Sixty-five years ago, during the early spring and summer of 1949, a motley group of high school boys, some from Philadelphia and others from the county schools, decided to build a two-story Fair cabin, east of the eastern row of cabins in Founder's Square.

The young carpenter "wannabees" were Harold Rudolph Evans, brothers Mac and Joe Tidwell and Corky and Billy Breazeale, William Henry "Buddy" Dees, Arline Burke "Demp" Robinson, Charles H. Donohue and Billy Gene "Little Willie" Tolbert.

For their bachelor pad, the young men used materials obtained via numerous "midnight requisitions" from construction sites, and from various lumber yards in the five-county east-central Mississippi district.

When completed, the Fair Association numbered the cabin #208, one that fronted a dirt lane behind cabin #27, a building inhabited by the James Chandler Barfoot, Sr. family, nick-named the Barfoot Inn, one that carried a sign that displayed the words "Bar" and "Inn" separated by the drawing of a bare foot.

Every afternoon and night, the rowdy nine would drown many cans and bottle of '"suds," while entertaining large numbers of young ladies, who paraded in and out, "coming and going," remembered one vigilant and non-approving neighbor.

Poker games were frequent events with the cabin dwellers, and the group often invited guests to play, that included carnival workers, and others with cash to spare.

During one such session, Charles Donohue, a 17-year-old with a reputation for being tough, became suspicious of the play of one of the "carnies." Without consulting with the other players, Donohue took the matter, literally in his own hands, and tossed the carnival gambler out of the frame house from the second-story porch.

A short while later, the carnie returned with Sheriff Elmer L. Dees, and a deputy to investigate the incident. While looking over the Fair house, the deputy spotted a large tin tub, filled with ice, and crammed with prohibited beverages, including a local favorite dubbed "school boy punch."

Without a second thought, Sheriff Dees arrested all of the occupants on the scene, one of whom was his 20-year-old brother Buddy Dees, and sent them all to the hoosegow in Philadelphia. Local grocery-man John Brewer bailed out the revelers, and they all returned to the Fairgrounds, but under a peace bond and restraining order.

Late one night during the same session of the Neshoba Fair, the matriarch of cabin #27, Irene Barfoot, heard a lot of noise, loud music and laughter coming from behind her house, and from the direction of the newly built party house #208. Peering through a large knot hole in the back wall of her second story Fair home, Mrs. Barfoot quickly determined that the young men and their female friends were having a big-time party.

After carrying on for a period of time, some of the revelers started singing old time favorites. When the rowdies and their companions broke into a loud, boisterous rendition of "Goodnight Irene," Mrs. Barfoot, unfamiliar with the song, assumed that the group had seen her spying, and that the words of the song were an omen of bad things to come.

The embarrassed women of the house hurriedly jumped into her bed, and totally covered herself with the bed sheets. The incident was the begining of another Fair tradition, the singing of "Goodnight Irene" on just about any circumstance and occasion.

On February 27, 1997, at her interment in Cedarlawn Cemetery, family, friends and other mourners joined hands, formed a circle around her grave site, and sang "Goodnight Irene" for the last time to their beloved 96-year-old, Irene Stamper Barfoot.


Civil War Veterans

Simmons, William H. - Private; Fifth Sergeant; enlisted April 24, 1861, at Philadelphia, Mississippi, in Company D, 11th Mississippi Infantry Regiment; age twenty; clerk; Muster Roll, July-August 1861: "Sick at Greenwood Depot on leave;" hospitalized with measles at the General Hospital at Charlottesville, Virginia, August 3 to September 14, 1861; appointed fifth sergeant, September 18, 1861; discharged with tuberculosis at Camp Fisher, near Dumfries, Virginia, October 13, 1861; received $51.86 as final pay, October 16, 1861; later served as a private in Company F, "Neshoba Tigers," of the 40th Mississippi Infantry Regiment; described as six feet tall, fair complexion, black hair, and black eyes .

World War II Veterans

Nowell, Carl Henderson - Private to Private First Class; enlisted on May 13, 1943, at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, in the United States Army; age nineteen; college student; served and trained in the American Theatre of Operations at Fort Knox, Kentucky, Camp Cooke, California, and Yuma, Arizona; stationed as a clerk with the War Department Personnel Center at the 1473rd Service Command Unit (Camp Shelby); served also in the European Theatre of Operations with the 483rd Ordnance Evacuation Company, 199th Ordnance Battalion, March 1944 to March 1945; sailed aboard the U.S.S. Empire Arquebus (troop transport ship), arriving Greenoch, Scotland, March 9, 1944; participated in the Invasion of Normandy (Omaha Beach- June 13, 1944)and the campaigns in Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace and Central Europe; awarded the Good Conduct Medal and the European-African Middle Eastern Campaign (with three bronze service stars); discharged at Camp Shelby, September 19, 1945, dependency; described as five feet seven inches tall, weighing 137 pounds, with blonde hair and blue 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.;

Tuesday thru Friday