Friday, June 29, 2007

Itawamba County's Family Attic

Historic Bonds House Museum, is Itawamba County’s museum of history. Located in this facility are more than 2,000 artifacts representing Itawamba County’s past. Owned and operated by the Itawamba Historical Society, this 111 year old structure is considered by many to be Itawamba County’s family attic.

Bonds House, built ca. 1895 by Mantachie merchant and postmaster James Andrew Bonds, serves as the society's county museum of history. The architecture of this structure reflects the building style of Itawamba County rural farm houses from the late 19th Century. The original structure was a dogtrot design, a vernacular architcectural style prominent in the deep south. An open hallway divided the house, creating a comfortable breezeway during the hot humid Mississippi summers. During the 1920's the open hallway was enclosed, as was common in many of the old dogtrot structures.

Housed in this historic building are several archives rooms including the Delmus C. Harden Archives, the George Washington Owens Archives, the Ruth Boren Sheffield Archives and the James Grissom Archives. The building houses artifacts from the early 1800s through the 20th Century.

Located on the grounds of the structure are many Mississippi native plants and the Mollie Spradling Dulaney Prayer and Meditation Point which overlooks Tishtontee Creek. Historic Bonds House at the corner of Church Street and Museum Drive in Mantachie, is located adjacent to the state-of-the-art George Poteet History Center. Historic Bonds House is open during regular society hours, Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Historical Society's Archival Photograph Collection Being Placed Online

The Itawamba Historical Society’s Gaither Spradling Library houses hundreds of photographs from Itawamba County's past and as an ongoing project, the society will be publishing many of these photographs online. The society’s collection includes Itawamba people, places and events and covers a time span of 1860 until 1960. If you have old photographs from Itawamba County's past, please consider sharing them with the society and fellow researchers. Photograph copies may be mailed to the society at: PO Box 7, Mantachie, MS 38855. Scanned images may also be emailed to the society. The society will publish submitted photographs in the online collection, and also place a copy in the Gaither Spradling Library. To visit the society’s online photographic gallery, visit To-date the following 75 photographs have been placed online:

The Barber family of Centerville Community north of Mantachie

David H. Beard at work in his shoe repair shop in Fulton during the 1920s

Centerville School group during the 1920s

Centerville School House and Group ca. 1918

The Cockrell String Band of Itawamba County at a Woodman of the World meeting at the Lee County Courthouse in Tupelo

Laying of the Cornerstone at Itawamba Agricultural High School in Fulton during 1921. The village of Fulton is pictured in the background

The Malachai Crawford Cummings home (Sunny Dell) north of Fulton.

Evergreen's First Automobile

Dance Recital Group in front of Itawamba Agricultural High School ca. 1923

Jessie S. Sheffield (son of Adam Sheffield) and wife Minnie Caroline Shields

The old Itawamba Agricultural High School Administration Building ca. 1955

Itawamba Agricultural High School ca. 1925. The Mississippian Railway tracks are in the foreground

Mantachie Street Scene ca. 1918 (Al Grissom, rural mail carrier is in wagon)

Dr. Norman W. Nanney with wife Vivian and children Syble and Havolee at their new home at Mantachie ca. 1913

Congressman John Elliott Rankin speaking to citizens on the Fulton town square

Old tintype portrait of two women from an old family trunk belonging to the John Thomas Riley family. These two women are probably Cason sisters

Old tintype portrait from an old family trunk belonging to the John Thomas Riley family. This is probably John Thomas Riley

The Alfred Henry Rutledge family in front of their home in the Cardsville community.

William Sheffield, son of Adam Sheffield of Wilcox County, Alabama

A candidate speaking at White Springs Resort south of Fulton during the 1890s

Newly opened Bankhead Highway in Itawamba County west of Fulton. The photo taken atop River Hill west of Fulton looking east ca. 1937

Ruth Boren with other children playing at an old abandoned steam mill at old Center Star near Mantachie ca. 1910

James M. "Duff" Cockrell and wife Sallie Ford

Samuel Mansfield Franks Portrait

The town square in Fulton during the 1890s

The Mantachie Hotel located on Church Street during the 1890s.

