By RUTH MORGAN
For the Oktibbeha County Heritage Museum
Rogers Road is shown on many old maps of Starkville but it was not until I asked Jane Bell Polk did I find the rich history of this road.
It was the dirt road where she and her father were born and where she died in 2007.
Shortly before Jane died we had collected photos of the homes that existed on the little dirt road with a bit of history, which I am sharing in this article. Bear in mind that this information is given from the memory of these most knowledgeable people and not from documented evidence since most of that is not available.
The homes on the south side, east to west, were those of Captain J. P. Rogers, John M. Arnold, J. W. Crumpton, Julius Howard, Lacey Mims, and Gillespie-Jackson. On the north side, west to east were Ed Butler, Annie Bell Harris, E. O. Templeton and Charles P. Bell.
Rogers Road was a dirt road leading to “nowhere” in 1880. The road did not go east toward the college until about 1947 according to early settlers on the road. And, it was not until 1939-1940 that the road was paved from Starkville to Longview. Later it became Highway 12 and was the main thoroughfare going west to Jackson and east it ran through the campus where it joined Highway 82 East going to Columbus. Through the years it has had various names but the very first name was Rogers Road, which is shown on official maps for many years.
The people living on this road were doctors, county officials and successful businessmen who had built their homes along this dirt road in the late 1800s and early 1900s all within about a mile of each other. These included Captain J. P. Rogers (board of supervisors), John M. Arnold (farms/dairy), J. W. Crumpton (medical doctor), Lacey Mims (Railway Express), E. O. Templeton (Templeton Motors and Gulf Oil Distributorship), Dr. Gage Gillespie (medical doctor) and W. P. Jackson (post office), Charles P. Bell (Sinclair Service Station and Sinclair Distributorship partner with Harry Bell), Julius Howard (brick yard), and Ed Butler’s daughter married Geo. Evans (Geo. Evans Shine Parlor)
The first house built on the road was that of Captain J. P. Rogers which was built in 1880. J. P. Rogers was a captain in the Confederate Army. Captain Rogers was president of the county board of supervisors from 1878-1882. He occupied the house with his family until 1906. Since Captain Rogers was the first home on the road, most likely the road was named for him. The two-story Dutch style architecture home was located on nine acres with fruit tree orchards and cattle, and water was pumped from a cistern behind the house. It featured 12- and 14-foot ceilings, a fireplace in every room, six bedrooms, outside kitchen and outside bathroom.
In 1906 George Hartness purchased the home for his family. One of his daughters was married in the home.
J. K. Morgan, county agent of Oktibbeha County, purchased the home in 1936 where he and his wife reared seven children and lived in it for over 40 years. Of the seven children, two are still living in Starkville, Mrs. William (Frances) Langerfeld and Mrs. Catherine Hussman. Frances was a long-time telephone operator and bank employee while Catherine was a beloved schoolteacher. With seven children, the Morgan’s’ were always having company. During those years, the church would not allow young people to have “socials” in the church dining hall, so they would all come over to the Morgan house and have a big time.
The house had almost a century of existence (97 years) when it was raised to make room for a new shopping center, University Square. Mr. Morgan said he would rather have seen the house moved and reconstructed rather than destroyed. However, he consulted with several authorities that told him it would not be economically feasible to move the huge house. The original nine acres and house is reported to have cost only $900 in 1880.
The demolition gave way to a shopping center known as University Square, which opened in 1978. The center had 16 stores including a supermarket, discount drug store, branch bank, beauty shop, gift shop, delicatessen, record shops, a film processor, a frame and art shop, a liquor store, a travel agency, an electronics shop, and a sporting goods store.
Located directly behind Captain Rogers home, which is the property, where the RV Trailer park is now being erected was the home of John M. Arnold, now extinct. According to Adelaide Arnold Ramsey (Mrs. Dero Ramsey), Lawrence Arnold was born in this home. Later owners included W. T. May and Dale C. Hoover. The Arnold home had no road to it, so the “path of a road” that led to it was along the Captain Rogers land and was called “Little Lane.” Not far from this home going west along a path of a road was that of Dr. J. W. Crumpton.
On the north side of the road still standing is the beautiful 1889 two-story home of Charles P. Bell. The land was purchased from Captain J. P. Rogers in December 1888. Harry C. Bell (father of Jane Bell Polk) was born in this home in 1895. Jane was born here in 1925.
