SP-4310 Way Station to Space


- Chapter 3 -

The Thorn Before the Rose




[27] The Corps

With its own engineers and scientists preoccupied with the development of the space vehicles needed for the Project Apollo lunar-landing mission, NASA secured the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to be its agent for land acquisition and construction. Proud of its reputation as the "nation's builder," the Corps brought 200 years of construction experience with it when helping to build the facilities needed by NASA for the Apollo Program.1

One of the most formidable projects in building the NASA infrastructure to support the lunar-landing program was the awesome task of obtaining over 200 square miles of land in Mississippi and Louisiana and then constructing a unique static-testing facility in the midst of a boggy swamp and a desolate forest.2

The Mississippi project fell under the purview of the Corps' Mobile, Alabama, District, 105 miles directly east of the Pearl River site. The [28] Mobile District conducted preliminary investigations for NASA as early as the summer of 1961 and at that time estimated the real estate values. Their report stated that land value was $200 an acre in the 13,500-acre construction area, where a fee interest in the land would have to be purchased, and $75 an acre for the surrounding acoustic-buffer zone easement, where people would be prohibited from living. The Corps listed the cost of needed improvements at $4 million. The total cost of acquiring real estate interests was estimated to be $16,338,000. This estimate exceeded all but one of the other test site locations considered, because the Pearl River site was located on land, whereas, the other sites included acoustic-buffer zones over water. The information regarding land values was gathered quietly by the Corps and provided to NASA for use in its classified test site evaluation.3

In October 1961, Colonel D.A. Raymond, the Corps' district engineer, announced that the Mobile District would be in charge of acquiring the land for the static-testing facility. He explained that the "filing" of proceedings with the federal courts in Jackson, Mississippi, and New Orleans, Louisiana, did not give the government title or possession of the land, but served to inform the public of the eventual operational requirements so that further development in the area could not occur prior to acquisition. The filing procedure "froze" real estate values at their fair market price as of 25 October 1961, the day of the NASA press release.4

The Corps also notified the public that representatives would soon contact landowners for permission to perform survey work and make subsurface explorations. The Corps engineers, of course, had not informed the people of their purpose when they sent agents to conduct the survey during the summer of 1961. Some residents remembered "suspicious" persons in the area at that time, but did not know what they were doing. One Bay St. Louis resident recalled renting a boat to "some strange men" who said they were looking for a site to test rockets. The explanation seemed so "absurd" that the scuttlebutt was discarded.5

Colonel Raymond described the borders of the test site for the first time in his October announcement. The first land to be obtained, the "fee simple" [29] area, was irregular in shape and included the community of Gainesville, extending north and east about 5 miles in both directions. The proposed "easement area" or acoustic-buffer zone was also irregular in shape, with the northernmost boundary being about 2 miles south of Picayune, the easternmost boundary about 1/2 mile west of Kiln, the southernmost boundary about 1 mile north of Pearlington, and the westernmost boundary along the Southern Railway right-of-way and generally along the West Pearl River.6

In reality, the fee simple area and acoustic-buffer zone were drawn originally as two circles. The smaller circle represented the fee area where the main facilities would be located, with the larger concentric circle representing the boundaries of the acoustic-buffer zone. The circles were shaped with "irregular" edges, to fit land- surveyed section lines, and geometrically straight lines, usually in half-sections. Mr. C.L.H. "Horton" Webb, secretary and recorder of the ad hoc site selection committee, drew....


This current Stennis Space Center directional map shows the main complex or <<fee area>>, the buffer zone, and the center's geographical relationship to the surrounding LA and MS areas.

This current Stennis Space Center directional map shows the main complex or "fee area", the buffer zone, and the center's geographical relationship to the surrounding LA and MS areas. Interstate Highways 10 and 59, which were not built when the site was selected in 1961, are clearly shown in this map.


