Saturday, October 31, 2009

Pass the Peas..... Please

The Columbus Decorative Arts Preservation Forum and Antiques Show and Sale will be held November 5-8 in Columbus, Mississippi. On the Tombigbee River, downriver from Itawamba County, Columbus is known for its many antebellum structures. Events at the forum and antiques show include:

Gala Preview Opening: Thursday, November 5 from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. at the Trotter Convention Center located at 123 5th Street North. The Antiques Show and Sale will be Friday and Saturday, November 6-7 from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. at the Trotter Convention Center.

The Decorative Arts and Preservation Forum begins on November 6 with Pass the Peas, Please… The 19th Century South and its Changing Palate at 9 a.m. At 8 p.m. in Carrier Chapel on the campus of Mississippi University for Women, Jim Gibson, pianist from Atlanta, Georgia will be featured. On Saturday, November 7, beginning at 8:30 a.m. free lectures featuring prominent nationally known speakers, including John W. Keefe, Curator Decorative Arts, New Orleans Museum of Art and Carolyn Bercier, Deputy Director, Herman-Grima/Gallier Historic Houses, New Orleans.

Dinners and entertainment will be held in historic Columbus homes. For advance tickets and forum information call the Columbus Cultural Heritage Foundation or Convention and Visitors Bureau at (800) 327-2686 or visit

The Columbus Decorative Arts Preservation Forum is funded in part by a grant through the Mississippi Department of Archives and History and the Billups-Garth Foundation.

Poster photography Neil Alexander, Southern Lights Photography

Friday, October 30, 2009

National Day of Listening is November 27

StoryCorps, the most ambitious oral history project ever undertaken, has announced the second annual National Day of Listening, to take place on November 27,2009. The National Day of Listening is an effort to encourage all Americans to honor a friend, a loved one, or a member of their community by interviewing them about their lives. The interview process takes less than an hour and offers a meaningful alternative to holiday consumerism.

Participants are encouraged to record their National Day of Listening interviews using equipment that is readily available in most homes – from cell phones to tape recorders to computers or even pen and paper. StoryCorps has created a free Do-It-Yourself interview guide with equipment recommendations and interview instructions available online at

“In the midst of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, the idea of listening during the holiday season has clearly resonated with people across the country,” says StoryCorps founder and MacArthur “Genius” Dave Isay. “The National Day of Listening, which coincides with Black Friday – traditionally the largest shopping day of the year – proves that simply listening to one another is the least expensive and most meaningful gift we can give.”

StoryCorps’ national partners for the National Day of Listening include NPR, the Corporation for National and Community Service and the American Library Association. Although StoryCorps does not currently have the capacity to include National Day of Listening interviews in its collection at the Library of Congress, the organization provides simple instructions for recording and preserving interviews at

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

An Autumn Afternoon

Yesterday afternoon I couldn't resist photographing the giant sugar maple tree on Fulton's West Main Street just off the town square. Not long after the Cotswold cottage style home was built during the late 1930's on the site of an old antebellum home lot, this tree was planted and for generations, has been probably the most photographed tree in Itawamba County. Every autumn the tree bursts into vivid hues of yellow and orange greeting visitors driving up the hill into downtown Fulton.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Headed South

A sign of the colder season coming, this flock of geese was seen headed south over Itawamba County along the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway last week.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Ancestry Magazine Added to Google Books

Google is an excellent resource for the historian and genealogist and the company is always introducing exciting new features. I am an avid user of Google Books and Google Scholar.

This past January I wrote about Google Books adding magazines to its offerings. In December of 2008 Google announced an initiative to help bring more magazine archives and current magazines online, partnering with publishers to begin digitizing millions of articles. Included now in the ever-growing collection is Ancestry magazine.

All issues of Ancestry magazine are available for reading from the January-February 2004 issue through the January-February 2009 issue. Each issue of Ancestry magazine is packed with stories, articles, and expert advice to help family historians take their research further than ever before. From where to look for new family history clues to detailed how-they-did-it breakthroughs and regular features including Megan Smolenyak's "Found!," reader-submitted heritage recipes, photos, and backstories, Ancestry magazine offers the inspiration and the know-how in every issue.

More and more magazines are set to appear in Google Book search results and you can limit your search only to magazines through the advanced search features. From the Google Books search page, simply click “Advanced Book Search” and from the advanced book search page, select “Magazines" and search for “Ancestry Magazine.” To browse all issues, simply click the “browse all issues” link in the upper left corner of the page.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Genealogy Fair Via Interactive Video Network to the Held in Fulton

An upcoming Genealogy Fair will be held over interactive video network on November 6, 2009, beginning at 12 noon until 5:00 pm. There will be a great line-up of genealogists who will speak on a wide array of topics.

