The City That Once Packed Pickles Turns 100 - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

03/24/04

The City That Once Packed Pickles Turns 100

Russell Hatten had a big smile on his face when he spoke at a birthday party. "Happy birthday City of Wiggins," he told the crowd.

Moments later, Hatten was part of a family portrait outside Wiggins City Hall. The six men in the picture were all direct descendants of Wiggins Hatten -- the city's founding father. The group included Stone County Supervisor Duncan Hatten.

"It's something we just took for granted all these years," Hatten said, referring to the city being named after his family. "And then you have a 100th anniversary, and it really means something then."

For 100 years, Wiggins has prided itself on its people, its pines, and its pickles. Once upon a time, a warehouse near the train depot and the small town were known around the world for pickle production. Stone County Enterprise publisher Heather Freret remembered the pickle packing days.

"To me, Wiggins symbolizes the pickle plant, because so many people worked there," she said.

Simon Wilson's mother worked at the pickle plant. His dad and his grandfather both ran the downtown pharmacy. Wilson's Pharmacy has been part of Wiggins for 80 of its 100 years. Simon moved back to town in 1992 to take over the store.

"It's a small community and a growing community," he said. "It's a great place to raise a family."

Mayor Ferris O'Neal credits much of that to the leaders who started building Wiggins in 1904.

"Many times they didn't have anything close to the revenue that we see today," he said. "But somehow they were able to keep it going. And keep it a viable municipality for 100 years. So I give all the credit to them."

Much of Wiggins' recent revenue success can be traced back to 2002. That year, a Wal Mart supercenter opened in town. Since then, at least 20 other stores and restaurants have moved to Wiggins. And city sales tax collections have jumped as much as $360,000 a year.

"We look forward to the future," the mayor said. "I think we have nothing but good times ahead of us. We have a lot of growth coming to us from Highway 49."

On March 26, 1904, Highway 49 was nothing but dirt. Back then, 400 people had a dream -- get the governor to incorporate their community. A century later, 4,000 Wiggins residents are still making that dream come true.

by Brad Kessie

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