Special to Find It In Fondren (Andrew Hedglin/lemuriablog.com)
I’ve lived almost all of my life in the Jackson area, but by my own admission, I know too little of its rich history. In fourth grade, I took a Mississippi history class, but at a private school in the suburbs, the curriculum wasn’t concerned with teaching much about Jackson, or anything especially problematic.
Perhaps others among you received a more comprehensive education at your own schooling or by your own volition, but for anybody who considers themselves a true Jacksonian, I cannot recommend highly enough Josh Foreman and Ryan Starrett’s Hidden History of Jackson. It’s published by the History Press, purveyors of, among other tomes of local history, 2016’s well-received The Civil War Siege of Jackson by Jim Woodrick.
While Hidden History goes out of its way to deny itself as a comprehensive chronicle, but even at a slim 144 pages of text (several more pages of well-documented sources follow the narrative itself), the book is packed with Jackson history at moments fraught with consequence. Reading it, you will come across the men with names that continue to label our shared landscape: LaFleur, Hinds, Dinsmore, Manship, Galloway, and (shamefully) Barnett. It even details the area’s encounters with its namesake, Andrew Jackson himself.
Foreman and Starrett prove themselves up to the historian’s task, documenting with primary sources and searching for the truth, whether it glorifies, damns, or merely humanizes its subjects. Of particular interests to me were the sections of Jackson’s founding as a trading post near the Natchez Trace, its prohibition battles preceding the nation’s own, Theodore Bilbo’s plan to relocate the state’s main universities all to Jackson, and a soulful coda about one of Jackson’s unassuming treasures, Malaco Records.
Hidden History weaves in tales of the Choctaws, confederates, churchmen, criminals, civil engineers, and civil rights champions that helped shape Chimneyville into what it has become today. If you have been around long enough to remember personally much of the last section (detailing the civil rights struggle and the Easter flood of 1979), it will give you a chance to revisit where your personal history and the city’s itself converge.
Perhaps the book’s greatest achievement is to re-kindle my interest in the history of my hometown. I urge all of you to pick up a copy of Hidden History of Jackson and experience the stories that Jackson contains for yourself.