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THE HISTORY OF THE RANKIN COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY

1978-1983

by Cheryl Hogg

 

Determination was probably the main factor which led to the formation of the Rankin County Historical Society, A group of people led by Sara Richardson were determined that the history of Rankin County should and would be preserved. Toward that end, the organizational meeting of the Rankin County Historical Society was held on May 27, 1978, at the courthouse in Brandon.

Mrs. Richardson was elected temporary chairperson. She later would be elected the Society’s first president; Alice Gray Warren served as secretary/treasurer.

A number of projects were immediately undertaken. Chief among these was the surveying of cemeteries in the county, a project first begun by a committee of the American Association of Retired Persons. Work also was begun on church histories, oral history and genealogical research.

Early in the history of the organization, steps were taken to incorporate and to obtain tax exempt status. The articles of incorporation were prepared by State Senator Mitch Childre, a charter member of the Society. The complicated tax forms were filed by Bobbie Jones Daughdrill, another member.

The Rankin County Historical Society was just a few months old when a gift was received that would set the course of action for the organization for years to come. In October, 1978, Duncan McRae offered to the Society the century old building, which had housed the J. C. Atkins Mercantile Co. at Value, Mississippi. The building would have to be moved and would require extensive renovation, but it was seen as the first step toward the establishment of a county museum.

Society member and Rankin County Chancery Clerk Irl Dean Rhodes worked closely with both the Society and the Rankin County Board of Supervisors in choosing a site and making plans for the future museum. It should be noted and cannot be overstated that much of what the Historical Society had done in that short period of existence could not have been accomplished without the continued support of the Rankin County Board of Supervisors.

In 1978 the sale of historical calendars was chosen as a fund raising project. With thirteen historic photographs and a local sponsor for each page, the calendars filled a dual purpose of preserving and promoting the county history and of providing funds for Historical Society projects. Ron Morgan was the first chairman of the calendar committee. Calendars were printed between 1978 and 2010.

A number of new projects were undertaken by the Society during its first year. A history quiz contest was held in the local newspapers with prizes awarded to the winners and an essay contest for the county’s youth was conducted.

A weekly newspaper column of historical and genealogical interest was chosen as a means of disseminating historical information. The column, entitled “Rankin County Searchlight,” would be offered to all papers serving Rankin County. Linda Goff agreed to be the columnist, a job she performed with exceptional skill and dedication for five years.

In cooperation with the Rankin County Chamber of Commerce, the Society agreed to write a brochure on the county’s history. Cheryl Hogg chaired the committee which wrote Rankin County, A Historical Sketch, published in August of 1979.

Culminating nearly three years work, Rankin County, Mississippi, Cemetery Records, 1828 – 1980 was published in 1980. A tremendous amount of work went into the project. First, all cemeteries in the county had to be tracked down and each and every gravestone inscription recorded. Then there was alphabetizing, indexing, filing, typing, proof reading, rechecking, dealing with the printer, and handling pre-publication sales. It is little wonder that Society members were beaming with pride the day those books came off the presses.

Throughout this time, work on other Society projects was sometimes relegated to a “back burner,” but work continued on the museum, church histories, family histories, the writing of the county history, calendar publication, “Searchlight” column, etc.

The Society continually received gifts of money and artifacts from the time of the first organizational meeting. Without the contributions of interested citizens and members of the organization, very little could have been accomplished.

1982 was a banner year for the Historical Society. On April 25 a monument was dedicated to the unknown Civil War soldiers in Old Brandon Cemetery. Dedication of the monument, furnished by the U. S. Veterans Administration Monument Division, culminated a two-year project for the Society involving considerable research and paperwork. Vernon Franklin chaired the committee which planned the event, a moving ceremony which included Confederate re-enactment groups, representatives of various Civil War organizations, city officials, and guest speaker Carl McIntire.

After years of hard work done almost entirely on a part- time basis by Society members and other volunteers, the Atkins- McRae Building was opened to the public for the first time on May 15, 1982. This open house was to be a preview of the official opening of the museum in September of 1982. Scores of people had worked untold hours to transform a dilapidated old building into a functioning museum. The museum, like the Society, continued to grow.

In June of 1982, the Society participated in the Rankin County flea market, selling white elephants, crafts, baked-goods, and sherbet. Vernon Franklin and Mabel Sowell chaired this fund-raising project.

Growth was the unofficial motto of the Rankin County Historical Society. In 1983 not one but two additional buildings were given to the Society. Growth of another sort was illustrated in the Society’s membership rolls. From the 27 who attended the May 1978 organizational meeting, the Society expanded to about 100 paid memberships through out the country.

  The first six years of the society’s existence witnessed many accomplishments. Those years were marked by hard work, challenge, frustrations and pride. Ultimately, they accomplished their mission: to preserve the county’s rich history for future generations.