HISTORY OF CALEDONIA
By: Fred Darnell and Jim Egger
A HISTORICAL SKETCH OF THE VILLAGE OF CALEDONIA,
MISSISSIPPI, GOING BACK SOME 145 TO 150 YEARS
First of all, let's get our location made by survey on the county map of Lowndes County, Mississippi. According to survey, we are 10 miles north and 6 miles east of Columbus, MS., making the distance of 16 miles from Caledonia to the county seat, Columbus, Mississippi.
We are close to the north boundary of Supervisors District Number 1 of Lowndes County. We are 4 miles east of the Alabama state line. On the north side of our village, we are 4 miles south of the Monroe County line. On the west side we are 2 miles from the Buttahatchie River. On original district lines on the south side, we are 8 miles from Yellow Creek, this side of Steens, MS.
The village is in part of three sections of land. Original charter of town is in Section 9 north of South Street, and south part of town is in Section 16. Myers Circle part of town is in Section 8, all being and lying in Township 16, Range 17 West.
The original settlers of the village were the Dowdles, Eggers, Kidds and the Simmons.
Now if you please, may I carry you back to some pioneer homes
of the village, although there are not too many within the boundary of
the old village limits. First of all, let's begin with the original home
on Seed Tick Road of Mr. Mac Egger. The old home building was that
of Mac's grandfather, Mr. Andy Egger. Mr. Egger was Justice of the Peace.
Next we come a little farther up the road to where the home of Mr. Charlie Egger once stood, where the barber shop is now located. Then coming up, was the home of Mrs. Ella Caldwell, where Perkins' Package Store now stands. Then, almost directly across the road, where Bobbies's Quick check stood not too long ago, was the home of Mr. Hugh Egger and later, Miss Rilla Egger, known to a lot of us. Then further up the street, coming north, a big old-time house, home of Mrs. Sue Groves (T. F. Groves' mother), where Mrs. Molly Groves now lives. Then past Mrs. Groves house, was Captain Jim Egger's home where the home of Clyde Egger, Jr., now stands. Next across the street on the lot where the Methodist Parsonage now stands was the old, old home of Mr. and Mrs. R. M. Burton. This property later sold to the Methodist Conference for a preacher's home.
From here north, just back of the parsonage, is a house that the Herbert family lives in. This was an old three-room house known as the Russell home. Now a little farther distance north, where Mr. and Mrs. H. R. Lockhart lives, stood the home of my grandfather on my dad's side, Captain John B. Darnell, Captain in the Cavalry during the War Between the States (1861-1865). Granddad was a farmer and live stock man, and dealer in horses and mules. From this point, coming south to the point where Bob Myers lives stood an old time two story house, home of my father and mother, Mr. and Mrs. S. L. Darnell, the place where I came into this world. I had one brother who has gone on. My father, the late S. L. Darnell, was a farmer and live stock dealer (mules and horses): I joined him in business at an early age.
Next from here we cross Main Street to the home of Mrs. W. L. Myers. This house, one of the old, old pioneer homes, belonged to Mr. A. L. Myers, postmaster of this town many, many years ago. Then west is another old, old house now occupied by Mrs. W. A. Sloan.
Now we move down Main Street west, where the Barrentine home now stands, was home of Dr. R. J. Murphy. Dr. Murphy's office was located this side of Mrs. Hardin's street, a street not open at this time. A little farther west from the Murphy office stands the remnants of the H. J. Egger home, the girlhood home of Mrs. Margie Hardin and Mrs. Wilda Dowdle. Then we cross the street to the old home of Dr. Lawrence, a pioneer doctor.
From here we move to where North Street intersects Academy Street; here was located the original old home of Dr. Murphy. Later Dr. T. B. Owen lived here while in Caledonia. Then back south where Main Street makes a gradual turn to the northwest is a vacant lot where stood the home of my grandfather, Dr. J. W. Thomas; the house was torn down many years ago.
