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Star, Mississippi

By Linda Goff

This article was originally published in three parts on May 23, May 30, and June 6, 1979


Miss Sarah Pierce, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Buford Pierce of Star, wrote the following report on her home town while a junior in high school, and it is with her permission that we share a part of it with you.

In 1859, Ephram Singletary homesteaded 120 acres of land in present day Star. The deed was signed by President James Buchanan. Singletary is thought to be one of the very first settlers in the area. By 1890 there were several settlers living near the crossroads of the Jackson-Westville Road and the Brandon Public Road. The two roads cross in the middle of Star.

On December 12, 1890, land was deeded by Rev. Daniel Loflin, (1821-1897), for a church about three miles west of the crossroads. The church was named Weslyanna Methodist Episcopal Church. Trustees were L.W. Ellis, J.B. Pierce, J.W. Barlow, T.N. Norrel, W.A. Loflin, W.J. Hilton and J.B. Lewis. They were all settlers in the area. The church was a one-room white frame building. A balcony was provided in the church for the Negro farm workers to worship along with the white folks. It is said that couples from miles around came to the church to be married by Rev. Loflin because he did not charge them anything.

Late in the 1890′s, the Gulf and Ship Island Railroad bought rights-of-way for their new railroad running from Jackson to Gulfport right next to the crossroads. The land on which a depot was to be located was donated by W.T. Holiday. The railroad was completed through Star on July 7, 1900. From then on, the town began to grow.

When it became known that a depot was going to be built, N.B. Cooper decided to move his store from Cherry, a small post office about two miles east of the cross-roads, near the railroad. Mr. Cooper located his store right behind the proposed location. It is said that Mr. Cooper and his sons gave the new train stop the name of Star, because it was easy to spell. On September 28, 1901 Phillip Didlake, a settler who had acquired quite a bit of land in the area, deeded land for Star High School to trustees W.B. Price, W.A. Ross, Phillip Didlake, W.T. Holiday, and E.P. Harper. The land was described by streets which were named when the town was laid off. The streets were Main, Pearl, School and Front.

Mt. Olive, a school for Negroes, was established around 1901. It was a one-room, one-teacher school. One of the early teachers was Nancy Rhodes. Later, the school was moved to a site adjacent to nearby Morning Star Church, (established in 1926).

On August 7, 1902, the following news from Star appeared in the Brandon News. “The place is improving considerably. The new depot is completed. It is a very handsome one. Will Murry’s store is complete, and he has moved his stock which adds to Front Street. John Loflin will soon have his new gin completed. J.F. Cook is building a very nice residence. Mr. Garrett has moved his entire stock of goods into Mr. Allison’s old stand. He has purchased a lot on Front Street and has all the material on ground for a new building. Phil Didlake has made improvements in the way of white-washing his out buildings.

“In a few days a company of Tennessee gentlemen will be here to contract to put in a track from Star to the rock quarry which has handicapped the extraction of the rock. The rock is said to be very valuable. This industry will be of great benefit to this thriving little village.

“Montezume Myers has located his sawmill within one mile of Star and is turning out a good lot of lumber. The trustees of the school have elected Mr. East of Jackson as principal.

“There are ten stores at present all doing a good business. Parties seeking a good investment in real estate would do well to visit our town and investigate our prospects for a city at no distant date. Lots can be bought up cheap now.

“The Misses Shorter of Wesson were guests last week of Mrs. Thomas Holiday. While here they tendered a reception at which event a pleasant time was had by all. Miss Annie McCall of Laurel is visiting friends at their place. Mr. Riddle and family are visiting Mr. Curry. Arthur Grantham is a visitor at Dr. Graves. Miss Ella Grantham has returned home after a pleasant visit with friends here. Charles G.Pallotti has made a business trip to Hattiesburg this week.”

Most of the stores and shops were located along Front and Main Streets. Main Street was part of the Brandon Public Road. Front Street ran parallel to the railroad on the east side. The entire block of Front Street between Main Street and First Street was stores and shops. There was a board sidewalk running the entire length.

Tom Cooper owned a store which was located just east of the north end of the depot. He carried, as did all of the merchants, almost anything you wanted. Mr .Cooper was also the postmaster of Star’s post office which was located in his store. He was the postmaster for 15 years. A wooden hitching post ran between Mr. Cooper’s and his neighboring proprietor, E.M. Odom.

The sign above E.M. Odom’s store read, “E.M. Odom’s General Merchandise. Everthing New But The Proprietor.” Odom’s Store was where you went to buy a casket, that is if you needed one. Odom operated in this location until the mid1930′s, when he built a smaller store in front of his cotton gin.

E.O. Odom’s cotton gin ginned much of the cotton grown around Star. It was first operated by steam and later converted to electricity. Farmers around the area brought the cotton to him to be ginned. Then they sold the cotton and seeds to Shelby Garrett, Will Mangum, or to Mr. Odom himself, all local merchants who bought cotton and seeds.

