Another year bites the dust. What were the top stories for Gloster and surrounding area during the past 12 months?
Our selection for Top Story, the one potentially meaning the most for our community, involves the birth of the Voice of Gloster during the early summer. This group, with a mission to Bring Gloster Back Alive, met three times at the Gloster Library. The first meeting filled the room with a diverse crowd of 70 or so. Facebook, on the Internet, buzzed with information.
There was a gathering of about 40 at the second meeting, still a diverse assemblage, with announced plans for a political forum featuring several state representatives and senators. At the forum held in October, the Gloster library meeting room was packed. Representatives and senators appeared as advertised. Former state representative Jimmy Robertson, born in Liberty and now of Hattiesburg, chaired the meeting. Perhaps more importantly for Amite County, State Senate District 37 hopeful Melanie Sojourner, a Republican, was a non-incumbent on the panel.
Ms. Sojourner was pitted in the Senate race against veteran Democratic Senator Bob Dearing of Natchez, in office since 1980. By all accounts, Senator Dearing has served us well. Meantime Ms. Sojourner promised to pay attention to Gloster and area concerns. She prevailed in the election and will soon begin her service as State Senator, so we‘ll find out. Is Senator Dearing’s loss part of a voter rebellion? That remains to be seen.
Melanie Sojourner has a solid background in the farming and cattle business in Adams County. Two weeks ago she appeared before the McComb Rotary Club. She pledged to be responsive to us, her constituents. She said she was opposed to raising taxes, but may want to study equalizing some of them.
She talked about taxing absentee mineral rights owners. She discussed the possibility of collecting taxes on Internet sales. Her farm in Adams County has been in her family since 1814. She’s lived in Denver, CO; and Washington, D. C. Ms. Sojourner has been working for Mississippi State University but said she’d give that job up before beginning her legislative duties.
So why is what the Voice of Gloster did potentially so important? A new state senator-to-be was at their forum, promised to listen to us, and got elected. She’ll be eager to prove she meant that, and we need to stay in touch with her, as well as other elected officials. Will the Voice of Gloster invite her back? We hope so. Maybe Senator Sojourner will help us find an occupant for the old Georgia Pacific plant facilities.
Another maybe…could be that Senator-elect Sojourner can help find a way to keep Gloster in the loop - literally - in the Highway 48 four-lane project. Although we’re told that Highway 24 has its own improvement plans, anyone who understands transportation knows the importance of traffic routing. Look at the history of railroad towns. When a railroad went elsewhere, a town was often doomed. Should Highway 48 be four-laned around Gloster to save a very few miles, or should the priority go to Highway 24? Our state says it’s business-conscious. Let’s see if they mean it.
Speaking of the old GP plant, the latest from Town Clerk Monzella Tickles is that a two month extension to the contract to clean out the plant of scrap metal, etc., was granted. The deadline is now the end of February. One thing is now certain. With the interior of the plant demolished - Georgia Pacific is gone, won’t be back, and Gloster must adjust to life without it.
The most tragic story of 2011 in Gloster concerned the murder of local citizen and businessman Danny Corban on July 29th. To date, there’s been no arrest. This event is a blight on the town of Gloster. Both businesses and individuals take note of such happenings in deciding whether to move here. Everyone wants a safe environment.
Another tragedy in loss of human life occurred in a double drowning this summer at Lake Okhissa near Bude, just north of us. A young man lost his life trying to save a little eight year old girl from Jackson. As we semi-quoted the Bible back then, greater love has no one than to give up his life for another.
Back to the Danny Corban case. Gloster Police Chief Tommie Lee, a good man, was a finalist in the sheriff’s race. Did the lack of an arrest and indictment in the murder of citizen Corban affect the election? Most likely, according to comments received at the Wilk-Amite Record. But Tim Wroten, another name well known to residents on the western side of Amite County, won the race, and we wish him well.
Also during 2011, not necessarily in this order: Almost all physical traces of the Gloster Southern railroad left town. The rails were taken up and shipped away for scrap. One of two old boxcars was hauled off. The other remains, but we understand it’s for sale. Is there any way it can be kept here, rejuvenated and on display, as an important piece of this town‘s history? Some giant piles of dirt and weeds remain along the old railroad bed. The Mayor is looking into having them removed.
Redistricting studies for Gloster’s aldermen wards are underway, with plans to be presented soon. This is necessary due to the 2010 census, which shows Gloster having lost 363 persons, down to a total population of 960.
Chuck Sansing bought and now operates the Grocery Store, while yours truly purchased the Wilk-Amite Record the first of October. Mr. Sansing needs your support as does the newspaper if we’re all to stay financially healthy. Our newspaper has a new web site: www.wilkamiterecord.com. We hope you’ll check it out!
Mrs. Laura Wroten, a local who grew up here, moved to Winona MS for several years, returned and became office manager of the Wilk-Amite Record on March 1st. She’s now the office manager/editor, and she’s working hard to make the paper better. We plan to add another employee early in 2012 under a job training program.
