DESTINATION MISSISSIPPI

From the mighty river to the Gulf of Mexico,

Mississippi’s landscape spreads into hills, farmland, sandy beaches and the great piney woods and features a multitude of National and State landmarks and manmade destinations for families around the world to enjoy.  So why leave Mississippi for family summer vacation when these destinations are just around the corner from your house? Here are some favorite Mississippi destinations this summer:

Natchez 

With festivals, historical reenactments, musical tributes, parades, powwows, music and arts, and events with Tricentennial themes, there will be something for all ages. Discover Southern belles, cotton barons, Civil War soldiers, and Civil Rights pioneers while exploring antebellum homes and historical landmarks for a glimpse of the past. Visit museums for history on the Natchez Indians or daily life in antebellum Natchez. Enjoy bird watching, tour an ornate historic cemetery, or watch the sunset over the Mississippi River.

 

 

The Natchez Trace

Connecting Natchez to Nashville, Tennessee, the 444-mile long Natchez Trace Parkway penetrates incredible scenery and over 10,000 years of history.  The Old Trace was the path through early Choctaw and Chickasaw lands used by American Indians, “Kaintucks,” settlers, and future presidents. This path became a vital, though rugged, roadway for General Andrew Jackson and his troops during the Creek War. The seven mound groups along Natchez Trace parkway in Mississippi display rich American Indian culture and legacy. Today along the Natchez Trace, families can hike, bike, horseback ride, and camp in this resilient, almost untouched territory.  The Natchez Trace Corridor Birding Trail features six state parks and one natural area perfect for bird viewing.

The Mississippi River Trail

From its headwaters in Itasca, Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi River Trail offers approximately 3,000 miles of on-road bikeways, pedestrian and bicycle pathways for the recreational enjoyment, health, conservation and tourism development of river communities, river states, and the nation. As a part of the Southern Trail, Great River Road State Park provides a breathtaking natural landscape ideal for picnics and a 75-foot high overlook tower for panoramic views of the Mississippi River. Along this trail, Leroy Percy State Park, the oldest of Mississippi’s state parks, has artesian springs, cypress trees and ancient oaks dripping with Spanish moss and is the only state park with a wildlife preserve. Natchez State Park is located approximately 10 miles north historic Natchez, the oldest settlement on the Mississippi River. 

Mississippi Children’s Museum (MCM)

This 40,000 square foot museum houses five galleries of educational, interactive exhibits and enriching weekly programs that focus on literacy; health and nutrition; the cultural arts; science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM); and Mississippi heritage.  The Literacy Garden encourages early language and reading skills development. MCM has been recognized for excellence by the Association of Children’s Museums, Trip Advisor, Parents & Kids Magazine, and Mississippi Magazine. Exhibits include the World at Work Gallery, Exploring Mississippi Gallery, Healthy Fun Gallery, Express Yourself Gallery, Wild About Reading Gallery, and Wild About Reading Gallery.

 

 

Mississippi Museum of Natural Science

Located in Jackson, Mississippi, this 73,000-square foot complex introduces you to a world of exciting exhibits, nature trails and an open-air amphitheater. Here you enjoy a series of life-size displays like the Monsters of the Deep exhibit as well as a 1,700-square foot gigantic greenhouse aptly called The Swamp. Children enjoy their interactive aquarium where they handle live marine creatures and learn more about how to conserve the environment.

 

 

 

Old Capitol Museum

Built in 1839 and restored to its original grandeur, the Old Capital reopened as a free museum focusing on the history of the building and the events that took place there. Interactive multimedia exhibits explore the roles of the legislature, governor, and high court, as well as the importance of historic preservation to the state, the activities that took place in the building after the New Capitol was constructed in 1903, and much more. A National Historic Landmark, The Old Capitol is one of the country’s premier examples of Greek Revival public architecture with a limestone exterior, copper dome, and massive interior spaces. Enjoy a guided tour that covers the construction of the building as the statehouse, its architect and caretakers, and the ways the Old Capitol has been used.

Smith Robertson Museum

Located near the State Capitol in Jackson, this museum houses art, artifacts, and photography, the work, lifestyle, and artistic contributions of African Americans to not only celebrate their heritage, but evoke a greater understanding of the African-American experience in the deep south. Exhibits such as From Slavery to America, 1670-1864 and in the Hall of Fame, which includes personalities from the state who are pioneers in their respective positions highlight the contributions of black Mississippians through struggle and achievement. In addition, the museum houses the Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition Services organized exhibition, Field to Factory: The Afro-American Migration, 1915-1940, which explores and interprets the great migration of African-Americans from the rural South to the urban North. 

Mississippi Petrified Forest

The Mississippi Petrified Fhttps://www.mspetrifiedforest.comorest lies within hills and ravines hollowed out by nature during the past century. According to the size of the petrified logs, as living trees, these stones were over one hundred feet tall and could be over a thousand years old. According to history, a thunderous, flood-swollen river snatched everything in its path as it roared southward, ripping into ancient trees, leaving behind only remnants to settle deep into the watery ooze. More floods from the North sent more sand and silt, burying the old trees even deeper and petrifying the living trees into stone logs. The perfect spot for history and science discussions while having fun, families enjoy a Nature Trail where nature continues to thrive alongside the huge stone logs that are close enough to touch. There is also a museum, campground, gem mining flume.