The merchants in turn sold the cotton to buyers in Jackson and New Orleans. The seed was sold to one of the cotton seed mills in Jackson. The merchants would mark their cotton and then stack it on a platform until there was enough to fill a boxcar. It was then shipped to its destination.

Star Depot was a two-story building. The first floor contained the waiting rooms, offices and a warehouse with 3,000 feet of floor space. The second floor was living quarters for E.D. Wilkes. Mr. Wilkes served as railroad agent and railroad express agent.

Star’s depot was one of the largest between Jackson and Gulfport. There were six to eight passenger trains a day and five to six freight trains. You could catch the “noon train” to Jackson, shop about three hours, and return to Star on the “4:30”. But, who needed to shop in Jackson? The merchants of Star had in stock or could get what you needed from Jackson. If you wanted something really special, you could just order from “Sears”.

On May 5, 1904, a charter was issued to the Star Mercantile Company. Partners in the business were R.G. Berry, H.S. Garrett, W.P. Murry, and J.R. East. The charter was signed by the famous governor of Mississippi at that time, James Vardaman.

A Masonic Lodge was organized in Star in 1904. A two-story building was built on the southeast corner of Main Street and Old Ship Road. The building also served as Star’s voting place through 1973, when the location changed to the Methodist Church. The lodge continued in operation until it was dissolved in 1975, and the building was torn down.

A Baptist church was organized in Star between 1900 and 1907. The church was called Liberty Baptist Church. It was located on Main Street, near the school. On February 20, 1907, land was deeded on Old Ship Road for a new church. The church was called Star Baptist Church. It was a one-room, white frame building. They needed only one room, since preaching was held once or twice a month. Later, several Sunday School rooms were added.

Philip Didlake’s Store was located on Main Street on the west side of the railroad. In 1908, Mr. Didlake moved to Clinton and Shelby Garrett rented the building and operated a store there. Mr. Didlake returned to Star in 1918. After returning to Star, he rented rooms in his large house, which sat across the street from his store, to salesmen (drummers) and other travelers. Mrs. Didlake cooked meals for the guests as well as for her own family.

The Bank of Star was organized on October 3, 1907. The starting capital was $25,000. Trustees were Philip Didlake, J.T. Cooper, W.P. Murry, W.J. Riles and J.R. East. The bank’s days were numbered though. No records are to be found of the bank after 1911. A man from Jackson who worked in the bank, was the cause of the bank’s failure. The tale goes that he went home to Jackson one weekend and took all the money with him. Of course, he was never heard from again.

Shelby H. Garrett came to Star as a clerk in the Didlake Store and at one time was a clerk in the Bank of Star. He operated a store in several locations before building a new store at the corner of Main Street and Old Ship Road.

Mangum’s Store was first located on Main Street. W.T. Mangum was the proprietor. It became the post office after Mr. Tom Cooper retired from the position.

Other stores in Star included W.P. Murry’s Store, Mrs. Hattie Harrison’s Millinery Shop and Singletary’s Store.

Star also had a sawmill and a gristmill. The Sandifer Sawmill was located along the railroad north of Main Street. John Loflin’s gristmill was located on Main Street between the bank and Mangum’s Store. On the southwest corner of Main Street and Old Ship Road, Henry Morgan and H.L. Miller operated a blacksmith shop. In 1918, when selling Henry Ford’s automobiles looked like a promising business, H.L. Miller opened the H.L. Miller Motor Company. Henry Morgan didn’t seem to be as carried away with cars as Mr. Miller, so he moved his blacksmith shop down the street.

Miller’s Motor Company sold cars for $350 to $450. The first owner of an automobile from the business was Billie Barlow, the rural letter carrier. In 1930, Miller took over the Mendenhall Ford Company.

Mr. B.F. Beauchamp continued to operate at the Star location for a few years, but then John Miller began a service station in the building. Linus Miller, his brother, was a mechanic in both the service station and the motor company. Tragedy struck Star around 1911 or 1912. Fire destroyed all but two of the stores along Front Street between First and Main Streets. The stores were never built back.

Dr. Green Webb operated a dentist office on Front Street until it was destroyed in the fire.

In 1914 Dr. G.W. Barlow came to Star to practice medicine. He was one of many good “country doctors”. He filled his prescriptions from his “pill bag”. In 1918, Dr. Barlow saved many lives when Lagrippe (flu) struck Star. During this epidemic he traveled day and night by buggy making house calls.

By 1920, Star High School had ten grades. In 1923 a new brick building was built. It had two stories with seven large rooms and an auditorium. By 1925, another grade was added, making eleven. Then in 1926, Star High School became a twelve grade school. A teacher’s home was located just west of the building.

On August 24, 1921, the Wesleyanna Methodist Episcopal Church moved from its location about three miles west of Star, to a new location behind Star High School. Trustees listed on the deed were J.H. Loflin and W.B. Price. In 1926, Morning Star Baptist Church was organized by Dock Loflin, William Kitchens, Manning Taylor, Dave McIntosh, Hugh Spell, Tom Williams, Oliver Loflin, George Morris and Joe Byrd. These Negro men located the first Negro church in the area about two miles north of the main part of Star. Using broadaxes, they hewed the timbers for the church foundation from trees given by Dock Loflin. The first Pastor was the Rev. Lee Hardy. One pastor, the Rev. J.E. Marsh, served the church for 33 years. The church began with 25 charter members on land purchased from Susie Ann Dixon.

