Newton Co, MS

The town of Union, MS, is located in East Central Mississippi.  The Newton and Neshoba County line runs through the northern section of the town.  An early county seat for Neshoba County (when that county encompassed all of present Neshoba & Newton counties), Union is now the northern boundary for Newton County.  The commercial areas of the town are located in the Newton County section.  Union, Mississippi enjoys the benefits of a quality municipal school system, community hospital, thriving churches, and active community minded citizens.  The entire town can pride itself on its successful continuing fund raising effort to save and restore Boler's Inn, a local historic landmark.  Please join me on a pictorial tour of Union, MS as it existed in  March 2004.  Later we'll visit the past. 


We enter the city limits from the north on the Hwy 15 bypass.  On the east side of the highway we first approach newly constructed Dollar General Store followed immediately by the Laird's Hospital complex.  This modern health care facility was constructed to replace an aging building, which still sits closer into town on Jackson Road.  In the hospital's shadow stands a dental office and pharmacy.  The area near the intersection of the Highway 15 bypass and 492 is an area of commercial construction and is the thriving center that once was downtown Union.  Just beyond Laird's Hospital, on the northeast corner of Hwy 15 & Hwy 492, sits another relatively new business.  Spanky's Truck Stop and Convenience Center serves the passing traveler, and provides a home for Union's coffee and snack crowd.



Occupying the southeast corner of the above mentioned intersection is Laird's Athletic Field complex.  The large well-maintained facility is also the home to some of Union High School's successful sports teams.



Since we plan to turn west into town on Hwy 492, we will miss other new business establishments that lie along Hwy 15.  These include a Ford dealership, building supply firm, funeral home, medical clinic, and the Stick Wagon Restaurant.

As we turn west into town, we enter residential development.  On the left we pass the Presbyterian Church, which replaced a gorgeous old building that used to sit on the corner next to Boler's Inn.  As we approach the intersection of Decatur Street we find another new drug store on the right, just beyond Staton Construction.  The construction establishment holds great historical significance.  The Staton family has been in the construction business in Union since Norfleet Staton built Boler's Inn for his father-in-law Wesley Boler in 1856.  Busy convenience stores on opposite corners of the road follow.



We turn left, just before the old hospital building, to pass a dental office, drug store and swim club.  This area remains very much the same as it was in the '60s except for the fact that Moore's Pharmacy has now closed.  The dental office was run for many years by our neighbor, the late Dr. Rex Warnick.  It was a place of much fear and trepidation for this writer.  It was also not a place that could be avoided, since my Mother would approach Dr. Warnick in the front yard regarding the status of my mouth.




We now enter the Union Municipal School System complex, which includes a separate Middle School campus adjoining the football field to the south.  When we leave the school complex and return to Jackson Road, we pass the Union Public Library building, a modern facility built to replace the old library which had been located in the downtown City Hall building.



We have a choice as we pass the library, pictured to the right.  We can take an immediate left on Main Street and visit downtown.  Or we can turn left on Jackson Road and visit Union's gorgeous park.  We choose the park.  The large park is flanked by Jackson Road to the South, Park Street to the West, County Line Street to the North, and the Union United Methodist Church to the East.  Lets turn down Park Street and visit the park.



The park encompasses the entire east side of Park Street and provides a picturesque view for those who travel the street.  It includes opportunities for both young and old.  Included in the park's attractions is Leonard Sessums Field, a little league mainstay for generations of Union children.  The park also features a Community Center, Playground, the Rex Warnick Pavilion, and an extensive walking trail network which is in constant use by Union's citizens.



Let's now backtrack on Park Street and return to Jackson Road.  We will turn right at the building pictured below as the Sunflower food store.  A Dollar Store occupies that corner building in 2005.  As we make the turn onto Jackson Road we immediately see the newly restored Boler's Inn.  The former stagecoach inn on the old Jackson road was built by his son-in-law Norfleet Staton for Wesley Boler in 1856.  General Sherman quartered his troops around the Inn during his march through Mississippi.  He is purported to have spared the town because of its name.  Little did he know that Wesley Boler had many sons and a son-in-law fighting in the Confederate Army.



As we head west on Jackson Road we pass Ward's Drive-In on the left.  The area between Ward's and the old Bus Station cafe was once, for a very short time, home to a small motel.  On the left is also the Jitney Jungle supermarket, run by the Ogletree family.  The new store replaces their old classic Feed & Seed store which sat just to the West of the current supermarket.  Above the old store lived Bill Ogletree and his wife Nancy, who taught piano lessons.  On the right, after you pass Boler's Inn, sits a small strip of stores occupying the spot once held by a stately old Presbyterian Church.

