Dynamic Dyslexia Design

In 2008, Dynamic Dyslexia Design; The 3-D School and Evaluation Center

in Petal, Miss. opened its doors to 24 children. Today, as a state accredited non-public, special purpose school for children with dyslexia, it serves 106 children (grades 1-5) in a full day program designed specifically for dyslexic children. A staff of 20 includes dyslexia therapists, speech pathologists, and support teachers.

“In 2005, my colleague, Dr. Trudy Abel, assisted me in identifying and evaluating students for learning disabilities in a local private school,” said Dr. Cena Holifield, Executive Director of the 3-D School. “We became alarmed at the number of students that we were identifying as dyslexic, and surprised as to how many were also gifted.”

Also, alarming was the lack of appropriate intervention services for dyslexia in the schools. Thus began their mission for a transitional two year intervention program targeting the unique learning needs of dyslexic children. The goal was to remediate reading, writing, and spelling skills so students could return to their regular schools as stronger students.

“Research tells us that early intervention is critical and children with dyslexia need daily specialized multisensory instruction over a two to three year period,” said Dr. Holifield. “We also know that children with dyslexia require 500 to 1500 repetitions of this instruction in order to build the memory of critical reading concepts and spelling rules.”

Because regular classrooms are not designed to provide this specialized instruction, dyslexic children fall behind in the regular classroom setting. Many experience feelings of inadequacy. The 3-D School and Evaluation Center provides a safe environment and licensed dyslexia therapists who provide daily one-hour Orton-Gillingham based dyslexia therapy to students in small groups. In the classroom, explained Dr. Holifield, they receive language arts instruction with repetition and application of critical reading concepts.  

“When they become functional readers,” said Dr. Holifield, “they can achieve in the regular classroom with a teacher who makes appropriate accommodations for them.”  

Not all children with reading disabilities have dyslexia. The 3-D diagnosticians, Elesha McCarty, CCC-SLP, CALT, and Dr. Jane Herrin, evaluate children in grades K-12 and then guide parents to the appropriate services addressing the learning needs of their children.

Each year during the holiday season, the 3-D students participate in a community project. Past projects have included The Salvation Army Angel Tree, Christian Services, and Edwards Street Mission, the Shoe Box Ministry, and Pennies for Africa. This year the children collected food items for the Petal Children’s Task Force.

“Children with dyslexia are very sensitive to the needs of others,” said Dr. Holifield. “We teach them that each of them is being prepared by God for a special purpose in life that includes serving others.”

Other information:

The 3-D School works in collaboration with William Carey University to train teachers to become dyslexia therapists through an International Dyslexia Association (IDA) accredited Master’s Degree program in Dyslexia Therapy.

Donations and the funds received by MAEP (Mississippi Adequate Education Program) funds helps to supplement tuition fees for parents. The 3-D School offers scholarships to families with financial needs and does not turn away children due to the inability to pay tuition.




by Richelle Putnam

Teacher Man

Fred Brown remembers gathering eggs on his father’s farm,

milking cows, and drinking warm milk, cream and all, after milking those cows. He remembers when you could buy a great big Pepsi Cola for two nickels and when top pay for working a day job was two dollars a day. When he was fourteen years old his father died, and since he was the oldest in his family, Fred had to quit school and go to work. He did not complete his education until he enlisted in the Army and earned his GED.

Today, Fred is 87 years old

and spends his days working with second graders at Crestwood Elementary School. He began as a reading tutor and worked only one hour a week, but that was not enough for Mr. Fred– he wanted more time with the children. Now he volunteers three days a week and stays with the children all day, teaching them to read and properly pronounce words. He loves reading Dr. Seuss books with the students, and he also helps with writing, punctuation, and math problems. However, he believes that those children need much more than that. “Children, on their journey through this life,” says Mr. Fred, “need encouragement and praise and lots of one on one conversation with people who care about them.”

Some years ago, Mr. Fred had a stroke

that left him with partial impairment on one side of his body and now he uses a walker. There are no elevators at Crestwood School, so when it’s time to climb the stairs the children become very protective of their friend; while some children scramble for the privilege of carrying his walker up the stairs, others trail along watchfully as Mr. Fred grips the handrail to climb the steps.

Author Frank McCourt wrote a book called Teacher Man.

