Monday, March 30, 2009

Old Factor's Stand on the Old Natchez Road

The old Chickasaw Cession survey maps in the Itawamba County courthouse show the Natchez Trace route as it appeared when the surveyors mapped out the Chickasaw Cession during 1834. Back then the ancient road was labeled as The Old Natchez Road. The story of the Natchez Trace is a fascinating story of the frontier South. It is the story of circuit riding preachers, missionaries, bandits, land pirates, soldiers, slaves and settlers. It is also the story of the Chickasaw, Choctaw and Natchez Indians.

The heaviest use of the Old Natchez Road was from 1800 to about 1825 by men known as "Kaintucks," who floated down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers with their goods to Natchez and returned north on foot using this old trail from the 1700s that was developed into a Federal road shortly after 1800.

The old 1834 survey maps of what later became Itawamba County in 1836 show this old road in detail. One such small section of a map (illustrated above) shows The Old Natchez Road and also Factor’s Field along the road. Old Factor’s Stand was a resting place in the heart of the Chickasaw Nation where travelers could obtain room and board on their trek between Natchez and Nashville.

During 1811, Samuel Hastings Stackhouse traveled down the Natchez Trace to Natchez. On Monday, November 25, 1811 he wrote the following about the area of Old Factor’s Stand: “Start early. Continues raining during the fore part of the day. Stop at the Old Factor, a respectable Indian who takes his name from being the principal manufacturer of homespun in the nation & appears to have a large settlement… After baiting our horses proceed on. Observe the country tolerably well improved, Indian plantation every few miles. Arrive at the Big Town which formerly contained many buildings but is now hardly anything more than an extensive prairie with some scattered huts, the Indians having left the town for situations better adapted to agriculture… The two last days we pass through considerable pine barren & over several large streams of water. Some that we have crossed today we calculate to be the head waters of the Tombigbee1…”

The following year, Reverend John Johnson (born January 7, 1783 in Louisa County, Virginia, moved to Tennessee during 1803, married Susannah Brooks, died April 8, 1857), a Methodist-Episcopal circuit rider and missionary in Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi rode through what later became northwestern Itawamba County, spending the night near Old Factor’s Stand near Twenty Mile Creek. He was headed from Natchez to Nashville where he had overseen the Natchez Circuit during the previous year. He wrote in his journal: “I have this day swam my horse 5 times, bridged one creek, forded several others, besides the swamp we had to wade through. At night we had a shower of rain – took up my usual lodging on the ground in company with several Indians2.”

Further information about Johnson’s journey is found in a letter he wrote from Natchez to family in Nashville on November 28, 1811. Telling of his journey to Natchez he wrote: “Dear Mother, Brothers and Sisters: - I must write to you collectively, as I cannot individually. It is with pleasure I inform you that I enjoy health of body, and in some degree, quietude of mind; and that we had a safe and somewhat comfortable journey to this place. We came through with post haste, occupying only nine days and seven hours in coming through the nations. Came forty miles or upward each day. Our horses performed the journey well. We reached the Territory on Wednesday, the 20th instant. I find it easy to speak of, but very tedious and tiresome to make a journey of five hundred miles. The road is far better than I expected to find it. The friendly clouds poured down one heavy shower of rain upon us in the wilderness, and but one. The Indians are very kind and friendly; sold us corn at $1 to $1.50 per bushel. I think the Indians are far better than some of the whites who are among them3…”

The story of Old Factor’s Stand in the area that later became Itawamba County is but one story told along this old Federal road connecting Nashville to Natchez during the frontier days of the Mississippi Territory in the old American southwest.


1Carolyn F. Castor, “Travel Diary of Samuel Hastings Stackhouse, 1811,” Early Southwest Mississippi Territory, (accessed March 30, 2009).

2Nostalgiaville Publishing, “Images from Nostalgiaville: Mississippi – Natchez Trace Parkway,” Nostalgiaville,, (accessed March 30, 2009).

3Susannah Johnson, Recollections of The Rev. John Johnson and His Home: An Autobiography (Nashville, TN: Southern Methodist Publishing House, 1869), 70.

Expand Your Research

Over the weekend I was catching up on my blog reading and came across an interesting post at the California Genealogical Society Library blog showing an interesting graphic poster reflecting the idea that most research takes place in such areas as libraries, archives, courthouses and the like. After viewing this interesting poster I decided to create a graphic interpretation of the subject reflecting all the different avenues researchers should be taking in addition to the Internet. With the help of my of graphics program and Wordle, I created the above illustrated poster.