[30] ....the fee area and accoustic-buffer zone circles based on acoustic information from the rocket tests conducted in Huntsville, Alabama, and at Air Force sites. "If you stand off at a distance and look at a map of the area, it will look like circles on a dart board," Webb explained, "I drew the circles and turned the map over to the Corps of Engineers to shape into land lines [sic] that could be purchased."7

The circles represented sound levels the rockets would produce in the region. The fee area, or inner circle, was a land tract that scientists projected could receive 125 decibels during a test. The larger circle (buffer zone) could receive approximately 110 decibels. Both of these sound levels could be hazardous to humans and cause structural damage to buildings not constructed to withstand low-frequency sound waves. The buffer zone was also designed to absorb the sound reverberations of approximately 20 million pounds of thrust, sound levels equivalent to the proposed output of a Nova-class rocket.8

Construction of facilities for the static-testing facility was scheduled for the area where the government planned to acquire fee simple title. The landowners were told the easement area would be an adjunct to the fee area. The Corps also announced that a project office in the area would handle all phases of the real estate program. Title ownership information would be recorded at the same time appraisals were made for each individual tract of land within the fee area. After the appraisals, the plan called for negotiators from the Corps real estate project office to contact the landowners and reach a monetary agreement. Payment would be made when a settlement was reached. The Corps expected that real estate offers for the fee area would be completed before July 1962, and the residents were told that the real estate policy for the buffer zone would follow the same guidelines. The Corps Engineers prepared a booklet describing in detail the steps in the acquisition of the 13,500 acres in Hancock County.9

The first real estate booklet was issued in November 1961. Landowners kept their copies in safe places, along with insurance policies and other important documents. The booklets contained basic information, but did not answer the tougher legal questions that would arise during property negotiations. The booklets stated that further [32] information would be available from the Corps and furnished to landowners when the Corps agents called upon them.10

The little booklets dropped a bombshell as far as Gainesville residents were concerned. They stated that cemeteries in the fee area would be relocated. The main Gainesville cemetery held over 400 graves, many going back to the early 1800s. Another cemetery for African Americans was also located in the Gainesville community. The relocation of these cemeteries, along with the anxiety of upcoming real estate negotiations, further agitated the residents.11

The mood of the landowners in the communities had improved greatly after Stennis's Logtown speech and his promise of fair compensation, as most residents believed that Stennis would protect their rights in the negotiations. At the same time, NASA began a program of "community relations" with visits by Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) officials. Indeed, the proposed test site became the major topic of conversation in the communities and towns of south Mississippi. U.S. Representative William C. Colmer (1890-1980)(D-Mississippi), chair of the powerful House Rules Committee and representative of the district in which the test site was located, escorted a number of officials from the MSFC on a whirlwind tour of the area. The "get acquainted" visit was intended to promote good relations between the government and the leaders of the communities located around the test site. The group had lunch in Waveland, Mississippi, and inspected the area by motor caravan.12

In December, Colonel Raymond named Orrell B. "O.B." Moore as manager of the land acquisition program. In mid-January 1962, Moore opened a real estate project office in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, that eventually employed 25-30 people. Now with many of the main players in place, the drama of acquiring the land and moving the people of Hancock County to new homes outside the buffer zone began to unfold.13


[32] Land Acquisition

"These communities were virtually untouched when we first came in," remembered William R. Matkin, Corps of Engineers land acquisition agent. Matkin arrived in Bay St. Louis in February 1962 and played a key role in the land acquisition process. He negotiated the purchase of lands in the fee simple area and in the accoustic-buffer zone. Matkin remained with the Corps throughout the acquisition process, until the Bay St. Louis real estate office closed in 1968. Matkin developed a camraderie with the landowners, and he remembers how "traumatic" the experience was for the people to face the Corps negotiating agents. "A lot of people just didn't want to leave," Matkin said. "Some of these people were born and raised right here in this area, maybe in the same house."14

Indeed, sentimental attachment to the land was a major problem the Corps encountered, but another more tangible dilemma hampered negotiations - land merchants who moved into the area. Senator Stennis warned landowners of "speculators" in his Logtown speech, and his warning soon proved true. Speculators moved in almost immediately, buying land in communities surrounding the borders of the test site. As a result, landowners who sold their property at values frozen 25 October 1961 often encountered higher prices when seeking to buy homes and land outside the NASA-designated area. Matkin and other Corps agents understood the dilemma, but the law prevented them from doing anything to compensate the residents.15

Land speculators flocking to the area from as far away as Houston, Texas, lacked any attachment to the local landowners or the communities. The speculators were ultimately hoping to sell land to the well-paid NASA employees, whose salaries greatly exceeded the local average. The incoming workers at the NASA site faced a real estate market with inflated prices.16