Vicksburg Military National Park

Vicksburg National Military Park offers historical, cultural, and natural resources through options tailored to the visitor’s interest and timeframe. Included is the U.S.S. Cairo, one of seven ironclad gunboats named in honor of towns along the upper Mississippi and Ohio rivers. These powerful ironclads were formidable vessels, each mounting thirteen big guns (cannon).  The Heritage Garden is based on the typical Victorian-era kitchen garden, flower beds, and traditional commodities grown on 19th-century southern farms. Visitors also discover the 116-acre Vicksburg National Cemetery that holds the remains of 17,000 Civil War Union soldiers, more than any other national cemetery. “Soldiers’ Rest,” the plot in Cedar Hill Cemetery, is the final resting place for an estimated 5,000 Confederate soldiers. The African American Monument memorializes over 178,000 black soldiers who served in the Union army and the almost 18,000 African-Americans who joined the Union navy. Service figures for the Confederate States remain unknown. Licensed Park Guides make history come alive at Vicksburg National Military Park through their knowledge of civilian life and military operations of the campaign, siege, and defense of Vicksburg in the spring and summer of 1863.  Visitors may also use the self-guided driving tour

Chotard Landing Resort

Located 20 miles north of Vicksburg, off of Highway 61 North, 24 miles on Highway 465, Chotard Landing Resort sets on the banks of Chotard Lake, a Mississippi River Oxbow.  Chotard Landing Resort offers a place of tranquility for the Fisherman and Outdoors Person. A large common area with grills and tables under the tavern accommodate family cookouts, reunions and all kinds of outdoor get-togethers. Fish and hunt on the Mississippi River oxbow lakes and over 100,000 acres of public land. Bait and fishing supplies are available, as well as a boat ramp. Guided fishing tours available.

Clarkco State Park

Located just south of Meridian near the Mississippi-Alabama state line, Clarkco State Park has been a favorite Mississippi recreation spot since 1938. Situated on 815 acres of gently rolling woodlands, Clarkco State Park offers camping, cabin rentals, and water sports in a convenient, unspoiled location for an afternoon or weekend getaway. There are 43 camping sites, 7 primitive tent camping sites, 20 vacation cabins, and 1 vacation cottage plus laundry facilities, picnic sites, pavilions, playgrounds, playing fields, nature trails, tennis courts, disc golf. Clarkco lake offers a boat launch, fishing and water skiing, plus a zero depth splash pad. 

Dunn’s Falls

The 65-foot waterfall in Lauderdale County, just outside of Meridian, was once used as a power source for a gristmill and the manufacture of Stetson hats. The park is a natural wildlife refuge with a picnic area with barbecue grills, a gristmill pond, hiking and swimming areas. The 1857 grist mill was moved from Cave Springs, Georgia in 1987 and reconstructed on the site of Dunn’s original mill, as well as the rustic homestead fascinate history buffs. Stocked with catfish and complete with ducks, the mill pond and picnic area are a great spot for a family outing. Here you can fish, canoe and swim or enjoy the nature trails weaving through the woods where wild turkey, deer, squirrels and other wildlife run free. Historic Carroll-Richardson Gristmill is also open for tours.  Also available are primitive camping sites.

Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) 

Over 150,000 visitors annually participate in activities including fishing, hunting, hiking, wildlife photography, wildlife observation, environmental education, and research at Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge. Photographers capture photos of alligators, waterfowl, warblers and other species living in the refuge. The 42,500-acre refuge serves as an outdoor classroom for Mississippi State University and other local educational institutions and was designed by the National Audubon Society as an Important Bird Area (IBA), one of five of global importance in Mississippi. Four green-tree reservoirs (GTRs), two major lakes (Bluff Lake – 900 acres and Loakfoma Lake – 400 acres), 16 small impoundments, and assorted wetland areas provide important habitat for the wood stork, American alligator, bald eagle, and wintering waterfowl. Here, fishing programs promote understanding and appreciation of natural resources and their management on all lands and waters in the refuge system. The refuge visitor center exhibit hall features a timeline describing how the land was formed, what it is now and how it is managed, and the creatures inhabiting it. Guided walks and talks by volunteers provide opportunities for visitors to connect to wildlife.  Enjoy great views of alligators and look for any of the seven species of common wading birds.  Boardwalks and overlooks provide great vantage points as well, so bring your binoculars and camera.

Elvis Presley Birthplace

Mississippi legend Elvis Presley returned to his hometown Tupelo on September 27, 1957 to perform a benefit concert for a new Youth Center and park in Tupelo. The proceeds helped purchase his birthplace and as well as build a park for the neighborhood children. Within the Elvis Presley Birthplace Park visitors find the Birthplace, Museum, Chapel, Gift Shop, “Elvis at 13” statue, Fountain of Life, Walk of Life, “Memphis Bound” car feature and Story Wall.

 

 

The B. B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center

Located on Highway 82 between Greenwood and Greenville, in the Mississippi Delta, close to the Crossroads at Clarksdale, The B. B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center honors the life and music of B. B. King. Museum exhibits and educational programs build bridges between the community and the world and preserve the Mississippi Delta’s rich cultural and musical heritage. Exhibits explore King’s 60-plus year career through Mr. King’s personal papers, materials, and objects from his life and work, and multi-media and film.

Delta Blues Museum

The Delta Blues Museum, Mississippi’s oldest music museum, is housed in the historic Clarksdale freight depot, which was built in 1918 for the Yazoo and Mississippi Valley Railroad. The Museum preserves, interprets, and encourages interest in the blues and its story. The museum’s hometown, Clarksdale, situated where Highways 61 and 49 connect, has been a center for blues culture since the 1920s. Numerous music legends have been born and raised in this Delta area, such as Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Son House, Ike Turner, Jackie Brenston, Sam Cooke, Junior Parker, and W. C. Handy. Today, visitors flock to Clarksdale where the blues culture has been preserved and the Delta blues tradition continues. The museum offers many current exhibits.

