East Mississippi Railroads – Part 3

The War had caused great delay

to the development of the rails through the North East & South West Alabama grant. According to Nussbaum, on February 15, 1862, the Confederate Government of Richmond loaned the Alabama & Mississippi Rivers Railroad (A&MR) the funds the complete the rails between Selma, Alabama and Meridian and this was accomplished on December 10, 1862.

From 1861 to 1865, the railroads became another kind of prosperity to Lauderdale County.

The village of Meridian, because of the railroad, became an important center for Confederacy and a link between the South and the East.

Maintenance was a constant problem for the railroads during the war, having scarcely enough equipment to begin with. Plus, the roads suffered badly when enemy raids destroyed tracks, bridges and rolling stock. Roadbeds were in a dangerous condition as well. A History of Mississippi, Volume I, states that during the spring of 1864, both the Confederate and the Federal governments worked within their lines, and by the end of the war most roads had resumed as least partial operation.

However, because of the Civil War, as recorded by John Stover in Railroads of the South, in “the last Spring of 1865, Confederate railroads were in as crippled and defeated a condition as the armies they had vainly sought to support during the war years.”  The War had wrecked well over half of the South’s railroads.  Twisted rails, burnt ties, disintegrating right-of-ways, destroyed bridges, and dilapidated or lost rolling stock was the normal heritage for the typical southern line. Depots, shops, and other buildings were also war casualties.  Some lines appeared to have vanished completely.

A report on Lauderdale County in an annual meeting of the Mobile & Ohio stated that:

“all of our bridges, trestle work, warehouses, and station buildings between Union City, Tennessee, and Okolona, Mississippi, a distance of 84 miles, were destroyed. General Sherman’s raid to Meridian destroyed north and south of that place bridges and trestle work on 48 miles, and on 28 miles of that distance all of the warehouses, water stations, and as far as possible destroyed the rails and fastenings.  From the full supply of rolling stock of the finest quality, we were reduced to one-fourth of what was necessary, and that was in bad condition.”

After the War, many suffering railroads were merged with other railroads or bought out, such as the Selma & Meridian (S&M) which became the Alabama Central Railroad. However, it continued to connect to Meridian through the NE&SW line. NE&SW first merged with Wills Valley Railroad to become the Alabama & Chattanooga Railroad (A&C) and later was reorganized as the Alabama Great Southern Railroad.  This railroad would play an integral part in Meridian’s railroad future.

Born February 12, 1837 in Lowndes County, Alabama, W. H. Hardy arrived in Meridian in 1872, according to records from the Lauderdale County Department of Archives and History.

Hardy had an idea, a little influence and a big personality.  He had passed the Mississippi State Bar in 1858 and practiced at Raleigh, Smith County, Mississippi until the beginning of the War. As Captain of the H Company (The Defenders) of the 16th Mississippi infantry, which he organized, Hardy served with distinction under a number of commanders including General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

In 1868 Hardy’s grand plan was a new railroad line between Meridian and New Orleans. After putting the plan into action by commissioning a survey and developing the proposed project’s business plan, in 1870, the New Orleans and Northeastern Railroad was born. Hardy was named the company’s General Counsel.

Hardy moved to Meridian in 1872 where he promoted and raised funds for the effort. However, the 1873 financial crash forced the project onto the shelves for seven years. In 1880, Hardy again began his railroad funding efforts. Stopping for a lunch break on one of his survey trips, Hardy marked his map where he thought a city should be. This “mark” would become the city of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, named after Hardy’s wife, Hattie, founder of Meridian’s literary society, the Fortnightly Club. In 1883 W. H. Hardy’s dream became reality as rail traffic rolled along the line of the New Orleans and Northeastern Railroad.


Between 1870 and 1890, Lauderdale County was one of the most populous in the state. The 1884 city directory stated:

“Twelve passenger trains and over twenty freight trains arrive at and leave Meridian daily.”  The economic impact of the railroads on Lauderdale County during the early decades of the century affected greatly the era known as the Golden Years, contrasting drastically with the railroad years following the Civil War.  Even the catastrophic tornado of 1906 did not impede Meridian’s growth as a railroad center. The reason this center evolved into the major source of Meridian’s economic success was its freight.”