The people of Hancock and Pearl River Counties turned to Senator Stennis many times during the next few years as conflicts arose over land deals, negotiations, and relocation. They were faced with leaving their homes and land [33] and entering a new world dominated by high-powered realtors. To make matters worse, the transactions had to be made in haste in order to meet the deadlines imposed by the Project Apollo lunar-landing program, leaving precious little time for sentimentality at the bargaining table.17

The Mobile District Corps of Engineers Real Estate report stated that 11,900 acres of the test area were owned by large landholding companies, and the remaining 1,600 acres were owned in relatively small parcels. All told, about 150 landowners were affected. The historic, 261-year-old community of Gainesville, which included 91 residences, 2 churches, 2 stores, a nightclub, and a school, fell wholly within the area taken over by NASA.18

In the buffer zone, the Corps identified 97,600 acres held in large parcels by owners primarily interested in timber growing, which left 30,800 acres in small farms and homesteads. Acquisition of these easements for the acoustic-buffer zone involved some 2,600 property owners. The buffer zone contained 695 homes, 14 churches, 2 schools, 17 stores, several other commercial buildings, and platted subdivisions containing about 7,600 building lots, of which a number had been sold. The buffer territory also included the romantic old community of Logtown on the Pearl River. Other smaller communities in the buffer zone were Santa Rosa, Napoleon, and Westonia. The estimated total cost of land acquisition then, excluding resettlement and road relocation costs, was $13,800,000. In March 1962, the NASA Headquarters Office of Manned Space Flight (OMSF) instructed the Corps to proceed with its land acquisition plan.19

In less than a month, the first real estate settlement was reached between the Corps and a landowner. On 12 April, Mr. and Mrs. Conley Carver of Santa Rosa signed an option at the Real Estate Project Office in Bay St. Louis to sell their home to the government. The settlement "satisfied" the Carvers and they described it as reasonable and fair, but expressed mixed emotions about leaving their place of birth.20

[34] A few days later, Samantha B. Kellar became the first person to receive payment for her six-room home and 12 acres of land. Corps attorney Carl M. Phillips and Bill Matkin presented her with a check. Mrs. Kellar and her deceased husband could trace their families back four generations.21

Not all land negotiations were as cordial as the transactions between the Corps and the Carver and Kellar families. Many landowners felt they were not offered fair compensation for their property. For example, on 22 May 1962, over 250 angry landowners jammed the Hancock County Courthouse to voice their protest at a meeting of the Board of Supervisors. The landowners at the mass meeting elected Dr. James Fargason as president of the "Mississippi Test Facility Landowners' Committee." Named to serve with him on a standing committee were Asa McQueen, Sylvester Moran, Oscar Gelpi, August Holden, Cody Isbell, and Charles Aker. Mrs. Isbell agreed to serve as secretary and Cornelius J. Ladner volunteered to assist as attorney.22

The committee gave the residents a collective voice that captured the attention of politicians, the Corps, and NASA bureaucrats. Perhaps, most importantly, its members kept Senator Stennis in the thick of the fray. Members of the association found that newspaper coverage in Picayune, Bay St. Louis, Gulfport, and New Orleans helped attract attention to their situation. The (Bay St. Louis) Sea Coast Echo ran a lengthy editorial siding with the government's land policies, concluding that the landowners were being offered a fair price. The editorial argued that "John Stennis, irrespective of pressure," should not play politics in an attempt to get more money for the property than was being offered as a result of appraisals made by "qualified Mississippians."23

Offering a different perspective, The Hancock County (MS) Eagle expressed hope that "displaced citizens" would receive just compensation for the "supreme sacrifice" that many were making in giving up their land and family homes. Conversely, The Picayune Item took a broader view in an editorial entitled "Don't Wait for Uncle Santa Claus," which urged citizens of Picayune to look to the future and get busy building satellite industries and improving their city's infrastructure in order to capitalize on the new space facility.24

[35] Senator Stennis found himself in the position of pushing the NASA project forward in his home state, and at the same time serving as an ombudsman for landowners. He answered letters and phone calls, met with landowners and government officials, issued press statements, and made frequent trips to the area to reassure the people that they would receive "full, adequate, and just compensation" for their land. In response to repeated pleas from the residents, Stennis took legislative action on the matters of greatest concern to the landowners.25

