A wagon with roots of Laurel’s historical relevance at the turn of the 20th century now resides with its namesakes’ lineage, sitting across from the very spot it was manufactured more than 100 years ago.
With the help of city officials Tuesday morning, the Lindsey Wagon — believed to be one of six left in the United States — made its way to Bird Dog Café on Short 7th Street. The wagon had been shipped to South America, made its way to a barn in Richton and was restored. It was a center display at Sawmill Square Mall and the Laurel Welcome Center before coming to Bird Dog Café.
“I don’t think there is a better place (for it),” said Elliot Bell, co-owner of Bird Dog Café and descendant of John Lindsey, the wagon’s creator. “I think it’s beautiful, and if you look across the way at the mall there is a mural of the wagon.”
Chuck Bell, Elliot’s father, said moving the wagon to its new housing was a lot easier than moving it out of the Rasberry building.
“It took about 20 people to move the wagon, take it apart and turn it on its side to get it out of the building,” Chuck said.
In 1899, John Lindsey patented the Lindsey Wagon to haul logs. At one time in history, Laurel was the yellow pine capital of the world, and the Lindsey Wagon was a significant factor. By 1901, Lindsey Log Wagon Company was the single-largest employer in the state of Mississippi, employing more than 120 people. Now, the wagon has a central location to continue to remind locals and tourists of Laurel’s significant historical past.
“For me as a business owner, it’s iconic,” Elliot said. “The housing for it couldn’t be any better, and the story will keep being told. It ties our present to our past — and who knows what Laurel is going to become? Whatever that is, the wagon will be a part of it.”
The wagon holds historical significance and sentimental value to the Bells.
“Our family has always held on to things. We are kind of collectors and very much value the past,” Elliot said. “We have the land where my grandfather was born that his father had before then, and we have the Lindsey land from the 1800s. As a family we’ve always held onto our history and know who we are. There is a lot of amazing history in Laurel that needs to be held onto.”
After getting permission from the city to display the wagon at Bird Dog Café, the family pondered the best way to display it. They talked about putting it on the corner of the cafe’s lot or buying a piece of property to make a special park for the wagon among other ideas. In the end, the family decided to build a semi-permanent home for the wagon — a covered stage in the back of the building that houses Bird Dog Café, Bell said.
“I’m very happy with it. It will double as a stage — it’s a pretty iconic backdrop — the Lindsey Wagon stage," Bell said. "So we hope to get more artifacts, and we talked to a gentleman the other day about getting a piece to show how big trees were back then. People can get some idea of the ecosystem that used to be here and all the work that was put into changing that.”