Heidelberg, Mississippi

 

The ancestral roots of Heidelberg can be traced back to the Palatinate region of Germany. Following the French invasion of the1680’s, and the religious persecution that followed, many Protestant Germans fled the Rhine River region. Large numbers of these refugees immigrated to England and, later, sailed to the new world colonies located in North Carolina. The majority earned a living by farming, slowly migrating westward, clearing new lands as the unfertilized soils lost their ability to sustain a decent yield.

 

The first recorded Heidelberg was a colonist named Christian Heidelberg, appearing in records during the early 1700’s. Christian fathered two sons, one of which was named John Christian Heidelberg. John’s son, Thomas Christian, was born in North Carolina during the late 1760’s. In 1800, he moved his wife and children to Georgia. Around 1817, the family moved westward into the piney woods of the Mississippi Territory.  He established himself in this new land and was living near Bogue Homa Creek as late as 1830.

 

Thomas’ son, Thomas Christian Heidelberg, Jr., established his home on Beaver creek, between the present location of Heidelberg and Vossburg. He married a young woman by the name of Jane Risher, from the Vossburg area. One of their daughter’s married Captain Edward Stafford, for whom Stafford Springs is named.  Another son of Thomas, Samuel Christian Heidelberg, established a large farm in the Paulding area. Samuel would father and raise fifteen children, five of whom served in Army of the Confederate States. Despite engaging in numerous battles and being twice wounded, one of these sons, Washington Irving Heidelberg, returned to found the town of Heidelberg.

 

Around 1870, W.I. Heidelberg settled on a plot of Jasper County land that he had purchased prior to the war. With a demonstration of strong character, he persevered the difficult times afforded by the difficult years of reconstruction period. He managed to construct a fine home, marry, and began a family. His business ventures would grow to include a considerable farming enterprise, a general mercantile store, a cotton gin, and a gristmill.

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In 1882, on his own land, he laid out the present location of Heidelberg town. Included in this plan was a right of way that he presented to the New Orleans and Northwestern Railroad. This gesture ensured that a proposed Paulding to Mobile railway line would route through his community. A grid work of Streets was surveyed and numbered one through twelve. In all, the town encompassed one square mile, extending from Beaver Creek to old Highway Eleven

 

The railroad accepted his offer and with this key asset came enterprise and commerce. Farmers in the surrounding areas were soon routing their goods through Heidelberg. Numerous travelers were also passing through the fledgling town. Realizing yet another opportunity, Washington built a camp house to accommodate those who were in need of shelter. Other business would soon spring up along Ochs Street, the main street through town.  T.M. Heidelberg, a brother of W.I., would establish another general mercantile. Abney & Travis would establish a business that included an undertaking service. Gaston and Sprinkle General Mercantile was another prominent establishment.

 

Ochs Street – circa 1900

 

Heidelberg Rail Depot

 

It is recorded that Heidelberg had six doctors and one dentist. A local inventor, C.R. Reid, operated a small manufacturing operation for seed planters. The first barbershop in town was owned and operated by Irving Reid, a black barber. In 1900, S.C. Wilkins opened a two-story hotel across the street from W.I. Heidelberg’s General Store. W.A. Morrison operated a horse and buggy rental service to salesmen and other travelers who needed transportation to the outlying communities. Four cotton gins, several restaurants, a beef market, a millinery shop, and an ice plant were also opened.

 

One of the four cotton gins

 

 

A post office was also built on Ochs Street. The first postmaster was Daniel.W.Gatlin. In 1900, S.C. Wilkens, owner of the hotel, was appointed postmaster. He relocated the post office to his business until the facility was destroyed by fire. Before residing in the present day location, the post office occupied space in the Bethea Grocery, W.A. Morison’s store, and the Common Wealth Bank building.

 

The Wilkens Hotel – Post Office

 

Heidelberg’s first bank was opened in 1904 with S.W. Abney serving as president and Sam Morgan as the cashier. A large sawmill was opened in 1910 and the relentless harvest of the abundant virgin timber began.

 

The first school one-room was built during the early 1900’s. A second school, located on North Magnolia Avenue, was destroyed by fire.

 

As the public road system came into being, the original Highway eleven was routed through Heidelberg, Stafford Springs, and Vossburg. This was an unpaved gravel road and remained such until the early 1950’s. (Highway Eleven was later rerouted, bypassing both Heidelberg and Vossburg) Travel during the early part of the century was mostly conducted by railroad due to the poor road conditions. This was especially true during the wet seasons.

 

Photo of an excursion train at the Heidelberg Picnic Grounds

 

Three churches were built within the town, a Baptist, a Methodist, and a Presbyterian. A large picnic area was also constructed on the east end of town and was used by the Brotherhood of Trainmen as the destination of an annual excursion. Special trains were run from Meridian and New Orleans to the site.

