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Where in Mississippi is Lake City? (Small-Town Spotlight).

Summer is here, and who doesn't dream of lazy, sunny days at the lake with nothing more to do than breeze across the water in a boat or jump off the pier for a cool swim? My family and I actually just returned from an annual visit with some dear friends at their family lake house, where my daughter has special memories of Mr. Sam and Miss Melanie teaching her to ski, kneeboard, and wakeboard. We treasure our time spent sharing fun with them and their three daughters, Margaret, Anne, and Miriam. These are special days for all of us. I'm sure that everyone in the South can recall a lake experience--picnicking, fishing, swimming, or camping. Fun and water seem to have a kinship, and sunshine and summertime are the parents. With these thoughts in mind, our small town spotlight just had to be water-related. So with Lori's suggestion, we decided to find out where in Mississippi is... Lake City?

We discovered Lake City five miles northwest of Yazoo City on Highway 49. According to James F. Brieger, author of Hometown, Mississippi, Lake City was formed from an old plantation known as the Peter Simmons Estate, near the boundary of Yazoo and Humphreys counties at Wolf Lake. It was once used as a landing for boats coming from Vicksburg and Yazoo City. The town was named Lake City by William Mosely in 1885, but it had been inhabited long before that time. According to Lake City native Amanda Bailey, the Coles Creek Indians lived around the lake from 700-1000 A.D. From the 1800s until the 1930s, farming and lumbering were the main occupations, along with commercial fishing and trapping, Bailey said.

On our journey to Lake City, we entered beautiful Yazoo City with similar feelings to the ones beautifully described by Harriet Decell and Jo Anne in their book, Yazoo, Its Legends and Legacies. They state, "You are coming in on the long lazy highway that goes straight for a dozen miles then bends and twists, dodging creeks and lakes like it is trying to keep from getting its feet wet. You meet dozens of tiny towns and hamlets that have names with forgotten histories and plow through the eternal fields of cotton with only a gray shadow on the eastern skyline to let you know you are actually moving forward and not moving in a circle." The highway gradually becomes downtown Yazoo City, a lovely town with restored buildings, quaint shops and friendly Mississippi people. We continued our drive through town and to a country store on one side of the highway and Lake City Road on the other, with beautiful Wolf Lake in view. Lori and I quickly decided that Wolf Lake must be one of Mississippi's best-kept secrets. Th e scenery was truly breathtaking, with a tree-shaded lake as smooth as glass with only birds gracefully fishing, and almost untouched except for the peaceful dwellings surrounding the edges interspersed with farmland. Wolf Lake, according to Bailey, was once connected to the Yazoo River. It is more than 20 miles long, forming a gentle horseshoe curve. It is a great place to ski because there is no wake, and fishers love catching white perch. Quite a few cabins and lakeside homes have been built in the last ten years, according to Glo Baker of Prudential Gateway Real Estate, but she said there are still several beautiful lots and even a few homes available. Glo assured us that there is much more activity on the lake on the weekends.

According to a lifelong resident of Lake City, there are few homes remaining in the town. One still standing is a Greek Revival cottage built for ship captain John J. Jackson from Baltimore around 1840, according to Bailey, who was one of the owners of the house. The house's materials had been precut in Cincinnati and shipped down the Mississippi to Vicksburg, then loaded onto another steamboat and shipped up the Yazoo River and finally built on the corner of Madison and Monroe Streets in Yazoo City. In the 1890s, Colonel I. N. Gilruth bought the house and had it moved by steamboat to its current Lake City location.

During the town's heyday, there were reportedly seven stores there, Bailey said. Today, the store on the corner of Highway 49 is Hines Grocery, which specializes in pork products. The Hines family has been hog farming for about 20 years and serves a pork buffet that is known for miles around. When I asked what they sold in the store, I was told, "Anything hog-related, of course." Smoked sausage is by far the best seller, the family notes.

Notable names with connections to the area, according to Bailey, include former Republican National Committee chairman Haley Barbour, who descends from Lake City's Wiley Johnson family, and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar, whose family lived on the other side of the lake.

In conversations with some dear Yazoo City friends, Ida and Hunter, we discovered that in addition to the beautiful lake and history and rolling farmland and charming lakeside homes, there is also the Simmons Catfish processing plant on the other side of Wolf Lake. It was wonderful to see the community kinship of these small-town residents and to experience their love for this town and its heritage.

Lori and I both agreed that we had experienced a wonderful small-town atmosphere in a beautiful setting in our Magnolia State, flavored with a taste of Mississippi hospitality. And we think that combination is just what makes this state so delightful. So take the time to experience Lake City, and we know that the town and the people will refresh any summer day.
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Article Details
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Author:Roper, Patty
Publication:Mississippi Magazine
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1U6MS
Date:Jul 1, 2002
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