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D’Lo Braxton Magee Simpson County Courthouse
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History and Heritage
 
Braxton: History thumb

Braxton: History

Groundbreaking schools. An earth-shattering storm. Braxton has seen a lot, and you can see it, too…

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n 1889, automobiles didn’t exist; the planet Pluto was 40 years away from being discovered.  But that year at the launch of Braxton’s Collegiate Institute, students were already aiming high and moving fast, embarking on a course of learning that included Greek, Latin, higher mathematics and even physics at one of the state’s first high schools, a boarding school with two dormitories. 

And Braxton was the sort of community that believed in learning for all.  Two decades later when Professor Laurence C. Jones arrived in the area to found a school for African American youths, he was met with encouragement and support, and the Piney Woods School would go on to graduate some of the nation’s most influential musicians.

The town had been established around a physician’s practice (Braxton was named for the physician’s son, Ira Braxton Standifer), and by the turn of the century this thriving city had become a medical and retail hub for the region.  With the Gulf and Ship Island Railroad going strong, it seemed nothing could stop Braxton’s growth.

But on April 26, 1921, the now notorious Braxton Cyclone struck, demolishing most of the town; the stock market crash and Depression followed.  Braxton weathered those upheavals with strength and dignity, and today visitors can learn about the Cyclone and Braxton’s early days at the Museum Room of the Braxton Community Center.


291 West Main Ave Braxton, MS 39044,

 
D’Lo: WWII Memorial and Finkbine Lumber thumb

D’Lo: WWII Memorial and Finkbine Lumber

In a town named for water, it was the timber—from good earth and good families—that made history and headlines…

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ater and wood shaped the destiny of D’Lo:  The town grew up by the waters of the Strong River (D’Lo is probably a variant of De l’eau, French for water), and the town grew large, for a time, on the virgin pine forest that surrounded it.  The timber was untouched until the turn of the century when the Gulf and Ship Island Railroad came through the area, which in turn brought the Finkbine Lumber Company. 

In 1914 Finkbine spent one million dollars to build a lumber mill that over the next 13 years would employ a daily workforce of 800, and would ultimately produce over 600 million feet of long leaf pine timber.  During those years D’Lo enjoyed prosperity and a surge in population to 5,000 people, gains that would largely disappear in the aftermath of the boom. 

However, while the city’s numbers declined, its essential character did not, and when World War II arrived, D’Lo offered the kind of timber—that of moral character and bravery—that truly makes a nation great, sending more men per capita into active service than any other town in America.  The city’s sacrifice made the cover of Life magazine:  “D’Lo Men Have Gone Off to War” read the headline. 

Today, visitors can read the names of those servicemen inscribed on D’Lo’s World War II monument located at the restored Masonic Hall and Community Center.  The indomitable smokestack and remains of the Finkbine Lumber Company are also a sight worth seeing.


208 Fourth Street D'Lo, MS 39062,

 
Magee: History thumb

Magee: History

An Indian treaty, a war against disease—turning the wheel of history in a town that began with a grist mill…

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lthough no definitive evidence of settlement has been found, Magee and the rest of Simpson County once belonged to the Six Towns district of the Choctaw Nation until 1820, when the area was ceded to the United States by the Treaty of Doak’s Stand, signed by President Andrew Jackson and the legendary Choctaw Chief Pushmataha.  A wave of white settlement soon began, and in 1840 Willie Magee built his grist mill on Little Goodwater Creek inside what are now Magee city limits. 

The grist mill proved to be an excellent source of nourishment, feeding area residents and nurturing a small town that grew steadily throughout the following years, so that by the turn of the twentieth century, this bustling Piney Woods city was leading the way for a thriving county ready to take on any challenge, including what was at the time the scourge of public health.

In 1916, spurred by Dr. Henry Boswell, the Mississippi legislature established the Mississippi Tuberculosis Sanatorium three miles north of Magee; the city donated 200 acres for the hospital and grounds.  While tuberculosis was eventually tamed and the hospital became an intermediate care facility for persons with developmental disabilities, several of the hospital’s original buildings, some of them listed on the National Register of Historic Places, still stand on the campus, which is open for public tours.

In Magee, historic structures also worth exploration include the McAlpin House, a Victorian built in the early 1900s and now a popular event venue, and the Magee Community House, now home to Lamplighter Community Theatre.