The two main issues troubling the landowners, who had to move because they had sold or encumbered their property, were (1) relocation costs, and (2) desire by some to sell buffer zone property to the government rather than encumbering it. They maintained the land would be useless to them if they were not present to farm or take care of their holdings. Many residents also wanted to take "the old home place" with them when they moved. Relocation costs became one of the most important demands the landowners expressed through their committee and in letters and direct talks with Senator Stennis.26

Troubled by continuing reports that landowners were being exploited, Stennis used the power of his office to help displaced citizens at every turn. The issues of relocation costs and payment options for buffer zone lands were significant, tangible matters that Stennis could do something about. On 2 August 1962, Stennis announced that he had channeled funds into a NASA appropriations bill, which included moving expenses for persons displaced by construction of the static-testing facility. Stennis explained that "this bill authorizes the landowners to be reimbursed...even if the people have already moved."27

In early September, Stennis persuaded NASA and the Corps of Engineers to change their policy and allow the displaced landowners the option of selling their property to the government. Originally, the policy only provided for a perpetual restrictive easement for all who owned land in the great expanse [36] surrounding the test site. The revised policy, allowing owners the option to sell, included all subdivisions, residences, small farm units, and small acreage tracts. Dr. Fargason said "The action taken by Stennis [did] much to aid the owners and expedite settlements for the remaining property."28

By the end of the summer of 1962, negotiations for all but a few tracts of land in the 13,428-acre fee area had been decided. The Corps granted extensions beyond the original 1 July departure date for people to move their homes and personal belongings from the construction site. The final day for evacuation was set for 1 October 1962, but a few residents lingered on in the Gainesville area until the end of the year. In early January 1963, some rushed to get out, just ahead of the crushing blades of bulldozers and the noisy reverberations of heavy-duty chain saws.29

State Highway 43, running through the middle of the future test site, became known during those climactic days as the "Mississippi Trail of Tears." A Native American resident of Gainesville likened the process to the infamous "Trail of Tears" in which the Cherokee nation was all but destroyed on a government-forced march from their lush hunting grounds in the Smoky Mountains of the Carolinas and Georgia to the plains of Oklahoma. After Senator Stennis secured moving costs, large companies with elaborate moving equipment came in to jack up the old homes and move them out. The residents, for the most part, lacked the financial resources to move their dwellings until this action taken by Stennis. Then, not a day went by that did not see a line of big trucks hauling houses, awkwardly jerking and swaying on trailers, slowly rolling down old Highway 43.30

The case of Cora Blue Davis serves as an example of the difficulty experienced during this removal. Ms. Davis refused to leave her home and remained on the front porch in a rocking chair as the movers towed her house to its new destination. Daley Dronet, a housemover from Picayune, personally moved 50 houses out of the fee area and estimated that "about 75 percent" of all the existing houses in the test site were moved.31

[37] Ironically, Gainesville had a final brief gasp of life and became a busy town again. As residents prepared to leave, the Corps arrived to begin construction, and NASA came on the scene to establish a "Space Age" presence. The Corps acquired the last of the big tracts of land when it completed negotiations with the International Paper Company, whose 11,258 acres in the fee zone represented the project's largest single tract. The paper company, the largest employer in the area, sold its property to the government for approximately $1 million. Only one case was left to be settled - the 320 acres owned by Crosby Forest Products of Picayune and leased to another large timber concern, the St. Regis Paper Company. The Corps, however, obtained a "right of entry permit" that allowed it to complete survey work, establish offices, and begin construction. Temporary workspace was established by the Corps and early NASA personnel in some of the abandoned houses.32

In the end, the beauty, dignity, and good times of Gainesville were preserved in the memories of those who participated in the farewell church services, parties, and visits to favorite places of the heart. Both churches in Gainesville, the Gainesville Baptist Church and the First Baptist Church of Gainesville, held all-day Sunday services on 26 August 1962. Hundreds came to wish each another Godspeed and to take part in the final chapter of the town's history. The services ended at noon and were followed by a "dinner on the grounds," provided by the women of Gainesville who brought their best "dishes." The crowd, estimated to be the largest to gather in Gainesville in 50 years, milled around the old town visiting sentimental landmarks. Many paid their respects at the two cemeteries marked for removal. Here, they saw the graves of Dr. Ambrose Gaines, founder of the town, and L.K. Nicholson, who established the New Orleans newspaper, The Times-Picayune. Some walked down toward the Pearl River and took cuttings from the huge wisteria vine touted by a local newspaper as the "world's largest." The giant vine wound its way to the top of a large live oak beside Dr. Rouchon's rustic fishing lodge, soon to house the NASA center's headquarters. Picayune Mayor Granville Williams proclaimed the affair "Gainesville Good Neighbor Day." The personable mayor led a delegation of prominent citizens from Picayune to mingle with the departing residents and to offer welcome to them to their city when they relocated. He was joined by Picayune Chamber of Commerce President Louis McGehee, who extended a "warm and friendly" welcome to all who would migrate north to Picayune.33