At the east corner of Rogers Road and Montgomery Street stood the Julius Howard home, which was built in 1909, now extinct. John M. Arnold moved into this home about 1917. He had two sons, Lawrence and Hunter and a daughter, Mary. His grandchildren are Adelaide Arnold Ramsey, daughter of Lawrence Arnold and John Robert Arnold, son of Hunter Arnold. According to the Arnold family, Mr. Arnold and Mr. Howard swapped houses when Lawrence was about 15 years old. John Robert said that Hunter was a youngster at that time. He remembers visiting his grandfather in this home. It is not a two-story home as it appears. The walls were of brick and were about one-foot thick. After the demolition, some of the bricks were used to build the E. O. Templeton home in Pleasant Acres, the former dentist office on Greensboro St. and Dr. Kermit Laird’s home on Highway 82 West.
At the southwest corner of Rogers Road and Montgomery Street stood the Lacey Mims home. It was built about 1895. The house once stood where former M&F Branch Bank stands. It was moved one lot south and renovated about 1938. Mims was employed with the Railway Express.
At the corner of Rogers Road and Louisville Street stands the Gillespie-Jackson home, which faces Louisville Street. It was one of the largest and most architecturally ambitious houses in the county at the time of its construction. It was built in 1850 for Dr. William Gage Gillespie, a physician who had come here in the 1830s and was considered to be the wealthiest man in the county. The present owner is Frank Jackson. His father, W. P. Jackson, purchased it from Dr. Gillespie in 1918. At one time he rented the house to World War I veterans who were students at the college.
On the corner of Rogers Road and Vine stands the Ed Butler home, which was built about 1930. Ed Butler married Annie Bell Harris who lived at the southwest corner of Vine St. and Rogers Rd.. They were the parents of Lucille Butler who married George Evans (Geo. Evans Shoe Shine Shop). The home of Annie Bell Harris has been torn down and no photo is available.
At the corner of Rogers Road and Montgomery Street extending on the north side to Hancock was the Templeton property. The E. O. Templeton home was built in1926. Mr. Templeton bought the land from Mr. Wier. It was used as a pasture until 1949 when Templeton Motor Company and the Gulf Service Station were built. In 1965 Holiday Inn was built on the site.
Frances Langerfeld, daughter of J. K. Morgan, remembers...
I was about 13 years of age when daddy bought the Captain Rogers house. I remember walking the dirt road, which dead-ended, at our house. The people of Oktoc and Sessums had to go through the campus to get to town. My dad was the county agent and a big promoter of the town and college and had a vision for making them great. He thought the college was the best college anywhere and recruited students wherever he went to come to college here. Some of them include Arlie Wilson, Woodrow Hare and George Crane who later became professors at the college. Even though my parents had seven children, they usually had a college student living with them free of charge. It wasn’t easy then to be able to go to college. My dad recognized the need of a college education and every one of his seven children attended college here.
When we sold the house, Helen Phillips took some of the doors and turned them horizontal and used in a house on North Jackson Street. I took the ornate white porcelain doorknobs and had paperweights made for my children.
I remember two businesses being on the road early on—Shep’s Cleaners and about where Petty’s Barbecue is and Howard Hull’s restaurant, which sold hamburgers.
I have fond memories of living in the home. The second level had a walkway all the way around the house, which served as a look out for anyone coming. Mother was always making hot chocolate and cupcakes for our friends in the wintertime. At Easter she would boil, dye, and decorate all the eggs for a big Easter egg hunt for grown-ups. Cadets, friends, and church groups would attend and search for the eggs hid in the iris and jonquils which were plentiful along the white picket fence. We would gather around the piano and sing “Way Down Yonder in Paw Paw’s Patch” and some of the younger folks thought when we got to the part that said, “picking up paw paws,” it meant that we would go around picking up old people and taking care of them (of course, this is not what it meant). Also, I remember a man from Spring Street who came every year with his horse and wagon to plow gardens. We enjoyed many good times in this home
My dad felt we needed a highway in front of the house going through the campus and talked it around town. The Peoples Bank asked me to go up and down the dirt road at the time and get signatures from everyone who favored it becoming a highway. Everyone signed the petition and Rogers Road became Highway 12 about 1947.
My husband, Bill, and I bought land from Ada and Porter Phillips adjacent to my dad’s house and built our home there. After Bill’s death, I rented rooms to college students and served them meals because I loved helping students just like my dad. Many of them stop in to see me now when they are in town to say how much they enjoyed living with me and our friendships continue.
Lacey Mims, grandson, remembers...
My father loved this house and protected it all during his life. He died in March 1997. I have carried on his love of the house. This is not my house now, it still belongs to them. I am only a protector. The house was moved only about 100 feet south in 1974 by my father to develop the businesses along Highway 12. This would allow the house to financially support itself.