Tanglefoot Trail®

In advance of National Trails Day in 2015, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis designated 10 local and state trails as national recreation trails, adding more than 150 miles to the National Trails System. Tanglefoot Trail® was included. Mississippi’s longest Rails to Trails, preserves the abandoned 43.6-mile railroad corridor passing through the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in the Mississippi Hills National Heritage. These rails were assembled in part for the Gulf and Ship Island Railroad by Col. William Clark Falkner, beginning in 1871.  Replacing the rails with a trail, the Tanglefoot Trail® offers outdoor opportunities to families, groups and visitors of every age. The Tanglefoot Trail® towns include Houston, New Houlka, Algoma, Pontotoc, Ecru, Ingomar, and New Albany.

African American Military History Museum

Opened in 1942, in the segregated army of World War II, the USO Club served as a home away from home for African American soldiers stationed at Camp Shelby and is the only remaining USO constructed especially for African American soldiers in public use in the United States. It is now listed on the National Registry of Historic Places and is a Mississippi Landmark. Hundreds of artifacts, photos and unique displays, including one of the most complete sets of authentic Spanish-American War medals, fill the restored main hall. Each item tells a story of pioneers such as Hattiesburg’s own Jesse L. Brown, America’s first black naval aviator, and lesser-known heroes such as Ruth Bailey Earl, also of Hattiesburg, whose image and actions represented the more than 500 black nurses who served during World War II. Docent-guided and self-guided tour, available Wednesday-Saturday, last approximately 45 minutes to an hour. 

Landrum’s Homestead & Village

The beautifully landscaped Landrum’s Homestead & Village is located off Highway 15 in Laurel. With exhibits, wagon rides, gem mining, nature trails, a Confederate soldier encampment, an Old West Shooting Gallery, and a Native American Village, every visitor steps back into the late 1800s. In addition, through a partnership with the USDA Forest Service and the Mississippi Forestry Commission, the Landrum’s created an educational display on the Civilian Conservation Corps and South Mississippi’s reforestation history to show the importance of preservation and conservation. Biscuits are cooked on an old wood stove and there is a nature trail and a small lake with a pier where people can feed the catfish.  You can also play horseshoes and basketball.

Ship Island

Ship Island played an important role in the history and settlement of the Gulf Coast. In 1699, French explorers named Ship Island, which soon became an important port for French Louisiana. Here, many colonists took their first steps on American soil and Ship Island became known as the “Plymouth Rock” of the Gulf Coast. Once a single island, 1969’s Hurricane Camille split the land mass in two. Ship Island with its tranquil stretches of National Park beaches offers an affordable family vacation to explore, swim and relax for a fun-filled day.  Experience the pristine gulf waters, explore the beaches and tour historic Fort Massachusetts, all part of Gulf Islands National Seashore. Mississippi’s finest beaches are located on Ship Island approximately 11 miles south of Gulfport and Biloxi and are accessible by Ship Island Excursions’ ferry boats, located in the Gulfport Small Craft Harbor. During the 50- minute ferry boat ride, watch for Bottlenose dolphins. Ship Island MS

 

The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies

Located in Gulfport, Mississippi, the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies (IMMS) is an educational outlet with programs for conservation, education and research of marine mammals and their environment.  The facility also houses an educational museum, a 200 seat auditorium for media presentations and lectures, classrooms, a state-of-the-art veterinary hospital, and more. Visitors of all ages engage in hands-on learning experiences to help them understand and appreciate the species that make Mississippi Gulf Coast waters unique. Explore the interactive museum, and encounter sea creatures such as stingrays, sharks, horseshoe crabs, fish, blue crabs, sea stars, and sea urchins in the new Discovery Room touch pools. There is a fossil dig and a dock to meet dolphins face-to-face.

 

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.

***

 

 

 

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

Build A Village…and They will Come

Thomas Landrum of Laurel, Mississippi didn’t set out to build a village.  It just…happened.

The village started as a business of handcrafted pine furniture, which has now been in business for over 33 years, explained Deborah (Landrum) Upton.

“My dad said the grandchildren didn’t appreciate how the people used to live and how their ancestors lived, worked and built their homes.”

Tom Landrum took the kids into the woods where they logged the trees and had a portable sawmill come in cut the wood into boards. This family project started in 2003.

“There was no master plan,” said Deborah.  “We started the first cabin. As soon as we got the cabin built we filled it with old things.” 

Today, that one cabin is one of 70 buildings located in the beautifully landscaped Landrum’s Homestead & Village located off Highway 15 in Laurel. With exhibits, wagon rides, gem mining, nature trails, a Confederate soldier encampment, an Old West Shooting Gallery, and a Native American Village, every visitor steps back into the late 1800s. In addition, through a partnership with the USDA Forest Service and the Mississippi Forestry Commission, the Landrums created an educational display on the Civilian Conservation Corps and South Mississippi’s reforestation history to show the importance of preservation and conservation. Biscuits are cooked on an old wood stove and there is a nature trail and a small lake with a pier where people can feed the catfish.  You can also play horseshoes and basketball.

 

“We do all kinds of groups and see a lot of families,” said Deborah. “Kids who come say it is their fifth time here.  We have families that come on a regular basis because they can bring a picnic lunch or tour.  They go at their own pace.  Nobody is rushing you through.”

Deborah grew up as the oldest of five children and during their travels, they always used the back roads, never the interstates.  Plus, they camped in a tent.

“Dad and Mom were always into history and preserving history,” said Deborah. “Dad always said that’s where you see things on the back roads.”

In today’s world of technology, a place like Landrum’s Homestead & Village is important to children. We don’t have conversations anymore, said Deborah. “What we’ve found is that when kids come here on a trip they can feel and see things and experience things they can’t get from a computer.”

