Pictured Left: Ruby May (Winfield) McBeath Crenshaw, pictured with her youngest child, Sonny, on the Neshoba / Dixon Road. The picture was taken (late 1930's-early 1940's) in the front yard of what was then the Gene Gully home. Pictured to the left of Mrs. Crenshaw, in the background, is the home occupied for many years by Margie D. Viverette.
The History of Neshoba Church and Community
Written 1977 by the late Miss Thelma McBeath (Thelma credited "Neshoba" by Willie Joe Houston, and the Neshoba Church Minutes 1877-1977)
(Pictured right is the old Neshoba Post Office. Postmistresses during this writer's childhood and adolescence were Ethie Crenshaw McNair & Claudine Howle.)
We have never been able to learn just who were the first white settlers in what is now the Neshoba community, but certain it is that by the early 1850's there were more Choctaw Indians than white people in this immediate community. Among some of those Indians were Sam, Amy, and Wilkerson Tonubby. They still lived mostly by hunting and fishing. Also, a hundred years ago we find such familiar names as Walton, Crenshaw, Heflin, Herrington, Gully, and Rhodes as families living within a radius of 3 or 4 miles of this community. It is probable that one Wiley Heflin lived where Mrs. Delia Johnson (the Susie Bassett house) now lives, and that Hamp Herrington lived at the J. P. Harrison place with no other house this side of Santiago and not more than five or six this side of Dixon.
There were no large land or slave owners but rather small independent farmers moving here from Georgia, Tennessee, or the Carolinas. The land was covered with timber which had to be cut, piled and burned before it could be put into cultivation. Each family had to be pretty self sufficient, for there were no churches, schools, mills or doctors in the community. The old A & V Railroad was completed from Meridian to Vicksburg and the farmers began hauling their produce to such markets as Newton, Hickory, or Meridian. These trips were made twice a year by wagon over terrible roads. There was no closer store, school, church or post office than Union. This community was called Waltonville.
At the outbreak of the war between the states, practically every household sent one or two sons or the husband to fight.... Those who returned, came back to terrible poverty and distress, and had to start life over again in 1865.
About the beginning of the Civil War, Wiley Heflin gave two acres of land for a cemetery, with the stipulation that his grave was to be as near the center of the plot as possible. His daughter, Dollie Heflin, was the first person to be buried in what is now Neshoba Cemetery; she died during the Civil War.
(Pictured Right: Lewis Store circa early 1900's)
In 1870, a little subscription, or pay school was organized in a one room log house not far from where Thomas Lamar Howle's pond is now located. By 1877, a larger building was constructed of logs on the present site of the Old Neshoba School grounds. This was known as Crenshaw school. It was in this same building that the first Baptist church was organized by twenty-eight people, one hundred years ago....
The first post office established in the community was in the early 1890's, and was known as Centralis. This post office was in the store of John Harrison on what is now the Jessie Pilgrim's place, and mail was delivered three times a week by horseback until the first R.F.D. was established from Union in 1903.
(Pictured left and throughout the remainder of the article is the Neshoba of April 2002.)
By July 1905, steel was laid through what is now Neshoba, for the first railroad in the county. This work was being done during the annual 4th of July picnic so some of the people took the first train ride of their lives; this trip was about a half mile on a work train. Just before the building of the railroad, Charlie Herrington built a little store on the Mid Fulton place. A little later the Crenshaw and McCraw stores were built.
