Workers find interesting artifacts in dormitory walls

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 9, 2004

NATCHEZ &045; A box of artifacts at Historic Jefferson College gives a few clues to the former residents of Raymond Hall.

Workers renovating the 1915 brick structure found a variety of objects in the walls, left behind by some of the last tenants of the dormitory in the 1960s. Crumpled letters from parents, a &uot;Frostie&uot; root beer bottle, a paddle and even a doll.

Raymond Hall, named for the college superintendent who brought military education back to the Washington campus, is being renovated thanks to a grant from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, said historian Clark Burkett, who greeted visitors to the college on Sunday.

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&uot;When it was built, it was called one of the most modern dormitories in the South,&uot; Burkett said, leading the way into the dark building.

A wood structure on the same site burned in 1914, so insurance money helped pay for a new brick building that had electricity and indoor plumbing &045; modern conveniences at the time.

When complete in about two years, Raymond Hall will serve as a museum for the military college, whose students still hold reunions on the grounds every April.

&uot;They’re very excited about the renovation,&uot; Burkett said. &uot;We’ve had no way to display the artifacts they’ve given us.&uot;

For the last 60 years that it was operated as a school, the facility &045; now run by the Department of Archives and History &045; was known as Jefferson Military College.

The school was chartered in 1802, the first institution of higher education in the state. It opened its doors in 1811 as a prep school with 15 students. Over the years the school made various attempts to establish a military education program, but the most successful one began under Joseph Raymond in 1893.

Among the other artifacts found in the walls of Raymond Hall were pieces of weapons that dated back a bit farther than the 1960s &045; parts of German guns the students used around World War I.

When complete, Raymond Hall will also have offices and community meeting rooms upstairs.