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An Interview with
Mrs. Alma Durr
March 5, 1977
Mrs. Frances M. Oberschmidt
Mississippi Department of Archives and History
Lincoln-Lawrence-Franklin Regional Library
Oral History Project
Brookhaven and Vicinity
OBERSCHMIDT: Mrs. Durr, when did you and your husband purchase this place you live on now?
DURR: In 1922.
OBERSCHMIDT: Whom did you buy it from?
DURR: Colonel Shelton Anding.
OBERSCHMIDT: Could you tell me something about how he got this property?
DURR: Well, he was an adopted son of Mr. And Mrs. Joe Childs who owned this place.
OBERSCHMIDT: How did they get the property?
DURR: Well, they homesteaded one hundred-sixty (160) acres of this home place here; then they bought additional land adjoining it.
OBERSCHMIDT: This homestead was a government grant? They had to live on it in order to get it?
DURR: Yes, one hundred-sixty (160) acres of it was.
OBERSCHMIDT: How did they get the other property that they had?
DURR: They bought the additional property from other people that had already had possession of it.
OBERSCHMIDT: How many acres of this did you and your husband purchase?
DURR: Three hundred and sixty (360) acres.
OBERSCHMIDT: You said that Colonel Shelton Anding was adopted; he doesn’t have the same name as Joe Childs. He kept his own family name?
OBERSCHMIDT: Whose child was he?
DURR: He was Rev. W. H. Anding’s son.
OBERSCHMIDT: Why did he put this child out for adoption? What connection was this to the Childs?
DURR: Well, Mrs. Childs was Rev. Anding’s sister and his wife died and left this child – just as an infant – and his sister didn’t have any children. She took him and after she had him for two years they adopted him.
OBERSCHMIDT: Did Rev. Anding go further, to study further on?
DURR: Yes, he became a well-known Baptist minister in the community.
OBERSCHMIDT: Speaking of the community, there are several landmarks in this area. What church do you belong to?
DURR: Philadelphia Baptist Church.
OBERSCHMIDT: Do you have any idea how that church was?
DURR: It was organized in 1868.
OBERSCHMIDT: There were other prominent churches around. What were they?
DURR: Bethel Methodist Church and Bensalem Presbyterian Church.
OBERSCHMIDT: Now, this is at Caseyville?
DURR: Caseyville, Mississippi.
OBERSCHMIDT: Was that a very large community in that day?
DURR: Well, it consisted of several families and they had a post office at that time here at Caseyville.
OBERSCHMIDT: Did the people in the rural community have to go to the post office to get their mail or was there a rural route?
DURR: Yes, they had to go to the post office.
OBERSCHMIDT: Back to the churches, I was told that Bethel Methodist Church had campgrounds for camping meeting.
DURR: They did.
OBERSCHMIDT: Could you tell me something about those camp meetings?
DURR: Well, every summer, they had this large Tabernacle and they had several cabins that they rented out. And people came far and near that knew about Caseyville Camp Meetings and would stay for eight or ten days there and take in the services. They would have prominent preachers from colleges and seminaries, a distance away from here, that would conduct the services.
OBERSCHMIDT: Did they have dinner on the ground as they used to call it back in those days?
DURR: Lots of people that attended would bring their lunches and then they had a little eating-place that they would fix lunches for people that didn’t bring their lunch with them.
OBERSCHMIDT: This was definitely a community get-together.
OBERSCHMIDT: Was everybody invited to attend this meeting?
DURR: Oh, yes, everybody from quite a distance around would attend the Methodist Camp Meeting at Caseyville.
OBERSCHMIDT: You came here in 1924, wasn’t it?
DURR: No, 1923.
OBERSCHMIDT: 1923, was your husband in World War I?
OBERSCHMIDT: What position did he have?
DURR: He was an ambulance driver in the infantry in France.
OBERSCHMIDT: Did he drive to the main hospitals or the field hospitals?
