W

hether new to the area or native, Sowashee is an important word. Yes, it’s hard to pronounce, has a kinky meaning, and perhaps, not so impressive at first sighting, but over many years the Sowashee has carved more than a waterway but has proven a life-way for thousands of inhabitants.

It all began with the Choctaw Nation who inhabited the area now called Meridian for scores of years prior to the Dancing Rabbit Treaty signed in 1830. This treaty opened land for American settlers to move west into the great western frontier, now known as Mississippi. Sowashee Creek was a landmark, both on spoken-maps and eventually printed maps.

The Choctaw named the waterway early in their habitation of the area. Sowashee, meaning “mad river” in their native language was the lifeline of early village life. The creek brought the substance of fish to eat, water to drink and a passageway to the nearby Chunky River and Okatibbee Creek.

The earliest settler, post Dancing Rabbit Treaty, was Richard McLemore, who received a federal land grant of about 2,000 acres. In order to attract newcomers, McLemore offered free land to the region. He hoped to start a community of families, with churches and schools and with thriving mercantile and industry. The Sowashee Creek played an important part in the settlement.

Two new residents at that time were a lawyer from Alabama, Mr. Lewis A. Ragsdale and Mr. John T. Ball, a merchant from Kemper County. In the mid-1850s, there were rumors of the Mobile and Ohio Railroad possibly running a line through the area, the two men bought large tracts of land from Mr. McLemore and laid out lots for development.

Then it was time to name the growing settlement. Mr. Ragsdale proposed “Ragsdale City.” Many residents of the area preferred “Sowashee” because of the importance of the waterway and others suggested “Meridian.” Finally “Meridian” was selected.

Dear reader: If you are interested in more details pertaining to the settlement of Meridian, Mr. Ragsdale and Mr. Ball, and of course, the Sowashee Creek, please consider attending the annual Rose Hill Cemetery Costumed Tour. The popular tour is presented each last Saturday in September. Mr. Ball and Mr. Ragsdale are interred in Rose Hill and their interesting stories are included. For more information, see the website. www.historicrosehillcemeterytours.com

Enter the 20st Century; many businesses and organizations have Sowashee as part of their name. One in particular is the Sowashee Writers. If you are not aware of this active group of creative writers, listen-up. Sowashee Writers was organized during the late 1980s. The group meets each first Wednesday of the month at 10 am in the Meridian Activities Building.

Sowashee Writers are poets, essayists, writers of short stories, magazine and newspaper articles and novels. They have writing projects ongoing and are always alert to upcoming writing events, writing competitions and festivals. The group offers gentle critiques, if members ask as well as huge amounts of encouragement. The group is open to all of those writers who need a place to discuss their work and writing dreams. There are no dues or commitments required; just a love for the written word is required.

Some past members: Clo Ann Rabb, Faye Edwards, Mary Culpepper Becky Chaney and Dr. Nan Benton. A few current members: Bobbie Crudup, Denise Dengler, Nora Martin, Barry McMullan, Dan Talley, Christopher Alexander, Janis Stufflebean Pattie Sisson, Jill Walsh, Genie Coats, Anne McKee and in addition there are frequent visitors and speakers such as Philip Levin and Theresa Lynn.

So you see, the Sowashee has a place in this area as not only an important part of history but as well as a supporter of the arts. Come join us and celebrate the memory of the Sowashee.

 

Anne McKee is a Mississippi historian, writer and storyteller. She is a member of the Mississippi Humanities Speakers Bureau. See her website: www.annmckeestoryteller.com

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