Category Archives: Genealogical research

The Last One

Aunt Erma was the last one – the last sister.  She was the baby.

She was ninety when she died last week.

Erma was my grandmother’s sister, and her husband of seventy-two years, Jack Hamblin, Jr., was my grandfather’s nephew.  So, uncle and nephew married sisters three quarters of a century ago, and the resulting two descendant branches from great-grandparents Mark Lafayette Rutherford and Mary Emma Copeland were eternally double-dipped in kinship.

Aunt Erma’s and Jack Jr.’s daughters Becky and Christi are both my second- and third-cousins.  That’s Mississippi closeness.

IMG_8689 (1)Erma Jean, born in 1928, was a child of the Great Depression and the last of nine Rutherford children – four boys and five girls.  Times were very hard early in the Rutherford family.  In fact, Aunt Erma was only ten when her father Mark was killed by a train on the M & O Railroad.  It’s unclear whether Mark Rutherford’s death was a suicide or an accident.  Without exception, Aunt Erma always proclaimed her father’s death accidental, fiercely.  I suspect that if the determination and concrete composition found in the Rutherford sisters was evident in my great-grandfather, in any small part, then my Aunt Erma’s assessment was the correct one.

IMG_8689Ruby, Edna, Delia Mae, Geneva and Erma Jean – those were the sisters.  They laughed and loved one another, and visited, and fed each other, and fed each other’s children and grandchildren.  They each one represented the epitome of a well-defined type of Southern woman from their generation.  Not the ones who began life with means.  No, their starting point on this earth – from a purely financial perspective – was essentially void of any reason to retain even a basic hope for the future that was about to unfold on each of them in the back half of the twentieth century.  But they, and their brothers, had fight in them.  The Rutherford’s didn’t quit in 1938 when their father was hit by a train.  They dug their fingers into Mississippi dirt and climbed.  And every living soul that exists at the tips of the smallest, newest limbs of their unbowed family tree is the beneficiary of the unyielding will and tenacity exhibited in those brothers and sisters.

I can’t tell their stories with specific detail.  I’ll get them wrong.

IMG_8688I know they all had gardens when I was a boy.  Not because they enjoyed gardening as a pastime, but because they developed the habit back when they had to insure they had plenty to eat.

Aunt Erma fell out of a knotty pear tree on my grandparents’ place one time, and she hurt herself badly.  Each year, the sisters put up pear preserves.  Truly, Aunt Erma was well settled and secure enough in life, by the year she fell, to buy ten rooms of pear preserves at Big Star or Cunningham’s Grocery.  But she climbed up in that pear tree anyway that summer – because that’s what she and her siblings did.  They didn’t rest.  They worked to secure life for their families, in every way they knew how.

I contend today that the stuff that Aunt Erma was made of is a foreign substance in modern life, extinct.  Who routinely cooks for twenty people these days?  No one.  She did.

My mother told me that she remembered when Aunt Erma and my grandmother wrung the necks of a hundred chickens by hand, dressed those chickens, and put them in a deep freeze to use later in that year.  She remembered the plucking.  And frankly, she remembered it as it would probably be perceived today – a bizarre, surreal scene, a squawking feather tornado, and the children running and screaming through the carnage.  It’s practically impossible for that event to occur any other way.

When I consider that archaic moment now, I come to the quick realization that my grandmother’s and my Aunt Erma’s task on that day was no more palatable than it would be on this day.  Yet, there stood two wives and mothers, in feathers and beaks, two Southern women who would do anything for their families – for their comfort, to sustain them, because they loved them.  And because of the fight that resided at their cores.  As God is my witness.

All the Rutherford brothers were gone by 1991.

My grandmother Delia Mae died of cancer in 1998.  It seems like yesterday.  Aunt Edna died in 2001, Aunt Ruby in 2008, and Aunt Gen in 2011.

Erma Jean Rutherford Hamblin – Mother, Gran, Aunt Erma – died on June 26, 2018.  She was something else.  She was the last one.

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How Do You Know That

I love a puzzle, I love a mystery, and I love history.  The entangled combination of those passions yields hours of enjoyment for me, pouring over old scraps of paper and pictures.  I happily lose myself in the pursuit of some fact that is today largely unknown – regardless of its importance – and in the uncovering of some odd and ironic link between faces and places of the distant past to the here and now.  I like to think, to find out things.

