Saving Our History, One Author at a Time

   Greenville a literary hub? It is said that Greenville boasts “more published writers per capita” than any other town in the nation. As someone who lived forty five minutes from Greenville all her life this struck me as new news. To me, Greenville represented the monthly trip to Wal-Mart to fill up on groceries, the once a year trip to a basketball tournament for my mom to watch me sit on a bench, and the place our parents warned us about after dark. Growing up in the South Delta names such as LeRoy Percy Park, Foote, Mississippi, and Percy, Mississippi represented places that I knew well. Their stories on the other hand remained left out of my education. Graduating with a History degree, which included a Mississippi History course, I feel somewhat confident in my knowledge of mules and cotton, but not so much in the case of Mississippi literary works. Is our need of stately and regional knowledge overshadowing our rich literary history? I personally think that reading Willie Morris’ or Shelby Foote’s collection offers you a great insight into Mississippi history.

   After aiding Emily in collecting and exhibiting Mr. McCormick’s amazing collection, I became aware of a different part of Mississippi history. Mr. McCormick not only saved valuable works by Mississippi authors, but works by friends. The sense of friendship and support among Cohn, Percy, Haxton, Foote, Lowry, Taulbert, and so many more stands apparent in his collection. Reading over the sweet messages and notes written by the various authors’ to the Book Inn added even more importance. I feel that everyone will appreciate these works, no matter if a published author or just an avid reader and story lover like me. The Mississippi Literary Collection acknowledges that Greenville, and Mississippi in general, strive to overcome stereotypes and exist as a home to creative and gifted people. Each of these books and authors tell their own unique story, but together (thanks to Mr. McCormick and the donors that made it possible to secure the collection at Delta State) tell the story of our people and history.  

 Gathering the collection from the Book Inn = 72+ hours

Cataloging books and developing the display = 300+ hours

Assemble and display the literary collection = 6+ hours

Public access to Mississippi writers, creative stories, and community pride = Priceless

Till we meet again,

Fawn Horton, Delta State Archives Graduate Assistant

The Odd Fellows, Woodmen & the Archives

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The Daily Democrat Times, 16 August 1937

Preservation is a shared responsibility. On September 14, 1915, the philanthropic organization of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows chartered a lodge in Greenville, Mississippi. Actually, this was the second lodge chartered in the town; the first lodge had organized in the late 1860’s or 1870’s but was compelled to surrender its charter in 1912. In 1937, the Odd Fellows Washington County Lodge No. 258 proposed to dedicate a time capsule to their reincarnation. Placing the capsule inside the cornerstone of their newly constructed building on South Poplar between Main and Center, the dedication included a grand ceremony with Mayor Milton Smith delivering the principal address. Charter members of Lodge No. 258 include such names as Goldstein, Kossman, O’Hara, Koury, Hirsch and Solomon. To read more on the history on the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, please follow this link: http://www.ioof.org/aboutus.html

Flashing forward almost 75 years later, the Odd Fellows building fell into disrepair and the cornerstone was removed. The Woodmen of the World organization had occupied office space in the building along with other organizations into the mid-1960’s. Given their association with the building, the Woodmen of the World were first approached by the building owner, Phil Vazzana, who offered the cornerstone to the membership of Woodmen of the World.

Recognizing the significance and history of the gift, the Woodmen, in particular Mr. Travis Ferguson, Sr., organized a program to which the public was invited to attend and witness the opening of the time capsule held inside the cornerstone. With great care, Mr. Ferguson pulled the metal box from the concrete of the cornerstone and revealed the history which had been held inside for over 70 years. Newspapers, envelopes bearing the official markings of the Odd Fellows organization and letterhead with notes of membership and leadership roles were among the treasures preserved. The crowd was invited to view and read the materials on display and history was returned to the community. Not yet quite satisfied that he

Mr. Ferguson and the cornerstone from the Odd Fellows building in Greenville, MS.  The small tin box on top is the time capsule from 1937.

