Oka Kapassa/Pinckney Mill/Stamper’s Pond

By Melvin Tingle, Ann Burkes, R. L. (Bus) Chambless, and Harold Graham

What we know today as Stampers Pond has a long and interesting history. Early 1700 French documents indicate that an Indian town located as what is now Stampers Pond and was known by the name Oka Kapassa, or cold water Many artifacts found today indicate that a town surrounded the spring and was a popular site for hundreds of years before the arrival of white settlers.

According to current resident R. L. (Bus) Chambless, nine springs feed into Stampers Pond, these located at the base of a hill about mile north of the pond.

The Choctaw Indians, as early as the year 1000 A. D., were attracted to the area because of the multiple springs that flow from the hills into a rebreak and built their settlement in the hills above the rebreaks. Water was always available from the springs and game was plentiful in the nearby forests. Add to this a natural beauty and tranquil atmosphere and one can understand why Oka Kapassa became a favorite camping and resort area, not just for the Indians, but for the white settlers who entered this area in the 1830s. It also served as a repair and provision stop for wagons trains that traveled through the area.

Bernard Romans map of 1772, on the earliest maps of this area, indicated that an ancient trail (known later as Jackson Road and leading from Jackson, Mississippi to points in Alabama) crossed at Oka Kapassa. A number of other Indian towns were located along the trail in Newton County including Okhatta Talaia[2] (spreading pond) near Conehatta and Little Chunky, just west of the present Lairds Hospital at Union.

Joshua Maxwell came here in 1834 from Lawrence County, Mississippi, with his brother-in-law John William Smith to establish the first mill in Newton County, its location likely a short distance north of the present site of Stamper Pond. Maxwell would later move to Attala County before finally settling in the Meehan-Chunky area, and likely operating a mill also in the Chunky River watershed.

Range 11, East MapThe new settlers renamed the Indian village Pinckney in honor of Major General Charles Cotesworth Pinckney (1746-1825),pickney commander during the Revolutionary War, member of the Constitutional Convention from South Carolina and signer of the Constitution, as well as political leader in South Carolina after the Revolution.[3]

From the beginning there was promise of great prosperity and growth for the town of Pinckney. Streets were laid off and businesses located here. Boyd and Lane were apparently the first merchants and issued fractional currency in conjunction with the Bank of Decatur, But the state experienced an economic recession and bank failures in 1838 and new businesses gravitated toward the town of Decatur in Newton County and Paulding and Garlandville in Jasper County as well as other locations. Over the course of the next seventy years,

    Pinckney Store
    Pinckney Store owned by George Boyd is said to have served as a staging area for the Pinckney Guards during the Civil War. Undated tintype courtesy of Martha C. Ward.

Pinckney had two or three stores at any given time, but experienced no burst of commercial growth. Then in 1903 the new north-south railroad missed Pinckney by less than two miles causing business interests to shift to the new town of Stratton.

Senator James Ellis of Newton County attempted to give Pinckney an unlimited future when in 1840 he nominated this location for the first state institution of higher education in Mississippi. Senator Powhatten Ellis of Jasper County nominated Paulding and other area towns were also submitted. A total of 39 sites were nominated, the towns of Pearl, Jackson, Cul-de-hunk, Lexington, Mount Pleasant, and Natchez having been withdrawn from consideration before the first vote was taken in a joint meeting of senators and representatives. On the first ballot the votes were as follows:[4]

Site

County

Votes

Kosciusko

Attala

59

Holly Springs

Marshall

49

Mississippi City

Hancock

49

Louisville

Winston

39

Oxford

Lafayette

35

Middleton

Carroll

35

Missionary Station

Pontotoc

33

Sharon

Madison

33

Greensborough

Choctaw

31

Raymond

Hinds

23

Grenada

Yalobusha

23

Monticello

Lawrence

22

Brandon

Rankin

19

Pinckney

Newton

18

Somerville

Noxubee

18

Columbus

Lowndes

17

Paulding

Jasper

17

Gallatin

Copiah

15

Salem

Tippah

14

Emory

Holmes

11

Good Springs

Tishomingo

11

Mount Carmel

Covington

11

Philadelphia

Neshoba

10

Thomaston

Leake

9

Van Buren

Itawamba

9

Westville

Simpson

9

Brandywine Springs

Claiborne

9

Sweet Water

Jones

9

DeKalb

Kemper

8

Augusta

Perry

7

Holmesville

Pike

7

Hillsborough

Scott

4

Magnolia

Lauderdale

3

Winchester

Wayne

3

Starkville

Oktibbeha

3

Red Bone

Warren

2

Warrenton

Warren

2

The list was reduced to 21 sites and a second vote was taken with Kosciusko and Mississippi City each receiving 62 votes. Pinckney received 13 votes, Paulding 5, and Hillsborough 3. The eventual winner, Oxford, received 41 votes.[5]

