History Hunts Blog

Following Louisiana's & Mississippi's Historic Railroads

My Ride Reports

Finding the Lumber Mill Railroads

Monday, July 18, 2016

Mississippi 2

It seems that the "Returning to Mississippi" theme may be a continuing one. Let me just say I have "no problem" with that. There are a few readers that will understand the quotation marks. Your not understanding "no problem" is really no problem. Let's move on. (Picture captions are above the shots. I hope this ends the confusion. I think you should know at what you are looking before you look as an educated viewing illuminates the repetitious mystery of "what's dat?"). Up this road is Mississippi. 
There are others that will take you there. I prefer this one.  


After reaching US 51, I turned north intent on catching the the train they call the "City of New Orleans" which would be barreling south. I could only estimate the what / time at what location intersections. In essence I'd be flying blind and very much relying on luck and hearing the crossing horn blasts. First Stop: Fluker, La. There really isn't much at Fluker anymore. I'd had high hopes of a lot of visible history there. Truthfully, I haven't tried that hard to find any. Virgil has assisted but that was on another ride. Maybe I should include that link later.

 Across from the intersection of US51 and La.10 is this unusual trestle done up in a Romanesque motif. The original railroad that came up this way was the New Orleans, Jackson and Great Northern RR out of New Orleans. It was headed to Osyka as was I. Was this trestle built by it or the later day Illinois Central? There are a lot of Italians in the area which might have been an influence.
That was a joke. Lame but still ...


 The next trestle up the road was a concrete affair. It was not nearly as intriguing.


  I'm placing the "Camp Moore" sign here only as a mile marker. 
You can do a search for "Camp Moore" if you are so inclined.  


 Next up was Kentwood. This picture was taken a few years back. I've included it here as there are many Britney Spears memorabilia collectors among the ranks. This picture, as far as I can tell, fits in that category as I think Britneymania may have waned. I didn't hear her mentioned around town. 


 For railroad aficionados, Kentwood should be a Mecca.  


 I found this place, the town's historical society building, while exiting. I should have stopped, but didn't for fear of getting bogged down while still in Louisiana and that would make my proposed title worthless.
 But, it's there, and it was open according to the sign in the window. 


  I went out on Old US 51 to check on the co-op. What had they done to this fine old building?   


 6 years ago it looked like this. I recon they needed more space and messing with the architecture was the cheap answer. I'd just read a comment by a writer demeaning modern fronts put on old buildings. 
He said that really stunk. 
I agreed.


 I also returned to the location of one of my personal triumphs. I had used a donated old picture of the Kentwood Depot to identify this cement "platform" as the actual floor of the depot, not a loading dock as I had originally thought.


 The rails in front of the slab serviced the depot. A feed mill sits on the other side of the mainline tracks. 


I took this shot south of the depot. That is another feed mill up ahead.  


Unintentionally, I'd taken a shot of the more northern part of the mill from another location. 
Wait, that didn't come out right. 
I meant to take the second shot but didn't realize it was the "part 2" of the first shot.


Going into Kentwood, one of the first street signs is this one. It is opposite a major highway going west. 
My first search only led to a cemetery where it ended, my search, not the road. 


Wandering into the old downtown, I shot a few pictures that have been taken before. 
This is what a "depression" looks like. Two old men sat talking, one white, one black.  


Riding north out of Kentwood, you get into the rolling hills. 
I had an urge to see a train come though a cut in those hills, 
so, looking at the GPS, I saw this road heading east across the tracks. 


  Zooming way down the tracks, sho-nuf, a red engine was coming south. 
It seemed stopped, but wasn't. 
It was "high-balling", I guarantee.


 The down hill descent wasn't hurting its speed.   


 I cut down another road and happened upon the "South Osyka" sidetrack.  


  Pike County's "line" is also Louisiana's border with Mississippi. 


 Careful examination renders the fact that the signs have been changed since the shot below was taken in 2006. Actually, the "Osyka" one may be the same.


 I have a soft place in my heart for old honkytonks. The next two shots were taken in 2006. It is the first buildings in Mississippi. There are 2 pictures because it is a long building. 


 The clientele silhouettes are classic.


 The present day building speaks volumes.   


Continuing into Osyka, I came to the railroad on the south side of town.  