David Buse (born April 1854, died Oct. 27, 1932 in Texarkana, Arkansas)

Thomas Buse (born March 1862, died December 1912) with wife Mary Gassaway of the Mantachie area

The John Buse family of the Oak Grove area

James Herrington McMillen and wife Mary Brown of the Fawn Grove community

James Ezra Sandlin (born 1893, son of Augustus and Margaret Sandlin) and unidentified woman, probably wife Mary

Elizabeth J. Sheffield

The Marion Albert and Elizabeth Gillentine Cockrell family of the Mantachie area

Elijah and Jane Cofield Cockrell

James and Nancy Cockrell Thornberry of the Centerville Community

Rev. Benjamin R. East and wife Jane Cockrell

The James and Nancy Cockrell Thornberry Family of Centerville

Benton Cockrell Portrait

Stacy Harriet Johnson Buse Portrait

Marion Albert and Elizabeth Gillentine Cockrell Portrait

A group of workers and farmers hauling cotton to a cotton carding factory in the Cardsville community west of the Tombigbee River around 1890

The old steam locomotive on the Mississippian Railroad

A singing school group in Itawamba County near Mantachie around 1905

A group crossing the creek at Grissom's Mill in northeastern Itawamba County during the 1890s

Nicholas and Jane Hill Horn portrait taken during the 1800s

Centerville School faculty during the 1930s

Benson family photograph at the James Garvin Benson house near Fulton during the 1920s

The Casper and Annie Wallace Family south of Fulton in the Tilden-New Salem Community

John Sheffield Portrait

Charlie and Dora Ann Moore Sheffield Portrait

The Chilcoat Family Portrait

The Barber Family Portrait

Stephen Horn Family photo taken around 1900

Perry Horn Family photo taken around 1900

Group Photograph of the Oakland School during the 1940s.

Mary Jane Lowry Portrait

The Fulton Garmet Factory located in Fulton at the present site of BancorpSouth. This photograph was taken during the 1930s

The Barnes family of the Tombigbee Community

The Thomas Benjamin Wilson Family

John L. Thomas, son of Labon and Rachel Sharp Thomas in Confederate uniform

William E. Thomas, son of Laban and Rachel Sharp Thomas in Confederate uniform

The Davis Cummings family lived north of Mantachie

The Nabers Family Portrait

Children of Laban and Rachel Maples Thomas

John Hiram Boyd (born January 19, 1811) Portrait

Sulphur Springs School Group: 1924

Itawamba County Confederate Soldiers Reunion before 1900

The Clayton Brothers: Matthew, Daniel, Elijah, Brooks and Noah T.

Claude Elbert Gregory and wife Maude Dee Ballard Gregory

Wiley Hopkins Bean Portrait

Loyd William Robert "Bob" Hall and wife Sallie Maria Francis Hall

Hall's Store on the headwaters of Gum Creek

Brothers Frank, Graden and Lyonel Senter of Fulton

The John Thomas Riley family of the New Chapel Community

The Raden House at Beans Ferry on the banks of the Tombigbee

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Early 19th Century Women's Property Schedules in Itawamba County

Found in the old volumes of deed records in the Itawamba Chancery Court Clerk office in the courthouse in Fulton are many old property schedules of married women from the 1840s through the 1850s. These old schedules listed all property belonging exclusively to the wife in a marriage, and usually consisted of property the wife possessed in her own name before marriage. These schedules were a direct result of a lawsuit in neighboring Monroe County during 1837.

Passage of the first laws in America giving property rights to married women was in Mississippi during 1839. The Mississippi Act was inspired by a state Supreme Court ruling in the Fisher vs. Allen case during 1837, which held that Betsy Allen, a Chickasaw, could protect her property from her white husband's creditors because Chickasaw tradition granted married women independent property rights. Betsy Allen was born during 1790 in the Mississippi Chickasaw territory to Thomas and Sally Colbert Love. Sally Colbert Love was the daughter of James Logan Colbert and sister to Levi (Itawamba Mingo) Colbert. Both the Colbert and Love families were large land and slave owners. Betsy Love married James B. Allen (born North Carolina) in present-day northeast Mississippi around 1804.

