Friday, May 25, 2007

Solving the Mystery of Bowling Green

I’ve always said that genealogists and historical researchers enjoy a good puzzle. Over the years, many pieces of puzzles have been joined together to form a cohesive story. Genealogists and historians are investigators and detectives, looking in every nook and cranny for that one piece of missing evidence to fit the puzzle together. I recall one sort of puzzle I enjoyed solving back during the summer of 1983.

One day while thumbing through Plat Book A in the Itawamba County Chancery Clerk’s office I found an old surveyor’s map of the town of "Bolingreen" in Itawamba County. The old map was inked by William Downs, the county surveyor, on January 24 of 1850. The old map showed streets and lots neatly laid out with Main Street being the major road. After diligent search, nothing could be found about this mysterious old town. The map did not even list a section, township or range affording anyone the opportunity to locate the town on a county map. The only clue about the location of this elusive town were labels for “Nanny’s line, Sheffield’s line and Jackson Nanney’s line” on the old map.

I knew it would be quite a task to find the location of the old town with these few clues to work with. After checking with several sources, nothing was found. Finally I began the daunting task of going through the old range books in the courthouse in order to find what properties Jackson Nanney, the only fully named person on the map, owned in 1850. I figured there would probably be many parcels of land owned by Jackson Nanney because his family owned considerable land in western Itawamba County. Finally, after hours of thumbing through the range books, in Section 27 , Township 9 South, Range 8 East, I found where Jackson Nanney, Uriah Nanney and Everett Sheffield owned property during 1850. This find broke the mystery of the location of the old town of Bowling Green.

After checking the various deed records for this section of land, I found that few lots in the town were ever sold. I later stumbled upon an old newspaper article written by Zereda Greene, Itawamba County historian, penned during the early 1960s. An article she had written on the old town of West Fulton reads in part: “The deed records show that the South West Quarter of Section 27, Township 9, Range 8 was entered from the government by Joshua Toomer on October 1, 1836 and that he sold this land to Uriah Nanney on June 8, 1837. Deed Book 7, page 118 shows a deed dated March 18, 1849 from Uriah Nanney to Shelly Coburn deeding the entire quarter section of land.”

By researching the deed records, I found that the Coburn family organized the town and sold few lots. Landowners of the town included F.M. Coburn, S.P. Coburn, D.N. Cayce and a company by the name of Gilstrap and Wren (more than likely James Gilstrap and Thomas Wren who was an early stockholder in the old river town of Van Buren), among others. According to postal records, the name Bowling Green was never used as a post office, yet the name West Fulton was. It seems that the town of Bowling Green or West Fulton, as it was later called, was never fully developed. Today the only remains of the town are a few deeds and the old town plat map. The old town on the west bank of the Tombigbee River was located about two miles west of Fulton where the old Fulton and Tupelo Road intersected the Tombigbee River.

The town of Bowling Green was one small Itawamba puzzle solved but many more to come during my next twenty-four years of research.


Terry Thornton said...

Most interesting! Care to speculate why this town failed to thrive?

Great new blog -- proud to see it.

Bob Franks said...

Terry, I think the town was too close to Fulton (just across the river bottom from Fulton). As Fulton was made the county seat of government in the late 1830s, this alone was a boost to Fulton bringing in trade, etc. Seems back in the olden days, when county court was held, the town would be full with folks from the countryside. Also, it was during the 1850s that the Mobile and Ohio Railroad was being built in western Itawamba County and this alone spelled the demise of other small Itawamba villages including Van Buren and old Richmond as merchants moved to be on the railroad.

C Wren said...

I find an interesting coincidence. Could the name "Bolingreen" just be Bolingreen. The founders of the town of “Van Buren” were Boling Clark Burnett, Thomas Wren and John R Wren. John R Wren for a time lived in the area of Bowling Green Kentucky.

Bob Franks said...

That is a good point and is very logical. I have always thought there was some connection between Bowling Green, Kentucky and "Bolingreen" in Itawamba County but never knew of any such connections. John Wren could very well be that connection.