1049 Simpson Highway 149 Magee, MS 39111 ,

 
Mendenhall: Courthouse and Thames House thumb

Mendenhall: Courthouse and Thames House

A court ruling created this city’s landmark courthouse; today its beauty makes an excellent case for stopping awhile…

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endenhall began life as Edna, a small settlement named after the wife of developer Philip Didlake.  However, when the city applied for a post office, it was discovered that another town called Edna already existed, so the name was changed to honor Thomas Mendenhall, a prominent citizen and lawyer from Westville.

So it might be considered ironic that the city of Mendenhall should become the arch rival of Westville in the early twentieth century as the two cities battled for the title of county seat in a legal brawl that lasted two years.  Westville was then a bustling city and had been county seat for some 70 years; but when Gulf and Ship Island Railroad arrived, it bypassed the city and laid track in a straight line from Braxton through Mendenhall and Magee.  Still, Westville refused to yield, and the case was finally decided by the Mississippi Supreme Court. 

In 1906, New Orleans architect Andrew J. Bryon created a design inspired by the U.S. Capitol, and by the next year, contractor M.W. Land of Jackson had completed the courthouse for $59,000. 

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985, the Courthouse underwent a $1.75 million restoration in 1986 which brought back all its original beauty and detail.  Today, it’s one of several historic landmarks well worth exploring.  The historic Thames House, now the Mendenhall City Hall, is another.  And while organization’s headquarters are not architecturally historic, no tour of significant Mississippi Civil Rights sites would be complete without a visit to the Mendenhall Ministries, a nationally-known faith-based community development organization, and a leading light in achieving landmark civil rights for all Americans.


172 West Maud Avenue, Mendenhall, MS 39114, 601.847.1212

 
Mississippi State Sanatorium Museum thumb

Mississippi State Sanatorium Museum

It was a mighty battle, waged by a dedicated healthcare force against a terrible disease. The Sanatorium saved lives, and now we’ve saved the history...

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uberculosis was an urgent public health problem when Dr. Henry Boswell appeared before the Mississippi Legislature in 1916, proposing a modern sanatorium. Lawmakers responded generously, and so did the city of Magee, donating 200 acres of land.

Over the next 60 years, the Mississippi State Sanatorium stood as a beacon and a refuge, caring for patients of all races and ages, adding the Preventorium for preventive residential care for children in 1930. Though the Sanatorium closed in 1976, and the facility became a care center for patients with developmental disabilities, now called the Boswell Regional Center, today BRC’s beautifully landscaped campus is still home to many of the original Sanatorium structures, some of them designated as Mississippi Landmarks by the Department of Archives and History.

Housed in one of those landmark buildings, the Mississippi Sanatorium Museum offers a fascinating and multifaceted look at life and times of this vital institution, through immersive narrative and biographical exhibits and artifacts. There’s even a patient room equipped with a vintage electro-surgical unit.


1049 Simpson Highway 149 Magee, MS 39111, 601.867.5000

 
Pinola: Westville Cemetery thumb

Pinola: Westville Cemetery

A town dies away, but its cemetery is preserved, while a neighboring hamlet finds new life in old structures…

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n the early days of the state, boundary lines were routinely drawn and redrawn, and in Simpson County it was no different.  Named for territorial judge Josiah Simpson, this area belonged to three different entities, Washington Territory, then Hinds and Copiah Counties, before it became its own county. 

Westville, the county seat for some 70 years, was named for a military man, Colonel Cato West, and while it was a prosperous city for most of those years, the town was doomed when the Gulf and Ship Island Railroad bypassed it.  However, while Westville died away, its cemetery, the final resting place for Thomas Mendenhall and other historic figures, has been preserved and certified as a Cemetery of Historical Significance by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.  Open to the public, the Westville grounds are a welcome spot for strolling or meditation.

Nearby, at the adjacent town of Pinola, historic structures are taking delightful new forms:  The old Pinola School House, which dates to the pre-consolidation era of state education, has been restored for use by the Pinola Historical Society and by the Simpson County Historical and Genealogical Society, and the Pinola Hotel is now an art shop and pottery studio. 


Westville CemeteryOld Westville Road, Pinola, MS 39149,


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