Throughout DeSoto County’s history, doctors, nurses, relief workers and a network of civic organizations have stepped up to support the community, state, nation and world through epidemics, world wars and natural disasters such as flood, fire and tornados.

During World War I, women volunteers in the DeSoto community rolled bandages and assisted the American Red Cross with needed supplies for soldiers fighting on the front during the “Great War” as it was called.

That mobilization of volunteers also was instrumental with the Spanish Flu Epidemic of 1918 that coincided with the war raging in Europe. We have such brave, wonderful volunteers assisting our community in the outbreak of the Coronavirus Pandemic that it deserves to be mentioned that their efforts have made fighting the pandemic all the more successful.

The Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi has made a total of $424,844 in total grants made to food pantries and nonprofits working to feed and educate children in the wake of this devastating pandemic.

Keith Fulcher, President of the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi, said a matching grant of $55,000 from the Maddow Foundation , coupled with a $100,000 grant from the Walton Family Foundation, got the FEED FUND well on its way of making a lasting impact on the food and educational needs of primarily children along with their parents and families.

“Our goal in April was to make weekly grants through the month of August when children returned to school and had a source of nutrition through their school breakfasts and lunch programs,” Fulcher said, adding the funding has nearly been depleted and additional options are being discussed to continue efforts in the light of the fact the virus has proven to be as of yet unrelenting. Similar efforts to assist those suffering in the wake of epidemics and pandemics have reached heroic proportions throughout DeSoto County’s history.

During the yellow fever epidemic of 1878, a hospital was set up inside the newly-constructed Old First Presbyterian Church building on Commerce Street, or Holly Springs Road as it was called then.

The Yellow Fever Journal, the original volume of which is now on display inside the award-winning DeSoto County Museum , details efforts made by doctors and citizen volunteers, including Dr. E. Bullington, who was President of the Citizens Relief Committee, one of the many chaitable organizations set up to deal with the aftermath of the yellow fever epidemic.

Dr. Bullington would lose his own life to yellow fever before a killing frost halted the fever shortly before Halloween in late October of 1878. A brand new exhibit has just opened inside the new Pittman Family Archive Room of the DeSoto County Museum entitled “From Cholera to Coronavirus: A History of Healthcare in DeSoto County and Keeping DeSoto Healthy.”

Included is a truly valuable medical collection belonging to the late Dr. Henry M. Wadsworth, Sr., Dr. Henry M. Wadsworth, Jr. and Dr. William Wadsworth, in addition to pre-Civil War surgical instruments from Dr. Angus Emerson and the me ical bag of Dr. “Whitt” Emerson, among other items. The collection hopes to also include items from Dr. Malcom Baxter and other noted physicians from DeSoto County’s past.

The brand-new exhibit, which includes a medical skeleton, surgical and other 19th and 20th century instruments, medicines, photographs and other memorabilia was made possible by and through the Wadsworth Medical Clinic and the Velocity Inc., sign company in Hernando.

The museum has a total of nine new exhibits which have been unveiled since 2019. During the pandemic the museum, named Mississippi’s “Best Small Museum” has seen an increase in the number of visitors due to the fact many other museums have remain closed.

The DeSoto County Museum is open from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday and is located at 111 E. Commerce Street in Hernando.

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