Four families from Carolina settled the Slayden area
The South Reporter History Issue
April 24, 1986, Page 8

The village of Slayden was settled by four families originally--Slayden, Boswell, Watkins, and Hurdle.

They came from Alamance County, North Carolina, following an Indian Trail to Tennessee and North Mississippi. They all bought land from the Indians for 25 cents per acre and started building homes and establishing farms.

At this time the new community had no name. A stranger came through and saw a gourd vine growing on a fence near the crossroads and called the place "Gourd Neck" which was later changed to Slayden's Crossing. It is now known as Slayden.

The Marshall County Agricultural High School, which was built between 1910-1918, became the hub of the community and the center of all social and educational activity until it ceased to exist in the early 1970s. (The school had a reunion in the summer of 1985 and a story on the event was published in The South Reporter.)

The Alexandria Baptist Church, now Slayden Baptist Church, was organized in 1870. This historic church had its beginning in a log cabin schoolhouse which was located in the northwest corner of the southwest quarter of section 32, township 1, range 2 west, in Marshall County. It was located on the road between Slayden and Moscow, Tenn., at the present site of the Slayden Cemetery. A decision was made later to move the church to the village and the new building was located on the Lamar Road just east of the crossroads. In 1940 Highway 72 was built which necessitated another move to the present location on the north side of the highway.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Most of this information is taken from oral history compiled by Sallie Rhea Hurdle Brewer. Mrs. Brewer said there is a more complete history of the area in the Marshall County Library.

Submitted by Martha Fant

An historian's view of Slayden: past and present peaceful
By Judith P. Otto

The South Reporter

Mrs. Sally Rhea Brewer taught history for many years at Slayden's school. She now serves as historian for the community.

According to Mrs. Brewer, the Treaty of 1832 opened up settlement land known to the Chickasaw Indians as "Dancing Rabbit Creek". Land was available to settlers for 25 cents an acre.

Four families - the Watkins, Boswells, Hurdles, and Slaydens - came to Marshall County from Alamance County, North Carolina, in about 1836. Each bought at least a section (640 acres) of land.

Mrs. Hurdle came with five sons and three daughters, as her husband died of pneumonia before beginning the trip to the new territory. The trip was made by oxcart, and with the help of the other three families and her sons and daughters, Mrs. Hurdle made the trip.

There is no conclusive proof of the route the four families followed - whether through the mountains, or by an easier, more southerly, route. The route through the mountains is believed to be more likely the one they followed.

The community was first called "Gourd Neck" and there are two popular explanations for the name. Some believe that there was once a well where travelers could drink from a long-handled gourd dipper, thus originating the name. Others say a traveling salesman saw a gourd vine growing there, laden with handsome gourds, and suggested the name.

Eventually, it became known as Slayden's Crossing, after the Slayden general store that was located there. The original Mr. Slayden who built the store died in 1850. His son and one of the Hurdle family formed a partnership and kept the store going for many years until it was eventually bought by S.J. Nicholson. After it changed hands again, and was finally moved across the street, the store finally wound up in its present location under the ownership of the Carpenter family.

At one time a doctor, or a lawyer, had office space over the store; but information is hazy on this point.

In the early days, there was an old horse-drawn gin, but in the early 1900s, the present gin was built.

In about 1912, J.M. Consley became a major force in organizing and constructing the Agricultural High School at Slayden. It was so successful and well-respected that students from as far away as New York attended, as well as many from Memphis. It was a boarding school, and offered primarily home economics and farming courses. The students had their own dairy, laundry, garden, orchard, and chicken farm. Students were paid for performing the necessary work to keep the various productive areas of the school operational.

The dorms closed, and it became just a county school in the early 1950s. When the school integrated, all grades except the junior high grades moved to Sand Flat School, between Slayden and Mount Pleasant. As recently as November of 1987, it was renamed the "Homer Byers School" in honor of long-time principal Byers, who served for thirty years.

When the Agricultural High School's land and buildings were sold, the Slayden Baptist Church bought the gymnasium and vocational building with ten acres of land, and now use the facilities as an activity center. Until recently, this was also the home of the Slayden Fire Department.

The Agricultural High School has held two very successful reunions. In 1985, over 500 alumni and teachers attended; and the same was true again in 1986.

The first church in Slayden, the Alexandria Baptist Church, was organized in 1870 in an oblong building constructed of logs with doors in each end. The female members of the congregation used the south door, and the men went in by the north door. The men and women were seated separately, on opposite sides of the church.

The old church was not preserved at its original site in the Slayden Cemetery after a new frame building was constructed on Lamar road, just east of the crossroads. When Highway 72 was built in 1940, the church had to be moved to the opposite side of the highway, and was rebuilt as the current brick structure.

Today there are between 250-300 registered voters in Slayden. For a time, Slayden had its own post office, but then delivery duties were handled through Moscow, Tennessee, when mail shipment depended heavily on the railroads. This led to occasional difficulty, however, for some Slayden residents trying to establish Mississippi residences in spite of having a Tennessee mailing address. Now Slayden postal service comes through Lamar and Holly Springs.

