Shirley Carley wrote about Mayhew many years ago (in the 1970s). But then it was known for the Stover Apiary while today, it known as the Mayhew Tomato Farm. It is a family farming operation that has much more than tomatoes, including the best strawberries around. Besides the best home grown tomatoes, there are all kinds of other produce including onions, okra, watermelons, butter beans, purple hull peas, potatoes, squash, cabbage, eggplant, and cucumbers, among other things. In addition, approximately 25 homemade jellies, jams, preserves, salsas, pickles, tomato juice, and chow-chows, just to name a few. In addition in the fall, there is a pumpkin patch with a carver on site close to Halloween. Carley described Mayhew as follows.
”The community of Mayhew lies quietly among the massive trees and gentle hills north of Highway 82 between Starkville and Columbus virtually unnoticed by the thousands of motorists who pass by it on the busy highway.
The past of this unpretentious corner of the world is well known to history buffs of the area. Its beginning predates many of the larger and more progressive communities nearby.
The original Mayhew was a mission to the Choctaw Indians that was established in 1820 when Cyrus W. Kingsbury traveled down from the Massachusetts Colony to minister to the Indians. At that time the Choctaw domain encompassed about 17,200 square miles and was the home of some 20,000 Indians. The Rev. Kingsbury had previously set up a mission on the Yalobusha River in Mississippi, then scouted south and found a satisfactory spot in the northeast corner of Oktibbeha county, ha half mile west of the present Lowndes County line and a mile south of the Clay county line, “at a point where the Ash Creek flows into the Tibbee Creek.” He named the location for the Mayhews, a respected missionary family from Massachusetts. There he and his wife, Sarah, along with several other families and three maiden ladies, established a mission that thrived for about ten years. They built a boarding school for Indians where the natives studied Bible, reading, writing and the “arts for making a living.”
The mission grew to include a gristmill, a blacksmith shop and a productive farm. With the approval b Congress of the “Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek” in 1831, the Indians began moving west to the reservations established by the government. Kingsbury accompanied a group of his Indian friends in their “trail of tears” to their new home. Sarah had died at the mission in 1822 and is buried in the small graveyard there along with about six other “faithful workers.” The graveyard is all that remains today of the early mission. It is maintained by the First Presbyterian Church of Starkville and is marked by a simple sign erected by the Mayhew Mission Society of the Children of the American Revolution.
Apparently the Presbyterian Church at the mission continued until about 1854, but the settlement gradually declined. The new community grew up about five miles southeast of the original site, on the Mobile and Ohio Railroad which was completed in 1861. Mayhew became a shipping point for cotton and cattle and the community flourished.
A post office was established at Mayhew in 1858 and has continued to operate to the present time recently moving to a new brick building. It was formerly housed in a white frame structure near the railroad, known as the “Bee Post Office” because of the main supporter, the Stover Apiary. The apiary is one of the largest bee-shipping industries in the South and annually ships between 25,000 and 30,000 one to five-pound packages of bees to points all over the U. S., Canada, Europe and South America. Large shipments of bees are delivered by truck direct from the apiary, but thousands of small packages are mailed through the post office each year. Mrs. Bass Swendenburg, postmistress who is the granddaughter of the founder of the apiary estimated that the post office serves about 250 patrons, an increase brought about when the Vocational-Technical Center opened across the highway from Mayhew.
The Stover Apiary began in Mayhew in 1905 when D. D. Stover came from Virginia, where he had previously been on the bee business. For many years, honey was he main money crop but by 1935, the transition to the shipping of bees was complete. The shipment and delivery of the bees to the culmination of a year-round program at the industry that is literally self contained. Not only are the bees raised there in 7000 colonies, but also the hives and shipping cartons are manufactured utilizing some of the same tools and equipment used where the business started. And, the company runs its own trucks to deliver orders all over the country.
The apiary has been a family business for the 70 years of its existence. T. A. Yelverton, son-in-law of the founder, now operates it. Miss Mary Virginia Stover, daughter of the founder, retired last year after 40 years with the apiary. The business has branches in Amory, MS and Helena and Mr. Vernon, Georgia. Oscar Mullen, the first employee hired by D. D. Stover to work at the apiary, still lives in Mayhew.