[38] Up the road from Gainesville on Highway 43, a farewell party was also held for the patrons of "Shorty's 43 Club." The popular nightclub and restaurant was owned by Elwood Andrews and his wife, who lived adjacent to the property. Mrs. Andrews, who operated the business for 16 years, said over 400 people came to the party from as far away as Jackson. After the club was closed, the Andrews moved to Picayune and NASA turned the building into an "Information Center" for the thousands who soon came looking for jobs.34

Officially, Gainesville vanished on 10 January 1962. The town's last 48 hours were marked by feverish activity among the families that stayed on until the end. All property not taken out by nightfall of that day passed to the government.35

The last residents to leave the area slept on the premises to prevent pilferage of their property. Journalists, television crews, and curious spectators flooded the busy roads on the final day. Television personality Ms. Terry Flettrich, of the New Orleans-based WDSU, found a scenic spot on a high bluff at the end of Main Street to do a stand-up closing for her story, while the sun set behind the moss-covered oaks and cypress trees across the river in Honey Island Swamp. A big, white moon came up over the tall pines, lighting up the narrow road as the last of the residents made their way up the hill leaving Gainesville and their roots behind.36

Anxious to proceed with the construction of its rocket testing facility, NASA began moving its own pioneers to the scene, even before the original owners cleared the area. One of the first administrative tasks of the new organization was to deal with the official name of the test site. In those early years, the small "resident" NASA organization stationed in Mississippi used the name "Mississippi Test Operations (MTO)." Later, NASA engineers stationed in Huntsville who were drawing up plans for the structures, called the new site the "Mississippi Test Facility (MTF)." In an effort to settle the confusion, the leaders at the MSFC asked Dr. Robert C. Seamans, Jr., Associate Administrator NASA Headquarters, to settle the issue. Seamans answered by unofficially naming the new facility the "NASA Mississippi Test Operations" [39] in December 1961. Nonetheless, some at the MSFC continued to call the site the MTF, while personnel assigned to the Mississippi installation began using the new designation of MTO. This "in-house" name controversy continued, with both names used by the different elements until 1965 when the MTF designation became official.37

On 1 October 1962, after making special arrangements with the Navy, Wernher von Braun named Navy Captain William C. Fortune as the facility's first manager. Fortune reported to work immediately from his position as commanding officer of the Naval Air Test Facility at Lakehurst, New Jersey. A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, this amiable officer had wide experience in research and development operations, mainly in aeronautics and rocketry. He helped design the launcher for a V-2 that was fired from the carrier U.S.S. Midway in 1946, the first large rocket to be launched from the deck of a ship at sea. He was one of the principal proponents of the 1954 Project Orbiter, a joint Army-Navy proposal to launch a small Earth satellite using the von Braun developed Redstone rocket.38

Fortune quickly earned the respect of both the personnel who served under him and local community leaders. Even though he was allowed to wear civilian clothing by terms of the agreement with NASA, Fortune usually wore his Navy uniforms, something that pleased the military-minded people of the Gulf Coast. According to those who knew him, Fortune epitomized the phrase "an officer and a gentleman."39

Captain Fortune arrived just in time to participate in the first NASA ceremony held at the MTO, the raising of the American flag and NASA's own colors over the new facility on 20 November 1962. Von Braun and several key members of his Huntsville staff joined Fortune for the event in front of the newly obtained Rouchon House headquarters. Fortune, in good Navy tradition, prepared a special flagpole for the affair, complete with yardarm. Von Braun insisted that Fortune raise the American flag, while von Braun hoisted....