 I didn't see the house, but found a write on one that is at this location. A little history is included in its description.  I put the separations so you wouldn't bet frustrated trying to read it. Incremental reading is sometimes easier. The house was for sale and this is the pitch. If you are looking a wonderfully restored early 1800's historic home or a place to possibly run a B & B, then look no further. This 6BR/4.5BA, historic home has been completely restored and offers all of the amenities you would expect in a new home, yet it retains the warm feel of the old world charm. This would also be the perfect getaway retreat for a large family or combination of families. It features heart pine ¼ sawn flooring, soaring ceilings, mostly original windows with wavy glass,  new baths with refurbished claw foot tubs, and a new kitchen with some commercial appliances. 

The home has an awesome front porch that allows you to sit outside even when it’s raining. It’s a favorite family gathering place for an afternoon cocktail or homemade ice cream. The siding has been updated to vinyl which should be maintenance free for years to come. The home sits on a corner lot facing the RR and veterans memorial, and it’s on the edge of the commercial district (if you want to call it that) which features 4 buildings, including a hardware store, dollar store, seafood restaurant, and coming soon is a grocery store. The town of Osyka is the first town in Mississippi on I-55 traveling north out of Louisiana. The home was  named the Lily Bird Lodge in honor of the late Lily Bird Williams who wrote the following history about the home. “This antebellum home was built during the 1850's, and was later owned by several families until it was purchased in 1917 by my husband shortly after our marriage. These were the days when life was uncomplicated, when meals were prepared by Ada, our families’ cook, on a wood burning stove with fresh ingredients from the garden and smoke house. Our family was the basic economic unit. Births were at home. My husband, Alcus George (A.G.) Williams, Sr., lovingly referred to by the family as Pinkie, bought the  house in 1917 for me and our children, Irene, A.G. and Jimmy (who was soon to be born.) 

Other members of our family including Pinkie's mother, Ida Simmons and his brother Bernard and his family then joined us in what became our family compound of houses. We then renovated our newly acquired family home to our specifications and hence its current style and design. Later Pinkie was elected mayor of Osyka and served from 1925 to 1931 and again from 1933 to 1935. Our son A.G. Williams Jr. also served as mayor of Osyka from 1969 to 1971 and again from 1989 to 1991. Pinkie's company built many of the first roads in the area from Indian trails using mules and slips. During our early days in Osyka, steam driven locomotives pulled  train loads of welcomed visitors, mail, and supplies from New Orleans to the Osyka train depot, only steps away from our home. These visitors came to enjoy the peaceful, tranquility of the area, beautiful pines, and the healthy ever-flowing Artesian springs of the area. Mail would arrive from far away places addressed to me, Lilybird, with envelopes simply depicting a hand drawn sketch of a flowering lily and a bird and Osyka, Mississippi. During the great depression, Lilybird Lodge opened her doors to boarders to make ends meet. Later, during World War II, Osyka was proud to be recognized as the home to over 50 U.S. pilots, the largest number per capita of any town or city in our country. 

 Now after three quarters of a century, our family  home, named for me, has again been lovingly restored to its original beauty and charm, with all of the modern conveniences. The family welcomes you to visit and experience Lily Bird Lodge first hand, as we all did for so many years. The name Osyka comes from Miss Osyka. Legend has it that this Choctaw Indian princess died and was buried near Gardner Springs. The springs are located near Tate Ott's pasture. Her father, a Choctaw Chief, asked the founding Fathers to name the town in her honor. Osyka means Soaring Eagle in Choctaw. Osyka is located in Southwest Pike County. It is 100 miles South of Jackson, Mississippi and 90  miles North of New Orleans. It is one square mile, 640 acres, located at Section 35, Township 1N, and Range 7E. The town has never had a population greater than 1000. The New Orleans, Jackson and Great Northern Railroad began Osyka's development. 

