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Looking Back At Water Valley In The 1830s

By Charles Cooper

Hello everyone, hope you’re having a good week. Today when you look around Water Valley you see paved streets and paved highways – let me take you back one hundred and seventy-five years to the 1830s.  

Where today’s Main Street is was a cane brake and about where the furniture store on Railroad Street is was a stage stop known as Ragsdale’s stand.  Other than the stage road there were no other roads in the area.  There were several plantations near Coffeeville and the Yalobusha river was a navigable stream most of the year. The agricultural products were sent down river on small steamboats. keel boats and even flat boats.  

The early steamers made short trips from Grenada to Vicksburg on the Mississippi, but the smaller boats made short trips to Williams Landing near where Greenwood is located today on the Yazoo.  The only way the keel boats could go upstream was by poling or attaching ropes to the  boat and walking on the banks pulling the vessel.  If the rivers got too low, some of the farmers would take wagon trains to Memphis to sell their cotton.  

The larger steamboats would bring merchandise from Cincinnati to Vicksburg where it was off-loaded to the smaller steamers, which went up the Yazoo to the Yalobusha, with stops along the way.  The town of Sardinia was located on a ridge where Long Branch entered Yocona River bottom.  

There were several stores, a bank, several saloons and blacksmith shops.  It as an important trading center and merchants and traders came from as far away as Pontotoc.  The improved Memphis-Grenada stage line, and later the coming of the railroad, caused this little community to cease to be important.

The town of Washington was located two miles north of Water Valley, and at one time rivaled it in importance. In later years, after the coming of the railroad, Springdale was a business center with a hotel and two saloons, and was a flag stop for the local trains.  Nannie Badley told me she remembered when it was a busy town.  On Papa Badley’s farm there was a shallow ravine that ran parallel with the corral that held his cows.  He told me that it was the old stage road that ran along the ridges as many roads did back then.  The railroad came to this area one hundred and fifty years ago – about 1858.  

We have to remember that nothing stays the same.  The people back then didn’t know any other way of life and could not have foreseen what would transpire in a relatively short time, historically speaking.  I’m sure that a hundred years from now people will look at our times and marvel at how  primitive we looked to them. I’m grateful to the Yalobusha County Historical Society and stories from my childhood that my grandparents told me for enabling me to write this particular column.  

In the meantime, share with us memories that we might use in future columns.  My email  is or write me at P.O. Box 613189 Memphis, Tn 38101 and have a great week.

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