DURR: Well, he was in the field hospital. He worked from the front of the field hospital that was located back of the lines.
OBERSCHMIDT: Did you and your husband come to this place right after you married?
DURR: No, my husband lacked one year in college. We lived in Starkville until he finished Mississippi State College and then we came here.
OBERSCHMIDT: That was when you had your college education? Did you go there?
DURR: No, I went to what was known then as Woman’s College in Hattiesburg. It’s now William Carey College.
OBERSCHMIDT: Coming to the Depression in 1929. How was your family affected then?
DURR: Well, of course we suffered financially, but we had out living here at home, and we didn’t have to depend on the bread line or anything like that.
OBERSCHMIDT: Did you have any tenants on your place then?
DURR: We had five (5) families.
OBERSCHMIDT: What was your main crop?
OBERSCHMIDT: Did you raise corn for your animals?
DURR: Yes, we had lots of corn and hay and feed crops. We…
OBERSCHMIDT: Did you have mechanical or what type machinery did you use to plow and cultivate?
DURR: Well, for the first several years that we lived here we used mules and plows and then my husband got a tractor. After tractors became available to farmers, why my husband had a tractor.
OBERSCHMIDT: What wages did they have to pay along the time of the Depression?
DURR: Well, you could get good help for fifty (50) cents to one (1) dollar a day.
OBERSCHMIDT: How many hours would that be?
DURR: Well, generally it was from six (6) or seven (7) in the mornings to six (6) or seven (7) in the evenings.
OBERSCHMIDT: Would you have to feed those laborers?
DURR: Sometimes we did. We would give them their dinner. Sometimes there was a difference in what they would get if they brought their lunches or if I had to fix lunch for them.
OBERSCHMIDT: You said cotton was your main crop during the Depression. What did it sell for?
DURR: Well, we sold cotton for five (5) cents a pound.
OBERSCHMIDT: That would be how much a bale?
DURR: About twenty-five (25) dollars a bale.
OBERSCHMIDT: Back during the Depression, I was told that the government aided the poor people. Do you know how that was taken – how that came about?
DURR: I don’t know anything except that they had different place –in—that they had commodities, different kinds of food for people that were poor and needy and it was given out to them.
OBERSCHMIDT: Well, how was this distributed to the people?
DURR: I don’t know exactly how it came about, but I know my husband did help distribute the commodities when they would be brought out to Caseyville, our home place here.
OBERSCHMIDT: Where was that done?
DURR; Well, at Lamer Magee’s store.
OBERSCHMIDT: And then that was distributed there?
OBERSCHMIDT: Was it brought to each store and the individuals got their produce there?
DURR: The best I remember it was.
OBERSCHMIDT: Along then, did they have anything for the young people?
DURR: Well, we had the CCC camps just below Caseyville, that was built and young people, young men were brought there to help them during the Depression, give them jobs.
OBERSCHMIDT: Was this a training course along with it?
DURR: As far as I know it was. I don’t know too much about just what they did do.
OBERSCHMIDT: Do you know of anything that they did in this area?
DURR: Well, they built roads and they did a lot of reforestry work in the Homochitto Forest.
OBERSCHMIDT: How long did this CCC Camp last?
DURR: I think it must have been about five (5) or six (6) years.
OBERSCHMIDT: It wasn’t too long after that until World War II. Was it used as a camp then?
DURR: No, it was completely abolished.
OBERSCHMIDT: Your husband had other ways of making a living. What did he do besides farming?
DURR: Well, we had a grade A dairy. We sold milk. He had beef cattle on one of our farms.
OBERSCHMIDT: You had sanitation inspection with this milk, this dairy?
OBERSCHMIDT: How was it delivered to town?
DURR: On a truck in five (5) and ten (10) gallon cans.
OBERSCHMIDT: Mrs. Durr, when you bought this place, was there much land in cultivation?
DURR: No, we had to clear up and get into cultivation all that we could cultivate.
