November 17, 2012 6:36:42 PM
Jan Swoope - [email protected]
Did Andrew Jackson really march down Military Road? What's the oldest surviving house? What Columbus family provided Eudora Welty her favorite mint julep recipe? For almost three years, answers to such curious queries about Columbus' past have come from Rufus Ward, in his "Ask Rufus" column in The Dispatch. The avid historian and lecturer has also written of the area's history in articles for several magazines and journals.
Many of those stories are now compiled in "Columbus Chronicles: Tales from East Mississippi," published by The History Press as part of its American Chronicles series. The book, which retails for $19.99, goes on sale nationally Wednesday.
"Columbus has a really rich history, and so much of it has not been told," said Ward. "This is a way to let people know, in an easy-reading format, that its history is not only rich, but so interesting, too."
Ward has arranged his stories in general sections that explore the settlement of Columbus, its people, Choctaw and Chickasaw heritage, the Civil War and black history. There are columns or articles about World War II and Columbus' Greatest Generation, about legendary honky tonks, barbecue, hunting and even a ghost or two.
"Since I started writing The Dispatch column in February 2010, I've been amazed at the number of people who stop me to ask questions about history and provide tidbits of information that they have heard or uncovered," said Ward, who has deep roots in Columbus and West Point.
In the book he credits local and state research sources including Sam Kaye, Carolyn Kaye, Gary Lancaster, Mona Vance and the Billups-Garth Archives, Ken P'Pool, Jack Elliott and Harry Sherman for their expertise in areas ranging from architecture to archaeology.
Ward's primary motivation behind the columns, articles and now "Columbus Chronicles" is simple.
"Several friends and relatives who provided me with wonderful stories have passed away in the last few years," the writer explained. "This has made me very cognizant of the need to preserve the stories of a passing generation. I hope that, with this book and my column, I can help do that."
The public is invited to a book signing for "Columbus Chronicles" Friday, Dec. 7, at The Commercial Dispatch, 516 Main St., during Wassail Fest, 5-9 p.m..
The book will be available in Columbus at the Welcome Center and the S.D. Lee Home, as well as online from Books A Million, Barnes & Noble and Amazon.
Ward is also author of "The Tombigbee River Steamboats: Rollodores, Dead Heads and Side-Wheelers" (The History Press, 2010).
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.