Philadelphia, MS – The Most Visited Small Town in Mississippi

February 27, 2012 · 2 comments

in Excursions and Day Triips

Philadelphia, MS – A City with a History 

Neshoba County Courthouse Philadelphia, MS

This city is a great place to take a road trip. Philadelphia, MS is the County Seat of Neshoba County, MS. It is not on a main US Highway, but is easily accessible from several major roads. From I-20 at Newton, MS turn north on MS Hwy 15 for 40 miles. From I-65 at Canton, MS turn east on MS Hwy 16, it is about 60 miles. Hwy 16 is a mostly rural route, but you pass through Carthage, MS which is worth the 10 minute tour. There’s a third way, if you happen to be on US Hwy 82, turn south on MS Hwy 15 at Mathiston, Ms, it is 58 miles. Four main MS Highways pass through Philadelphia, MS, making it an area wide hub which has unusual variety for a small city.

Philadelphia, MS has a good selection of hotels click here to see what I believe to be the best selection available on the internet.

Population of Philadelphia is about 7,500 which is a good-sized town for a predominantly rural area. It was incorporated in 1903. During the 1700’s it was the heart of the Choctaw Nation. There is still a large Choctaw reservation here which has its own town, Choctaw, Mississippi. There is a large 1700 year old ceremonial mound and cave north of Philadelphia at Nanih Waiya.

Williams Brothers – An Operating Old-Time General Store

Williams Brothers General Store

Here’s something you won’t find anywhere else. Williams Brothers Store, a true old-fashioned general store, located in a small community called Williamsville. The store was founded in 1907. It was featured in National Geographic in 1939. This store is no joke nor just a tourist attraction. Real folks come here to buy groceries, clothes, shoes and farm supplies. On any Saturday, two men slice bacon and cut off hunks of hoop-cheese  for 10 hours a day. The crowds would make Walmart blush.

They sell a full line of groceries and meats, better than you will find in any independent store. (Three butchers working constantly in a frenzy.) Up front they sell home-grown Sorghum and Blue Ribbon Cane Mosasses alongside feed and seed.

Williams Brothers sells clothing for women and men. Women’s clothing includes some lines you only expect to buy in finer department stores and others you will find only is Mississippi. Turn left in the crowded clothing department and you are in the shoe department. You might just as easily call this the boot department. They sell everything from the newest Nike’s to men’s steel-toed boots alongside ladies latest fashions, men’s dress shoes, and the fanciest cowboy (and cowgirl) boots this side of Fort Worth.

Front of Williams Brothers General Store – Williamsville

You won’t be taken to the cleaners. The prices are as fair.

I visited this store back in the 1960’s. As a college student, I rented a room from the pastor at Bethsaida Baptist Church, 8 miles south of town. I often went with Brother Paul McDonald to Williams Brothers Store. I grew up in the era of general stores, but this one amazed me back then, and still does.  I have never seen a country store as busy as this one.

Archie Manning’s wife, nee Olivia Williams, is the daughter of one of the founders. I’ve been told and have verified, that both Peyton and Eli had summer jobs here during their earlier years. They may still visit now and then, but they’ve found better jobs!

The outside of this store is not a facade … it is what it is. It runs like a well-oiled machine, suggesting that someone really knows what they are doing. Crowds get so large on weekends that the Bar B Que stand in front of the store does a lively business mostly from customers of the store.

Choctaw, Mississippi is about two miles west of Philadelphia on MS Hwy 16

The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, elected Phyliss J Anderson, their first female chief on July 6, 2011. At Choctaw, MS, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians have built two large Casinos with a full range of attractions. The Golden Moon and Silver Star Casinos form the hub that supports multiple attractions. In addition to concerts, boxing and other entertainments the Pearl River Resort has a large footprint.

Dancing Rabbit Golf Club is built on ancestral Indian grounds and is one of the finest courses in the south. Locals, hotel guests, and celebrities alike enjoy this challenging course. The course is well tended and winds through a beautiful canopy of mature trees. Golf Magazine ranks it in the top 100 courses.

