William “Brother” Rogers spoke to members of the Columbus Exchange Club at Lion Hills on Thursday about his newfound passion: Mississippi historical markers.
You’ve seen them. Most are green, though some are blue, red or black. They each mark a spot of historical significance and give information about the person, place or event that made it significant.
There are approximately 35 markers in Lowndes County.
There are more than 800 statewide.
What may be a casual curiosity to others has become a quest for Rogers, who has been traveling the state to photograph all the historical markers he can find.
Rogers, the associate director of the John C. Stennis Center for Public Service in Starkville, first became interested in the markers last May when he had the opportunity to photograph one in Columbus commemorating Mississippi State College for Women, now Mississippi University for Women. Rogers said the marker was originally erected in 1950 and had been damaged. He took a picture of the newly-restored sign.
It was this event which kicked off the Starkville resident’s quest to find them all.
“I have become a super nerd about historical markers,” he said.
Rogers started the website mississippimarkers.com. He posts his pictures there. The website is still in progress, but Rogers has organized it by county and region. The newest addition to the website is a feature showing each marker on Google Maps.
During his talk Thursday, Rogers went into detail about the nuts and bolts of the historical markers program. It started in 1949, the year the Columbus marker by the river was erected. At the time, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History purchased the signs and the Department of Transportation put them up. Now private individuals and organizations pay for the markers, though the MDAH still has to verify that the area where the marker will go is of historical significance.
Rogers highlighted a few markers in Lowndes County, along with a few of his personal favorite markers. He noted those marking the Brownlee Family Cemetery, William Barksdale and Walter “Red” Barber, all of which are in Lowndes County. He also talked about his favorites, like the Yazoo County marker that talks about the first high school football game in Mississippi, the final score of which was 5-0, and another that marks the birthplace of the P.T.A. which had been run over by a lawnmower when Rogers found it.
The green markers are not the only historical markers in the state though they are the only ones privately funded. “Visit Mississippi” sponsors markers on the Blues Trail, the Country Music Trail and the Freedom Trail. The last of those is particularly important, according to Rogers.
“Civil War and Civil Rights is the key to tourism in Mississippi,” he said, adding visitors to the state travel from other countries just to learn more about those events.
Those looking for historical places to visit in the state need look no further than Rogers’ website. Like country music? Rogers has a list of the markers along the Country Music Trail. He has a similar page dedicated to the Freedom Trail and to the Blues Trail. He has another page just showing markers commemorating leaders and historical figures in the state.
Each county has its own page of markers.
Local Historical Markers
■ Mississippi State College for Women
■ Robinson Road
■ First Home of Tennessee Williams
■ Joshua Lawrence Meador
■ Demonstration School
■ Confederate Decoration Day
■ S.D. Lee Home
■ Franklin Academy
■ C.S.A. Arsenal
■ Military Road
■ Walter “Red” Barber
■ William Barksdale
■ Henry Armstrong
■ James T. Harrison House
■ St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
■ First Christian Church
■ First Baptist Church of Columbus
■ First Methodist Church
■ Church of the Annunciation
■ Friendship Cemetery
■ Brownlee Family Cemetery – 1825
■ Unity Cemetery
■ Baldwin Locomotive No. 601
■ Queen City Hotel
■ Rural Hill School
■ Beersheba Cumberland Presbyterian Church and Cemetery
■ Mt. Pleasant Methodist Church and Vaughn’s Cemetery
■ Samuel Harding “Sam” Hairston
■ Woodlawn Cumberland Presbyterian Church
■ Queen City Hotel and 7th Avenue (MS Blues)
■ Columbus, Mississippi Blues (MS Blues)
■ Big Joe Williams (MS Blues)
■ Bethel Presbyterian Church (marker knocked over by tornado in 2002)
■ “Cool Papa” Bell
■ Grierson’s Raid
■ Greensboro Street Historic District
■ W.H. “Corn Club” Smith
■ Odd Fellows Cemetery
■ Nash Street Historic District
■ The Borden Milk Plant
■ Needmore Community
■ Overstreet School District
■ Hic A Sha Ba Ha Spring
■ First Baptist Church
■ First Presbyterian Church
■ Oktibbeha County Blues (MS Blues)
■ West Point
■ Prehistoric Indian Burial Mound
■ Mary Holmes College
■ Palo Alto
■ Howlin’ Wolf (MS Blues)