Welcome to Okolona, Mississippi!
AFRICAN AMERICAN - OKOLONA COLLEGE (1902-1965)
College records for the Okolona College are now kept at Voorhees College in Denmark, South Carolina. Their website is www.voorhees.edu or you can call 803-703-7119 for the records department and talk to Andrea Collins, their transcript coordinator.
Librarian: Estelle Ivy
The architect was John Gaisford of Memphis. When completed in May of 1915, the library consisted of one large room and a full basement. The basement, which is uncommon in this area, has four small rooms and two baths. At one time the library grounds included a small park with a wading pool.
In the fall of 1977, the Okolona Carnegie Library became part of the Dixie Regional System. The new addition was completed in October 1986 and increased shelf space by 300% as well as providing a spacious conference room.
The Carnegie Library Story Labyrinth
Located on Main Street in Okolona in front of the Carnegie Library, is the Story Labyrinth. The Labyrinth Project was begun as a part of a Key Arts Grant given to the town through the Chamber of Commerce for the purpose of collecting stories from the elders in the community and telling them to the children. A portion of the grant money was allotted for a visual monument/document of the event. Patsy Gregory, the Director of the Okolona Area Chamber of Commerce, met with town leaders and faculty from Mississippi State to discuss concepts and ideas for the piece. The group felt it important to document not only the stories, but the meaning of the project. The labyrinth seemed to depict metaphorically the project's intentions.
The labyrinth has been used for hundreds of years as a tool for concentration, meditation, and purification. There seems to be something eternal about the path. Though it has an end, it does not provide choices. Movement along the path involves concentration on the path, rather that the decision of one person. The Story Telling was important for the community on many levels. It was a chance to bring together young and old, black and white by comparing the past and the future; providing an opportunity for the townspeople to meditate, through the act of sharing, on the history of the town.
Two professional storytellers collected memories from the elders in the community. The stories were catalogued and told to the children on three Storytelling occasions at the Carnegie Library. "Dylan" and "Wes", a couple Okolona residents, worked with the children at these events to attempt to produce drawings related to the stories. The children's drawings depict the stories in a very different level than a traditional rendering would. The drawings vary significantly with the age of the children, thus the stories are told in very different ways. It would be easy enough for an 'artist' to produce a rendering of the old man who used to live in a well in the town, or the man who went crazy and rode down Main Street on a horse shooting into the air, but these renderings would be no better representations than the stories themselves. In fact, the artist would have to add fictional information to the drawings in order to make them 'understandable.' The second grader's cowboy or the preschooler's blob is not necessarily 'accurate' but is a wonderfully honest portrayal of their particular understanding of the story. Their drawings, combined with the documented stories, provide a valuable landmark in the history of the town.
Dylan and Wes, working for the Small Town Center at MSU, were involved in making the final portion of the project which became the Story Labyrinth in front of the Carnegie Library. Shannon Criss, John Poros, and Nils Gore from the STC, and Robert Long, a ceramics professor in the Art Department worked with us in the design stage. Shannon, and daughter Ella, helped pour and finish concrete.
The labyrinth is intended to be a spot for meditation within the city as well as a monument to the story telling project. It contains the children's drawings and provides benches for meditation. The site is also the location of the Okolona "Christmas Tree of Memories." The Labyrinth project provides a stand for the large tree as well as electrical outlets for the tree's lights. The project will hopefully be seen by the community as a landmark of not only something that happened in the past, but of a positive step taken by the townspeople towards an openness concerning the town's history and the possibility of a united future.
NATIONAL HISTORIC DISTRICT
Take a tour of the historical homes in Okolona! Stop by the Chamber and pick up "A Driving Tour of Historic Homes" and discover the history of many homes from the 19th century and early 20th century. There are 200 buildings and homes with local significance within this district.
CIVIL WAR / BATTLE OF OKOLONA:
Battle of Okolona
Okolona's Civil War history includes the scene of a Confederate division hospital and three major Union raids. Okolona native Col. James Gordon organized, armed, and equipped at his own expense, about $32,000, the first company of cavalry that went to fight in the war from the state of Mississippi.
1. Union forces, according to published reports, attacked Okolona in December, 1862, while the town was under the command of Col. C.R. Barteau, who was wounded in the conflict.
2. Again on February 22, 1864, Union armies attacked the town in one of the area's most fierce raids. The hospital, which had been established at Rose Gates College, a women's school, as well as a 100,000 bushel corn supply stored in a railroad depot were destroyed. Maj. Gen. W. Sooey Smith was scheduled to meet Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman in Meridian, MS with 7,000 cavalry. Smith and his powerful mounted corps on their foray deep in to Mississippi were fated to meet Maj. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest and his 2,500 "critter" cavalrymen. Although the Yanks outnumbered the Rebs almost three to one, Forrest, a physically powerful man, knew that war meant fighting and fighting meant killing: a philosophy that made him a terrible enemy. In the running engagement, Forrest demonstrated these qualities of leadership as he and his men put the skeer on Sobey Smith and his corps. In the ensuing desperate fighting, Col. Jeffrey Forrest, Maj. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest's brother, was shot through the neck and fell mortally wounded. There were charges and counter- charges before the Federals disengaged, abandoning a cannon. Discouraged and beaten, Sooey Smith's once proud corps hurried on to Memphis. A Union brigade commander best-summed up Forrest's accomplishments: The retreat to Memphis was a weary, disheartening, and almost panic- stricken flight, in the greatest disorder and confusion, and through a most difficult country. The first Brigade reached its camping- ground five days after the engagement, with the loss of all its heart and spirit, and nearly fifteen hundred fine cavalry horses. The expedition filled every man connected with it with burning shame, and it gave Forrest one of the most glorious achievement of his career.
3. The last raid came in the waning days of the War Between the States when every store in the town was burned in a January 1865 attack.
The cemetery is one of Okolona's few reminders of the Civil," War. The history of the three raids is not detailed in the simple graveyard setting, but markers do indicate the 500 buried soldier's home state and infantry. The cemetery is located inside the city on Highway 245 (South Church Street)
Okolona Confederate Cemetery
Okolona, Chickasaw County, Mississippi
"In 1862 the Okolona College building known as Rose Gates College, was taken by the Confederate government as a hospital. It was a three-story building with about a dozen rude wards surrounding it. The Presbyterian Church was also used for the same purpose, and a number of soldiers were cared for in private homes.
"While the Confederate Army was operating in Tennessee and Northeast Mississippi, the sick of the army was sent to the hospital at this place, as were the wounded from the battles of Shiloh, Corinth and Brice's Cross Roads. These soldiers were principally from Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.
Tombigbee National Forest
Chickasaw Wildlife Management
Natchez Trace Parkway
Christmas in Okolona Open House
Anyone wishing to enter the parade would need to fill out an application. Prizes are awarded to the group that sponsors the best float. It is the desire of the Okolona Area Chamber of Commerce to have a wholesome family-oriented event and the Okolona Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors reserves the right to decline participation to any person or groups that use inappropriate materials or slogans.
For more information, please call the Okolona Area Chamber of Commerce, sponsor of the Christmas Parade, at 447-5913.
Copyright © Okolona Area Chamber of Commerce • Okolona, MS • All Rights Reserved • A Mississippi Main Street Community
Telephone: 662-447-5913 • Fax: 662-447-0254
Sponsors: Bank of Okolona • Renasant Bank • United Furniture
Okolona Drug Company • Chickasaw County • City of Okolona