Wednesday, August 7, 2013 1:00 AM
About 4 p.m. August 14, 1894, with thousands in attendance, large black, dark and angry, ominous clouds formed just to the south of the Fairgrounds. Within minutes, jagged bolts of terrifying thunderbolts raced through the sky, as the "forked lightning began to play from the heavens." Claps of deafening thunder pealed from the sky, creating a continuous volume.
First, the large drops fell scattered, but without warning, the drops turned into torrential sheets of wind-driven rain, mixed with balls of walnut-sized hail, in a veritable cloudburst. Some fled to their little homemade cottages for shelter, other hovered under their wagons, but most sought refuge under sheds, lean-to exhibit halls and the poorly constructed original Pavilion.
Nearly 42 years later, the Reverend R. L. Breland recalled that horrid storm in a series of articles printed in The Neshoba Democrat, entitled "The Story of Neshoba - " "The deluge came down. For fully one hour, the water fell as if poured out of a bucket... The little barn was full of horses and mules and the water was almost over the backs of many of them.
Their owners had to wade and swim in and get them out the best way they could, and the vehicles [wagons and buggies] had to stay for the going down of the water. Nothing like it in the way of rain had ever been seen in these parts.
Large numbers has come unprepared to spend the night, expecting to return home at the close of the evening exercises. But bridges were washed away and roads were torn up so that several thousand had to spend the night on the 'Old Camp Ground', but not tenting for no tents were available... The next day, the clouds retreated and the crowd was fairly large."
Many so-called prophets said it "was God's disapproval of the fair and that it would end it." The Association did not heed this advice, and after the conclusion of the 1894 Fair, contracted for the construction of a new hotel and a new 600-seat pavilion, one that endured the elements and large crowds until rebuilt in 1914.
At the sixth Neshoba County Fair, declamations and recitations were the heart of the programs scheduled for that session. In the late 1800s, teachers taught students elocution and also encouraged them to participate in speaking contests. The Neshoba Fair provided just the opportunity for young orators.
The program also promised Fairgoers speeches and addresses from Mississippi's finest and well-known speakers from across the state. Neshoba County education officials selected the important subject for the debate - the importance of agriculture and livestock for the practical man, defined as a male with interests in community, church and family.
The Fair Association, under the leadership of President Irvin Miller and Secretary S. Harrison Parker, also announced "splendid" stock exhibits and "ring exercises" for four days beginning August 14, 1894. Another advertisement appeared in the July 1894 edition of The Dixie School Journal Press and announced "Dramatic Exercises Each Night."
Fair directors provided hotel accommodations for the visitors that did not want to put up tents or sleep in the backs of wagons. The Association assured the guests that adequate amounts of stock feed for their horses and mules would be available on the grounds.
Money for prizes, referred to as premiums during those periods, totaled $200.00, with $10.00 allocated for the best thoroughbred horse and cow. The best calisthenics team from any of the over 20 schools in the county could claim the premium of $6.00, while the young lady with the best original literary, the sum of $2.50. Not to be forgotten in the rural life of Neshoba County farmers,
Fair planners provided an award for the best quart of homemade wine. Judges reserved the sum of fifty cents for winners in the category of blackberry wing, grape or muscadine wine. Fair officials noted that tasting judges were readily available.
Even though prohibition was several decades in the future, farmers who made the potent drink referred to the liquid as acid available for medicinal purposes only, rather than wine. Fair management provided no entertainment at this stage in the Fair's history, as most Fairgoers considered four days away from the rigors of farming and visitations with neighbors and friends to be entertainment enough.
Civil War Veterans
Kelly, Nathaniel Greene - Private; mustered April 13, 1861, at Neshoba Springs, Mississippi, in the Neshoba Rifles, later known as Company D, 11th Mississippi Infantry Regiment; age eighteen; farmer; received $50.00 re-enlistment bounty at Camp Fisher, near Dumfries, Virginia, February 7, 1862; received $58.00 for pay and clothing, June 14, 1862; present at Gettysburg, July 3, 1863; captured at Gettysburg, or at Cashtown, Pennsylvania, July 5, 1863; imprisoned at Fort McHenry, Baltimore, Maryland, July 6, 1863; transferred to Fort Delaware, Delaware, July 10, 1863; paroled at Fort Delaware, September 14, 1864; exchanged t Aiken's Landing, Virginia, September 22, 1864; died with chronic diarrhea at General Hospital # 9 at Richmond, Virginia, September 24, 1864; buried in division G, row H, grave #12 in Oakwood, Cemetery at Richmond.
World War II Veterans
Kelly, James Odell - Ship's Steward Third Mate to Ship's Steward Second Mate; enlisted on April 17, 1942 at Meridian, Mississippi in the United States Navy; age eighteen; student; served and trained in the American Theatre of Operations at the Naval Training Centers at Camp Bradford, Norfolk, Virginia, and at Newport News, Virginia; stationed at the Naval Hospitals at Portsmouth, Virginia, Great Lakes, Illinois, and Mare Island, California; served also in the Asiatic-Pacific Theatre of Operations aboard the U.S.A. Hornet (aircraft carrier); participated in the battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, where the Hornet was torpedoed and sank, October 1942; served later aboard the U.S.S. Bountiful (hospital ship), U.S.S. New Orleans (heavy cruiser) and the U.S.S. Mobile (light cruiser); wounded in action; awarded the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal (with 13 bronze battle stars), Purple Heart and the Bronze Star; discharged from the Naval Hospital at Great Lakes, October 25, 1945, medical disability; described as five feet ten inches tall, weighing 148 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes.
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