Okolona, the metropolis of Chickasaw County, on the Mobile & Ohio railroad, has a population of nineteen hundred and fifty, and is a good business point. The town is forty odd years old, and the post office was formerly Hose Hill, about one mile west of where the town now is. It has Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist and Catholic churches. There is a tine brick public school building erected in 1890, at a cost of about $18,000.
Prof. H. B. Abernethy, founder of the Mississippi Normal College, Houston, is a native of Mississippi, born near Troy, Pontotoc County, in 1854. His father, J. T., and his mother, Emmaline (Porter) Abernethy, were natives of Alabama and South Carolina, respectively. They reared a family of eight children, of whom Professor Abernethy is the eldest. The father, who was a farmer, and was for a number of years bailiff of the county, died in 1875; the mother is yet living. No educational advantages, other than those afforded by public schools, were given our subject up to the time he was grown; such school he attended not less than four months in the year. At eighteen years of age he began teaching, and followed that occupation four years, and during the vacations in which there were no schools he con-ducted a farm. He married, in 1876, Miss Sallie L. Gossett, a native of Pontotoc County, a graduate of the Baptist Female College, and at the time of her marriage a teacher. Four years later they attended the National Normal university at Lebanon, Ohio, where they remained two years, graduating in 1882, Mr. Abernethy with the degree of B. S., Mrs. A. with the degree of A. B. Immediately upon their return they opened a school at Troy. At its start, in 1882, that now noted school, the Mississippi Normal College, the first of its class in Mississippi, was located at Troy, Pontotoc County. It was opened with four teachers: Prof. H. B. Abernethy, the founder, was principal; Mrs. S. G. Abernethy, assistant; J. U. Abernethy, in charge of the preparatory class; Miss Dora Abernethy, teacher of music. The school was the private enterprise of Professor Abernethy. The buildings used were Professor Abernethy’s one building, 30×60, two stories high, with six recitation rooms and a large hall. There was a separate boardinghouse, with a capacity for forty boarders. This was for ladies only; gentlemen boarded at private houses. The first year the school had one hundred and seventeen pupils, principally local, only about twenty-five being boarders. The succeeding five years, during which the school was located at Troy, were marked by steady growth, until the last year three hundred and twenty pupils were enrolled, twelve teachers were employed, and the institution had primary, preparatory, teachers,’ commercial, scientific, classical, music (instrumental and vocal) and art departments. Mr. and Mrs. Abernethy have a son named Jene, born in 1878.
Okalona, the seat of the second judicial district, where the circuit and chancery courts are held, is a town of about two thousand inhabitants on the Mobile & Ohio railroad near the eastern border of Chickasaw County. It is surrounded by a fertile prairie and has consider-able commercial importance and the best of educational and religious advantages. Palo Alto, Buena Vista and Sparta are flourishing interior villages having good local trade.
The founders of the Buena Vista Normal College, appreciating the great need of an institution where a liberal education could be obtained at a minimum cost, organized that institution in 1885, and the state legislature chartered it in 1886. The great advantages offered by this institution have been recognized from the beginning. Its magic growth rests on the fact that it offers superior advantages and facilities for obtaining an education at less cost than any school of equal merit in the South. Neither money nor labor has been spared in maintaining the elevated position of the Buena Vista Normal College. Young men and young women who want an education, and are willing to study and work for it, can find here all the advantages and aids wanted. The charges for board and tuition have been placed at the smallest figures that can be afforded. Board, 17 to $10; tuition, $2 to $4; music and use of piano, $4; art, $2 to $4 per month. Prof. W. S. Burkes, the president of this institution, is an active, energetic, industrious and thoroughly equipped educator. The college is under the supervision of the following board of directors: Dr. J. T. Murdock, J. T. Parker, M. D., Capt. J. L. Pulliam, Dr. U. S. Williams, Maj. L. C. Sugg, G. T. Stillman, A. J. Aycock, A. A. Thompson, J. Y. Ball, J. C. Williams.
Prairie lodge No. 87, A. F. & A. M., was chartered in 1848, with Isaac Mullen as worshipful master.
Okolona chapter No. 27 is a flourishing institution, with W. J. Lacy as high priest.
Ivanhoe Commandery No. 10 was chartered about 1872, with P. M. Lavery as commander. W. A. Bodemhimer is the present commander.
Okolona lodge No. 37, I. O. O. F., and Eva Clara lodge No. 5, Knights of Pythias, have large lists of members.
Chickasaw lodge No, 720, Knights of Honor, was chartered in 1877, with J. S. Dugger as dictator.
Victor lodge No. 199, Knights of the Golden Rule, was established in 1888.
Atlanta lodge No. 362, A. F. & A. M., at Atlanta, is a popular institution of that place.
Source: Biographical and Historical Memories of Mississippi, Goodspeed Publishing Company, 1891