It took one year to map and 3 years to construct the original 88 miles to the Louisiana/Mississippi state line at Osyka. Irish and slave labor was used to build the railroad using Indian Trails. During the Civil War the railroad was in ruins, with burned buildings and bridges and twisted rails. From 1863 to 1865 the railroad was out of use from Ponchatoula, Louisiana to Brookhaven , MS. In the late 1860's, P.G.T. Beauregard, a famous Confederate States of America General, reconstructed the railroad. Today, the ruminants of Osyka's past quietly stand as a tribute to her active role in the development of the Old South. Over the years, some members of the family remained in Osyka, while others ventured out to experience life throughout this country and the world. However, there is one thing that we all have in common; we all love coming home to the quiet life of Osyka, and hope you will too. Click Here to go to home's website. Back click to return. Moving a little north, I saw this. It is a rather large memorial for such a small town. 
The reason is found below the picture. 


This was in the Lilybird House write: "Later during World War II, Osyka was proud to be recognized as the home to over 50 U.S. pilots, the largest number per capita of any town or city in our country". Osyka seems to be doing "OK". 
The announced opening of the hardware store (on the banner) seems to have worked out. 

August 2005.  

 April, 2012.  










 This one is now a Christmas tree farm's store.  


 That's what remains of the Osyka Depot. It has been badly "messed with". 
It is now the town library. 


 I guess I should get the topo map out and look at the rails setup like I do with my home turf. 
No, there is nothing exciting to see.


Where did that rock come from?


  Ok, here's the best shot of the show.  


Again, separations are not structurally correct. I use them to ease the reading. 
The home, Lilybird's place, went on the auction block. This is from that site. Some of it is a repeat from above, but not all. Consider it an augmented review. During the early days in Osyka steam driven locomotives pulled trainloads of welcomed visitors, mail and supplies from New Orleans to the Osyka train depot, only steps away from our home. These visitors came to enjoy the peaceful, tranquility of the area, beautiful pines, and healthy ever-flowing artesian springs of the area. During the great depression, Lilybird Lodge opened her doors to boarders to make ends meet. Osyka’s history dates back to 1812, when Jesse  Redmond, who is today considered its founder, arrived here from the East Coast. Jesse traveled to Mississippi Territory and settled in what is the East side of Osyka, near the Tangipahoa River. He fought with Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans. He married Elizabeth Calter in 1825 and reared his children in Osyka. The name Osyka comes from Miss Osyka. Legend has it that this Choctaw Indian princess died and was buried near Gardner Springs. The springs are located near Tate Ott’s pasture

Her father a Choctaw Chief asked the founding fathers to name the town in her honor. Osyka means “Soaring Eagle” in Choctaw. Osyka is located in southwest Pike County. It is 100 miles south of Jackson, Mississippi and 90 miles North of New Orleans. It is one square mile, 640 acres, located at Section 35, Township 1N and  Range 7E. The town has never had a population greater than 1000. The New Orleans, Jackson and Great Northern Railroad began Osyka's development. It took one year to map and 3 years to construct the original 88 miles to the Louisiana/Mississippi state line at Osyka. Irish and slave labor was used to build the railroad using Indian Trails. Carter’s Hill at Chatawa, a nearby town, furnished the gravel for the railroad. The first trip was made on August 17, 1854 and left New Orleans at 7:00AM and arrived in Osyka at 1:00PM. The railroad opened officially on August 23, 1854, almost 149 years ago to date. The town built up rapidly with country trade from the nearby towns of Holmesville, Covington, Baton Rouge and Natchez. 

The "New Orleans" was the first locomotive on the line. It was a wood burner and built by the Baldwin Company of  Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was shipped via sailing vessel to New Orleans in December of 1853. Other locomotives were named "Creole," "Southerner" and "Dart." During the Civil War the railroad was in ruins, with burned buildings and bridges and twisted rails. From 1863 to 1865 the railroad was out of use from Ponchatoula, Louisiana to Brookhaven, Mississippi. In the late 1860's, P.G.T. Beauregard, a famous Confederate States of America General, reconstructed the railroad. The west double track was laid in 1903 and increased traffic in lumber, gravel, other freight and mail. The nearby community of Chatawa is home to St. Mary of the Pines, a private boarding school for girls, run by Catholic Nuns since the 1800’s. Its campus  is now the serene setting for the retired nuns who for many years devoted their lives to the education of many young ladies from all over the world. Our mother and sister both attended St. Mary of the Pines in its heyday. I went on up to Chatawa. I've been to Chatawa many times. On several occasions I made it the 