Across the street is a very old home where Mr. L. A. Halbert now lives; this was known as the Dales home in 1890. Then just west from Mr. Halbert's, on a vacant lot owned by W. B. Clardy, was home of Dr. E. M. Jamieson, dentist and photographer. Then a little farther down the street, where Mrs. Ola Pickett once lived, was home of Dr. R. C. Malloy.
Down the street from Dr. Malloy's home, where Mrs. J. H. Groves lives, was home of pioneer rural mail carrier, Mr. Tom Morris. From here a little farther down the road, where Mrs. Grace Hankins now lives, stood an old time frame building, the home of Mr. Simp Sanders many years ago. Then one more home down this way, where Myers and Myers are building new home, stood an old, old house, home of Mr. Dock Kidd.
So much for the old original village homes. Although not an original home, perhaps the house where Mr. and Mrs. H. R. Jernigan live today should be mentioned. This house was built on a five acre tract of land bought by Dr. Neil Wood; Dr. Wood was a general practitioner, specializing in eyes, ears and throat. Incidentally, most of these old home had a one room servant house the the back yard.
Dr.'s of the village were: Dr. J. W. Thomas, Dr. R. J. Murphy, Dr. Rushton Clark Molloy, Dr. A. M. Lawrence, Dr. Murray Malloy, and Dr. Hayes; later years, Dr. J. C. Pickett and Dr. T. B. Owen. Practicing Dentists were: Dr. E. M. Jamieson and Dr. J. H. Key.
Now let us recall some of the old business firms of the town. A store and postoffice was built at an early date by Mr. A. L. Myers, longtime merchant and postmaster; this building still stands today; just south across the street stood an old store building and picture taking establishment of Mr. L. Boss Morris, photographer. Now west from here stood one of the pioneer stores of the village known as H. Barrentine, General Merchandise, Harness and Farm Supplies; the Community Center occupies this site today. Across the street, to the north, was the big store of J. D. Lawrence, which later became the store of A. M. Lawrence, Mr. A. H. Lawrence, postmaster for many years, moved the post office into this building. Mr. "Met", as he was known, was also a dealer in seed and fertilizer for farms.
Just west a short distance, Dr. T. B. Owen built a structure for his own office and, in connection, a store building. This building was occupied by Roy L. Egger and H. G. Betts; name of this firm was Betts and Egger. Then directly across the street was a building by Dr. J. C. Pickett for his reception room and office. Then back across the street was a woodwork shop, run and owned by Mr. Hugh Egger; in this shop he did all kinds of wood and lumber work, wagon and buggy work, plow stock work and also made caskets. After some years Mr. Charles L. Gaston acquired this property and for many years ran a general repair shop and grist mill. He also built a nice house on this property, currently the home of Mr. and Mrs. T. E. Walters. Just west of this home, a black man named Charlie Johnson ran a general repair and blacksmith shop.
Directly across the street, on the south side, was home of Dr. R. J. Murphy; his office building was in the corner of this property. To the east, behind Dr. J. C. Pickett's office building, was a general repair shop run by Mr. C. L. Brown and Mr. Sam Honnoll and, in later years, by a Mr. Mayfield. On this property stood Egger Brothers Motor Service in later years.
Now down Main Street, going west, was a general repair shop run by Mr. H. J. Egger, grandfather of Egger Brothers (Mr. Crawford and the late Mr. Jack Egger). After Mr. H. J. Egger passed away, his son, Mr. L. S. (Len) Egger, ran this shop for many years. Later Mr. C. L. Brown built and ran a general blacksmith shop on the lot where the home of Mr. and Mrs. Sid Myers stands today. Sometime later Mr. A. J. Sanders built a general merchandise store on the south side of South Coulter Street and ran the post office in the same building. As postmaster, Mr. Sanders handled all mail for the village and the outlying community, consisting of two incoming and outgoing deliveries each day.
