Ethel History


The following text was transcribed from the audio portion of a television program named 'Eye On Kosciusko', aired on WMAB TV of Kosciusko, Miss. sometime in the late nineteen-ninety's. Please keep in mind, as you read, that this is a transcription of a verbal interview. Often it will not follow the conventions of written context. In the interest of readability, certain liberties have been occasionally taken with the original, verbal utterances. Though these changes have been infrequent, they were necessary to help maintain the integrity of the transcript.

Interview with Beatrice Bailey, Ethel Historian

Interviewer: Willa Sanders

WS: (To the camera) Welcome to Eye On Kosciusko. Ethel, one of the 
    communities in our county, is named after a lady. It would be 
    interesting to find out the history about that, so I've invited Beatrice 
    Bailey, a resident of Ethel, to give us a little background about Ethel, 

    Welcome, Ms. Beatrice.

BB: Thank you.

WS: We'd like to know, if you know, why or how did Ethel get it's name?

BB: The town of Ethel was established in 1881. The railroad came through in 
    1882. They built the first depot in 1883 and laid out the town lots. 
    The town was named for the daughter of the vice president of the 
    Illinois Central Railroad. He wanted his daughter to have a town named 
    for her, so they let him name the town Ethel, in honor of her. Her name 
    was Ethel McConnico.

WS: Well, when was the town incorporated?

BB: In 1911, and it was really a booming town before it was incorporated.

WS: Give us a little history about how it developed. What was the first 

BB: The first store was built by one of the people who bought the land. 
    The land was bought from a lady here in Attala county, named Mrs. Davis. 
    She was a widow. They bought the land, 800 acres, for fifty cents an 
    acre. That was in 1880. Two men bought it. One man took his half and 
    built a steam mill, a store, and a residence. History does not tell us 
    what the other man did, other than that they laid out the lots. They 
    sold the lots for the fifty cents an acre to the ones who could pay. 
    They wanted people to come there so bad that, if someone wanted to come 
    but didn't have the money to buy, they gave them the lots.

WS: Did Ethel have a doctor?

BB: We had Dr. J.S. Collins. He was first doctor, in 1884. He was followed 
    by Dr. J.T. Hale, Dr. W.R. Pope, Dr. W.S. Clair, and Dr. W.W. McBride. 
    Dr. McBride practiced until the late fifties and early sixties. When he 
    retired, he was much over 90 years old.

WS: Well, tell us about the school now. When was the school built?

BB: The first school was built in 1887. It was built on a lot behind the 
    stores that runs parallel back of the stores and it was on a lot that 
    is now used for the building site for the Masonic Lodge. It was just a 
    small building and had just one teacher. The people were so impressed 
    with the school that later they wanted to build more to the school.

WS: Isn't there some sort of a rock building or something that is sort of 
    historic up there on the school site now?

BB: Sometime during the early thirties, the students of the 'Ag' Dept. 
    (Agriculture Dept.) gathered rocks from the farm of Mr. Swindle, who 
    was the 'Ag' teacher. They brought the rocks to school and the rock 
    building was built by the students. It housed the Home Economics Dept. 
    and the Agriculture Dept.

WS: That's interesting. Where is the town exactly located? Give us a 
    little description.

BB: Ethel is nine miles east of Kosciusko on highway 12. It was situated 
    on the north side of the Illinois Central Railroad and was bound on 
    the other side by the Yockanookany River. It had a street that ran to 
    the river on the north and the south side. 

WS: I know that, at least in your booming days, there were several lumber 
    mills. Can you name those for us?

BB: We've had many, many lumber mills at different times. The Moller (and) 
    Vanderboom Lumber Co., out of Quincy, Illinois, came in 1916 and 
    established a large lumber mill. At the time, there were no electric 
    lights in the city. They brought a dynamo with them from Illinois and 
    put lights in their mill and in their office. The office that they 
    built at that time still stands and is in use today. Following that...
    this was a large lumber company; they had dry kilns and they had 
    seventeen acres of land that they stacked lumber, at least two stories 
    high, out in the yard. They also had a dipping vat that they dipped 
    the green lumber in to keep it from staining when it dried out in the 
    weather. That mill is still in operation today and is owned by a man 
    out of Kosciusko.

WS: Do you know anything about the other mills?

BB: The other mills were the Bowman Lumber Co., Jay's Lumber Co., Ethel 
    Planing Mill, Abrams Lumber Co. All of these were in the twenties and 
    thirties. Some of them left when the depression came.

WS: Mayor Jerry Hindley had contact or connections with one of them.