Government officials of the NASA George C. Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) raise the American flag for the first time in front of the Rouchon House in 1962 at the Mississippi Test Operations, denoting NASA's presence in south Mississippi.

Government officials of the NASA George C. Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) raise the American flag for the first time in front of the Rouchon House in 1962 at the Mississippi Test Operations, denoting NASA's presence in south Mississippi. Pictured, from left, are: Bart Slattery, public affairs officer; Dr. Werhner von Braun, MSFC director; Capt. William Fortune, MTO first site manager; Dr. George Constan, Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) manager; Dr. Oswald Lange, chief, Saturn Program Office; Dr. Hermann Weidner, chief, Structures and Mechanics Laboratory; Mr. Karl Heimburg, director, Test Laboratory; and Dan Driscoll, Test Laboratory. (SSC-97-031).


....the blue and gold NASA colors himself. Refreshments were prepared by Margaret (Tingle) McCormick, the first employee hired at the site. Mrs. McCormick's first full day on the job was a busy one as she scurried to meet the needs of the Huntsville dignitaries and local press.40

At this gathering, local media and community leaders received their first impression of von Braun. The energetic, renowned rocket scientist had given a [41] speech to a packed auditorium at Mississippi A&M College the night before coming to the test site. After the flag-raising ceremony, he lunched with local officials at Annie's Restaurant in Pass Christian and ended the day with another speech at Tulane University in New Orleans. One local newspaper humorously noted that von Braun "moved with the speed of an orbiting astronaut."41

Von Braun's visit was not the only NASA noise in the community at that time. A huge 30-foot-tall, 12-by-12-foot-wide acoustical "horn" was brought down from Huntsville to aid scientists in studies of sound propagation in the vicinity of test operations. The giant horn, installed during November, began full-scale operations on 1 December 1962. This horn became part of an advanced atmospheric sounding station, and brought the first wave of NASA technicians into the area. NASA contracted with the Raytheon Co. of Burlington, Massachusetts, to operate the sounding device. As part of the operation, an agreement was signed with the U.S. Weather Bureau to furnish atmospheric data at the times of the soundings. Tulane University of New Orleans was chosen to evaluate, analyze, and correlate data from both sources. The sounding station employed 14 persons from Raytheon and the Weather Bureau.42


The Last of Logtown

The big horn's mournful reverberations were heard all around the NASA site and in the nearby towns. The horn sounded the death knell for the old communities that were sacrificed in the name of progress. As Corps of Engineers agents went about their methodical duties of acquiring the 125,442 acres needed to buffer the noise of NASA's rocket testing, the weary landowners continued to meet and share the problems they faced in the land transactions. The restraint of the easement area property owners who met at the Logtown school, and their approach to the final land acquisitions, drew praise on the editorial page of the Picayune Item. The 31 May 1962 issue of the paper stated, "We believe, [42] that the government will recognize this anguished appeal from good, law-abiding American citizens who are yielding in good grace to the demands of the space race, asking only fair treatment by their government. This, we are sure, they will have."43

The first real estate settlement in the buffer zone came when Mr. and Mrs. Elvie Dakes Roberson sold their home and 21.9 acres 8 miles south of Picayune, to the government for $19,500. The most expensive price paid for land in the buffer zone came when the Corps settled with Mr. and Mrs. R. A. Scivique of Bay St. Louis. The Sciviques sold the easement rights for their Star Route Farm, a well-known picnic-catering establishment on Bayou LaCroix, for $370,000.44

Of all the land obtained by the government in the easement area, probably the most scenic property was "Parade Rest," on the banks of the Pearl River at Napoleon, home and gardens of Colonel and Mrs. John Wheeler. Parade Rest was such a beautiful estate that it was chosen as the site for a social event held for Senator Stennis on one of his many visits to the area. The Wheelers sold their home and property, in a complex transaction that involved both an easement and a fee simple sale, for a total of $123,000.45

Acquisition of the buffer zone required the elimination of the towns of Napoleon, Logtown, Westonia, and Santa Rosa. Approximately 150 landowners were affected, but of the people involved in the land acquisition, probably none were more visibly shaken than the residents of the placid community of Logtown. The town's last day came when the one-room Logtown Post Office was retired 30 September 1963. Mrs. Lollie Wright, postmistress in the tiny frame building for 36 years, pulled down the American flag, and Logtown was no more. All that was left of the once-famous town was its cemetery.46

Mrs. Roy Baxter, Sr., one of the residents who went often to the cemetery to reminisce and tend her loved ones' graves paused, just before leaving, and [43] said "It's hard to move old plants. Did you know that? Old plants die when you transplant them."47



1. Historical Division, "The History of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers," Essayons (Washington, DC: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers EP-360-1-22, 1991), pp. 1-7.

