We recently embarked on a trip that took us south and then west through Georgia, Alabama and on into Mississippi. We had several tourist destinations in mind with a circuitous route eventually leading us to the primary objectives…visits with our families in Nebraska and Missouri.
We stayed on Interstate Highways I-75, I-24, I-59 and I-20 for quite a long time before I decided to take a break from the expressway system. I exited onto US Hwy 80 at Newton Mississippi and went looking for the town’s former railroad depot.
This old Yazoo and Mississippi Valley/Alabama and Vicksburg railroad depot was completed in 1905. This building now houses the Newton Chamber of Commerce, meeting rooms, and a coffee shop. The "warehouse" or former freight area of the depot is available for functions such as receptions, reunions and anniversary parties.
On April 24, 1863, Union forces led by General Benjamin H. Grierson executed a daring and historic raid through the Confederacy including the town of Newton. The station was burned, tracks were torn up, and the rails were heated, and then twisted around trees. Also destroyed were the Commissary, telegraph lines and stores. The raid contributed to the fall of Vicksburg.
General Grierson was an interesting character. A former music teacher, he stayed in the army after the Civil War and organized the Buffalo Soldiers (black troops) of the 10th Cavalry Regiment from 1866 to 1890. This assignment made him unpopular with other officers including his superior, General Philip Henry Sheridan. This was because of his support for, and trust in his troops. The fact that he showed sympathy and courtesy to Native American tribes also led to questions about his judgment. Nevertheless, he persevered and retired from the army as a Brigadier General in 1890. To learn more about General Grierson, you can go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benjamin_Grierson.
The tracks that pass by the old Newton Depot are now operated by Kansas City Southern Railroad, founded in 1887, is the smallest and third oldest Class I railroad in North America…only behind the Canadian Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads. “Small” is a relative term however… The railroad currently operates across 10 central U.S. states. KCS owns a total of approximately 6,000 route miles of track.
This diesel locomotive is in the Kansas City Southern livery... Over 4,000 variants of these Electro-Motive Diesel EMD SD70 series locomotives have been built since 1992.
· Country singer/songwriter Paul Overstreet was raised in Newton. He recorded 10 studio albums between 1982 and 2005, charting 16 singles on the Billboard country charts including two No. 1 hits. He has also written singles for several other country acts, including No. 1 hits for Randy Travis, Blake Shelton, The Judds and Kenny Chesney.
Lake Mississippi was our next stop along US Hwy 80 as we headed west from Newton. Another depot…another caboose! Whereas the caboose in Newton was a standard or cupola type, this is an extended vision version.
This beautiful Queen Anne style depot was built by the Illinois Central Gulf Railroad in 1890. It was closed in April of 1969 and it was given to the town in 1980. Subsequently it has been renovated and it now serves as a community meeting place and as a repository for historic items.
With an estimated 2016 population of 322, Lake Mississippi isn’t exactly a major metropolis. That makes is all the more remarkable that this striking depot has been so well taken care of… The town apparently has a lot of pride in their little town.
· Lake is the birthplace of country music singer and songwriter Randy Houser.
Moving on westward on US Hwy 80, we came to the city of Forest Mississippi and a plethora of colorful chickens! There were many more scattered around town than just the 6 shown above… A little research revealed that there are at least 30 of them in town. (The information that I came across called them chickens…but then again, I guess that a rooster is indeed a chicken)
The beginning of the decorative chickens is related to a building in downtown Forest called Colbert Commons. It began life as a bank and after various uses it’s now a community art gallery. Well, an art gallery can’t exist without funds so the Forest Community Arts Group came up with an idea to raise money. Meridian Mississippi had decorated carousel horses so Forest decided to go for classy chickens. (I gather that chickens are big business in the area)
Local businesses and even the city have bought chickens and had them decorated by local artists. All the profits go to the art gallery. This collection of colorful fowl certainly captured our attention!
The old solid brick Yazoo and Mississippi Valley/Alabama and Vicksburg combination railroad depot in Forest Mississippi hasn’t fared as well as the classy depots we found in the towns of Newton and Lake. Like the Newton Depot, it sits beside active Kansas City Southern railroad tracks. I couldn’t determine when this depot was built…
Forest is the County Seat for Scott County Mississippi. The city has an estimated population of 5,672 and the county is home to about 28,000. From 1877 to 1950, there were nine lynchings of blacks in Scott County. Back in October of 1898, a "race war" erupted in Harperville after blacks resisted authorities when a member of their community was being arrested for an alleged conflict with his white employer. They fatally shot a white deputy and wounded three others. A mob of whites gathered that night and started hunting down and killing black suspects, killing 9 to 11 black men by the end of the following day.
· Famous blues musician "Big Boy" Crudup, (1905-1974), who wrote "That's All Right Mama” is from Forest.
· The town is home to poultry processing plants operated by Koch Foods, Tyson Foods, and the Forest Packing Company. In addition Raytheon has a consolidated manufacturing center in Forest where it builds electronic equipment for radars and other sensor systems.
That’s all for this posting. Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…
Thanks for stopping by to join us on our latest trek!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave