3/15/1990: New town of Columbus took shape in 1927-28

Columbus Housemover 2by Virginia Jewell
(Eight in a Series)
(Appeared in The Hickman County Gazette, Clinton (Hickman County, Ky.) on March 15, 1990)

Not since a two-seater airplane landed at the race track south of town had there been such a commotion in Columbus. And it went on for weeks in all kinds of weather. Bystanders stared slack-jawed as several churches and scores of houses and shed were jacked up for a jolting journey up Clinton Hill to firm foundations 140 feet higher in the new town of Columbus.

Hydraulic equipment kept the building on a level as they made the ascent — so level that some families kept house as they went, among them Mr. and Mrs. Nick Muscovalley and Mrs. Carrie Griggs. The Mike Frizzells now live in her transported house.

Streets in the new setting were names for persons who played leading roles in the town’s history. Polk Circle honored Gen. Leonidas Polk, the bishop-general who commanded Confederate troops at Columub’s Fort DeRussey during the early days of the War between the States.

Pillow Drive and Cheatham Street were named for Gideon J. Pillow and Benjamin F. Cheatham, both Confederate generals at Columbus. Tipton Road honored William Tipton, one of the earliest citizens of the town in whose blockhouse home were held the first court sessions in the Jackson Purchase.

Rust Avenue was for Marion Rust, a dynamic person who worked tirelessly in behalf of the new town, not only then but in later years. Herbert Hoover was remembered by Hoover Parkway. The man who would become president visited Columbus in 1927 while he was chairman of Mississippi Flood Relief.

Like mushrooms, houses and churches sprang up along the newly named streets. New construction included many houses as well as the business section and brick high school. Blended into the new brick school was the cupola salvaged from the public school which had stood next to the levee in the town below.

Near the new school on the east side of Hoover Parkway were Elmo Drew’s service station, the post office, a barber shop, Columbus Bank and Daisy Cowle’s Restaurant. There was a pool table in the back of the restaurant which provided recreation, not only for the men of the community, but for the women, as well. Mrs. W. M. Ringo, the former Cathey Tarpley was on the faculty of the two teacher high school in the early 1930s and said it was the custom in the afternoons for groups of women to play pool at Daisy Cowle’s’; men played at other times.

On the opposite side of Hoover Parkway were George Avey’s Grocery, Summer’s Drugstore, Mrs. Della Brown’s Grocery (later DuPree’s), and Luther Morrison’s Grocery.

As time went by hollyhocks and dahlias, cannas and elephant ears (moved in tubs from below), lawns and gardens added color to the bleak landscape and the town of 700 grew accustomed to itself. Many adjustments were required. Until the water system was completed, water was hauled from a free-flowing spring on North Hoover Parkway. Lucien Bowe, who lived near the spring, said barrels were used to take water to each household.

Temporary arrangements also had to be made for the U.S. mail. Edith Cole was a postal clerk in Columbus when the flood occurred. At first, she said, the post office as moved out of the rising water into a garage — then into a government or Red Cross tent. She has a faded photograph which shows the postal boxes visible through the open tent flap. Then the post office operated temporarily in the home of Mrs. R.M. Ray, postmaster, who by the time was living in the new town. Soon a building was moved from under the hill to serve as a post office and the facility remained there till a new brick building was constructed in 1966.

Before long, three new babies were born into the new town — all boys. The first was Lynn Bencini Jr., son of Lynn and Willie Belle Bencini. The second was Gene Morrison born to Agnes and Ronald Morrison and the third was Lewis Byassee, son of Sam and Sallie Byassee.

Among the houses still standing which were moved from old Columbus are the following on Hoover Parkway with former owners in parenthesis: Lynne Bencini (W.S. Avey); Carrie Kerr (Luther Morrison); Kathryn Byassee (Robert Summers); Search Massey (Long-Austille); Mike Frizzell (Carrie Griggs); Katherine Adams (Sam Byassee); Mrs. Speight Hudson (Frank Wright Sr.); Fanny Morten (Lester) and the Monty Medley dwelling. Others are the J.W. King house of Rust Avenue and the Charlie McGee house on Ky. 58, now the Wilburn Ferguson residence.

The first housed moved was the Charlie Mays dwelling which is situated on Polk Circle just behind the Lynn Bencini dwelling. The last moved was the Charlie Fisher home which belonged to the grandfather of Tommy Tarr, a house with a history all its own. It began its life in Belmont, Mo. across the river. After the terrible flood of 1912, it was torn down, loaded in trucks and moved across the Mississippi and rebuilt near the edge of the hill in the old town. Then it, too, joined the parade and took its place on Ky. 58. The house is now owned by William Brame and before that by the John Owings.

The famed anchor and chain also found a resting place in the grassy area of Hoover Parkway. It had been out of sight and mind since the Civil War although T.L. Atwood, surveyor recalled seeing it the day after the Confederates hastily evacuated their fortifications in March 1862. It is believe to have then been burned by a cave-in.

In 1925 a fisherman saw the chain dangling from the bluff; subsequently digging unearthed the anchor. The relic was snaked down the bluff on a forked tree limb (lizard) and displayed near Summers Drugstore “Under the Hill” where it remained until taken to Hoover Parkway. After the Civilian Conservation Corps built Columbus-Belmont Park in the mid-1930s, the anchor with its chain remnant was exhibited on an impressive stone mounting in the north end of the park. Not long afterward it was moved to its present location to protect it from threatening landslides.

(To be continued.)

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