Starkville celebrates 175 years

From The Commercial Dispatch

STARKVILLE – (AP) It’s been 175 years since the City of Starkville was established.

The city marked the day it was given its official charter – May 11, 1837 – with a celebration in front of the Greater Starkville Development Partnership on the corner of Lafayette and Main streets.

Mayor Parker Wiseman and Dr. Mark Keenum, president of Mississippi State University, issued official proclamations as part of an event that featured live music and refreshments.

The trouble with a 175th birthday party is no one is around to remember the birth.

Committee members faced that hurdle because the town’s “birth” pre-dated the popular use of photography and finding images of the early days of the town was difficult. Historical records were sporadic, too.

Fortunately, a couple of residents with ties that reach back to the city’s birth were eager to help.

Dero Ramsey, 83, is the great-great grandson of the city’s first mayor, David Haines, and Carole McReynolds Davis, 70, counts eight generations of her family who have lived in Starkville.

With only brief interruptions, both have lived their entire lives in Starkville and proved to be invaluable sources, as the committee researched the city’s history.

For example, Ramsey said Main Street was built for a very practical reason.

“In 1875, the town burned down,” he said. “The fire started on the south side of Main Street and jumped across the street and burned all the buildings on the north side. So when they got ready to rebuild, they decided to make the street wide enough so that, in the event of another fire, the flames couldn’t jump across the street again.”

Davis not only knows a lot of the city’s history, he also lives in a part of it.

“My great-grandfather built the house we live in,” she said. “He also built Lee Hall and the Towers (on the MSU campus). I just love the old home and I love Starkville.”

Davis’ house is 101 years old and is listed on the National Registry of Historic Homes.

Both Ramsey and Davis have deep ties to MSU, saying that the university became the lifeblood of what might otherwise have been just another small, rural town.

Ramsey graduated from MSU and spent 34 years teaching dairy sciences. Davis, whose father was a 1930 graduate, spent her first few years living in campus housing. Her father spent 35 years in student affairs at the university.

In addition to being the city’s first mayor, Ramsey’s forebear, David Haines, also was the city’s first teacher.

“He was educated in law at Dartmouth College,” Ramsey said. “He moved to Sparta, Tenn., where he married, and then to Starkville, where he started his law practice. It was called Boardtown back then, before it became a city. He became the city’s first mayor, judge and teacher.

“He taught school in an old log courthouse. I guess when they had court, the kids got out of school.”

Although the ties of Ramsey and Davis go back to the city’s birth, neither are connected to the man for whom the city was named – Revolutionary War hero John Stark.

As far as can be determined, Stark was never within 500 miles of the city.

His loss, Davis would argue.

“I can’t tell you what a special place Starkville is, this lovely town in the shade of a great university,” she said.

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