The Internet is a wonderful research tool and makes genealogical research so much easier than in the past. I can easily recall the pre-Internet days when I would spend hours at libraries scrolling through spools of census microfilm, writing query letters including my self-addressed stamped return envelope, filling out applications for death certificates, and scanning through hundreds of pages of un-indexed books looking for that elusive ancestor. However, even today, far from everything is online, and the researcher who doesn’t expand their avenues of research is simply missing out on valuable information.

Far from everything is online and the dedicated researcher must continue to take traditional avenues for research including using local historical societies, genealogical societies and libraries (both local and academic). Records in courthouses need to be explored and letters need to be written. Visits to cemeteries, archives and museums are also important. Simply put, there is a massive amount of information out there that will take more traditional methods to obtain. The Internet has not taken the place of more traditional methods of research - it has simply made the job of research much more easy.

Expand your research exploring all avenues by taking more traditional routes to compliment your Internet-based research. It is amazing what is available out there in collections throughout the country easily obtained by writing a letter, making a phone call or visiting the various facilities. It will be time well spent.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Party Invitation: 1922

A basketball party invitation from the Itawamba Agricultural High School from 1922. The printed invitation reads: "The boys and girls of the high school basket ball teams are invited to meet each other in the first 'social game' of the season. A neutral court has been provided in Mrs. Barber's (or H.S.)class room and game will be forfeited by team not on hand promptly at seven o'clock. Officials: Mrs. Henley and Miss Webb. Scorekeepers: Everybody." Handwritten at the bottom of the invivation is "Saturday evening."

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Woods and Gardens are Now Shades of Purple, White and Pink

Wisteria is now blooming throughout the countryside of Itawamba County with shades of purple, blue, pink and white. Much of the woodlands and gardens of Itawamba County are now washed in spring color with the sweet scent of Wisteria permeating the air.I snapped the photo yesterday along the edge of my yard behind my house.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

An Old 19th Century Road Crossing the Mantachie Creek Bottomlands

This past weekend while visiting the old Files graveyard I photographed the old road pictured above. During antebellum times this road connected the Files farm east of Mantachie Creek and the Owen farm west of the creek. For many years this old road linked the Fawn Grove community with the Walton Cemetery community but during the mid-1900s the county quit maintaining the road and Mantachie Creek Bridge. Today the old road east of the creek is merely a well-worn path but the old road west of the creek is known as Franks Road. For years now, every time I visit Walton Cemetery where many of my family lines are buried, I admire this old forgotten section of a once well-traveled road.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

An Itawamba County Cowboy ca. 1932

Woodrow Wilson Franks (born March 30, 1913, the son of Thomas Walker Franks and Sarah Jane Sheffield) is photographed at the North Mississippi Fair and Diary Show in Tupelo around 1932. The photograph was taken in an arcade studio at the fair.

During the 1920s and 1930s young men in Itawamba County enjoyed the silver screen – in particular, westerns. It was during the 1920s traveling tent shows toured the rural countryside of Itawamba County offering the citizens silent moving picture shows. One of the most popular such shows was the Daddy Violett traveling moving picture show that would go from community to community throughout Itawamba County. By the early 1930s a trip to the Strand Theater in nearby Tupelo or the Dixie Theater in Fulton was a special Saturday treat after spending the prior week laboring in the cotton fields of Itawamba County. Here in those old theaters the likes of Hoot Gibson, Tom Mix, Tim McCoy and Tex Ritter could be seen on the big screen providing high adventures of the Old West to the wide-eyed country boys of Itawamba County perched on the edge of the seats.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Dogwoods Blooming at the Courthouse

The Itawamba County Courthouse Dogwood trees are blooming. When I got to the courthouse this morning I couldn't resist photographing one of the trees on the courthouse square.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Itawamba County Fair Catalog of 1952

Pictured above is the cover of the 1952 Itawamba Fair and Livestock Show Official Catalog. The event was held September 30 through October 4, 1952. The 88-page catalog is full of local advertising and information regarding the various contests and exhibits. The 1952 Fair Officials were: A.J. Mattox (president), R.F. Robinson (vice-president), H.L. Holland (secretary), M.T. Seitz (treasurer) and Delmus C. Harden (program chairman). Members of the Official Directors were: J.C. Whitehead Sr., Gaddis Prestage, Delmus C. Harden, Phillip Sheffield, Manuel Gorden, J.M. Gibbs, Sr., H.H. Yawn, E.L. Franks, W.L. Kilpatrick, Sam Cooper, Joe Staub, Owen Spearman, O.E. Earnest, H.W. Holcomb, J.H. Gilliland, J.E. Wiygul, R.V. Maples and N.A. Riley.