Geyser Falls is a 23 acre water park. The park has 10+ ride/slide and get wet ‘rides’, plus 3 restaurants and plenty of chairs for old folks like me. One thing I can promise you, there are plenty of places to get wet. If you don’t like to fall in the water, or have it fall on you, you may be surprised by one of the many geysers which spring up (literally) under your feet. You will get wet! That’s not a bad thing on a summer day, and this attraction is only open in the summer.

Three hotels and 4 restaurants round out the hospitable atmosphere. Chief Phyllis J Anderson describes Pearl River Resort with this charming phrase … “It’s Vegas with sweet tea.” If you are ignorant in southern things; down here we believe in easy-going hopitality and we drink our tea with sugar and ice. So we say, “I want sweet tea, please mam.” They don’t do that no where but down here!

Downtown Philadelphia has retained its charm and its shoppers

Busy downtown street – Philadelphia, MS

It’s no secret that most downtown areas have suffered in the past 3 decades. New highways have drawn traffic away from the downtown areas and the loss of traffic has driven many merchants out of business. This is not the case for Philadelphia. Some of the original stores are operated by the original owners. Some have closed, but that always happens. But here, most have been replaced by young-blood businesses. Some are gift shops and coffee shops, but there are still law offices, drug and furniture stores and such. The town is built on a square which has the court house as its central figure. My wife recently shopped in and enjoyed Kademi, a specialty gift shop, on the square.

There is a favorite eatery called Peggy’s, that folks come to from all over the area. It is just south of the square on Byrd Ave from the southwest corner of the square, go just over two blocks and you will see it on the left.

Peggy’s Homestyle Restaurant – Philadelphia, MS

Peggy’s is an old home that’s been converted into a family-style, lunch-only restaurant. You will love the home cooking. Mississippi Magazine lists Peggy’s Fried Chicken as some of the best in the state. Don’t look for a menu, cause there ain’t one! Go through the line and help yourself. Don’t look for a cashier either! You pay on the honor system,  just put your money in the basket on the table in the front room. (Make change from the basket too.) Leave a tip on the table. The walls are lined with pictures of famous folks who have eaten here. Country Music Star, Marty Stuart, enjoys eating here. Philadelphia is Marty’s hometown.

There are no commercial flights, but the Philadelphia Municipal Airport has a pretty good airstrip on Hwy 19, on the southeast corner of town. It is across the road from the Neshoba County Hospital, a good hospital for a country town.

Philadelphia historic district

The historic district is located primarily along Holland and Poplar Avenues between Rose and Main Streets. Most of the homes were built in the early 1900’s.

Holy Cross Catholic Church – 1861

There is also the beautiful, historic Holy Cross Catholic Church on North Byrd Ave. Turn north from the northwest corner of the square to see this Church which was founded in 1861. South of town on MS Hwy 19 there is also a church which was built as a mission to the Choctaw Indians in the area.  The Holy Rosary Catholic Church was built in 1861. It operated a school for Indian children.

There is a sad, dark side to Philadelphia’s past

On June 21, 1964, racial tensions were at their height in Mississippi. Out of the fermenting caldron of racial tension stirred by new, strongly opposed civil rights legislation and the entrance of out-of-state civil rights activists, an explosion occurred which all Mississippians prefer to forget and wish had never happened. As a native, white Mississippian, I beg you to not judge the entire white population by the dastardly deeds of a few men.  Most of the men and women I know deeply deplore the murder of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwermer. This never should have happened. It took time, but Mississippians found and convicted those who were involved.

Most people have forgotten this terrible event. Even the movie, “Mississippi Burning” was unable to keep it in pubic view. Modern Philadelphia,MS has a black mayor and little resemblance to the town depicted by the movie. This is a town that says “Y’all Come” to everyone who will listen. And folks do come, all sizes, shapes and races and they all have a good time.

I can’t think of another small town we’ve visited which has more to offer than Philadelphia, MS. Y’all come on down now and look us over. You’ll be glad you did!

I’ve got to pull over for awhile. You keep driving up miles and dialing up smiles. Even if you have to take a detour … you can enjoy the scenery.

Bill Taylor

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Eddie February 5, 2017 at 6:09 pm

would you know when the airport had a paved runway, was there one 1969?
Thanks

Reply

Bill Taylor February 5, 2017 at 6:10 pm

Do not know.

Reply

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