Monday, December 31, 2007

William Barrett Monument in the Old Bean Cemetery West of English Creek

One of the old secluded cemeteries of Itawamba County is known as the Bean Cemetery located in southwestern Itawamba County just west of English Creek about three miles west of Enon Church and north of the Carolina community. It has been said that this old cemetery is the site of the original Enon Church, one of Itawamba County’s first organized churches, established during the 1830’s.

The photograph to the left is of the monument of William Barrett, an early Itawamba settler from that area. The 1850 US Federal Census for Itawamba County shows the farmer, William Barrett (age 84), as being born in Virginia. In his household are his children Sam. W. (age 42), Joseph W. (age 39) and Eliza E. (age 36). All his children were born in South Carolina, as were many of the residents of the Carolina community area of Itawamba County. William’s wife Milly had died before the 1850 census was taken. According to her tombstone in the old cemetery, she was born January 21, 1784 and died April 26, 1850. The above listed child, Joseph W. (born November 6, 1810), according to his monument in the cemetery, died on October 3, 1856.

Other early pioneer families of Itawamba County buried in this old cemetery include the surnames English, Bean, Black, Thorn, Thompson, Harkness, Parker, Wardlaw and Estes.

Barrett Monument Photograph by Bob Franks

Sunday, December 30, 2007

A New Year's Greeting

Fulton's Historic Aeolian Grove

Aeolian Grove, located in Fulton's historic district near the town square, was built ca. 1842 by the Eckford family from Aberdeen in neighboring Monroe County. During the 1840's the home was sold to the Tannehill family who were recent immigrants from Scotland. The Tannehill family operated a store in partnership with Joshua Toomer at the corner of Main and South Gaither streets. During the 1800's Aeolian Grove was also home to the Cates, Baldridge and Orr families of Fulton.

Photograph by Bob Franks

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Society's 2007 Surname Index for Itawamba Settlers Magazine Now Online

The 2007 annual surname index of Itawamba Settlers magazine has been published online today by the Itawamba Historical Society. This 56-page quarterly publication is the membership magazine of the Itawamba Historical Society. Each issue contains articles relating to Itawamba County history and genealogy as well as abstracts and transcripts of Itawamba County Mississippi historical records. To view the 2007 index in PDF format or to view indices of prior year volumes, visit the society’s website. Simply click on the quarterly magazine link and select the index you wish to view. The quarterly magazine area of the society's website has also been updated to include a new topical index book for all issues from 1981 through 2007 and a new contents index covering the same period, both in PDF format.

The print version of the 2007 surname index will be included with the Winter 2007 issue of the quarterly which should be mailed to the membership during January.

Mississippi Genealogical Society Seminar is January 19 in Rankin County

The Mississippi Genealogical Society and Mississippi Department of Archives and History present the annual Genealogical Seminar on Saturday, January 19, 2008, from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the Rankin County campus of Hinds Community College, 3805 Highway 80 East, Pearl, Mississippi. Doors will open at Wynn Hall at 8 a.m. for early registration. The speaker will be George G. Morgan, who has written several books and many articles on genealogical research.

Morgan is a prolific writer whose works include The Genealogy Forum on America Online: the Official User's Guide and Your Family Reunion: How to Plan It, Organize It and Enjoy It. His most recent book is How to Do Everything with Your Genealogy.

Morgan will present four topics in four separate sessions. The morning sessions are "Climbing Your Family Tree: Effective Genealogical Research" and "Bringing Your Ancestor to Life: Developing an Ancestor Profile." The afternoon sessions are titled "Genealogical Research on the Internet" and "Researching U.S. Land Records."

The seminar cost is $45 and includes lunch. A $2 discount is offered to Mississippi Genealogical Society members. To register send your name, address and phone number along with check made payable to Mississippi Genealogical Society to MGS, Box 5301, Jackson MS 39296-5301. No refunds will be available after Jan 10.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Dr. Christopher Hussey Monument in Southwestern Itawamba County

Dr. Christopher Hussey is considered one of Itawamba County’s largest planters during antebellum times owning a considerable plantation in southwestern Itawamba County. The portion of the 3,880-acre plantation where the old cemetery is located was purchased by Hussey during November of 1845 shortly after his marriage, from Swepson and Elizabeth Marsh Taylor. It is believed that this was the home of the Taylors, as Elizabeth Marsh, wife of Swepson Taylor was buried in the old cemetery during 1847, two years after the sale to Hussey.

Dr. Christopher Hussey was born on February 28, 1825 in Madison County, Alabama, the son of Elijah (born July 11, 1778 Cane Creek, Orange County, North Carolina) and Elizabeth Baker (born 1783 in North Carolina) Hussey. On October 15, 1845 he married Mary Elizabeth Holt Marsh (born August 4, 1829 in Burke County, Georgia) in Itawamba County. Mary Elizabeth Holt Marsh was the daughter of Elihue and Elizabeth Holt Marsh.

The old Hussey plantation graveyard is located near the site of the old Hussey home west of the Evergreen and Greenwood communities.

Photograph by Bob Franks

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Evergreen's First Automobile

The above picture postcard has the penned words “Evergreen’s First Automobile” and “Ask Miss Belle.” The photograph belonged to the James M. and Rhoda Beachum family of the Carolina/New Chapel Community in Itawamba County. Miss Belle was the daughter of James M. and Rhoda. It has been said that this photograph was taken by the old Conwill Store in the Carolina community. Evergreen is a community just west of Carolina in southwestern Itawamba County. Click photograph for a more detailed view.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Itawamba County Courthouse Circa 1937

The above photograph of the Itawamba County Courthouse was taken during the late 1930’s. This Federal-style brick structure was constructed during 1852. It was built by J. J. Blythe, the same person who, in 1854, built the Old Tishomingo Courthouse that was in Jacinto, Mississippi. Itawamba's earlier courthouse prior to 1852 was a wooden structure located on the same site. Shortly after the county was organized in 1836, county business was conducted at the store house of Elisha Thomas in Van Buren-Cardsville area west of the Tombigbee River. With the organization of Fulton during 1839 as the county seat of government, the first courthouse was constructed on the town square. During the 1930’s the courthouse underwent its first major renovation when the building was enlarged and received a modern stucco exterior. Again, during 1956 another renovation took place when the west two-story wing was added. Then during 1972 a major renovation took place when the stucco was covered with rock and native Tishomingo stone. Today the visitor can see the exposed walls of the original 1852 brick structure inside the north entrance of the building.

Photograph of Original Brick Interior by Bob Franks

Monday, December 24, 2007

Holiday Greetings!

Best Wishes
for a Merry Christmas
and a Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Lewis Bailey Duvall and wife Minerva P. Beene Portrait

Lewis Bailey Duvall was born during October of 1838 in Alabama. He was the son of Alexander Gabriel (born 1804 in Jackson County, Georgia) and Lucretia Duvall. On January 8, 1867 he married Minverva Permelia Beene/Bean (born 1848 in Itawamba County, the daughter of Robert Samuel and Julia Green Bean/Beene). Lewis died on October 15, 1902 in Lee County, Mississippi. Their son, William Alexander Duvall (born October 11, 1870 in Itawamba County) married Edna May Rebecca Sheffield, the daughter of General Washington and Nancy Jane McBride Sheffield.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Fulton Bank Post Card: 1922

The Fulton Bank building was constructed at the corner of Main and South Cummings streets on the Fulton town square during 1922. It was the town's third brick building (Itawamba County Courthouse built in 1852 and Gaither Brother's Store being the earlier brick buildings). Shortly after opening, the bank sent out the above advertising post card to residents in Itawamba County.

