Traveling Around - Hernando, Mississippi - DeSoto County Historical Museum
Where It's Located
To get to the museum, take Interstate 55 south from Memphis or north from Jackson and use Exit 280. Go west from the expressway through the center of Hernando. After crossing the railroad tracks, look for the museum on the left side of the street. Most noticeable immediately is the 1840's Dog Run Cabin that sits on the grounds of the museum. There is a narrow driveway that leads to parking in the rear of the building. If you miss the driveway, you can use the city streets to get behind the museum and enter the parking lot from the back.
We had made several previous attempts to visit the museum but had difficulty finding the museum open. To prevent a wasted trip we called when about 30 miles out to make sure it was open.
The Dog Run Cabin was moved to the grounds of the Historical Museum from the nearby countryside. Called a "Dog Run Cabin" (early name for a breezeway), the breezeway normally separated the cooking environment from the living/sleeping environment for comfort purposes. The style was reputedly devoted in the Kentucky/Tennessee area during and shortly after the Revolutionary War. This log cabin dates from the 1840's.
Inside the front entrance to the museum is a reception counter where a pleasant attendant greeted us. We signed the guest register and were told the the museum was arranged in a circular pattern. If we would begin in the immediate area of the reception desk, there was a general arrangement of a timeline that would bring us back to the other side of the main room.
It is clear that the namesake of the area is the Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto, the first European to reach the Mississippi River. He died in the area in 1842 and DeSoto county was named in his honor first and then the city of Hernando.
It was clear in the initial exhibits that the more modern (1800+) DeSoto County began as an area where there wasn't much money and that cotton was the major crop. Most photos of the times picture activities surrounding the harvesting and baling of the cotton crop.
Civil War and Aftermath
There is an area devoted to the Civil War. Displayed prominently are some of the weapons. Most impressive to us were the two long rifles. One was an 1861 Springfield Rifle Musket and the second is a British Enfield Rifle Musket. The second one weighed 9 pounds, was 55 inches long, and accurate to 1,000 yards. Also in the display were several swords and sabers.
There was a written display that described some of the civilian conditions during and after the war. One of the more bizarre facts was that in the village of Horn Lake (some 10 miles northwest of the museum), the population was penniless and needed salt to preserve and season foodstuffs. To obtain this necessity, they boiled the earthen floor of a smoke house and obtained the salt in that process.
There is also a display of the uniforms of primarily the Southern soldiers.
One of the older Wedding Chapels (located on the right near the Standard Oil sign) in Hernando. Waiting periods were so easygoing in Mississippi that it attracted many couples. So many weddings were performed in Mississippi, and in Hernando, that it became known as the Marriage Capitol Of America.
Jerry Lee Lewis was born in Louisiana and the family migrated to DeSoto County, Mississippi. His family mortgaged their farm to buy him his first piano and he began playing in tandem with his cousins Mickey Gilley and Jimmy Swaggart. His mother found the money and got him enrolled in the Southwest Bible Institute in Texas to point him to a religious adult life but he was expelled from there for playing some "worldly" music at an assembly. The "worldly" music was a boogie-woogie rendition of "My God Is Real". Back home, his family was penniless but confident in his abilities and they sold 33 dozen eggs to a local grocer to provide him with the money to go to Memphis to audition for Sam Phillips at Sun Records. The record "Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On" was recorded in one take and Lewis went on to stardom. Wikipedia has a major article on Jerry Lee Lewis.
The last exhibit is a room devoted to World War II period and the military during that period of time.
We spent less than an hour at the museum and found it interesting. It makes an enjoyable stop on a lengthy trip through northwestern Mississippi (particularly on the way to Tunica if you're running a little early to check in.