OBERSCHMIDT: How did you get it cleared?
DURR: Well, my husband and hands would clear up several acres in the fall and then in the spring we’d have a logrolling and they would get all that land cleaned up. We’d burn the logs and get the land ready for cultivation.
OBERSCHMIDT: Did these men bring their saws and cut some of the lumber down?
DURR: Yes, they’d bring saws and axes and then I’d fix lunch for all of them and I’d give a big quilting and we’d have several women, and we’d quilt out maybe two (2) or three (3) quilts the day that we had the logrolling.
OBERSCHMIDT: What would they do with these logs then?
DURR: Just pile them up and burned them.
OBERSCHMIDT: Couldn’t sell them.
OBERSCHMIDT: No market for them?
DURR: No, no market for anything like we have pulpwood and timber to sell now. Wasn’t any market for it then.
OBERSCHMIDT: These lumber companies wouldn’t take it if you could haul it, cost too much to haul it?
DURR: Well, we had eighty (80) acres of virgin pine timber on this place at the time we bought it and we finally sold that. And a man put a small sawmill in on the eighty (80) acres where it was and sawed it up into lumber and sold it.
OBERSCHMIDT: How did he pay you for that, stumpage?
OBERSCHMIDT: By that, what does that mean, so much for the diameter of the tree or the footage that he cut?
DURR: Well, they had it estimated and then it was sold for a special price. My husband asked a price for it and the man paid for it, so that’s the way we sold it.
OBERSCHMIDT: He accepted it as a final contract?
OBERSCHMIDT: Well, back in the depression days, did your family suffer any, have to go into the bread line?
OBERSCHMIDT: Did you know anybody that did?
DURR: No, I didn’t know any white that did around here.
OBERSCHMIDT: Were they all good farmers and good managers?
DURR: Well, I think they were as far as I knew. Everybody had their living at home and of course, we had to do without a lot of things, but I don’t think anybody that I know of in this community – the white families – had to go on the bread line.
OBERSCHMIDT: Now, we’re coming along to your education and your children’s education. Where were you educated in your school days?
DURR: Well, I was educated at – just a two-teacher school until I finished the tenth grade.
OBERSCHMIDT: Where was that two-teacher school?
OBERSCHMIDT: That’s in what beat of the county?
DURR: Beat Two.
OBERSCHMIDT: Below Heuck’s Retreat?
OBERSCHMIDT: Your children were educated where?
DURR: Loyd Star and Copiah-Lincoln.
OBERSCHMIDT: Did any of them go in to any of the smaller schools before they consolidated Loyd Star?
DURR: Elemerita went to Grange Hall one year, then the second year she started going to Loyd Star; it had been consolidated. That’s where all my children went then, finished high school, except for Ben and Juanita. They finished high school at Copiah-Lincoln.
OBERSCHMIDT: Why did they go there?
DURR: Because of the school losing its credit.
OBERSCHMIDT: Why did it lose its credit those two years?
DURR: Well, it didn’t have enough teachers with degrees and they took the accreditation away from them.
OBERSCHMIDT: Then the community saw to it that it was accredited?
OBERSCHMIDT: Were any of your children in service either in World War II or Korean War?
DURR: I only have one (1) son and he served in Korea.
OBERSCHMIDT: How long was he in service then – through the whole war?
DURR: Two years, I believe, and two months.
OBERSCHMIDT: Was he wounded?
OBERSCHMIDT: How many times?
DURR: He was wounded twice.
OBERSCHMIDT: Mrs. Durr, I understand that you have a grant, the original grant that was given for homesteading this place, is that true?
OBERSCHMIDT: Who was it given to?
DURR: It was given to Joe Childs.
OBERSCHMIDT: Could there be a possibility of us getting a copy of that for the archives?
DURR: Well, I do have the original homestead deed signed by President Buchanan and it’s in my bank box. I could have Xerox copies made of it.
