This past week, the Time Traveler turned the dial on the time machine way back to August 16 of 1839 when DeSoto County was only a few years old.
As researched by former DeSoto Times newspaper columnist and expert genealogical researcher, the late Mildred Scott, one of the founders of the Historic DeSoto Foundation which oversees the DeSoto County Museum, the Hernando Free Press and States Rights Democrat, which was edited by Felix LaBauve, chronicled the early days of the DeSoto County seat.
It seems that an election was being hotly debated, then, too. Nothing ever seems to change …
“Will A. McKissack suffer his name to be used as a candidate for Board of Police member from this district at the coming election?"
To which McKissack replies: “Sir, I never seek nor decline office at the hands of my friends. Therefore, should my fellow citizens think me worthy of their confidence, they shall at all times find me ready and willing to give my humble support to the will of my county. Yours, respectfully, A. McKissack.”
In that same issue, which by the way cost about a penny (subscriptions were $4 a year), it was said that wedding bells rang for Dr. J.F.W. Smith and his bride Miss Eveline Bridges at Commerce, which was located at the river on the road that led all the way from the court square to the cotton port on the mighty Mississippi.
Also in that issue, it was noted that Joseph H. Walker was a candidate for State Representative from Tunica County.
It seems from that early newspaper that the struggling little hamlet of Hernando was having a great problem in attracting qualified blacksmiths. “It is frequently the case that we cannot get a horse shoe nail made or the most common little job of any kind done at any price. A good blacksmith would realize at least $1,500 per annum from a well-conducted shop at this place. We invite some good blacksmith to come and examine for himself the prospects, etc.”
Col. LaBauve also put out a call for a qualified shoemaker and boot maker.
Back in the 21st century, it has been often discussed about the need for a brand new bridge over the Coldwater River “on the road to Holly Springs and Chulahoma” (as that road was spelled then.) Frequent flooding plagued travelers then as now, apparently.
Well, the folks in 1839 had a reliable bridge at the same location, history reveals. As the newspaper notes: “A strong and handsome bridge is now erected over the Coldwater, just below the mouth of Camp Creek. There is a splendid steam mill at this place, six miles from Hernando, which, we understand, will be ready to commence operations in a few days, when our citizens will be able to procure lumber and building materials at a trifling expense. In a few steps of the mill is a medicinal spring, the waters of which are strongly impregnated with iron, sulphur and other life-giving minerals.”
Speaking of mineral waters, Mineral Wells near Olive Branch was one such healing place.
While Maywood Beach, or the “Beach Within Reach,” may have brought the bikini-clad beauties in the sixties and seventies, Mineral Wells packed in imbibers, sunbathers and swimmers with promises of curative, healing waters back in the 30s and 40s.
Cabins and tourist motels once graced the highway and travelers knew just where to pull over and rest their weary feet.
The native Chickasaw knew all about these “healing waters” and in fact, it was these natural springs which were promoted as a tonic to cure sickness experienced by the early settlers.
It was similar curative waters that gave buoyancy to the withered legs of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt who had been paralyzed from the waist down by a bout with polio in the 1920s.
It was in April of 1945 in Warm Springs, Georgia where the war-weary President would breathe his last and a nation would mourn.
A newspaper account announcing his death is on display at the award-winning DeSoto County Museum, where visitors can read of how millions mourned his passing with heavy hearts. Museum visitors can also hear his unmistakable Hyde Park New York baritone voice as he informed a stunned world of the surprise Japanese attack.
A typical living room, complete with a cabinet-style radio, whisks visitors back in time as surely as any real-life time machine.
It was also on these radio broadcasts where an equally stunned nation would learn of the Nazis’ heavy-handed attempt to wipe an entire civilization of people off the face of the earth.
The Unknown Child Museum, which honors the lost lives of 1.5 million children and local Jewish History Exhibit, honoring the pioneering Goodman family, are only two of more than six new exhibits now on display at the DeSoto County Museum, 111 E. Commerce Street in Hernando.
Robert Lee Long is Curator of the DeSoto County Museum.