2. NASA News Release, 25 October 1961, Stennis Space Center Historical Records Collection at Stennis Space Center, MS (henceforth referred to as SSCHRC).

3. Ad Hoc Site Selection Committee, "Launch Vehicle Test Site Evaluation," p. 67, SSCHRC.

4. "Big Moon Shot Test Job for Mobile Engineers," The Mobile (AL) Press-Register (henceforth referred to as The Mobile Press-Register), 29 October 1961.

5. Bob Torgerson, interview by Mack Herring, Bay St. Louis, MS, 8 January 1995, notes, SSCHRC.

6. "Big Moon Shot Test Job For Mobile Engineers," The Mobile Register, 29 October 1961.

7. C.L.H. "Horton" Webb, interview by Mack Herring, 10 October 1994, notes, SSCHRC.

8. Leyln Nybo, interview by Mack Herring, Bay St. Louis, MS, 12 January 1995, notes, SSCHRC; Director's Files, "Launch Vehicle Test Site Evaluation," nd., SSCHRC.

9. "Big Moon Shot Test Job for Mobile Engineers," The Mobile Press-Register, 29 October 1961.

10. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile District, "Information Concerning Land Acquisition Program for NASA Centralized Testing Site, Mississippi and Louisiana," 23 November 1961, SSCHRC.

11. Ibid.; For further information regarding the moving of the cemeteries, see "MSFC/NASA Seek To Save MTF Cemeteries," Picayune (MS) Item (henceforth referred to as the Picayune Item), 31 January 1963.

12. "NASA Officials Visit Here," The Hancock County (MS) Eagle, 14 December 1961.

13. "Moore to Get Land for Missile Testing Facility," The (Biloxi/Gulfport, MS) Daily Herald (henceforth referred to as The Daily Herald), 12 December 61.

14. William R. Matkin, interview by Dr. Charles Bolton, SSC, MS, Mississippi Oral History Program, University of Southern Mississippi, vol. 393, 4 December 1991, SSCHRC.

15. "Watch for Speculators," Rural Electric News, Mississippi Edition, December 1961, p. 9, SSCHRC.; William R. Matkin, interview by Mack Herring, Pass Christian, MS, 14 January 1995, notes, SSCHRC.

16. "600 Beautiful Lots," The (New Orleans, LA) Times-Picayune (henceforth referred to as The Times-Picayune), 27 November 1962.

17. Matkin, interview by Mack Herring,

18. Mobile District Corps of Engineers, "Mississippi Test Facility Real Estate Planning Report," 12 January 1962, SSCHRC.

19. Ibid.; Jerry Hlass, interview by Mack Herring, 27 February 1996, notes, SSCHRC. According to Mr. Jerry Hlass, who at the time of the land acquisition was the NASA Headquarters person for the construction of the MTF, "The total cost that NASA paid for the land including the Administrative cost by the Corps of Engineers totalled $21.5 million for both the Fee Area and the Buffer Zone."

20. "First Option Signed," The (Bay St. Louis, MS) Sea Coast Echo (henceforth referred to as The Sea Coast Echo), 19 April 1962.

21. "Mrs. Kellar 1st to Sell," The Sea Coast Echo, 3 May 1962.

22. "Land Owners Body Formed," The Sea Coast Echo, 24 May 1962. For further information, see "Property Owners Report Concern By Senator Stennis," Picayune Item, 8 February 1963.

23. Editorial, The Sea Coast Echo, 24 May 1962.

24. Editorial, The Hancock County (MS) Eagle, 31 May 1962; Editorial, Picayune Item, 7 June 1962.

25. "Full, Adequate, Just," Picayune Item, 17 May 1962; "Senator Stennis Interested In Test Zone Prices," Picayune Item, 24 May 1962; "Stennis, Colmer Co-operate," The Hancock County (MS) Eagle, 26 July 1962.

26. "Hancock Landowners Complain of NASA Offers," The Daily Herald, 12 May 1962.

