Nail everything down … yes; I’m traveling south to Smith County, Mississippi. I am headed to the sweet, southern town of Taylorsville to share my southern stories.
Hey, I have already found some kin in the area. My grandmother could “stir-up a cousin or two” within five minutes of entering a room. It takes me 10 minutes, but I’m working on it. You see the founder of Smith County, Maj. David Smith, had a daughter, Aurelia, who married Gov. Hiram Runnels. The name Runnels, sometimes spelled as Reynolds, was the ninth governor of Mississippi (mid-1830s). Governor Runnels was my g/g/g/g/g uncle.
That’s what we native Mississippians live for – finding dead relatives. It seems there are times the “dead ones” are more pleasant than the “living ones.” But that’s a subject for another day.
I shall return to my original subject – Taylorsville. It is a lovely rural town situated near the Leaf River, with a thriving business community, active Chamber of Commerce, a large Industrial Park, plus bunches of southern hospitality. I think I will fit-in just fine.
The big event of the year is The Grillin’ N Chillin’ Barbecue Festival held each November, which features a concert, K-Run, car and motorcycle show plus the highly competitive barbecue competition. Hmm, I can smell the boston-butt and baked beans right now. Neighboring towns and communities include Mize, Raleigh, and Burns. (I’m working on kin there, too.)
Taylorsville was founded in 1900 as the result of The Gulf and Ship Island Railroad putting down tracks in the area – as were many cities of Mississippi. Yes, our recorded history tells us the rails ruled the establishment of most Mississippi communities.
Smith County was once home to Native American Indian Tribes (mainly Chickasaw and Choctaw). In 1830 the Dancing Rabbit Treaty between the Choctaw Nation and the U.S. opened the land to American settlers. From that land opportunity incentive, many settlers arrived from the Carolina’s, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia, and other points to begin a new life.
Taylorsville, as most Mississippi communities, is a generous town. In 2001, when their local Mississippi Landmark, The Watkins Museum, was listed as one of the Ten Most Endangered Sites by the Mississippi Heritage Trust, the good people organized a highly successful effort to save the museum.
Among those who joined the town of Taylorsville toward this effort was the Unobee Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Taylorsville Garden Club, the Green Sprouts Garden Club, plus many volunteers from throughout the Taylorsville area. Today the museum continues to thrive.
A memory of the Oct. 24, 2013 rededication of the Watkins Museum was shared by Yvonne Murray, Unobee Chapter member. “One thing that happened that is funny now but not at the time – the museum is next to the water tank. All of the chairs were set up nicely in front of the museum all ready for the visitors to arrive and for some unknown reason the water tank began to spew forth water covering all of the chairs; so the people had to move in high gear to get everything dry and back in order. I arrived thirty minutes prior to the program starting. There was not one sign of the crisis that had just occurred.”
To me, this type scene is movie-worthy. You just can’t make this stuff up … the endurance of our Mississippi people. Save a museum, cleanup the water, serve cake and punch – celebrate, celebrate, celebrate.
Dear readers: I know many of you are making vacation plans. Why not travel Mississippi? Yes, meet the people, learn the history and heritage, enjoy the beautiful landscapes, and as my grandmother and now me … stir up some kin.
Join me: Thursday, Feb. 13, 3:30 p.m. in Taylorsville at Taylorsville Town Hall (free and open to the public). We’ll spin a few Mississippi stories, make new friends, and enjoy the blessings of living in our great State. That’s something to celebrate!
Anne McKee is a writer and storyteller. See her website: www.annemckee.net