Railroads of Northern Newton County

By Ralph E. Gordon

 

Prior to 1905, folks in the northern part of Newton County traveled by horse and buggy, mule and wagon, rode a horse, rode a mule, or sometimes they used the oldest form of transportation known to man. They walked. It would probably be safe to say, they stayed home more often than not, and when they did go somewhere, it was out of necessity, and not far from home. In 1905 things began to change. Life began to change. Progress was on the way.

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The Mobile and Ohio Rail Road (M&O) laid tracks running north and south through the heart of the county, connecting Union with Decatur, and Newton to the south, and Philadelphia to the north. Eventually, connections were developed on into Memphis, St. Louis and Chicago. During that same year, the Meridian and Memphis Rail Road (M&M) laid tracks connecting Union and Meridian. These ribbons of steel not only changed the way folks traveled, they changed their way of life forever.

Some thirty miles of tracks were laid between Union and Meridian, using mostly manual labor to handle the heavy crossties and rails. Men swung nine pound hammers in the heat of summer, and in the cold of winter, driving spikes into treated oak crossties. For the most part, mule drawn dirt slips were used to build the roadbed. What few steam powered machines they used in building the line were confined to the newly built tracks, unlike bulldozers, and rubber tired earth movers of today.

Trestle bridges had to be constructed across the Little Rock, the Tallhashie and the Okatibbee Creeks as well as smaller streams. Workers, who built the railroad, nicknamed the M&M the Mud and Misery because of the swamps they had to cross, and the heavy rains which fell that year. Mosquitos and snakes were a constant menace in the blistering summer. Icy rain made life miserable for the workers during the winter months. The hours were long, and the work was grueling, but it provided a paycheck, something many Newton County farm boys had never seen before joining the construction crew.

       The first train to run the line was dubbed the “Doodlebug” which was a one car trolley-like vehicle with seats for passengers, and enough room for the mail, and a few small freight items.  The Doodlebug departed Meridian in the morning bound for Union, where it turned around, and headed back to Meridian, that same afternoon. Eventually a larger steam engine replaced the Doodlebug. It pulled one passenger car, and as many freight cars as needed. In the early years a train was made up of two or three freight cars, along with a caboose. Diesel-electric locomotives replaced the steam engines on the line in 1946.  The more powerful diesels pulled as many as seventy cars. They hauled everything from canned beans, to chemicals, to cotton bales. Perhaps the most unique piece of cargo shipped into Union by rail was a prefabricated house kit from Sears and Roebuck, delivered to a Mr. Nutt, around 1915.

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The M&M gave birth to several hamlets, and business in Newton and Lauderdale Counties.  The first stop for passengers who purchased their twenty five cent tickets from Union to Meridian, was Willoughby, about three miles out, near the Greenland Community. Their next stop was Little Rock, where Bunion Williams operated one of the largest cotton gins in Newton County, and then on to Perdu, and Duffee in Newton County. The train stopped at Shambersville and Suqualena in Lauderdale County before reaching its final destination in Meridian. The trip took about three hours.

William H. Smith, who celebrated his one hundredth birthday in January of 2012, recalled boarding the M&M at the Perdu station when he joined the Navy in 1934. He rode the train to Union, where he connected with the M&O to Newton, and then made a second connection with the Illinois Central to Jackson where he was processed into the service.

The M&M changed owners and names at least three times during its lifetime. A complete list of mergers of the railroads that served Newton County are too numerous to list, but this is a condensed version; in the early 1940s the M&M merged with the Gulf Mobile and Ohio line (GM&O.) The GM&O merged with the Illinois Central around 1970 and formed the Illinois Central Gulf (ICG). Several mergers have occurred since then.

As with other railroads, the coming of the automobile eventually diminished the need for the rail service between Union and Meridian, more especially for passenger service. The last passenger train departed the Union Depot in 1951.

Union was a major railroad terminal in the early 1900s. The town owes much of its existence to the railroad. Originally, the center of the town was located about a mile east of its present location on Old Jackson Road, (Mississippi Highway 492), where the Spaceway Store and the new Family Dollar Store are presently located, but the location of the railroad changed that. Business gravitated to the west to be near the depot and railroad.

New businesses sprang up in Union, thanks to the railroads. One of those businesses was Buckwalter Lumber Company. Buckwalter was a major supplier of lumber in Mississippi from 1906 until 1961. The company built small railroads which paralleled the M&M line, called dummy lines. These short railroads hauled logs from the woods to a loading area. From there, the logs were loaded onto the M&M flat cars, and transported to the sawmill in Union. Remnants of the dummy line road beds can still be seen in the woods between Union and Duffee.

