Wednesday, May 7, 2014 1:00 AM
Currently, the directors of the Neshoba County Fair Association are busily planning a large celebration to commemorate the 125th anniversary of its historic institution in late July 2014, as well as considering an appropriate method of memorializing the 100-year-old Pavilion in Founder's Square.
During the spring of 1914, Fair Association President George Eugene Wilson and his Fair Association Board of Directors approved plans for the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the now famous Neshoba County Fair, along with a design to rebuild the original 1894 Pavilion, and to construct, in the informal racing area east of Founder's Square, a new one-half mile racing oval.
After the early May board meeting, directors of the Association notified the Philadelphia Concert Band that they had received the contract for "furnishing the music for the Neshoba Fair at its annual meeting in August."
At the next directors meeting on June 12, 1914, the Board approved a contract for the building of a new Pavilion to W.E. Kirkland and Son. The new building was to be 70 x 90 feet, and according to The Neshoba Democrat, "will be a valuable addition to the already beautiful grounds."
On August 20, 1914, The Neshoba Fair Association purchased a full page advertisement in the Democrat that read: "Neshoba Fair, Aug. 25 to 28, A Week of Pleasure, Profit and Improvement: 23 years of growth, bigger and better than ever. A Show of the Modern Ways of Farm Improvement. Entertainment Clean, Wholesome and of the Best. Specialists in all lines of agriculture will make plain addresses.
Candidate for governor and other state offices will be present and make addresses. Members of Northeast Mississippi Fair Circuit whose fairs will commence as follows: Philadelphia, Aug. 25th; Louisville, Sept. 1st; Ackerman, Sept. 8th; Starkville, Sept. 15th; Baldwin, Sept. 22nd; Aberdeen, Oct. 6th; Houston, Oct. 13th; Calhoun City, Oct. 20th.
As a member of this circuit we are able to book the best class of entertainment, especially is our racing program greatly benefited, which will be better than ever. Directors in charge: Hotel, P. C. Harrison; Stock, J.H. Lofton; Culinary and Ladies Dept., Miss Clara Harrison; Agriculture and Poultry, H.H. Martin; Entertainment, G.W. Mars, H.Y. Graham, H.L. Gray. Meet your friends at the Fair. Neshoba Fair Association, Philadelphia, Mississippi."
The Fair Association initiated a new program called Automobile Transfer Service. Every fifteen minutes, a car left the Irby Drug Store in downtown Philadelphia for the Fairgrounds at a cost of $1.00 passenger, a business credited with adding to the success of the 1914 Fair. Days before the August opening of that Fair, The Neshoba Democrat editorial read in part: "It is one of the best educational schools for the farmer who takes an interest in it and the good results are incalculable.
The farm boys of today are the farm operators for tomorrow and it is for their own and general benefit that they should be progressive and be able to get the most out of life. The county fair enables them to do this. Brains as well as brawn are necessary for the making of a successful farmer...
The younger generation is now teaching the older ones in many respects, the corn club boys have learned [sic] you something about making corn. The girls have learned you something about growing and canning fruit."
In the closing paragraph, the article noted, "An interest instilled that will make everyone so interested that he will have on display the best in his line would soon make the fame of our fair nationwide and others would come to learn from us."
From the very beginning of the Fair, state and federal office holders usually presented addresses, and in the 1914 session, Lieutenant Governor Theodore Gilmore Bilbo left a lasting impression on Fairgoer Fannie Johnson Smith. Sixty-four later, at age ninety-nine, Johnson recalled the speech for Editor Stanley Dearman of the Democrat: "He was up there - oh, he was laying it off right and left - and he thought he was impressing the people-he came to the place where he said, 'Well, when I'm elected governor, I'm gonna brick every highway in the state. They'll last a hundred years. And at the end of that time, why, they can just take them and turn them over on end, and they'll last forever.'"
After Bilbo's speech, Fannie Smith mused, "I remember him saying that. And I thought about asking him, 'Well why don't you do that [turn them up on end] to start with if they'd last always.'"
Civil War Veterans
Ham, Bright R.- Private; mustered April 13, 1861, at Neshoba Springs, Mississippi, in the Neshoba Rifles, later Company D, 11th Mississippi Infantry Regiment; age twenty-one; farmer; received $50.00 re-enlistment bounty and furloughed at Camp Fisher, near Dumfries, Virginia, February 7, 1862; Muster Roll, March-April 1862: "Present;" wounded at Seven Pines, May 31, 1862; killed at Gaines' Mills, June 27, 1862; death claim settled for $67.90; described as five feet ten inches tall, dark complexion, blue eyes , and dark hair; his three brothers, John Wesley Ham, Henry Ham and Spias Ham did not survive the war either: John Wesley Ham, mortally wounded at Seven Pines, May 31, 1862; Henry Ham, died of disease, February 9, 1863; and Spias Ham, died of disease, February 23, 1863.
World War II Veterans
Croswell, William Patrick - Private to Private First Class; enlisted April 28,1943, at Hartford, Connecticut, in the United States Army; age eighteen; defense plant worker; nicknamed "Pat;" served and trained in the American Theatre of Operations at Camp Croft and Fort Jackson, South Carolina, July 1943; qualified as an expert with the M-1 rifle, 45 caliber pistol, carbine, heavy machine gun and light mortar; awarded the "Wings and Boots" Parachute Badge at Fort Benning, Georgia, May 1944; stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, August 1944; served also in the European Theatre of Operations as a heavy machine gunner with Company H, 398th Regimental Combat Team, 100th Infantry "Century" Division, October 1944 to November 1945; participated in the campaigns in the Rhineland and Central Europe; slightly wounded in action (mortar shrapnel in chest), December 29, 1944; seriously injured (third degree burns requiring skin grafts) in action, when jeep crashed into a bomb crater, flipping the vehicle and pinning his left leg beneath the burning military transport near Stuttgart, Germany; awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge, Parachutist's Badge, American Campaign Medal, Good Conduct Medal, European-African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Purple Heart (with one oak leaf cluster), and the Bronze Star (with one oak leaf cluster)); discharged at the Welch Convalescent Hospital at Daytona Beach, Florida, April 10, 1946, combat disability; described as six feet one inch tall, weighing 175 pounds, with brown hair and blue eyes.
Note: Walter Patrick Croswell was the oldest brother of Vice Chairman Tim Croswell of the Museum Board, and many of his World War II memorabilia items are housed in the Military Room of the Museum.
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