The Landrum family always has a project going, but the one thing Deborah hopes people take home with them is a sense of family.

“This is my mom’s family land,” said Deborah. “We have a connection to the land. But when kids and other families are here, you see they are connected as well.”

At Landrum’s Homestead & Village, you hear and share stories of what was, but leave with a sense of heritage and an understanding of why heritage will always be important to future generations.

 

Website: http://landrums.com/

Open year round Monday – Saturday from 9 – 5

Walk-ins welcome!

 

Photos courtesy of Landrum’s Homestead & Village 

Originally published in Parents & Kids Magazine and Brad Smith

Antebellum Days (Part 3)

AGRICULTURE

The success of cotton production in the south is actually due to Massachusetts resident and Yale graduate, Eli Whitney, who patented his cotton gin invention in 1794. According to Mississippi Forests and Forestry even though cotton production greatly improved because of the Whitney’s gin, planters didn’t want to pay the high cost required to use the gin, which had been installed throughout the southern states. The cost was two-fifths of the profits paid in cotton itself. Because of this, disgruntled planters designed their own machines after Eli Whitney’s invention giving no regard to the violation of Whitney’s patent #72X dated March 14, 1794.

In 1795, John Barclay, a Natchez planter who had seen Eli Whitney’s gin in South Carolina, and Wilkinson County planter, Daniel Clark, Sr. developed a crude gin much like Whitney’s.  Barclay and Clark’s pirated machine brought mass production capabilities to the cotton industry that would soon dominate commercial agriculture in the Mississippi Territory.

Whitney and his partner, Phineas Miller, fought for the patent rights to the cotton gin with costly law suits against the owners of the pirated versions, but a loophole in the wording of the patent, which didn’t change until 1800, seriously delayed the process. Whitney never collected the monies due him. 

After the War of 1812 and the inauguration of Mississippi into the Union in 1817,

east central Mississippi, wherein Lauderdale County lies, developed the plantation order of raising cotton, selling it to English markets for approximately ten cents a pound. Two decades passed before the territory improved its cotton production, not due to the gin, but to the early varieties of cotton, such as the Creole strain imported from Siam. Though it was of high quality and yield it was difficult to pick and subject to disease.  The Tennessee green seed was immune to disease and rot, but was deficient in quality and yield.  Around 1820, a type of Mexican cotton characterized by easy-to-pick large open bolls appeared and during the next decade, this strain was crossed with Tennessee green seed, producing a hybrid that flourished throughout the South. This species, later refined by Dr. Rush Nutt and other planters, became known as Petit Gulf Cotton.

Cotton money became as well established as cotton and in 1822

the legislature established a uniform system for handling this money. This system allowed ginners to issue receipts certifying the number of pounds of cotton delivered to the gin. In turn, the receipt was used like money in settling debts or handling other business operations.  Cotton money enabled planters to operate on the basis of cotton that would be available in good salable condition at the ginner’s warehouse.

The early 1830’s expansion, including the establishment of Lauderdale County through the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, in the United States was fueled by the widespread construction of new railroads and canals. The government had sold millions of acres of public lands, mostly to speculators who hoped their well-located parcels would increase in value as the railroads and canals drew settlers into the area.

The Tariff of 1833 and government land sales brought wealth into the Treasury’s reserve.

In 1835, President Andrew Jackson paid off the national debt and the American Treasury rapidly accumulated a surplus. Congress passed a measure to distribute the surplus to the states. This surplus was invested in more railroads and canals.

As high cotton prosperity thrived in mid 1830’s, more and more forests were sacrificed for fields. Though production of cotton greatly improved and increased, corn remained the principal staple in the south throughout the antebellum period.  Easily grown all over Mississippi, corn was an important food crop to everyone, including hogs, cattle, and other livestock. The long growing season allowed for two crops of corn to be planted each year, one in early March and the other in late May or June.  Cotton seed was used as a fertilizer and cowpeas were planted between the rows of corn to reduce erosion and add nitrogen to improve the soil’s fertility. 

The boom reached its height with a wealth of cheap land, lenient credit prerequisites from state banks, and high prices.  More banks had been established and were issuing notes with no regard for solvency. State government and individuals hoarded gold and silver and used paper notes to discharge debts instead. Thousands of immigrants, planters, farmers, and speculators poured into Mississippi to reap the rewards.

Alarmed by the vast amount of state bank notes paying for public land purchases,

before leaving office, President Andrew Jackson issued Executive Order passing the Specie Circular (Coinage Act) that commanded the Treasury to no longer accept paper notes as payment for such sales. Gold and silver would be the only acceptable payment for government land.

It would be up to newly elected President Martin Van Buren to carry out that order in early 1837 when he stepped into the new administration and a major bank crisis. Banks began restricting credit and calling in loans while depositors rushed to their banks to withdraw their funds. Unemployment affected the entire nation and food riots broke out in large cities. Construction companies who couldn’t meet their obligations sparked the collapse of railroad and canal projects, and damage to thousands of land speculators.

The Panic of 1837 left the country’s economy in ruins, severely hampering the cotton trade with federal tariffs and duties. In 1838, almost $7,000,000 of “paper” money was still in circulation.  Nevertheless, as Mississippi intensified its efforts in industrial development, by 1840 east central Mississippi’s cotton production had doubled, as had its Negro slave laborers.

