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The City of Pearl

By Sara Richardson, March 13, 1985

 

The City of Pearl, Rankin County’s largest municipality, has few structures which can be considered historically significant. None of the four places in Rankin County that are on the National Register of Historic Places is located within the corporate limits of Pearl. The Lessel House is in Pelahatchie, the Buchanan-Stevens home in Brandon, Hebron Academy is just off Highway 18 about four miles south of Brandon, and the Byram Swinging Bridge is claimed by both Hinds and Rankin Counties. We have often wondered why there were no antebellum houses in this part of the county. One possible explanation, given by some, is that people did not build in this area because of the flooding of the Pearl River. Still there are some very high hills within the city limits, places which it seems would have been ideal for building the “big house.”

Pearl has had, however, something of historical value much more important, in our way of thinking, than anything built of wood, bricks, and stone – its older citizens.

Until April 1979, there were at least three citizens of Pearl who were more than 90 years old, who had spent most of their adult lives here. Mrs. Myra Casey, who died in April 1979, was 91 years old. For many years she lived on South Pearson Road, until it was decided that I-20 should take over the spot where her house stood. Then there was Claude Williams, Sr., who lived on N. Bierdeman Road until he died in 1984 at the age of 98. Just recently Mrs. T.B. Cox (Miss Dolly), who had reached the age of 96, was laid to rest. She lived for the last few years on Trojan Drive with her daughter, Pauline Cox Howard.

All three of these were personal friends of this writer for many years. Their impact on Rankin County, and especially the City of Pearl, has been far greater than that of any building regardless of its age. At the funeral service for Miss Dolly, there were present at least four of her former students: Ernest Valentour, Katherine Casey Vince, Christine Casey Coe, and Lilla Casey Cooper.

Mrs. T.B. Cox, then Miss Dolly Craig, taught at the old, one-teacher school, which was located on the east side of South Pearson Road, not far from the road’s intersection with Old Brandon Road. Ernest Valentour told us that his father donated an acre of land for the school, which opened in the fall of 1911. Miss Dolly came to teach during the 1912-13 session and boarded with the Cox family on Old Brandon Road. She met and later married Tom Cox, a son of the people with whom she boarded. Their home was located in what old-timers called Childre Subdivision, now Childre Road.

After their children, Louise and Pauline, were born, Miss Dolly came back to Pearl School to teach again. The one-room building had been enlarged to include two rooms, and part of the time there were two teachers. The war (1917-18) took most of the boys in the area, and only one teacher was needed during that time.

Just a little more than a mile south of the Pearl School, still on South Pearson Road, was the Pearson School, located on the west side of the road, in front of the Pearson Cemetery. Children walked to school in those days, you remember. The T.B. Cox farm on Childre Road is now the site of Rankin Industrial Park, which is on your left as you drive on I-20, going toward Jackson. Miss Dolly’s pastor, Rev. David Patrick, said at her service that she had been a member of Pearl United Methodist Church for 63 years. This, we believe, is some sort of record. If there is another church in the county which has had a membership exceeding this one, we would like to know about it.

Any community having a structure on the National Register of Historic Places has a right to be proud of its presence; but the City of Pearl can be just as proud of citizens like Mrs. Myra Casey, Claude Williams, and Miss Dolly Cox.

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