In 1905 the Post Office Department established a post office and gave it the name of Neshoba, with D. P. Jackson as the first postmaster. Mr. Jackson served only a few months and was succeeded by Bartha Gross. Others who served as postmasters were Mrs. Harrison, Mrs. Neva Vance, Miss Nettie Ingram, Mr. Jack Ingram, Mrs. Ethie McNair, and Mrs. Claudine Howle. (Discontinued in 1976)
In 1907 a depot was built just north of where the stores were, at that time, with Mr.. Keeton as the first depot agent. Some others were Carl Crews, Hugh McKinney, Mr. Windham, and Mr. George Andrews. This agency was discontinued about 1933. Just after the completion of the depot, a bank and three brick stores were built just west of it. These stores were occupied by McGraw and Son, Viverett and Vance, and W. W. McBeath. Other stores on that same side were O.D. Crenshaw, J. D. Petty and Van Grafton. There was a drug store and doctor's office owned by Dr. Crosby, in addition to the prior mentioned stores. On the south side of the street was a wagon and buggy store, also a large two-story building and department store owned by J. T. Lewis. East of the Lewis store was an up-to-date hardware store owned by J. W. Burroughs, while directly across the street from the McCraw store was another two-story sheet metal building operated as a machine shop by George and Irvin Smith.
In addition, Mr. Mack Howington had built a two story frame building to be used as a hotel on a lot just north of where Mrs. Abb Mott's house now stands. A big sawmill and dry kiln had been built just east of the railroad, and was operated by H. O. Cooper until 1914. Mr.. J. J. Herrington owned a prosperous sawmill and gin business until about 1919.
At one time Neshoba had two Physicians, Dr. T. O. Crosby and Dr. I. E. Jarvis. For a while Dr. Jess Johnson and Mr. Hugh McDonald had dental offices here. The first cashier of the bank, R. W. Patrick, was followed by Leon Lewis, who served as a cashier and manager until the bank went out of business in the fall of 1917.
In the fall of 1906, the school was moved to a new two-story building about where the church now stands. Services were held in the school until the new church was completed in 1907. In August 1950 the church decided to buy the Jimmy Smith house for $1,200. It was to be remodeled and used as the first pastor's home....
Neshoba Church and community furnished it's full share of young men who gave their lives fighting for this country. In World War I there was Glover Pilgrim and Bobby Houston. In World War II, Walter (Mutt) Rhodes and Lionel Brown did not return.
From this community many have gone on to be successful business men and women, attorneys, teachers, and ministers.... One unusual distinction enjoyed perhaps by no other...community in the United States is that three students from the same class later went to Peabody College in Nashville, Tenn. and in succession each became president of the student body of that institution. Those young men were Thomas Walton, Cecil Walton, and Berlin Vance.
Thelma McBeath died May 8, 2003 and is buried in Neshoba Cemetery in the heart of the community that she loved. It is due to her diligence in preserving articles, pictures and information regarding Neshoba's history that this section of the Web Page is possible.
First Row from Left: 5th girl Alma Crenshaw, 6th girl Cleve Crenshaw; 2nd Row: Last girl on right Mary Jane Crenshaw. Can anyone identity more? (Photo Courtesy of Lynette Granade)
Neshoba School 1949, Courtesy of "The Union Appeal". Below is the caption as published.