From the welcoming letter, president A.J. Mattox wrote: “We regret the drought has cut the production of crops in I tawamba County, but we can still compare progress with each other and do our share in feeding the people of the nation. The Fair affords an opportunity for the farmers of Itawamba County to show their products and to study those of their neighbors; thus to exchange ideas, and enable each other to produce still greater harvests against the time of need.

Childhood Visits to the Fulton Ice Plant

The Fulton Ice Plant was built during the 1920s "under the hill" on Main Street in Fulton and was continuously in business for many years. The ice manufacturing company was in Fulton's first shopping center outside the downtown area on property owned by the Gaither family. Located in this strip of buildings owned by the Gaither family were the Sinclair Service Station (later Smith's Shoe Store), the Fulton Ice Plant, Rushing's Fabric Store and Rushing's Sporting Goods.

Going to the ice plant as a child was fascinating and fun. On those hot and sweltering Mississippi summer days, the dark interior of the ice plant was cool and refreshing. Huge blocks of ice were dragged along the wooden floors and with the help of large tongs, those blocks of ice would be hoisted upon the saw table, then cut into 9 smaller blocks. It was always fun to stand near the ice crusher as those smaller blocks of ice were fed into the crusher. A fine mist of frozen ice particles would shoot from the noisy crusher, cooling your face. The crushed ice would drop into large brown double-layered paper bags holding twenty pounds of ice. I remember the ice from the Fulton ice plant was always crystal clear. During the summer months, watermelons in season would be sold ice cold from the building.

During the late 1950s I remember my mom would buy ice by the block from the ice plant and use an ice pick to chip away at the ice in a large dish pan. It seems iced sweet tea was better back then - maybe it was because of that quality chipped ice used to fill the glass.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Old Files Graveyard Near the Mantachie Creek Bottomlands

The old Files Graveyard is located on a hill east of the Mantachie Creek bottomlands near the old Aberdeen and Jacinto Road. The land was first owned by the James Files family during the 1830s and it was James Files (born September 9, 1769), who was buried in the old cemetery on January 29, 1842. This old burial ground contains perhaps a dozen or many more graves, with most being marked only by brick. Pictured above is the David Files pottery monument (son of James Files) and the remains of an old brick crypt. Pictured to the left is the Garland G. Lesley Confederate monument and a small section of the adjacent graves marked only with brick.

One interesting monument in the cemetery is that Confederate monument memorializing Garland G. Lesley (born 1838 in South Carolina). His father, Abel Buren Lesley (born 1805 in South Carolina) brought his family to Itawamba County from Alabama during the late 1850s settling near this old cemetery. His son Garland G. enlisted with Company C (Town Creek Rifles) of the Second Mississippi Infantry. He was enrolled in the company at Verona in western Itawamba County on Saturday, March 1, 1862 by Lieutenant William Marion Pounds (born September 12, 1828 in Baldwin County, Georgia), the brother of Itawamba County planter, Merriman Pounds. Garland Lesley was wounded (right hand with loss of fingers) at the Battle of Gaines’ Mill, Virginia on June 27, 1862 and on May 23, 1864 he received a medical certificate of disability.

The companies that made up the Second Mississippi Infantry were raised in the four counties that made up northeastern Mississippi – Tishomingo, Itawamba, Pontotoc and Tippah.

In the 1860 census Garland is listed as Darling G. Lesley in his father’s household. In the 1870 census he is listed as Garland with his wife Permelia and children Nancy and James. In the 1880 census he is listed with his wife Permelia with children Martha, James, Charlie and Marion. He is not found in the 1900 census.

There are several graves adjacent to the Lesley Confederate monument marked only with brick, and family members say those are graves of seven Lesley children who died of yellow fever, probably during the yellow fever epidemic of 1878, when more than 20,000 citizens of the Lower Mississippi Valley lost their lives.

The Azaleas are Blooming in Itawamba County

Today was the perfect day for lawn work. The temperature was just right - slightly warm. While mowing the lawn for the first time this year I noticed my azaleas were starting to bloom. It seems they are budding out a little early this year. Usually this shrub starts putting on its showy color in the gardens of Itawamba County around the first week of April, but we have had a rather mild winter. I'm sure many county gardeners are keeping their fingers crossed in hopes that Jack Frost doesn't pay us a late visit.

