Water Valley, Mississippi, a small town just south of Oxford is my Mom’s ancestral home to all four branches of her family: Trusty, Dickey, Hill and York. All you have to do is mention one of these names to any local resident and you are instantly related to almost everyone in town. This familiarity makes me smile and feel instantly accepted and loved.
Water Valley is a quintessential southern town with a large park at one end of a charming Main Street just loaded with small historic storefronts. For many years, the Illinois Central Railroad’s City of New Orleans trains used to run through the middle of town parallel to Main Street but sadly during the mid-1900’s the train no longer came through town and the tracks were removed. Since that time, Water Valley stayed much the same never really growing but holding their own. Today this bustling little town enjoys a thriving business district with help in part from creative community members like the entrepreneurial women mentioned in a 2012 article by the New York Times. These women along with many other community members support their charming downtown area and delight in the many unique businesses that line their main street: art galleries, a chocolate shop, a 100+ year old drug store with soda fountain, many small shops, several boutique hotels, a locally sourced grocery store, several restaurants, and more, all housed in historic buildings.
At one time, the Trusty family owned the only hotel in town, now there are several boutique hotels. If you’d like to see the downtown area watch this half hour You Tube video about a family that moved to Water Valley from Washington DC and renovated a stretch of five buildings that once housed a mercantile and now host a furniture store and boutique hotel.
On our trip in February this year, we were surprised to see the name Trusty on a small diner right there on Main Street. Come to find out, a distant relative(he’s a 3rd or 4th or 15th cousin – we’er working on figuring that out) decided to return to his roots and celebrate our family with a pleasant place to meet and eat. The decor in the Trusty Diner is charmingly reminiscent of 1950’s style diners with photographs of distant relatives adorning the walls, whitewashed ship-lap ceilings, a counter where you can sit and chat with the locals, wait-staff and cooks, and some of the best diner food I’ve had in a long time.
We met the owner, Lawton and compared notes on family history and small town life. His bio from their website: Lawton Gafford, local chef & owner, has a rich family history in Water Valley. The Trusty family owned several businesses on Main Street in the 1900s. With the Trusty Hotel, International Harvester dealership, Trusty Hardware and Trusty Drug Store, the family established a strong sense of community within the town. As the grandson of Irma Kate Trusty Gafford, Lawton opened The Trusty Diner to celebrate Water Valley and the Trusty family heritage within it.
After we got the family history book out, written by my great-uncle Jesse, we figured that Lawton is about a 7th or 8th cousin(never could figure out how to count the layers), so a distant cousin but family nonetheless. He’s my great-grandfather’s first cousin’s great-great-grandson.
We went for lunch and were delighted with our meals. We all shared our opinions of our selections and everything was exceptionally tasty. The specials of the day were a Cuban sandwich with Mojo dipping sauce, Black Bean soup, and Asian BBQ Pork tacos with avocado and carrot, apple and daikon radish slaw. From the everyday lunch menu I ordered the roasted beet salad with goat cheese and walnuts on arugula with a balsamic dressing. Absolutely delicious! Sadly not everyone thought so but those people don’t like beets and did not want to venture out of their comfort zone and try a taste. My cousin Taylor Trusty ordered the Cuban sandwich and declared it fantastic!
Their desserts under glass domes on the front counter tempt everyone. The fresh apple pie looked exceptional as did the homemade maple bacon cake. We truly enjoyed our time catching up with family and visiting. No rush here. They make you feel at home in this extremely relaxed diner.
As with most places nowadays, the Trusty Diner sells items with their logo emblazoned on the front. So, we decided to take a couple piece of the Trusty Diner home with us. They sell T-shirts, kitchen towels, tote bags and some canned pickles and jams and we bought some of each to remind us of a wonderful afternoon in Water Valley.
If you ever get the chance to visit Water Valley, Mississippi, be sure to stop into the Trusty Diner for a blast from the past – a 1950’s diner experience with daily specials written on the chalk board out on the sidewalk, a healthy dose of friendly Southern hospitality and live entertainment on the weekend evenings.
Whether you plan to go for lunch or dinner, the Trusty Diner will delight you with appealing ambiance, mouth-watering food, tempting desserts and that comfortable feeling of coming home.