Genealogy is considered to be the fastest growing hobby in America with an estimated 60% of the American population interested in learning more about their family history.

The speakers for the fair starting at 12 noon - 1:15pm: Ms. Betty Wiltshire, owner of Pioneer Press of Carrolton, Mississippi. Ms. Wiltshire is considered to be one of the foremost genealogists in our state. She will discuss how to get started in genealogy research. 1:30 – 2:45 pm: Dr. Lynne Mueller is a reference librarian in the Special Collections department at Mississippi State University Library. In addition to being a certified genealogist, she organizes the annual Genealogy Fair at MSU which attracts enthusiasts from across the southeast. Her topic will be the use of courthouse records to discover historical clues. 3:00 – 4:15pm Dr. Edwin Ellis is a retired MSU professor who spends every available moment researching his family history. He brings a great deal of humor and practical insight to conducting genealogy research. He will discuss using Civil War records to glean information about long lost relatives. 4:30 -5:00pm Ms. Mariah Smith from MSU will show us how to preserve memories and converting photos to fabric.

The fair will be held at the MSU-Itawamba Extension Service located at 304C West Wiygul Street in Fulton. Please bring your lunch, come and stay, or come and go. For more information please call 662-862-3201.

A Change of Seasons

This morning while doing some yard work I snapped a photo showing the yellow leaves of a buckeye in the edge of the woods behind my house. Leaves are just now turning in Itawamba County with autumn colors nearing their peak probably within the next two weeks.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Genealogy Fair to be held in Fulton

The MSU-Itawamba County Extension Office invites local genealogy enthusiasts to participate in a Genealogy Fair to be held on November 6, 2009 at the MSU-Itawamba County Extension office. The Genealogy Fair will offer beginners a chance to learn more about conducting genealogical research. Guest speakers will cover a wide array of topics such as, beginning your genealogy search, using courthouse records, using military pensions and preserving family memorabilia.
The schedule is as follows:

12:00-1:15 PM Beginning Genealogy Research
1:30-2:45 PM Using Courthouse Records
3:00-4:15 PM Using Military Records
4:30-5:00 PM Preserving Memorabilia

Sessions will begin at 12 noon and go until 5 p.m. Bring a sack lunch and join us for a fun afternoon learning how to dig up your family history. Please call the Extension office at 662-862-3201 to sign up.

Magnolias on the Court Square in Fulton

Massive creamy white and extremely fragrant flowers grace the one of the magnolias on the Itawamba County Courthouse lawn during the summer each year. The magnolia is entwined with the history of the south and especially Mississippi. This majestic tree serves a dual role as the state flower and the state tree. There’s no wonder Mississippi is known as the Magnolia State.

Magnolia grandiflora, commonly known as the Southern magnolia or bull bay, is a native of the southeastern United States.

It is an ancient genus, having evolved before bees appeared. The flowers developed to encourage pollination by beetles and as a result the carpels of the magnolia flowers are tough in order to avoid damage by eating and crawling beetles.

The fragrant blooms of the courthouse magnolias are enjoyed by residents and visitors alike.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Autumn is on the Way

A maple tree's leaves are turning a golden yellow and vibrant orange in front of the Administration Building on the campus of Itawamba Community College in Fulton. This time of year, the days get shorter and we wake up to cool mornings with the hint that colder weather is on the way.

Bonds House Before Restoration

I snapped this photograph about 25 years ago before the historical society began restoration efforts to save the old structure. Today this ca. 1895 structure is Itawamba County's museum of history operated by the society and has seen thousands of visitors from most every state in the union, as well as several foreign countries.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Celebrate Alabama Archives Week at the Alabama Department of Archives and History

Itawamba County is one of the Alabama border counties of Mississippi and during 1836 when the Chickasaw Cession of 1834 opened up this region for settlement, settlers poured in from neighboring Alabama. Today many Itawamba County families have ancestral ties to Alabama.

As part of American Archives Month, the Alabama Department of Archives and History are presenting several special events. Below is an announcement from ADAH:

October is American Archives Month. The Alabama Department of Archives and History (ADAH) invites all Alabamians to celebrate Alabama Archives, October 14-17, 2009. Highlights of the activities include a Basics of Archives Workshop; an ArchiTreats presentation, The Civil Rights Movement in Alabama by Odessa Woolfolk; a discussion and book signing with author Hasan Kwame Jeffries; and a special Saturday opening on Archives Day, October 17, with museum tours and research opportunities.