The list was reduced to 15 potential sites and a third vote was taken. Kosciusko received 68 votes to lead the pack. Pinckney received 9 votes, and the eventual winner, Oxford, received 48 votes. Pinckney was eliminated on the next ballot. In the final stage of balloting Oxford became the site now known as the University of Mississippi, or to many, simply as Ole Miss.[6]

Shortly before the year 1860, Martin W. Stamper moved here with other family members from Pike County, Georgia. According to the records of Milton Stamper, Martin built a large two-story house of antebellum architecture at the top of the hill overlooking the springs[7]. Over a period of years and with much construction involved, Martin W. Stamper enlarged the pond and built a turbine-driven mill. One worker at the mill, we are told, had for a period of three years the solitary job of enlarging the pond and improving the mill operation. In time, the location became known as Stamper or Stampers Pond and contained the largest body of water within sixty miles or more. The mill remained in operation until after it was acquired by Paul D. Measell in the 1920s.[8] In 1942 the metal parts of the mill were sold as scrap metal for the World War II effort and other usable parts sold to other mill operators.

Although major commercial development was not in the future of Pinckney, Stampers Pond became a favorite recreational site for individuals, families and organizations. People came from great distances to swim, fish, picnic or politic. Following every revival, there were the ritual baptizings in the cold water, a tradition that Mt. Zion Congregational Methodist Church maintains today.

Ruth Weershing Measell

Ruth Wershing Measell, wife of Paul D Measell, takes a moment to enjoy the waters of Stampers Pond. Ruth taught 1st and 2nd grades at Stratton for 35 years and later at Decatur Elementary after Stratton was closed and consolidated with Decatur.

Pinckney Baptist Church was organized at Pinckney in 1838, its first meetings conducted in a public building near the mill. After complaints were voiced about the level of noise in their worship, the church later moved to the home of a Mr. Rayburn. The same complaints were voiced again, and the church relocated to its present site, approximately two miles west of its original site.

A post office was opened at Pinckney on 1837 with George W. Parris serving as postmaster from September 27, 1837 to October 24, 1840, at which time he was succeeded by William L. Paris. The post office was closed on July 1, 1840, but reopened in 1889 as Stamper. Martin W. Stamper served as its only postmaster from January 26, 1889 to February 23, 1906, at which time the post office was relocated to Stratton.

Although few records are available, a one-room school house is known to have existed, first known as Pinckney and later as Stamper, at this site from the 1880s until some time before 1914, at which time it was closed and students either sent to Stratton or Union.

A charter was issued to the Pinckney Masonic Lodge in January 1869 upon petition of Bros. H. W. Edmunds, William McCrany, W. B. Hansford and othersat Pinckney Mills[9] dated January 23, 1867. The officers for the year 1869 were William McCraney, Worshipful Master, B. C. Hansford, Senior Warden, M. W. Stamper, Junior Warden, W. F. Mapp, Treasurer, J. Watts, Secretary, A. H. Corley, Senior Deacon, D. J. Wilson, Junior Deacon, and G. W. Red, Steward & Tyler.[10]

For the year 1878, Pinckney Lodge reported 23 members. The officers were M. W. Stamper, Worshipful Master, B. C. Hansford, Senior Warden, T. J. Jackson, Junior Warden, J. C. Edwards, Treasurer, J. Watts, Secretary, R. G. Cleaveland, Senior Deacon, H. T. Freeman, Junior Deacon, and Wm. McMahon, Steward & Tyler. William McCraney was listed as Past Master. Other members included Chas. Bradley, A. H. Corley, J. M. Cleaveland, J. C. Hoge, A. B. Hunter, S. D. Daniel, L. B. Day, W. A. L. Lewis, W. M. Lewis, J. W. Reagan, John Terrall, J. H. Wiles, and J. H. Cook.[11]

Following the Civil War there developed a great national interest in the improvement of agriculture. It was not simply a response to the devastation of crops during the war, but it represented interest in a solving a larger problem. Most of the land east of the Mississippi River had been farmed for generations and had been depleted of many of its natural nutrients. Farmers continued to plant inferior seed and breed inferior livestock, all at a loss in productivity.