27. "Stennis Says Moving Expenses Assured," The Hancock County MS) Eagle, 2 August 1962; "Government to Refund Expenses of Moving Incurred by Landowners," The Hancock County (MS) Eagle, 15 November 1962.

28. "Senator Stennis Announces New Policy for Buffer Zone," Picayune Item, 6 September 1962; "Senator Stennis Announces New Policy," The Hancock County (MS) Eagle, 6 September 1962.

29. "Gainesville Gets Another 60 Days to Move," Picayune Item, 21 June 1962.

30. Ibid.

31. "Houses In Test Area May Be Moved Along Highways," Picayune Item, 24 May 1962; "Biggest Housemoving Project In History Of State Coming In MTO," Picayune Item, 14 February 1963; Pauline Whitehead, interview by Mack Herring, Hancock County, MS, 26 August 1994, notes, SSCHRC.

32. "International Paper Signs Pact To Sell Land To NASA," The Sea Coast Echo, 25 October 1962.

33. "Hundreds Jam Gainesville To Say Last Goodbyes To Town," Picayune Item, 30 August 1962.

34. "Shorty's Place Might Become Engineers' Base," Picayune Item, 26 July 1962; Mrs. Elwood Andrews, interview by Mack Herring, Picayune, MS, 16 January 1995, notes, SSCHRC. Electric power became scarce and disruptions common in the last days with most of the Coast Electric Power Association's customers moving out.

35. "Last Families Leave Gainesville as Government Technicians Move in to Launch Great Saturn Job," Picayune Item, 1 October 1962.

36. "Television Tells Story of Ending for Gainesville," Picayune Item, 17 January 1963.

37. Robert C. Seamans, Jr., to Harry H. Gorman, 10 December 1961, SSCHRC. See also MSFC, Management Manual, "Charter, Mississippi Test Operations," 10 December 1963, SSCHRC.

38. For transcript of conversation during which von Braun offered Fortune the position as the MTO's first facility manager, see Daily Journal of Werhner von Braun, 1962, "Telephone Conversation Dr. von Braun/ Captain Fortune" 2 February 1962, SSCHRC; MSFC Biographical Sketch, "William C. Fortune Manager of MTF," 1 November 1962, SSCHRC.

39. Leo Seal, Jr., interview by Mack Herring, Gulfport, MS, 27 September 1994, notes, SSCHRC; Roy Baxter, interview by Mack Herring, 5 January 1995, notes, SSCHRC.

40. "Von Braun Here, Ups NASA Flag," The Sea Coast Echo, 21 November 1962; "America's Renowned Space Chief and Aides Inaugurate NASA Test Facility Headquarters," Picayune Item, 22 November 1962; Daily Journal of Werhner von Braun, 1962 "Von Braun Itinerary" 12-20 November 1962, SSCHRC; and "NASA's Office In Charge of Woman With Local Kin," Picayune Item, 21 November 1962.

41. "Countdown at MTF," The Sea Coast Echo, 21 November 1962.

42. MSFC Press Release, 31 October 1962; "Weather, Sound Tests," The Sea Coast Echo, 27 September 1962. For good discussion of acoustic facility work at the MTO, see Lee Paul, interview by Steven Patterson, Bay St. Louis, MS, Mississippi Oral History Program, University of Southern Mississippi, vol. 393, 4 December 1991, SSCHRC.

43. Baxter, interview by Herring; "Buffer Property Owners Will Discuss Problems At Logtown," Picayune Item, 25 April 1962; Editorial, "Owners Act Restrained," Picayune Item, 31 May 1962.

44. "Roberson Sites Sold for $20,000 To Government," Picayune Item, 31 May 1962; "Star Route Farm Easement Brings $370,000," Picayune Item, 22 August 1963.

45. "Parade Rest At Napoleon Will Live As Beautiful Garden For Tourists," Picayune Item, 19 March 1964. Author attended the social gathering held at Parade Rest in honor of the senator during a visit that Stennis made to the area in the spring of 1963.

46. "Logtown PO End Noted," The Sea Coast Echo, 30 September 1963; and NASA-MTF Press Release, 30 September 1963, SSCHRC.

47. Baxter, interview by Herring; Ronald Bailey, "Moon Race Blots Out a Town," Life Magazine, 26 September 1964, p. 4.