Pictured left is the student body from Neshoba School, class of 1949-50. The picture was furnished by Mrs. Mary Grady of Union, a former teacher at the school who later finished her teaching career at Union. Names of the members were furnished by Dot Guthrie and Ella Ruth Boler. The school was at one time a high school, which boasted many fine basketball teams. Consolidation closed the high school in 1938 and the remaining elementary school disbanded in 1953. The students pictured were in grades 1-8 when this photograph was taken. The building is still standing today, just off the Neshoba-Dixon road. It is presently used as a hay barn. Pictured are: (front row, left to right) Anna James Childress, Yvette Belk Rush, Betty Rhodes Ethridge, Anthony Pilgrim, Bobby McKinney, Claudale Winstead, Barbara Mott Kelly, James White, Jimmy Howle, Bud Barett, Carolyn Driskell Henne, Ann Mott Mills, Geraldine Kelly, Lynn Jones Gardner, John Stephens, Winfred Pilgrim. (second row, left to right) Rudolph Boler, Jerry Estes, Tommy Howle, Mary Francis Estes, Jane Barrett, Arvin Burton, Arnette Kelly, Randolph Miles, Iva Lou Herrington, Beatrice Barrett Boler, Kate Devine Crocker, Jean Dunn Stephens, Martha Herrington Lee, Betty Jo Driskell Barham, Janelle Kelly, Evelyn Savell Ferguson, Charlotte Belk Giles, Martha Lou Winstead Brantley, Ruthie Mae Barrett Smith, Betty Ann Boler (deceased), Mrs. Ann Adams, (teacher), (third row, left to right) B. L. Strum, Principal; Izola Herrington Quick, Joe Rivers, Delmus White (deceased), Jack Neece, Kenneth Herrington, Arlin Boler, Harold Mott, Gary Rivers, Shirley Fredrick, Joan Crenshaw Smith, Helen Mott Watkins, Ouita Tidwell Foreman, Cynthia Jones Frasier, Doris Killen Ashmore, margie Belk Davis, Martha Johnson, Leon Herrington, Jim Boler (deceased), Jack Killens, Mrs. Mary Grady, (teacher), (top row, left to right) Mrs. Mildred Vance, teacher; Evelyn Herrington, Hazel Dunn Johnson, Mary Neece Brinson, Dorothy King Guthrie, Bonnie Herrington, Patsy Belk Cannon, Billy James, Barry Hagan, Harold Williamson, Sonny Crenshaw, Gene Herrington (deceased), B. J. Belk, and Junior Savell.
Neshoba School Basketball Team
Pictured Left to Right: Front Row - Harold Williamson, Troy Pilgrim, Frank Allen "Sonny" Crenshaw & Jack Killen. Back Row - B. J. Belk, Unknown Kelly, Kenneth Herrington, Jack Neece & Mr. Bennie Lee Strum. Girls on Step - Kathleen Barrett & Ann Mott.
Pictured Left (left to right) at the dedication of the Neshoba School Monument: Thelma McBeath, Johnny K. Livingston, Paul Howle. Pictured Right: Neshoba School Monument April 2002.
Neshoba School 2004
The last Neshoba School building stands a lonely vigil, slightly north of the site of the above monument, which is located at the corner of the Neshoba/Dixon Road 339 and County Road 1315. The school was used for many years as a hay barn by the present owner, Thomas Lamar "Preacher" Howle. Note: Thomas Lamar Howle died December 2006.
It was a long ago time filled with red dusty roads, steering Granddaddy's truck through the hay fields, and lazy afternoons playing along the creek. Picking huckleberries, blackberries and pecans was important work. Tasty homemade tea cakes & kool aid were served on outdoor tables at Vacation Bible School.
Important lessons in life were learned early. Never be too good at picking beans; else you will have to visit fields in the heat of day while your sister, who rips the vines, doesn't. Don't get on the school bus to go home with a friend without first informing someone. Don't become too close in friendship with a cow. They often go away to market. If your pet chicken becomes jealous and attacks visitors and the dog, it can go to live at Uncle John's chicken farm. (Photo courtesy of Gary Rivers )
Life was full of interesting places in the Neshoba of the 1950's. Tin roofs were prevalent and provided wonderful roosting places for young children. If one climbed the pecan tree beside Granddaddy's chicken house, you could then navigate the branches over to the chicken house roof and survey the entire world.
Occupying a spot between the chicken house and the barn was a wonderful outdoor shop featuring the most fun toy a child could imagine. I'm certain the vise was not created to smush coal. But that was such a popular game. Pull a big piece of coal from the pile. Place it in the vise. Crank the handle. And voila.......smushed coal. The game never became boring.
The barn was a place of mixed blessing. The cows were scary. There are no two ways about it. They were big, had horns, made noise, and were not good about staying put when a child approached their territory. But the barn held great wonders, which motivated small children to make frightened dashes past the formidable beasts. The old barn had the most wonderful hay loft one could ever imagine. After harvest, the loft was filled with massive piles of loose hay. Granddaddy tied a rope to the rafters so we children could swing with the rope; let go in mid-swing; then sail through the air, landing in a large pile of soft, rich hay. One early evening we stood in the church parking lot and saw a fire in the direction of our place. It was the old barn. Neighbors came and helped Granddaddy rebuild. But the new barn had no hay loft. Life would never be the same.