By the late 1960s, light freight was rapidly becoming a thing of the past on boxcars across the United States. Trucks were faster. They cut down on the number of times an item had to be handled, by delivering their loads directly to their destination, and ultimately less expensive than the railroads. Eventually most of the cargo hauled on the short Union/Meridian line was bulky items, and petroleum products.  Pulpwood from the wood-yards along the way made up a large portion of the freight. Little Rock wood-yard was among the bigger ones. But as technology changed the method in which pulpwood was harvested, it also changed the way it was transported. Instead of short five-foot lengths hauled on specially designed rail cars, more and more pulpwood cutters began hauling tree-length cuts on eighteen wheel trucks to more centralized railheads, like Meridian, for transportation to paper mills. The closing of the small wood-yards in the 1970s dealt the final blow to the life of the ICG between Union and Meridian.

While the railroad no longer serves Little Rock, the rail yard is still abuzz in Union, thanks to the giant Tyson feed mill there. Each year hundreds of tons of corn and other grains arrive from farms in the Mid-West, and the Mississippi Delta to fill Tyson’s needs. Dozens of grain cars can be seen lined up, waiting to be unloaded, or waiting to be pulled back to their homes for another load.

The whistle of the GM&O is but a distant memory to the people of Willoughby and Little Rock—or is it? Some folks claim they can still here its lonely whine echoing across the red clay hills and marshy hollows, late in the afternoon, about the time the train would be making its return trip to Meridian.

The dates in this poem, The Ghost Train, obviously don’t square with the dates in the article but, the M&M could be any abandoned railroad, and Little Rock could be any town progress built, and then left behind.

 

THE GHOST TRAIN

By

Ralph E. Gordon

In eighteen hundred and fifty-nine,

tracks were laid for M&M Line.

Mud and Misery she was called back then,

built by the sweat and the blood of good men.

For more’n a century she hauled riders and freight,

not a single time was she ever late.

She hauled brothers and cannons for the Blue and the Gray.

She saw many young men meet the judgment day.

She carried sailors and soldiers to two world wars,

America’s bravest rode in cattle cars.

Women folks would wait by the tracks,

praying she would bring all the young men back.

They took up her rails many years ago,

but the M&M whistle still wails and blows,

‘cause an old steam engine still runs the line.

You can hear her whistle blow around suppertime.

A man named Kirby is her engineer,

She squeaks and she rattles as she’s drawing near.

She’s hauling cotton, and cattle and coal and grain.

You can even hear her brakeman yodel and sing.

Some are skeptic and don’t believe,

But I’ve heard her whistle on a summer’s eve.

If you have faith, you can set your clock,

by the Old Ghost Train to Little Rock.

***

 

 

 

Canine Cuisine

Once upon a time on an aisle in a grocery store,

Debby Martin searched for the healthiest dog food and treats, wanting only the best for her Dorkie (Dachshund and Yorkie mix) Kirby. Then, one Thanksgiving, after Kirby became sick from eating dressing from the table, Debby was determined to find out what dogs should and should not eat. Her discoveries surprised her – not about table food, but about commercial dog food.

“It’s been proven that some commercial products have tiny bits of the drug used to euthanize pets.” There can also be poisons and pesticides, said Debby. “I think over the years this builds up to the cancers we are seeing today.”

Thus began Debby’s seven-year journey from grocery store aisle to the kitchen. Questioning every ingredient in her canine’s diet, she researched holistic veterinarians and other websites on healthy food ingredients. In turn, she developed her own website to inform and educate others and to provide tried and trusted canine recipes.

“I started making Kirby’s treats and now he eats about 90 percent homemade. I just love creating the recipes. Kirby is very picky and won’t eat just anything.” 

Realizing, however, that one day her website might be gone, she wrote the canine chef cookbook to provide people with the same information and recipes on her website. The book includes sections on Wholesome Canine Nutrition, Recipes, and The Pantry. Within these sections, she includes pertinent information on healthy and harmful ingredients, food colors, tips and tricks, tools in the kitchen, and much more. Her ultimate goal: Pay attention to what your dog is eating. 

Take spices, for instance.

Holistic veterinarians consider garlic very healthy and safe for pets, but certain ingredients can be very dangerous, especially if your dog has health issues. 