In it he describes his poverty stricken childhood in Ireland: “It Deprived me of self-esteem, triggered spasms of self-pity, paralyzed my emotions, made me cranky, envious, and disrespectful of authority, retarded my development, kept me from rising in the world and made me unfit, almost, for human society.”

Nevertheless, Frank McCourt had teachers who inspired him to learn;

they were guides and mentors. He remembers Mr. O’Halloran, the headmaster in a school in Limerick, Ireland, who said, “Your mind is a treasure house that you should stock well and it’s the one part of you the world can’t interfere with.” After coming to America, he was able to attend college, to become a teacher who inspired others to learn, to author best-selling books, and to be awarded a Pulitzer Prize.

In Teacher Man, I read these words:

“Kids have stuff in their heads so dark and deep it’s beyond our comprehension.”

In today’s society, there is a lot of darkness hovering around our children, and each child needs someone to open a door of hope and let in rays of light. Good teachers help shape lives, and sometimes, in the midst of a crowded classroom, those teachers need a little help with the shaping. This is where faithful volunteers like Mr. Fred fit in.

Mr. Fred believes that God created each child with gifts and abilities

to be used in this world, but he knows that some may never reach their potential without lots of help. They need someone to say, over and over again, “You can do it, try again,” and “Yes, you’ve done a good job–I knew you could!” Some days they need a shoulder to lean on, and sometimes they just need a great big hug or a treat from Mr. Fred’s candy bag.

By Virginia Dawkins


Image courtesy of Phaitoon at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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

And We Cry “Timber!”


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. In fact, disgruntled planters designed their own machines after Eli Whitney’s invention with no regard to the violation of Whitney’s patent #72X dated March 14, 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 for using the gin was two-fifths of the profits paid in cotton itself.

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. Therefore, 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 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 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, which 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 that cotton would be available in good salable condition at the ginner’s warehouse.

The early 1830’s expansion 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 the 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 types of 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 refuse paper notes as payment for such sales. Only gold and silver would be the acceptable payment for government land.

It would be up to 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. And everyone began to panic.

by Richelle Putnam

Coming: Part II


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


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





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


Photo Credit:  “Cotton Plant” by afrika, courtesy of Free Digital Photos

Teaching Children to Manage Money


Money doesn’t grow on trees but in Mississippi,

trees and many things that grow on them are used to make money. These two concepts may help parents teach their children the difference between putting a hand out or requesting a job to get the money to get the things they want?

Long before most children can add or subtract,

they are aware of money and the power it brings. They see how their parents use money to buy the things they want and they want some of that power. But, if left to their own devices, kids are likely to spend money like it grows on trees. So parents have a responsibility to teach kids about money, so they can meet their financial obligations now and learn to be good financial managers in their adult lives. It can be the difference between financial security and financial ruin.

Being a good role model helps but children learn better by doing.

Once they learn how money works, children often become fiscal conservatives. When they figure out they can buy the things they want with money, many children begin to hoard every nickel they can get their hands on. That’s OK. It’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.

Here are the most important things parents need to teach their children about how to handle their money. It’s important to start early, before kindergarten.

  • How to create a spending plan.

  • How to pay bills.

  • How to save money.

  • How to reduce expenses to meet goals.

  • How to earn more money.

Children must be taught to contribute to the household (because they live there) without expecting pay, by doing extra jobs or projects, such as doing yard work, sweeping the garage, babysitting for the neighbors, washing people’s cars all work to line their pockets. Later, they can get a part-time job to pay for a car or any other big ticket item.

What’s a Parent to Do?

Give them control of money. When kids have control of money, they have many chances to practice until they get it right with a little guidance and empathy from parents.

An allowance is a good first step. Consider starting with a small amount as soon as your child is old enough to understand the connection between money and purchases.

  • Sit down with each child and come up with a figure for the allowance based on his of her financial commitments. There may be boy or girl scout dues, lunch money, hair cuts, church collection, whatever you two agree upon.

  • Give the child that amount plus a little extra to do with as he or she pleases. That money is not tied to chores, is not threatened by your dissatisfaction with his or her behavior.

  • Give the allowance on the same day of the week, each week; like you get your pay check.

  • Have a no borrowing clause.

  • Provide a way for kids to earn extra money to handle their additional wants.

  • Go with the child and open a savings account in his or her name. Discuss how to make deposits and collect interest.

