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Letter relates Illinois Central through Oktibbeha

June 23, 2012

For Starkville Daily News
The first railroad came into Starkville in the early 1870s. After many unsuccessful efforts, a branch line of the Gulf, Mobile & Ohio was built from Artesia in 1874. About 10 years later Canton, Aberdeen & Nashville came through Starkville with a line that linked Aberdeen to Durant on the Illinois Central. This opened up a new trade territory for Starkville to the northeast.

This time period was before the days of communicating by telephone, text messaging and emails. Most communication with relatives and friends was done through letter writing, which is not so common in today’s world.

L. D. Friday, an early settler of Oktibbeha County and probably a forefather of many residents of the county wrote the following letter in 1883. The letter was discovered in an old family Bible by one of his descendants who was residing in Groveton, Texas. Of particular interest is the relation of the construction work being done on the Illinois Central Railroad and reference to Mississippi A&M College (now Mississippi State University) as well as the family names: Daniels, Friday, Hannah and Rainey which are mentioned.

At Home July 8, 1883
Dido, Miss.
Mr. F. H. and Family
Dear Nephew: 
I seat myself to answer your kind favor of June 18. It came to hand a few days since and found us in the enjoyment of tolerable good health. I felt proud to hear from you and your family. This will inform you that we are in tolerable good health now. Also the health of our connections are good as far as I know, except Mariah are of the opinion that such traffic and liquor violations are being had daily. The grand jury is unable to cope with the situation because of insufficient evidence produced by witnesses before the grand jury. We are and have been desirous of correcting and remedying the liquor situation in Oktibbeha County, but feel that we are handicapped in doing so because of the laxity of the enforcement and tolerance of the people. We have every reason to believe that the whiskey laws of Mississippi are being violated in Oktibbeha County but because of the above statement we are unable to cope with this situation. There has been no witness voluntarily appearing before the grand jury with reference to the liquor situation and without the help of the citizens of this county we are unable to present indictments.

We have inspected all county property and the theaters of Starkville and find that the county property with the exception of the jail is in a general well state of repair.

Fred, I don’t know that I got anything that will interest you — but, such as I have I give unto you.

Our county seems to be in a boom. In the way of railroads there is one being built that starts at Kosciusko and runs by way of Whitefield, Sturgis and Aberdeen. 

There are a great many hands at work on this road and they are to have the dirt work done by the first of January next year. The railroad line runs just south of Ole uncle Kalib Hannah’s and rite there on his land is a depot.

 The line runs just south of Paw’s place that he sold to Brother Rainey. The cut through the field there is 14 feet. Runs north of Nuton Daniels house and there have been town lots laid off there by Uncle Kalib Hannah. The seventh of this instance which was Saturday, they were sold and brought from $40 to $50 per lot.

We also have an Agricultural and Mechanical College in 1 1/2 mile of Starkville. About 330 students are going to school there. They go to school and work on the farm, and some work at mechanics trade. Difficult kind of work there, the student studies part of the time.

Our last setting of the legislature donated $140,000 to the A&M College.
So you can see that old Oktibbeha is peeping over the ridge and trying to make her mark.  Enough on that subject.

Fred, there is a right smart stir in our county with the candidates. We have all of the county officers to elect this year including two clerks, one sheriff, five supervisors, two representatives, one treasurer, one tax accessory, 10 justices of the peace, five bailiffs, etc.

Fred, I was glad when I saw in your letter that you had joined the church. Now try and discharge your Christian duties both to your family and the church. I think this, that it is just as easy to do right, as it is to do wrong — and then, a person feels so much better and quieter both in mind and body. May the God of love and grace give you grace and fortitude to discharge all of your Christian duties?

Fred, there passed a tornado through this neighborhood on the 22nd day of April that destroyed houses, tore down fences and demolished the county where it went. It blew Creek Lodge church all to pieces and some of it has been found 5 miles from where it started.  Several other houses in the neighborhood blew down. I close. Write soon. 

