Velma Was Two When Community Was Named For Her
Special thanks to Mary Sue Stevens and James Person, both relatives of Velma Hall, for the wealth of information they shared with me.
John Madison Hall, a merchant, and farmer, applied for a Post Office when Mississippians were still grappling with the devastation of the Civil War, only 15 years after we rejoined the Union.
When Hall applied, he was advised by the Post Master General to submit three names. Of the names submitted, Velma, the name of his young daughter, was selected. Velma Community, already established, was made official when the Post Office opened on October 29, 1885. It was a flag stop on the railroad, six miles south of Water Valley, sharing space in the Railroad Station House.
Incoming mail was simply kicked out of the mail car door at the flag stop, but the out-going mail process was more sophisticated. The mail bag was fastened with holding rings onto a mail crane beside the tracks; it was grabbed by a catcher mechanism in the passing railway car, or sometimes the “catcher mechanism” was the Post Office clerk’s arm.
Mr. Hall became the first Post Master and held that position from 1885 until 1895. Mr. Presley Carter Person II (Pet) was appointed on July 16, 1895. He was Post Master until 1940; when the passenger trains were abolished, the post office was also closed.
Some interesting facts about Velma Scott Hall, she was born June 3, 1883, making her about two years old when her name was chosen as a tiara for the community.
Her Great Grandfather was Henry Person, who gave right-of-way for the railroad with the understanding that it would be a flag stop. Her Grandfather was Presley Carter Person I, born July 21, 1828. It was told that Yankee soldiers made a raid on his farm while he was away with the Confederate troops. All of his horses and mules were taken except one “kicking” mule. I guess he didn’t want to be a Yankee mule.
David Hall died relatively young, and sometime later, Velma and her mother, Molly, moved to Houston, Texas. Velma married an attorney in Houston, Francis Marion Austin. There were four children from that marriage.
Around 1900, the large white house near the railroad was built for the section foreman, James E. Stewart. It was painted the color of the Illinois Central Railroad box cars—red about halfway up and yellow above that! The foreman and entire crew traveled by hand-car, so homes were built along the routes for their convenience. They were probably so glad they didn’t have to “pump” all the way into Water Valley they didn’t complain about the color.
In 1932, Pet Person bought the house at an auction, and later the Stewart Person family lived there. James remembers how, when he was only seven, he took his five-year-old brother, walked to Roy Porter’s store on Highway 7, caught the Trailways bus to Water Valley, and went to the County Fair. The bus fare was 16 cents.
I found no further history on the house where Ms. Godwin lived, other than J.T. Martin’s parents lived there several years. Nothing more about the Weaver house or the house in which Dick Person lived.
Little Rock School, which sat on the opposite side of Highway 7, was reorganized in 1908 (no date on first opening) and was open until 1925. The children were then sent to Yalobusha Agricultural High School until Jeff Davis was opened.
Velma’s pioneers built their houses, plowed their fields, and raised their children. Their tools are different now, but the people of Velma are still building their houses, plowing their fields, and raising their children. According to Stewart Spence, the Velma Fire Chief, there are around 250 homes in the area now. About 2.5 miles north of Highway 90/Velma Road on New Highway 7 stands the Velma Fire Station, manned by 27 volunteers. 18 of them are certified firemen.
So if you are interested in excavating memories, the “History of Yalobusha County” might be your best option; not much remains of the old buildings near the flag stop.
However, James Person said if you look east at the railroad track, there is a large piece of tin from the post office, and three chimneys of the section foreman’s home have refused to move.
I suggest that you go around the first of October, walk on past the chimneys to the dip in the road; you may find that the possum grapes are ripe