By Charles Cooper
Hello everyone, hope you’re having a good week.
It’s been a long time since I’ve profiled an old Water Valley landmark and this week is will be the Oak Hall hotel that stood across the railroad from the Illinois Central Depot. About 1921, Walter Mathis moved to Water Valley from Banner and bought the Oak Hall Hotel. His friend, Vernon Gore, had moved there some years earlier and operated a lumber yard about where the NAPA store is today. After World War I, they moved to El Paso, Texas where they operated a greenhouse and nursery.
I had the pleasure of meeting his son, Naye Gore, who was an officer in a bank. When he learned I was from Water Valley we had a long interesting talk, but as usual, I digress. When Mr. Mathis bought the hotel his wife, Eliza, operated the dining room much like a boarding house with family style meals. It was a two story building and upstairs was a custom dress shop.
One of the ladies who designed those dresses was Kate Johnsey, who in later years was a mainstay at the Blackmur hotel. The Oak Hall catered to railroad men and traveling salesmen, called “drummers” in those days. They would sit in the lobby or in summer time in the swings on the wide front porch and swap lies with each other.
Mr. Mathis brought his children, Lee and Paulette with him and in 1927 Lee bought the hotel from his father and operated it until 1932 when it burned and was never rebuilt.
Lee became a merchant and Paulette was a teacher in the schools for many years. When Lee bought the hotel from his father, Walter Mathis went one mile south and bought “Frostland,” so called because Mr. Will Frost owned almost a square mile where Champion Circle is today. It lived up to its name as Mr. Frost had his son, Willie Wright Frost and his daughters, Mrs. Lucille Chapman and Mrs. Maury Fly living there. Today I don’t know any of the people living there but Mim Carpenter.
This started out to be about the Oak Hall Hotel but one family led into another and here you have a column. This really felt great to be doing profiles much like when it began almost 14 years ago.
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