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FROM DAYS PAST: Maben, the tiny town of big events

August 20, 2011

For Starkville Daily News

The town of Goodwater (Maben) sprang up around the railroad drawing people from several communities in the surrounding area.
The railroad brought people and prosperity. In the very beginning, the town was named Goodwater, which was taken from the fact that it had a spring which yielded good water. The first post office was established at Goodwater in 1888 but changed to Maben in 1889 because there was another post office in Clarke County with the name Goodwater. There was a rule that no post office could have the same name because of confusion in mail delivery. 
So why was the name Maben chosen? One story says that the man who surveyed the town site was Mr. Maben. Another says that it was named for the new railroad’s doctor, Dr. Maben, who resided in Birmingham, Ala. Then there is the story that there was a Mr. Maben who had a beautiful redheaded daughter who created a lot of gaiety in the community and they named the town for her. Most people like this story best.
The town of “Mabin” was incorporated by the Legislature of the State of Mississippi, and the charter is set out in Chapter 27, Laws of Mississippi of 1890. In this document, Maben is spelled “Mabin”: when it was chartered on February 13, 1890. No one has been able to locate an amendment to the charter making a correction of the spelling.
According to Sheila Harpole Crawford, some of the early industries include the Maben Dairy, Ideal Glove Company, Moody Manufacturing Company, Perkins Feed Mill and Walter M. Shuffield Lumber Mill. Other major events include the Post office (1888), Maben Public School and Training College (1895), Maben Press (1904), Maben Home Bank (1907), Theatre (1938). The Tom Bailey Memorial Clinic (1955) and The Maben Library (1961).
Early settler surnames included Alford, Boyles, Butler, Clardy, Cook, Cooper, Crawford, Cummings, Douglas, Gammill, Harpole, Hartley, Holland, Jones, Kolb, Pickens, Quinn, Reed, Ricks, Sanders, Shuffield, Scrivener, Sherman, Smith, Templeton, Turner, Wax, White, Wofford, and others.
According to Sudie Gammill, the daughter of Walter M. Shuffield, Sr., the town had about 25 stores and two nice drug stores. It was a pretty thriving small town with nice homes and consisted mostly of farmers and merchants. Most locals called their Main Street “over the hill” and “under the hill.”
The railroad was the biggest event for Maben, but another event happened on May 18, 1923, which caused a lot of excitement. Charles A. Lindbergh crashed into a field near Maben. Few people had ever heard of Lindbergh when his single engine plane made an emergency landing there. At age 21, Lindbergh had just purchased his first plane, a “Jenny” which he had bought about a month before at a government auction of wartime training planes.
Lindberg was enroute to Texas from Florida when he wandered off course, and bad weather forced him to put down in the Maben pasture.
In his book, “We,” Lindbergh described his Maben landing which occurred after taking off earlier from Meridian: “The storm areas were more numerous and the possible landing fields farther apart, until near the end of the second hour I decided to land in the first available field to locate my position and take on more fuel. It required nearly 30 more minutes to find a place on which a plane could land and take off with any degree of safety, and after circling the field several times to make sure it was hard and contained no obstacles, I landed in one corner, rolled down a hillside, taxied over a short level stretch, and came to rest halfway up the slope on the far side of the field.
“A storm was approaching rapidly and I taxied back towards the fence corner at rather high speed. Suddenly I saw a ditch directly in front of me and an instant later heard the crash of splintering wood as the landing gear dropped down and the propeller came in contact with the ground. The tail of the plant rose up in the air, turned almost completely over, and then settled back to about a 45 degree angle. My first “crack-up.”
In his book, Lindberg relates the comment of one Maben woman who, after observing several flights by others, said to him, “Boss. How much you all charge foah take me up to Heaben and leave me dah?”
According to his recollections, Lindbergh remained in Maben at the old Southern Hotel for about two weeks. After a new propeller arrived and was installed, the young pilot offered to give rides to interested residents. He carried about 60 passengers taking in about $300, more than enough to cover the cost of the propeller and his expenses while there.
Two sisters, Etta Shuffield Few and Sudie Shuffield Gammill, teenagers at the time were among the 60 or so people who flew with Charles Lindbergh. Four years later, Few received a letter from her stepmother, who reminded her that the pilot who had just crossed the Atlantic was the same with whom she had taken a spin.
Mrs. Few, a long time teacher at Overstreet Elementary School, recalled her first flight sitting in the front seat of the two-seater plane and the pilot tapping her on the shoulder to be sure she saw her father standing in front of his lumberyard below. Mrs. Gammill remembered how the plane had circled for a long time, attracting much attention. “Stores closed and there was a crowd there by the time he landed,” she said.
Mason Sumter Camp of Starkville was a student at A&M College (now Mississippi State University) when Lindberg made his appearance in Maben. In 1926. Lindbergh was chief flight instructor at Robertson School of Aviation in St. Louis when Camp went to learn to fly and get his pilot’s license. Camp had graduated from A&M College and saved his money to take flying lessons. A copy of Camp’s diploma from Robertson is signed by Charles A. Lindbergh and is on display at the Oktibbeha County Heritage Museum. Camp, who died in 1984, went on to establish his own flying service and airport in Starkville where he taught many people to fly.
Lindbergh was headed for world acclaim when on May 21, 1927, he became the first person to fly non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean from New York to Paris. His plane, “The Spirit of St. Louis,” is now displayed in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. and his other contributions to the development of aviation were recognized by his election in the Aviation Hall of Fame.
As for Maben, the visit of Charles Lindbergh has been told and retold through the years by those who were there. A marker from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History was erected on May 18, 1987 at the site of the field where he landed on what is now Mississippi Highway 15. A pond now covers much of the field where he took off and landed with his charges. 
The marker was unveiled by Laura Wall, Maben-Mathiston Miss Hospitality for 1986 and Janet Fulgham, 1987 Miss Hospitality. Programs were printed on replicas of the front page of The New York Times of May 22, 1927, telling of Lindbergh’s trans-Atlantic flight.
The words of the litany gave substance to the reason for the marker on Miss. 15 near Maben: “His deed was a triumph of man over machinery, of man over the brute forces of nature. The flight was a tribute to the young men of the world determined in the near future to make the air a great highway between nations.”
The marker is Maben’s tangible expression of pride in its brief encounter with one of America’s greatest heroes.
A major event happened in January 2000 when Amy Tuck, a native of tiny Maben in Oktibbeha County, became Lieutenant Governor of Mississippi. She is only the second woman elected to statewide office in Mississippi and the first to have been re-elected.
The town of Maben is nestled in the warm and friendly hills of west Oktibbeha County at the Webster County line. Keep an “eye” on Maben for the next exciting event.

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