A $5 prize leads to Homeseekers Paradise

Published 7:00 pm Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Earlier this month, I wrote about Mississippi town nicknames and asked for help in learning how Brookhaven came to be known as the Homeseekers Paradise.

Local history buff and Daily Leader columnist Sue Dorman promptly emailed me with the answer.

“I have attached an article from the Brookhaven newspaper about the choosing of our nickname,” she wrote in her email. “One of my hobbies is finding how a town got its nickname.”

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Attached to the email was a scanned, undated but obviously old, article from The Lincoln County Times, which detailed the history of our downtown’s Homeseekers Paradise sign and the nickname that the sign celebrates.

“The slogan, which was first used in 1915, was ‘A Homeseeker’s Paradise,” the article said, adding, “It had a somewhat doubtful origin. At that time it was worth only $5.”

Intrigued, I read on, learning there are many interesting stories surrounding our town’s nickname, but the truth of the matter is that a contest was held by the Board of Trade, a merchants’ organization, to come up with a town slogan.

Sue’s clipping cited a Jan. 14, 1915, newspaper story that said the winning slogan was from a local store employee named Milton Cohen.

The young man received a $5 prize for his prize-winning submission.

Cohen’s slogan was so catchy that it became the basis for an “electric sign to be erected over Cherokee Street,” the article went on to state.

The Homeseekers Paradise sign “was first illuminated on the night of Nov. 19, 1915,” the same night a train passed Brookhaven through bearing the Liberty Bell, which had been displayed at the San Francisco World’s Fair and was headed back to Philadelphia, Pa.

“The whole town was down at the station to view the lighting of the sign as well as to inspect the Liberty Bell, which reposed on a flat car on a special train,” according to the newspaper clipping.

The sign erected in 1915 is not the same sign seen today, however. Sue Dorman’s article explained how that came to be as well.

The newspaper story quoted Matthews Ard, who explained that during World War II, “there was a drive for scrap iron, and although old scrap iron reposed in all our local yards, much of which was never utilized, some group in town with more misguided patriotism than common sense, went around with a petition to tear down our beloved sign and donate it to the scrap drive.

“The sign came down, a sad day for Brookhaven – let’s fervently hope that the Liberty Bell will never have to be melted down for such purposes,” the citation continued.

After World War II, the Kiwanis Club of Brookhaven revived use of the nickname and spearheaded a movement to rebuild the Homeseekers Paradise sign, which was reconstructed on the original location and remains there today, sharing our nickname with each train as it passes by.

I’d like to express thanks to Sue Dorman for sharing the history of our sign and our town slogan with us.

So now we all know the rest of the story.

 Rachel Eide is editor/general manager of The Daily Leader. Contact her at rachel.eide@dailyleader.com.