We are now down to the old churches. The Christian Church, with Masonic Lodge and Odd Fellows Lodge upstairs (founded Jan. 18, 1866), stood on a lot on North Street. Many years ago this building and its contents were destroyed by fire. With destruction of this church, Mr. H. J. Egger let the church and the lodges have a lot and the church building was rebuilt by church and lodge members. This building was later dismantled and the Masonic Lodge stands on this site today. The old Presbyterian Church (1891), a classic wooden structure, still stands today on Main Street.
The village of Caledonia was formally organized and the original
municipal charter was signed by Governor James K. Vardaman in December
1904. The first mayor was Mr. A. L. Myers. Individuals elected as mayor
since that time include Mr. A. M. Lawrence, Mr. G. W. Myers, Mr. C. V.
Ussery, Mr. W. A. Myers, Mr. Nelson Myers, Mr. A. J. Sanders, Mr. C. J.
(Jack ) Egger and Mr. Walton Willis.<P>
Also in our corporate limits is Unity Cemetery, one of the oldest in Lowndes County. Originally an old Presbyterian Church stood on the site, in conjunction with the cemetery.
The next matter to mention concerns post offices and mail service. Before the days of Rural Free Delivery (RFD) people from several miles around came to Caledonia once or twice per week to pick up their mail. The first post office was located in the old Myers store building back in the period 1883-1890. Star Route mail carriers (to and from Columbus) over the years were: Mr. Hugh Egger (on horseback), Mr. Jim Perkerson, Mr. John Lowe, Mr. C. L. Brown (in Model T car), Mr. Roy Egger, Mr. T. C. Andrews, Mr. O. D. Schofield, Mrs. Dabbs, Mrs. Frances Barksdale, Mr. Robert Collins and Mr. Chauncey Green.
The first RFD route out from Caledonia resulted from a petition circulated by Mr. W. P. Halbert; Mr. Halbert was later on of the original rural mail carriers under postmaster Mr. A. L. Myers. Subsequent rural mail carriers operating out of the Caledonia Post Office were: Mr. Frank McGowan, Mr. T. W. Morris, Mr. C. N. Egger Sr., Mr. Lonnie Morris, Mr. C. L. Gaston, Mr. Francis Blair, Mr. Bonnie Temple, Mr. R. J. Stephenson and Mr. Murray Dowdle and Mr. B. C. Freeman. Substitute carriers over the years have been: Mr. G. W. Myers, Mr. Cy Thompson, Mrs. C. L. Gaston, Mr. Robert Earl Egger, Mrs. L. S. Egger and Mr. L. D. Lawrence.
At on time (in the 1930's), Mr. Robert E. Egger operated a motion
picture theater for several years. <P>
We have had cafe service for a good many years; owners and operators have included Mr. and Mrs. Jack Hardin, Mr. and Mrs. L. S. Egger, Mr. and Mrs. Hobson Waldon, Mr. and Mrs. Hubert Davis, Mr. and Mrs. Rogers and Mr. and Mrs. Bobby Neal and also Mr. and Mrs. Robert Linn.
In the early days the Caledonia School was the typical one room schoolhouse; however, as the student load increased, buildings were enlarged or erected on the original five acre tract of land. In about 1907 or 1908 the school was upgraded to eleven grades and in 1910 the first high school graduation ceremonies were held, with four young lady graduates. Today the school grounds consists of over 40 acres, modern buildings, a new cafeteria, football and baseball fields and approximately 1300 students and 60 teachers.
There are three organized churches located within the corporate limits of our town: the Caledonia United Methodist Church and parsonage; the Church of Christ and parsonage; and the Presbyterian Church with no parsonage. All three churches are on Main Street.
