It’s now deep in the heart of summer. The Fourth of July has come and gone. The dog days of August are ahead.
These long lazy, hazy summer days are times which it seems the twilit tunnel of time connects worlds past and present.
The Time Traveler notes that boys in the summer of 1908 were no different than mischief makers of our present day.
In fact, it seems this snippet from that bygone era could have been pulled from the news briefs of today’s newspapers.
This item from the writer in the local newspaper, the Times-Promoter, forerunner to the DeSoto Times-Tribune, was included in a long-running column titled “Poplar Corner Pick-Ups,” from the community, southwest of Horn Lake, which has now all but faded into memory.
“We have been informed that some of the local boys have drawn their guns on automobiles driving out from Memphis. They are dangerous in the country. Horses are awfully afraid of them. They are getting numerous of late,” wrote the author of this column more than 111 years ago.
Sadly, in the same column one month later, the columnist wrote about the once famous landmark, the Poplar Corner Church, a beautiful, picturesque church with a tall towering steeple, that has now fallen into complete disrepair as we near the third decade of the 21
The Poplar Corner Church has been featured in photographs and movies in the days when it stood tall and proud.
“Mr. W.H. Williamson and others worked until after dark last Saturday night completing the Poplar Corner church on the inside, putting down a new carpet and other things that had to be done, so they could have preaching on Sunday. Mrs. W.H. Williamson is going to have a cotton picking soon. She is going to use all the children in the picking to make a little more money to finish some work on the inside of the church.”
Who says there is no dancing in church? Or at least near the church house, that is. In this same column from December of 1908, the author penned these lines:
“The young folks from Hernando met at H.H. Irby’s on the Barbee place near Hinds Chapel, and had a big dance — and had what we all call a good time in general last Thursday night, the way we used to do when we were young. Let the young folks have a good time while they are young, for they will soon be like the rest of us —getting old.”
The writer went on to say that Poplar Corner had built the “biggest school it has had for many years. If it continues to grow, the teacher will have to have an assistant.”
One of the Time-Traveler’s good and loyal friends is Mr. Pat Davis, who volunteers his time at the DeSoto County Museum.
It seems that Mr. Davis wanted yours truly to provide a brief account of the early days of the DeSoto County seat. A visitor to the Museum and a new resident of our growing metropolis, wanted some information.
Hernando, the DeSoto County seat, was named for the discoverer of the mighty Mississippi River. DeSoto was the first European explorer ever to set eyes on the Mississippi, the largest navigable waterway in all of North America. The river runs from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico but it was discovered right here, most agree, near the present town of Walls.
The town was originally a Chickasaw Indian trading post and was known as Jefferson. The name was changed to Hernando, after the explorer, due to the fact there was another town called Jefferson. As a fan of William Faulkner’s work, I was always cognizant of the fact that “Jefferson” was the name of Faulkner’s imaginary town in his acclaimed novels.
Hernando was made the DeSoto County seat by a Legislative Act of the Mississippi Legislature, being introduced by Senator A.B. McNutt of Warren County.
But the real father of the town was the developer Edward Orne who represented the Boston and Mississippi Cotton Land Company, who was instrumental in buying up thousands of acres. Orne purchased his land from the Chickasaw warrior Til-Look-Hi-Yea who sold his portion to Orne on June 16, 1836. Two months later, on August 16, Orne donated 40 acres for a county seat.
This 40 acres was planned and laid out with a 450-foot public square surrounded by 172 lots, many still in existence. In the two blocks around the square, there were five streets north and south and five streets east and west. This plan still forms the center of Hernando today.
While we might grumble about “Yankees” coming to our Deep South county, it seems the father of our county seat was one.
A New England Yankee, at that.
And with that, I guess that makes the chief architect and foremost planner of our county, a “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”
Robert Lee Long is Curator of the DeSoto County Museum.