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Old Houlka, Mississippi: Oldest Settlement in North Mississippi Had an Offspring

Gerry Glenn Jones is a writer of fiction and nonfiction, as well as scripts for theatre and film. This is a factual account.

The New Houlka City Hall was finished in 1976.

The New Houlka City Hall was finished in 1976.

The Birth of Old Houlka And New Houlka, Mississippi

If you haven't heard of Old Houlka and New Houlka, Mississippi, you're not alone, but if you've ever visited them and forgot, you are one of a kind. New Houlka has been referred to as the "Center of the Universe," by more than just a few, but probably got its originality from a well esteemed medical doctor, named Walker, who was also a philosopher.

The original town was located approximately a mile east of the present town of New Houlka, and is now referred to as "Old Houlka." Houlka is a Chickasaw Indian word meaning "low water," or "low land," which would describe the land situated on each side of Houlka Creek. It was a well-established center of Chickasaw culture in the 1500s.

Location of Old Houlka at Intersection of Ms. Hwy 15 and 32

Old Houlka Was an Important Trading Post on The Natchez Trace

The town of Old Houlka was born as a fur trading post prior to 1794 and is the oldest surviving settlement in north Mississippi. An Indian agency house was built there at the intersection of two Indian trails, which would later be designated as the Natchez Trace and Gaines Trace. Silas Dinsmoor was appointed as the Chickasaw Indian Agent. He hosted a ball at the agency house in 1805, with at least two noted guests present, future U.S. Representative John McKee and former U.S. Vice-President Aaron Burr.


Old Trace Sign

Old Trace Sign

Old Houlka And The Natchez Trace

In 1812, a gentleman, that all of you are familiar with, surveyed a route from Nashville, Tennessee to Natchez, Mississippi, following the Indian trail, known as the "Natchez Trace." This man later became the seventh president of the United States. His name is Andrew Jackson.

The Natchez Trace connected with another popular trail of that time named the "Gaines Trace." The location where these two trails met became a trading post, and later became the first of two towns, and was named Houlka. This town was incorporated in 1884 and thrived until the Gulf and Ship Island Railroad decided to lay tracks west of the town. This was done because of several factors, one of which being, it formed a straight line from north to south, and the other being the general topography of the land.

Depot at New Houlka in early 1900s

Depot at New Houlka in early 1900s

The Town of New Houlka is Born

In 1906, the "Town of New Houlka" was incorporated, where the railroad had decided to build its tracks, and some of the buildings were rolled on logs from Old Houlka to New Houlka. Most of these were pulled by teams of oxen. This railroad was built by the great-grandfather of author, William Faulkner. This was a new beginning for Houlka, and it thrived. A mill was later built here, that sawed the virgin timbers that were so numerous, west of the town, and one of the first ships to pass through the Panama Canal, carried a load of Black Walnut timber, milled at Houlka.

An artist rendition of the passenger train, the Rebel, which carried passenger to, from and past Houlka

An artist rendition of the passenger train, the Rebel, which carried passenger to, from and past Houlka

New Houlka's Status Changes

The Town of New Houlka thrived in the early part of the 20th century, and at one time had a population of over 1,000 residents. However, when the timber had been cut in the rich bottomland, west of town, the mill closed and the population began to trickle down. It was boosted again when furniture manufacturing companies began locating in the area.


Building on right is the bank in New Houlka in early 1900s

Building on right is the bank in New Houlka in early 1900s

Original New Houlka School after revitalization

Original New Houlka School after revitalization

Population Falls

The railroad closed its operations through this part of Mississippi in 2013, but the population of New Houlka had already begun falling. In 2010 the U.S. census recorded its population at 626 people. A road sign on Ms. Hwy 32, listed the population at 650 people in the 1960s and 1970s.

Original New Houlka City Hall and Jail ruins  - The two doorways in the photo were jail cells. 2012

Original New Houlka City Hall and Jail ruins - The two doorways in the photo were jail cells. 2012

Once busy Walker Street in New Houlka

Once busy Walker Street in New Houlka

Tanglefoot Trail

As of September 2012, a new beginning was in store for the town that has had so much history. The railroad corridor which was the vitamin for Houlka's growth provided another rejuvenation to the region. A federal project, called "Rails to Trails" turned the railroad corridor into a 44.5 mile, paved scenic trail called, "Tanglefoot Trail," which is open to hikers, runners, bicyclists, and horseback travel, from New Albany, Mississippi. to Houston, Mississippi.

This building has been changed greatly from its earlier days. It was one of the buildings rolled on logs, and pulled by Oxen from Old Houlka to New Houlka.

This building has been changed greatly from its earlier days. It was one of the buildings rolled on logs, and pulled by Oxen from Old Houlka to New Houlka.

Merger of Old Houlka and New Houlka

As you've read in this article, Old Houlka and New Houlka, Mississippi have contributed to the history of our great country, and they are still alive and kicking. Even though Old Houlka is not incorporated anymore, it has grown because of its location at the intersection of Ms. Hwy 15 and Ms. Hwy 32. Both locations are connected by homes and businesses, and some people think they would both benefit from a merger, in which Old Houlka could be annexed into New Houlka.


This is part of Walker Street in New Houlka. You can see where window and a door were once located on the building on the right.

This is part of Walker Street in New Houlka. You can see where window and a door were once located on the building on the right.

New Houlka as a Possible Movie Set

There has been some talk about New Houlka being the perfect location for a movie set, and consideration is still in the works; however, the wheels turn slowly in accomplishing this endeavor.

The town is perfect for film production, with its many closed businesses, and the ambiance and antiquity of many of the buildings around the town square. The town has many old homes that date back to the early 1900s. Also, the lack of traffic on the streets is another plus for filming there.


This is the same building as above, but in 2012.

This is the same building as above, but in 2012.

Notable People From Houlka

The small town of New Houlka has had many successful people who were born or resided there. Here are three of them.

  • Charles "Chuck" Easley Charles "Chuck" Easley is a former Associate Justice on the Mississippi Supreme Court. He served on four different committees there. He also served on the Board of Directors of the American Cancer Society, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, and Mississippi Prosecutor's Association. Easley is the son of Charles D. Easley, Sr., Lieutenant Colonel, United States Air Force (Retired) and Doris B. Easley, a retired teacher of Special Education. Earlier in life, he farmed with his dad. The family lived just outside the city limits of New Houlka.
  • Earl Jefferson Hamilton Earl Jefferson Hamilton was born in New Houlka in 1889, and he went on to become an American historian and one of the founders of economic history. He was also a prominent hispanist and was an expert in the language, literature, and civilization of Spain and other Spanish-speaking areas of the world.
  • James Matthew (Jim) Hood Hood is a native of New Houlka and the 39th Attorney General of Mississippi. He prosecuted Edgar Ray Killen for his participation in the 1964 murders of Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, and James Chaney in Philadelphia, Mississippi during Freedom Summer.
Jim Hood, Mississippi Attorney General, and former resident of New Houlka

Jim Hood, Mississippi Attorney General, and former resident of New Houlka

"Houlka; Yesterday, Today"

As you've read in this article, Old Houlka and New Houlka, Mississippi have contributed to the history of our great country, and still are. Also, If you would like to learn more about these two towns, read the book "Houlka; Yesterday, Today" by Rad Harrill Reed. Also, watch the video below, which was shot on the Tanglefoot Trail.

Tanglefoot Trail

© 2018 Gerry Glenn Jones

Comments

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on September 20, 2018:

Thanks for the interesting history lesson. Almost everything you mentioned in your article was new to me, so I appreciated learning about it.