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Eastern Rankin County

Written by Sara Richardson and published July 17, 1985

 

Our knowledge of the extreme eastern part of Rankin County is far too limited, and we are always pleased when someone sends us information about that area.

            Sometime ago we received through Mabel Sowell a description of Barker Road, one of the county’s earliest “thoroughfares”, which we had heard about numbers of times. “A beaten path which went by everyone’s door and served as a road” became known as Barker Road about 1907.

The road got its name from a family of people by the name Barker, who lived on the north end on Barker Prairie. The road is about one mile west of the Rankin-Scott line, parallel to the line and running north and south.

In the early days the road was maintained by the men of the community. After it became a part of Beat 4, Barker Road’s upkeep was in charge of a road foreman. The first foreman, Tom Rodgers, and his crew, used shovels, road scoops, and mules. When they were working on Barker Road, they often camped in the vicinity for as long as a week. Other foremen serving in this capacity later were Tom Reeves and Hugh Noblin. Eventually machinery took the place of the mules, scoops, and shovels. For years travelers on Barker Road had to endure mud or dust. Finally the road was given a hard surface.

Among the families who lived along this road were: Massey, Ellis, Denson, Harrell, Gordon, Sumrall, Holmes, McPherson, and McLaurin.

There was a school about midway the length and a quarter of a mile off Barker Road, a one-teacher, one-room affair which served the community both as a school and as a place of worship. About 1912 it was consolidated with Clarksburg. Teachers at Mulberry School during the years included Mattie Watson Miles, Edith Watson Harper, Lou Abernathy, Sally Denson, and Rena Howard. Enrollment was usually about 20 students.

One wonders how the school got its name, Mulberry perhaps there were mulberry trees in the vicinity.

Around the turn of the century there were many of these schools in the county. Consolidation and the inevitable school bus had not yet arrived. Roads were poor and the primary means of getting to school was by walking.

Our friend, Eula Marshall, who died a few years ago well past the age of 90, told us about walking several miles to school and having to cross a little creek on the way. She said the older children helped the little ones across. After heavy rains the little creek was full, and it was sometimes impossible to cross it. Eula grew up to become a teacher herself, and in one of the subscription type schools, where several families joined together, each paying part of the teacher’s salary, also providing her room and board for a month during the school year.

It was during the tenure of Governor Brown (1844-1848) that the first law was passed providing for public schools in Mississippi, but they were a long time becoming a reality. The Civil War and Reconstruction wiped out most gains that had been made in the area of education, as in all phases of life. Even in 1890, the State Constitution provided for a school term of only four months. It was not until the second administration of V.O. Franklin, Rankin County’s Superintendent of Education, (1944-1947), that the first county-owned school buses were purchased.

One has only to drive by one of our county’s high schools and look at the number of cars parked on campus or attempt to count the buses serving each school to realize that public education in Rankin County has come a long way since the Mulberry School days near Barker Road.

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