For larger view, click on post card.

Friday, December 21, 2007

A Letter from the Lone Star Boys to Itawamba County: June 21, 1888

After the Civil War, Itawamba County saw a drastic loss in population. With a Reconstruction government and the local economy in ruin, citizens had to simply pick up the pieces and start anew. It was after the Civil War and through the 1890’s that many Itawamba County families took the “Go West” fever. Areas west of the Mississippi offered a bright future and a new life for many and as late as the 1880’s the Fulton Reporter newspaper in Itawamba County featured advertisements from Texas offering fertile lands at affordable prices. It was during this time that a sizeable migration to Texas began.

A case in point of this drastic population loss is illustrated in the Jerico Precinct poll book in Itawamba County for this period, giving a listing of registered voters and a notation of the elections in which they voted. There are numerous entries with the note “Gone to Texas” written by the voters’ names. It is evident from reading old local newspapers from the 1880’s era that one group of Itawambians went to Bosque County in central Texas. The 1870 Federal census for Bosque County shows a total of 89 households with the head of the household born in Mississippi and by the 1900 Federal census the number had grown to 312.

The Itawambians who left their family homes in Mississippi carried fond memories of their native state, yet were proud citizens of their new home state of Texas. On July 20, 1888, The Fulton Reporter in Itawamba County published a letter simply signed The Lone Star Boys. The letter was written from Meridian, in Bosque County. Below is a transcript of that letter showing their fond remembrances of Mississippi and a loyal pride in their new state of Texas:

Meridian, Texas
June 21st, 1888

Dear Editor Reporter:

Texas is not, as some may think, a “flowery bed of ease” but we must say her natural scenery is not only beautiful but grand. While we think so much of Mississippi, and love her, for she has been a cradle for us, and has furnished play-grounds for our boyish games, and a pleasant home in our youth, yet me must say the Lone Star State far excels in grandeur.

After the day’s toil is finished, and the sun is slowly sinking beneath the western horizon, just to walk over the plains and view the scenes of nature is unsurpassed by anything.

Standing far out from either tree or house and see the hundreds of cattle grazing on the green plains, which look only to be the size of sheep, and now and then it is dotted with a small cottage – the home for the cowboy.

But far beyond all these, the edge of the horizon is capped with a high mountain whose top has a rock on it covering about three acres. Along the sides is covered with fossils which are indications of the sea once having washed her shores there.

After all this, Texas is not dead; her towns are, of course new, but thriving, and her people are not “ruffians,” but an intelligent and energetic people. Most all her small towns have street-cars, colleges and other public improvements. Our town can boast of having a $61,000 Court House, which is built of stone from her own incorporation.

Friends, we wish to be remembered.

The Lone Star Boys

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Captain William Tyner: Pioneer Farmer and Fish Trap Operator on the Tombigbee River

William Tyner, called Captain by his many friends in Itawamba County was no ordinary 19th Century Itawambian. William Tyner was a farmer and operated a fish trap (a partial dam constructed on the river that creates a deeper pool of water above the partial dam, where fish are collected as they travel downstream) on the Tombigbee River. He and his family lived in the northern section of the county on the old North Road between Ryan’s Well and Fulton, east of the Tombigbee River.

Captain Tyner was born during the late 1700’s in Johnston County, North Carolina and was a very tall man. It has been said that he fought in the Indian Wars of the early 19th Century. A few Itawambians who lived in the Ryan’s Well area remembered their parents talking about Captain Tyner. It was said that he lived to be well over 100 years of age. Most all local accounts state that he died during the 1890’s (although the old cemetery monument has the dates 1789-1880). He is enumerated in the Itawamba County census records through the 1880 census, and is listed as 91 years of age in the latter. Shortly before coming to Itawamba County, he married Lucinda Webb on September 27, 1845 in neighboring Monroe County. Captain Tyner was buried on his farm near his house and today an old stone marks the old Tyner family graveyard near the intersection of Mt. Pleasant Road and John E. Rankin Highway.

Captain Tyner, besides being a hill country farmer, also ran a fish trap on the Tombigbee River near present-day Walker’s Bridge. Below is an excerpt from the June 21, 1888 edition of the Fulton Reporter newspaper:

“…I was sitting on the bank of the river, at Tyner’s fish trap, and noticed a very large cat near a very steep bank, and then and there shook himself and trotted off towards the Leigh fields…”

By reading this article from the old newspaper, it is quite evident that Tyner’s fish trap was in wild territory and even today some of the most dense swamps and forests of Itawamba County are located in the old Tyner’s fish trap area. The old Captain, as he was called in his later years, was an early Itawamba settler who is a part of the rich history and heritage of Itawamba County, Mississippi.

Tyner Family Graveyard Photograph by Bob Franks
Base Map Courtesy of the Mississippi Department of Transportation
Fish Trap Description from The Missionary Gazetteer, Charles Williams, 1828, Edinburgh, p. 98

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Clement Clarke Moore’s Immortal Work: A Visit from St. Nicholas

One of the most read poems during the Christmas season is Clement Clarke Moore’s A Visit From St. Nicholas, originally published during the 1820’s. This timeless classic has been read by generations spanning three centuries and today, 184 years after its first publication, it is still being enjoyed by young and old alike.

Clement Clarke Moore, author of A Visit From St. Nicholas, was born July 15, 1779 and died July 10, 1863. He was the son of Benjamin (president of Columbia College) and Charity Clarke Moore. Clement Clarke Moore graduated from Columbia during 1798 and on November 20, 1813 he married Catharine Elizabeth Taylor. He was made professor of Biblical learning in the General Theological Seminary in New York during 1821 and held that post until 1850. A Visit From St. Nicholas first appeared anonymously in the Troy, New York Sentinel on December 23, 1823, and was reprinted frequently thereafter.

Upon Moore’s death in 1863 at his summer residence in Newport, Rhode Island, his funeral was held in Trinity Church in Newport, where he had owned a pew. His body was interred in the cemetery of St. Luke's Episcopal Church on Hudson Street in New York City and on November 29, 1899, his body was re-interred in Trinity Churchyard Cemetery in New York.

The following version of A Visit From St. Nicholas was transcribed from American Monthly Magazine, New Series, Vol. III, New York, Scatcherd and Adams, 1837, page 99

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced through their heads;
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap –
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter:
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon, on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Gave the luster of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny rein-deer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick,
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
“Now, Dasher! Now, Dancer! Now, Prancer! Now, Vixen!
On! Coment, on! Cupid, on! Donder and Blixen –
To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall!
Now, dash away, dash away, dash away all!” –
As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys – and St. Nicholas too.
And then in a twinkling I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnish’d with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he look’s like a pedlar just opening his pack.
His eyes – how they twinkled! His dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry;
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow.
The stump of his pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face, and a little round belly
That shook, when he laugh’d, like a bowl full of jelly.
He was chubby and plump; a right jolly old elf;
And I laugh’d when I saw him, in spite of myself.
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And fill’d all the stockings; then turned with a jirk,
And laying his finder aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle;
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

Illustration: "Merry Old Santa Claus," by Thomas Nast, Harper's Weekly, January 1, 1881, pp.8-9

Monday, December 17, 2007

Mississippi Red Cedar: A Nostalgic Scent of the Holidays

One local tree that is synonymous with the Christmas season in the Mississippi hills is the red cedar. The hills and hollows of Itawamba County have an abundance of this old and sacred tree and those trees have served a very useful purpose for generations. Chests, fence posts, chifforobes, and porch flooring are just a few of red cedar’s local historic uses. And there are old family cemeteries all over the countryside of Itawamba where cedar trees mark the graves of pioneers and most every old cemetery has at least one or two of those giant ancient cedars.