Timber had been here for centuries, but in an overwhelmingly agricultural economy, forests were more of a nuisance that required clearing in order to gain access to fields. But by this time, timber provided the foundation for booming building trades in cities of the future taking shape from rising European immigration. Demand for timber was nationwide and railroads fed that demand. In addition to the transport of timber, the railroad transported the off-shoots of timber, such as turpentine, resin, and other wood-processing industries.

The Meridian rails, which were first vital to cotton merchants in Mississippi, became a center for shipping and compressing cotton. Organized in 1873, The Meridian Cotton Exchange and Board of Trade was the predecessor of the Chamber of Commerce. Dozens of manufacturers, packers, compressors, dealers and buyers flocked to Meridian and by 1883 approximately 50 firms engaged in cotton storage here. In only a few years over 5,000 workers would be employed in the shops.  Like the timber industry which had its many off-shoots, cotton also produced a range of subsidiary industries: cottonseed products, yarn, batting, and twine, are just a few.

Timber and cotton were crucial in the rejuvenation of the railroad.

By 1912, forty passenger trains passed through Meridian every day and thirteen lumber companies operated in Lauderdale County due to its piney woods. Between 1911 and 1920, the Southern Railroad increased its ton miles–a measure used to calculate freight transport–by over ninety percent.  The increase in passenger mileage, though considerably less, was also impressive. Incorporated in 1911, the M&M (Meridian and Memphis) Railroad also became known and Mud & Misery by the ones who laid the track through the muddy swamps. In 1929 the M&M merged with the Gulf, Mobile & Northern (GM&N), as did the Mobile and Ohio (M&O).

However, as man has been known to do, the harvesting of timber caused the near-extinction of the forests. This coupled with the boll weevil that caused great devastation the cotton harvest, which normally boasted 1-½ million bales of the “white gold,”  brought Lauderdale County into another period of poverty and helplessness.  The Great Depression.

Read Part 1 and Part 2

by Richelle Putnam

From the research of Lauderdale County, Mississippi: A Brief History



Fike, Claude E. “William H. Hardy: An Extraordinary Life,” The Hattiesburg Story: 100 years of Growth. Hattiesburg: Hattiesburg American, 1982.

Hardy, Toney. No Compromise With Principle. New York: American Book-Stratford Press, Inc., 1946.

Hardy, W. H. “Recollections of Reconstruction in East and Southeast Mississippi.” Publications of the Mississippi Historical Society Volume 4 (1902): 105-132 (See biographical sketch footed on 105 and 106)

“Other Fortnightly Clubs in U.S.” Redlands Fortnightly Club Web Site. 9 Feb 1998.

United States Census Bureau: 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900 and 1910 U.S. Federal Census.

The Impact of the Railroad on Meridian and Lauderdale County, Mississippi by Dr. Lloyd B. Lewis, Sponsored by the Mississippi Humanities Council Scholar in Residence Program and the Lauderdale County Department of Archives and History.

Complete Guide to the Railroads of Meridian, Mississippi, Past and Present, compiled and written by M. S. (Mick) Nussbaum, August 1, 2010.

Newton County, Mississippi Historical and Genealogical Society: The History of the Alabama and Vicksburg Railroad http://www.nchgs.org/html/history_of_a_v_r_r.html

Stitching Together Family History

As you stitch together family history, amazing stories of your ancestors lives unfold.

Thanks to DNA testing, I have discovered Revolutionary Soldiers, Civil War soldiers, a counterfeiter during the late 1700s and a link to John Carver, who procured the Mayflower. I found out my great-great-great Grandfather served under Francis Marion, known as the old Swamp Fox. After researching Marion, I learned out the hardships they endured. While authorities searched the attic, the wife of the counterfeiter to hide her husband’s tools of the trade, using her foot to shove counterfeiting tools behind her long dress. He was tried and found not guilty in court.