centerpiece of my ride report. I did not mean for that to happen this time. I was only looking for a passenger train. This was the first note from a reader. Others, posted below, would soon follow. "Chatawa" produced more feedback than any other report I've written. This from Henry: The Grandparents were Bentz's and the town was Chatawa, just outside of Osyka. They still had the old wood burning range in the kitchen and an  upright piano in the living room. This was during my younger, foolish years. How many times have I been up to that place? My ex-wife's grandparents lived near Osyka and ran an old-time service station/grocery store during the "olden days". I sent her a link to the website so she could check it out and asked her to contribute 

anything she could remember. {the store would be later identified as the Bentz Store} He continues: One of the computer map programs I use is Delorme' Street Atlas. It has an interesting map feature that is a help  when locating undocumented historical areas. It shows a little cross at every cemetery. The area you have been poking around lately has tons of them. He continues. Here's you piece of little known Mississippi history for today: During the Civil War, Jones County (Laurel) tried to succeed from the Confederacy. While it is true that there were few slaves there (the place was too poor), the main reason was that various outlaw bands, deserters, and other criminals had moved into the area and taken it over. They called it the Free State of Jones. The unadorned map is below 



A map sent to me by a long gone reader is below. Below will be pictures of the "artesian well", the Bentz house and the lake and stream shots were taken below the line,"My childhood home".  


These passages are from previous natives of the area and those that knew the locals, like Henry. Until I say to the contrary , these are their words or I may interject in brackets: David: My very first BB gun was purchased for $2.75 at the old hardward store in Osyka and I received many a haircut on main street on Saturdays for $0.65. {An old barber shop was near the hardware store} My early childhood days were lived in Chatawa (Indian for sparkling waters), say, (Chat-a waw), about 5 miles north of Osyka on Hwy 51. I lived in Chatawa from '51-'57. Being good Catholic parents, raising 9 children, and wanting the best education for us, mom & dad moved there for us to attend Catholic school. Chatawa is the home of "Saint  Mary of the Pines", once a very large boarding school. Primarily a girls' school, there were a number of boys attending. Eventually, because emphasis was placed on girls and religious vocations, male attendance 

above the 8th grade was stopped in an effort to allow the older girls to concentrate on religion. Eventually, all boys were barred. Many Louisiana Catholics sent their daughters there and many girls from South & Central America also attended. Because my parents could not afford the tuition, they worked out an arrangement with the School Sisters of Notre Dame (SSND). The school owned a large house (14 bedrooms & 7 baths). So in exchange for a reduced tuition of $2/month/child, we lived in and operated the bed & breakfast house, for parents coming up from South America to visit their daughters. The home was called Glen Mary. Anyway, lots of history there. I've visited the school cemetery a few years ago and saw the graves of several of my childhood teachers and even some former classmates. I believe I can claim direct responsibility for  lowering the snake population of Chatawa with my trusty .410 shotgun, that I was fortunate enough to 

purchase from my father for $23.75, on my 9th birthday from money I had saved for a long time. My sisters gave me some dimes & quarters for my birthday present to help with the purchase. I even had to buy my own shells. There were only 2 grocery stores I feel would qualify for the one you mention. The old "Bentz" grocery, located on old hwy 51 and the "Round-House" Grocery on Hwy 51. The Bentz Grocery with home attached was just around the corner form Glem Mary, our home. I hand pumped many a gallon of gasoline up into the glass reservoir, and let gravity feed it into the family's 1948 DeSoto Sububan, 9 passenger automobile. I remember gas at $0.18/gal in the early 50's.The BentZ store is long gone. I remember their son, Charles Bentz, about 70 yrs old now. The Round House Grocery on 51 is still there, I believe. It was constructed of local sandstone and is a round building. It qualified as a bus stop for Greyhound, but was not a terminal. About 200 yards south of the Round House Grocery, is the road (going east) leading to Old Hwy 

