised to get him into a sanitarium at Biloxi. Signees included C.S. Longino, Greek Rice, M.J. Bouldin, Jr., L.A. Ross and N.A. Cartledge.
Ira Allen was released from jail and passed away in Tate County in 1937. Did he really rob the Rendezvous Lodge? Was it somebody else? Isn’t it strange that the Rendezvous burned a few months after being robbed? Will any of these questions ever be answered? Probably not. All the people involved have moved on and most people have never heard of the Rendezvous Lodge. This story will just be another mystery of Moon Lake and Lula passed down in history like so many other stories.
“Clarion Ledger”. Jackson, MS. September 10, 1930. page 3.
“Winona Times”. Winona, MS. October 10, 1930. page 1
“Clarion Ledger”. Jackson, MS. September 27, 1930. page 5
“The Greenwood Commonwealth”. Greenwood, MS. October 8, 1930. page 1
“Clarion Ledger”. Jackson, MS. October 8, 1930. page 1
“Clarion Ledger”. Jackson, MS. December 25, 1930. page 7
“The Clarksdale Press Register”. Clarksdale, MS. July 28, 1934. page 3
Ira G. Allen, Jr. “Findagrave.com”