Make it clear to children that they are in charge of their money and you will have no part in managing it or supplementing their loses. Translation: If they spent their money unwisely and don’t have enough to meet their financial obligations, they’re out of luck. This is an important lesson to learn when financial obligations are small and easier to rectify.

Seeds planted early bear fruit later.

They’ll learn better habits on their own, by doing, and with advise and counsel from you. Let children make mistakes and learn from the consequences.  In turn, they learn why those mistakes were actually mistakes and what it takes to rectify them.

The life-long benefits of teaching children good money habits are well worth the effort.


© Rachell N. Anderson, Psy. D. 

Dr. Rachell Anderson is a licensed Clinical Psychologist, a Professor Emeritus and author. She taught at the University of Illinois and ran a private Clinical in Springfield for more that 40 years. She lives in Tunica, Mississippi. Check out her website at WWW.drrachellanderson.com for more articles.


Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Hwy 80 Songwriters Fest

Since the first Hwy 80 Songwriters fest in 2013,

which was made possible in part by an AT&T grant, the purpose and mission of the Hwy 80 Songwriters Fest were to expand the songwriter’s platform and territory, provide education in the songwriting craft for songwriters of all ages and levels of expertise, to build and support the creative economy in West Alabama and East Mississippi and to ignite the public’s understanding and appreciation for songwriters and their craft. Venues this year have included City Hall lawn, Demopolis, AL, Hal & Mal’s Restaurant and the Arts Center of Mississippi in Jackson. Now, the Montgomery Institute invites you to enjoy the Hwy 80 Songwriters Fest in Meridian from July 28-30, 2016.

The Fest, through The Montgomery Institute,

was awarded a $4,100.00 from the Mississippi Arts Commission (MAC). This grant is a portion of the $1.5 million in grants the commission will award in the 2016-2017 and will be used for the 2016 Hwy 80 Songwriters Fest. The grants are made possible by continued funding from the Mississippi State Legislature and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Organizations that support the arts play a pivotal role in growing Mississippi’s creative economy,” said Malcolm White, Executive Director of MAC. “The Mississippi Arts Commission is pleased to support their work, which reinforces the value of the arts for communities and for the economic development of our state.”

The Mississippi Arts Commission, a state agency,

serves the residents of the state by providing grants that support programs to enhance communities; assist artists and arts organizations; promote the arts in education and celebrate Mississippi’s cultural heritage. Established in 1968, the Mississippi Arts Commission is funded by the Mississippi Legislature, the national Endowment for the Arts, the Mississippi Endowment for the Arts at the Community foundation of Greater Jackson and other private sources.  The agency serves as an active supporter and promoter of arts in community life and in arts education.

The mission of The Montgomery Institute

is to “upbuild the people and places of the East Mississippi and West Alabama region guided by the leadership legacy of G. V. ‘Sonny’ Montgomery.”  To accomplish its mission, TMI has undertaken initiatives in leadership development, rural place building, educational enhancement, workforce development, research and information dissemination, regional cooperation, and innovation.

On July 28, Squealer’s Restaurant and News Restaurant

in North Meridian welcome local and regional songwriters and with rounds beginning at 6:30 pm. On July 29, in downtown Meridian at 7 pm, Weidmann’s Restaurant, The Brickhaus Brewtique and The Echo Downtown welcome nine Mississippi/Alabama songwriters from outside the region. No matter what venue you choose, before the night is over, audiences will hear every songwriter come through their venue.  See the Hwy 80 Songwriters Fest Facebook page for more details.

On July 30 at noon, the historical Soule Feed Steamworks

welcomes Tricia Walker, Grammy Award winning songwriter, Director of Delta Music Institute and a MAC Roster Artist, who will facilitate the pro songwriting workshop. At 2:30 pm Shawna P (Pierce), a finalist in The Voice, whose mentor was Shakira, will facilitate a vocal performance workshop for all ages interested in singing and performing. ShawnaP facilitates these vocal workshops all over Alabama, from Muscle Shoals to the FloraBama. At 4:45 pm, the Open-Mic session begins, which is open to all ages and levels. The Grand Finale begins at 7 pm with Tricia Walker, ShawnaP and MAC Roster Artist, three-time Blues Award Winner and eleven-time Blues nominee Eden Brent.

