Baldwyn-ites, I need your help! And by “help,” I mean copies of your old photographs, newspaper clippings and historical family stories. I have come to the conclusion that I just can’t tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth about our little town without them. It’s as simple as that.
For almost a year now, I have been feverishly researching our Main Street stores and the people who have occupied them. I have logged many weeks studying the progress of Baldwyn’s men and women through time – from the very earliest days when hungry Appalachian settlers and wealthy opportunists populated the ground we see out our kitchen windows. I have interviewed, officially and unofficially, my nearest neighbors as well as those who have migrated to far-off places, and I find both groups in possession of substantial “new” information on all the colorful characters, historic businesses and important events from Baldwyn’s past.
But now, even after poring over thousands of clippings, photographs and genealogical records plus many of the books of Claude Gentry, Johnnie Lee Smith, Simon Spight and Louis Cochran, I am still coming up short of the complete, comprehensive story of Baldwyn that I want to tell. I just can’t finish! With each fading photo or dog-eared article someone offers me, a new twist is revealed, and I scramble to incorporate it. “Settled” history changes with almost every new item that is brought forth.
Mike Gillentine walked into my office the other day with a box full of Baldwyn Indicator newspapers – acquired from some long-dead native’s root cellar – dated 1898 to 1901, and immediately everything I knew about that particular time period in our town shifted, at least a little. A man named Henry S. Phillips was named as the Indicator editor in editions from 1900 and 1901. Certainly you remember H.S. Phillips, right? No, you don’t, and I didn’t either – never even heard of him. Yet when I was made aware of him by Mike’s find, I started to poke around a little concerning this unknown editor and found that, in fact, he had been mentioned briefly in one of Simon Spight’s books. I continued searching through Simon’s artifacts until I finally found a picture of The Tin Roof building at 114 West Main. The photo of the building (occupied by The People’s Bank way back in 1900) showed a side doorway that led upstairs from street level to the Law Office of – you guessed it – H.S. Phillips.
So now thanks to a box from someone’s root cellar, Henry S. Phillips – with his office above the People’s Bank, a fledging law practice and a hankering to try his hand in the newspaper business – emerges as the newest character in this week’s episode of Talk of the Town. An old photograph, a yellowed newspaper or sometimes even a hand-me-down family story can bring the long-gone people who walked Main Street or Cemetery Street or 2nd Street during Baldwyn’s 152 years back to life in a meaningful way. That’s what I’m after.
They say a picture’s worth a thousand words. I say, maybe more.
If you have a picture of any historic Main Street building or of any person who has impacted Baldwyn over the last century and a half, share it with me in care of The Baldwyn News. We’ll copy and return it. For the full and true story of Baldwyn to be told, I need your help.