Old local folklore insists it is bad luck to cut down a cedar tree. Perhaps this is due to the fact that so many old cedars mark the graves of loved ones. The value of the red cedar has also been written about as early as colonial days. The first explorers of this country spoke enthusiastically of our red cedar as one of the finest woods of the New World, praising its quality and durability.

I remember one use of the cedar when, as a child, my mom would ask me to go out to the woods and break her off a piece of cedar for her ironing. She would make several passes over the fresh cedar with her iron while ironing clothes, giving the iron a super slippery surface that would make the iron just glide with ease over the clothes.

Growing up during the late 1950’s and early 1960’s the cedar was the only fresh tree locally available for use as a Christmas tree. It was not until later, during the decade of the 1960’s, that harvested spruce and Scotch pine trees from far off places were sold locally by stores.

The annual trek into the frosty cold December woods with my dad to find that one special Christmas tree for our house was definitely a childhood adventure. The tree had to be a very young tree, and one that was straight and symmetrical. Some of the best Christmas trees were found in the southwestern portion of the county in the limey rich soil of that prairie region. My uncle had a cotton farm there, and it was on his family farm where our annual family Christmas trees were harvested. Once the fresh tree was hauled from the woods, brought into the house and placed in its stand, the rich aromatic scent of the fresh cedar would permeate through the house. It was definitely the smell of Christmas.

Today I still use a few fresh cedar boughs in my home during the holidays. The rich aromatic scent of fresh red cedar mixed with the citrus smell of oranges and tangerines is simply the scent of Christmas straight from my rural childhood days in the hills of Itawamba County, Mississippi.

The Setting Sun Illuminates Red Cedar Bough and Old Books on a Frosty December Day: Photograph by Bob Franks

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Christmas Cactus Bloom Signals the Holiday Season

There are several traditional plants that have close traditional ties to the Christmas season in northeastern Mississippi. Holly, ivy, mistletoe, red cedar and the ever so popular poinsettia. One easily grown plant that is popular around this time of year is the Christmas cactus.

This past summer one of the branches was broken from my big Christmas cactus on the shaded patio behind my house and rather than discarding the small branch, I simply potted it in a small terracotta pot. True to form, that little pot of this rooted seasonal favorite started its annual Christmas blooming late last week. The vibrant blooms make a nice addition to my desk during these cold December days.

It has been said that the Christmas cactus is the second most popular holiday plant, with the poinsettia holding the number one position. The Christmas cactus (schlumbergera) is native to the Organ Mountains north of Rio de Janerio in Brazil and those plants we see today in the stores around the holidays are actually a hybrid of two different species of schlumbergera first bred in England about 150 years ago. It became popular during the 19th century, Victorian England to give these plants as holiday gifts.

I remember the Christmas cactus from childhood. My mom had a huge specimen that had once belonged to her mother, and as the plant was so easily propagated, many stems were shared with other area gardeners to create their own Christmas cactus pot.

This week my tiny pot of propagated Christmas cactus will serve as the perfect miniature Christmas tree on my desk. The colorful blooms create the perfect natural holiday ornaments for this little green plant.

Christmas Cactus Photograph by Bob Franks

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Marshmallow Circus Peanuts and Candy Orange Slices

With the Christmas holidays quickly approaching two “store-bought” candies from my childhood come to mind - the marshmallow circus peanut and the orange slice.

It seems both of these candies have been a favorite in the rural hills of northeastern Mississippi for generations and these two treats were seasonal at one time, but today, both can be bought throughout the year.

I’ve heard my grandparents tell of enjoying the circus peanuts during their childhoods and according to various sources, this treat has a long history going back to the 19th Century.

From my own childhood I remember the packaging had a colorful clown imprinted on the bag and the curious banana-like flavor of the orange-colored spongy peanut was definitely a treat.

I don’t think the orange slice candies have a history as long as the marshmallow circus peanut, but this citrus-scented jellied candy, coated with a dusting of sugar was a favorite around Christmas during my childhood. This candy was such a favorite that a candied orange slice cake was introduced.

This cake was baked at least a week before Christmas and had such ingredients as walnuts, pecans, coconut, dates and of course a generous supply of candy orange slices. The cake, baked in a tube pan like a pound cake, was drenched with a concoction of fresh orange juice and confectioner’s sugar, then wrapped in foil and placed in the refrigerator, cold room (most everyone had cold rooms such as a spare bedroom that was shut off during the cool southern winter months), or the screened back porch.

This delectable weighty cake on Christmas day would be aged to a sweet sticky treat for the holiday meal.

Every Christmas season, I always make sure I have a good supply of marshmallow circus peanuts and orange slices. To me they are a part of the seasonal confectionary heritage of the rural hills of northeastern Mississippi.

Photograph of Marshmallow Circus Peanuts, Candy Orange Slices and Parched Peanuts by Bob Franks

Winter 2007 Itawamba Settlers Content

The Winter 2007 issue of Itawamba Settlers, the quarterly membership magazine of the Itawamba Historical Society is complete, with the annual surname index now being created. This issue should be delivered to the printers early next week with a mailing date of early January. Found in this issue of the quarterly are the following items:

Early County Elected Officials
Remembering the Country Store Gristmill
Itawamba Death Notices in the Nashville Christian Advocate
Price-Jones Petition to Congress: 1852
Itawamba County News Abstracts: 1912
Rufus C. Burleson: Early Itawamba Educator
Abner S. Clayton: Itawamba Presbyterian Minister
The First Bridge Across the Tombigbee West of Fulton
A Description of Itawamba Agriculture During 1884
Warren’s Reimbursement Records from Congress
James and Mary Brown McMillen Portrait
Itawamba County News Obituaries: 1908-1909
Christopher Deavours Estate Records: 1868-72
Ralph Wick Mason Probate Records: 1852
J.J. Mabry Probate Records: 1865-1871
Itawamba County Supervisors Minutes: 1886
Annual Surname Index

Itawamba Settlers is mailed four times per year to the membership of the society. To subscribe to this quarterly, visit the society's website for more information.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Lawmakers Propose Two National Heritage Areas in Mississippi

Legislation has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives to establish two national heritage areas in Mississippi.

U. S. Reps. Roger Wicker and Bennie Thompson are advancing this effort in the House. They introduced the bill Wednesday. The measure would include the Mississippi Hills National Heritage Area in north Mississippi, and the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area that would span 18 counties throughout the Delta.