Don't ever put your cotton in someone else's sack. This is one of the most important lessons you can learn early in life. When time came to pick cotton, the fields were populated with pickers who packed their sacks with cotton. When a sack was full, it was weighed by Granddaddy, and logged in a book for eventual payment to the picker. Of course when Lynn & I expressed our desire to pick, Granddaddy made us tiny child sized cotton sacks with straps over the shoulder, just like the big guys. We were elated! But the Mississippi heat soon turned cotton picking into a boring job for a child. We lost interest fast. From time to time though, we would return to the field and pick a handful of bolls, usually dropping them into Harold Mott's (pictured atop the hay truck above) cotton sack. That is, until Granddaddy explained to us that when we put our cotton into Harold's sack, Harold got paid and we didn't. Lessons in life are learned early in the cotton field.
The fields behind the barn held additional wonders. In the midst of the field stood a copse of scuppernong vines. The only thing tastier were the wild huckleberries growing along the old road. Further back, along the fence bordering the drop to old Highway 15, were the persimmon trees. Another lesson in life was learned here. Don't ever eat a persimmon before its ripe. It is not a pleasant thing.
With a quick glance across the highway, one sights the mysterious two story house atop a hill. It is the abandoned home of my Great Grandfather Anel. I always longed to explore its hidden mysteries. It is now forever lost to time.
We turn back from the road and navigate down the terrace to one of the farm's main attractions. The pecan orchard had one tree which featured a long, straight branch with a dip just built for a child's body. Crawl up on the limb, sit in the dip, and yell for someone to swing the limb. A more fun ride couldn't exist than nature's amusement park created for a 50's child.
One's own backyard held a treasure of adventures to be enjoyed with friends. There was a swing, see-saw, bikes, wagons, a sand-box, and scores of fruit trees bearing cyclical delights. (Pictured 1957 left to right: Lamar Howle, Marsha Howle, Lynn Mills, Carol Mills, Gayle Howle). Red clay banks along the road provided wonders of entertainment. You could build tiny villages, scale their heights, start dirt wars, or just rest under the shade of a sheltering tree. In the woods were plenty of areas perfect for building fortresses. The creek was cool and clear and featured sand bars, adding to our wading pleasure. Before the old school closed in 1953, recess down the road sounded like a glorious affair. One quickly learned that if you succumbed to the lure and traveled down the road to visit with the recessing older kids, you got into a great deal of trouble when your Mother discovered the adventure.
Sometimes there were scary things, like the fire in Aunt Thelma's room. Its been 50 years but I would never consider spending a night in that room.
Sometimes one had to weigh the risks involved in multiple frightening possibilities. When Uncle Sonny (pictured to the right with Glen Mott) chased us with the cow shot needle, the terror in our souls was enormous. Places to hide were at a premium. One often chose a frightening retreat, such as the pump house or the potato cellar, when faced with the possibility of being caught by the one wielding that enormous syringe. When he left for the Army we mourned Sonny's absence. He returned from Germany all grown up, with a new bride.
Oh, the glory of Neshoba days!! Most were spent following Granddaddy's every move. When he plowed the field, we trailed behind him in the rows. We rode on the hay truck, tamed the chickens, named the cows. He never tired of our constant companionship.
In the Summer of '59 my parents built a red brick house on a newly developed street in town. An era had ended. Life was changed forever.
A well maintained community park sits just off Hwy 15 as you enter the Neshoba Community from the south. Walton Park, donated by Neshoba Community native Louie Walton (son of William Henry Walton and his wife Virgie Howington). is used for reunions and other community affairs.