A View From the Schoolhouse Window

Pictured above is a late-winter view from a classroom in the old Fulton Grammar School on South Cummings Street in Fulton.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Egg Hunt in the Village: 1922

On Easter Sunday, 1922, the boarding students of Itawamba Agricultural High School were treated to a special Easter dinner on that Sunday, April 16, 1922. After the dinner, the students walked up the hill to the Arthur T. Cleveland home on Beene Street where they enjoyed an egg hunt on the grounds of the Cleveland home, hosted by Mr. Cleveland's wife Effie. Arthur T. Cleveland was a long-time attorney in the town of Fulton. The above invitation was found in the school scrapbook of student Letha Ferguson.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Cummings Monument in the Old Fulton Graveyard

One of the most unique yet simple monuments in Itawamba County is the Malachai Crawford Cummings monument in the old Fulton graveyard. Yesterday while visiting this old cemetery, I visited the Cummings monument enclosed in a highly ornate iron fence. The monument reminds me of an ancient relic in the shadows of a massive cedar - one tall column, as if taken from the portico of Sunny Dell, the grand home on the hill just north of Fulton where peacocks roamed the grounds, that was home for the Cummings family during the nineteenth century. Beneath the towering column a large finial broken from the top the column rests on the grass.

Cummings came upriver to Fulton during the 1830s from Columbus and during 1840 he was elected to represent the county in the state legislature - an office he held for several terms. He was a businessman and planter, building several of the town's structures during antebellum times.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Purple Thrift in the Old Fulton Graveyard

Today I spent my lunch break at the old Fulton graveyard. The warm vibrant sunny weather was the perfect time for a visit. The purple thrift is now blooming throughout Itawamba County. For many years, purple thrift was planted in the area cemeteries and every year around this time, the old cemeteries turn into a purple meadow. I've heard several folks around these parts call this plant graveyard thrift. My visit to the cemetery today also afforded me the perfect opportunity to capture some more photographs of some of the old monuments found in this cemetery.

March Program Meeting

The March 2009 program meeting was held last evening in the Gordon McFerrin Auditorium of the George Poteet History Center, headquarters of the Itawamba Historical Society in Mantachie. The special program was presented by Pat Arinder of Amory in neighboring Monroe County. Arinder, a member of the Tombigbee Pioneer Group, presented a program about the prehistoric Native Americans of northeastern Mississippi. Also attending the meeting was society member Janie Comer of Fulton who presented a large collection of archival photographs, books and vintage clothing from the Ferguson family of Itawamba County. This collection will be housed in Bonds House, the society's county museum of history, with the photographs being cataloged and stored in the Gaither Spradling Library.
Photographs courtesy of society member Dr. Terry Thornton, of Hill Country of Monroe County.

Spring 2009 Issue of Itawamba Settlers Received From Printer

The Spring 2009 (Volume 29 Number 1) issue of Itawamba Settlers, the quarterly 56-page membership journal of the society, was received from the printer today and will be processed for bulk mailing to the 2009 membership later this week.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day

I am like Randy Seaver over at Genea-Musings in that I have yet to find any Irish ancestors during my research. It seems most all of my immigrant ancestors from the early 1600s through the early 1700s came from England, Scotland or Germany. I have some allied lines in my family with Irish ancestry I have researched including the Riley family. This line immigrated during the 1700s from Ireland to Virginia settling in Augusta County, then moved south into the Carolinas, arriving in Itawamba County by 1839. I have also researched the development of Itawamba County's Irish community during the late 1850s through the early 1860s.

During the late 1850’s the Mobile and Ohio Railroad was being constructed through western Itawamba County. The line ran through the old Itawamba towns of Verona, Saltillo and Campbellton and the construction of this important railroad resulted in several more towns developing including Tupelo, Guntown and Baldwyn.

Railroad construction work was slow and difficult during antebellum times and by 1860 the Mobile and Ohio’s construction was in full swing in the northwestern portion of the county. The railroad company hired many men from the area and other southern states, but most of the men who constructed the railroad were laborers from the North, with the vast majority being born in Ireland.

