December 20, 2007
Teacher replacing student as Potts Camp town clerk
By SUE WATSON
Marie Tate, part-time town clerk at Potts Camp for over 11 years, is leaving in December to go full-time with the Town of Myrtle.
Tate has served as part-time clerk for both towns, beginning 15 years ago with the Town of Myrtle. She accepted the full-time position at Myrtle two months ago.
Tate said small towns often have more business than a part-time clerk can keep up with - that Potts Camp may eventually need a full-time clerk.
“The responsibilities of a part-time town clerk can be heavy,” she said. “Potts Camp is small but a busy place.”
Replacing Tate is Daphne Foster, who once was a fill-in as clerk and who trained Tate at Potts Camp.
“She was the reason I started working here,” Tate said. “We were friends.”
Tate is no stranger to Marshall County. She grew up in Waterford, daughter to Louise Johns and Jack Robinson. Jim Robinson of Waterford, the late Ricky Robinson, and Anthony Robinson, now of Oklahoma City, are Tate’s brothers.
She attended Potts Camp School, but dropped out in the 11th grade to marry her sweetheart Byron Tate. She soon obtained a GED certificate and traveled the country as wife of a U.S. Army soldier.
The Tates have a daughter Dana, who is a massage therapist in Tupelo, and a son Eric, who lives at home and works with Ashley Furniture in Ecru.
Tate is certified as a municipal court clerk and as a city clerk.
She will be leaving fine friends and carry with her fond memories of Potts Camp, including the town’s aldermen and Mayor Jimmie Collins, she said.
“I’ve met lots of friends and people who knew my mother when she was in school and people who knew my dad, who worked in Holly Springs,” Tate said. “I’ve made some really good friends here and I am going to miss them, but I couldn’t pass up a full-time position at Myrtle since I live there.”
There’s a lot of work to do in a small town and as a community grows, so does its work.
Some changes at Potts Camp, since Tate took over the clerk’s post, include sending out the water bills and keeping payment records. The service area has grown and records are now kept on computer. Potts Camp is in the middle of a new water expansion project which will add 17 miles to the system and about 300 new customers.
Electricity service to the town comes from New Albany and Holly Springs.
Population has remained fairly level at around 500, including renters, for many decades.
The area is primarily agricultural with cattle and timber being the main products.
Homan Industries is Potts Camp’s only industry. It buys pulpwood and ships it to Fulton, company headquarters.
Another change since Tate came on as clerk is that town hall was moved from its little room beside the fire department into the old Potts Camp Bank building when the bank moved into a new building on the highway. The town received the building as a gift.
Foster is mother of two sons, Dan, who has 14 years with the Air Force and works at Central Command in Tampa, and Zan Dorris, of Southaven who works for a company that sells army surplus materials.
Both are graduates of Potts Camp School.
Foster and Tate spoke of things Potts Camp is proud of, including a town park that has a walking track, softball, baseball and t-ball fields and a playground and concessions.
“Another thing this town does, that I think is fantastic, is if something is going on in a family, the town bonds together to raise funds,” said Foster.
The community’s response to a catastrophic illness or a burned home are examples of the best of what Potts Camp has to offer, she said.
“A church will start the fund and everybody else pitches in,” she said.
Some current businesses in the town include Accurate Roofing, Professional Services, Babco supply (garden, feeds, fertilizers, feed), Dollar General, NAPA Auto Parts, Williams Clinic, Family Pharmacy, Genesis Trophy and Awards, four restaurants serving homestyle short order, plate lunches and sit down dinners, two liquor stores, four beauty salons, a library and five gas stations.
The town of 497 residents enjoys and is proud of its police force under the leadership of chief David Pannell, and an all-volunteer fire department and satellite department at Bethlehem.
The town is led by mayor Jimmie Collins. Alderman Joan Cox has served as the town clerk and alderman Billy Bowen has served on the board for years.
Foster and Tate said the board and mayor have always been supportive.
A glance back in time
A history of Potts Camp written by Louis Potts and published in the New Albany Gazette Guide June 4, 1986, provides an interesting history of the town which began as a village in the 1800s.
The history provides a glimpse of the history of the inhabitants and the town’s namesake, Colonel Erasmus Ford Potts, born in South Carolina in 1801 and one of the area’s early settlers following the Chickasaw Cession of 1835.
The land was inhabited by the Chickasaw Nation prior to arrival of settlers from the east. Explorer Hernando DeSoto is claimed to have come through the area via the Chickasaw Trail leading from Pontotoc to Memphis in 1541.
The ridge trail was close to the lands begun as a village established by Col. Potts in about 1836. It was chartered as a village in 1888 and incorporated in 1912.
Col. Potts owned 6,600 acres of land in Marshall, Benton and Tippah counties and amassed a vast fortune in his pursuits as a machinist, a ginwrights man, farmer and merchant. At the beginning of the Civil War he had many interests and holdings which included property at a ford on the Tippah River where travelers camped in a field and drank fresh spring water. The crossing is believed to be the site of a water-powered corn mill built later by settler Nathaniel Moody, who arrived in 1836-37 from North Carolina.
The Indian campers named the spot Talehatchia which was later named Potts Camp.
Union Officers arrested Col. Potts in 1862 after accusing him of supplying Confederate Soldiers, and he was carried to Alton, Ill., and imprisoned. The colonel died the day after his arrival at Alton, probably from pneumonia. The night before Union soldiers arrived Potts was said to have buried three chests of gold and silver at a nondisclosed location.
Union soldiers returning Potts’ corpse, sacked his house of carpets, loaded them in the colonel’s best wagons hitched to his best mules, and drove away.
In 1875, the last year of reconstruction, the first post office was opened near the old camp at Tippah River ford and named Talehatchie.
The colonel’s daughter Mary Potts Reid, was first postmaster. The post office moved to the village of Potts Camp in 1887. The population was a swell of 75.
Mary Potts’ husband Charles Reid, donated land in 1886 for a railroad and new communities sprouted up along it, including the towns of Bethlehem and Cornersville. Soon afterward people moved near the railroad and built churches, schools and businesses.
Reid gave land for churches including the Methodist church (1889), the Masonic Lodge (1890), St. Mary’s Methodist and Reid’s Gift MB Church.
The white Baptists organized a church in 1916. The first school organized was in a one-room frame church building and the first consolidated school building was a two-storied structure built in 1917. The first class to graduate from Potts Camp School was the class of 1926. A gymnasium was added in 1932 under Roosevelt’s New Deal.
Reid’s Gift MB Church organized the first school for black town children and a new elementary school for blacks was built across town in 1959 and named Mary Reid.
Potts Camp in many ways resembles the town of days gone by. Trains rumble through town, where once there was a passenger train known as Accommodation, that dropped off tourists, travelers and the mail. The train brought tourists to Eagle Springs, a resort located south of town which offered hotel accommodations, mineral water, mud baths - thought to be good for rejuvenation of the health.
With a population that has hovered at about 500 for over 120 years, Potts Camp remains a little town that many “hold dear to their hearts,” said the historian Louise Potts.
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