A day in Corinth

There’s plenty of culture and history to soak up during a quick visit to the Mississippi city.

PHOTOS BY ELEANOR HENDRICKS MCDANIELS
The Contraband Camp in Corinth was a unique undertaking that helped newly emancipated African Americans in 1862.

BY ELEANOR HENDRICKS MCDANIEL
SPECIAL TO THE FLORIDA COURIER 

Summertime calls for car travel. We’re on the road to visit friends and relatives, attend family reunions or just tour the country. You’ll find that veering off-the-beaten-track in the South can be interesting and rewarding.

As with all the Confederate states, African American history and culture are forever intertwined. 

Those of you heading to Mississippi are likely to enjoy a stopover in Corinth, if only for a day. 

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Abe’s Grill is a popular spot for fried bologna, homemade biscuits and chocolate gravy.

Biscuits and chocolate gravy 

8 a.m.: Wake up your taste buds after grabbing a stool at the counter in Abe’s Grill (abesgrill.com). Other customers crowd around the walls, waiting for their take-out meals. Many of them have asked Abe to include his chocolate gravy with their order. 

Witness the hustle and bustle of a “downhome” breakfasts are coming to life. At the grill, Abe’s son, Ryan, is hurriedly filling the hungry clients’ requests. 

Notice as the eggs, bacon (floppy or crisp), sausage, and fried bologna sizzle before your very eyes, and the alluring smell of coffee assails your nose. Abe’s wife, Terri, is constantly rushing in, carrying hot batches of her homemade biscuits. While Abe handles the orders and the money.

The Whitfield family has made this diner a Corinth institution for over 40 years. 

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Borroum’s Drug Store and Soda Fountain has retained its retro charm (Above left). Breakfast is being prepared at Abe’s Grill, a diner in Corinth for over 40 years (Above right).

Contraband Camp 

10 a.m.: Discover what put Corinth on the map. Tour the Corinth Civil War Interpretative Center (nps.gov/shil/learn/history/culture/Corinth.htm). 

It’s one of the National Park Service newest centers. Upon entering, look for the charming sculpture of the little African American girl reading under the tutelage of a Black Union soldier. 

Then go to the theater to view an intriguing video that depicts the Battle of Corinth. Afterward, explore the 15,000 -foot modern facility that features informative displays and interactive exhibits.

Find the displays that feature the Contraband Camp, and be sure to listen to the dramatized audio reports from the Union soldiers who were there. (You can actually visit the camp later.) 

Don’t miss the magnificent outdoor fountain that’s dedicated to the first 100 years of the United States. For instance, 13 small waterfalls represent the 13 original colonies. The entire monument is clearly labeled so that visitors can understand the concept. 

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The sculptures on the grounds of the Corinth Contraband Camp depict the daily life of the former enslaved people who resided there.

History lesson 

11 a.m.: You’ll never forget your visit to the Corinth Contraband Camp (nps.gov/shil/planyourvisit/contrabandcamp.htm). It was a unique undertaking that helped newly emancipated African American people in 1862. 

They were considered to be the contrabands of war, and were under the protection of the Union Army. With the assistance of the American Missionary Association, the purpose of the camp was to protect and show them how to function as free men, women and children. 

The camp became a village for approximately 6,000 former slaves. They built their homes, a church, a school and a hospital. They established trades, farmed and provided services, like laundry, to the troops for pay. 

They earned almost $5,000 from their enterprises. Adults and children voraciously learned to read and write. 

The camp was closed at the end of 1863 when the federal forces had to leave Corinth and move to Memphis. The Blacks followed, and were housed there in the usual refugee housing.

The National Park Service has retained a portion of the camp. 

You can walk along the concrete trail that passes bronze statues that represents the former inhabitants going about their daily lives. 

Lunch at Borroum’s 

12:30 p.m.: It’s lunchtime at Borroum’s Drug Store and Soda Fountain. (Yes, they really do fill prescriptions.)

Borroum’s is the oldest drugstore in the state. Its fame also includes the legendary slug-burger, which is a tasty concoction held over from the days of the Great Depression. 

They say in order to stretch out the highly-priced ground beef, cooks would add cheaper meats, flour, oats and more to it. 

Borroum’s sold the sandwiches for a “slug” (a.k.a. a nickel) – thus the name. If you order one, top it with the traditional condiments: mustard, pickles and onions. To get really retro, find a seat at the soda fountain counter. 

More Black history 

2 p.m.: Swing by the Black History Museum of Corinth, located in the former Webb House. 

At one time, it was the residence of an African American couple, William and Adrienne Webb. In 2003, Dr. Walter D. Webb, a descendent of Mr. and Mrs. Webb, approved the transformation of the home into a museum. Its mission is to honor and preserve the heritage of the Black citizens who lived in Corinth and the surrounding communities. 

Exhibits and artifacts are displayed to reveal the experiences of the historic African American persons who lived in Corinth and the surrounding communities. 

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This old delivery truck is one of the artifacts at the Corinth Coca Cola Museum.

Time for a Coke 

3 p.m.: Time for a cooling break at a really “cool” spot. Go to the Corinth Coca Cola Museum (corinthcoke.com/museum) that’s part of the Corinth Bottling Works. It has been owned and operated by the Williams family for over 100 years. 

Belly up to the counter in the small soda shop for an ice-cold Coke. Then discover the world’s favorite beverage’s impact on American culture in the small museum. 

You’ll see examples of Coca Cola memorabilia from posters and advertisements to old-fashioned coke machines and a classic delivery truck. 

Motorcycles and more 

4 p.m.: You will find the Motorcycle Museum at Lake Hill Motors (lakehillmotors.com). The collection of internationally produced motorcycles of the past fills the rear of the building. You see historic bikes that were manufactured in unexpected places, lie New Orleans and Czechoslovakia.

One of the oldest vehicles is a British bicycle that was made in 1911; the motor runs on acetylene gas. If the owner, Dwayne McLemore, is available, he’ll be happy to guide you through the displays, and share many interesting antidotes.

Soul food with a twist 

6:30 p.m.: Dine on updated southern cuisine at smith (smithcorinth.com) – they use the lowercase for their name. The trendy restaurant is housed in a renovated building in the downtown business district. 

It has become one of Corinth’s most popular casual eateries. The chef has turned soul food staples into exciting new culinary versions. 

Expect the unexpected when you order fried green tomatoes topped with crab. Look for generous chunks of lobster in mac and cheese. Shrimp and grits taste even better with mushrooms and smoked bacon. And Corinth’s signature foodstuff, the slug, can be found on the appetizer menu in the form of “bites.” 

It’s been a busy day in Corinth, but you have to admit, it was interesting, memorable, enlightening and fun. 

For more information, go online to visitcorinth.net.


Eleanor Hendricks McDaniel is a seasoned travel journalist based in Florida whose travels have taken her throughout the United States, Europe and other countries. Follow her on Twitter: @ellethewriter, Instagram: @ eleanor1004, Facebook: Eleanor.hendricks.mcdaniel and her website: flybynighttraveler.com.

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