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Brass Footprints of Wes Fairley

Field review by the editors.

Hattiesburg, Mississippi

John Wesley "Wes" Fairley, "the Paul Bunyan of Stone County," was born enslaved in 1840, joined the Union Army at the tail end of the Civil War, afterward became a successful businessman and landowner, then lost most of his money and died in 1918.

Some time around 1903, when Wes was having his money troubles, he had his bare right footprint, 14 inches long, cast in brass. Nine copies were made, then set into two one-footed tracks on a downtown Hattiesburg sidewalk leading from the curb into a clothing store and a shoe store. The stores then ran advertisements in the local newspaper claiming that a "mysterious giant" had walked downtown to successfully buy a suit and footwear. Wes presumably received those items in payment for his footprint.

In 1983 Hattiesburg ripped up the sidewalk but saved the footprints, carefully replacing them in their original spots, even though no one could remember who made them or why they were there.

Locals historians eventually solved the mystery, and in 2018 Wes Fairley was finally honored with a historical marker, but it's not in Hattiesburg.


Brass Footprints of Wes Fairley

501 Main St., Hattiesburg, MS
Downtown, on the northeast corner of Main and E. Front Sts. The Wes footprints are on both the Main and E. Front St. sides
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