National Heritage Areas (NHAs) are designed to commemorate and promote areas that contain important natural, historic, cultural, or recreational resources. The designation would create a partnership among the National Park Service, the state, and local communities. The Congressmen said the move would draw more national attention to the region and its attractions as well as produce funding opportunities for wide-ranging promotional activities.

The Mississippi Heritage Hills Area is bounded by Interstate 55 on the west and Highway 14 to the south and covers 30 counties including Itawamba. "There are unique stories of cultural and historical significance all across north Mississippi," Rep. Wicker said. "Gaining heritage area designation would enable those stories to be promoted and shared with a larger audience." He noted the leadership of the Heritage Hills Alliance and organizations throughout the 30 county area for their work in coordinating the project.

The initiative would also benefit the state's economy by boosting tourism opportunities, the lawmakers said. There are 37 NHAs across the nation.

For further information, visit the Mississippi Hills Heritage Area Alliance.

Photograph: A rural autumn scene in the hills north of Tremont in Itawamba County. Photograph by Bob Franks

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Society's Winter Membership Quarterly Now Being Typeset

The Winter 2007 issue of Itawamba Settlers is now being typeset and should be at the printers within a week. Mailing of this issue of the quarterly membership magazine should be mailed during January. This issue features several interesting historical articles as well as abstracts from The Itawamba County News, old probate records from the 19th Century, historic obituaries and Itawamba County biographies. The annual surname index is printed is the Winter issue.

The Itawamba Historical Society publishes Itawamba Settlers (ISSN 0737-7932), the quarterly journal of Itawamba County, Mississippi genealogy and history. This 56-page quarterly membership magazine is now in its 26th year of publication. The magazine regularly features abstracts of old county records such as wills, deeds, marriage records and other items of genealogical interest such as family histories, old photographs, family group records, church histories and so much more devoted entirely to Itawamba County, Mississippi history and genealogy.

Since Volume I, more than 6,000 pages of genealogical and historical material have been published in the quarterly membership magazine.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Little Tattered Music Book

Since childhood, I have always enjoyed reading and my personal library is quite an esoteric collection of books collected over a period of years from childhood to the present.

There have always been books I have read, and then there have been the keepers – those books I dare not dispose of. Such treasures of required school reading by such literary masters as Faulkner, Welty, Steinbeck, and Hemingway are all considered a part of the keepers.

However, there’s one little green tattered book that is shelved in my collection I consider a keeper – and that’s Singing Every Day, my tattered colorful music book from elementary school days. Filled with such songs from my childhood as Polly Wolly Doodle, Home on the Range, Old MacDonald Had a Farm, Frog Went A-Courtin’, I’ve Been Working on the Railroad, My Home’s in Montana, Billy Boy, Oh! Susanna, and ‘Liza Jane, this book is full of childhood school memories of the creaky and oily pine-floored halls of Fulton Grammar School.

Our entire school had only one music teacher for all six grades and because of overcrowding in the school, the music classes were held on the stage of the school’s large auditorium. I will always remember that magical stage with its heavy maroon velvet curtains and the massive hand-painted backdrop of rich earthy colors featuring a forest scene reflecting the hills and valleys of the rural Mississippi countryside.

The students of Fulton Grammar School presented two music recitals each year using selections from the little green music book – the Christmas program and the spring operetta.

Much work went into each of those productions, especially the Christmas recital with lots of rehearsals and an army of moms busily sewing costumes for their children. During the annual Christmas recital the school’s auditorium would be packed with proud parents, relatives and friends from town and the numerous farms in the surrounding Itawamba County countryside. With flash bulbs popping. complimenting applause and laughter, the nervous schoolchildren would sing their long-rehearsed songs accompanied by the melodic sound of the school’s ancient piano. The auditorium would be toasty warm from the old steam radiators and the beaming glow from proud parents, as outside the cold December Mississippi humidity added an enchanted frostiness to the air.

Yes, that little tattered green music book is not a literary classic, but it’s definitely a keeper. The illustrated pages of this cherished little book brings back fond memories of days gone by from my Mississippi childhood at Fulton Grammar School.

Photograph of Singing Every Day (Lilla Belle Pitts etal, Ginn and Company, Boston, 1959) by Bob Franks

Note: Written for the Blog Carnival, Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories, hosted by Thomas MacEntee at Destination: Austin Family.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Holiday Scenes on the Town Square

The early morning sun on a cold December day shows the street lamps on the town square in Fulton have been adorned with green holiday wreaths and red bows ushering in the Christmas season.

photography by Bob Franks 12/5/07

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Upcoming Holiday Events on Fulton’s Historic Town Square

Fulton’s historic town square, which has been the center of the county's social activity since 1839 is being spruced up for the holiday season. Wreaths are being placed on the lamp posts along the streets and the businesses are all decked out in their Christmas finery. Two upcoming holiday events will enhance the holiday scenery around the square.

The Annual Fulton Christmas Parade

The annual Fulton Christmas Parade will be held this Thursday evening, December 6. This year’s parade theme is “The Lights of Christmas.” The annual festive event will start at 6 p.m. The parade will begin on the campus of Itawamba Community College and will travel east on Wiygul Street, then north on Clifton Street and west on Main Street. The Fulton Christmas parade has been a special event for generations of Itawambians – young and old alike.

Folk Music on the Town Square

On December 21, beginning at 3 p.m. the Ita-mingo Strummers and friends will be playing traditional hill country holiday music on the east side of the town square in Fulton. This group features traditional southern Appalachian instruments including the dulcimer, mandolin and guitar.

Monday, December 3, 2007

The Old Walker Plantation Above Twenty-Mile

Some of Itawamba County’s largest farms are located “above Twenty-Mile” in northwestern Itawamba County. The headwaters of the Tombigbee River (Donivan Creek, Brown Creek, and Twenty-Mile Creek all form the Tombigbee River in this region and during the formation of the county, some of Itawamba’s larger plantation’s were created in this area. Planter families settling this region included the Beene, Walker, Crayton, Warren and Tynes families. The photographs above are of the old John Walker plantation. The old main house next to the barn in the distance was built during the 1840’s (for close-up see bottom photo).

John Walker and his wife Catherine moved from Alabama to Itawamba County during 1839 where he had been purchasing property since 1836. They brought their slaves and children - Frances, Martha, Benjamin F., George B., John, Nancy Ann and Moses L., with them to Itawamba County and another child, Mary Katherine, was born after arriving in Itawamba County.

By 1850 Walker had acquired 3,000 acres of rich Donnivan Creek bottom land near the headwaters of the Tombigbee River. The Walker House, which was built well before the Civil War was a combination plantation home, grocery and ordinary that was operated by the Widow Walker until well past Reconstruction days. The old home is still standing less than a mile west of Walker Levee Bridge. John Walker, who was born June 19, 1799, died on his plantation in Itawamba County on March 15, 1860, and Catherine, his widow, died on August 18, 1885. Both are buried in the old nearby Gilmore Chapel Cemetery.