Genealogists, both seasoned and new, have used DNA testing to uncover ancestors and even living family members.

A DNA test is also an avenue for adopted children who want to discover their parentage. DNA testing not only links to your ancestors, but also a gold-mine of information.  Click HERE for more information on DNA.

Ancestor photographs is another benefit genealogy research offers. Photographers made their appearance during the 1850s when they roamed the countryside with camera equipment and fancy attire for the customer, or the customer’s family to be photographed in. Sometimes, a quilt is used for a backdrop and sometimes the home. All photographs were made outdoors during the early days of photography. http://travelphotographyhistory.blogspot.com/2011/05/history-of-travel-photography-part-1.html

Check the Bureau of Land Management for land records deeds and wills.

Wills often name family members, children and spouse. Probate records also offer information. Vintage postcards give a glimpse of the towns our ancestors once lived or visited. They became an easy method to send a short message to family members who lived in different areas of the country. The first postcards were commercially made about 1861. Click HERE for postcard archives.

Utilize your local library to find books on the ancestor’s town or the nearest town. You might be surprised at what you will discover within those pages. City directories are another source to research if your ancestor lived in a town. It gives the address, family member names and occupations and sometimes, where the ancestor was employed.

By connecting with other descendants of my family, I have found several photographs of ancestors. As information unfolds, write the history of the individual you are researching to archive your family history for generations to come. Genealogy can be exciting for family history lovers, but you must be prepared to take the good with the bad. You can choose your friend, but you can’t choose your ancestors.

By June DavidsonJune Davidson book cover image copy

June is the author of: Images of Meridian, a pictorial and text history of Meridian and Lauderdale County, Country Stores of Mississippi, published in 2015, and co-author of Legendary Locals of Meridian. She also self-published a family history book titled The Davidsons of Clarke County, MS and a picture book, Polka Dot Patti. She is currently completing a manuscript for middle grade children. June is listed on the Mississippi Arts Commission as Literary Artist


photo courtesy of Renjith Krishnan and Free Digital Photos.





East Mississippi Railroads – Part 2

Legend has it that rivalries between John Ball and Lewis A. Ragsdale rooted and grew,

both men wanting to build their town, in their way, on their land in Lauderdale County, Mississippi. M. S. Nussbaum’s railroad history, Complete Guide to the Railroads of Meridian, Mississippi, Past and Present, reveals that on the old McLemore land, Ragsdale and Ball each laid out their own town lots, one aligning his streets parallel to the railroad while the other used true compass headings, resulting in the anomalous street arrangements that exist in Meridian today.

As the village developed, so did the need for a town name.

This only served to heighten the rivalry. In 1854, when Ball acquired a post office he named it Meridian. Ragsdale, however, was intent on naming the village Ragsdale City. So, various signs popped up around the village that read Sowashee, Meridian, and Ragsdale City. As one name came up, the previous name came down. Whatever the name that day or night depended on what rival party had put the last sign up and the people either accepted or ignored the ongoing “name” duel between their neighbors.

A land grant had been granted in 1853 to the North East & South West Alabama Road (NE&SW),

which would connect Meridian to Chattanooga, Tennessee, but possession of the land wouldn’t happen until 1860. In 1855, The Mobile & Ohio (M & O) Railroad, which began in Mobile, Alabama, became the first rail line to chug into Lauderdale County, heading northward to the upper Midwest industrial centers. The primary beneficiary of the railroad would not be the Town of Marion as predicted by Con Rea, but the McLemore Old Field.

John T. Ball built a crude plank station, which The M & O named the “Sowashee Station.”

Sowashee was Choctaw for “mad river.” Even though the M & O agreed to full depot privileges, for two years, Sowashee ran as a flag station, its full expense falling on Ball.  By October 3, 1855, trains rolled in and out of Sowashee Station. According to legend, this spurred even further the long-time disputes between Lewis Ragsdale and John T. Ball.