BB: The Bowman Lumber Co. went out of business during the depression, in 
    1930, and it sat idle for three years. Then it was bought by a Mr. 
    Barge, who operated it as the Ethel Lumber Co. He did that until 1944. 
    He let his planer mill right-hand-man, Jimmy Hindley, have it. Jimmy 
    operated it then until he retired, and at that time turned it over to 
    his son, Jerry Hindley. The mill is no longer in operation, but Jerry 
    has extensive timber operations in both lumber and hauling timber.

WS: I think you worked for Moller/Vanderboom, didn't you, at one time?

BB: Moller/Vanderboom is special to me because as a graduate of Holmes 
    Junior College, that was my first full-time job. I was just twenty 
    when I started work there, and very shy, but went there with all those 
    men, about a hundred employees at that time. That was a special time 
    in my life.

WS: That's where you learned to drive, wasn't it?

BB: I didn't know how to drive. Back in those days, every family didn't 
    have a car and the men of the house drove the cars. The girls didn't 
    know how to drive. So when I went to work for Moller/Vanderboom, I did 
    not know how to drive. I had to learn on whatever vehicle they had. 
    The main vehicle they had, for the president and vice-president to use 
    when they came, was an old Huffmobile, which is an old, old make of 
    car. It was like a limosine. They had a pick-up, which was kind of 
    beat up, and they also had lumber trucks. I could drive any of them. 
    I sometimes drove the pick up, a few times drove the Huffmobile, but 
    most of the time I chose one of the lumber trucks, with the trailer 
    detached. It was not easy learning to drive because this was winter 
    time and there were so many trucks and wagons pulling lumber in there 
    that the roads were bad, bad. Sometimes you had to drive on lumber 
    laid down side-by-side to make a runway for you to drive on. You had 
    to stay on that, or else you would get stuck.

WS: How much did a drivers license cost back in those days?

BB: A drivers license, in those days, was twenty-five cents. You went 
    over to the depot, the Illinois Central Railroad depot, and the agent 
    over there let you have your drivers license for twenty-five cents. 
    You did not take a test. You were just given your drivers license, on 
    just faith.

WS: I know that the railroad played a big part in the development of Ethel. 
    You've spoken of it several times. Tell us a little bit about that, or 
    if you had experiences with it.

BB: The railroad, when it first came through, had a train going east and 
    west in the morning and east and west in the afternoon. There were no 
    eighteen-wheelers at that time, and it was used for all the shipping. 
    We had passenger trains with a few freight cars, but then they had 
    freight trains as well, just regular freight trains.

    Our family had friends up east of Ethel, so we used to ride the train 
    up in the morning, spend the day, have lunch and ice cream and all the 
    good things that the lady prepared, and then ride home in the afternoon 
    on the train.

WS: I think you related to me also: Didn't your mother also go on shopping 
    trips and use the train?

BB: My mother used to go to Kosciusko and do the shopping for the winter. 
    Most of the time, in the summer, she made our clothes. But, in the 
    winter, she had to buy some things that she could not make. She would 
    take a day, go down on the train, come to a major department store here 
    in Kosciusko, and make her purchases. They would pack it up in a great 
    big shipping carton, put it on the train, and it would come back on the 
    train with her in the afternoon. Our daddy would meet the train, pick 
    it up, and bring it home. It was just like Christmas when she opened 
    that box. We'd all dive in. We'd look to see what she'd brought for us.

WS: Name some other businesses in Ethel, when it was at it's highest 
    economic activity.

BB: Ethel had many, many stores, hardware stores and mercantile stores. 
    Some of the younger people might not know what a mercantile store was. 
    A mercantile store had everything you could want, or you thought you 
    would want. You'd go in there and you'd look 'til you found what you 
    wanted. We had dry goods stores that had ready-to-wear and fabrics 
    and things like that. At one time, we had a milliner's shop. One of our 
    doctor's wives had a milliner's shop.

WS: Milliner's shop? Tell us what that is.

BB: That is a hat shop. She was a real dressy lady and had come from away 
    from Ethel and she was really fixing us up with the hats.

    Ethel, at one time, had it's own telephone service that was operated 
    by a family, from their home. It was one of those old crank-type phones. 
    You'd call the operator, tell her who you wanted, and she would connect 
    you with them.

    At the very height of Ethel, we had two hardware stores, four just 
    regular department stores, as we would call them today. They were just 
    general stores. We had two cafes and two hotels, that is two, two-floor 
    hotels, and many boarding houses.

WS: What about service stations?

BB: We had five service stations, and I mean full-service, service stations. 
    You could get a flat fixed or they would pump your gas. It wasn't like 
    the self-service that we have today. We had a major Chevrolet dealer and 
    they had four mechanics, all the time. They had a full-service, service 
    station and a body shop with this Chevrolet agency that was there, at 
    that time.