A few years ago, Baldwyn native Al Phillips brought a tattered, old show poster into my Main Street office.  As is the case quite often these days, Al told me I could hold on to his discovery.  He said I could hang it up somewhere or just put it to use wherever I saw a good fit with the rest of the town’s growing history collection.

I cleaned it up a little and had it framed.  It now hangs prominently in the foyer of The Claude Gentry Theatre.

Here’s what it says …

High School Auditorium

Baldwyn, Miss.

Adm. 25 & 50 Cents

Thurs. Nite, Nov. 21, 8pm

_____

In Person – The Original

DELMORE BROTHERS

Alton & Rabon

Makers of Millions of Phonograph Records Including the Famous

“HILLBILLY BOOGIE” King Record No. 527

Stars of

WSM GRAND OLE OPRY For Seven Years

WLW Boone County Jamboree for Four Years

_____

WAYNE RANEY

CBS Harmonica King

Plus

CYCLONE

The Funny Boy That Tickles Everybody

_____

A Clean Complete Show Guaranteed to Please the Entire Family

Singing – Playing – Comedy – Spirituals and Old Time Hymns

Heard Over WMC Daily, 6:00 to 6:30 AM

Don’t Dare To Miss This Treat!

 

That says a lot.  It tells us who was coming to Baldwyn to perform and where the show would be held.  It tells us what the show was all about and even why it would be worth our time to go see it.

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But what does it NOT say?  The answer: it doesn’t say WHEN then show occurred.

Well, sure it does, one might counter – it clearly says right there at the top “Thurs. Nite, Nov. 21, 8pm.”  Certainly, for the original reader of the poster, that bit of information, the one-line blurb, would be enough to pinpoint the date when the comedy of Cyclone could be enjoyed.  It would be the “next” November 21.  The one that was upcoming.  But for us, decades hence, we don’t know the year.

And that’s where I get interested.  Simply because there is something unknown, I want to know it.  Whether or not the desire to know the unknown is an admirable or deplorable trait in human beings, I’ll leave for another story, but for now, let’s see if we can find out what year this show came to Baldwyn.

My best friend – Google – tells me that Alton and Rabon Delmore were stars of the Grand Ole Opry in the 1930’s, actively performing from 1926 to 1952.  I also find that Wayne Raney, our poster’s second-billed star, was active as a performer from 1934 through the 1980s.

I look back at our poster – what do we know?  The Delmore Brothers had already recorded Hillbilly Boogie.  We know that they were stars of the Grand Ole Opry for seven years, but we don’t know if it was the immediately preceding seven years.  The same can be said for their time with the Boone County Jamboree.  Wikipedia says Wayne Raney played with the Delmore Brothers after World War II, but that doesn’t absolutely negate the possibility that they all happened upon the same card in Baldwyn on one odd night at another earlier time.  Rabon Delmore died of lung cancer in 1952.  Obviously, that sets the final range of date possibilities.

I shift gears and get analytical.  Between 1934 and 1952, only three times does November 21st fall on a Thursday – 1935, 1940, and 1946.

The Delmore Brothers became regulars on the Grand Ole Opry in 1933, so by 1935 they probably wouldn’t have been touting themselves as “stars” of the Opry for seven years.  Plus, Raney was the whopping age of 14 in 1935.  1940 seems like the likely year of the Baldwyn show since the Delmore Brothers would have been with the Opry for precisely seven years at that time.  However, coincidentally, the brothers left the Opry in late 1939.  Therefore, the duration of their stardom with the Opry was exactly seven years, and that was a fact they could have used in self-promotion for the rest of their careers.

So, what else do we know?  The Delmore Brothers were the maker of “the famous Hillbilly Boogie, King Record. No. 527.”  Hillbilly Boogie was released by the King label in March of … 1946.

There you have it.  The big to-do at the Baldwyn High School Auditorium starring the Delmore Brothers, Wayne Raney and Cyclone (I’ll find him later) happened on a Thursday night, November 21st, 1946.

Puzzle finished.  Mystery solved.  Check.

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Free Yodeling During the Ascension

Baldwyn, Mississippi, is a town with a rich history of entertainment.

