Some Community Names Still A Mystery
By Charles Cooper
Hello everyone. Hope you’re having a good week. Over the past nine years you readers have contributed so many stories to this column that I really don’t believe it would have lasted as long as it has.
A case in point is that I have asked about how certain towns and neighborhoods came by their name. Last week James Person sent me an email about the origin of Velma.
His grandfather, Presley Carter Person, known as “Pet” ran the station and Post Office until it closed in 1940. According to James his grandfather suggested it be named for Velma Scott Hall who was the daughter of John and Mary Person Hall. She was born June 3, 1882 in Yalobusha County and died August 29, 1967 in Houston, Texas and was buried there.
The area was also called Velma Junction and was located on what is now County Road 90 just southeast of of the intersection of the old railroad right-of-way. James, my thanks to you for this information and feel free any time to write me.
I remember Papa Badley talking about your grandfather as they are of the same generation. I believe several years ago you wrote me and don’t wait so long to let me hear from you again. I’ve heard my step-father, Jesse Lawson who was raised near Oakland that it got its name from rows of Oak trees that once stood where the town is today.
If this is incorrect I would like for someone our there to let me know. As I wrote in previous columns, many towns got their start as train stations along the old IC railroad. I suppose some of you Coffeeville residents read this column, so how did Bryant and Torrance get their names? I know that railroad men referred to Bryant as Bryant Junction as the railroad from Bruce terminated there. I remember when they had a bus mounted on the rail that ran from Bruce to Bryant at least once a day.
Bruce by Mississippi standards is a relatively new town. It was created around the E. L. Bruce lumber company mill in 1927. Taylor, just over the line in Lafayette county was once a train stop when the IC ran locals through there. I can remember as a small child there was a flag stop at Springdale in a small enclosure much like the bus stops of today and it had a red flag that you could use to stop the train.
I suppose there was someone named Taylor who gave the town its name? What about Enid, Pope, and Courtland? We learned through a reader some time back that the Delay road was named for a small settlement over in the edge of Lafayette county. My dad was raised in a small settlement named Orrwood just over in Lafayette county. It was named for a man named Orr who was one of the original settlers.
Papa Badley said he had served on a jury with him years ago. Someone asked me recently about the houses that once were at intervals along the railroad and were painted an orange shade. I’ll include the answer I gave which is they were section houses. In the old days the maintenance was handled by crews that were responsible for so many miles called sections. The section foreman lived right by the track in a section house.
He had a hand car which hauled the crews to the job and the necessary tools were locked in a tool shed also by the tracks. It was painted the same orange color. The section house north of Water Valley was just south of Springdale. Porter White was the foreman on that stretch for many years. Mr. Wren Knight was the foreman from Water Valley south and the section house was located where the Big Yank building was located in later years.
Mr. Knight’s son, Bill and I were in the same graduating class and I remember him working on the section during summer vacations. After graduation he went on to work in maintenance and became an executive in the IC office in Chicago. He was instrumental in getting the caboose for the Casey Jones Museum.
As far as I know not one section house has survived . Today maintenance trucks equipped to run on the rails makes necessary repairs and where once men with picks and shovels did the work it is now automated. I’m looking forward to hearing from you about the origin of some of the towns and settlements and there may be some I don’t know about.
My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org or write me at P.O. Box 613189 Memphis, Tn 38101 and have a great week.