WS: Well, that's quite impressive. What about bus service?

BB: The bus service was the Trailways Bus. It had a bus running east and 
    west both morning and afternoon. Going north, it didn't seem as crowded 
    as it did coming back. I remember, as a teenager going to college, all 
    the teenagers went by bus because their parents didn't furnish them a 
    car, like we do today. Every child has his car. But we didn't have our 
    cars and we had to ride the bus. We had many, many students from up 
    around Ripley and Tupelo and places like that that got on the bus up 
    there and came to Ethel. By the time it got to Ethel, the bus was 
    packed. Some bus drivers would call for a back-up, but some didn't. 
    Then we had to stand and hold to the rail where the luggage was placed 
    in order not to fall, as we were standing. But we probably couldn't 
    have fallen far because it was so packed with people standing, riding 
    the bus.

WS: So, you rode all the way to Holmes Community College?

BB: We rode all the way to Holmes Community College the first year. The 
    second year, they were reworking Highway 51, from Durant to Canton, and 
    we had to go around by way of Lexington. When we got to Lexington, the 
    bus couldn't go on the highway that ran from Lexington to Goodman, so 
    we had a friend in Goodman who met us there and carried us on to 
    college. He would take as many people as he could to the college.

WS: Didn't you go on your honeymoon on the bus?

BB: Yes, I did. In 1939, when Elmer Ray and I married, we went by bus to 
    Jackson. The bus station was not too far from the Heidelberg Hotel. We 
    had reservations there, for our honeymoon.

WS: Do you recall any dates about the infrastructure of your community, 
    like paved streets and things like that?

BB: The paved streets was along about 1953. Before that time, it was pretty 
    bad, especially in the winter time, with all the wagons and trucks 
    bringing lumber in to the different lumber companies. 

    The electric lights...when Mississippi Power came into the area, they 
    came into Ethel. I'm not sure of the date of that, but when they came 
    in they put vapor lights all over the city.

WS: What about water? 

BB: Water came in about 1953. They built two wells, with an elevated water 
    tank. Then it was later, in 1956 or 7, that they built the lagoon that 
    takes care of the waste and put in the sewer system.

WS: Do you recall a time when your community really pulled together? 

BB: Yes. In 1928, the Ethel Lumber Company had a boiler to explode that 
    killed five men. The remnants of the boiler went sailing across the 
    street into a store, a mercantile store, and just cleaned it out, 
    just took it apart. Ethel pulled together and tried, as best we could, 
    to help with these bereaved families, who had lost five men. In a town 
    of that size, to lose five people at one time, was very distressful.

WS: What is the population, now, of Ethel, would you say?

BB: The population, now, is about six hundred.

WS: And, at it's highest, was it, say, close to a thousand?

BB: A thousand or more. 

WS: Who's your mayor?

BB: Our mayor now is Jerry Hindley, and we are a city that's governed by a 
    mayor and board of aldermen. We have five aldermen. It's always been a 
    mayor and board of aldermen.

WS; And, what about churches?

BB: We have two full-time churches now. Ethel Methodist and Ethel Baptist, 
    each of which have celebrated their one-hundredth anniversary. The 
    Ethel Methodist Church is not as many as the Ethel Baptist, but they 
    are very active in the community, as well as in the religious circles.

    Ethel Baptist recently completed a new fellowship hall, just before 
    the time for their one-hundredth anniversary.

WS: Which one's the oldest?

BB: The Ethel Methodist Church is the oldest. The Ethel Baptist is next 
    and then the Presbyterians were there, at one time, and the Church of 
    God, but they're no longer there.

WS: Well, this has been very interesting. I appreciate, so much, you 
    coming and giving us this history about the town of Ethel. I know that 
    a lot of our viewers probably have wondered why it was named Ethel. 
    It's real nice to be caught up on this history. At one time, it 
    apparently was a very booming town. 

BB: It was a booming town, and you have quite a few prominent people in 
    Kosciusko who came from Ethel. Since we don't want to leave someone 
    out, we won't mention any names, but two of your bank presidents in 
    Kosciusko are from Ethel, and there are many others. Two of your 
    mayors of Kosciusko were originally from Ethel. 

WS: A lot of good people. All over Attala County, we have a lot of good 

    We really appreciate you digging up this information for us and 
    catching us up on the history of Ethel.

    (To the Camera) And we really appreciate the fact that you're tuned 
    in. For 'Eye on Kosciusko', I'm Willa Sanders...

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