The intersection just beyond Boler's Inn is old Hwy 15.  If you approach Union on that road from the north you enter the town at "Cooper's Hill", shown below left.  This is one of the highest elevations in the area.




Welcome to downtown Union!  Had we chosen earlier to turn left on Main Street, we would have approached the above left intersection.   The picture above right was taken from downtown facing the same intersection and features First Baptist Church of Union on the right and Union United Methodist Church on the left.  As one proceeds in a westerly direction you enter the downtown area.  I regret to say that the years have not been kind to the downtown area.  It has suffered from fires, lack of maintenance, and many of the other problems so prevalent today in the downtown areas of 21st century small towns.  This is in sharp contrast to the well maintained downtown Union of the 50's & 60's.  One exception is the south Bank Street area, which includes a number of newer building.  This area features a post office, two banks, law offices, fire station, etc.  Lets tour the downtown of 2002.





Union Chamber of Commerce
Selects Ruth Mills

Citizen of the Year


The Union Chamber of Commerce held its 37th Annual Membership Banquet at the Union High School Cafetorium on Thursday, March 24, 2005 at 7:00 P.M.  After a delicious dinner catered by the Stickwagon Restaurant, awards were presented as follows:  Citizen of the Year - Ruth Mills; Golden Broom Award - Union Discount Drugs.  Pictured Left to Right:  2005-2006 Chamber of Commerce President Regina Mooney, Ruth Mills, Union Discount Drugs owner Robin Bower.  Entertainment by Country & Western Singer Ruston Stewart of Carthage followed the awards presentation.  The finale consisted of the awarding of a stellar collection of door prizes donated by Union merchants and friends.

Now please step into the past with me to visit....

The Union That Was....

Union, Mississippi was a much different place in the 50's & 60's.  Downtown was a thriving, well maintained commercial district.  One could buy in Union just about anything needed for day to day life.  The department stores were well stocked and featured popular merchandise.  One shopped at Kasdan's, Marshall Lewis & The Pride.  Dot's Shop  and Irene's featured women's clothing styles.  The Ben Franklin Store was a popular "five & dime" establishment on Main Street and provided many of the mainstays.  Later T-W-L entered the market and supplemented our choices.   Lester White had a hardware store near the corner of Bank & Main.  In addition there was Union Supply Company and Western Auto.  Appliances could be purchased at either the Gardner or the Driskell family establishments.  The Driskell store was so multi-faceted that it even once included a bowling alley.  What glorious years they were when Union had bowling leagues.

Food was never a problem.  One of my most treasured remembrances is that of Blaylock Cafe.  Located on Bank Street, the tiny 50's cafe featured a hamburger I still long for in the 21st century.  Every hamburger consumed over my lifetime pales in comparison to my remembrance of those served at Blaylock's.  The other menu item on which they could never be topped was strawberry shortcake.  To a child, it was perfection!  A longer lasting eating establishment was the Bus Station cafe (pictured below right).  Last run by the Junior Winfield family, the eatery featured a juke box with remote access at each booth.

Groceries could be purchased at Sunflower Food Store, which anchored the northeast corner of Bank & Main.  In addition, the Miley family owned Jitney Jungle, which operated from the present Dollar Store building at the corner of Park Street and Jackson Road.  Ogletree's operated as a grocery/feed & seed from their old building where then Hwy 15 intersected Jackson Road.  Bill Ogletree and  his wife Nancy lived over the store, where she offered piano lessons.  Hugh Matthews also offered groceries/feed & seed in his store, which was located at the far northwest end of Bank Street.  A highlight of visiting Hugh Matthews Store was Bernie Crenshaw, who was always quick to offer a young child a fresh stick of chewing gum.  There were also a number of "Mom & Pops", my favorite of which was Thomas' Store next to First Baptist Church.  The walk home from school always required a stop at Thomas' for a Popsicle or RC Cola. 


There were two Dry Cleaning establishments, both offering pickup and delivery:  one owned by Hershel Nicholson, the second owned by Robert Mills & Joe Cleveland. 


Pictured mid-1960's in front of the old First Baptist Church Sanctuary:  Judy Harris , Carol Mills, Vickie Whitten, Terry Case, Martha Lane, Connie Barnett.

Park Street was developed in the late 50's.  The land had served many uses over the years, including functioning as an airplane landing strip and a horse track.  When the west side was subdivided, the land still bore scars created by horse hoofs.  The new occupants worked hard to plant grass and shade trees.  The trees were very small then, as were the children.  Every house was a young family and it was a heavenly playground with a plethora of playmates.  Those small children now have families of their own and have scattered to the wind.


