Photo by Sue WatsonRuth Ferguson and Ray Gallagher display a photo of their parents, Ray and Beulah Gallagher, who both worked at the park. Their father was park superintendent and mother a park dietitian.
Photo by Sue WatsonFrom left are Casey Hillmer (Friends), James Smithey (maintenance), Tanya Minor (housekeeping), Lordish Matheney (assistant manager), Brenda Careau (housekeeping) and Brad Rogers (special projects, Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks).
Wall Doxey Park celebrates 80th
Friends of Wall Doxey State Park and their guests celebrated the 80th anniversary of the founding of the park June 9.
Activities centered around scouting, food, a history story and fireworks.
The history of the park parallels the history of the Civil War, according to Tamara Hillmer, who presented detailed accounts of how the park came to be, taken from notes prepared by Ray Gallagher.
However, Gallagher credited his sister Ruth Ferguson for supplying newspaper clippings, calling her “our bureau of information.”
The land was originally owned by the Chickasaw, but after the land was bought from the Indians, five acres surrounded by a small pond was referred to as Warren Lake.
The county eventually acquired 800 acres of land which surrounded the lake.
Located south of Lumpkin’s Grist Mill, the area near the mill was a camping ground for Union Troops seeking to cross the Tallahatchie River.
In and around 1934 the county acquired about 800 acres of land not suitable for farming and set it aside for recreational use due to a federal government initiative to convert submarginal lands into game refuges and recreational areas.
The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a Depression-era work project to put healthy men back to work, enlarged the lake to about 60 acres. It was named Warren Lake and was completed June 25, 1935.
Thereafter, the lake was named Spring Lake State Park and contained a 30-acre picnic site. Roads were built.
The CCC built a bathhouse and canteen and eight cabins, two of which later burned.
The CCC laborers were paid $30 a month, which was divided into $25 to go to their family back home and $5 a month for the laborer.
The cabins, Picnic Hill and canteen were built from what seems to be sandstone. The lodge was built from rocks that were said to have been shipped from Tishimingo County.
It took a day or a day and a half to cut one stone.
The stones for the main house and other buildings and walls were cut by hand with hammer and chisel.
During the construction of the park, a number of ladies from the Waterford area met their future husbands.
They included Robbie Germany (Harvey), Pauline Cardwell (John), Margie Betts (Lloyd) and Chloe Elmore. The newlyweds remained in the Waterford community.
The spillway collapsed in January 1948 and the lake partially drained. Repairs were completed in 1950.
Hillmer and her husband Casey, said their wedding vows in the lodge 21 years ago.
“Wall Doxey is a place of love,” Hillmer said.
The original founding date was April 1938.
The name was changed from Spring Lake State Park to Wall Doxey State Park to honor the late U.S. Congressman Wall Doxey Sr. of Holly Springs.
Some of the former park superintendents were remembered at the celebration.
They included Doc Hammer in 1936, Jesse Kidd in 1946 and later his wife Sally Kidd Smith, Mose Smith, and Ray and Beulah Gallagher from 1957 to 1975.
Gallagher’s wife Beulah cooked for the lunchroom and is remembered best for her homemade rolls.
Beulah Gallagher requested Wall Doxey State Park be recognized as a Mississippi Landmark, and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History approved the designation.
The title of superintendent was later changed to park manager.
Mose Smith owned a store in Waterford and he sold Cokes for a nickel a bottle. It is said that Gallagher went to buy a Coke at the store and Smith had raised his price to 6 cents. Gallagher told Smith to put it back.
Lile Richardson managed the park for about 20 years and then Ray Gallagher took over from 1957 to 1975.
Mose Smith was superintendent when the park was named after Doxey.
At the time Smith was superintendent the park had one truck and there were no paved roads. On holidays such as July 4, people came to the park in droves and filled the lots, and traffic was backed up on both sides of the entrance road all the way out to Highway 7.
Summertime was for swimming. The swimming area ususally closed after Labor Day.
Some years swimming tickets brought in good revenues but Gallagher never failed to let a kid swim if he didn’t have the money.
Andy Jackson served as superintendent, then Lile Richardson for about 20 years, and then Jeff Davis managed the park for about 11 years.
The current assistant manager is Lordish Matheney.
Gallagher was in college and his sister Ruth was age 12 when his mother and dad ran the park.
He said he often wore green pants and shirt and hat and was mistaken for a ranger at times.
Casey Hillmer served as lifegurard and his mother worked at the park 23 years in the office.
“No telling how many people were lifeguards,” Gallagher said. “Hoyt Johnson was a lifeguard as well as Flick Ash.”
In the late 1950s pilots from Millington (Tenn.) Naval Air Station would bring their families to the park on weekends. Sometimes the pilots would later fly over the lake to say hello.
Memphis, Tenn., churches would also hold retreats at the park.
Tamara Hillmer closed the history lesson by saying, “Wall Doxey State Park is a place for family and friends and you have become a family if you’ve worked here.”
The park consists of 800 acres that were deeded to the State of Mississippi for the park. Park land is located on both sides of Highway 7.
Some of those attending the celebration included: Ruth and Darene Ferguson; Ray and Tommie Gallagher; Brad and Carol Rogers; Greg, Susan and Neely Campbell; Carter, Tamara and Casey Hillmer; Jeff Davis, Abby Cook, Tyler Clancy, Gene Hartley, Andrew Robertson, Chase Barnes, Derrick Mosley, James Smithey, Tanya Minor, Lordish Matheney, Brenda Careau and Darron Minor.