Wesson school has interesting past, future

NEW LIFE FOR FORMER SCHOOL – The old Wesson public school building will soon be repurposed as the St. Ambrose Leadership College.

WESSON STUDENTS OF THE PAST – Students on the steps of the old Wesson school. If anyone knows the year this photo was taken, please contact the Copiah County Historical and Genealogical Society. You may contact Dan Johnson at [email protected] or call 601-892-1345.

COPIAH COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY NEWS

By Tricia Nelson

The Family Research Association of Mississippi will host a free Genealogy Fair, Saturday, November 10, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Pearl campus of Hinds Community College.  Several organizations will have materials on display and will be answering questions. It is a come-and-go activity and everyone is invited.  Tables may be purchased for $15.  The Copiah County Historical Society, along with local chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) and the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR), will have materials on display.  Feel free to bring your information to share.   

Thanks to several people coming forward with information, we were able to help the new owners of the Finley House trace the history of this wonder home and connect with Bob Finley who grew up there and now lives in Oklahoma.  The owners were delighted to learn the house was much older than anticipated. Thanks to everyone for all your help.

And thanks to everyone for making the first year of the Society a success.  Our membership continues to grow and we are thankful of your support.  One of our goals is to heighten awareness of the history of Copiah County.  Recent tours include the Heritage House in Hazlehurst, the Oliver House in Wesson, and the Old Wesson Public School.  The tour of the school was especially wonderful.  Local citizens who attended school there were on hand.  The following summary is provided by Secretary/Treasurer Dan Johnson:   

“Following a welcome by CCHGS president Tricia Nelson-Easley, Mayor Shaw explained that the schoolhouse would soon be completely restored and renovated to become the home of the St. Ambrose Leadership College as the result of a partnership between the college, Copiah-Lincoln Community College, and the Town of Wesson.  St. Ambrose is to be a residential college honors program and leadership school. Plans are for 20 to 30 scholarships to be awarded annually to the most outstanding male high school graduates from throughout the state. Instruction will concentrate on cultural enhancement and leadership skills for young men.  Following his discussion, Mayor Shaw conducted a floor by floor, room by room tour of the building.

The Old Wesson School, a two-story plus basement brick veneer Romanesque Revival Style building, was originally built in 1889 and then rebuilt in 1893 after it was destroyed by fire. It is significant as one of three remaining public buildings associated with Wesson’s rapid development promoted by the Mississippi Mills of the textile industry. A Mississippi Landmark and National Register of Historic Places property, the Old Wesson School has an unusual industrial appearance, and may have been designed by the same architect and in the same style as the original Mississippi Mills buildings. In use as a school until 1960, the building has been the focus of many adaptive reuse efforts over the years, but has remained vacant since 1994.

After the tour, several former students told of their experiences when attending school at the old building.  Mr. George Mercier told of entering the 1st grade in 1922.  The school at that time was for 1st through 12th grades.  Chapel was held every morning, and some of the games played at recess were marbles, jacks, and softball.  Flonnie Williams Yates Turnbow mentioned that the school mascot was the Bobcat and that the football team won the state championship in 1943 when they beat McComb.  Carolyn Miller Graham told the group that each year the Coca Cola Company of Jackson gave all the students a pencil, a tablet, and a ruler with “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” on the back. Helen Yates Mason reminded everyone that the old school bell was currently at the Wesson Library.  Maudell Ashley Weeks said that she was a cheerleader at the old school.  Some of the teachers mentioned by these were Ms. Emmy Hudson, Ms. Inez Mercier, and Mr. Oswalt, the principal.  At various times, the school would continue to the 8th or 10th grade, and then students would transfer to the Co-Lin Agricultural High School.”

At the conclusion of the program, Dan Johnson updated the group on the progress of the cemetery project:  22 cemeteries have been completed and several more have already been adopted by volunteers.  There are presently 251 cemeteries on the project list.

The society usually meets the first Monday of each month at 6:30 p.m.  The next meeting will be announced in the paper.  You may contact Dan Johnson at  [email protected] or call 601-892-1345 for more information.

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