The story of Tiak-O’Khata began when John Brown Smyth, great grandfather of the founders, moved his family from Abbeville, South Carolina to Louisville, Mississippi. In Louisville, he built the original house which now stands on the north shore of the lake. During the Civil War, Sylvester Smyth, Sr. was only a boy of nine years when the Union General Grierson and his officers commandeered the home. The soldiers ordered Grandmother Smyth to cook and serve their meals, which she did, never sleeping and carrying a butcher knife under her apron. The Union army took all available food and livestock. They burned the cotton gin and the year’s stored baled cotton. This gin was located where Steve White’s apartments now stand. Sylvester, with a group of black men, took horses and as much food and cattle as they could move to the woods around Estes Switch and hid until the army left. Following the ordeal the entire plantation was left strewn with sick and dead horses, the rubble and debris of encampment or farmed men, broken china, and burned and devastated crops.
In 1954, Ruby and Catherine Smyth, wives of Sylvester Jr. and Benjamin, were talking on the phone one day; Ruby wished she had something to do now that her children were grown. Catherine said that she and Benjamin would love to build a fishing lake on the old home place since both liked to fish. After further discussion, the ladies proposed the idea to their husbands who reluctantly agreed.
The lake levee was constructed in 1954 by building a 600-foot dam and spillway at a cost of $333.34. Several small streams fed by springs soon began to fill the lake, and one year later water flowed out of the spillway. Family members got together and discussed at length a name for their new lake and decided to call it Lake Tiak-O’Khata, which in the Choctaw Indian language means “Lake of the Pines.”
Fishing was popular and soon a concession stand stood on the western shore of the lake. A white sand beach for swimming with piers and diving board platforms were added. In 1957, the first cabins were built and 1958 saw the first bunk house to accommodate youth groups; 80 people can now be housed bunk style. In 1960, a giant step was taken when a restaurant which seated 200 was built and soon after was enlarged to seat 500. In 1961, Sylvia White, daughter of Sylvester and Ruby, joined the company. In the early years, family members did not have salaries. Pay was three good meals a day. April 4, 1965 was a dark day for the Smyth family as a fire totally destroyed the restaurant. The fire started around 2 a.m., presumably from faulty wiring in the kitchen area. Although there was a large debt, the family, along with good bankers, got busy and in August of the same year the restaurant building was restored. Business once again flourished!
In 1973, Bob Smyth, son of Sylvester & Ruby Smyth, and his wife Vera moved from New Orleans to join the business. Soon after their approval, the first of twenty motel rooms were built. Subsequent building projects gave the property a total of fifty-four motel rooms by 1979. Steve and Carmen White joined the business in 1981. Again building projects were initiated. Honeysuckle Hall, a large meeting/dining facility was added. This was followed by the addition of Pine Ridge Lodge, a meeting/dining hall accommodating 250, with an 80 bed youth camp adjoined. Once again, in 1990, a building program which produced Smyth Hall, added fourteen more motel rooms. Today, lakeside villas and a large recreational vehicle park also dot the landscape.