In 1850, the East Central Mississippi developed it agricultural and forestry resources with cotton gins, sawmills, farm implement manufacturers, grain millers carriage makers, and leather finishers,  adding greatly to the industrial capital investment. The 1850 Census records for Lauderdale County reveal that the white population was 6,052 and the slave population was 2,661. The 1850 Agriculture census reveals the following annual statistics for the year ending June 1, 1850:

Acres of improved land: 51,386

Acres of unimproved land: 86,714

Livestock:       horses – 2,080

                        Asses and mules – 418

                        Milch cows – 4,839

                        Working oxen – 1,695

                        Other cattle – 6,580

                        Sheep – 6,191

                        Swine – 28,481

Bushels of wheat: 2,808

Bushels of rye: 109

Bushels of Indian corn: 324,459

Bushels of oats: 21,771

Pounds of rice: 102,203                     

Pounds of tobacco: 1,529

Bales of cotton (400 lbs. each): 4,195

Pounds of wool: 10,500

Bushels of peas and beans: 15,411

Bushels of Irish potatoes:  3,705

Bushels of Sweet potatoes: 111,444

Bushels of barley: 20

Bushels of buckwheat: 150

Pounds of butter: 69,034

Pounds of cheese: 888

Toss of hay: 10

Pounds of hop: 20

Pounds of beeswax honey: 20,344

By 1860, corn remained the major staple crop in Lauderdale County,

enjoying an increase in production of approximately 46-47%. However, from 1850 to 1860 the county’s cotton production rose by astonishing amounts with an enormous increase of approximately 370%.

by Richelle Putnam

Antebellum Days (Part 2) – Social and Religion

RELIGION

Religion played a huge part in “taming” the wild country, but it wasn’t easy with settlers scattered throughout the terrain and travel being difficult. From 1817 to 1860 religion grew rapidly, but because most early churches were on preaching circuits, the clergy couldn’t perform adequately.

Baptists grew in numbers, but disagreed on many issues.

The Mississippi Baptist Association, formed in 1806, witnessed the pulling away of several churches to form the Union Association in 1819. The next year, other Baptist groups formed the Pearl River Association.  Still some were divided on the question of missionary work, some firmly believing that it was God’s duty to convert the heathen. Many refused to join the State Convention, which had been organized at Clear Creek Church in Washington. There were more divisions in the Baptist denomination than any other. Disputes within the church started from its inception over such things as doctrine and practices and matters such as whether or not to use instruments in church or the controversial issue of Freemasonry.

By 1860, according to Mississippi: A History, the Methodist denomination had the largest number of churches in the State of Mississippi with the Baptist Denomination having the largest number of members.

Mississippi’s antebellum period ushered in the birth of the camp meeting,

now known as the revival, and temperance societies who fought against sinful vices. In 1854, the Mississippi Legislature, according to A History of Mississippi, Volume I, passed a local option measure forbidding the allowance of retailing liquor in any police town or district, unless approved by a legal majority vote.

Baptist and Methodist Churches began sprouting up in Lauderdale County around 1838, becoming the center of family life and setting rules that would prohibit unbecoming behavior such as drinking whiskey, gambling, fighting, dancing, fiddling, or doing business on Sundays, such as bartering livestock. Even allowing stock to trespass on a neighbor’s property was an offense in the church’s eye. If a church member violated one of the many rules, he or she could be brought before the congregation to defend the accusation or ask forgiveness for the “sin.” If the church didn’t pardon the wrongdoing, said member could be expelled from the church and face public disgrace.

EVERYDAY/SOCIAL LIFE

The community of Marion grew politically, economically, and socially as the county seat. Concerts and cotillion parties held at the Mansion House roused the environment with lively entertainment. West of the square, in the big gray barn, square dances were held. Outside the village, bets were placed at the horse track. Along the square, women shopped at Harper and Banes (Bains) store and purchased medicinal products from the Ragland and Company Drug Store, such as Jacob’s Cordial, morphine, and even fine brandy and Spanish cigars.  The billiard hall with card tables and the tavern stayed packed. Close to election time, political rallies lured large crowds from miles around and festivities included feasting, drinking, and horse-racing.  Travelers checked into the Banes Hotel where they dined before going out for entertainment. If the Banes proved to be too pricey, the Preston House at Old Marion better accommodated the pocketbook.

Lack of medical care sparked home remedies from plants and roots,

many prepared by slaves. Lauderdale Springs was an area of natural springs known for its “curative properties” and was a gathering place for the early Native Americans and Mississippi settlers. White sulphur springs produced water “good for the stomach”, while the water from the spout springs allegedly healed kidney problems and arthritis. Skin diseases and constipation were also treated here.

Around 1854, with the increase of visitors to the Lauderdale Springs area,

a resort complete with two-story hotel, cottages, bath houses, and a dance pavilion, and resort was opened in the area under the management of B. B. Smith.  A “first class” stage line provided by the resort ferried guests to and from the hotel to Lauderdale and Marion Stations. The railroad’s spur line ran from “Spring Depot” at Lauderdale to the resort.

Antebellum Days – Schools (Part 1)

In Lauderdale County’s early days, education revolved around household activities and everyday survival.

Living off the land required the backbone of most household members, from fetching water from a nearby creek to firewood for cooking and staying warm.

The first school in the territory had been established for Choctaw children by Presbyterian Missionaries in 1824 at Coosa Indian Village, six years before the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek and the death of Indian Chief Pushmataha in Washington, D. C.   Evidence of white men living among the Choctaws was reported the 1831 Armstrong Choctaw Indian Census of the area, which was before the Indian Removal Act.

Somewhere around 1835, after log homes and a few churches had been built,

settlers began seriously considering their children’s education. Families in a somewhat close proximity of one another banded together to establish what was known as a “patron” school, where one settler furnished a log cabin, another furnished wood and bare necessities, such as tables, chairs, etc., and everyone pitched in to the pay the teacher.  The teacher and/or the patrons provided the few books for the schoolhouse.

