Wednesday, March 20, 2013 1:00 AM
In the spring of 1896, one avid and early Fairgoer, a Coldwater community farmer named Pickney Webb, caused quite a stir by having "gone missing."
Webb openly stated that the Fair was "the best thing on earth." Not only did he stay every minute the Fair was in session, but as one wag said, "Uncle Pickney was always in the midst of it."
When the Fair ended, Webb would often walk the short distance from his farm to the Fairgrounds, and just amble along the deserted grounds looking at the buildings and other attractions.
One person remarked that Uncle Pickney would die on the grounds. Even though he said that jokingly, his words were almost correct.
Late one afternoon in March, someone notified the Reverend R.L. Breland that Pickney Webb could not be found.
From his home, which he described as a "poor house," Breland joined a group of neighbors hunting for the 59-year-old man.
After failing to find Webb at or near his home or farm buildings, Reverend Breland led the searchers to the Fairgrounds.
Just a few minutes after scouring the grounds, the men found Webb unconscious beneath the stair-steps of the hotel, the victim of a stroke. The men then moved him to a nearby house, and summoned a local doctor to tend for Webb.
Breland later wrote that after a day or two, he was "able to be out again, but he never got very well." Just a few months later, on July 17, 1896, the now 60-year-old loyal Fairgoer died from a second stroke.
Uncle Pickney lies in the Good Hope Baptist Church Cemetery, along with several Fair Founders and other early Fairgoers.
In the August Fair that followed the sad death in July, Democrat Anselm J. McLaurin became the first state-wide elected official to speak at the event. Governor McLaurin boarded an east-bound train at Jackson and detrained at Newton, Mississippi. From that station, a two-horse buggy carried the state's chief executive to the Fairgrounds, a hot, dusty trip that lasted several hours and consumed most of the day.
Years later, Reverend Breland wrote: "A great deal of interest was aroused throughout the county when it was reported that the governor of the state would attend and speak.
It was reported throughout the county that everyone who attended the fair would have an opportunity to shake hands with the governor." From that day forward, every person who has served as governor has attended the Fair, one or more times.
Two years after Webb's death, Fair Association Director W.W. Richardson chaired a beautification committee that planted oak seedling around the pavilion and the walkways.
Mr. Richardson, his son Earl and a Choctaw Native placed the young trees into the red clay of Neshoba County, some of which were destined to rule the skies over Founder's Square for over 100 years.
On May 4, 1898, Barbour's of Meridian, Mississippi, placed an advertisement in The Neshoba Democrat in an attempt to earn some Neshoba Fair business. The ad read: "Bisnis is Bisnis! To See the Stock Grow, the Bank Account Swell, New Arrivals Every Da, Swept Off Befo Nite, Means Something, Look in our Windo and U Will Understand. Big Prices Won't Do Thes Days. Bed Ticking, 5c Yard; Patent Egg Beater, 2c; Linen Towels, 3 feet long, 10c; Table Knives, 25c set; Hotel Tumblers, 15c set; Fringed Table Napkins, large, 5c; White Wash and Paint Brushes, 5c; 2 Cakes Toilet Soap in Lace-Edged Box, 5c; Gal. Coffee Pots, 9c, 75c doz; Mouse Traps, 5c and Glass Pitchers, 10c.
Your money back for all goods not as represented. What more can we say? Come-to-da!"
The Fair Association hired former Sheriff George Yates, two of his brothers, Jim and Andrew Yates, and Jim Mac Johnson to provide security for the upcoming Seventh Annual Neshoba Fair. Association President Henry C. Rush stated that the four "fearless" men, armed with clubs and loaded pistols, will patrol the grounds, making sure that the "patrons of the Fair in'98 .
Civil War Veterans
Mardis, Richard H. -- Private; enlisted March 1, 1862, at Philadelphia, Mississippi, in Company D, 11th Mississippi Infantry Regiment; age twenty-four; blacksmith. Wounded at Seven Pines, May 31, 1862; hospitalized at Bird Island Hospital at Richmond, Virginia, early June 1862; admitted with a gunshot wound in the left foot to the General Hospital at Petersburg, Virginia, June 25, 1862; furloughed thereafter for an unlimited time. Hospitalized at General Hospital #2, Richmond, June 6, 1863; detailed as wagon master, July 3, 1863; hospitalized with febris typhodes at the General Hospital at Charlottesville, Virginia, August 16 to Sept. 21, 1863; detailed as a wagon master for most of 1864; Mardis certified under oath: "that two mules, the property of the Confederate States, for which Capt. J.F. Cage, A.Q.M. was accountable, died near Petersburg, Va., on or about the 30th of Sept. 1864, one with a broken leg, the other with disease thought to be 'Glanders,' without fault, negligence or carelessness on the part of said Capt. J.F. Cage, A.Q.M.," 26 October 1864.
World War II Veterans
Skipper, Homer Herbert - Private to First Sergeant; enlisted on Jan. 14, 1942 in the United States Navy; age twenty-six; optometrist; served and trained in the American Theatre of Operations at Camp Lejeune, New River, North Carolina, with the United States Marine Corps; served also in the Asiatic-Pacific Theatre of Operations with the First Marine Division, April 1942 to June 1943; participated in the campaign on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, August 1942 to Feb. 1943; wounded in action on Guadalcanal, Nov. 1942; awarded the Purple Heart and the Silver Star; the Presidential Citation accompanying the Silver Star read: "For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action [Sept. 27, 1942] while serving with a Marine unit in combat against enemy Japanese forces at the mouth of the Matanikau River, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands.
Upon seeing a man stranded on the opposite bank of the river and unable to withdraw due to his wounds, Sergeant Skipper, at great risk to his life, unhesitatingly swam across the river, continuously swept by heavy Japanese machine-gun fire, and with the help of his platoon leader, brought the wounded man back safely.
His great courage was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service;" discharged from the Marine Barracks at New Orleans, Louisiana, Feb. 12, 1944, combat disability.
Philadelphia-Neshoba County Historical Museum
Steven H. Stubbs, Curator
303 Water Avenue South Philadelphia, Mississippi 39350 (601) 656-1284 10 a.m. - 3 p.m.; Monday thru Friday