Passenger_engine_mdn_new_orl (2) (1280x694)


When the Southern Railroad headed east in 1859, plans were to cross the M & O line at Enterprise,

a thriving community in Clarke County just south of Sowashee Station. But fearing commercialism and riffraff that often accompanied the rails, the people of Enterprise rejected the connection. Ragsdale and Ball, though still competitive, realized the opportunity and joined efforts to bring Southern Railroad through their village, promising land and assistance in whatever capacity the railroad needed. Once the deal was made, Ball and Ragsdale extensively publicized and promoted the coming of the Southern Railroad, at last striving toward a common goal that benefited both rivals.

On February 10, 1860, the Mississippi Legislature approved the charter for Meridian, Mississippi.

But with the beginning of the War Between the States, the new rail was finished by the Confederate government in May 1861, just in time for war. According to Nussbaum’s Guide to the Railroads of Meridian, Mississippi, the line between Vicksburg and Meridian was in operation, and on May 29, its first train pulled by the Mazzeppa arrived at 6:45 p.m. entered the small village carrying precious cargo: the Vicksburg Southerners, a Confederate Army volunteer  company. On June 3, the first train departed for Vicksburg at 8:45 a.m. William C. Smedes, President of Southern Railroad Company and known as the Father of Southern Railroad, at John Ball’s suggestion, recommended to the M & O Railroad that the station name be changed to Meridian.

Read Part 1
Read Part 3


Resolve to Make Your World a Better Place

Alfred Lord Tennyson was quoted as saying “Hope smiles on the threshold of the year to come, whispering that it will be happier.” These days, that hope is often expressed by making New Year’s Resolutions.

As the new year approaches, people look for ways to improve themselves and their lives. Some want to lose weight, save money, and start or stop doing this or that thing. Eat right. Go to the gym. Quit smoking. Do better at work. These are the easy ones. The problem is, most resolutions are broken even more quickly than they are made. Life happens and old habits are hard to break. The notion that you have to wait to improve something, or to look outward to make changes, waters down our resolve and makes it lose it’s efficacy.

People look out on the world and want improve the globe. We can get so caught up in looking outward we forget there are things we can do every day, at home, that will have the most positive impact.

 If you really want a better world, start at home with your family and close relationships.

All relationships — especially the ones near and dear to you — take work. It’s easy to be distant, grouchy, snarky, bitchy and uncompromising at home and expect everything will be okay. Not so. It makes everything in your world worse. You can easily change that behavior. According to Christina Steinorth, MFT, a psychotherapist and author of Cue Cards for Life, “Relationships don’t magically take care of themselves — as with most living organisms, they need nurturing.” Relationships blossom when you tend to them.

One of the best things you can do easily and every day is to treat others how you want to be treated. We all want to be listened to, understood and cared for.

Start by changing your attitude from negative to positive and be mindful with whom you spend your time. Negativity is infectious and people like to complain about how hard life is. But when we surround ourselves with people who are negative and mean, we are likely to become negative and pessimistic, making it much harder to get through life’s difficulties. Separating ourselves from complainers is as important as resisting our own urge to complain.

It’s easy to start arguments with people we love. They give us so much material with which to work. Whether it’s about what movie to watch, what to have for dinner, or who is going to walk the dog; small disagreements can quickly escalate into a full-scale war. If we work to find the upside in tough situations, and work hard to fix problems, we can positively impact our relationships.

What’s a Person To Do?

  1. Listen. There’s a difference between hearing and truly listening. Too often, when people speak, we get busy constructing our response. We refute, discount, and inject our beliefs and opinion into every situation. Listening requires making eye contact, observing the person’s body language, hearing the words and the feelings that underlie those words.

  2. Act lovingly even when it’s hard. People may forget what you say but will remember how you make them feel. Be thoughtful and compassionate.

  3. One of the best things you can do is to listen to another person and believe they mean exactly what they say. Avoid second-guessing. Give the person your undivided attention even if they seem not to make sense to you. Give advice only when you’re asked.

  4. Empathize. Instead of correcting the person’s perception or arguing, get out of yourself and ask yourself what must it be like if you were having the same concerns. Psychologists call this “Walking in the person’s shoes and feeling the blisters.”