Multiple theaters, both film and stage, have existed within the four-block downtown historic district from the late 1800’s through present day.  In 2011, when the Claude Gentry Theatre was being created, Bimbo Griffin’s construction crews pulled silent movie posters from the ceiling.  Yes, the ceiling.  That’s when we realized that The Claude Gentry Theatre at 110 West Main Street and its sister building at 112 West Main once had a common 2nd floor.  In fact, an expansive upper floor auditorium across the two buildings housed at first the Baldwyn “Opera House,” where the local high school staged a production of the play “The Deacon” in 1907, and later “The Princess Theater,” where they played the silent films “Love Is Love” starring Albert Ray, “Beating the Odds” with Harry T. Morey, and a serial called “Bound and Gagged” with Marguerite Courtot, all in 1919.

A playbill for the Opera House hangs near the cash register at Agnew’s Restaurant in Pratts, and the posters unearthed by Bimbo Griffin today grace the walls of the Claude Gentry itself.

Somehow things in Baldwyn seem to braid tightly together over time into one strong rope of historic continuity.  That’s how I see it anyway.

“A Big Balloon Ascension and Parachute Jump!”  That was the headline.

IMG_8459Three times on the page the reader is informed that the spectacle to come – on June 15th, the next Thursday – was FREE.

The event was multi-faceted.  Not only was it a balloon ascension, it was a balloon ascension by “the biggest balloon in the world.”  That’s what it said.

And not only was it a parachute jump, it was “a 5000-foot parachute jump by a girl.”

I squinted to make sure I read that right.  Yep, “by a girl.”  I guess in 1939 a parachuting “girl” still had to untie her apron, hand her babies off to her mother, and ask her husband for permission before crawling into a balloon basket for an ascension.  Different times.

And that’s not all!  The Journal boldly announced that “Angelina and her Yodeling Cowgirls” would furnish music for the ascension, at 2:30, and then appear in the Baldwyn Theater (now the Baldwyn School District Central Office) with a matinee at 3:30 and evening shows later that night.

A few clicks on the computer was all it took to learn that “Angelina” was Angelina Cianciolo Palazola Gish Grosswiller of Memphis, who passed away in 1997, after 60 wonderful years of entertaining with the all-girl group she formed.  The “Yodeling Cowgirls” became the “Roaming Cowgirls” in the mid-40’s, when their yodeler quit, but they continued on with radio appearances, USO shows and private events for decades in various configurations.

On June 15, 1939, cowgirls yodeled in downtown Baldwyn while the biggest balloon in the world ascended 5000 feet so that a girl could jump out of it wearing a parachute.

We framed the paper.  It’ll hang in Tom’s Drug Store very soon as a permanent reminder that this town of ours knows how to truly entertain.

My 15-year-old Maddux and I looked at the framed page a few days ago, still in limbo for the moment in the office of Six Shooter Studios.

His fingers moved over the edge of frame as he studied it.

“Isn’t that funny?” I prodded.

“Well, I never saw a balloon in Baldwyn – I think I’d like to see that,” he said.

You know something?  I think I would, too.

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Simon Sez

As the opening of a newly-renovated Tom’s Drug Store & Soda Shop on Baldwyn’s Main Street rapidly approaches, an extensive effort is being made to identify, sort and evaluate the voluminous historic collection of the late Simon “Buddy” Spight.

Simon passed away over six years ago – June 2, 2012 – but the ultimate legacy of the man, who loved Baldwyn, Mississippi, with true passion, may just now be reaching its infancy.  In the back rooms of a few buildings on Main Street there exist ten thousand pieces of paper, pictures, paintings, models, and artifacts of all kinds, collected over a lifetime by Simon Spight.

I have myself already laid hands on framed commissions of famous Confederate officers, a 1903 Blue Mountain College class picture, mugshots from the Lee County Sheriff’s office from the early 1970’s, scaled drawings of Baldwyn streets with the homes marked with resident names at different times in the past century, a 1925 official map of Baldwyn from the Library of Congress, original poems in both hard copy and on cassette tape with Simon’s bass voice reading his works, pencil sketches of our town’s historic buildings as they once existed, and pictures of literally thousands of Baldwyn residents, taken throughout the entire duration of the town’s existence, 1861 to now.  The finds are incredible already … and we have barely skimmed through a quarter, maybe, of the materials the man graciously left this town.

Frankly, I can write from today until the day I die and never do sufficient justice to the tales that are contained in the archives of Simon “Buddy” Spight.  Nonetheless, I’ll try to periodically deliver some of the most notable re-discoveries to you in this column every few weeks.