Saturday afternoons were spent enjoying a double feature matinee at Union Theater.  The Wofford family establishment offered tasty popcorn and milk duds to supplement one's viewing enjoyment.   It was the place to see and be seen.  Speaking of Saturday....   Everyone came to town.  One shopped, visited, and enjoyed the day.  (Photo Courtesy of Jimmy Wofford)

Sunday afternoon often found my crowd lounging on the sidewalk steps across from the old Laird Hospital building (pictured below about 1942), watching for college kids driving back to school.

The best comic books in Union could be viewed at Benton Gordon's barber shop.  It was perfectly acceptable for girls to tag along on their brother and/or father's haircut adventures if comic books were involved.  Staffing the other barber chair at the Gordon shop was Marshall Rhodes.


One section of street that remains similar to its early days is the northwest section of Main Street.  The Union Appeal was/is, then and now, a thriving newspaper that provides wonderful local coverage.  Next door  is still Dr. Adkins, eye doctor supreme.  Greatly missed across the street was the Sessums Hotel.  Their food was legendary.  Ma Sessums set a table that called to every traveling salesman who visited East Central Mississippi.  Food was home cooked and served family style.  In the 21st century I still prepare the Sessums Hotel asparagus casserole.  It cannot be topped.  Sessums Hotel was also the "home away from home" for many single teachers of the Union Public School System.  One of my favorites, Coach T. L. Gregory, lived there during his work week.

Next to the Sessums Hotel was an establishment only populated by the male crowd.  The pool hall was accepted as unofficially "off limits" to girls.  Teenaged girls of the 60's were limited to driving past with a quick glance to determine if one's favorite guy might be inside.

Peoples Bank of Union operated from their building on the northwest corner of Bank & Main.  The post office occupied a large building near the southwest corner.  Drug stores of choice were those run by the Alexander family and Harry Moore.

Following the close of the '58-'59 school year, the old Union High School building (pictured right) was demolished to make way for a facility featuring a newly popular cafetorium.  My 5th grade year was spent in that old doomed building.  5th and 6th grades occupied the north end of the building, segregated from the Junior High/High School students, who occupied the opposite end.    Junior High & High School classes during the '59-'60 school year were conducted in the  building that normally housed grades 1 - 4.  Grades 1-6 were moved to First Baptist Church's  educational building.  By the beginning of the '60-'61 school year, the new building and its expanded elementary wing had been completed.   Union's school facility had begun its evolution towards the future.

Pictured Below:  Old First Baptist Church sanctuary in the background of a 1960's era parade.

Everyone attended Friday night football games in the mid-60's.  Union played in the Choctaw Conference, usually against teams from much larger school systems.  The UHS Band was just beginning to establish it's stellar reputation.   There were class plays and Junior/Senior banquets.  Sorry, no dances allowed....  Those were limited to Saturday nights at the Union Community Center or Decatur's American Legion Hut, much to our parents' chagrin.  Dances usually featured the late Billy Savell's band.   Post football game socials were held at First Baptist Church on a regular basis.  "Spend the night" parties and cruisin' supplemented one's social calendar.  A soft drink could be obtained in the evenings at Magnolia Inn, from a closed gas station drink machine, or at a short lived Dairy Queen on Decatur Street.  Life was simpler then...............


Pictured Left Senior Class play "Fair Exchange" UHS Class of '67.  Left to right:  Vickie Whitten, Tommy Edwards, Harold Parker,  Jimmy Majures, Tommy Madden, Kenny Burns, Margaret Shelton, Mike Ozborn, John L. Tillman, Carol Mills, Dennis Rigdon, Jolene Savell.

Pictured Right:  Tommy Edwards, Martha Lane, Robert Luke, Carol Mills & Esther Rivers.  Early 1960s classroom at UHS.

UHS Football Team 1939


Left to Right;  Bottom Row:  Noble Germany, Rupert Harmon, Fred Fulton, J. C. Simmons, Raymond Viverette, Pete Evans, Bobby Freemon, Ralph Simmons, Fred Speed, George Worthern;  Middle Row:  J. R. Hillmon, Ralph Luke, Bill Owen Howle, Carl Rushing, W. A. Reynolds, Bum Rushing, Hoye Fulton, Hayward Amis, Charles Freeburg, Guy Tucker;  Top Row:  E. W. Horn, Rex Gordon, Homer Cleveland, James Horton, Rob Lewis, Torrance Hunter, Ozborn Driskell, Madison Cleveland, Bill Griffis, L. D. Sharp;  Coaches:  Doug Smith, Bill Childress.


Pictured Above:  UHS School Board 1964.   Left to Right:  Robert Mills, Rolf Howle, Cecil Barnett, Principal Herbert Hoff, Walter Marvin Johnson, Oree Collins.



The Class of '41 did not make the normal "cap & gown" march off to college.  They marched to war instead, and some never returned.  Pictured right the class meets in 1985 for a long awaited reunion.


08/10/2007 09:16:18 PM