Thursday, October 13, 2011
Wrecking Ball huge success
By SUE WATSON
The first annual Wrecking Ball to preserve Chalmers Institute drew a bumper crowd of around 200 Saturday night in support of the restoration of the campus touted as the first chartered university in the state.
An estimated $23,000 was raised to put toward matching funds for a grant to begin the restoration.
The Institute was chartered in Mississippi Dec. 21, 1839, and ended its tenure as an institution of learning in 1879, one year after the Yellow Fever Epedemic in the fall of 1878 wiped out much of the town’s leadership and its population with 21 percent of reported cases producing death. Chalmers Institute was one more casualty.
Chalmers was named after Thomas Chalmers, a hero in the struggle for religious freedom in Scotland. In 1850, Rev. Samuel McKinny sold Chalmers to professor David B. Johnson, who expanded the curriculum to include military training. The structure was expanded to the east in 1857 enlarging the building by about one-third.
In extending gratitude to those who participated by their attendance or who provided goods and services, Chelius H. Carter leaned on the historical significance of the evening.
“You are participating in a historic event tying into the most significant historic event since spring semester of 1878 when Yellow Fever wiped out most of the town and closed these doors in 1879,” he said. “Our vision is to turn this building back into a regional asset, conceptually as a North Heritage Center for the Arts and Culture. This is truly a grand, sleeping treasure in this town.”
Jim Dees of Oxford served as emcee for the evening with classical orchestra background music until Holly Springs’ own Shannon McNally performed. Dinner, which included barbecue, baked beans, cole slaw, and banana pudding for dessert, was provided by Sheriff Kenny Dickerson and his crew.
Newcomers to Holly Springs were in attendance – Maureen and Jim McNally; Forest Parker (pedal steel guitar); singer/songwriter Shannon McNally, Wallace Lester, her husband and drummer, and their daughter Maeve; Phoebe Lewis-Loftin (daughter of Jerry Lee Lewis) and husband Zeke Loftin (manager of “Twisted South Magazine”).
Additional special guests were Whitfield Canale (Canale Estate Sales, Cordova, Tenn., and owner of Linden Hill), Dale Gunn (Robinson-Finch Estate Sales, Memphis, Tenn.) and Jonathan Mrazek (antiques).
VIPs in attendance included Mary Carol Miller (author of “Lost Mansions of Mississippi”), Rick Ward (author of “The Lawmaker”), Sarah McCullough (director, Mississippi Tourism and president of Mississippi Heritage Trust), Sen. Bill Stone and Rep. Kelvin Buck, Holly Springs aldermen Russell Johnson and Johnnie Ree Johnson.
Others who provided special assistance included Jane and Tom Heineke (provided floral arrangements); Lewis Bailey (provided stage); Fitch Farms (loaned dishes, flatware, etc.); and other friends in the community anonymously loaned tables and chairs.
Extra thanks to Andy Burleson, Neil Murphy, Trey Johnson, Aaron McAlexander and Emma Elgin for parking assistance.
Carter said he is pleased with participation.
“We couldn’t be more happy,” he said. “Folks seemed to enjoy themselves.”
He said the use of dishes, flatware and drinking glasses and home grown wild flowers was to support a “green” event to support both historic preservation and the environment, producing little trash.
“Our appreciation goes out to our sponsors who helped us underwrite this event, thereby allowing more funding to be banked towards our required 20 percent cash match for Community Heritage Preservation Grant,” Carter said.
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