Meridian Star

November 6, 2008

Celebrate the past and the present at Kemper County Mississippi

By Anne McKee

I'm thinking of spending a long and lazy fall afternoon at a beautiful lake, and that would be Kemper Lake, 652 acres of spring-fed water. The lake has 180 acres of recreational development including 44 RV campsites, tent camp area, boat launches, swimming area, beach, bathhouse, picnic areas and pavilions. If you are interested, and want to enjoy a little piece of Heaven conveniently located near DeKalb Mississippi in Kemper County, call (601) 743-5505.

Kemper County is our neighboring county to the north.  The county seat is Dekalb -- a lovely, small southern town, and as of the 2000 census, the Kemper County population numbered 10,453. Watch out, because I have relatives (dead and alive) situated all across the county.  Even a few of them are mentioned in Hewitt Clarke's engaging book, "Bloody Kemper" -- that can be good and it can be bad as well. chuckle.

By information obtained from Juanice Evans, Executive Director, Kemper County Chamber of Commerce, the county reports a rich history even though little is known of the first inhabitants of the area. The first recorded history begins with Native Americans, the land of the Choctaw Nation. One Choctaw legend gives Nanih Waiya Mound (located northeast of Philadelphia Mississippi, off of State Highway 393) as the birthplace of the Choctaw Nation.The Nanih Waiya Mound and Village Park are listed on the National Register of History. For more information: call (662) 724-2770.

The first white settlers may have arrived in the Kemper County area by the latter half of the 18th century as they established farmsteads and trading posts. These settlers were in place when Andrew Jackson built the Jackson Military Road from Nashville to New Orleans.  Known today as the Old Jackson Road, parts of Jackson Military Road are still in use.  The 1830 Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek officially ceded the area, and on December 23 1833, the Mississippi Legislature created Kemper County -- naming it in honor of the Kemper brothers, Ruben, Nathan, and Samuel. Ruben Kemper, at 6' 6" was a giant of a man, even for those days, and served as a spy for General Jackson during the War of 1812. Dekalb, the county seat of government, was named for Baron Johan Dekalb, a German soldier serving under French General Lafayette during the Revolutionary War. After being wounded 13 times, the Baron gave his life for American independence at the Battle of Camden in South Carolina, an area that reputedly gave Kemper County some of its early settlers.

It was during this time that Sciple's Mill became into existence and the mill is still in operation. Mr. Edward Sciple is the present day owner of the mill located 10 miles northwest of Dekalb. The mill was built on the site around 1790 by a Dr. Hunnelly and was purchased by the Sciple family between 1830 and 1850. Since that time there have been seven generations of Sciples working the mill. The mill is powered by a Leffel Water Turbine Wheel, which develops 250 to 300 horsepower. The mill can grind 32 bushels of corn or wheat per hour.  The present day wheel was placed in operation in 1880.  The mill museum is open for tours (free admission) 8 am to 3 pm on weekdays except during deer season.  On weekends, visitors can tour the grounds only.  The old mill building is a virtual museum of 19th century as there are displayed tools and implements of every kind that hang from the ceiling and the walls. Most of the school children in this area have toured Sciple's Mill and arrive home with wide-eyed amazement to tell their parents and grandparents all about the water mill.

I must tell you that in addition to the mill museum, there is another opportunity at Sciple's Mill.  It's a musical opportunity.  Every Saturday night beginning at 5:00 pm, the mill house is open for music and dance. Again, there's no admission fee, no smoking, no liquor, and no bad language allowed -- a time of fun for all ages. Musicians come out to sing their songs -- from Blue Grass to Gospel, Country and a little Rock-n-Roll too. Mr. Sciple says, "When it gets too hot, we'll just jump in the creek."

Every community has a favorite son and at Dekalb Mississippi it is longtime Senator John C. Stennis. He was a U.S. Senator for over 41 years and he never forgot his Kemper County roots.  His dedication to Mississippi was legendary. Because of his work with the Armed Services committee (1969-1980) he became known as the "Father of America's Modern Navy", and he was subsequently honored by having a supercarrier named after him. I remember a commercial airplane flight that my family and I shared with him.  After we landed at the Meridian Airport, he lifted my then three-year-old son to his knee. His gentle spirit was evident as he talked to the child and hugged him as if he could have been his own grandchild. Yes, that was Senator John Stennis.

If you've noticed the business news lately, you've noted the good news from the Kemper County Economic Development Authority. As recently as last week Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant was in town for a ribbon cutting and the opening of two new manufacturing facilities. They are Pharma Pac, LLC and AL&S; Pharmaceuticals. There is a growth potential of about 100 new jobs. I know you agree, if it's good for Kemper County, then it's good for Mississippi.

Last night at the Kemper County Chamber and Economic Development Annual Awards Dinner, J. L. White was awarded the John C. Stennis Award and Ed Van Devender received the Kemper County Citizen of the Year award. Congratulations to both!

The churches located in Kemper County remain strong and solid as taught through their longstanding heritage. Here are a few dates from the church calendars:


10-12 Youth Ministers Retreat, Lake Tiak O'Khata.

11 Interim Pastor Training at Lee Baptist Association, Tupelo.

24 Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes deadline.



8 Prison Ministry Gifts for inmates' children & family turnin deadline.

13 WMU Christmas Shopping Center at MS Care Center

15 "Joy" Senior Christmas Adult Fellowship

21 Liberty Baptist Church Christmas Cantata

29-30 Youth Evangelism Challenge, Mississippi College, Clinton


Kemper County dates of interest:

December 6 - Kemper County Christmas Parade

February 12 - Kemper County Prayer Breakfast


Other points of interest at Kemper County:

Kemper County Museum  (601) 743-2754.

Magnolia Manor - Historic home of the Old South (601) 743-2754.

Ouiver Creek Hunting Preserve - Pheasant, Quail, hunting and clay shooting (601) 793-4850.

Timberview Lodge - Deer, Quail, Turkey hunting, motel for meetings and retreats. (601) 743-4204.

Chapel Hill Church - 100 year old church built of native stone. Call (601) 743-2754.

Veteran's Memorial and Courthouse - Call (601) 743-2754.

Back Porch Cafe, Cottages & Antiques - home cooked meals, charming cottages. (601) 793-9590.

Visit Kemper County Mississippi -- you won't be disappointed.


Anne McKee is a writer and storyteller who lives in Meridian. She is listed on the Mississippi Artist Roster as a literary artist, and she is active with the arts communities throughout Mississippi.