The newspaper for which I toiled for nearly two decades not only put food and groceries on my table and in my pantry but the wonderful people I chanced to meet and the many friends that I made will last me a lifetime.
No doubt that the likes of Col. Felix LaBauve, a Frenchman whose father fought with Napoleon and whose uncles fought in the American Revolution, shared this love for DeSoto County and her people.
LaBauve was the first editor and publisher of the newspaper when it made its debut in June of 1839. His distinguished countenance is among several which are included in a brand new life-sized mural now on display along with the Pittman Family Newspaper Archive located in the Founders Room at the DeSoto County Museum.
The timeline not only includes LaBauve but longtime editor and publisher W.H. “Bill” Keathley, otherwise known as “Scoop,” and Bill Bailey, who ran the newspaper along with wife Lolly for many years.
The Pittman family recently donated the entire existing archive of the newspaper, which is being made easily accessible to the public for the first time at the award-winning museum, founded in 2003 and named “Mississippi’s Best Small Museum” that year.
People wishing to research obituaries, marriages, celebrated life events and even scandals and other fascinating tidbits, now have history literally at their fingertips inside the archive and research room, which officially opened to the pubic last week.
The opening of the newspaper archive and research room marks the first expansion of the museum’s east wing. A children’s museum and other expansions are planned.
The people of 1839 no doubt cherished the fact they had a local newspaper, which no doubt struggled in those early days. In 2019, meeting the challenges of an ever-changing publishing industry is a sometimes herculean task for small, independently owned family-owned newspapers like this one.
In today’s market, many of our local newspapers across the nation have been gobbled up by large conglomerates or corporations which have no vested interest in the community.
This community should take special pride, despite the challenges and obstacles faced by owning and operating a small community newspaper, that they still have an independent, free and unfettered voice for news, entertainment and information.
In Volume 1, Edition No. 2 of June 21, 1839, elections were very much the topic of the day, just as they are in current times.
The Hernando Press and States Rights Democrat, predecessor to the DeSoto Times-Tribune, declared the following nominations for office: Governor, Alex G. McNutt; U.S. Congress, Jacob Thompson of Pontotoc, A.G. Brown of Copiah; Secretary of State, Barry W. Benson; Auditor, Augustus B. Saunders; State Treasurer, Samuel Craig; County Representative, Col. William M. Bayliss.
Other news of the day proclaimed that the new route from Hernando to Holly Springs was nearly finished. The last session of the U.S. Congress established a mail line from Hernando to Holly Springs to begin on July 1, 1839. And this jewel from that edition which mirrors today: “The price of property in Hernando has increased more than 100 percent in the last year.”
“The Hernando Bank is on solid ground,” stated the newspaper of the bank which would be a major institution in the DeSoto County seat for decades.
And how is this for hygiene: “Hernando has excellent bath houses which cannot help but improve the health of this place,” LaBauve wrote.
Foote and Phillips announced the arrival of new spring and summer goods from eastern cities.
The bill to incorporate Hernando and set elections for mayor, aldermen and constable was passed by the Mississippi State Senate in February of 1839.
And to hint at the building boom that flourished in the DeSoto County seat then as now is this item: “Just received from Commerce: 50 kegs of nails, 25 boxes of window glass and a large lot of iron.”
So much for artery-clogging of the 1830s, as evidence by this announcement: “R. Bourland of Commerce (a shipping port near present-day Walls) 20,000 pounds of bacon and 2,020 pounds of lard, all for sale cheap and for cash.”
The Time Traveler, it should be noted, tried his best to warn the people of 1839 during his recent trip back in time. All that bacon and all that lard will shorten your life. Residents of 1839, invest in a little known plant known as kale.
You won’t live until the 21st century, but you just might make the 20th century if you try.
Robert Lee Long is Curator of the DeSoto County Museum.