51, ex-Bentz Store and to St. Mary's. About 1 mile into the road leading to the school, the Illinois Central  RR tracks cross. There you will find an artisian well which has been running for much more than my life. Plan to stop and have a drink. On Sundays, you can find several cars stopped there while people collect drinking water. Cross the tracks and go another mile to the site of my childhood home, Glen Mary, which has been replaced with a single story brick home overlooking the pond ("lake", I called it when I was small) where I killed many snakes. You will now be at the Old hwy 51 Tee. North 100 yds is the site of the Bentz Store, 

 now replaced with a home. South, 3/4 mile, is the entrance to St. Mary's. It is no longer a school. It's a retirement home for Catholic nuns. Feel free to ride in and look around. Many of the old large wood frame  buildings are gone now, but still enough remains to let one know this was once a busy place. Deep in the woods in Chatawa, is a strange object just sitting there as if placed by visitors from space. It's a bathtup carved from pure marble. About 15 yrs ago, the local newspaper did an article on it with my father. OK, I'm back. I'm going to upload the huge scan of the article on the Chatawa Bathtub. Click the pic and download the picture that appears. Then zoom in or open it in its original size using Irfan View or some similar software.


This is from another reader: I have lived here all of my adult life. My family has been here for 4 generations before me. . You may have missed the artesian well at the foot of the hill by the tub. It was a man made pond that had the well piped into it. {it is near where the water tank for the RR was, very possibly. It is on RR property} All that remains is a pipe about 6 ft high with flowing water. {That was once the setup} You mentioned old grave sites, yes there are many some with only sand rocks as markers, I know where most of them are. As far as the Chatawa monster, my grandfather passed when I was 9 back in 1979. The story he told us was that an old carnival train derailed, all the animals escaped into the woods and were never caught. Maybe a few wild monkeys and all started up the rumors until they died out. When you were at the post 

office at “the well” up that drive way by the metal gate was an old gravel pit they got dirt from while building  the railroad. A Huge sand rock came out of the hill and landed on a man. The rock was about 12’ high and 15’ long and too big too move so the man was left there in that grave. Stories mention at times you can see a white figure on top of the rock. It’s not that spooky during the day but I would challenge you if you’re ever able to go there at night and walk the curvy road to do it. I once walked that road at night but I was a teenager going to see a girl so I had some motivation to get through the road. That's it for his note. These are pictures from the old ride report and some new ones. Next up will be the post office and well. Old US 51. In 2005 I discovered Chatawa by coming up Old 51.
 I was fascinated by Mississippi's allegiance to the old road names.  


This is the creek above Terrel Rd.  


This is a back road that circles west off of Old 51.  


Lake above Terrel Rd.  


In the neighborhood somewhere, possibly St. Mary's Dr.  


Cemetery across from St. Mary's.  


House on Old 51 near the Tee with St.Mary's Drive.


The next two locations are kinda iffy.  


Terrel Rd. I remember the dog howling at ME.


 Bentz Place. Remember, they owned one of the two stores. 
This house is on the corner of Bentz Rd. and St.Mary's Dr. 
The store and house were suppose to be connected. 
Possibly that place belonged to another generation. 




Bentz Rd.  


Now that you are getting a little "lay of the land", here's more text from contributors. I lived in Chatawa from '51-'58 and did hear some stories of the Chatawa monster. I am here today to tell you this. I guess I was about 10 or 11 at the time, I heard what I described to my parents as a woman crying loudly. I awakened them and they told me to go back to bed. Again I heard it and woke my parents again and they also heard it. My dad got his .410 ga. shotgun and a flashlight and turned on the back light and I watched him from my 2nd floor bedroom window. He disappeared in the shadows around the entrance to our garage where his truck & the car were parked. All of a sudden, from those shadows and around the south side of the garage  directly in the light, my mom & I saw the largest black cat with a long tail run all the way around 2 sides of the garage and into the woods. Panther? I say it was. It looked just like the panthers you see in the movies on Tarzan. I don't think the .410 would have done much but anger that cat. The next day, we found huge 

paw prints in the small gravel pit at the base of our driveway near the pond. My dad made casts of those paw prints with plaster. They are as large as my hand, less the last 2 finger joints. Judging from the depth of those prints and the size, it was a very heavy animal. Sometime later, my dad came home after working 1/2 day on Saturday. He told me to get my gun and he got his. There was a huge field (today it is the home of Sunshine Mountain on your map) where my father said while he was driving to work earlier, he saw what  looked to be a panther preparing to attack some young calves in the field. He blew his horn and the cat ran into the wooded area. We went down there and along the small creek we saw some paw prints similar to the ones my dad cast. These are the only times I actually had knowledge of a large cat or panther. We began telling this to neighbors and most of those also had some stories of their own. One very interesting one was that some locals had cows and calves & goats found killed and partially eaten and one cow survived with apparent claw scars on the abdomen and some teeth marks. The bathtub is crude and is hued from a large block. I don't know if the newspaper story with my dad is archived for online viewing, but I sent an email to them asking for the date of the article. I have a hard copy at home. I will research it and let you know. I 