The 1860 Federal Census gives a wonderful documentation of these workers constructing the railroad in northwestern Itawamba County. They will probably be missing from their home states because they were down South in Itawamba County, Mississippi building a railroad. Below is a listing abstracted from the 1860 Itawamba County Federal Census honoring those men from Ireland who helped forge a railroad through the hills of northeastern Mississippi:

Davis Wren: 35, Ireland
Michael McMarrow: 27, Ireland
John Ryan: 25, Ireland
John Davis: 26, Ireland
James Kahn: 28, Ireland
John Dunn: 30, Ireland
John McKinley: 32, Ireland
Archibald Wilson: 30, Ireland
Michael O’Bryan: 26, Ireland
Levi Smith: 30, Ireland
David Frolly: 23, Ireland
Simeon Hassett: 30, Ireland
Martin Hanley: 27, Ireland
Edward Burke: 35, Ireland
Daniel Carry: 35, Ireland
Edward Donahoe: 20, Ireland
John Murphy: 40, Ireland
Andrew Kelly: 30, Ireland
Michael Flannigan: 45, Ireland
Patrick Smith: 35, Ireland
George Matthews: 47, Ireland
James M. Sains: 21, Ireland
Richard Nolen: 25, Ireland
Dennis Cary: 35, Ireland
Owen Logan: 33, Ireland
John Collins: 23, Ireland
Patrick McVilly: 30, Ireland
Roderick Coleman: 28, Ireland
John Book: 35, Ireland
Robert Sullivan: 30, Ireland
Patrick McCarter: 25, Ireland
Jno. Kernes: 55, Ireland
Michael O’Bryan: 25, Ireland
Joseph McDonald: 20, Ireland
Edward Smith: 30, Ireland
Jery McKay: 35, Ireland
Thomas Farrell: 35, Ireland

Monday, March 16, 2009

Program Meeting Reminder

The Itawamba Historial Society will hold its regular monthly program meeting Tuesday evening, March 17. The special program will be presented by Pat Arinder of Amory in neighboring Monroe County. Arinder is a member of the Tombigbee Pioneer Group and will present a program about the prehistoric Native Americans of northeastern Mississippi. The meeting begins at 6 p.m. with an old-time chicken and dumplin' dinner, with green beans, cornbread and peach cobber for dessert. Meetings are held in the Gordon McFerrin Auditorium of the George Poteet History Center at the corner of Church Street and Museum Drive in Mantachie. The public is invited to attend all program meetings.

An Elusive Obituary

For years I had searched for an obituary for my great grandfather William Sheffield and one day while transcribing old newspapers for the historical society’s quarterly journal, I stumbled upon the printed notice of his death, which was recorded in the newspaper several weeks after his death. His death notice from the October 12, 1916 issue of The Itawamba County News reads: “We regret that we failed to note the sudden death of Uncle William Sheffield, one of Itawamba’s aged citizens who died at his daughters near Mantachie several weeks ago. Uncle William was very old having gone through the Civil War in which he received several wounds, which no doubt shortened his days on earth. He leaves a host of relatives and friends of whom, Mr. J.H. Sheffield, one of his sons, lives in Fulton to mourn his loss. The News join them in sympathy.”

In transcribing old newspapers for several years I have learned that prior to the 1930s, obituaries were written by the family of the deceased and submitted to the newspaper. Notices of deaths were also reported in the various community news columns as reported by the community news writers. The newspapers here usually did not publish obituaries composed by the newspaper prior to the 1930s. If an ancestor's obituary cannot be found, don't forget to read through the community news items. It could be hidden within those columns, as was my great grandfather's death notice from 1916. It is also a good idea to search the newspapers for several weeks after the death of an ancestor, as sometimes it was weeks before the death was reported in the newspaper since the information was compiled by a neighbor or family member and submitted for publication.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Into the Woods on a Winter Day

After a couple of days of soaking rain, I took a hike into the woods of Itawamba County on Saturday. It was a damp foggy day, but the rains the night before had washed the landscape clean producing nature’s vivid colors. I’ve always enjoyed hiking in the woods. I grew up in a family that enjoyed the outdoors and much of my youthful summers were spent on family camping trips. Back during my high school years the required reading in one of my English classes included Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. That book became one of my favorite reads in school, and it continues to be a welcome part of my library even today. During 1854 Thoreau wrote in Walden: “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

During my trek in the Itawamba woods yesterday, I came upon many colorful plants and an area of mossy tree stumps – remnants of a logging operation from years past in the dense forest. Upon a clearing an old home place appeared with the perimeter of the old yard being marked with Eastern Redbud trees in full bloom. I’ve always been partial to the redbud tree. The hills and valleys of Itawamba County are painted this time of year with the pinkish purple blooms of this native tree. According to the Arbor Day Foundation website, this tree is native to North America and Canada. First cultivated during 1811, the Spaniards noted Redbuds and made distinctions between the New World species and their cousins in the Mediterranean region during 1571. George Washington recorded in his diary on many occasions about the beauty of the tree and spent many hours in his garden transplanting seedlings obtained from the nearby woods.