John Fisher, a lawyer, sued Betsy’s husband during 1831 in Monroe County for two hundred dollars in a default judgment. Fisher had represented Allen in an earlier lawsuit and Allen had failed to pay him for his work. The circuit court ordered the sheriff of Monroe County to seize enough of the Love property to sell at public auction to cover the debt. The property included a slave named Toney. Betsy had owned many slaves prior to their marriage, including Toney. Under English law and later American and Mississippi law, all properties belonging to a woman prior to her marriage became her husband's property at the time of marriage. This concept is called coverture. An appeal was filed by the Allens because customs of the Chickasaw Indians were such that a husband and wife held property separate and that each contracted debts on their own. The case finally ended up in the Mississippi Supreme Court and the ruling was in the Allens’ favor. The Married Women's Property Bill was eventually passed on February 15, 1839, and signed by Governor Alexander G. McNutt the next day, making Mississippi the first state to grant property rights to married women. After the act was passed, several Itawamba County married women had their property schedules recorded in the probate court office (present-day Chancery Court Clerk’s office) in the courthouse in Fulton. Here is an example of such a property schedule:

Louisa E. Raymond Schedule of Property

The schedule of property owned and possessed by Louisa E. Raymond, wife of Alfred H. Raymond under the provisions of an act of the Legislature of the State of Mississippi, an act for the protection and preservation of the rights and property of married women, approved February 15th, 1839, and February 28th, 1846.

Towit: an undivided interest in a stock of goods in the town of Van Buren, Itawamba County in partnership with Winfield S.C. Walker and also an undivided interest in the books, notes and accounts of said store, all of which is worth Two Thousand Dollars, all which said personal property is claimed, held and possessed by the said Louisa E. Raymond, wife of said Alfred Raymond in her own separate right under the provisions of the above recited acts and this schedule of the above property wherein filed for in the office of the clerk of the probate of said county, under the provisions of said acts this the 27th day of August AD 1846.

Witness the hand and seal of said Louisa E. Raymond the day and date above written.

Louisa E. Raymond S E A L

Source: Deed Book 5, Page 366-367

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Beginnings of Itawamba Agricultural High School: 1910-1922

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.

The Itawamba Historical Society has digitized the complete first school annual of Itawamba Agricultural High School. View the 1922 Mirror

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Old Fulton Grave Yard Contains Many Monuments from Early Itawamba County

During 1837 a seat of government was laid off in blocks and lots east of the Tombigbee River in Itawamba County, Mississippi, that had just been organized the year before. Shortly thereafter the county board of police began selling lots in the new town, named Fulton. As death visited the new town, the early citizens were buried south of the road heading east to Russellville, Alabama, known as the Fulton and Russellville Road on a grassy knoll adjacent to the Fulton Male Academy east of the village. However, it was not until 1850 that a formal deed was recorded for the village burial grounds although this had been a burial ground since the 1830s. The old Fulton Cemetery contains many ornate monuments to the early citizens of the village of Fulton. Many of these monuments are dedicated to early merchants, planters, lawyers and government officials. Just southeast of the main burial grounds in a wooded area are monuments dedicated to members of the early African American Community. This wooded area of the cemetery probably began as a burial grounds for slaves well before the Civil War. Below is an abstract from the old 1850 Fulton Grave Yard deed:

The State of Mississippi
Itawamba County
This Indenture made and entered into this 17th day of October 1850 between William P. Harrison of the first part and D.N. Cayce, president of the Trustees of the Fulton Male Academy of the second part. Witnesseth that the said party of the first part, for and in consideration of the sum of Five Dollars in hand paid by the said party of the second part, the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged hath granted bargained and sold and by these presents do grant bargain sell and convey unto the said party of the second part as such president and to his successors in office forever all the right, title, claim and interest of the said party of the first party the following described land to wit: four acres of ground where the Male Academy is now situated east of the Town of Fulton to be laid off around said building so as to include the spring, and two acres including the grave yard including the most suitable ground for that purpose and to be dedicated to purposes of Burial alone on the NW 1/4 Sec. 30, Town 9, Range 9 East and south of the Russellville Road to have and to hold said land for the purposes aforesaid against the said party of the first part and his executors, administrators and all previous claims by through or under law. In Testimony whereof the said party of the first part hath hereunto set his hand and seal the day and date above written.
William P. Harrison
To view some of the old ornate monuments in the old Fulton Cemetery, visit the society’s Historic Fulton Cemetery Gallery.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Old Fulton Hotel: The First Tavern in Fulton built by Pioneer Family

One of the earliest pioneer families in Itawamba County was the Wiygul family. Alfred Wiygul (born February 14, 1798 in Tennessee, son of Henry and Rutha Logue Wiygul) came up from Cotton Gin Port in neighboring Monroe County and lived with the Chickasaws on the west side of the Tombigbee. His brother Reuben (born 1805 in Tennessee) followed him shortly thereafter and when the town of Fulton was established in the 1830s he built a hotel in the new town. Reuben had married Tarlie Stegall [pictured] of the old Ironwood Bluff area in southern Itawamba (born December 20, 1810 in Anson County, North Carolina, daughter of Solomon and Mary Sarah Harrington Stegall, and sister of Henry W. Stegall, prominent planter of Itawamba and Monroe counties).

The Wiygul’s hotel was known as the Fulton Hotel. During 1850 Wiygul sold the hotel to Sarah Richardson and Wiygul shortly thereafter built a new hotel on the southwest corner of present-day Wiygul and Clifton streets, one block off the town square (present-day Comcast building lot). The old two story hotel stood until the 1950s. Below is a transcript of the first Fulton Hotel deed:

This indenture made and entered into this Twentieth day of February in the year of our Lord One Thousand Eight Hundred and fifty between Wygle and Tarley P.L.C., his wife of the first part and Sarah L. Richardson of the second part for and in consideration of the sum of Sixteen Hundred Dollars to the said parties of the first part in hand paid by the said party of the second part at and before the unsealing and delivery of these presents, the receipt of which is hereby acknowledged, the said parties of the first part hath granted, bargained and sold and by these presents do grant bargain, sell and convey unto the said Sarah L. Richardson, wife of O.A. Richardson, subject to her sole and separate use and benefit and to her heirs forever the following described lots towit: One, Two, Three, Four, Six, Seven and Eight in Block Seven embracing the entire block, Lots One, Two, Three and Four in Block Six embracing the entire block and Lots One, Two, Three in Block Eight, all within the donation in Town of Fulton known as the Fulton Hotel property and appurtenances to have and to hold the above described and hereby released premises unto the said party of the second part, her heirs and assigns forever…

In testimony whereof, the said parties to these presents hath hereunto set their hands and affixed their seals, the day and date first above written.

R. Wygle

Genealogical Notes:

1850 Itawamba County Federal Census
Page 437,
Fulton Post Office

Reuben Wiygle: 45, Farmer, Tennessee
Tarla Wiygle: 40, North Carolina
Desdemonia Wiygle: 16, Mississippi
James Wiygle: 19, Mississippi
Cazillas Wiygle: 13, Mississippi
Pleasant Wiygle: 11, Mississippi
Tranquillas Wiygle: 8, Mississippi
Amarilla Wiygle: 6, Mississippi
Sam M. Vernon: 26, Physician, Alabama
John W. Downs: 25, Attorney, Alabama
Benj. L. Owens: 22, Attorney, Alabama

Saturday, June 9, 2007

The Mississippian Railway: Opening Up the Tombigbee Valley in Itawamba County

The the early 1920s the town of Fulton experienced a period of tremendous growth. It was just a few years earlier that the new Bankhead National Highway was completed through Itawamba County and by 1923, a new railroad was incorporated in Amory that was to extend a line up through Itawamba County to Fulton.