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Along with providing inspiration for stories of Baldwyn’s historic past, many of the documents and photographs will also make their way to public display in Tom’s Drug Store, which will serve a dual purpose as the Baldwyn History Museum.  One such document that has been re-discovered in Simon’s collection is – I believe –the original layout of the town of Baldwyn.  The map would have been drawn in the late 1850’s or perhaps as late as early 1860.  It’s hand-inked on sepia paper and shows the city blocks of “Baldwyn.”  Simon or someone prior to him mounted the map on a backing board with glue – I do wish that hadn’t been done – but the faded and crinkled lines clearly show the dividing boundary between old Tishomingo and Itawamba Counties slashing at a slight diagonal through the Main Street of Baldwyn, just as the county line does today.

A reference to “Carrollville,” the original community that shifted a mile and a half over to Baldwyn when the Mobile & Ohio Railroad reached this spot in December of 1860, is shown about where the depot once stood.  The other words in the overall phrase written on the map aren’t clear.  I’m working on deciphering that.  I’ll report back if the rest of the notation becomes clear and means something interesting.

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(Just so you know, Marshall J.D. Baldwyn was the Mobile, Alabama, native who proposed the M & O Railroad.  He envisioned a connection between his south Alabama hometown and the Ohio River, suggesting that that connection would make Mobile a commercial competitor with New Orleans.  Baldwyn believed that providing an alternate route for finished goods to reach the gulf coast, other than the Mississippi River, would divert enough shipping to help his Mobile thrive.  Baldwyn himself ceremoniously drove a railroad spike into the track in our Baldwyn in 1860, and this town, sitting at approximately the halfway point of the full length of the railway, took the visionary prospector’s name as its own.)

I would propose that the map was drawn by Charles Wesley Williams, the first surveyor of old Tishomingo County and a founder of Booneville.  In a way, he was a founder of Baldwyn, too.  The records show that it was Williams, along with his close associates and relatives, who bought and sold the original plots of land outlined on the map.  Those friends and relatives included Col. Richard Clayton, Carrollville’s postmaster from 1840 to 1853, and Porter Walker, the sheriff of old Tishomingo County (which is modern day Alcorn, Tishomingo and Prentiss Counties combined).  Charles Wesley Williams is one of my direct-line ancestors, and though he may have been something of an opportunist, as an engineer, I’m significantly proud of the fact that I’m standing on a block in Baldwyn that he created on paper in 1860.  And today, I’m making drawings of things that I hope to create in 2020 and beyond.  That’s the kind of cyclical, generational, uber-coincidence that helps me know that there’s meaning under the surface of all this life-stuff.

I think Simon Spight saw that, too.

So … all this is derived from just one piece of paper, re-discovered in Simon’s collection … and we still have 9,999 to go.

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A Good Life, A Great Uncle

Gabe & JackMy great uncle, Jack Hamblin, Jr., is a World War II veteran.  He saved a dozen or more men from drowning when his ship was sunk in the English Channel during the Normandy invasion.  Jack Jr. and my grandfather Mort Gardner were my employers from the time I was 10 until I graduated high school at their Sinclair, Arco and Phillips 66 service stations here in Baldwyn. 

Jack told me a funny story several weeks ago.

Jack Hamblin Jr. & Charles Sidney SpainWhen he was a boy in the early 1940’s, Jack worked at the Union Drug Store, for Len Rowan and Archie “Fat” Frost, on Main Street in Baldwyn.  One day a local man named Bishop came in and approached Frost at the counter.  Archie, who was nearing 40 and balding, had had a long day.  He was seated behind the counter with his arms propped up, leaning forward. 

Bishop thought there was a little fun to be had.

Walking over to Frost, he clapped his hand down on top of Archie’s head, and loudly proclaimed “Archie, that feels just like my wife’s butt.”  And he laughed it up.

Archie Frost made no immediate response except to reach up and pat the top of his own head a couple of times.  Finally, he brought his hand down, looked up at Bishop, and dead-panned, “Damned if it don’t.”

Jack said Bishop never came in the Union Drug Store again. 

Certainly, Jack thought that was a pretty funny story.  In fact, he thought it was funny enough to relay it to his nephew more than 70 years after it happened.

Jack Hamblin, Jr., & Clark RicheyAs I debated this past week whether or not to write up the tale Jack had told me – I’m not sure the Baldwyn News will even publish the word “butt,” which is not really the term he used anyway – I realized I’d forgotten something.  Jack had told me what the Bishop man’s name was.  It was Claude, or Clarence, or Carl – something that started with a “C.”  But as I prepared my column this week, I couldn’t think of it for the life of me.  I had jotted it down on a piece of paper at my office, but that was months ago.  That scribble’s long since been discarded.  But I know that Jack knows it.  And I can get it from him later. 