Many farmers, aided by other leaders across the nation, banded together to create the Farmers Grange. The first mission of the Farmers Grange was the support of federal legislation and policies that would improve the nations agriculture. The second mission was the training of farmers in better farming techniques and methods. The third mission was the general education of farm families.

A. J. Brown reports that an organizational meeting for the Grange occurred at Decatur in January 1873.[12] The Newton Weekly Ledger in its edition of July 23, 1874 records the first county-wide meeting in July of that year with the following officers being chosen: S. B. Gilbert, Master, H. C. McMullan, Steward, G. M. Gallaspy, Treasurer, C. H. Doolittle, Gate Keeper, M. W. Stamper, Overseer, I. P. Partin, Asst Steward, T. J. Reynolds, Secretary, William McCraney, Lecturer, William Graham, Chaplain, Mrs. M. E. Hardy, Ceres, Mrs. Rachel Reynolds, Flora, Mrs. C. C. Stamper, Lady Assistant Steward, and Mrs. R. R. McMullan, Pomona.

Chapters were organized at each town in the county, including Pinckney, with Martin W. Stamper and William McCraney playing key roles in this chapter. Pinckney became a favorite location to hold the county-wide meeting, so popular that the membership began planting a cedar tree on the grounds in memory of each deceased member. One member, his name lost to history, asked that he and his immediate family be buried on the grounds, a wish that was complied with.

Graves Being Marked at Pinckney 2005

Graves being marked at Pinckney in 2005. These graves include a member of the Grange, his wife and two small children. On the lawn were two other burial sitesa site containing an infant and male adolescent and a site apparently containing the bodies of three Civil War soldiers.

The accomplishments of the Farmers Grange were many. The Patrons Union near Lake came as a result of their advocacy. Passage of the Hatch Act of 1887, with subsequent amendments, created experiment stations throughout the nation which brought about the scientific search for better crops and livestock. The federally funded extension service was begun in 1914 as part of the Smith-Lever Act and agents sent to each county to teach farmers how to be more productive. Home demonstration agents were sent to help home makers to be more productive, and at a later period, home economic and vocational agriculture teachers were sent into the public schools.[13]

The First Morrill Act was passed by Congress in 1862. There were many important facets of this act, not the least of which was the authorization of a land grant institution in each of the states. At this institution was to be taught agriculture, military tactics, and the mechanical arts, as well as classical studies, so that members of the working classes could obtain a liberal, practical education.[14] Southern states, having seceded from the Union, did not take an interest in this legislation at this time. More than a decade after the Civil War ended, however, Mississippi was ready to put this federal legislation into action. On February 28, 1878, the state legislature approved the appointment of a board of trustees under the chairmanship of Dr. D. L. Phares to oversee all phases of development of this institution. Among the duties of the board of trustees was the search for a site that would serve as the appropriate location. Bids were solicited from competing towns and these bids reviewed in hearings at Meridian and Jackson. Sites considered were Meridian, Lauderdale Springs, Macon, West Point, Starkville, Sessumsville, Aberdeen, Verona, Tupelo, Okolona, Corinth, Quitman & Archusa Springs jointly, Mississippi City, Pass Christian, Summit & McComb jointly, Crystal Springs, Sharon, Kosciusko, Winona and Brandon. Much of the travel of the trustees was made by train, this transportation expedited by M & O railroad and by Chicago, St. Louis & New Orleans railroad. Starkville was their final choice. Pinckney was not one of the sites, as is popularly believed, and there is no indication in the minutes of the board of trustees that they stopped there overnight. The institution that they selected would initially be known as Mississippi Agricultural and Mechanical College[15]. The name, since modified, is now known as Mississippi State University.[16]

Pinckney and nearby Stratton had their share of political rallies. James K. Vardaman and Theo G. Bilbo were two governors who spoke here. Two of the mill owners in the history of Pinckney, Martin W. Stamper and Paul D. Measell, also served in the Mississippi Legislature.

