Turkey Creek Could Get Historic Distinction

Members of one Gulfport community say they're excited that the neighborhood their ancestors built may finally get the recognition it deserves.

This weekend the Mississippi Department of Archives and History announced that the Turkey Creek community has been nominated for a listing in the National Register of Historic Places as a historic district.

Officials say they based their nomination on historical importance of Turkey Creek as a center of African American culture.

On Sunday, Merlon Hines walked through a house on Rippy Road. "It's my great-great grandmother's home," he said.

Hines has deep roots in the Turkey Creek community.

His great-great grandparents Thomas and Melinda Benton settled here around 1870 and built a house.

"Since it was in my family and my great-great grandmother I wanted to make sure that the community knew that this was one of the settlers for the community and that is quite significant," said Hines.

The National Registry of Historic Places agreed and in 2002 added the Benton House to its listing.

"One of the advantages are there are grants available to help you work with your home but just the recognition itself tells people that you are interested in history," said Hines.

Residents say there are other houses in Turkey Creek, some dating back more than a century, who also deserve the same distinction and recognition as the Benton house.

African Americans settled in Turkey Creek not long the Civil War.

Rev. Calvin Jackson grew up in Turkey Creek and raised his eight children in Turkey Creek.

"There is a history that is behind them that I treasure because I go way back in slavery to mark my great-great grandfather Joshua's house."

Hines said being named a historic district would speak for "our forefathers and the pioneers who settled this community, my great-great grandmother being one of them. It helps us with that vision for the community that they had way back when. I'm sure they're probably smiling now just saying 'Wow, we finally made it'".

Hines and Jackson say getting Turkey Creek on the National Registry of Historic places is one more way to honor their ancestors and give their children a heritage to be proud of.

Residents say before getting a listing as a historic district in the National Registry of Historic Places an assessment must be done of all 70 houses in Turkey Creek.

Not all the houses have to be deemed historical in order for the community to get a historical designation.