“For example, Rosemary is beneficial for dogs, but if your dog is epileptic, it can cause seizures, whereas Nutmeg is extremely toxic for a dog,” said Debby. Always check with your vet first about the ingredients before cooking for your dog. “If you have any reservations about any ingredient, leave it out.” Table foods are fine as long as you know what’s in it.

Debby’s passion and concern for other people’s pets most likely grew when Kirby got sick. Sugar, Debby’s dog before Kirby, lived to be 15 years old. Though Debby did buy dry dog food, Sugar ate mostly table scraps from carefully prepared family meals that were low in sugar and fats. 

“So Sugar was really eating some very good food, said Debby. “He ended up living a long life and never had any illness.”

There is no moisture in kibble and a dog’s diet should be 70 percent water, explained Debby. Food that dry overworks the kidneys to reconstitute and break down that food. Over time, this can lead to kidney failure.

“Would you eat the same dry food every day?” she asked. “I don’t think a lot of people realize that. As humans, we try to avoid fast foods. It’s healthy for your pet to eat fresh foods, just like you.” Even if you don’t prepare every meal for your canine, make treats and supplement the dog food. Juicing is healthy for you and your pet, so pour a topper over your pet’s dry food. 

When Debby provides foster care to neglected and abandoned animals, she feeds them the same food Kirby eats. She admits to being an advocate for healthy pet diets, saying, “I keep a list on my refrigerator of things Kirby can and cannot eat so everyone knows.”

Kirby knows not to take treats from people because Debby doesn’t know what’s in that treat and a well-meaning bite can be dangerous.

“Your dog is a member of your family, so you want them to live longer. Think about what you are feeding them,” said Debby. “You feed your kids well so they will grow up healthy. Feed your dog with the same attitude.” 

BREAKOUT BOX:

http://thecaninechefcookbook.com/  –  All recipes in the cookbook are on the website for people who can’t afford the cookbook.  Debby responds to all emails and contact.

https://www.facebook.com/kirbythedorkie

the canine chef cookbook is available on Amazon, the Book Store on Main street and at Animal Medical Center, Starkville, Mississippi.

 

This article originally published in Town & Gown Magazine.

 

The Deason House

Built in 1845, the Deason home in Jones County, Mississippi stands as a Greek revival architectural gem from the antebellum era. As the oldest home in Ellisville, it was also the first painted home in the area and its detailed semi-octagonal vestibule is the only one of its kind known to exist in Mississippi, according to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

“It’s one of the oldest structures completely made of longleaf pines in the world because longleaf is only indigenous to the Southeast United States,” said Frances Murphy, Regent of the Tallahala Chapter of the Daughters of the Revolution (DAR). “Studies have shown that the wood was likely cut in the 1830s and the [longleaf pines] are estimated to have been growing in the late 1300s.”

The first owners, Amos and Eleanor Deason, built the home as a farmhouse.

In 1890, Isaac Anderson, Jr. and wife Sarah Rebecca “Sallie” Pool purchased the home and lived there until 1939 when it went into the Anderson estate. In 1965, Mrs. Frances Anderson Smith, a descendant of both Amos Deason and Isaac Anderson, Jr., bought the home and in 1991 presented it to the Tallahala Chapter.

“Actually a lot of the Chapter members are family or descendants of the Anderson family, so I guess you could say it’s still owned by the same family,” said Frances.

Oh, and by the way…it’s haunted.

“The claim to fame the home is most notoriously known for is that Major Amos McLemore, Confederate Army officer was shot and killed in the home during the Civil War by Newton Knight,” said Frances.

Newton Knight had deserted the Confederate Army because of the 20-slave law, which stated that a man owning 20 slaves or more didn’t have to fight. Knight, who had never owned a slave, felt the Civil War had become a “rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight.” Jones County, being mostly wooded country, wasn’t a good place to raise cotton and therefore very few slaves lived there as compared to the rest of the state, Frances explained. Other soldiers with the same sentiments deserted the Confederacy along with Knight. Major Amos McLemore, who was from the area, headed up the troops sent to round up these deserters.

“Newton and his men could have stormed the house and killed everybody, but Newton specifically targeted McLemore,” said Frances. Everyone accepts that Newton Knight killed Amos McLemore even though there was no eye witness to the crime and Newton was never charged. “From this event, the house got the reputation of being haunted.”