It was during this time of great expectations that Fulton experienced growth like it had never seen before. New businesses open in the little town including a new hardware store from Amory (Staub-Stewart), a new automobile dealership, groceries and other businesses. With the opening of the Mississippian Railway, the timber industry in Itawamba County expanded into the largest industry in the county with lumber mills opening up all around Fulton.

The Missisippian Railway was organized in Amory during 1923. A newspaper article was published on August 9, 1923 that was copied from the Commerical Appeal in Memphis by the local Itawamba County News:

“Incorporation and organization of the Mississippian Railway, a proposed line to extend from Amory, Monroe County, to Fulton, Itawamba County, were completed yesterday at a meeting held in Amory, Miss., and actual construction on the project will go forward rapidly.

Itawamba County has heretofore had no railroad facilities and the new line will open up a territory along the valley of the Tombigbee of hardwood and pine timber, various farm products and cotton. The railroad when completed will be about 20 miles in length, connecting with the Frisco at Amory.

John T. Chochrane of Mobile, Ala., is the president and builder of the road. Mr. Cochrane is also president of the Alabama, Tennessee & Northern and the Alabama & Northwestern railroads. The new line is independent of these two lines however, and is in no way connected with them.

William Toxey is chief engineer of the new line, and will have actual charge of the construction programme. He will be assisted by John T. Cochrane, Jr. in the work. The construction work has been fully mapped out, and work is being pushed on the road.

The incorporators are the Messers. Cochrane and P.C. Byrne, while Mr. Cochrane Sr., is president of the corporation. Mr. Byrne, vice president, Mr. Toxey, chief engineer, and Mr. Cochrane, Jr., treasurer. – Commercial Appeal”

By the following September this new railroad was already finished to White Springs in Itawamba County and was due to be completed to Fulton by October. On September 16, 1924, an article in the Itawamba County News told of the progress:

“The progress of the new construction now under way on the railroad project running from Amory through Itawamba County is progressing even beyond expectations of those interested in the movement. The work of track grading has been completed to Fulton and steel has been laid approximately a mile beyond White Springs. The promoters are of the opinion that the road will be completed to Fulton by the first of October and trains will be running on schedule time in this once inland county. That Itawamba is forging ahead and is keeping abreast of the times is evidenced by the number of homes that are being built and the best sign of the progress is that they are all neatly built bungalows or nicely furnished buildings in modern designs. The new railroad, The Mississippian, will be continued thru the county and will open up one of the richest counties of lumber in the state. Gilmore & Puckett own fifteen hundred acres north of Fulton in virgin pine as fine as ever grew in the county and in which an axe has never been struck. The lumber industry alone is bringing many thousands of dollars into the county. – Tupelo Weekly News”

Today, the Mississippian Railway continues to make trips along the east side of the Tombigbee River between Amory and Fulton and the Mississippian Railway continues to be an important part of the economic history of Itawamba County .

Genealogical Notes:

1920 US Federal Census
Mobile County, Alabama
Page 213, 8th Ward, City of Mobile
John T. Cochrane: 46, AL,AL,AL, Railroad President
Alice: 41, AL,AL,AL
John Jr.: 19, AL,AL,AL
George: 12, AL,AL,AL
Oscar Owens: 33, AL,AL,AL, Chauffeur
Lilly:30, AL,AL,AL, Cook

John Taylor Cochrane was one of the leading industrialists and public men in Alabama. He served as president of the Mobile Chamber of Commerce twice and during one of these terms he organized a movement to build a ten mile bridge across the headwaters of Mobile Bay. At the time of his death in 1938 he was president of the Alabama, Tennessee and Northern Railroad. Cochrane was born in Tuscaloosa County during 1874 and attended the Univeristy of Alabama. His first wife, Alice Searcy, died in 1922 and in 1925 he married Katharine Crampton of Mobile. He had two sons by his first wife - John T. Cochrane, Jr. and George Searcy Cochrane.

Source: Cochrane Biographies in the Manuscript Collection of the University of South Alabama Archives.

