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Poplarville resident remembers Carriere’s POW camp

There are not many people left to share with the world their first-hand accounts of World War II.
Eighty-seven-year old Hazel Seay of Poplarville is a member of Poplarville’s Historical Society and was 14-years-old at the beginning of the war.
She was born in Lamar County, raised in Millard and went to school in McNeill.
Seay lived a mere 10 miles from Carriere’s Hillcrest Farm. The farm was used as prisoner of war camp from 1943 until 1946 and housed German and Italian soldiers, Seay said.
Prior to the war, the farm was owned by L.O. Crosby and was utilized as a dairy farm, Seay said. Hillcrest is located near the present day Anchor Lake subdivision.
“In 1942 in North Africa, the British and U.S. soldiers captured 275,000 German and Italian soldiers,” Seay said. “There were 660 prison camps in the United States and there were four major camps with 19 branches in Mississippi. Hillcrest was a branch of Hattiesburg’s Camp Shelby.”
Seay said the camp housed about 150 prisoners and had 50 guards. She recalls guards bringing the German and Italian prisoners to work in the sawmill and performing odd jobs in Picayune. The prisoners also helped pick up Tung nuts.
According to previous story in the Item, Pearl River County was a top producer of Tung nuts, which were used to make paint and other items.
“The guards tried to make things pleasant for the prisoners and no one ever tried to escape,” Seay said. “John Sims, a former guard from Tennessee, said that no matter where he went after Hillcrest, he would always think about being in Picayune.”
Seay said the prisoners were released to their respective countries in 1946. After the war, the fate of Hillcrest was in limbo for a period of time. The main buildings have since been torn down and all that remains is the arch at the beginning of the driveway.
“The area soon turned into a residential area and the lake was built,” Seay said. “The fact that we had a POW camp near our town didn’t really affect me, I guess we took it for granted. We weren’t afraid of anything.”