All events will be held at the Alabama Department of Archives and History, 624 Washington Avenue. Join us Wednesday, October14, from 9:00 - 3:00 for the Basics of Archives Workshop presented by Archives staff. Individuals and organizations can learn how to care for personal photographs, diaries, and letters. A $35 registration fee includes lunch, break snacks, and a workbook.

On Thursday, October 15, at the noon ArchiTreats: Food for Thought program Odessa Woolfolk will present The Civil Rights Movement in Alabama. This presentation is part of a year-long lecture series providing a chronological history of the state of Alabama as part of the Year of Alabama History.

Hasan Kwame Jeffries will be on hand at noon, Friday, October 16, to discuss the research and writing of his new book, Bloody Lowndes: Civil Rights and Black Power in Alabama’s Black Belt. Books will be available for purchase and a book signing will follow.

The Archives Week activities will conclude on Saturday, October 17, from 8:30 - 4:30, when the Archives will open its doors for a rare weekend opportunity to explore the museum or visit the research room. Special activities will be available for children and the whole family. Guided tours of the museum will be offered at 9:00, 10:30, 12:30, and 2:30. The documents in the Archives will come alive throughout the day through Alabama Voices dramatic readings. Children’s activities will focus on family history and traditions and the Research Room will be open with staff available to help adults explore their family history or other research projects. Archives staff will also conduct mini-workshops to help researchers learn more about using on-line digital collections available on the Archives website to explore photographs, documents, publications, maps, and military records. All events are FREE and a complete schedule of events is available for download in PDF format.

Online Tools For Your Research: Inflation Calculators

In our research we come across many old documents relating to our subjects’ finances. Even in census records, financial information is disclosed. The 1850 census reveals the value of real estate a person owned. The 1860 and 1870 census reveal the value of real estate owned as well as the value of personal property. In such record groups as probate, deed and court records, property values are given. And of course, the dollar unit in the past had more value than the dollar unit today. By using an online inflation calculator you can convert a historical dollar value into its present value.

As an example, the 1860 Itawamba County US Federal Census shows Christopher Hussey, an Itawamba County planter in the southwestern part of the county, to be worth $114,445 in both real estate and personal property. Calculating this amount using an online inflation calculator, shows that in today’s dollars, his worth was equivalent to $3,057,115.61, using the consumer price index formula.

There are several online inflation calculators. A most excellent one is MeasuringWorth. With this calculator you can convert the value of historical dollars to present values from 1774 to the present. Presented here are six indicators for making such comparisons in US dollars between any two years from 1774 to 2008. You can perform calculations using different formulas using different methods - the CPI, the GDP Deflator, the consumer bundle, the unskilled wage rate, the GDP per capita, and the GDP. Only two indicators, the CPI and unskilled wage are available from 1774 to 1790, and the consumer bundle is only available from 1900 to the present. This site has a description of the indicators and some really interesting examples using such subjects as George Washington, the Erie Canal, Babe Ruth and the Model T Ford.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has an online inflation calculator that performs calculations from 1913 to 2009. Their CPI inflation calculator uses the average Consumer Price Index for a given calendar year. This data represents changes in prices of all goods and services purchased for consumption by urban households. This index value has been calculated every year since 1913. For the current year, the latest monthly index value is used.

WestEgg has an inflation calculator that performs calculations from 1850 to 2008. The pre-1975 data are the Consumer Price Index statistics from Historical Statistics of the United States (USGPO, 1975). All data since then are from the annual Statistical Abstracts of the United States.

With the use of online calculators such as the ones mentioned here, we can gain a better understanding of the lives and times of our ancestors.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Airing in the Breeze

About thirty years ago I was driving around the countryside north of Tremont and came upon this beautiful quilt hanging on the clothes line at a farm house. Needless to say I stopped and visited. Can anyone identify the pattern of this quilt?

October is Archives Month

October is Archives Month and Mississippi’s theme this year is “I have so much to tell you…” Organizations throughout Mississippi are showcasing multifaceted collections that represent our history and its continuing relevance from generation to generation. Workshops and tours are being held throughout the state.

Initiatives are led by the Society of Mississippi Archivists and the Mississippi Historical Records Advisory Board (MHRAB), with partial funding provided by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

Included in the special events is Personal Treasures presented by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. To be held October 15-16 at the Corinth Public Library in nearby Alcorn County, this popular program is based on the Antiques Roadshow format.

The public is invited to bring household items, books, maps, photographs, textiles, coins, stamps, architectural elements, and military items (except weapons) for expert advice on the age and origin of the item and its conservation and care. Monetary appraisals are not available at this event. Personal Treasures is free and open to the public.

For a complete listing of statewide events being held during Archives Month throughout the state, visit the Society of Mississippi Archivists website.