Photographs were taken by Bob Franks on November 29, 2007

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Vintage Christmas Cards

While I was going through some storage boxes the other day I came across a box of vintage greeting cards that were sent to relatives in Itawamba County from the late 1800’s through the 1950’s. Among this collection of old cards, there are several old Christmas greeting cards. Christmas cards originated in England during the 1840’s when during 1843 Sir Henry Cole commissioned John Calcott Horsley to paint a card showing the feeding and clothing of the poor. For many years during the 1800’s Christmas cards in America were imported from England. It was not until 1875 that German immigrant Louis Prang opened a lithographic shop and published the first line of U.S. Christmas cards. Over the next few weeks I will be sharing some of the vintage Christmas cards in my collection.

The card above was mailed by my uncle, Samuel Feemster Riley to his family in the New Chapel community of Itawamba County during 1918. He was stationed in France during World War I. This card depicts an American vessel and a military camp in the background. The card is adorned with holly and reads “A Merry Christmas.” In small lettering under the left portion of the image are the words: “H. Bouquet for A.E.F. Y.M.C.A. H. Bouquet was a printer in Paris and printed this card for the A.E.F. (American Expeditionary Force) Y.M.C.A. in France.

The A.E.F. fought alongside allied forces and helped the French defend the Western Front during the Aisne Offensive in May 1918, and fought its major action in the Meuse-Argonne offensive in the fall of 1918.

Visit The Advent Calendar hosted by Thomas at Destination: Austin Family for more bloggers' musings on Christmas cards as well as other Christmas subjects.

Christmas Card History Source: The Greeting Card Museum

The Library of Congress’ Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers

Earlier this year, The Library of Congress and the National Endowment for the Humanities debuted Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, a collection of 226,000 digitized newspaper pages dating between 1900 and 1910 from publications in California, Florida, Kentucky, New York, Utah, Virginia and Washington, DC. Institutions in those states received the first grants from the National Digital Newspaper Program, which eventually will post historical newspapers from all states.

You can search and browse the papers at:

Results show the entire page with your search terms highlighted; to zoom, use the + button or click and drag the magnifying glass. Click More Options for This Page to download a high-resolution page image or view it in PDF or text format (though the latter gives you a baffling Optical Character Recognition software translation).

The site also offers a directory of newspaper titles. Search by place, time period, keyword and type (such as an ethnic publication or one preserved on microfilm). Results give you information about the paper and where it's available.

This is a valuable tool for the historical and genealogical researcher, especially in showing what historical newspapers are available on microfilm in the United States.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Don't Forget Historical Newspapers in Your Itawamba County Research

In historical and genealogical research, newspapers play an important role in gathering information. Old newspapers offer the researcher a glimpse of daily life contemporary to the times being studied. Such old newspapers offer so much more than obituaries and the like. They offer a narrative of the happenings of the times and such narratives includes tremendous historical and genealogical information.

Itawamba County newspapers are available on microfilm from around 1903 to the present are found in the Itawamba Historical Society’s Gaither Spradling Library and bound Itawamba newspapers by year from 1950 to the present are located in the Itawamba County courthouse. However, it is important to remember that a great deal of Itawamba County information can found in newspapers outside the county. For instance, the Tupelo Journal on microfilm contains a great deal of Itawamba County information. These newspapers go back to the 1870’s. Then there are historical newspapers from all across the United States that have articles making reference to Itawamba people and events. One example is the following article that appeared in an 1861 edition of the Macon Daily Telegraph of Macon, Georgia:

Troops Still Arriving from Mississippi

The train this morning, brought down five companies from Mississippi, numbering near 500 men. Three of these companies are from Marshall, one from Itawamba and one from Lafayette county.

The Marshall companies are –

Home Guards – Capt. T.W. Harris; 1st Lieut. W.A.P. Jones; 2d do., J.B. Matterson; 2d do., J.L. Autry. There are 100 men; comprising among them many of the first men of education and refinement about Holly Springs. For example there is thirteen lawyers and three doctors, and a number of young men of education with leisure to engage in active enterprise that promises excitement and glory. Their cry is, “Pickens!”

Quitman Rifles – Capt. R. McGowan; 1st Lieut. A.J. Wooten; 2d A. Balfour; 3d J.L. McGowan; 87 men

Jeff Davis Rifles – Capt. Sam Benton; 1st Lieut. H.W. Walter; 2d R.L. Watson; 3d B. Mickle; 100 men.

The Captain of this company is a nephew of the late Thos. H. Benton, the elebrated Missouri Senator. Their name, the Jeff Davis Rifles, is a remembrancer of the glorious deeds of the Mississippi Rifles of Mexico, and will be a perpetual stimulant to emulate them upon the battle field.

The company from Lafayette county is the Lafayette Guards – Capt. W. DeLay; 1st Lieut. Jno. Grace; 2d do, T.H. Lyman; 3d d0. J. Henry; 92 men.

Capt. Delay was with the Mississippians in Mexico and knows what Mississippians can do and dare do on the battle field.

The company from Itawamba is Ben. Bullard’s Rifles – Capt. Jas. C. Bullard; 1st Lieut. Jas. L. Finlay; 2d do., H.H. Smith; 3d do., M.M. Shelley; 93 rank and file. These troops are quartered at Hitchcock’s Press. – Mobile Mercury

The above is an article that was copied from the Mobile Mercury in Mobile, Alabama by the Macon Daily Telegraph in Macon, Georgia during 1861 giving information about Itawamba County, Mississippi residents. This is one example of the importance of historic newspapers in historical and genealogical research.

Newspaper article source: The Macon Daily Telegraph, Macon, Georgia, April 5, 1861

Genealogical Notes:

1860 Itawamba County US Federal Census

Page 139 Fulton
Arthur B. Bullard: 38, Cumberland Presbyterian Minister, $63,000, born TN
Rachael: 29, MS
Clarence B.: 10, MS
Laura: 5, MS
Elizabeth: 3, MS
Emma: 1, MS
Nancy J. Webb, 11, MS

Page 81
James Bullard: 40, Farmer, $1,606, TN
Annis: 41, AL
Arthur: 17, MS
Lafayette: 16, MS
James: 11, MS
Daniel: 9, MS
Bennett: 3, MS

J.L. Findley enumerated in the Eli Phillips household in the town of Fulton
William Shelly enumerated in the Richard Borum household at Van Buren, listed as age 36, merchant, born in NC

Friday, November 23, 2007

Christmas Store Advertisement in Fulton from 1925

With the biggest shopping day of the year upon us, here is a look at a Fulton store advertisement that appeared in the Itawamba County News in an edition immediately following Thanksgiving during 1925. From looking at the advertisement for Fulton Drug Store, gift items for mothers and sweethearts were cameras, manicure sets, boxed candy, dresser sets, Bibles, testaments, toilet articles, glassware, stationery and silverware. Items for men and boys included military sets, shaving sets, razors, fountain pens and pocket books. In addition to toys for the children, the store also sold Christmas bells and decorations. The Fulton Drug Store building is at the corner of North Gaither and Main Street on the town square in Fulton.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A Vintage Thanksgiving Greeting

An embossed vintage postcard from 1908 for Thanksgiving Greetings, printed in Germany shows a Victorian holiday scene. During the Turn of the Century era, postcards were widely used and commemorated such holidays as Easter, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloweeen, Valentine's Day and personal events such as birthdays, weddings and the like.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

An Itawamba County Thanksgiving Feast

Growing up in the hills of northeastern Mississippi, the best two meals of the year were the Thanksgiving feast and the Christmas dinner. My family usually held our annual Thanksgiving feast down on my elderly aunt and uncle’s farm in the lower part of the county and Thanksgiving Day was definitely a treat for the children of all the families. On the farm were chickens, ducks, pigs, cows, horses, a big barn, chicken coops, and of course the big old tin-roofed whitewashed farmhouse with a spacious verandah along the front complete with a porch swing and rocking chairs.

