Meridian Star


June 20, 2014

It was a good day in the neighborhood ...

MERIDIAN — Which neighborhood, you might ask? That’s easy – my neighborhood is always Mississippi. Some consider the entire state of Mississippi as one big neighborhood and I totally agree – one big FRIENDLY neighborhood. Read along as I share a recent adventure to Northeast Mississippi.

    As we rocked along MS Highway 45 North, we made our first stop in West Point. Not West Point, NY, but the important one located in Clay County, MS – better known as the Golden Triangle region of the state.

    West Point is also home to Old Waverly, one of Mississippi’s top golf courses, where the 1999 U.S. Women’s Open took place as well as the home of Waverly Plantation Mansion, a National Historic Landmark. The old home is a must-see, built in 1852, features its four story cantilevered stair hall and cupola – one of only a few remaining in the nation.

    The city of 11,000 citizens has produced a large number of extraordinary people: professional football and baseball players, a Pulitzer recipient, journalist, David Halberstam. Not to forget Chester Burnett, better known as Howlin’ Wolf, famous bluesman. Each Labor Day weekend the Howlin’ Wolf Festival celebrates his music in conjunction with the Prairie Arts Festival. Our favorite West Point stop is the Tin Lizzy Cafe, a local eatery, casual and home-style at its best.

         We continued our jaunt north to J. P. Coleman State Park, located on a rocky bluff overlooking the Tennessee River. There is a motel and cabins, plus both primitive campsites and sites with full hookups.You may enjoy a dip in the swimming pool or the river — spread a picnic among the pines. Don’t forget boating, hiking, and, of course, fishing. We found the very best thing at J. P. Coleman is the beautiful river view available throughout the entire park.

         From J. P. Coleman it’s a 15 minute drive to the lovely, historic town of Iuka, located in the extreme northeast corner of Mississippi, known as the “Gateway to Mississippi.” We love this small town of 3,000 citizens. It was like a sweet journey back in time.

    Iuka is built on the site of a Chickasaw Indian village and named after one of the chieftains. The town was founded by David Hubbard, a wagon train scout. When the Memphis and Charleston Railroad began in 1857, the town grew and prospered, but after the Civil War, the place was destroyed and devastated.

    The townsfolk never gave up, like many Mississippi communities. With the building of the Pickwick Landing Dam and Lake by the Tennessee Valley Authority, the town of Iuka, MS has enjoyed a resurgence of prosperity, while keeping its small southern town charm.

         Woodall Mountain, located just south of Iuka, is the highest natural point in the state. The mountain was originally called Yow Hill. During the Civil War, the Battle of Iuka took place there (Sept. 19, 1862). It was a Union victory. And that’s all I’ll say about that.

    It was only a twenty minute drive from Iuka to one of the most historic locations in the State of MS. Jacinto Courthouse, originally built as a log structure in the 1830s. It was completed in 1854, as a grand two story building, which was constructed with brick, handmade on-site.

    The façade is reminiscent of Colonial Williamsburg in the Federal Style. At the time the town square was composed of many businesses, a doctor’s office, the county jail, and a school. Plus 52 blocks of houses for the Jacinto citizens. A stagecoach stopped four times per day, such was the importance of the Jacinto’s news and political/cultural influence.

    By the early 1900s the town was only a memory – a tale of what-used-to-be. Why? Two major railroads declined to come through the town and the large county (Tishomingo) was divided into three counties (Alcorn, Prentiss, and Tishomingo).  As I stood in the echoing halls of the old building, it seemed as if the people were away, just for a minute – such was the hallowed essence of the place.

         Yes, a good day in the neighborhood – hope to see you along the way.

    Anne McKee is a writer and storyteller. See her website:

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