  5. Steinorth says, “Fight fair. It’s not conflicts that cause problems but how you approach them.” Focus on the issue not the person. Avoid bad mouthing the person. Address one issue at a time and move on to the next. Avoid bringing in stuff from old arguments. That will derail the process.

  6. It’s takes two. Be prepared to bend. Seek compromise if you can’t find resolution. Sometimes bending is more important than standing your ground. All relationships require compromise.

  7. Tend to your relationship’s needs. “If you value your relationship, give it what it needs—be it time, compassion or love.”

  8. Become aware of what you’re giving to and taking from the relationship. That doesn’t mean keeping score.

  9. Be good company-someone others want to be around. If you commonly nag, complain and dish out negativity, your relationships will suffer.

Let “hope” smile on your new year. Resolve to listen, be kind, compassionate, good company and willing to bend. When you’re able to do these things, many areas of your world will improve.

© Dr. Rachell N. Anderson, Psy. D. January 3, 2016


Dr. Rachell Anderson is a native of Tunica, a licensed Clinical Psychologist in 3 states, a Professor Emeritus and author. She taught at the University of Illinois and ran a Private Clinical Practice in Springfield, Illinois for 40 years. She now lives and writes in Tunica. Check out her website at drrachellanderson.com for more articles and books.

photo credit: imagerymajestic and freedigitalphotos.net

Chuck Galey – Mississippi Artist

Chuck Galey has drawn all his life.

“I had everything I needed growing up in a small farm town in the Mississippi Delta; a pencil, a piece of paper and a long-winded Baptist preacher.”

He has illustrated over seventy educational books and ten children’s picture books, one that he authored. When he is not working on books in his studio in Jackson, Mississippi, he is presenting exciting school programs that inspire and astonish students. His programs, listed on the Mississippi Arts Commission’s Teaching Artist Roster, encourage them to be creative in their reading, writing and art. For additional information, please visit his website: www.chuckgaleycom.

As a MAC teaching artist, what is your role in education?

I use the opportunity of developing arts integration lesson plans that introduce critical thinking with a visual art activity that enhances the learning process.

What does Arts-in-Education mean to you as an artist?

By utilizing the arts, teaching any subject reaches the students on a new level rather than just memorizing dates and equations.  The students are able to artistically reach a critical thinking process that helps them utilize and retain the lesson for future use.

Why are MAC teaching artists/roster artists important to education?

Teaching Artists (TA) are important because these are lifelong professional artists that are able to teach the creative process and apply that process to learning any subject.

Describe the MAC SPED initiative made possible through a grant from the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts (KCPA).

KCPA provided funding so that TAs could work with inclusive and self-contained SPED classes.  The concept was that, through the arts, SPED students could be taught in a creative way and that they would understand and retain information.

How will your role in this initiative enhance and/or improve the skills of children with special needs.

My role as a visual artist lets the students approach problems in a critical manner in a way that, perhaps, they haven’t been taught before.  SPED students vary in so many ways, from severe Autistic to the physically handicapped.  Each learns in different ways.  The arts explores that.

How can teaching artists help children of all ages and mental and emotional levels experience Mississippi’s culture and heritage while also developing their learning and life skills?

By applying arts integration to different cultural and heritage lessons, students can learn the lessons on a basic level.  Just by working through the lesson, the student has to use critical thinking through the arts to solve a problem or experience a cultural event.

How do you think MAEC can impact education through the arts?

Coordination with school principals and teachers is the key. The schools will have to buy-in to the idea that arts integration does enhance the educational process. This could possibly done with workshops for principals and school system superintendents to convince them to use the arts.  Many are skeptical and are very old fashioned in their educational approaches.  One only need to look at arts integrated school district’s soaring test scores for proof that arts integration is a legitimate way to enhance the learning process. By providing on-going workshops, including traveling workshops to schools, MAEC can impact education by using arts integration lesson plans to enhance the learning process.  MAEC sponsored performances, screenings and exhibitions targeting area schools can also be utilized in tandem with the arts integration lesson plans.