I remember a favorite spot for me was the old wooden smokehouse and to this day still remember the earthy hickory smell of the heavy cloth-covered hams hanging from the rafters. There was a long forgotten salt box in the corner, wooden primitive shelves filled with discarded bric-a-brac from the farm house and years worth of old Progressive Farmer magazines stacked in a corner. My elderly aunt and uncle were evidently thrifty folks who didn’t throw anything away.

The cousins, aunts and uncles would all gather at the large old tin-roofed farm house by mid morning and the house would already be pleasantly warmed by the cooking in the kitchen and the popping fire in the front parlor fireplace. The heavenly aroma already permeating from the kitchen into the front of the house was an aromatic gift for the senses.

The men and older boys would leave for the corn and cotton fields shortly after arriving at the farm for their Thanksgiving quail hunt, and the women would congregate in the kitchen busy with their culinary chores and catching up on all the family news while the younger children would play outside around the farm house.

During the afternoon, the feast usually began with the Thanksgiving prayer, and what followed was truthfully a culinary sight to behold. Most all the ingredients for the enormous feast were produced right there on the farm. We always had a big deep pan of moist chicken and cornbread dressing slowly baked forming a crispy crust in the old stove’s oven with giblet gravy waiting in a stew pot and a big baked ham that had been slow-cured in the smokehouse.

To compliment this we had home canned snap beans cooked down with fatback meat in a black iron skillet, buttery golden yellow corn, purple hull peas, and a big bowl of speckled butter beans. Also on the fare were sweet and fruity ambrosia, spiced peaches and cranberry salad. A cut glass tray of home-canned pickled beets and crispy sweet pickles would be passed around the table and a big black skillet of corn bread and large tray of yeast rolls made from scratch complimented the banquet.

And after the feast there were pies, cakes and custards on the ancient sideboard waiting to be savored. The Thanksgiving feast most always featured sweet potato pies, a fresh and moist three-layer coconut cake and if we were lucky, an amalgamation cake, all made with farm fresh eggs, milk and butter.

The week of Thanksgiving always brings back memories of the savory annual family feast on an Itawamba County farm remembered from my childhood days -a feast that was accentuated with a bountiful meal, a loving family and simply giving thanks.

Photograph: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA-OWI Collection, [LC-USF34-042703-D DLC (b&w film neg.)]

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Itawamba Agricultural High School: Educating Students Since 1921

The beginnings of the Itawamba Agricultural High School can be traced back to shortly after 1910 when a fund amounting to $1,354.67 was raised by a county tax levy for the purpose of “maintaining an Agricultural High School.” However it was not until more than ten years later that actual construction began on the facility.

During 1919, the trustees of The Itawamba Agricultural High School began acquiring the property for the new school to be located west of the town square of Fulton under the hill. During June of 1919 the trustees received properties from the W.L. Gaither estate, Isaac Lewis Sheffield, J.A. Senter, and W.G. Orr. Later in December of the same year properties were received from Mrs. Annie Gaither and M.C. Benson for a total school acreage of nearly one hundred acres.

The first contractor who signed a contract to build the school backed down, so a new contract was let. By May of 1921, construction was underway and on May 19th of that year a cornerstone ceremony was held at the Administration Building site where thousands of Itawambians attended.

Only two buildings were completed before the school opened during September of 1921 – the Administration Building and Dormitory. The Itawamba Agricultural High school officially opened at 10 a.m. September 19th, 1921 with registration and opening exercises with nearly 150 students.

The Administration Building housed the class rooms and the second floor was used as a dormitory for the male students, as the boy's dormitory wasn't completed until later in the 1921-22 school session. The dining room, kitchen, parlors and female students were housed in the two-story dormitory building. Many of the first male students were housed in private homes in Fulton. The Itawamba County News posted a plea from the county superintendent of education for the people of the town to rent rooms to the young men who wanted to attend the school, as there was not enough room in the Administration Building to house them. It is interesting to note that from the beginning, the school was a boarding school. Since there were no paved roads and very few graveled roads in the county, daily transportation was difficult for those students in outlying areas of the county, in order to attend school in Fulton.

The first school catalog shows the main purpose of the school at the time seemed to fit the students for better farmers and farm home-makers. A note from the catalog reads in part: “Since a large percent of our pupils will come from the farm and will probably return to the farm, it becomes our duty to teach them how to make the most of their farms, how to improve the farm home and how to make country life more enjoyable, more profitable and a better place in which to live. There will be a few of our graduates, and we hope they may be many, who will desire to continue their training in the college and university.”

The Itawamba Agricultural High School was available free to any student in Itawamba County, but those from outside the county were charged $10 per session. Board in the dormitory was on the cooperative plan, with costs being split among the number of pupils and teachers at the end of the month. Each boarding student was required to keep a board deposit of $15, on deposit. Each pupil was also required to do 5 to 10 hours practical labor each week. Additional labor was paid for at the rate of eight cents to twelve cents per hour, depending on the quality of work.

The first school play was presented on October 21, 1921. “The Sweet Family” was presented by the ladies of the faculty and several of the female students. The admission price of 15 cents and 25 cents raised funds “for the benefit of the new piano.”
The November 3, 1921 edition of the Itawamba County News reported that Congressman John E. Rankin had sent the new school fifty young trees to be planted on the campus and he had suggested that a tree be planted in memory of each Itawamba County soldier who lost his life during the recent war (World War I). It was also suggested that others could plant trees in memory of loved ones.

The first board of trustees of the Itawamba Agricultural High School were: James T. Page, Phillip Orr Stovall, Houston L. Gillespie, Willie G. Crouch and Benjamin Chilcoat. Jasper R. Newell was the first school principal who removed from Tate County to take the post. Members of the first faculty were: R.A. Scott (agriculture), Juanita Ray (home science and arts), Minnie Mobberly (English and Latin), Mrs. J.R. Fewell (history and English), T.A. Oliphant (science and athletics), A.B. Johnson (mathematics and commercial work), Irene McMullan (music) and Kate C. Taylor (matron). Professor Lansford joined the faculty in October of 1921.

The first graduation was held on May 10, 1922 with a total of nine students receiving diplomas. It is interesting to note that, contrary to the 1921-22 school catalog philosophy, none of the graduating students immediately returned to the farm, and most of them continued their education in college.

Events of 1921, the beginning year of the Itawamba Agricultural High School:
The first Miss America Pageant was held in Atlantic City, New Jersey
Warren G. Harding inaugurated President
Albert Einstein won the Nobel Prize for Physics
Flappers and Philosophers was published by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Published songs included The Sheik Of Araby and Ain't We Got Fun?
Second Hand Rose was sung by Fannie Brice
The Kid, starring Charlie Chaplin and Jackie Coogan was released to movie goers.