Albert Lawrence McMullan, a grandson of Martin W. Stamper, is also associated with the history of Stampers Pond. Capt. McMullan, a career seaman with the Merchant Marines, United States Navy, and US Naval Reserves, was Commander of the USS Yukon during World War II. Following his retirement he wrote (with the assistance of his wife Mary Catherine Duke McMullan), McMullan and Allied Families.[17]

After Paul D. Measell acquired the property, he began to improve the facilities to attract a growing number of people attracted to swimming and picnicking. He built three piers, a diving board, an office, and separate dressing facilities for men and women. He even rented bathing suits, since most of his country customers did not own one. Bathing suits rented for 10 cents and boats for 25 cents. In 1939 with the help of Dwight James he installed a Delco-powered generator which operated on oil, then strung wires and light bulbs around the swimming area, as well as parts of his house. When completed, the system lit up not only part of the pond for night swimming, but provided electricity for parts of his house as well.

Paul D Measell Improvements to Stamper Pond

How cold was the water? Bus Chambless recalls that the water was so cold that during the hottest part of July and August he and a buddy would take a watermelon out to the three-snag area where a tree had blown down in the water. With a gunny sack and weight they would submerge the watermelon twenty feet down in the pond. An hour later they would retrieve their ice-cold watermelona real treat on a hot summers day.

Paul D Measell at Stampers Pond

Paul D. Measell

According to R. L. (Bus) Chambless, Paul D. Measell was a large farmer and dairyman with 426 acres, about half of which was in row crops and the rest in hay, pasture, and timberland. Additionally, Measell served in the Mississippi House of Representatives for a period of sixteen years. The Measells acquired the 41 acres that included Stamper’s Pond in the 1920s in an unusual trade with Paul’s half-brother Velpo McMullan. Velpo McMullan worked for the USDA in Washington, D. C., and wanted a home in that area. Paul already had property in Washington, D. C. and wanted to return to Newton County, so the swap was transacted.

Tail-Race at Stampers Pond 2005

Tail-Race at Stampers Pond. Photograph by Ann Burkes, 2005

 

[1] Thanks to De'Niechsi Comans Layton, Historian, MDAH, with her assistance in preparation of this story.

[2] The present location is the Choctaw Indian recreational field on Highway 489.

[3] http://www.john-adams.org/charlescpinckney.com/

[4] Mississippi House Journal, 1840.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Milton Stamper, Stamper Family Records.

[8] A WPA report prepared in 1935 indicated that the mill was no longer in use at that time.

[9] Proceedings of the Fiftieth Grand Annual Communication of the M. W. Grand Lodge of Ancient, Free, and Accepted Masons, of the State of Mississippi, Held at Institute Hall, City of Natchez, January 20, 21, 22, and 23, A. D., 1868; Daily Clarion Steam Book and Job Office and Book-Bindery, Jackson, Mississippi, 1868, page 11.

[10] Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Mississippi, Ancient, Free, and Accepted Masons, Fifty-First Grand Annual Communications, Jackson, Mississippi, January 1869, Power & Barksdale, Clarion Ledger, Printers, Jackson, Mississippi, 1869, p. 227.

[11] Sixtieth Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge of Mississippi, A. F. and A. M., Held at Grenada, February 1878, Rogers and Groome, Steam Book and Job Printers, Vicksburg, Mississippi, 1878, pp. 152-153.

[12] A. J. Brown, History of Newton County from 1834 to 1894, Clarion-Ledger Company, Jackson, Mississippi, 1894. For a thorough discussion of the Farmers Grange, refer to Chapter XXIII.

[13] www.nasulgc.org/publications/Land_Grant/land.htm

[14] Ibid.

[15] The Second Morrill Act of 1890 required an equal facility for Negro students. This brought about the establishment of a similar institution at Itta Bena, known today as Mississippi Valley State University.

[16] Mississippi Agricultural and Mechanical College, Board of Trustees Minutes, 1878-1913.

[17] Albert Lawrence McMullan, McMullan and Allied Families, page 61.

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