History of the Fernwood Foundation

John Fletcher Enochs was born on May 25th 1827, and lived in Crystal Springs, Mississippi. He married Rebecca Jane Black, and they had 11 children. Just before he left the family to join the civil war, John Fletcher made a loan to a friend who wanted to purchase a lumber mill. While he was off at war, that friend defaulted on the loan, and the Enochs family suddenly became the owners of a lumber mill. On the very evening that they took ownership of the mill, January 10th 1873, the town of Crystal Springs burned to the ground, creating quite a sudden demand for lumber.

Isaac, the oldest of the children, had wanted to become a lawyer, but he forwent his ambitions and took on the role of running the mill. In 1887 Isaac along with two of his brothers, James Luther and Philip Henry, formed a business originally called The Enochs Brothers Partnership, which later became the Fernwood Lumber Company, and finally Fernwood Industries. The brothers built 3 mills, one in Jackson, one in Gallman, and one just outside of Magnolia, MS which eventually became the company town of Fernwood.

These three brothers were very intent from the beginning on taking care of the employees and local community that helped drive their business forward. The original business charter in 1887 specifically pledged that 10% of profits go to benevolent and charitable contributions.

Original Enochs Brothers Partnership document from February 7 1887

In 1898 the brothers helped build the first Methodist Church in Fernwood, MS. In 1909 they built the first predominantly Black church in the area, St. Paul’s Baptist Church, located to this day a short stone’s throw from the still standing Fernwood Industries office building. In 1913 they also built the first school for the Black community in the area, and formed a separate “Colored School District.”

Fernwood Colored School in 1946

This photo taken in 1946 of the original school built in 1913.

By the 1940’s, Philip Henry Enochs Jr, son of one of the original 3 founders, had become the leader of the business. In 1948 Philip Henry Enochs, Jr created the Fernwood Foundation as a trust with the initial purpose of building an improved school for Black students in the community. He was frustrated that the local Black community was not provided the means to receive an education in the same manner as the white population. He solicited funds from friends, relatives, and acquaintances from states across the country. The foundation donated land and then subsequently funded the construction of a new school building to replace the original one built by his father in 1913.

This school was notable because it had one of the few indoor gymnasiums available to the Black community in southern Mississippi.

The Colored School

In addition to donating land and capital for the school, the Foundation also donated land and assisted the construction of several local Black churches.

The Foundation was originally funded personally by Philip Henry Enochs, Jr. and friends, in addition to donations made by the Fernwood Lumber Company and its successor business, Fernwood Industries. No contributions or capital have been added since the late 1960’s.

The Fernwood Foundation continues to exist today and is led by a board of six directors who continue operating in the spirit of the original founders. The Foundation makes annual donations to several of the local churches in the Fernwood area as well as other entities that benefit the local community.

Early Projects: Churches

The three Enochs brothers and their successors have been strong supporters of the religious interests of the local community from the very beginning.  In 1898 Philip Henry Enochs, Sr led the charge to gather donations to help build the original Methodist Church in Fernwood, MS.  In 1909 The Fernwood Lumber Company donated land and helped to fund the construction of the original St. Paul’s Baptist Church in Fernwood.    Similar arrangements were made in support of the St. Marks African Methodist Episcopal Church and the Star Hill Church of Christ.

Original donations to build the Fernwood Methodist Church in 1898
Original donations to build the Fernwood Methodist Church in 1898
Fernwood Lumber Company deed to St Pauls Baptist Church in 1909
Fernwood Lumber Company deed to St Paul’s Baptist Church in 1909
Fernwood Industries deed to St Marks Church in 1954
Fernwood Industries deed to St Mark’s Church in 1954
Arrangement with Star Hill Church when they moved in July 2003
Arrangement with Star Hill Church when they moved in July 2003

Early Projects: Schools

Prior to the existence of the Fernwood Foundation, the Fernwood Lumber Company demonstrated an interest in furthering the educational opportunities for the local Black community. In 1913 the company donated land and funded the construction of the original Fernwood Colored School shown in this picture.

Here is the original deed donating land for this purpose, and a subsequent deed in 1951 formally filing that transaction with the county.

Fernwood Lumber Companys original deed for the Fernwood Colored Public School in 1913
Fernwood Lumber Company’s original deed for the Fernwood Colored Public School in 1913
Fernwood Industries reconfirmation of the deed for the Fernwood Colored Public School in 1951
Fernwood Industries’ reconfirmation of the deed for the Fernwood Colored Public School in 1951

By 1948 that original school could no longer meet the needs of the growing community, so Philip Henry Enochs, Jr founded the Fernwood Foundation to build a new and improved facility. By 1954 he had the plans for the school drawn up, and in 1956 he arranged the donation of the land needed for construction.

Architectural diagram of Fernwood School
Architectural diagram of Fernwood School
Fernwood Industries deed donating land to the Rural Separate School District in 1954
Fernwood Industries’ deed donating land to the Rural Separate School District (Parcel A and Parcel G) in 1954
Fernwood Industries arranged for land originally donated to St. Pauls Baptist Church to be repurposed for the school construction project. This is their deed to Fernwood Rural Separate School District in 1954
Fernwood Industries arranged for land originally donated to St. Paul’s Baptist Church to be repurposed for the school construction project. This is their deed to Fernwood Rural Separate School District (Parcel C and Parcel F) in 1954.

Here are a few photos of the completed project:

The Colored School
The Colored School

Employee Photo Gallery

In 1941, Philip Henry Enochs, Jr took an interest in photography and decided to make portraits of many of the employees of the Fernwood Lumber Company at the time. Here is a gallery of those portraits, and the hand written names that he recorded on the back of the photographs.

Photos & Artifacts

Original 1887 Enochs Brothers Partnership

Original Enochs Brothers Partnership February 7 1887

Original 1948 Fernwood Foundation Charter

Historical Photos