Photograph: Laying of the Cornerstone in the Itawamba County Agricultural High School Building May 19th, 1921 at Fulton, Mississippi

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Itawamba County's Elected Officials: Circa 1900

This photograph of Itawamba County elected officials was taken around 1900. During that era, Itawamba County had a justice of the peace and constable for each of the five supervisor's districts, as well as a circuit court clerk, chancery court clerk, sheriff/tax collector, county surveyor and county ranger. The photograph was taken against one of the side walls of the Itawamba County courthouse.

Old Fulton Town Square Retail Building Hosts New Business

The historic A.J. Mattox store building on the town square in Fulton has come alive again with the opening of Curly Willow, a retail establishment featuring unique gifts and home décor items. Curly Willow Designs features a unique retro Christmas display in the front window (photo above) reminiscent of the 1940’s and 1950’s. The old A.J. Mattox building was built during the 1920’s serving as a general merchandise store. The business was later owned by Cecil Whitesides and the business was known as Whitesides where the customer could buy everything from garden seeds and overalls to shoes and household items. Today the old store building has many unique features including the old oiled wooden floors, 1940’s style lighting the ambience of a retail establishment from Fulton’s past. The Itawamba Historical society applauds Curly Willow Designs, for moving the gift and home décor business to Fulton’s historic town square

Parade on the Fulton Town Square: 1952

Pictured is the Itawamba Junior College and Agricultural High School's homecoming parade on a Saturday afternoon during October of 1952. The parade is heading west on Main Street toward the school under the hill. The parade marched down Cummings Street turning east onto Wiygul Street to Clifton Street, making it's way to Main Street, then headed west. The school's annual homecoming parade was a popular event attended by students and local citizens as well. Fulton always had two parades each year. The homecoming parade and the annual Christmas parade.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Working in the Cotton Field

The John Hare farm was located south of Fulton in the Tilden-New Salem community. Pictured in the cotton field are John Hare (left holding hoe), Preacher Moody (man with suspenders, probably Ed D. Moody listed in the 1910 Itawamba County Federal census in District 5, Fulton Precinct), R.C. Hare, son of John (little boy) and Belva Hare, wife of John. John Hare was the son of John W. (born 1829 in Wilcox County, Alabama, the son of Andrew and Dicy Tyler Hare) and Martha E. Wadkins Hare (born 1849 in Clarke County, Alabama, the daughter of Richard and Elizabeth Wilson Wadkins). Identification of subjects was written on the photograph.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Sturdy Little Red Wagon

Growing up during the late 1950’s and early 1960’s many times a young boy improvised with self-made toys including kites made from newspapers, sling shots made from a forked tree branch and the rubber from an inner tube off an automobile tire, bows and arrows or a fort made from small tree saplings. However when birthdays and Christmas passed around, finding store-bought toys wrapped in pretty birthday paper or waking at dawn and running to the living room and finding toys under the Christmas tree left by Santa brought much excitement.

Some of my favorite store-bought Christmas and birthday gifts from childhood included a Daisy Red Ryder BB gun (and yes, like little Ralphie’s mom in the movie, A Christmas Story, my mom protested to high heaven over that particular gift, insisting to no avail that I would shoot my eye out), a Davy Crocket coonskin cap, and a pocket transistor radio. However, my most memorable toy received from childhood was a shiny new red Radio Flyer wagon (photo above).

My brother and I shared the Radio Flyer and that little red wagon was the source for many wild adventures in the hills and hollows of Itawamba County. From western wagon trains to World War II soldiers and race car drivers, that sturdy little Radio Flyer provided the catalyst for a rural youngster’s vivid imagination. Besides being a favorite toy, the wagon was also used for household moving chores. I remember once my mom using it to haul canned fruits and vegetables from the storm cellar. That little red wagon literally lasted for years and years and served a dual purpose of both a play toy and a pull-wagon for moving household items around.

An American Icon

The Radio Flyer has a rich history and heritage spanning 90 years and is the story of an Italian immigrant coming to the shores of America – the land of opportunity, simply following the great American dream. Antonio Pasin was a sixteen year old living in northern Italy. He longed to leave his town to make a new start in life in America. His family backed his dream, selling their family mule to raise the funds for Antonio's journey.

According to records at Ellis Island, Antonio left his home near Venice in Italy sailing on the ship Cleveland from the port of Naples. On April 19, 1914, the ship arrived at Ellis Island carrying the young Pasin. With only $30 in his pockets, Antonio left New York and headed for Chicago.

In Chicago, coming from generations of woodworkers in Italy, Antonio hoped to find employment as a cabinet maker, but at first could only find unskilled work as a water boy for a sewer digging crew. Finally he found a job finishing pianos in a piano factory that made use of his skills. After three years he had saved enough money to buy his own wood working tools and he then rented a room for a shop in Chicago’s Northwest Side.

In the evenings, Antonio worked alone in the one-room shop, crafting children's wooden wagons and during the day, he would walk the city streets peddling his samples from a suitcase. During 1923 his wagon business had grown enough that he was able to hire helpers and he incorporated the business as the Liberty Coaster Company – named for the towering Statue of Liberty that greeted him in 1914 upon entering New York harbor.

By the late 1920’s, Pasin had refitted his factory for metal stamping, and the Liberty Coaster Company began manufacturing stamped steel wagons. He named a 1927 model the 'Radio Flyer,' capturing the excitement of the new and growing radio industry and the wonders of flight. By 1930, his company operated under the new name of Radio Steel & Manufacturing, and was already the world's largest producer of coaster wagons. Even through The Great Depression, Radio Steel & Manufacturing was producing a massive quantity of wagons on a daily basis and during the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair, the Radio Flyer exhibit was a definite hit. And the rest is history.

The Radio Flyer has been more than just a favorite toy for generations of American children. It is truly an American icon and the story of a young 16 year old immigrant coming to America through the doors of Ellis Island with not much more than a dream in his heart and a strong-willed determination. And with hard work and that solid determination, his dream was fulfilled.


The Offical Radio Flyer Site Radio Flyer Entry
The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc.

Photograph by Cleveland Franks, 1957

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Eleventh Hour of the Eleventh Day of the Eleventh Month

It’s the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. It’s the time set aside to honor the brave men and women who have served their country well in times of need. My dad was a member of what has been called “The Greatest Generation.” During World War II he left a young bride, mother, father and siblings here in Itawamba County to serve his country. Growing up, I would sit with full attention listening to him tell stories of his service time and reminiscing about his fellow soldiers – always wondering what happened to them after the war. During the war, he wrote letters and his cheap camera he bought at Fulton Drug Company seemed to be quite a constant companion every where he went. On occasion, I sit down and read old letters he wrote home and thumb through old yellowed photographs he took of friends and fellow soldiers during World War II.

When reading the old letters and looking though the aged photographs, the opening line of Walt Whitman’s Come Up From the Fields, Father comes to mind:

Come up from the fields, father, here's a letter from our Pete;
And come to the front door, mother--here's a letter from thy dear

On this special day set aside by our Congress, let us not forget the American veteran. Whether it’s a simple thanks, a handshake, pat on the back or a hug – honor those brave men and women who have served their country well.

The Veterans History Project
The Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project is a most excellent online resource. Here the visitor will find letters, narratives, photographs, personal diaries, post cards, audio and video taped interviews and much more relating to the American veteran. Take time to discover this worthwhile project. The Veterans History Project relies on volunteers to collect and preserve wartime stories from the American veteran. Please consider helping the Library of Congress with this worthwhile endeavor.