Yesterday’s trek into the woods was definitely a special treat. In today’s busy world, it is a delight to explore nature and remnants of times gone by in the beautiful woods of Itawamba County, Mississippi.

Henry David Thoreau portrait (1879) from the Library of Congress (The Evolution of the Conservation Movement, 1850-1920).

Saturday, March 14, 2009

A Hint of Spring

Throughout the rural countryside of Itawamba County the Yellow Jessamine is showing its yellow trumpet blooms. It is one of the first hints of the coming of spring and on a damp evening or early morning, the sweet scent of the flowers spreads throughout the countryside. The state flower of South Carolina, it is also called Carolina Jessamine around these parts.

Friday, March 13, 2009

19th Century Physicians License Records Reveal Important Data

One interesting record group in the Itawamba County Courthouse is the Physicians License Book 1 located in the Circuit Court Clerk’s office. During 1882 a law was passed in Mississippi requiring all physicians to obtain a license to practice medicine in Mississippi and a copy of those licenses were to be filed in the county or counties where the physician practiced. This book in the courthouse in Fulton contains a transcript of the medical licenses for physicians recorded between 1882 and the early 1900’s. These license transcripts contain valuable information about the applicants including age, birthplace, educational information, address of applicant when the license was applied for and lists of character witnesses. Below is an example of the information found in this volume.

Transcript of License,
Issued to Dr. Joseph Thomas May
No. 71
Office of
Mississippi State Board of Health
Know all men by these presents, that Joseph Thomas May, who, according to his letter of application on file in this office was born in Mississippi, thirty eight years of age, who resides in Itawamba County and whose post office address is Tremont, and who has spent five years in professional studies under the supervision of ___ as preceptor, (whose post office address is ____ and who attended one course of lectures at Memphis Hospital Medical College…and has chosen as his school of practice that of the regular physician, and refers concerning his moral character to Stephen Gilmore of Tremont, Dr. D.A. Stone and Capt. J.H. Stone of Tremont and J.C. Cates and Newman Cayce of Fulton, Miss. has made application for license to practice medicine in the State of Mississippi and has been examined by the Board of __ of the First District … and received a favorable endorsement. Therefore, by authority granted in Section Nine of An Act to Regulate the Practice of Medicine in the State of Mississippi, approved February 28, A.D. 1882, the Board of Health of the State of Mississippi do hereby license the aforesaid Joseph Thomas May to practice Medicine in the State of Mississippi.

Issued by order of the Mississippi State Board of Health, this 14th day of June A.D. 1883.

Wirt Johnston
Secretary, Mississippi State Board of Health

Recorded June 25, 1883.

In the 1870 U.S. Federal Census of Itawamba County Joseph Thomas May is listed as Thomas May, age 9 in the household of William and Mary May and by 1900 he is listed in the Amory precinct of Monroe County as a physician.

In researching old Itawamba County records, don’t forget Physicians License Book 1 in the Circuit Court Clerk’s office.

Snow in the Swamp

Swamplands along Ironwood Bluff Road west of the Tombigbee River were photographed by society member Oliver Westmoreland on a snowy Sunday morning, March 1, 2009.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Tupelo Area Picture Postcards Book is Available

This afternoon I had a pleasant visit with Bill Lyle and Mem Leake (pictured left to right) of Tupelo in neighboring Lee County. We had a pleasant conversation about Tupelo’s history and many of the old Tupelo families with Itawamba County roots. Tupelo was established in Itawamba County prior to the Civil War and became a part of the new county of Lee during 1867 as did the other western Itawamba County towns of Verona, Shannon, Guntown, Saltillo and Baldwyn. We discussed the book, Tupelo Area Picture Postcards: Greetings from Tupelo, Miss. This 66-page full-color book was published last year as a joint effort of the Northeast Mississippi Historical and Genealogical Society and the Oren Dunn City Museum. Featuring 120 postcard reproductions, this most interesting book offers a glimpse of Tupelo and the surrounding area from 1907 through 1955.