Almost all of the merchants had warehouses along the railroad. A large amount of produce was shipped from Star between the years 1900 and 1940. In 1930, Mr. Will Mangum bought tomatoes from farmers and shipped them to buyers by railroad. Packers from Florida were hired. Some of the boys in Star were paid 10 to 15 cents an hour to grade the tomatoes before they were packed.

Star, like any good town, mixed business with pleasure. Early in the 1930′s, a croquet court was built on the east side of the depot. It was lighted, and almost every night you could find several young people playing croquet. The wickets were pushed into the ground during the day so they would not be tripped over by people coming to the depot. In 1932, Star’s young men’s baseball team won the Central Mississippi Championship. The high school had a basketball team before beginning a football program in 1936. That first year, 1936, the football team won the Mid Mississippi High School Championship for their class by defeating Mendenhall 7-0.

The Great Depression and the increased use of the automobile struck an almost deadly blow to Star. Many of the young people were finding more promising jobs elsewhere. The farmers who had sold their produce to the merchants were beginning to get too old to farm any longer. A mail hook was placed along the railroad for the mail. If there were no riders, the train did not stop. They held the mailbag out and the hook caught it, or they grabbed the mail off the hook. In the mid-1930′s, the new, paved Highway 49 from Jackson to Gulfport came through Star.

During World War II all of the draft-age men were off fighting, as they were all over the United States. The people left in Star suffered through, mostly on what they had or could grow. There was gas rationing and food stamps. Material for making clothes was hard to find.

In 1949, John Garrett, son of Shelby Garrett, returned to Star with his wife, Jackie, to build a home and live in Star. They bought the land on which the bank had been located, tore the old building down, and built a new home.

Mr. Garrett converted his father’s old store building into a theater. It was called Star Theater, and was in operation from 1949-1953. In 1953, the theater was leased to J.L. Mangum. After about a year of operating the theater, Mr. Mangum was forced to close and take a “back seat” to the new contraption called the television.

In 1950 Weslyanna Methodist Episcopal Church, located behind the school, moved to its present location on Highway 49. A new building was built. In the summer of 1974, a new addition was completed containing Sunday School rooms and a fellowship hall. The church is now known as Weslyanna United Methodist Church.

Prior to 1953, there were pay telephones in Odom’s, Garrett’s, and Mangum’s Stores. All calls were long distance. In late 1953, and early 1954, service from the Florence Telephone Company was extended to Star.

The year 1957 brought a change to Star High School. The school was consolidated into the Florence School District.

Mangum’s Store moved its location in 1959. W.N. Mangum, Jr., grandson of the original owner, W.T. Mangum, relocated the store on Highway 49. It still contained the United States Post Office for Star.

Construction on a new building for Star Baptist Church was begun in 1958-59. The completed building is the present building for the church. It contains an auditorium, two wings of Sunday School rooms, and a basement which serves as a fellowship hall.

On August 9, 1962, a rural water system was put in for Star. The system made Star an ideal place to live. It was just far enough from Jackson to make driving to work not too far and then coming home to the quiet little community very pleasant.

In 1963, W.B. Hilton, a long-time resident of Star, began building new homes in the community. Since 1963, he has built 80 new homes in Star.

On June 27, 1963, the Pinecrest Country Club was organized. It located on Highway 49 approximately one mile from the main part of Star. It had a swimming pool, 18-hole golf course, and a clubhouse. It continued in operation until 1967. The Rankin County Y.M.C.A. operated the club in the summer of 1973. A lighted ball park was built in connection with the Pinecrest Country Club. Today it is used for baseball in the summer and converted to a football field in the winter months. Rankin Academy leases the field for football. In the summer the community has a girls’ softball team and boys’ minor and little league teams. 1968 brought another change for Mangum’s Store. W.N. Mangum Jr. gave over the operation of the store to his brother, J.L. Mangum. During the six years J.L. Mangum has owned the store, the Fairway Food Store Chain became associated with them. In July of 1974, J.L. Mangum sold the business to Jack White and Lavon Byrd. It is now known as B&W Fairway.

In February, 1970, Rankin Academy began operation in the old school building. Since then two new buildings have been added along with a new gym. Construction was begun on a new Post Office for Star in 1974. It is located on Old Highway 49 and opened on March 18, 1975. This is the first time the Post Office has ever been located in a separate building from a store. Mrs. W.N. Mangum Jr. is the Post Mistresses.

There are three other stores in Star today along with B&W Fairway. They are Brewer’s Store, located on Highway 49 north of Star, Walters’ Store, on Brandon Road east of Star, and Hillside Farm Store on Highway 49 south of Star. All of these include service stations. Star is a quiet little community now, but once it was a lively, bustling town.


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