If you haven’t heard of Houlka, Mississippi, you are not alone, but if you ever visited it and forgot, you are one of a kind. Houlka, has been referred to as the “Center of the Universe,” by more than just a few, but probably got its originality from a well esteemed medical doctor, named Walker, who was also a philosopher.
The original town, was located approximately a mile from the present town of New Houlka, and is now referred to as “Old Houlka.” Houlka is a Chickasaw Indian word meaning “low water,” or “low land,” which would describe the land situated on each side of Houlka Creek.
In 1812, a gentleman, that all of you are familiar with, surveyed a route from Nashville, Tennessee to Natchez, Mississippi., and named it the “Natchez Trace.” This man later became the seventh president of the United States. His name is Andrew Jackson.
The Natchez Trace connected with another popular trail of that time, named the “Gaines Trace.” The location where these two trails met, became a trading post, and later became the first of two towns, and was named Houlka. This town was incorporated in 1884, and thrived until the Gulf and Ship Island Railroad decided to lay tracks west of the town. This was done because of several factors, one of which being, it formed a straight line from north to south, and the other being the general topography of the land.
In 1906, the “Town of New Houlka” was incorporated, where the railroad had decided to build its tracks, and some of the buildings were rolled on logs from Old Houlka to New Houlka. Most of these were pulled by teams of oxen. This railroad was built by the great-grandfather of author, William Faulkner. This was a new beginning for Houlka, and it thrived. A mill was later built here, that sawed the virgin timbers that were so numerous, west of the town, and one of the first ships to pass through the Panama Canal, carried a load of Black Walnut timber, milled at Houlka.
The Town of New Houlka thrived in the early part of the 20th century, and at one time had a population of over 1,000 residents. When the timber had been cut in the rich bottom land, west of town, the mill closed and the population began to trickle down. Then, the railroad closed its operations through this part of Mississippi, and the population, again fell. In 2010 the U.S. census recorded a population of 626 people in New Houlka.
As of September 2012, a new beginning seems in store for the town that has had so much history. The railroad corridor that was the vitamin for Houlka’s growth, seems to be providing another rejuvenation to the region. A federal project, called “Rails to Trails” is turning this corridor into a 44.5 mile, paved scenic trail called “Tanglefoot Trail,” which will be open to hikers, runners, bicyclists and horseback travel, from New Albany, Mississippi. to Houston, Misissippi.
There is so much to say about the history of Old Houlka and New Houlka, but there is never enough room in an article to tell the whole story, so be sure and check out the pictures in the slide show.
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