Serving on the Postcard Book Committee were Boyd Yarbrough, Mem Leake, Bill Lyle, Juluian Riley and David Baker. The book is $39.95 with proceeds going to the Oren Dunn City Museum and The Northeast Mississippi Historical and Genealogical Society. It is available for purchase at five locations: Reed’s Bookstore, the Lee County Library Friends gift shop, Village Green Bookstore, Oren Dunn Museum all in Tupelo, and Miss Ruth’s Diner in Verona. This book would most definitely make an excellent gift for the historian in the family!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Society Program Meeting is Tuesday, March 17

The Itawamba Historial Society will hold its regular monthly program meeting Tuesday evening, March 17. The special program will be presented by Pat Arinder of Amory in neighboring Monroe County. Arinder is a member of the Tombigbee Pioneer Group and will present a program about the prehistoric Native Americans of northeastern Mississippi. The meeting begins at 6 p.m. with an old-time chicken and dumplin' dinner, with green beans, cornbread and peach cobber for dessert. Meetings are held in the Gordon McFerrin Auditorium of the George Poteet History Center at the corner of Church Street and Museum Drive in Mantachie. The public is invited to attend all program meetings.

Upcoming special programs will be William Miles of Fulton, former Mississippi legislator and publisher who will be presenting a review of his book, Scribe Among the Pharisees for the April meeting, and Dr. Terry Thornton who will be presenting a program on burial customs of Mississippi's hill country for the May meeting. The Mississippi Department of Transportation will be presenting the June meeting with the program: Building the Dream: A History of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

In the Meadow

Ruth Boren (left) with Colette Phillips, daughter of Arthur and Bobbie Grissom Phillips. Ruth was the daughter of Clayton and Minnie Boren. This photograph was taken in the Ratliff community ca. 1920.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Oakland Normal Institute Graduation Program: 1895

Oakland Normal Institute was a private academy located at Yale in Itawamba County in the present-day Oakland community. Established during the early 1880’s this private academy provided students with a classical education teaching such courses as art and Latin, as well as business and education. Many graduates of this school became successful business people all over the midsouth.

The society has digitized a four-page 1895 graduation program from the academy and will be placing the images in the online archives.

The graduation program began on Thursday, June 13, 1895 with class work at 8 a.m. followed by a commencement sermon by Rev. T.H. Dorsey of Fulton at 11 a.m.. Class work resumed at 2 p.m. At 7 p.m. the drama, The Donation Party was performed by the students. On Friday class work resumed at 8 a.m. and at 11 a.m. the annual address to the graduating classes was delivered by the Hon. Stone Deavours of Pauling. At 3 p.m. recitations, declimations and original speeches were delivered by the following undergraduates and irregulars: Miss Marilla McKenzie, Miss Iva Thorn, John Mark, Miss Maud McKenzie, John McKenzie, Miss Lucendy Holley, Luther Patton, Miss Jessica Moorman, Lander Patton, E.M. Chilcoat, W.H. Cantrell, Charles Weaver, Miss Luvony Patton and S.T. Graham.

At 7 p.m. original speeches by the D.B. Course were presented. Included in the program were W.H. Brown, T.R. Williams, N.L. Hawhon, Miss M.O. Mark, Miss Alva Holley, H.W. McKenzie, E.F. Wheeler, G.H. Maxwell, D.D. Wright, J.H. Wright, W.A. Harrison, C.O. Farrar, C.L. Deavours, N.C. Waldrep, H.D. Waldrep and D.K. Robison. Original speeches were then given by Miss Rada Brewster and Miss Fanny Little, graduates of the B.S. course and speeches by C.L. Graham, C.D. Holley, and D.H. Streetman, post graduates. Awarding of diplomas followed. A meeting of the school’s alumni took place on Thursday, June 13 at 2 p.m.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

An Early Saturday Morning

This morning I had to pick up some research material at the historical society's headquarters. From looking at the quiet grounds of historic Bonds House and the George Poteet History Center, it's hard to believe just last Sunday we had four inches of snow on the ground. Yesterday the temperature reached nearly 80 degrees and the same is forecast for today. Trees and shrubs have started blooming and grass is now turning green.

Gypsey's Portrait

In going through, and cataloging a group of photographs donated to the historical society, the above portrait caught my eye. On the back of the postcard photograph was written "Gypsey Grissom Young." Gypsey Grissom Young was the daughter of Ocie D.(son of Columbus Lafayette and Frances Underwood Grissom) and Jimmie Mitchell Grissom (daughter of Benjamin Crittendon Mitchell and Nancy Jemima Ratliff).