Every year, the Saturday before Halloween, the Deason Home hosts a reenactment of the McLemore shooting, with the assistance of the Rosin Heel Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

“They are dressed in Civil War Army uniforms and they sit around the campfire outside,” said Frances, adding that the ladies are dressed in the period costumes. When guests touring the home enter the bedroom where Major McLemore was shot, McLemore is waiting for them. “As he talks to the guests. the door flies open and Newton Knight rushes in. So guests get a little taste of what it was like when the shooting took place.”

The reenactment event, which has been going on for 20 years, is family friendly, said Frances, although it may be a little startling when the gun goes off.

“But nothing gory.”

Frances encourages parents to make the tour a family event because children experience what life was like during the war while learning about the oldest home in Jones County.

“It’s not your traditional Halloween spook house by any stretch of the imagination.”

The house will also be open Halloween night, but rather than a reenactment, the night will be a Ghost Tour with past residents of the house telling their stories.

After all, some stories never die…and some characters refuse to.

 

For information on special events, tours, cost, and space rental, visit the website: http://www.deasonhome.org/

photo courtesy of  The Deason House

Resolving Family Conflicts

We romanticize and glamorize families and we place great expectations and demands on them.

While we often expect families to be above the chaos that exists in the rest of society, that belief places unrealistic expectations upon them. In the real world, families are not always a haven, since they, too, can be filled with conflict.

Still at the very least, families are much more than groups of people who share the same genes or the same address. We look to our family as source of love and support. This does not mean that everyone gets all he or she wants or that it comes to us without struggle. Conflicts, then, are a part of family life and is the rule rather than the exception.

Families are under constant stress, being pushed and pulled from many directions.

Conflicts can come from many sources both internal and external. Parental conflict is commonplace. Sibling rivalry and competition and present. Parent-child conflict takes the cake. Death, illness, physical separation, financial strains, divorce are some of the events to which families have to adjust. Some families experience conflict as a result of different views about the world. Although stress and disagreements are common, they can be destructive to families, especially when conflict gets out of hand.

Parental conflict is common in many families and often leads to friction involving the entire family.

Most parental problems revolve around financial matters, infidelity, different views regarding child rearing and family decision making. Homes with high levels of parental conflict often have a tense and hostile environment is detrimental effects children. Children learn what they live.

Looking back at recorded history, it appears be common for brothers and sisters to fight. Sibling rivalry makes good literature but it’s not pleasant for anyone in the house. And a family can only tolerate a certain amount of it.

Parent-children conflicts are commonplace too.

As parents assert their authority, and children try to assert their autonomy appropriately, strife is inevitable. A parent-child power struggle can create conflict and stress for the entire family. Power struggles frequently appear when children reach certain developmental stages. Ask any parent who has parented a two year old or a teenager.

Change is a part of life. Issues such as illness, disability, addiction, job loss, school problems, and marital issues bring on additional levels of stress. Consequently, stability shouldn’t be the only measure of a family’s success. Many families function quite well, despite frequent disruptions. In fact, one important measure of a family’s success is its ability to adjust to change. Daily life is full of stresses that constantly demand accommodation.    

Another type of family conflict is lack of proper communication.

Many families communicate superficially and don’t have time to share meaningful conversations. The conflict in this arrangement is that there are no opportunities to discuss family values, and other important issues.

Yet despite these differences, parents are responsible for imparting to each child a sense of being loved and accepted, for helping each child to succeed at various developmental tasks, and for socializing each child into respecting the rules and accepting the responsibilities society imposes. These are indeed awesome tasks. Disagreements will happen as part of being in a family and living together.

In all the years I worked to help family members get-along better, I found things that stand out as true detriments to resolving these normal conflicts. I suggest the following remedies.

What’s A person To Do?

  1. Accept that conflict is normal. This the first step in dealing with it. Look for and use appropriate ways to deal with problems; the kind that promote growth and acceptance of each family member.

  2. Remember that the person in the conflict is someone you love and you want to preserve the integrity of the relationship. Winning the battle is not as important as the relationship.

  3. Refrain from unhealthy communication such as in yelling, cursing, blaming and insulting one another.

  4. Listen to each other and work to resolve conflicts. Do your best to see things from the other’s point of view. Psychologists call is empathizing.

  5. Focus on the issue at hand, not on past transgressions or the person’s character.

  6. When you speak, use a conversational tone. Loud voices increases emotionality which get in the way of resolving the conflict.

  7. Take leave (temporarily) when your emotions get the best of you. Cool down and return when you are more level headed.

  8. Life happens in ways you can’t predict. Welcome change and learn flexibility.

By Dr. Rachell Anderson