Jack Jr. will be 90 this spring, I think.

Before Christmas, I sat with Jack at my niece’s wedding, and we talked about how he and my grandfather had started their service station business.  It was after the war, and they bought someone out – I can’t remember who he said – but he said they only had one tire tool in the place.  He told me one of the guys who had the station would wash someone’s car and then take the money and go straight to the pool hall.  He gave me the person’s name.  I can’t remember it.

Jack told me that when he and my grandfather thought about going into the service station business, people around town told them they were crazy.  Their competition – Brownie Coggins and Harless Rutherford, who in typical small-town fashion were also their brothers-in-law – had the gas business “sewed up” at Blue Top and Standard Oil. 

“But we did it anyway,” Jack said.  “Mort said, ‘I think it’ll be all right.’”

Jack Hamblin Jr., Claire & Hallie Goodson, Reggie RicheyJack told me how they saw that no one in town offered credit to black families in those days … and how he and my grandfather decided that they would.  He said they went to several solid men in the black community and told them directly that they wanted their business and that their credit would be good with “Mort and Jack.”  He called the men’s full names.  One was a Stewart, and I just can’t remember who else he mentioned.  Jack said when he and my uncle Dan closed the station 50 years later they had more business than anyone in town and that it had been basically 50/50 black and white all the way from the start.  I had never heard any of that before.

I’ve talked a lot over the past couple years with Jack Jr. and other elder statesmen around Baldwyn – Annie Laurie Arnold, Jimmy Cunningham, Wallace Pannell, Taylor Lindley, many more.  These golden souls are the ones who put flesh and bones on historic local names like Archie Frost for me.  They called him “Fat,” Jack told me.  I try hard to remember the details, to capture it all.  I don’t think I can.

But I called Jack back on Sunday anyway.  It was “Roy Stewart.”  He was the man Jack went to in the black community, in the fall of 1946, to offer credit.  He worked for the railroad.  And “Clarence” Bishop was the man who thought it’d be funny to pat Archie Frost’s bald head.  That was in 1941 or ’42, Jack thought.

At my niece’s wedding a month ago, my great uncle Jack Hamblin, Jr., told me, “You know, I’ve lived a good life.” 

Damned if he hasn’t.

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A Tall, True Tale of a Southern Pioneer: Abednego Inman

A.I. TaylorIn 1838, when he was only 24 years old, Abednego Inman Taylor was innkeeper at an original Mississippi tavern, the Carrollville Inn, located just north of modern-day Baldwyn.  He and his wife Martha Gibbs had come to northeast Mississippi from Franklin County, Tennessee, with the first influx of settlers, those who rushed in to fill the void left when the Chickasaws accepted final removal in 1837.  Taylor was a stereotype of the early Presbyterian pioneers who struggled through the Cumberland Gap and along the Tennessee River in a steady stream until the Southern United States, from eastern Tennessee to Texas, was settled.  Descendants of A.I. and his siblings – including Taylor Lindley, Louis Cochran, Tommy Shellnut, and many others – are widely known by current Baldwyn residents.  The original innkeeper, A. I. Taylor, is today acknowledged as an important founder of old Carrollville and its municipal offspring, Baldwyn.

In the context of modern sensibilities, one finds it difficult to conceive a motivation that would launch a man and his family into far-away, densely-wooded wilderness to somehow there achieve a better standard of living.  But to Taylor, it was simply a family tradition.  Likely, it was A. I.’s namesake grandfather – Maj. Abednego Inman – who was responsible for passing on this family’s trailblazing spirit of adventure and migration to the young Taylor.

A story from the life of Baldwyn forefather and notable Indian fighter, Abednego Inman …

Abednego Inman, was one of three brothers – the others being, of course, Shadrach and Meshach – who left their home in England prior to the American Revolution. The mobile Inman trio and their families passed through Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee eventually joining Daniel Boone in his exploration of the wild country west of the Cumberland Mountains.

In 1772, Boone led Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego over the Appalachian trails they had mutually established and pressed further into territory where the Chickasaws and the more dangerous Cherokees ruled.  A harsh winter descended upon the exploration party, and soon their food supplies were exhausted.  They resorted to eating the only thing available, native game that they were fortunate enough to kill with their rifles, and that was a feat not so easily accomplished in the dead of winter.  The beleaguered group meandered into central Tennessee and set up camp near the famous Nickajack Cave.  With no sentinel posted, the weakened pioneers were surprised by an attack of Chickamauga Cherokees.  Nearly all the band of adventurers were killed or wounded.  Among the dead was Meshach Inman.