Source: Gypsey Grissom Young photograph, ca. 1919. Grissom Archival Collection. The Gaither Spradling Library. The Itawamba Historical Society, Mantachie, Mississippi.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Centerville School: 1936

Pictured is Centerville School on January 2, 1936. Centerville, located north of Mantachie, was one of the larger rural schools in Itawamba County.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Marking Old Homesteads

Whether you call them buttercups or daffodils, this late winter blooming plant marks the spot of many of old homesteads throughout Itawamba County. There's nothing much prettier than coming upon a field of buttercups in rural Itawamba County. William Wordsworth said it well when he wrote:

I wander'd lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils,
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

...from William Wordsworth's poem, Daffodils

Society's Spring 2009 Membership Magazine at the Printers

The Spring 2009 issue of Itawamba Settlers, the quarterly membership journal of the Itawamba Historical Society was turned over to the printers yesterday. This 56-page magazine is devoted entirely to Itawamba County, Mississippi history and genealogy. The magazine should be in the mail to the 2009 membership and subscribing libraries later this month. Featured in this issue are the following articles:

An Old Monument in Philadelphia’s Laurel Hill and Its Connection to Itawamba County
Itawamba County Police Court Minutes: 1866
Joseph S. and Sarah Davis Portrait
Society Member to Present Workshop at National Conference
Chattel Deeds Document Many Early Residents
Questions About Early Itawamba County Marriages
Itawamba County Slave Data
Old Family Letters From Another Place and Time
George Benich War of 1812 Pension and Land Bounty Records
Ola Jackson Ferguson Portrait
Itawamba County Newspaper Abstracts: 1911
Van Buren Methodist Church Deed: 1845
Students on a Field Trip During 1923
Dr. R.J. Kennedy Obituary
John McElhannon Obituary
Reverend Lee Compere Biography
Society 2009 Membership Drive

For information about how to receive Itawamba Settlers, visit the society's membership area at

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Standing on a Wooden Snuff Crate

While working at the historical society's Gaither Spradling Library and cataloging old photographs donated to the society, I came across the above image. I instantly took a liking to the photograph, especially the item used as a pedestal for the young girl - a W.E. Garrett and Sons Scotch Snuff wooden crate. Written on the back of the image is "Eveline and Holston Grissom."

Source: Eveline and Holston Grissom photograph, ca. 1910. Grissom Archival Collection. The Gaither Spradling Library. The Itawamba Historical Society, Mantachie, Mississippi.

A Calf at the Church House

Pictured are Paul W. Wood, holding calf and Charles Eliff sitting on the ground. The Ratliff Baptist Church is seen in the background. The scene was photographed around 1918.

Source: Wood and Eliff photograph, ca. 1918. Grissom Archival Collection. The Gaither Spradling Library. The Itawamba Historical Society, Mantachie, Mississippi.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Ocie D. Grissom Portrait

Ocie D.Grissom of the Ratliff community was born 1881 in Itawamba County, the son of Columbus Lafayette and Frances Underwood Grissom. He married Jimmie Mitchell, the daughter of Benjamin Crittendon and Nancy Jemima Ratliff Mitchell.

Source: Ocie D. Grissom Portrait, ca. 1900. Grissom Archival Collection. The Gaither Spradling Library. The Itawamba Historical Society, Mantachie, Mississippi.

Reflections of a Winter Sky

The blue winter sky is reflected today in the windows of the front door of the George Poteet History Center, headquarters of the Itawamba Historical Society in Mantachie.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Keyes Cemetery: March 1, 2009

During the winter I've always felt there's no place colder than a cemetery. Adding to all the monuments, several inches of snow, just compounds the cold atmosphere of the stark landscape. The above photographs were taken by Itawamba Historical Society member Oliver Westmoreland. A special thanks to Oliver for sharing these photographs taken on March 1, with the readers of Itawamba History Review.

Tremont's Spearman & Son Store Matchbook: 1923

A matchbook distributed by the Spearman & Son store in Tremont during 1923. The matchbook also advertises S.E. Perlberg & Co. of Chicago, a made-to-measure clothing firm.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Another Itawamba Snow Photograph From the March 1, 2009 Snow


What a Difference a Day Makes

Waking up do a hefty snow this morning was quite a shock. Any kind of snow in Mississippi is quite rare, but a snow of several inches is very rare. Lately we've had warm weather getting up into the 70's. Fruit trees are blooming, daffodils are painting the landscape yellow and the birds have been singing. Today is a stark contrast to the weather we've had.