World War II Photographs by Cleveland Franks

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Little Silver Molasses Pitcher

When I was a child, I would visit my aunt and uncle on their farm in the southwestern part of the county with my parents. My uncle, Samuel Feemster Riley came from an old Itawamba County pioneer family. His grandfather, John Thomas Riley was born during 1807 in Edgefield District, South Carolina and brought his family to Itawamba County during 1839 settling on English and Shoaf creeks in southwestern Itawamba County. Here the Riley family created a most productive cotton farm.

The highlight of my visits with my uncle and aunt was the two-mile trip from their farm house to the old Riley homeplace. Situated well off the county road, we would drive down a shaded private country lane along the old Riley land in my uncle’s green 1947 Chevrolet pickup. The shaded lane opened up into a clearing where the old Riley homestead was situated, and where his two elderly bachelor brothers lived. The homestead consisted of the main house, a blacksmith shop, barns, a wash house, tenant house and other farm buildings. It was like a journey into the past visiting the old ancestral homestead.

The old main house was a treasure trove for a young boy. The big rooms with fourteen foot ceilings contained a plethora of old Itawamba County furnishings, many shipped up from Aberdeen on the Tombigbee river. I will always remember the large kitchen always displayed an 1897 wall calendar. I once asked my uncle why they didn’t change the calendar and he said “because that one has such a pretty picture.”

In the kitchen was a long oak dining table darkened with age where a bakers’ dozen could easily sit and upon the center of the table there was a little silver molasses pitcher. That shiny pitcher always fascinated me. My uncle once told me that his mother, Amelia Rankin Riley, purchased the pitcher around 1905 from a catalog and since it arrived, had always held its position on the old table. In Itawamba County, since pioneer days, sorghum molasses was a staple in every household. However most hill country molasses pitchers were manufactured of glass. But the one at the old Riley homestead was plated with silver which was most unusual.

During childhood, on every Christmas visit, my aunt and uncle would give me a special present of 100 pennies they had saved up, neatly tied up in white wrapping tissue paper with shiny red and green ribbons. But one special Christmas after receiving my 100 pennies, my elderly uncle went into the front parlor of the old farm house and returned with a little brown box and said “Merry Christmas.” Upon opening the box, I found that shiny silver molasses pitcher from the old pioneer home place. I was so excited to receive such a treasure from the old Riley homestead and even today, many years later, looking at that pitcher on my own table always brings back childhood memories of magical visits to the old 1839 Riley farm.

About the Molasses Pitcher

The silver-plated pitcher is numbered and stamped with the wording “Homan Mfg. Company” and “Special Metal.” The Homan Manufacturing Company was organized during 1847 in Cincinnati, Ohio by Henry Homan and Asa F. Flagg. They began work in pewter wares. After Henry Homan died, his widow and sons operated the firm until 1887 and it was during this era that they changed over much of their production to electroplating with silver and became known for ecclesiastical designs including chalices, beakers and tankards and had several commissions from Ohio and Mississippi river boats for equipment including swivel lamps and water pitchers. During 1896 the company went under the name of Homan Silver Plate Co. and between 1904 and 1915 became known as the Homan Mfg. Co. The company ceased business by 1941.

Photograph of Riley farm taken during the 1930's

Friday, November 9, 2007

An Itawamba County Sunset

The sun has set below a ridge west of Mantachie Creek, illuminating the remnant clouds of a passing cold front on a chilly Itawamba County night.

Photography by Bob Franks

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Horseshoe on the College Campus in Fulton

For more than 58 years, Itawamba Community College in Fulton has educated thousands of young people from Chickasaw, Itawamba, Lee, Monroe and Pontotoc counties in the hill country of northeast Mississippi. For many years, a favorite gathering spot for students on the Fulton campus was “the horseshoe” – a horseshoe shaped island consisting of concrete benches and the school flag pole, landscaped with junipers and a spruce tree in the middle of the intersection in front of the school’s cafeteria and recreation hall. This spot was most always busy with laughter, talking and sometimes even cramming for exams for many years. Although long gone, this spot is probably in the memories of many former students from days gone by. The above scenes of “the horseshoe” were photographed during 1957.

Let our voices loudly ringing,
Echo far and near;
Songs of praise dear Itawamba,
To thy mem’ry dear;

From the Itawamba Community College Alma Mater
Words arranged by Allen Gregory, Class of 1951

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Old Monuments in Keyes Cemetery Memorialize Many Early Itawamba Families

While visiting the old historic Keyes Cemetery last Friday I visited the gravesites of several of my early Itawamba ancestors. Numerous members of my ancestral lines are buried in that old cemetery including members of the Gillentine, Stovall, Sheffield and Franks families. One such gravesite I visited was that of Richard Leake Gillentine.

Richard Leake Gillentine, my fourth great grandfather, was born January 29, 1806 in Sparta, Tennessee, the son of Nicholas and Jane Terry Gillentine and great great grandson of the immigrant Nicholas Girlington (born 1676 Thurland Castle near Tunstall, England, died 1774 Amelia County, Virginia). On November 18, 1826 he married Sidney Leana Stovall in Morgan County, Alabama. She was the daughter of Benjamin and Margaret Stovall and great great granddaughter of the immigrant Barthalomew Stovall (born August 24, 1665, Albury, Surrey County, England, died about 1721, Deep Creek, Henrico County, Virginia). The family came to Itawamba County during the founding years of the county settling in the Hopewell-Keyes area west of Tombigbee River.

Richard Leake Gillentine’s son, William Throckmorton (my third great grandfather) was born during 1828 in Morgan County, Alabama and came with his family to Itawamba County at a young age. On January 28, 1849 he married Mary Rhyne, daughter of Jacob and Sarah Hope Rhyne. During the Civil War William enlisted with Company F (Davis' Brigade) known as the Saltillo Rangers of Davidson's Mississippi Infantry (Army of 10,000, 2nd Regiment) on November 29, 1861 and was later sent to Kentucky along with his company.

The men during the service in Kentucky had no opportunity for hostilities, but suffered intensely from the very severe winter. Snow lay on the ground for weeks and the men were unaccustomed and unprepared for such exposure. Most of them came down with measles and many died from this serious camp disease and pneumonia. The regiments were disbanded at the expiration of the term of enlistment. The regiments were back at their organization camps in February, 1862.

While in service, William’s wife died in Itawamba County and William returned home to Itawamba County to his children where he married the widow Anna Nanney Mullins (widow of John T. Mullins) on February 19, 1862. Shortly thereafter William died, probably of measles contacted while serving in Kentucky.

At this time, William and Mary Rhyne Gillentine's orphan children were split up. Elizabeth (my great grandmother) and Penelope were sent to live with their uncle and aunt - William Carlisle and Elizabeth White Rhyne on their Patch Creek farm, northwest of Mantachie in Itawamba County. The male children (Jacob and Jesse) were sent to live with their grandparents, Richard Leake and Sidney Stovall Gillentine at their Hopewell farm.

Today, the old pottery Richard Leake Gillentine monument (pictured above) is just one such monument of many in the old Keyes Cemetery memorializing the progenitor of an early Itawamba County family.

Richard Leake Gillentine Pottery Monument Photograph by Bob Franks