OBERSCHMIDT: Could you get a permit to have that done?
DURR: Yes, I’ll try to get it out and have that done.
OBERSCHMIDT: That would be something good for the archives. Mrs. Durr, I understand that you and your husband and family took some trips. Would you mind telling briefly where all you went?
DURR: We went to – out in the Rio Grande and up to the Carlsbad, took in all the parks out west and to San Francisco and took in the Golden Gate Exposition out there; came back through Salt Lake City, took in the sights there. That was the first major trip that me and my husband and children took together. And then we went to Washington, D.C., taking in the Shenandoah Valley and the Blue Ridge Mountains and all the sights up through there.
OBERSCHMIDT: When did your husband die?
DURR: My husband died in 1953, October 1953.
OBERSCHMIDT: Then you and your family did not do any traveling after that?
DURR: No, not the whole family together – because –
OBERSCHMIDT: I understand that you helped Miss Sara Jane Craig, the Home Demonstration Agent, plan several trips for the Home Demonstration Club. Could you tell me where all that included?
DURR: Well, we went into every state in the original states – 48 – in the United States; also Nova Scotia, New Brunswick. We took in the Bahamas, we went to Nassau and then we went to Puerto Rico and we went to Old Mexico a couple of times.
OBERSCHMIDT: Did these trips – were they in a different span of time, several trips?
DURR: Yes, we planned one for every summer – to go places every summer.
OBERSCHMIDT: About how long would these trips last? Approximately.
DUR: Two weeks, fifteen days, generally was the limits we had on it.
OBERSCHMIDT: In other words, it was according to the area that you went as to how long or many days it would be.
OBERSCHMIDT: Then everybody was allowed to choose whether they’d want to go. Have to sign up to go with ya’ll.
DURR: Yes, I would plan the trips and then everyone that would like to go with us would sign up and pay their deposit into the County Home Agent’s office. Then we’d charter a bus – a Trailways Bus – make these trips.
OBERSCHMIDT: You have made several trips in foreign countries. Could you briefly tell me about those?
DURR: Well, I made my first trip to Europe. We went with a D.H. Holmes tour out of New Orleans and we took in ten countries of Europe.
OBERSCHMIDT: Would you name those?
DURR: We went to Holland, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Italy, Monaco, France and we also visited Australia, which made ten countries.
OBERSCHMIDT: What other trips have you taken?
DURR: Well, later I took a tour to Europe that took in the Scandinavian countries.
OBERSCHMIDT: Could you name those?
DURR: Norway, Sweden, Denmark and then we flew from Copenhagen, Denmark, to Madrid, Spain, and we toured Spain, and we had an option. We went over into Africa and spent some time in Morocco. We came on and visited, toured in Portugal and back home.
Then a friend of mine and I went to Hawaii; and from Hawaii to Australia; from Australia to New Zealand and to the Fiji Islands, back to Hawaii and then home.
Then I went on a tour with several friends from Lincoln County to the Holy Lands. We also visited Egypt and Cyprus on this tour to the Holy land.
Then I went to Central America and toured four countries in Central America. Then my daughter and I, the last foreign trip I’ve made, my daughter and I went to Southeast Asia last summer. We visited Japan, Formosa, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Singapore, went over into Malaysia, came back to Guam, and from there to the Hawaiian Islands and back home.
I failed to say that when we went on the tour to the Holy Land, we had a tour of Athens, Greece, and Corinth, and we went to Cyprus, and we went to Beirut, on up to Old Damascus, and then we went from Beirut to Tel Aviv and to Jerusalem, and had tours out and took in all the most important things around, the sights.
OBERSCHMIDT: You’ve had a marvelous time. Are you planning another trip?
DURR: Well, I’m hoping, if I can get a good traveling companion and my health allows, I’m hoping to go to South America.
OBERSCHMIDT: I’ve certainly enjoyed this interview with you and thank you.