think  it may have '96. I can tell you this, also. The largest water moccasins I have ever seen were around that school pond at the intersection of old 51 and St. mary's drive. I have some photographs of some I killed. Some advice. Those snakes will be awakening from hibernation soon, so look out. They are usually in pairs in the spring. Plenty of coral snakes, moccasins, copperheads. Never saw a rattler, but others did. I actually saw my 1st rattler on the Natchez trace last year. It was a timber rattler with 19 rattles. Richard Richard's sister: I too remember a Charles Bentz, Jr. When Ms. Bentz was in the hospital in McComb in the 70's, I met her son Lawrence, I believe, He was living in California then, but flew home because of the hospital stay of his Mother. The newspaper article was in the ENTERPRISE-JOURNAL in McComb. I think it was in '96. Glen Mary and the East Family: I remember Ms Bentz wearing her beautiful hats to church. She was  always so nice to us and let us charge candy & cokes on Great Granny's account. I remember the plum tree

 close to her house. She would let us pick plums and eat them til we were sick. I think of the good ole days often. Chatawa, what memories, Remember Great Granny's song she wrote about Chatawa? I too have the article of the marble bathtub. Panther, Bathtub, or Monster? There was a write up in one of the local papers explaining the Chatawa Monster as a made up { lie} to scare children in Chatawa. They gave the explanation that the thing was nothing more than a bathtub. I recall my grandparents saying it was cow hide stretched  over an old wooden box. This Box could almost sound like a musical instrument to give off a horrid sound of a creature living in the woods of Chatawa. I also heard of animals that sound like an individual screaming in terror, and that the Chatawa monster was nothing more than a panther living near the creek swamp. Back to me: The Chatawa Monster, snakes and a marble bathtub. Who could ask for a better place to live? Maybe those stories and their origins are why I keep going by Chatawa, Miss. 


The Tangipahoa River  


 This is the story on the bridge in 2012 from the McComb paper. Pike County road manager Mike Duncan, right, and assistant manager Billy Ray Phelps walk near the Chatawa Bridge over the Tangipahoa River on Thursday after closing the deteriorating span. 


 Photo by Jerel Harris, Enterprise-JournalArticle Posted: Friday, January 20, 2012 3:00 pm By Ernest Herndon, Enterprise-Journal The sleepy life at Chatawa got a lot sleepier Thursday when Pike County officials closed the bridge over the Tangipahoa River. The annual bridge inspection currently under way revealed the bridge to be too dangerous to travel, said county road manager Mike Duncan. “It’s steadily deteriorated,” Duncan said Thursday afternoon. “The engineer strongly recommended it be closed ASAP.” The bridge on St. Mary Drive crosses the Tangipahoa River between a popular artesian well on the west  side and the Chatawa Post Office on the east. The closure means people on the west side of the river will have to detour all the way either to Osyka or Magnolia to cross to the east side. “I don’t know if it’s going to change anybody’s life in a big way,” said Chatawa Postmaster John Henderson. “My ride to work is 10 miles now instead of 21/2. But I’ve been expecting that thing to be closed for a long time. ... “There’s not 

much traffic here, period,” he said. “It’ll go to no traffic at all now.” County supervisors had already placed 10-foot high horizontal bars at both entrances to the Chatawa bridge to keep heavy trucks off. Last year an engineer’s report rated it and one at Fernwood as the worst in the county, and supervisors unsuccessfully  applied for a federal grant to replace them and two others. Supervisors made temporary repairs to the Fernwood bridge with hopes of replacing it entirely using federal bridge replacement (BR) funds when they become available. At Thursday’s board of supervisors meeting, State Aid engineer Chris Dixon said it’s possible the BR funds could be available as early as October. Supervisors authorized Neel-Schaffer engineering firm to finalize plans for the new Fernwood bridge so it will be ready when funds become available. Dixon pointed out that funds for bridge inspections come out of the federal BR pot. Inspection standards have increased immensely since a disastrous Minnesota bridge collapse in 2007. “The price of bridge inspections has skyrocketed,” Dixon said. “That reduces the amount of BR funds available for 