The Hwy 80 Songwriters Fest would not be possible without grant awards from The Meridian Council for the Arts, Community Foundation of East Mississippi, and the Mississippi Arts Commission. Financial sponsors include Mitchell Distributing, Structural Steel Services, Mississippi Main Street and Mississippi Writers Guild. In-kind support comes from Kabana Productions, Soule Steam Feed Works and Mississippi Public Broadcasting and Supertalk Meridian 103.3. Media support includes The Radio People, WMOX, WTOK, The Meridian Star, The Meridian Family of Stations, The Eagle. Other support includes the City Meridian, Lauderdale County, East Mississippi and West Alabama and the communities therein.

Please check the Hwy 80 Songwriters Fest Facebook page for more details or call 601/880-1089



Early Explorers of the South

Part 1


Hernando de Soto, the second son of Francisco Mendez de Soto and Leonor Arias Tinoco,

was born between 1496 and 1501 at Jerez de los Caballeros in the province of Estremadura, Spain, according to A History of Mississippi, Volume I, and was described in Bolton’s Spanish Borderlands, as being:

“A man of blood and iron, wherever he ‘found resistance’ there Hernando de Soto was roused to action.  He brooked neither opposition from foes nor interference from friends; and for him, no peril, no hardship, would surpass in bitterness the defeat of his will.  His nature was to be read plainly in his swarthy, strongly lined face and burning black eyes, and in the proud carriage of his head; so that, though he was hardly more than of medium stature, men remarked him and gave him room.  He had an agreeable smile at rare moments; and he was renowned for courage, and his skill as a horseman was noted among those lover of horses, the Spanish nobles.”

In 1539, in search of riches, De Soto landed south of modern Tampa Bay, Florida

with 620 dressed in coats, steel breast-plates and helmets. They clung to shields, swords, lances, arquebuses (a crude gun), or cross-bows. Among De Soto’s men were a physician, a ship carpenter, calkers, and a cooper for boat building, as well as armorers and smiths, with their forges and tools, as mail shirts had to be mended, swords had to be tempered, and iron chains and collars for slaves must be kept in good repair.  Accompanying clergy and monks would attempt turning conquered pagans into Christians while De Soto sought knowledge of the country from them. Supplied with iron handcuffs, chains, and neck-collars for captives, they proceeded through the land, driving hundreds of hogs across the country with them. De Soto’s treatment of the Native Americans met on his journeys would be cruel and oppressive. However, natives had already suffered great cruelty from Spanish explorer Panfilo de Narvaez and they greeted the new explorers with vigorous opposition. During the bloody chaos of a Spaniard attack on the Indians, a voice bellowed out in Castilian tongue, “I am a Christian! I am a Christian! Slay me not!”

The Castilian in Indian guise turned out to be Jean Ortiz, a native of Seville,

who for twelve years had been living among the Indians. He had almost forgotten his own language, but had learned various Indian dialects from passing from one tribe to another, as a fugitive or in barter. Knowing Ortiz would be beneficial as his interpreter, De Soto furnished Ortiz with clothes and a horse and asked him to join the expedition. In his journal, De Soto wrote:

“Indeed I do not know what would have become of us if we had not been so fortunate as to have met with him.”

Through all his journeys, the only riches De Soto received were pearls from a beautiful Indian princess he had held hostage until her escape.

On one expedition, De Soto encountered Chief, or Cacique, “tushka lusa” (tushka meaning “warrior”, lusa meaning “black”),

translated as Tuskaloosa and later as Tuscaloosa, who was head of the Mobilian Indians and known also as the Black Warrior. De Soto seized Tuscaloosa as his hostage to secure safety from the Indians. But Tuscaloosa had already summoned his men to be ready for battle in Mauvila (modern day Mobile). Tuscaloosa requested to be released, stating: “If your chief knows that is best for him, he will immediately take his troops out of my country.”

In the battle of Mauvila, thousands of Indians were slain, one hundred and fifty Spaniards were severely wounded, and eighteen killed. The pearls of the Indian princess were lost, along with any other treasures De Soto had secured.

In late July, 1540, after recuperating for twenty-eight days, Hernando de Soto led the Spaniards from the Warrior River to the Tombigbee into heavily timbered forests cane-filled bottom lands where they probably took advantage of Indian trails.  Where De Soto and his men actually entered Mississippi is unknown, though it is thought to be a few miles from Columbus. In dire straits when they finally reached Mississippi, the Spaniards’ once glistening armor and swords were now beaten and dulled by battle. Their clothes were either lost or so tattered, that grass mats had to be woven and worn as substitutes.