L. D. Friday.

Wikipedia states: “The Illinois Central's slogan described the railroad quite well, The Main Line of Mid-America. It was one of only a very few railroads to serve markets with north-south running main lines and not the traditional east-west movements.

What made its routing even more odd was that it served Midwestern markets that likewise traditionally moved goods east and west, such as Chicago, St. Louis, Memphis and New Orleans. Regardless of this the IC carved out a living hauling goods from Chicago to New Orleans and while today the Canadian National owns the railroad, its name continues to survive after over 150 years of existence."

However, what the Illinois Central Railroad is best remembered for is a simple locomotive engineer who gave his life trying to avoid a train collision, John Luther “Casey” Jones. The wreck itself occurred on April 30, 1900 when a freight and passenger train (the New Orleans Special) collided at Vaughan, Miss. In his efforts to avoid the collision Jones saved everyone’s lives except his own.

Today, of course, there is now the legendary folk song, “Casey Jones,” which was actually inspired by a worker of the IC who also knew Jones, Wallace Saunders. Another notable person associated with the Illinois Central was Abraham Lincoln, who worked for the railroad from 1853 to 1860 just prior to the Civil War as the IC's corporate lawyer.”

Mack Andrew Rowzee ('38, M.S. '53)-89, Starkville; retired specialist for the state 4-H staff at MSU, documented that on April 14-28, 1947 — A special Illinois Central Railroad Company 4-H club train moved over the state loaded with 4-H exhibits. Adult leaders and 4-H members served as hosts and hostesses throughout the tour.

The following information provides the route of the Illinois Central Railroad through Oktibbeha County.

About 1883, the C.A.&M. (now Illinois Central) Railroad was built from Aberdeen to Durant.  The railroad put the county in ready touch with territory, which before was almost inaccessible, and it caused a noticeable shift in population. Little towns sprang up along the line, all in 1884.

Muldrow is in section 35, township 20, range 15; it was named for H. L. Muldrow of Starkville who had a farm there. It has always been a flag station.

Osborn is four miles to the southwest of Muldrow, in section 10, range 15. In 1884, the railroad built a station for the accommodation of this old and thickly settled community.  John Montgomery had in 1883 established a store, which he operated until 1915.

Pats was the next stop, a flag station four miles on toward Starkville in honor of Pat (Rick) Pierson it bore the name Pats. As a joke, boys frequently added a tail to the letter P, making the word Rats. Provoked, the railroad officials changed the name to Patrick. No store has ever been right at the station. Mr. H. H. Sikes who owned the land thereabouts had a plantation store a few hundred yards away.

Longview is 8 miles southwest of Starkville. Here also the railroad built a station house in 1884. A good many families had lived in this section for more than 30 years, and only a mile to the southeast, the Green and Outlaw mill was operating for years before the War. The railroad, however, made Longview an appreciable town.

Bradley is the next stop. It is three miles below Longview, and not far from the original Bradley — a post office and store operated in 1877 by R. Sullivan and later by a man named Sides. Bradley is in the northwest quarter of township 17, range 13. With the advent of the railroad, the Masons at Steeleville moved the Lodge to Bradley where it flourished for more than 40 years. For the same length of time, Jas. E. Brown, the railroad agent, has maintained a store, and for years has operated a sawmill and a gin.

A mile further southwest is Bugh’s flag-stop. It dates, however, only from 1888, when Frank Bugh, a German bachelor, bought 3,000 acres and contracted to haul logs, especially piling and timbers for railway bridges, to Hutchinson and Oswalt, the mill-owners.  Misunderstanding arose, and Bugh, Hutchinson and Oswalt litigated for several years in chancery court. Having made considerable money, Bugh went north, where he married a German woman whom he had known in his youth.

Sturgis is the last stop in Oktibbeha County. The railroad made the town. Some of the families of the southwestern corner of the county moved in to the new station. Whitefield, as a business center and post office, disappeared with the advent of Sturgis, in 1884. The town was incorporated in 1886. (Source: Historical Sketches of Oktibbeha County)

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