  construction. That’s a necessary evil.” Henderson said the Chatawa closing will affect the staff at St. Mary of the Pines. “They’ll just have to come and go via Osyka or Magnolia,” he said. The Chatawa Post Office has 90 boxes, half of which are in use. Customers on the west side of the river will be affected, but “they could just park their car and walk over,” Henderson said. “It’s only 150 yards or so to the other side of the bridge.” My picture taken on Friday, 3/2011. Yes, I could have crossed it and probably should have. 



  It was a Friday, a little after noon when I arrived in Chatawa. It was starting to rain. I don't often visit, but to get out of the rain I'd seek shelter in the Post Office. There, John and I shot the breeze a little. He's the same "John" mentioned below and above. I said, thinking of the artesian well, "Something is missing". He immediately picked up on what I was talking about. Yes it was gone and here's the story. It is another write by Ernest Herndon, a man that gets around.


Headlines: Chatawa water capped: Litter, trespassing cited as reasons CN Railroad closed water well. By Ernest Herndon, Enterprise-Journal | Posted: Wednesday, March 7, 2012 2:00 pm 

The Chatawa flow well — a popular source of drinking water and a notorious trash dump — was closed Tuesday by order of CN Railroad. The free-flowing artesian well has been used for decades by citizens as a free source of water, but litter — especially plastic jugs — accumulated to horrific proportions, especially in the damp woods below the well. Pike County solid waste enforcement officer Richard Coghlan said he had asked CN railroad officials to do something about the litter. CN officials had the property surveyed and when they determined the company owned it, they shut down the well. “We are terminating public access,” CN public relations  officer Lindsay Fedchyshyn said this morning, citing litter, trespassing and public safety. “It really has been the accumulating garbage, the empty jugs, the litter. 

Now that it’s been confirmed that this is CN property, we have to take the necessary steps to protect community safety.” Coghlan found out about the closing Tuesday. “I didn’t know what they were going to do. All we want is the litter cleaned up,” he said. “It’s not litter; it’s a dump. It’s beyond litter. It is on railroad property, and the well’s on railroad property.” CN contracted with Walker-Hill Environmental of Foxworth to plug the well. “He stopped the well and then it started coming out around the pipe,” said Coghlan. “He had a sack of like drilling mud that he pushed in that hole, and he stopped the water,” Coghlan said. Since the water kept seeping, the contractor said he will pull the pipe out of ground entirely, then plug the well “like an oil well with drilling mud,” Coghlan said. Fedchyshyn said “the  county is well informed” about the closing, but no county officials contacted by the Enterprise-Journal knew about it until work started. “I feel like they should have contacted the county because it’s a site that people have visited for many years in that area to get water, fresh drinking water,” said District 5 Supervisor Gary Honea. 

  He said he called a railroad official Tuesday after learning of the closing and asked if anything could be done to stop it. “He said, ‘Too late, buddy, we’re putting concrete in it as we speak.’ He was really arrogant,” Honea said. He said he will bring the topic up at a board of supervisors meeting to see if there’s anything they can do. “That’s one of those instances where people throw trash around and the rest of the  population gets penalized for it,” Honea said. Chatawa Postmaster John Henderson said the closing is part of the gradual demise of the quiet wooded community south of Magnolia. County officials recently closed the bridge over Tangipahoa River with plans to build a new one, and the U.S. Postal Service may close the post office. “We’re all unhappy about it,” Henderson said of the well closing. “It’s another piece of Chatawa that’s gone. It’s another nail in our coffin. “People from all over the place get water there,” he said, recalling a truck from LaPlace, La. “I have seen people pull up there with trucks and load hundreds of jugs.” 

