The Time Traveler’s time machine can bounce back and forth between boundaries of space, geography and time that no longer exists.
For instance, a quick hop back 170 years ago might take us back to a disputed boundary just north of State Line Road that separated Mississippi from Tennessee.
Or back to the time when DeSoto County was one of the largest counties of its size in northwest Mississippi before it was virtually split in two. The Coldwater River became the county line when Tate County was formed in 1873.
A few years earlier, forces under Confederate General James R. Chalmers guarded the Coldwater River Bridge, which was owned by the Mississippi and Tennessee Railroad Company. Chalmers received word from his cavalry scouts that the Union forces planned to attack Grenada to the south. Another major railroad crossing, across the Tallahatchie at Abbeyville, was burned to prevent this assault.
Despite the fact the Union officers had been ordered to refrain from burning Hernando, the burning and sacking of the town went on anyway. Eighty prisoners and 12,000 pounds of bacon were confiscated and captured. More than 250 horses were requisitioned, a fancy word for stealing, and the courthouse was burned.
Yet, life would slowly return to normal for the citizenry of DeSoto County‚ but it would take a decade after the war for that to happen.
In the fall of 1878, residents of DeSoto County were confronted by the “Yellow Fever Epidemic,” which left thousands dead in its wake across the American South. That very year, the First Presbyterian Church was erected along Holly Springs Street, now Commerce Street, and the handsome building served as a yellow fever hospital. “The Citizens Relief Committee” met during the course of late September through October when the committee’s president, Dr. E. E. Bullington would die of the disease himself.
Cooler weather and a killing frost would bring relief.
Flash forward another two decades and life was pretty much back to normal. It is comforting to note that in small Southern towns some things never change. The local newspaper, The Times Promoter, reported the Memphis Bicycle Club streamed into the county on a Sunday morning excursion in 1892, and surprised a large contingent of folks getting baptized in a local pond. As the Time Traveler makes his way to church to preach on Sunday, I am constantly amazed at the number of people seemingly engaged in everything under the sun except sitting in the pews in church.
Maybe the folks in the pond getting baptized left an impression on the Sunday morning cyclists, and conversely, maybe the cyclists left an indelible impression on the ones getting baptized.
I guess one’s direction in life depends upon one’s frame of reference. All of us, the Good Book says, need to make sure we are all on the right road, a road that is sometimes long and bumpy, and other times, a place of tranquil peace and scenic beauty. After all, it’s the good Lord who gets to wave the checkered flag when the race is done.
Keep travelin’ on, dear readers. The journey is time well spent.