Schools operated in various time increments, one or more months at a time, in different locations in the vicinity due to poor transportation capabilities. The school house was usually located near a water spring or creek to assure ample water supply. Often church, community meetings, and Justice of the Peace court were held in the school. Often, when a new community church was built, the school relocated into the old church building.

These schools were referred to as academies,

such as White Sulphur Springs Academy in Lauderdale and Walnut Springs Academy in the Alamucha area. By the 1840’s, patron schools existed in or near Marion, Alamucha, Sageville, Bailey, Suqualena, and Lauderdale and taught grades one and two for one or two 4-month periods each year.  Higher Education academies were Marion Academy established in 1837, and Alamucha, formed in 1838.  Later academies were Pinckney-Vaughn Academy and the Cook Academy.

On May 9, 1837, the State Legislature passed an Act to incorporate the first trustees of the Marion Academy.

They were James Ruton, James Murry, Benjamin T. Larke, John R. Leath, Isaac Barr, John F. Chester, Horatio B. Warbington and Theodore S. Swift. These trustees were empowered to receive donations, purchase or mortgage real estate, these purchases not to exceed $5000 and personal estate not to exceed $10,000.  Another stipulation was that the academy could not be located more than one mile from Marion.

The Board of Police, formed by the laws of the State of Mississippi in 1841, established further guidelines for the state’s public school system, including the appointment of a school commissioner for each of the five Police Districts in Lauderdale County.  The Board of the Police retained most of the power over the school system.

No Board of Police existed until the 1832 Constitution of the State of Mississippi, and even then the Sheriff retained most of the power until the 1840’s and 50’s.

The Board of Police divided each respective county into five districts and from each district, qualified voters elected one member for the term prescribed in the constitution under the rules and regulations the board had adopted. The first members of the Board of Police served for a period of 18 months until the second election, which was for a period of two years.

Lauderdale County set up five districts in April 1834, but no records exist since the records were burned in a courthouse fire at Old Marion in November 1837.

On November 16, 1847, the Lauderdale County Board of Police composed the following:

“Whereas the Board of Police (forerunner of the Board of Supervisors) for the county have held their meetings without any rules of order governing themselves, which has by allowing wrangling and disorder greatly delayed the transaction of business and prevents any dignity from attaching itself to their court, and thus tended to detract from their authority – giving occasion for idle and jesting remarks calculated to bring the board into contempt – we therefore the members of the board of police for Lauderdale County do for the more speedy and regular transaction of business, and for the respect we bear for each other, for our government to adhere and maintain the said rules and such others as we may from time to time find it necessary to adopt.” This was signed by L. B. Banes, President; Isaac G. Suttles; L. B. Moore; Daniel Cameron; and A. (Abie) Clay.

The Jan. 24, 1854 Lauderdale Republican recorded that bids were being taken on the building of Alamucha Academy, Marion, evidencing its longevity.

1854 – 1856 – A Directory of Marion, MS compiled by Fred W. Edmiston from the Lauderdale Republican

 

by Richelle Putnam

 

 

And We Cry Timber (Part Four)

By the time Mississippi Governor Martin S. Conner left office in 1936, there was a treasury surplus.

Agriculture now a diminishing major employer for the state, Conner had helped establish the “Balance Agriculture With Industry” (B.A.W.I) program that pulled outside capital into Mississippi and assured locally financed factory construction and tax exemptions.

The arrival of the pulp and paper industry to the South provided an outlet for parts of the wood that had otherwise been considered worthless. In the thirties, the price of pulpwood was from twenty-five to fifty cents a cord stumpage. But as more and more pulp mills were established and competition for wood increased, the price per cord stumpage increased drastically. Timber men realized they could actually invest in their forests, which in turn helped promote the need for forestry in Mississippi.

U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt emphasized the importance of establishing national forests.

Mississippi Senator Pat Harrison, then chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, would be instrumental in designating $50 million for land purchases.  Appointed as forest supervisor from August 1933 through June 1940, Ray M. Conarro located, surveyed and purchased lands that designated the original Mississippi national forests.  The surveys concentrated on areas belonging to large land owners, such as the Long-Bell Lumber Company who was the major landowner of the Quitman unit in Lauderdale, Newton, Clarke, Newton and Jasper counties.

Just north of Meridian, the firm of Sumter Lumber Company operated at Electric Mills, which had earned its name because the mill there was considered the first in the south to be powered by electricity in a time when everybody else was using steam engines and belts. When Electric Mills stopped production sometime in 1939, some of the timber was bought by Flintkote in Meridian.

By 1937, private owners controlled 75 percent of the country’s forests,

but employed less than 10 percent professional foresters.  Flintkote of Meridian and DeWeese Lumber Company in Neshoba County were among the first to hire actual foresters.  Flintkote purchased cutover land in eastern Mississippi, comprising approximately 90 thousand acres which served as a pulpwood reserve for the Meridian plant. This land would be overseen year round by experienced woodsmen and three graduate foresters.  One of these foresters was Arthur W. Nelson, Jr.

In the 1930’s, after receiving his B. S. degree in forestry at the University of Idaho and a Masters in Forestry from the Yale Forest School, Arthur W. Nelson, Jr. learned that if he wanted to really accomplish something in forestry during his life, he should head south.  In 1940, Nelson was hired by Meridian’s Flintkote to handle the forestry and timber procurement for a new wood fiber insulation board mill. At the time, the company’s properties consisted of mostly abandoned, sub-marginal land. Mississippi Forests and Forestry states that Nelson impressed with the incredibly fast timber growth and quoted him as saying that “if nature was given just half a chance—a little fire protection—saving some seed trees—the forest would start on its way back.” From his observations of the “cut out and get out” era, he noted that because lumbermen harvested mostly 200-300 hundred year-old trees in a neglected forest, they believed it would be take too long to wait for another crop to mature to cutting age. An abandoned field left over from clear cutting that had seeded up directly in pine seedlings originated the term ‘old field’ stand.