Shadrach Inman escaped death but was seriously wounded by a Cherokee spear.  Still, he managed to rejoin the fierce and fleet Boone who led all the survivors he could gather on a race to safety.  The Chickamauga pursued the party for days but the reenergized woodsman Boone moved “like a ghost” through the winter countryside.

Daniel Boone Indian FighterDuring the battle, the third brother Abednego was struck in the forehead with a tomahawk.  He carried the resulting scar for the rest of his life. Injured and thought dead by his compatriots, Abednego Inman found a hiding place in a hollow tree, where he essentially remained immobile for nine days without food and with very little water.  Somehow he eventually gathered enough strength to make his escape, which he did, hobbling home over hundreds of miles alone through the wilds of eastern Tennessee.

Abednego Inman, who would later fight with Tennessee’s first governor John Sevier at King’s Mountain during the Revolutionary War, was a survivor.  The blood of this adventurous pioneer flows through many of the families that settled Baldwyn, Mississippi, passing first through his grandson, a founder of old Carrollville, the innkeeper Abednego Inman Taylor.

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Elephants On Main

Elephant on MainIn the fall of 1963, almost 50 years ago, the “Miller Brothers Famous Circus” came to Baldwyn. The Miller’s travelling show held two performances each day on October 9th and 10th – right on Main Street – and boasted of clowns, 20 cages of wild animals, monkeys, “diving dogs” (whatever those are) and “Eddie Frisco and His Comedy Hot Rod” in a full page spread in the local newspaper. City merchants of the day sponsored elephant rides for young and old, providing discount tickets to those who attended the shows. A photograph of the performing pachyderm plodding down Main Street, with a buggy full of kids in tow, is included in the October 10th printing of the Baldwyn News.

The circus came, entertained, and went near the back-end of downtown Baldwyn’s heyday. Hundreds of pictures exist of Main Street from that era – the late 1940’s to the mid 1960’s – showing people sardine-packed up and down the street so thick that there is little room to move.

Baldwyn Christmas Parade 1950Twenty-seven businesses are listed in that edition of the Baldwyn News. Those named as sponsors of the Miller Brothers Famous Circus were: Hopkins Furn. & Appliance, Miller’s, C.S. Poole Contractor, Buster McElroy & Co., Bryan Rogers Auto Parts, Shellnut’s, Farmers & Merchants Bank, Blue Bell Inc., Baldwyn Milling Co., Tom’s Drug Store, Baldwyn Concrete Works, Golden Rule Store, Western Auto Store, Houston Drug Store, Gentry Insurance Agency, Davis Lumber Company, Lucky Star Industries, Hopkins Big Star, Ritz Theatre, Baldwyn Farmers Co-Op, R & W Cleaners, Baldwyn Implement Co., Big $ Center, Hill Auto Supply, Cunningham’s Grocery, Baldwyn Dry Goods, and M. Gorden.

A quick scan of these businesses with respect to local records indicates that 15 of the 27 were located inside the current 4-block historic district, and ten others were only a street or two away. Only the garment factories Lucky Star and Blue Bell were to be found any considerable distance from the heart of Main Street. Yet of all the businesses listed, only Farmers & Merchants Bank and Houston Drug Store are still working in Baldwyn today under their 1963 names. Perhaps as many as six others may still point to a “descendent business” that continues operation here in Baldwyn or the general vicinity, but even so, the count reveals, obviously, that at least nineteen circus sponsors of 1963 have ceased to exist entirely. Small Town Mississippi died with those 19 businesses and others like them at some point in the last four decades.

But now, it’s 2013, and Baldwyn, against all odds, is in resurgence. The Blonde Pistol, Silly Sisters, and The Tin Roof are selling retail clothes and gifts right on Main Street and a lot of doubting, old-school business-types are amazed. Even better, more complimentary stores are on the way, as growing evidence in several long-vacant store windows will attest. Even a Baldwyn community theater will open for business by August and host three productions before the year ends. So what come’s next?

Can Baldwyn return to days of packed city streets … filled with shoppers … and diners … and those looking for entertainment?

Watch out for elephants crossing Main in the near future.

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