After De Soto died of fever on May 21, 1542, his men, fearing the Indians might dig up and desecrate his body, wrapped De Soto’s body in cloaks filled with sand and laid him to rest in the Mississippi River.


De Soto was probably not the first white man to view the Mississippi River,

but because he was perhaps the first to approach it by land, he has often been credited for the mighty river’s discovery and this expedition firmly fixed the Mississippi River on white man’s geography and boosted Spain’s “first” claim to the Mississippi Territory.



by Richelle Putnam





A History of Mississippi, volume I, copyright 1973 by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Standard Book Number: 0-87805-013-2.

Mississippi, A History by John K. Bettersworth, copyright 1959

Paths to the Past, an Overview History of Lauderdale County, MS Laura Nan Fairley and James T. Dawson, 1988, Quail Ridge Press

Greenwood Leflore and the Choctaw Indians of the Mississippi Valley by Allene De Shazo Smith, C. A. Davis Printing Company, Memphis, TN, 1951 ISBN

Dunbar Rowland and A. G. Sanders, eds., Mississippi Provincial Archives 1729 – 1740 French Dominion (Jackson: Mississippi Department Archives  and History Press) Vol. 1 pps 21-54


The Mighty Men of Lauderdale County, Mississippi (Part 3)

Born a Virginian in 1791, Jubal B. Hancock spent his early years in Tennessee.

He fought in the War of 1812, married a Choctaw woman and together they had three children: William M. Hancock, Mary M. Hancock and Caroline D. Hancock. When they relocated to Mississippi to live among his wife’s people, the Dancing Rabbit Treaty had already been signed and William and Mary were over ten years of age, Caroline, just under ten. Because Hancock was a white citizen of the United States and his wife was not head of the house, neither he nor his wife were entitled to receive any of the lands being made available to the Choctaws through the Article 14 of the Treaty, which read:

“Each Choctaw head of a family, being desirous to remain, and become a citizen of the States, shall be permitted to do so, by signifying his intention to the agent within six months from the ratification of this treaty, and he or she shall thereupon be entitled to a reservation of one section of six hundred and forty acres of land, to be bounded by sectional lines of survey; in like manner, shall be entitled to one half that quantity, for each unmarried child which is living with him, over ten years of age, and a quarter section to such child as may be under ten years of age to adjoin the location of the parent.”

According to Frank Durr, a former slave who wrote about Lauderdale County’s early history, Jubal Hancock submitted his claim for 640 acres of land on behalf of his wife, 320 acres each for William and Mary and 160 acres for Caroline. Thus began a 12-year-long legal battle

Though Jubal’s claim had been rejected by Indian Agent William Ward, on August 11, 1842 the United States Congress ratified and published the following resolution:

An Act for the Relief of Jubal B. Hancock:

“Be it enacted &c. [sic], That Jubal B. Hancock be, and he is hereby, authorized, on or before [1 January 1844], to enter at the proper land office, in legal sub-divisions, fourteen hundred and forty acres of any of the public lands of the United States, within the state of Mississippi, in lieu of a like quantity of land to which he and his three children… became entitled under the fourteenth article of the treaty of Dancing-rabbit creek…”

According to Lauderdale County historian, Fred W. Edmiston, Jubal Hancock, who in 1846 served as the Mayor and Town Marshall of Marion, owned a large vineyard from which he made large amounts of wine. Jubal’s neighbors were “delighted [that Hancock] allowed everyone to help himself [sic] free of charge.” wrote Frank Durr, a former slave.

Hancock would prove himself to be a man of many skills and gifts,

managing the Marion Drug Store in the 1850’s and serving as Marion’s postmaster from 1854 to 1860. He was elected as vice president of the Southern Democrats in Lauderdale county, was an attorney and probate judge for the county, and opened a law office in Marion in 1864 with Sylvanus Evans.

By Richelle Putnam



Edmiston, Fred W., “Lauderdale, Mississippi’s Empire County: Volume 1: The Early Years, 1830-1865.” Meridian: Lauderdale County Department of Archives and History, Inc., 2005.


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.

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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

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