In 1943, the tree farm movement infiltrated the state.

Nelson also pointed out that the pulp and paper market supplied a market for smaller trees.  In only a few years, landowners could enjoy a cash return on the simple thinning and removing trees that hindered the growing of larger trees for poles and saw logs.  Private forestry became practical and profitable. In the early years of forestry, fire-fighting equipment was limited to backpack pumps, fire flaps, and hand rakes. Tall trees served as fire towers for lookout posts.  During Nelson’s tenure at Flintkote, he used a backpack pump and carried spare water in old milk jugs. Foresters did not utilize two-way radios until 1946.  Therefore communication concerning forest fires was limited from fire tower to fire tower. By 1955 Mississippi led the entire nation in progressive forestry practices used by private forest owners. Public and private foresters, through the efforts of forestry and the aide of Mother Nature, had witnessed the incredible revival of Mississippi’s great forests. Nelson remained Chief Forester for the Flintkote Company until 1957.

In 1956, Mississippi lumber mills started utilizing residue from coarse sawmill for pulp chips.  One of the first lumber companies to attain complete use of its raw material was Sanders Lumber Company in Meridian.

For more than a century, agriculture had been the primary way of life in Lauderdale County.

When the experimentation of the raising of livestock arrived, livestock and dairy herds began rivaling cotton and row farming and lessening the role of agriculture in Lauderdale County’s economy.  For instance, agriculture employment in 1930 was approximately 43,680 as compared to 1968 when the State Employment Security Commission estimated it to be only 9,300 persons, according to Overall Economic Development Program for East Central Mississippi, East Central Economic Development District.  Nevertheless, agricultural sales in 1930 totaled $200,513,000 while in 1966 they totaled of $908.1 million. This huge contradiction in numbers can be contributed to the increase of agricultural machinery, such as machine planters, crop harvesters and tractors with tillage. Mechanization had enabled large farm owners to dominate the agricultural industry, but regrettably they left the small farm owners little to profit from.

After WWII, manufacturing employment in Lauderdale County was approximately 4,000 employees, earning $6,500,000 in annual wages. The United States Census Bureau defined a farm as being as a place comprising of at least 10 acres devoted to farming or selling at $50 worth of agricultural products annually.  According to this definition, Lauderdale County has 1,673 farms in 1959 with farm size averaging 129 acres.  71% of all counties in the US had a greater proportion of land in farms than Lauderdale County, MS.  In the 1960’s, Meridian became the second largest city in the state and the only advanced industrially developed urban area as compared to other counties located in Mississippi’s eastern central district.

Arthur Nelson, after relocating to Texas to work for Champion’s Timber and Chemical and Woodlands Division in Texas, becoming Vice President for natural resources in 1969 and vice president for industry affairs in 1973, retired to Meridian where he managed his tree farm.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

 

by Richelle Putnam

Resources for Part 1, 2, 3, 4

Jim Dawson, History of Lauderdale County, Mississippi School System, Edited by doug little and Birdie Mae Rogers, 1988 Lauderdale County Department of Archives and History.

Mississippi: a History, John K. Bettersworth, copyright 1959, The Steck Company

http://www.foresthistory.org/

A History of Mississippi, Volume I, University and College Press of Mississippi

The Mississippi Territory and the Southwest Frontier, 1795-1817 by Robert V. Haynes

http://shock.military.com/misc/installations/Base_Content.jsp?id=3265

http://mshistory.k12.ms.us/index.php?s=extra&id=144

http://inventors.about.com/cs/inventorsalphabet/a/cotton_gin_2.htm

http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:t56ByLNr8XIJ:www.concordiasentinel.com/archives.php%3Fid%3D1686+Poindexter+and+Abijah+Hunt&cd=5&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us

Overall Economic Development Program for East Central Mississippi, East Central Economic Development District, Inc., 1969, Newton, Mississippi

The New Book of Knowledge, Grolier Incorporated, 2001

And We Cry Timber! (Part 3)

Rails extended into undeveloped forest areas where timber was harvested,

creating, in turn, new fields for farmers to plant. Lumber and cotton mills sprang up all over Lauderdale County causing growth and wealth to the smaller communities outside Meridian, such as Suqualena and Pine Springs where cotton and timber were abundant. Dummy lines, which connected to the main rails, ran from Meehan’s Cotton States Lumber Company into the woods around Collinsville and also from Clarke County’s Long Bell Lumber Company into the southeastern corner of Lauderdale County where Whynot and Causeyville reaped the rewards of the timber boom. The harvest was a special event relished by all and log rollings were the main attraction.

Other communities enjoyed the benefits of timber, cotton, and rails,

according to Paths to the Past, such as the predominantly African American community called Wilsondale, named for Professor Thomas Jefferson Wilson, and Chunky Station where McDonald and Company turpentine distillery had operated, along with several sawmills.  T. J. Bostick manufactured the wood by-product, turpentine, which he sold at his Causeyville General Store.

As reported in Mississippi Forests and Forestry, an 1884 survey had predicted that the Mississippi pine forests

would survive for at least 150 years. Between 1880 and 1888, 86.8% of the purchases of 5,000 or more acres of federal land were to northerners, representing 889,259 acres sold to the 134,270 acres that had been purchased by southerners.