Mr. Ferguson, Sr. and the cornerstone from the Odd Fellows building in Greenville, MS. The small tin box on top is the time capsule from 1937.

had done all that he could by way of honoring the Odd Fellows, Mr. Ferguson contacted the Greenville Public Library Director, Kay Clanton for advice. Upon her recommendation, Mr. Ferguson contacted the Delta State University Archives. The shorter version of a long but interesting story is that these treasures are now safely deposited in the Archives & Museum at Delta State for patrons and guests to explore. From a special day in 1937 to a rainy morning in 2013, these papers have had quite the journey. It is with great appreciation for every person involved along the way that the Archives is able to preserve these items. Thank you Mr. Ferguson for knowing a good home for the papers existed somewhere; thank you Mr. Vazzana for recognizing historic artifacts when you see them; thank you Mrs. Clanton for promoting the preservation capability of the Archives; and thank you Odd Fellows for thinking enough of your history to put together a capsule of your existence for future generations to enjoy. Together, we preserve our history.

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One Man, One Name, One Book

What an exciting time we are having at the Archives!

I have been processing the Virginia Thompson Collection to be used on the Mississippi Digital Library. Miss Virginia was the secretary to President Kethley from 1927-1961. That’s a LONG time! During World War II, Miss Virginia wrote to many of the students. She would send copies of the newspaper, “Miss Delta”, would update them on their fellow classmates, and even wrote about what she had been doing. Miss Virginia treated each of these individuals as her own. She was never married, and did not have children of her own. The collection is nothing but letters, newspaper articles, and Christmas cards she collected from or about these students over the period of World War II. As I read each and every letter, I can feel her spirit, warmth, humbleness, kindness, inspiration and loyalty to Delta State and its students.

Here is a photo of Miss Virginia in her office!

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While processing this collection, I have stumbled across a very interesting person, Arthur H. Richter, Jr. In a letter dated September 8, 1943, He wrote President Kethley to express his appreciation for the part he played while he attended Delta State. In the letter, he told President Kethley that he was enclosing a book to be donated to the library. He said, “it is my wish that every student have access to this book, and the sooner it is worn out the better I’ll like it.” The book is entitled, “Christ and the Fine Arts.”

Here is the correspondence between President Kethley and Arthur. Followed by the correspondence to Miss O’Brien, the school’s librarian.

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Guess What! The book is still on the shelves at the Delta State Library!

Here is a picture of the book, and Arthur’s message on the front insert of the book which states, “With every best wish to my friends, the faculty, and student body of Delta State.”

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I came across another one of his letter’s he wrote to Miss Virginia. He wrote in his letter that he would be going to Emory University for Dentistry School. This fascinated me and I began searching online for more information. It turns out that Dr. Richter was a dentist for over fifty years in Greenwood, MS. The most interesting fact is that he established the Dental Hygiene program at MS Delta Community College and remained the director until 2001. How about that!

See you never know what type of history you will find in the Archives or even in your own backyard! Come join in on the fun! You never know what you will dig up!

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift of God, that’s why we call it the present!” – Bill Keane

Have a wonderful day!

Jessica Tubbs, Delta State Archives Graduate Assistant

August 2013 Meeting Set for 13 August @ 6pm

Bolivar County Historical Society and the University Archives & Museum invites you to the next BCHS meeting featuring the brand new exhibition

Club Ebony, Indianola, Mississippi, 2009  by Easton Selby

Club Ebony, Indianola, Mississippi, 2009 by Easton Selby

BluesLand by Easton Selby
Opening Reception & Lecture, 13 August 2013 @ 6pm
Capps Archives & Museum Building
Delta State University campus

Delta State University Alumna, Easton Selby, has spent ten years fine-tuning his skills as a photographer. Always seeking to know “why” and trying to answer that question through the images he shoots, Easton has developed this exhibit to explore the land and the culture that is the Mississippi Delta and that which gave forth many of our Delta Blues artists. Why was the Mississippi Delta ground zero for so many artists? What role does the geography of this land play in history of blues music evolution? And, finally, why did it take this native Mississippian so long to see this aspect of our state’s history? These questions and more are answered through the photographs on display and with the lecture Selby will deliver at the opening reception on Tuesday, 13 August at 6pm. We hope you can join us!

Learn more about John Strait’s work which influenced Easton Selby’s photography: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00221341.2011.637228#.UgksEKzgyQ4

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