Three on the Road is in Pike County this week - an interesting place with lots of things fairly common with the development of other counties in the state, but a few that set Pike County apart.
Pike County is in the southern part of the state along the Louisiana Border and is actually a couple of years older than the state.
Mississippi is celebrating 200 years this year while Pike County carved out of Marion County in 1815.
It was named for soldier and explorer Zebulon Pike, the same fellow Pike’s Peak in Colorado is named for. He was killed in the War of 1812 and had lots of towns and counties across the country named for him, as well as a mountain.
Three major factors went into the development of the county. First was water. The first county seat of Pike County, Holmesville, was situated along the Bogue Chitto River. Holmesville, by the way, was named for another War of 1812 hero, Andrew Hunter Holmes. There is a major restoration project going on in Holmesville right now to restore the county’s first courthouse located there.
Then came the second, and most important element in the county’s development, the railroad. Only the railroad bypassed Holmesville to the west and the larger population centers of the county grew up along it. By 1873 Magnolia had become the County Seat.
But then a tiny area north of Magnolia was developed into the railroad’s main repair and service yard, getting it away from New Orleans, I imagine so workers would show up to work without being hung over from the influence of Bourbon Street.
McComb quickly grew to the largest city in the county and the rail yard remained an active part of the town for over a hundred years. The McComb Railroad Museum chronicles all of that. We’ll visit the museum later in the week.
On up the rail is the town of Summit. Named thusly because it was thought Summit was the highest elevation above sea level on the railroad between New Orleans and Jackson, Tennessee. With more careful measurement, turns out it isn’t. That spot is actually a county to the north at Brookhaven. But the two towns weren’t going to swap names.
I mentioned a third element in the development of the county, tourism: specifically, people bailing out of New Orleans to get away from malaria and the fever in the summer. Not much of that happens anymore.
But one remnant of that era is St. Mary of the Pines. Originally founded as a retreat by the Redemptorist Fathers of New Orleans. Then they invited the School Sisters of Notre Dame to start a school there. Long story short, the Fathers couldn’t make a go of it, but the Sisters did, and still have it, no longer as a school but as a retirement home for sisters and as a religious retreat.
One other note while on the subject of religion, on the northeast end of Pike County, is Felder’s Camp Ground. They meet there once a year in revival in what has roots as being the oldest annual Methodist Camp Meeting in Mississippi. For a week every summer, the faithful gather nightly, or just move to the cabins on the campground for singing and sermons and mostly a family reunion. July 14-23 this year if you want to join in.
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