Copyright © Janice Tracy, Mississippi Memories

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Railroads to Nowhere and "The Yellow Dog"

Two attempts to build a railroad in Attala County failed, one due to the Civil War, another because of the Great Depression. Yet another was built and survived for a time. It was called "The Yellow Dog."

On March 3, 1852 the Mississippi legislature issued a charter for a railroad that would be built through the cities of Canton, Kosciusko, Aberdeen, and Tuscumbia. Construction began near Canton, Mississippi, but start of the Civil War prevented completion. Later, the charter was amended, and the rights were transferred to the New Orleans, Jackson & Great Northern Railroad.

A charter was granted in May 1916 to the Kosciusko & Southeastern Railroad to construct a railroad from Kosciusko to Ayers, Mississippi, with a one year completion date specified in the charter. The company had a capitol stock of $35,000, with each share valued at $100. Officers of the company were S. H. Bolinger and B. H. Bolinger of Shreveport, Louisiana, A. L. Franklin of Reeves, Louisiana, and R. N. Steedman of Hattiesburg, Mississippi. This railroad was built and connected with the Illinois Central Railroad that ran between Memphis and Jackson. The new railroad ran eastward, parallel, and approximately one quarter mile south of the Illinois Central line for about two miles. From that point it turned to the southeast and crossed Highways 14 and 19 about one half mile east of their junction, and continued on to Zama, a small community named after A. L. Franklin's oldest daughter, Zama. The purpose of the line was to supply a saw mill across Lobutcha Creek from the community of Ayers. The book, "Kosciusko-Attala History," states that a passenger train, known as "The Yellow Dog," ran on this line.

According to ICC Finance Docket No. 9091, on December 28, 1931, the Kosciusko & Southeastern Railroad Company requested permission to abandon the 16.3 miles of railroad that ran from Kosciusko to Zama. The request stated that construction had been "primarily for the purpose of transporting supplies and materials to the Bolinger-Franklin Lumber Company's lumber mill at Zama and to provide facilities for shipping outbound forest products of that Company."

Also, according to the document, the lumber mill had been sold to W. P. Brown and Sons Lumber Company on June 24, 1924. By 1931, all available timber in the area had been cut, the facility planned to discontinue its sawing operations, and operation of the railroad would no longer be required. The application indicated that passengers had been primarily employees of the lumber company and their families, or they were individuals traveling to the lumber company to transact business. It seemed there was no further need for the operation of the railroad, since the other big crop in the area, cotton, was taken to market in wagons or in trucks.

At that time the railroad ceased operation, Kosciusko had a population of just over 3,000, and the number of people living in Zama was about 150. Closing of the sawmill and operation of the railroad line between Kosciusko and Zama was expected to cause the population of Zama to drop below 50 residents.

On February 15, 1929, another attempt to build a railroad occurred when the Mississippi legislature issued a charter for a line to be built from Kosciusko, Mississippi to Canton, Mississippi, with an extension on to Jackson. The name of the railroad was to be the Kosciusko Railroad. Since the Depression occurred shortly thereafter, and construction had never started, the state legislature revoked the charter several years later.

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