Cotton played an important role in the economic history of Caledonia. In early 1925 Monroe County Cotton Oil Company, under the leadership of Mr. Rube Ervin, bought a lot from Mr. S. L. Darnell and built a modern cotton gin in the town; prior to that time most cotton was taken to Aberdeen for ginning. Mr. Ervin sold this gin to Mr. P. M. Lockhart who operated it for a number of years and later sold it to Blalock and Brown; this gin has subsequently been dismantled. In the early 1940's, the Lawrence Brothers (O. J. and L. D.) acquired a five acre tract south of this point, from the estate of S. L. Darnell, and erected a second cotton gin. It was later sold to a Mr. Harper, then to Mr. R. W. Dowdle, and finally to Blalock and Son (Bill and Harold).
And now may we mention an independent electric light plant that was built by private enterprise and operated for several years before the TVA came into the area. Also, in the early days of the town, at the intersection of Coulter and Main Streets, there was a water well with a big hand pump connected to a nearby watering trough; here people who were visiting or passing through were able to water their horses. Above this well stood an octagon shaped building with an open air second floor where many pleasant hours were spent; at night men and boys frequently sand songs untilt he very late hours. In the early 1900's Caledonia organized an excellent independent town band under the leadership of Mr. W. P. Halbert. Also, for many years beginning in the late 1890's, Caledonia supported a militia unit, a rifle company which was part of the National Guard; Captain A. M. Lawrence was commander and the officers included Grover Egger and Tom Blewitt.
Next I might mention early telephone service. A privately owned independent telephone exchange and rural lines were installed by Mr. Isaac W. Rye of Monroe. This system, together with the manual switchboard, was operated by Mr. W. P. Halbert and family.
Also, during the period 1900-1930, Caledonia had an excellent baseball team which played many opponents from northeast Mississippi and northwest Alabama. This team was headed by the late Mr. Roy L. Egger for many years. It was finally disbanded but, in later years, another team for Caledonia and the surrounding area was organized by Mr. Mac Egger and the late Mr. Jack Egger.
Although doctors were mentioned earlier, it is interesting to note that my grandfather, Dr. J. W. Thomas, and Dr. R. J. Murphy both served as doctors in the Confederacy. We also had a well known dentist, Dr. John H. Key, who served patients from a wide area until his passing. The last doctor we had living in Caledonia, in the 1930's, was Dr. H. G. Waldrop, who in later years moved away and finally passed on.
There is one other thing that we must mention. A black Methodist Church is situated along Wolf Road, just inside the southern boundary of the town. This church property was acquired from my grandfather and grandmother, Mr. and Mrs. John B. Darnell many years ago. The original church building was destroyed by a tornado in 1949, but was rebuilt, under the direction of one of the strong members of the congregation, Sylvester Bankhead. It is now a nice and well kept brick building.
Returning to the subject of business establishments, Mr. J. H. Egger, operated a Gulf service station for a number of years on the lot where the S. L. Darnell mule and horse barn stood. Another firm in town in past years was a dress shop run by Mr. J. H. Egger and Mr. Jim Locke. Mr. L. A. Halbert acquired the old Myers building and operated a merchandise business and barber shop for many years, before his retirement; this building, the oldest in town, still stands. Also in the past, there was the Neal Lawrence care and service station and the old Russell store on the corner of Coulter and Main.
As we mentioned earlier, the first municipal charter of the Village of Caledonia was granted on December 24, 1904; the mayor at that time was A. L. Myers and the aldermen were S. L. Darnell, A. M. Lawrence and T. W. Morris. The second charter was issued by Judge Brand on September 7, 1971 and the third charter by Judge Prather on January 5, 1973; these latter two charters were occasioned by expansions of the village limits.
Four businessmen who contributed much to Caledonia and who are sorely missed by the town and surrounding community should be mentioned: Mr. Roy L. Egger, merchandise establishment; Mr. Thomas F. (Jack) Groves, manager of the Barrentine Store; Lee Whitley, insurance; and Mr. C. J. (Jack) Egger of Egger Brothers Motor Service. The latter was a long time mayor and sponsor of many winning girls softball teams.
In this historic sketch of the Village of Caledonia, I have perhaps missed some significant things; however, what I have written was taken from historical records and from personal memory. I hope that this understanding will be of some benefit both in the present and in the future.