 

The Thornton’s opened a Ford automobile dealership during 1921. The cars were shipped by rail from Detroit and displayed along Ochs Street. Prices ranged from about $450 to $700, depending on the model and features purchased.

 

        

The 1921 Ford Line

 

 

Abney Ford Dealership

 

 

Abney Service Station

 

 

Abney Homeplace

 

In 1943, oil was discovered beneath Heidelberg and brought a burst of new life into the area. At that time, there was only one telephone in the entire town, located in one of the grocery stores. Many of these shallow wells have continuously produced crude for nearly sixty years. In a posthumous display of business savvy, it was determined that W.I. Heidelberg had retained the mineral rights to the land that he deeded to the railroad – a decision that proved profitable for his heirs.

Click Here to Read About The Heidelberg Oil Boom

Current Heidelberg Oil Production

 

Ochs Street - 2003

The Mary Weems Parker Memorial Library - Wife of Dr.W.H. Parker

The Confederate Memorial Monument was originally imported from France and erected in 1911

 

Source: A Travel through Heidelberg Heritage – History section compiled by Janette Kennedy, 1984.

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Personal Reflections

 

At the end of WWII, I was discharged from the Army Air Corps and attended the University of Southern Mississippi on the GI Bill. The summer quarter of 1949, I completed the course work required to obtain a B.S. degree with majors in Math and in Chemistry. At the campus, I was interviewed and hired by Mr. Homes, the Superintendent of the Heidelberg School, to teach. I began in the fall of that year. It was also Mr. Homes first year. A friend of mine, Jim McCulloch, was also hired. Mr. Homes put both of us in contact with Miss Bessie Chancellor, who lived with her husband, Arthur, near Stafford Springs. They accepted borders and she provided us two bedrooms in the downstairs section of her home. She also fed us a daily breakfast and dinner for a total charge of $30 per month. We ate lunch in the school cafeteria as a part of our pay. Our salary was $1740 for the school year (8 months). Mr. Arthur Chancellor worked as a foreman on a dairy farm in Sugarloc MS and came home on the weekends. He also dabbled in antiques and old clocks. Miss Edna Chancellor, Arthur’s sister, boarded with them, too. She taught 4th or 5th grade. Miss Bessie also worked in the school cafeteria.

 

I can’t remember all of the stores that were in Heidelberg at that time, but I remember that the streets were not paved. Mr. Mixon had a large general mercantile store on the south side of Main (Ochs) Street. East of that was a grocery store run by B.C. Burns. At that time, Mr. Sinclair worked for Mr. Burns and, later, opened his own store out on Highway 11. A large grocery store and the Bryant Drug Store were located on the north side of Main (Ochs) Street. Dr. Parker was the town doctor and had an office out toward the high school.

 

There was a small movie theater located in Heidelberg. Early during my teaching career, I went there one evening to see a movie. When I attempted to leave, I discovered that some of my students had jacked up my car and placed blocks under the rear axle. When I attempted to back up, the rear wheels began to spin in mid-air. It was all in good fun and they emerged from their hiding places to help me fix the problem.

 

Out on Highway 11, the old Stafford Springs Hotel and the restaurant was still in operation. The motor lodge had not yet been built. They were still bottling and shipping the water, mostly by rail. Woodrow Martin ran a garage and a service station just up the hill at the intersection of the Vossburg – Shubuta Road. He later built a restaurant across the road. 

 

I taught at Heidelberg for two school years, 1949-50 and 1950-51. In 1950, I began to notice Mary Sue Eddins, a pretty blonde with perfect hair, come by the Chancellors home with Mrs. Bounds. Mrs. Bounds would stop to see Mrs. Chancellor on their way to church and Sunday school at Shady Grove Baptist. I wrote her a letter and asked her for a date. She accepted and we attended a church social held at Lake Waukaway. We were married on September 2nd, 1951, at Shady Grove. Later, I found out that Mrs. Bounds, Mrs. Chancellor and Mrs. Addie Allen had conspired to hook us up. (It worked.) 

 

In February of 1951, we moved to Biloxi where I took a job teaching electronics at the Keesler Air Force Base.

 

- O.G. Wilkerson

 

 

 

These pages are a work in progress. While every attempt has been made to include accurate historical information, some error may be included. I invite corrections, additional information, additional photographs, and accounts of personal experience. Please contact me at the supplied address. Very little has been documented in regards to the dying towns and landmarks of east-central Mississippi. With your help, I hope to put together a few pages that we all can pass along to our grandchildren. Thanks!

 

Keith Wilkerson

 

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