The Cotton Candy Catastrophe at the Texas State Fair – Nominated for the 2005 Texas State Reading Association’s Golden Spur Award for children’s literature written by a Texas author, Dotti Enderle.
Jazz Cats – 2003 Mississippi Library Association Award for Excellence in Illustration in Children’s Literature;  Nominated for the 2003 Texas State Reading Association’s Golden Spur Award for children’s literature written by a Texas author, David Davis;  2003Children’s Choice Award presented by the Children’s Book Council.
My Brother Dan’s Delicious; 2004 Children’s Choice Award presented by the Children’s Book Council.
This interview between Richelle Putnam and Chuck Galey was first published on the Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Experience website and in its newsletter.  For more information about MAEE click HERE

East Mississippi Railroads (Part 1)

By the mid-nineteenth century, the locomotive, known as the “iron horse,” had become a national obsession and a massive machine of stamina, speed, noise, fire, iron, and smoke. Finally, travel conquered the obstacles of forests, water, hills and valleys.

Stories about railroad projects, railroad accidents, railroad profits and momentum saturated the press and became the subject of speeches, articles, stories, and songs.  The railroad engine, a symbol of human energy and strength in the time of the horse and carriage, became godlike and in the distance resembled a long monstrous snake-like machine chugging down its track, puffing white smoke, like Native American ceremonial signals above a wilderness landscape.

Edward McGehee, a planter from Woodville, Mississippi , had a dream of a railway system extending the twenty-seven-miles stretch of railroad from Woodville to St. Francisville on the Mississippi River below the Louisiana line.  In 1830, a company was organized; on December 20, 1831 a charter was obtained, and the West Feliciana became the first railroad in the United States to cross a state line as well as the first to use the standard gauge of four feet, eight and on-half inches.

After staking his claim to seven-hundred acres in 1834, Virginian Richard McLemore, “The Father of Meridian,” built his log house close to current downtown Meridian.  His nearest neighbor being about eight-miles away, he recruited his neighbors-to-be from back east, offering them land and the promise of a future.  McLemore played a great part in establishing Baptist churches in Lauderdale County, including Oakey Valley Baptist, predecessor of First Baptist Church. Possibly the greatest part McLemore played in Lauderdale County’s future, though not intentionally, was in the future of the railroad.

Between 1911 and 1920, the Southern Railroad increased its ton miles--a measure used to calculate freight transport--by over ninety percent. Incorporated in 1911, the M&M (Meridian and Memphis) Railroad became known as Mud & Misery.

Between 1911 and 1920, the Southern Railroad increased its ton miles–a measure used to calculate freight transport–by over ninety percent. Incorporated in 1911, the M&M (Meridian and Memphis) Railroad became known as Mud & Misery.

The Southern Railroad Company, chartered in Mississippi on February 23, 1846, had plans to build a railroad running eastward from Brandon through Meridian to the Mississippi-Alabama state line. However, before any construction began, the charter lapsed. Reincorporated as a Mississippi corporation on March 9, 1850, the Southern Railroad Company in July, 1852, acquired the Jackson and Brandon Railroad and Bridge Company’s line between Jackson and Brandon, including engines, cars, depots, lands, and slaves. The line would one day make its way toward Lauderdale County, Mississippi.

Before arrival of the Southern Railroad, the 1850’s witnessed the “Iron Horse” pushing its way through Lauderdale County, Attorney Con Rea of Marion predicted the primary beneficiary of the railroad would his town of Marion.  In anticipation of the coming M & O Railroad, according to author James Dawson of Paths to the Past, Meridian Founder, Richard McLemore, before moving his family to the Marion area, sold the remainder of his land to Alabama Lawyer, Lewis A. Ragsdale and Kemper County Merchant John T. Ball. On this land purchased from McLemore, Ragsdale started a tavern in McLemore’s first home while John Ball established the first store in the village not yet named.  These two guys would prove Con Rea wrong!

Richelle Putnam

Read Part 2