Quitman: The first 100 years

By Staff
Though Quitman has been in existence since the late 1830s, the community is celebrating its 100th year as an incorporated town. The celebration is a community-wide homecoming of sorts, and Kirkland said she is looking forward to seeing a lot of old friends.
Family history
Betty Parker Kirkland came to Quitman in 1934. A native of Louisiana, she was the bride of J.K. Kirkland. She met Kirkland while he was a student at Mississippi College and she was living in Jackson with her brother. They married and he came home to work at his family's store.
The Kirkland family owned and operated Kirkland General Merchandise Store in downtown Quitman for 130 years. The business started just before the Civil War and persevered through both World Wars and the Depression.
In 1908, the brick building at the end of Main Street that still bears the Kirkland store name was opened. They sold many items besides hardware, including clothing, coffins, caskets, lumber, shingles and fertilizer. They also bought and sold turpentine, cotton and produce.
In many ways, Kirkland General Merchandise was the Wal-Mart of its day in Quitman.
Small town life
Kirkland grew up in New Orleans, and says living in a small town was different. "But I loved it," she said.
She described the town's growth was gradual.
After living in Quitman for about seven years, the Kirklands decided to build a house on East Franklin Street. One Sunday afternoon, Kirkland was trying to decide what to do about the windows of her new home when she heard something on the radio about a navy base at Pearl Harbor being bombed.
Going to war
Kirkland got to see her husband on two occasions before he left for the war. One time, she took the train the Cheyenne, Wyo., to the training base where he was stationed.
Though her husband was a private on a large base, Kirkland somehow got to see the doctor in charge and got him to give her a pass to see her husband.
Later, she and her children were able to spend a few months with Mr. Kirkland while he was stationed at a base in North Carolina.
Waiting at home
Kirkland remembers how close the community was during World War II.
She said no one believed it at first when word came that the war was over.
But the war did end in 1945.
Changing times
Mr. Kirkland died in 1995. The year before, he had sold the store, but she remembers how times changed the way you did business.
Over the years, she worked off and on at the store, some times doing the bookkeeping. She recalls how men would come into the store when times were hard, looking for work.
As the residents of Quitman prepare to look back on the "good ol' days," Kirkland said she has fond memories even though the times might have been tough.
Steve Swogetinsky is regional editor of The Meridian Star. E-mail him at swogetinsky@themeridianstar.com.

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