The most picturesque structure is the handsome Union church that was moved to its present location in 1878 from Sand Creek. The original pews are still in use in the sanctuary. The community celebrated the church’s centennial in 1972, before a search of the records ascertained that it actually was moved in 1878. Elisha Askew purchased the land on which the church stands. John T. Connell, W. B. Connell, G. T. Turner and Edward Herron, all of whom, except Herron, still have descendent living in or around the Mayhew area. In the early days the church housed four congregations, Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist and Christian. Ministers from each denomination alternated holding the Sunday services, a tradition which survives today with a Baptist minister preaching two Sundays and a Methodist two Sundays. The church is the scene of weddings, funerals, revivals and Bible School, which is held every summer for the children of the community. One resident estimated that the membership of the church today is about 22, including children. Church records show that 13 boys from the church have been ordained into the ministry an enviable record for even a large congregation. The church building was renovated in 1920 and again in 1950s when additional land surrounding it was purchased.
Until 1943 when it was torn down, a large two-story school building stool beside the church and it is said that the building preceded the church because it is believed that church services were held there. Mayhew Academy was the main educational institution for Mayhew children until the 1920s when it consolidated with the Artesia School.
A Mayhew landmark was recently destroyed by fire when the Burgin General Store burned along with the two-story house connected to it. The store was originally built and operated by the Castles who built the store and their home over a century ago. In 148 when the Burgin store across the road burned, the Burgins bought the store. It was operated by C. B. Burgin until several months ago and was the favorite gathering place for the community. Its demise saddened the citizens and marked the end of an era for Mayhew.
Along with the apiary, the church and the post office, Mayhew has a scattering of old dwellings interspersed with a few modern homes. The oldest home in the community is occupied by probably its oldest citizen, Mrs. Martha Burgin Fort who has lived there for 60 years. The Connells early settlers in the area built the house. John Tinsley Connell who was born in 1789 built another fine home, Mammoth Oaks that still stands but in a state of disrepair. No one has lived in the old place for about a year since Miss Lucie Connell moved to a nursing home in Columbus. At one time it was a charming example of Southern living.
Another Mayhew home that has weathered the years is on now owned by Mr. And Mrs. Carl Solomon. The house was built in about 1866 as a wedding gift for John Davis Burgin and Martha Locke. The Solomons bought the house several years ago after it had been abandoned and are in the process of restoring it.
Mayhew has distinguished itself through its native sons and daughters. Descendents f Mayhew residents or persons who themselves grew up there have gone out to all parts of the country in a variety of successful occupations. One early resident, John Henry Connell became president of A&M College in Stillwater, Ok. The roster of former Mayhew inhabitants includes several state legislators, the most recent being the present state senator from Columbus, William Burgin. The community also claims three World War II Colonels among its citizens.
As one visits among its warm and friendly people, Mayhew becomes more and more fascinating as interesting little bits of information come to light. For instance, it was recently established by the Society of American Forestry that a 150-year-old willow oak tree near the old post office measures 19.3 feet in circumference only minutely smaller than the largest tree of that kind recorded.
A unique situation exists in this small community where half the population is connected to the Columbus telephone exchange and the other half in the West Point Exchange. This could hamper neighborly telephone chats if they happen to be on separate exchanges.
With the growth of the Golden Triangle Regional Airport nearby, the vocational technical center and the construction of the four-lane highway between Starkville and Columbus, Mayhew sits at the hub of progress. One resident commented on the four-lane highway as being a boon to Mayhew. Not because it will bring in more industry or commerce but because it will alleviate a problem brought about by large transport trucks using the Mayhew Road in order to bypass the low bridge over Highway 82 near the Vo-Tech Center. “Those big trucks have really torn up our road to circumvent the bridge,” Mrs. Swedenburg said. Mrs. Swendenberg said, “One of the new overpass bridges on the four lane highway rises above the trees and houses near the center of Mayhew.
The residents of Mayhew are employed in diverse areas, many working at the apiary, some farming, and others employed at jobs in surrounding towns. Their lives continue to follow the peaceful pattern of the forebears, seemingly unaffected by the progress swirling around it. One almost hopes that growth will not touch this quiet community and that it can remain virtually as it was years ago, secure in its past and content with its present.”