Taylorsville was established on The Gulf and Ship Island Railroad in 1900. The site was selected by an employee of the railroad. The post office was originally located about five miles away in Old Taylorsville, then was moved to New Taylorsville. At left is a photo of the old Taylorsville Depot. This established the present location of the town.Old Stringer Hotel built early in the town’s history, burned in 1946. The town of Taylorsville was founded as a result of an extensive pine forest that grew in the county and surrounding area. As lumber was very plentiful there, new businesses and homes both were rapidly built. Today the lumber industry is a vital part of the town’s economy. A branch plant of Georgia Pacific is now located in Taylorsville.
Mrs. Dorrence Eaton, a local resident and historian, shared her knowledge of Taylorsville history with the Taylorsville Signal…
“Around 1898 a road was built from Jackson to Gulfport and a branch road was built to Laurel. That’s when a town was established and called “Bullace”. The town changed names several times, then the post office was brought from Old Taylorsville to the new town, and the old town was referred to as Old Taylorsville.”
“Two hotels were built in town. The office for the town’s first newspaper, the Taylorsville Signal, was one of the first stores built in 1901. Taylorsville has always had a newspaper. The train depot was also an early building, and the first school was a very small room with two teachers, that slowly grew as the number of students increased. The first library was a dressing room off the school stage. Later a 12 year school building was built.
THE WATKINS MUSEUM
The Watkins family became an institution in Taylorsville. John T. Watkins came here from Raleigh about 1900 and brought with him the old Washington press which he is said to have bought second hand. He ran the paper until his death in 1930, then his daughters, Hattie and Marie continued the operation.During his lifetime, Watkins served as tax assessor of Smith County, superintendent of education, mayor of Taylorsville, and town treasurer. He was a lawyer, an editor, and a pillar in the Methodist Church.
His daughters grew up in the newspaper business which was also a country store, so that when it fell their lot to take over the paper, they were long experienced in the printing business.
Gradually, the family died off, but before the sisters’ deaths they made arrangements to give the old press and then tumbling down office to the town with the idea that it might someday become a little museum.
Today, you may see not only the old printing equipment which includes old brass type, large wooden type, copper plates sent to the newspaper to advertise victrolas, early model refrigerators, patent medicines, etc., buckets of ink, other tools of the trade, but also a stock of merchandise. The latter includes an assortment of high-buttoned shoes, the original lace-up boots, ladies hats, baby ointment, copies of many magazines long since out of print, and numerous other items. On display are scores of old copies of the Signal Newspaper, copies of old time sheet music, caned and cowhide-bottomed chairs, a spinning wheel and much more.
Recipient of a 2014 Heritage Award for Restoration (Mississippi Heritage Trust)
The Watkins Museum was originally a general store, established by the Watkins family in 1902. J.T. Watkins also edited and published a newspaper here until his death in 1930, at which time his daughters Hattie and Marie took over the operation. In 1968, the building and its contents were donated to the town of Taylorville and opened to the public as “The Watkins Museum” on April 16, 1972. The building has undergone many restoration efforts in the past, and just three days after the celebration of an extensive restoration of the original façade, Hurricane Katrina took its toll, shifting the building on its foundation. The contents of the museum was salvaged and stored, while the building underwent a meticulous $250,000 restoration. The town of Taylorsville worked closely with the Mississippi Department of Archives and History and J & H Construction Company to complete the restoration and hired Communications Arts Company to oversee the interpretive plan. The Watkins Museum is open once again, sharing the story of early life in Taylorsville.
Visit Mississippi Heritage Trust online here to see the restored Taylorsville Signal Museum. Call 601-785-6532 to arrange for a tour of the Watkins Museum.