Water is an appropriate thread for much of George County’s history. Early pioneers settled near water along the Pascagoula River or one of the many creeks that eventually feed into it.
Last week I had the honor of presenting a program on local history at the Lucedale-George County Public Library as part of its adult summer programming. My discussion centered on water.
There are two books that are invaluable in my work as a local journalist and storyteller. These books also have a water theme. They are By the Rivers of Water, Volume I and Volume II. I have a large and continually growing assortment of historical material related to Mississippi and the majority of it is tied directly to George County. The By the Rivers of Water books are the ones I rely on most often. The late Reverend Havell Jackson authored the collection and published the first in 1978 and the second in 1982. Brother Jackson was a Presbyterian preacher and the creator of Palestinian Gardens near the George and Greene County line.
Brother Jackson had written a weekly column in the George County Times during the 1970s often reflecting on local history. With encouragement from readers, he composed this book. It was the first serious attempt at a comprehensive compilation of the entire county. Jackson collected so much information that he began writing Volume II before Volume I was sold.
These books are treasures. I don’t know how many were printed, but I do know they are extremely rare. If you have one or if you have the set, you are lucky. If you do, I encourage you to make sure your family knows about them and that you bequeath them to a family member who will appreciate them.
I got my set in about 1989. I bought them from the late Hazel Barr. I had tried to buy them from Bro. Jackson, but he told me he did not have any more. My friend Janet Smith knew how badly I wanted them. At that time I was working as a news reporter for the Mississippi Press and needed them for references on my writings. Janet was the library manager and I frequented the library conducting research. Reference books such as these can’t be checked out; so, I had to do my research onsite while taking notes or making copies.
Mrs. Barr, who didn’t have any children, was aging and selling her assets. She had a lot of beautiful antique furniture, and she had a set of Brother Jackson’s books. I remember the day Janet called me and told me they were available. She said Mrs. Barr wanted $150 for the set. I probably choked on that figure because that is a huge amount of money for anybody, especially a young journalist. I didn’t have an expense account with the newspaper; instead, I had to pay for things like that out of my own pocket. Yet, I knew how much I needed them; so I bought them. It was probably one of the best purchases I’ve ever made.
I used those books the whole time I worked for the Mississippi Press. I continued to depend on them while researching freelance projects after I left the Press. I still use them today.
Other books related to George County have been written about specific communities or time periods in our history. Yet, Bro. Jackson’s books are the most all-inclusive. Unfortunately, they are 30 years old and much of our county’s history since 1982 is not recorded in a book format.
Thankfully there is another format that is currently sharing credible historical accountings about our region. It is a Facebook public group called “Pascagoula River Trails History.” Else Nygaard Martin administrates the online group. Else is very knowledgeable about history, especially as it relates to Jackson and George counties. She grew up in north Jackson County and was a library staffer in the genealogical and local history branch of the Jackson-George Regional Library System before she retired. This “Pascagoula River Trails History” group has almost 5,000 followers and anyone can join. So, look it up.
“Pascagoula River Trails History” and By the Rivers of Water are the perfect titles for these sources. Therefore, I found it fitting to center my library program around this common ground of our history. Speaking of water and history, I’m currently researching Inland Beach and the artesian well at Basin. If you’d like to share any information or memories, please email me at the address below.
Meanwhile, if water interests you, check out the summer programming at the library. The theme for both the children’s program and the adult program is “Oceans of Possibilities.”
Award-winning journalist Nancy Jo Maples has been writing about Mississippi people and places for more than 30 years. Contact her at [email protected]
*Photo courtesy of AmericanRivers.org