Several persons important to our community passed away. We’ll mention two, although there are many more. Pastor Otis Jackson, died in April; and Mrs. Evelyn Seales, in August. Both were longtime writers for this newspaper and are missed. Both loved southwest Mississippi. Mrs. Seales loved our railroad.
The old forestry building on Highway 24 on the east end of Gloster burned recently. The remains are being cleared away.
The Mississippi River, just to our west, continued to be Old Man River and do its own thing, reaching record levels earlier in the year. It’s up again now, but not back to summer levels.
Many more good things happened. The Gloster Chamber of Commerce revitalized itself and successfully promoted a Farmer’s Market; a Halloween celebration called Trunk or Treat which attracted 57 decorated car trunks full of candy, and a giant crowd; a Christmas Tree lighting ceremony attended by a happy gathering of about 150 persons; and a great Christmas parade attended by a couple of thousand people. Liberty and Crosby also had Christmas parades.
Local businessman Terry Woodbridge promoted a night Christmas parade in Gloster early in December, and it drew a good crowd. Why not combine Gloster’s Christmas parades in the future?
The Gloster Chamber currently is conducting a fund-raiser to erect a very nice pavilion in the downtown area, suitable for music festivals, family functions, etc. This is a Beautify Gloster effort. Their goal is $10,000 and they can use help. The Chamber’s work follows Mayor Billy Johnson’s good efforts to improve the open space in Gloster’s downtown, where a new brick wall has been added and clean-up of the lot done. The Farmer’s Market made good use of the area. The old GP union hall building just east of the lot has been repaired and painted.
Mayor Johnson’s job, as with that of most mayors, continues to be interesting. In September, Adrian Bell, 35, of Gloster, allegedly took a swing at the mayor in Gloster Town Hall, according to a report in the McComb Enterprise Journal. Bell was charged with simple assault on a public official, and placed in Amite County jail. There’s no word yet on the court outcome.
Liberty also established a Farmer’s Market at the Cotton Gin site and enjoyed success. We hope it will continue in 2012.
In Gloster, Highway 24 Café reopened, previously having been operated under a different name. I personally recommend the food! If you haven’t had some of Mrs. Graves’ pies and other desserts, including the banana pudding, you’re missing out. Family Dollar opened on August 1st, and they’re a welcome addition to Gloster commerce.
Corbanville’s Convenience Store has reopened under new management, and business there appears brisk. Very good food, too!
Mrs. Eunice Blake, a longtime employee of the Amite County tax assessor’s office, was elected as the administrator of that office. Congratulations to her! Pine Hills Academy changed its name to Evergreen Christian Academy but remains in the same location in BAU status. Business As Usual, just a new name.
Centreville Christian Academy’s basketball team is to be congratulated, having won the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools 2A state championship in May 2011. A great achievement!
During the latter half of 2011, the Wilk-Amite Record saw a coming-together of members of this community in a positive way, and positive things happened. The group, Voice of Gloster, was a player in this effort, and we congratulate them. Ms. Melanie Sojourner was elected as State Senator District 37 shortly after she appeared at the local political forum. It was her first look at a group of Gloster area citizens coming together, and she saw that our people will show up when it counts.
A new senator should be eager to prove his or her worth, and we think that will happen. Thus, in our opinion, this was the Top Story of 2011. Stay tuned for news in 2012, we’re happy to serve you at the Wilk-Amite Record.
Oh, and…happy New Year!
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RECAPPING THE TOP LOCAL NEWS STORIES OF 2012
by Davis Anders, Publisher
The years pass swiftly, and another one has done so. Hopefully you had a good one.
What happened in Gloster and the area the past 12 months? Towards the end of last year, the group Voice of Gloster was active, but was a no-show during 2012. Some of the former members, though, continued to work for the good of this community.
In January, new county officials were sworn in, and Tim Wroten became the new sheriff in town, in the county, in fact. A bear was found shot to death in the Busy Corner community. A suspect was later found and arrested and punished. Gloster businessman Greg Adams, in cooperation with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, worked to expand broadband - higher speed internet service - to the area. Wilk-Amite columnist Reverend Marcus Bonds, who’s written for us since 1977, had a 90th birthday party at the Harrison Building in Liberty, with a large crowd in attendance. She’s one of our favorite people! Newly elected State Senator Melanie Sojourner, a Republican from Natchez who attended citizen meetings in Gloster during the fall of 2011, took office.
During February, the Georgia Pacific plant saga took a sad turn when the site burned to the ground. A demolition crew had been using cutting torches to cut scrap metal inside the building. The grounds remain a mess, with legal action still pending to see who does what and when to clean it up. It was a fiery end to the mill built in 1967. On a brighter note, Gloster enjoyed a festive Mardi Gras parade.
This newspaper began and later completed a special 12 part series about the oil beneath us in the Tuscaloosa Shale Formation, the petroleum being squeezed out of the ground through a process called fracking.
On March 4th, Centreville Fire Chief Nolan Ervin Pittman, known affectionately to his community as “Goat”, died after responding to a house fire. He was just 45, a dedicated public servant. Hundreds attended his funeral. The Wilk-Amite Record memorialized him in a front page story.
