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.
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.”
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.
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.