Vardaman History Project - The Coming of the Railroad

The town of Vardaman resulted from a decision by the Southern Railway Company to build a branch line from Okolona into Calhoun County. The people of eastern Calhoun County had long hoped for a railroad into the area. There had been false alarms and some people had lost significant amounts of money when the proposed projects were abandoned. However, one proposed route had been surveyed and that route came through Ellzey. Thomas W. Young, a state senator, lived in Ellzey and was active in supporting the construction of this branch. The September 3, 1902 issue of the weekly Calhoun Monitor reported that "Senator Young went to the Railroad meeting last week at Okolona. He says everything is in fine shape for the road and that the surveyors will be in Houston next week and he will meet them there and conduct them to Ellzey".

However, the next issue of the paper reported that the surveyors didn't show up for the meeting with Senator Young. The paper said, "We donít know the cause unless the road was of such little importance that the Senator was not considered in the matter. ..." That was a bad omen. In December, 1902, an item in the paper foretold the fate of Ellzey: It said: "Mr. Zack Harper of Okolona who has of late been figuring sharply in real estate in this community has countermanded his instructions to his local agent here, Mr. B.M. Ellzey, and says he doesn't want any more land. This speaks high for the railroad, but vice versa to its coming along the old survey."

What had happened was that the railroad company had ordered another survey. This new route followed along the northern edge of the Yalobusha River flood plain from Houston and offered significant cost savings over the Ellzey route because of the flatter terrain which required fewer cuts and fills.

Young Bros.Ellzey, or Ellzey Town as it was called, was a thriving village of several stores, a post office, and a fine school called Cherry Hill. Cherry HillA road ran south from Ellzey to a bridge on the Yalobusha River and then on to the town of Atlanta. Atlanta was a thriving town with several stores including a nice brick one occupied by Nace Crawford with a big selection of merchandise. There were two doctors living there and it was a busy little place. The road between Ellzey and Atlanta was, even in summertime, only a series of mudholes and a trail winding between huge trees; but it still provided the capability for frequent travel between the two settlements. The new railroad route crossed this road about three miles south of Ellzey and this is where a new settlement began to grow as the railroad construction began.

The new route for the railroad caused Ellzey to begin to fade away as stores and businesses moved south to be on the railroad. Some folks sold their land at Ellzey and moved down there. Some of the merchants tore down their buildings and used the materials to rebuild at the new settlement that sprang up. Others remained in their homes and on their farms in Ellzey and endured longer trips to the stores and businesses. The post office at Ellzey was disestablished in January 1908 and mail for Ellzey residents was routed to Timberville which is what the post office in Vardaman was named at the time.

Railroad Route The selected route ran west-southwest from Houston, past the Hall community and Pyland, just south of the Hollis community, slightly south of Derma Village, and terminated at a new settlement which would be renamed Calhoun City.

The first train arrived at Vardaman on Saturday, November 12, 1904. Construction of the line continued further west and the tracks arrived at Derma in 1905 and at Calhoun City in 1906.

Actions had already started to incorporate the settlement which had grown up south of Ellzey. James K. Vardaman was popular in Calhoun County and had visited the county and had spoken at a huge political rally in 1903 at the Hollis bridge over the Yalobusha, a few miles west of the new settlement. When it came time to select a name for the new settlement the following year, 'Vardaman' was the name selected and the new governor, James K. Vardaman, signed the proclamation giving it that name.

James K. Vardaman

Incorporation and Naming of the Post Office

Vardaman's Railroad 1902-1939

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