Slayden's major commercial enterprises include a supermarket owned by the Carpenters, a garage, a bank, an Exxon station, a gin, and the Hurdle & Hurdle grocery.

Mr. Consley was instrumental in getting telephone service installed in Slayden in 1943, where partyline service still exists. Mr. Consley also lobbied in Jackson to get Highway 72 completed through Slayden.

There is no community well system in Slayden - everyone has their own wells.

Most residents who don't farm have jobs in Memphis, Collierville, Moscow, or Holly Springs.

Slayden is growing steadily as more and more people move out of the city to enjoy the more peaceful country lifestyle and the neighborly advantages of a smaller community. The growth process will doubtless be accelerated when Highway 72 becomes a four-lane thoroughfare within the next ten years, as scheduled. Surveying has already been completed and all widening is to be done on the south side of the highway, to spare community businesses and activity centers, of which the majority are located on the north side of the highway.

Slayden looks forward to an exciting and colorful future.

Submitted by Suzy Stilwell

Hurdle family makes difference in Slayden
By Beth Breithaupt
The South Reporter

If you ask anyone in Slayden, Mississippi, what one of the most prominent names is around there, they are very likely to tell you Hurdle.

The Hurdles originally came to Mississippi from North Carolina and helped to found the community of Slayden. A prolific family, there are now Hurdles all over Marshall County, where they have been farming and contributing to the development of northern Mississippi for generations.

In this century, Byron "Tootsie" Hurdle and his wife Eula "Tump" Valentine Hurdle have helped a great deal to shape Slayden.

Mr. Hurdle was one of eight children born and reared in Slayden. He has never lived anywhere else.

Mrs. Hurdle was born in Moscow, Tennessee, into a family of ten children. The Valentine family moved to Missouri when she was a small child. Her father decided to move back home to Slayden, where he had been born and reared, when she was fourteen.

The couple met in school, where they were sweethearts for five years before marrying at the age of twenty-one.

Young people during the 1930s entertained themselves with softball and basketball games, and plays at the Agricultural High School. Parties and church activities were the only other social events for teenagers because only adults had cars then.

The Valentine family was also influential in Slayden. They came from North Carolina also in the early 1800s. Mrs. Hurdle's great-grandfather, Alexander Valentine, is credited with founding the first church in Slayden. It was a log structure built prior to the Civil War, located nearby the graveyard, she explained. It was named Alexandria Baptist Church, but was renamed Slayden Baptist in 1939. The Hurdle family is very active in the church which presently has about 200 members on roll.

Alexander Valentine was badly wounded in the Battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War, and it is believed he died in Pennsylvania as a result of his wounds, for he never came back home, nor was anything ever heard from him again.

George Washington Valentine was Mrs. Hurdle's grandfather. He had seven children including her father, George Clifton Valentine. Two of Mrs. Hurdle's sisters also married farmers. Hazel Carpenter and Vera Hunsucker live in Slayden, too.

When the Hurdles got married in 1942, she informed him that she wanted six children because she had so much fun growing up in a large family. They ended up with eight - Cathy, Byron Junior, Paul, Alan, Jennifer, Dinah Kay, Eydie, and Beverly. All of the children are married and there are fourteen grandchildren so far. There are 33 family members present for get-togethers, and some of the older grandchildren usually bring dates.

Five of their children live nearby. The three sons farm the family land and run the cotton gin now. Mr. Hurdle recently retire, relying on his sons to take care of the crops, cattle, and cotton gin which is located in the heart of the little community.

H & H Farms' main crop is cotton, but they raise soybeans and milo, too. Black Angus, Brangus and mixed beef cattle are also part of the family's 6,000 acre farming business.

Mrs. Hurdle said of farming, "It's in our blood." Both of their families had always been farmers. They go to bed "with the chickens" and get up before sunup.

When they first married, they kept chickens for eggs and food, as well as cows for milk and butter and beef, and hogs were raised, too. They still have a large vegetable garden every year in order to can and freeze homegrown produce. During the 1940s, stores in Slayden didn't sell milk, chickens, eggs, and butter. Families were self-sufficient back then.

The Hurdles are very thankful for the life they have led. They say that all of their children and grandchildren are good kids, and have never been any problem. Mrs. Hurdle said, "Now that we're retired, I don't have to do anything. The girls come clean my house, and they all just spoil me."

Mr. Hurdle gets up very early every morning and has coffee at Earl's Exxon station in Slayden, a place where folks gather to exchange news and buy gas and coffee.

If they had life to live over, the Hurdles agree that Slayden is where they would want to put down roots and farm. "There are a lot of good people in Slayden; we take care of our own," Mrs. Hurdle said.

As for the growth of Slayden, Mr. Hurdle said, "I like it like it is." They would not want it to become a booming town like Collierville, however, "We were glad to get the bank and the Exxon station," he explained. "We're for growth as long as it will help the community."

Submitted by Suzy Stilwell

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