He agreed litter is a problem but said it dropped off after a no littering sign was put up a couple of years ago. Chatawa resident Gloria Quinn Smith said closing the well will affect a lot of people, herself included. “What’s terrible is there are some people who really depend on their water for that. Their well’s not doing right.” She gets her drinking water there because of rust in her own well water supply. “I don’t know what I’m going to do for drinking water. I can’t afford to buy it. There’s a lot of people in that position,” Smith said. “And what would we have done after (Hurricane) Katrina if we hadn’t had that place? It’s been there over 70 years, or longer than that. I know somebody who’s 70 who said it was there when they were born.” She agreed “the litter  had been terrible, It really is, it’s bad over there,” but said people have been picking it up lately. A sign at the well placed by Keep Pike County Beautiful reads: “Warning, this site will close if your littering continues.” “We put the sign up trying to deter people from littering. 

A lot of it was those plastic jugs,” said Barbara Mercier. litter coordinator for the Mississippi Department of Transportation. “This has been an ongoing problem for years. This didn’t just happen.” Mercier said at least two major cleanups have taken place at the well, but the trash returns. “Every year we’ve gone and checked on it and it’s gradually gotten worse,” said Mercier, who was participating in a “litter index” tour today that included Chatawa. Still, she hates to see the well closed. “That’s just heartbreaking because it’s such an asset to have that in our county,” she said. “I remember as a child going there with my grandmother to get water.” Click the picture below to read. 


  Me: This is my only shot of the well, taken 7 years ago.


Now to the Post Office which will be closing. Add it all up.
 The bridge will be gone, the spring is gone, and the post office will be gone. 
Chatawa is quickly disappearing.


The bobcat had been found dead on the road. John and his wife had it stuffed. With that addition, the place took on the feeling of Onward, Mississippi's famed store. I don't know what it was about the cat, but it possessed the power of a time machine.


There are the 94 or so mail boxes, half are empty.


Then John asked if I wanted this. CLICK it to enlarge. He said that the little house down on the right was probably the building which now houses the post office. The water tank's location jives with the spring, maybe, or possibly the water came from the river.


This is looking south from the present post office into the heart of "town" 
or opposite in direction from the picture above.


 This is looking north. I could have walked further south, but I couldn't see any reason. 


Very sad.


The location of the well was the wet place to the left of the RR's metal box.


 I headed south and pulled into a locked gate when I saw this. But, they do have a website: 
 Click Here. It's a good one.


At Camp Moore the CN guys were working.


At Tangipahoa, I wanted to see the concrete next to the tracks I'd seen before but from the highway side. 
I have to proclaim it a depot's foundation.


A large slab had been used at Kentwood, why not here? 


These mini "Washington Monuments" can be seen in several locations up and down US 51.
 I know Virgil told me what they were but that's been at least 2 weeks.


Above Amite I started looking for a location to photograph the northbound City of New 
Orleans passenger train. Roseland's side track would not do.


Then I realized how close I was to Amite. I'd go to the park across from the depot and 
plant my tired self there. This old hotel is right across 51 from the park and depot.


It is now this. 


From my picnic table, this was my view looking across the tracks.


 The cop sure was moving slowly getting gas or whatever. 
He knew I wanted a shot and I think he wanted in it. 


 My premature shot netted this. The camera is faster than I anticipated


It flies through town. 
You do not have a second chance at the 60 mph train nor to get your dumb self off the tracks. 
The fenced park is plenty close enough.


Then, on Saturday, my granddaughter and I returned. I knew the City was scheduled to be in Hammond at 2:45. We were in Amite, at the table before 3. Excitement raged as we heard the horns. Then a freight showed up. She was excited about the freight not really knowing the difference between a freight train and a passenger one. I was wondering what was going on. And, yes I explained the difference. She can program a computer but ...... ???? And, I've taken her to the Lafayette Depot to see the Sunset. Granted that was on a 104F degree afternoon and we ran out of water an hour before the train showed up, so, her memory of that 

occasion my have lapsed, or, possibly she has rejected it as a bad dream. I asked her, not knowing she was really into the whole deal, if she would not mind staying until 4, just in case the train was running late. We had cold drinks, we were sitting, not standing this time, at a nice picnic table and it was in the high 70's, all of which made this occasion more palatable. The freight had passed at 3:14:52 (last car's picture) The Amtrak appeared at 3:19:29, less than 5 minutes behind the freight. The passenger train is faster. What happened up the line I'd like to know .




I'll have to go back and work on my timing. Stay tuned for "Returning to Mississippi Part 3" 

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