On May 2nd, there was a shooting at the B-Kwik in Gloster “in broad daylight”, with injury to one person. Liberty had a good crowd for Heritage Days in May, the 34th annual celebration. Centreville Academy sent 33 seniors off to what hopefully is a good future. Farmer’s Markets opened in both Gloster and Liberty, doing good business across the summer.
On June 14th, a standing room only crowd attended a shale oil and gas meeting in Liberty. There hadn’t been that much excitement locally since a $10 bill was found on Highway 24 in 1955. Also in June, a Gloster policeman, Danny Meaux, filed suit against the Town of Gloster after his appointment to police chief was vetoed by Mayor Billy Johnson. That legal situation has not yet been resolved. Galilee Baptist Church in Gloster welcomed new pastor Brian Malone and his family.
In July, a heat wave blanketed our area, and county officials invoked a burn ban. Just to our west, the Mississippi River hunkered down in its banks from the lack of water. July 29th saw the one year anniversary of the murder of Gloster businessman and decorated U. S. Navy veteran Danny Corban, without an arrest in his death. That sad state of affairs still exists, and is a blight on this town.
During August, there was good economic news for Gloster’s downtown. The Toad House, originally known as Betty’s Attic and later renamed that, opened on Main Street, and is still going strong. We did some of our own Christmas shopping there, and hope you did too. Liberty’s American Legion Auxiliary Unit 76 received a 101% award from regional officers for its excellent work. Gloster’s United Methodist Church welcomed new pastor Dexter Ware. This paper welcomed Casey Campbell as managing editor, replacing Laura Wroten, who went on to a new job with the Gloster Clinic. We thank Laura for her efforts and wish her continued good luck.
Hurricane Isaac paid us a visit we might have done without in early September, but fortunately damage was not extensive. Isaac was a slow moving storm that dumped several inches of much needed rain.
A Gloster icon disappeared in September, thanks to the mysterious Gloster magician who sometimes appears to take things away. The streamline train-era round-end observation car that had sat on tracks next to the Georgia Pacific site for years left - on a truck - for California, for restoration. Its friend, the Little Locomotive That Could But Didn’t for a long time, went away too, to the same collector, who promised to take good care of them. The one remaining Gloster Southern boxcar has reportedly also been sold to a different collector, but it hasn’t been moved yet.
Also in September, love bugs made their semi-annual appearance, and weren‘t welcome, except to other love bugs with whom they paired off. Love bugs, it seems, need love too.
A suspicious fire occurred at the Gloster Dollar General, and the local Chamber of Commerce, which promoted good things during the year, had a very successful fish fry downtown, selling nearly 300 plates. Everyone who attended was happy, except for the fish. Fund-raising benefited the McClain Square pavilion project. The Chamber, incidentally, meets the second Tuesday of every month at the Gloster Library and welcomes new members.
Speaking of the Chamber, October saw their Glosterfest and Trunk or Treat events, both very successful. About 1,000 persons attended the Trunk or Treat celebration, an alternate activity for Halloween. A Centreville man discovered two unexploded artillery shells at the old Camp Van Dorn site, and bomb squad officials were called in to dispose of them safely.
November saw all of us staying tuned in to news of Hurricane Sandy that struck the East Coast, and news of the presidential election which struck the nation. No one is certain yet which event stirred up more mud. But President Obama was reelected and as usual, life goes on, and will until it doesn’t. The catastrophic results of Hurricane Sandy made us realize how lucky we were that Hurricane Isaac wasn’t worse.
November also saw another murder in Gloster, this one the result of a domestic violence incident. An arrest was made. During the month, there was more good economic news. A store called Knives N’ Stuff opened on Main Street, next to Adams Insurance Agency. Yours truly also found some Santa Claus goodies there.
A birth announcement took center stage in December. It’s the top story of all time and was datelined BETHLEHEM. Area towns had their Christmas parades, and Gloster’s was done well. It’s always fun to see children enjoying themselves, in spite of the trouble we adults stir up. Gloster received a fantastic Christmas present, the great news that Drax Biomass International will construct a wood pellet plant here, with 45 jobs in the works in addition to a lot of spill-off activity. This, in my opinion, is the “new” local news story of the year! There’s even a hint in the wind of a café to open soon across from Trustmark Bank, on Gloster’s Main Street. Praise the Lord and pass the biscuits!
With the positive economic turn of events, the year is ending in a very good way. The Wilk-Amite Record is happy to announce that we were co-winners, with the Southern Herald, in the bidding for the publication of county legal notices, and we believe that should further allow the paper to improve its services to our readers during 2013. It’s an excellent development for new owner Casey Campbell.
December 31, 2012, concludes the 120th year this newspaper has been an integral part of Amite and Wilkinson County life. Thank you and God bless you during the New Year, which we hope contains more good news than bad. Here’s wishing you aren’t hurt too badly if we all fall over the Fiscal Cliff!