For decades it just sat behind the Old Capitol in Jackson deteriorating. Well, it's still behind the Old Capitol Building, but on the other end, and under some protection from the elements, now.
What is it? It is an empty boxcar from France that came to Mississippi as a thank you gift for America's aid to that nation after World War Two.
The boxcar was one of 49 that came to the United States from France. And they were not empty when they came, none of them including this one.
They were packed with books and paintings and other treasures donated by individual French families to show all of the states as well as Hawaii and the District of Columbia, appreciation for helping their country during and after the war. Hawaii and Washington D.C. had to share a boxcar.
Our car arrived by ship in New York and had to be carried by train from there to here. The wheels of the French boxcar were too close together to ride on our wider track system.
It first came to Meridian, and then on to Jackson on February 12, 1949. The car came not only filled, but decorated with coats-of-arms from all of the provinces of France.
For a long time it sat at the entrance to the State Fair Grounds. Then it was moved to more-decades-of-display behind the Old Capitol where it weathered and faded and rotted.
Ownership of the Merci Boxcar was given to Archives and History in 2002. And it has just been rededicated after a $230,000 restoration grant from Archives and History.
And to show respect for the French gesture of gratitude, and to honor our troops who served in World War Two, for which the train commemorates, it has been preserved and is once again on display behind the Old Capitol but now on the south end near the old GM&O depot, where a train car should be.
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