Poster ©Society of Mississippi Archivists

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A Fulton Landmark is Being Saved

For generations, the old home atop the steep embankment on Fulton’s Main Street has greeted passers-by. From the days during the 1860s when the road was the Fulton and Russellville Road to the times when it changed to Bankhead Highway, the old home has withstood the passages of time.

Unfortunately Fulton has lost many of its architectural treasures but The Cedars on Main Street has withstood demolition in the name of progress. And thanks to the members of the Fulton United Methodist Church, present owners of the home, the old home can be enjoyed by future generations.

Through efforts of some members of the church, a community-wide effort was begun to move and restore the original section of the home, making room for a church parsonage. And their call for help has fortunately not gone unheard. A grassroots organization called Preserving Itawamba County’s Heritage has been formed and many hours of volunteer labor has been spent with the noble cause.

The organization is more than talk and meetings. There has been plenty of hands-on work. The Cedars was the site of a major volunteer effort Saturday, September 26, 2009 when nearly 100 volunteers devoted part of their morning to cleaning the grounds and the interior of the house. Debris was removed from the lawn and the grass mowed and trimmed. Inside the house all of the recent carpet and padding and several of the newer items were removed and the interior cleaned.

Fulton artist and art educator Teb Thornton recently completed two works which he has donated to Preserving Itawamba County's Heritage (PICH). The art work will be used as a means of raising funds for the relocation and renovation of The Cedars. The artist prepared a watercolor of The Cedars as it exists today --- and a limited edition of 100 prints signed by the artist are available to benefit The Cedars Project Fund (an affiliate of the Create Foundation of Tupelo). All proceeds will be used in the preservation effort to relocate and to restore The Cedars. You may reserve your copy of this limited edition print by contacting the PICH at its blog site Preserving Itawamba County's Heritage. Additional donations to the Create Gaither House Project Fund may be made online at the Create Foundation website.

During this month there will be a benefit at the historic structure in Fulton. Mississippi Hill Country Heritage Day will be Sunday, October 18, 2009 at the historic structure at 211 Main Street. The event will run from 2 - 5 PM and all proceeds will benefit the project.

Tickets to the Mississippi Hill Country Heritage Day event are $15 for adults and $10 for students with admission for small children free. Tours of The Cedars and information about its history, music, games, displays, and a tasting of period foods are all included in this one ticket price.

For further information about this worthwhile event, visit the Preserving Itawamba County’s Heritage blog.

A Lost Corner Scene ca. 1900

Pictured is the Yates and Elzie Conwill home located in the Lost Corner area of Itawamba and Monroe counties. The home was actually located across the county line in Monroe county but the subject is of Itawamba County people. The photograph was taken ca. 1900 and shows several citizens of the Carolina community of Itawamba County. Pictured are (left to right): Dave Armstrong, Metta Armstrong, Jesse Conwill, Ira Conwill holding Earnest Conwill, John Thomas, Babe Carpenter Green, Jonnie Mae Wiygul, Stella Conwill Duvall, Elzie Carpenter Conwill, Yates Conwill, Jr., wife of Bob Whitley (name unknown), Bob Whitley.

Yates Conwill was born September 18, 1857 and died August 28, 1921 (buried Wiygul Cemetery). He was the son of Yates Jury Conwill (born December 16, 1824 in Newberry District, SC, died August 18, 1860, buried in the Shumpert Cemetery in the Carolina Community of Itawamba County) and Nancy Herndon (born March 7, 1826, died March 13, 1916). Yates Jury Conwill and Nancy Herndon married on November 8, 1846 in Monroe County.

Yates Conwill was the grandson of Daniel G. Conwill (born about 1790, died 1863, buried in the Mound Cemetery in Monroe County) and Sophia Goodwin.

The Conwill and Goodwin families were prominent citizens of early Itawamba County in the Carolina Community and the families were located in the Lost Corner area as well, just south of Carolina, in both Itawamba and Monroe counties. The Carolina community was named for the state of South Carolina. Most of the citizens of this area came to Itawamba County from South Carolina, especially the Newberry District area.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

A Country Field

An old wagon in a field of yellow bitter weeds between the Hopewell and Greenwood communities west of the Tombigbee River is seen on an early Autumn day. In the olden days folks tried to keep their cows from eating bitter weed as it would make the milk bitter.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

An Autumn Standard in Itawamba County

Pictured above is a selection of mums at a business in Mantachie. Mums are an autumn standard in Itawamba County and during this time of year many potted mums are sold. When I was a kid, I don't believe you could buy potted mums such as what we have today. I remember mums were planted in the flower beds around the house and each autumn they would spring to life with colorful gold, purple and yellow blooms. It seems the mums now days are overloaded with blooms and the blooms don't last as long as they did when I was a kid.