The twentieth-century, Meridian had been linked to the nation by the rails and this drew the attention of timber magnates. The market for timber from the district’s thick pine forest developed and reached prime consumer prices before 1910.  Responding to the discovery of the area’s abundant forest, many large, wood product companies quickly began multi-faceted operations in the region.  But by 1911, the northern wood product companies had monopolized the timber market, setting whatever prices they wished and without regard for replanting practices. Though the timber industry was a source of wealth for Lauderdale County and created many jobs, absentee owners were motivated by the quick profits from clear-cutting. This greed caused major erosion problems. Two-thirds of the timber in and around Yazoo, Copiah, Rankin, Madison, and Hinds counties were depleted and around the areas around Meridian that lay within five miles to eight miles from the railroad were stripped clean When timber resources were exhausted, timber companies laid off employees, pulled up stakes, and headed to the American Northwest, leaving Lauderdale County stripped of its timber lands. Meridian’s rail business slowed to a crawling pace.

Many of Lauderdale County’s communities died that had thrived during the boom years and left barely any evidence of their existence, such as Bullards, My, and Coonville. Those that didn’t die suffered greatly and would never see the “boom” years again.  While these mill towns disappeared, others towns like Laurel, Hattiesburg, and Meridian survived.

Because of its distrust of Northern industry greed, industries not supported by Mississippi capital were discouraged in Lauderdale County.

From 1915 to 1920, the last of the state’s forests were depleted and King Cotton was thwarted by the blights of the boll weevil.  By 1925, lumber production in Mississippi had reached its apex forcing most large companies either out of business as well as exhausting all timber supplies.  Even though in 1926, the Mississippi legislature passed an act that required the approval of the State Forestry Commission on all land purchases for national forests, the dire circumstances of the depleted forests set the stage for the national financial crisis of 1929, plunging Lauderdale County into an economic dormancy that would last for years.

On January 19, 1932, during the worst depression in American history, reformer and progressive conservative Martin S. Conner was inaugurated Governor of Mississippi. He tackled a $13 million deficit.

“We assume our duties,” said Governor Conner, according to the Mississippi History Now Web site, “when men are shaken with doubt and with fear, and many are wondering if our very civilization is about to crumble.”

Coming Part 4

by Richelle Putnam

And We Cry Timber! (Part 2)

The Panic of 1837 left the country’s economy in ruins,

severely hampering the cotton trade with federal tariffs and duties. In 1838, almost $7,000,000 of “paper” money was still in circulation. But as Mississippi intensified its efforts in industrial development, by 1840 east central Mississippi’s cotton production had doubled, as had its Negro slave laborers.
In 1850, East Central Mississippi developed it agricultural and forestry resources with cotton gins, sawmills, farm implement manufacturers, grain millers carriage makers, and leather finishers, adding to industrial capital investment. The 1850 Census records for Lauderdale County reveal that the white population was 6,052 and the slave population was 2,661.

The 1850 Agriculture census reveals the following annual statistics for the year ending June 1, 1850:

Acres of improved land: 51,386
Acres of unimproved land: 86,714
Livestock: horses – 2,080
Asses and mules – 418
Milch cows – 4,839
Working oxen – 1,695
Other cattle – 6,580
Sheep – 6,191
Swine – 28,481
Bushels of wheat: 2,808
Bushels of rye: 109
Bushels of Indian corn: 324,459
Bushels of oats: 21,771
Pounds of rice: 102,203
Pounds of tobacco: 1,529
Bales of cotton (400 lbs. each): 4,195
Pounds of wool: 10,500
Bushels of peas and beans: 15,411
Bushels of Irish potatoes: 3,705
Bushels of Sweet potatoes: 111,444
Bushels of barley: 20
Bushels of buckwheat: 150
Pounds of butter: 69,034
Pounds of cheese: 888
Toss of hay: 10
Pounds of hop: 20
Pounds of beeswax honey: 20,344

By 1860, corn remained the major staple crop in Lauderdale County, Mississippi,

enjoying an increase in production of approximately 46-47%. However, from 1850 to 1860 the county’s cotton production rose by astonishing amounts with an enormous increase of in approximately 370%.

Sherman’s march to the sea during the Civil War annihilated the economic wealth of Mississippi, burning fields, leaving charred cotton in his wake, destroying railroad tracks, and looting farmhouses. At the end of the war on May 8, 1865, the people of Lauderdale County faced devastation.

During reconstruction there was extreme poverty.

Property was confiscated for taxes and divided among various tenants. Most were never regained by the original owners. Pioneer Manufacturing Cotton Mill, which had been established in 1863 and burned by Sherman troops, was rebuilt in 1867. By 1879 Mississippi’s economy showed evidence or rallying, cotton production rising to its approximate pre-war production of nearly one million bales. “White gold” returned as king to Lauderdale County and surrounding counties. The Meridian Cotton Exchange and Board of Trade was formed in 1873 and by 1880 Meridian was a major center for packing and distribution of cotton and soon to be the largest city in the State of Mississippi.

The nineteenth century saw the forests of Lauderdale County become a major resource

rather than a hindrance to settlers who had had to clear the way for farmland. An 1881 map of Mississippi forests revealed mixed longleaf and hardwood forests covering most of Lauderdale County and extending northward into Kemper County. Meridian became the largest yellow pine and hardwood market in the State of Mississippi. According to Paths to the Past, lumber companies expanded and this provided new jobs to residents. Timber magnates such as M. R. Grant and companies such as Meridian Lumber Company became large lumber producers in the South. Meridian Lumber Company also manufactured other products from timber, such as blinds, doors, and sashes. Meridian streets filled with resident shoppers and hotels filled with travelers. During the late 1870s, cotton and timber competed for the crown in Lauderdale County.

Coming: Part 3

 

by Richelle Putnam