Friday, June 8, 2007

The Old 1844 George Bounds Dogtrot Cabin at Bounds Cross Roads

Traveling north on State Highway 23 in eastern Itawamba County, the visitor goes through the scenic Bounds Crossroads community. One of the older communities in northeastern Itawamba, it was named for one of the early settlers of the county, George Bounds.

George Bounds was born in the Richmond and Anson County, North Carolina area around 1773. He was the son of Jesse Bounds (born about 1752 Frederick County, Virginia, died about 1827 in Pickens County, Alabama) and Mary Ann Webb (born about 1752 in North Carolina, died about 1827 in Pickens County, Alabama). George Bounds patented several quarter sections of land in 1843 and 1844 and purchased additional acreage as well. During 1844 he purchased the southeast quarter of Section 2, Township 9 South, Range 8 East and built a residence upon this land. This large hewn-log dog-trot structure was about two miles due west from the Franklin County, Alabama line on the west side of Briar Creek just east of the intersection of the old Maxcy Mill Road (current-day Mt. Gilead Road) and old Russellville Road (current State Highway 23). The community surrounding this intersection became known as Bounds Crossroads during the 1800’s and continues to be known by that name even today.

At the age of 83, George Bounds died on August 16, 1854 and on February 24, 1855, a public sale of his property was held when E. J. Chastine (Edward Jordan Chastain) purchased the George Bounds homestead, which at the time of the sale, consisted of the southeast quarter and south half of the southwest quarter of Section 2, Township 9 South, Range 10 East, containing 240 acres (Deed Book 15, Pages 7-9). The title of the property was transferred to Chastain by William R. Bounds, the administrator of the George Bounds estate on April 7, 1856.

An interesting fact about the old pioneer log home is during 1960 it served as the first home of a young married couple from the area named Euple and Wynette Pugh Byrd. Wynette Pugh Byrd later became known as Tammy Wynette, the “First Lady of Country Music.” The old home at the time was owned by Tammy Wynette’s grandfather, Chester Russell and was just north of where she was born on May 5, 1942. Her grandfather had purchased a part of the old Bounds place in 1949.

Larger Full View of 1844 Structure

Summer Issue of Itawamba Settlers to be Mailed Next Week

The Summer 2007 issue of Itawamba Settlers magazine was delivered to the society on June 8 from the printers and should be in the mail to the society membership next week. This issue should prove to be a very interesting issue with a focus on the Southern Claims Commission records of Itawamba County. A photo feature on the old Morganton House is also featured.


The next program meeting of the society will be held on Tuesday evening, June 19. The meeting will be held in the Gordon McFerrin Assembly Hall of the George Poteet History Center. The featured speaker will be society member Julian Riley of Tupelo and the topic will be his Itawamba County research on his upcoming book about the Itawamba family roots of Elvis Presley. This should prove to be a very interesting program. The meeting begins at 6 pm with a reception and the program begins at 6:30. The society’s headquarters is located at the corner of Church Street and Museum Drive in Mantachie. The public is invited to attend.


The society’s semi-annual book sale is in full swing with hundreds of titles to choose from. All types of used books from fiction to non-fiction are on sale from twenty five cents to one dollar. Be sure to attend the book sale Tuesdays through Fridays from 10 am until 3 pm. Funds raised from the book sale go towards the operation of the George Poteet History Center.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

A Photographic Exercise: Fulton Town Square Then and Now Part II

Yesterday's post was a comparison of photographs of the same scene on the Fulton town square taken sixty years apart. Today, are two photographs taken of the same scene more than one hundred years apart. The photographs show Gaither Street on the town square in Fulton looking north. The photographs were taken from West Wiygul Street. Gaither Street was named for the Gaither family, early settlers of Fulton. The Gaither family came to Fulton around 1840 and began a mercantile business. There had been a retail business on the town square under the Gaither family name up until the 1980's when the Grady Gaither store closed.

In the old photo the Gaither building was the brick building in the background on the corner of Main and Gaither streets. It was the first commercial brick building in Fulton (the courthouse being the oldest brick building). Across Main Street from the Gaither building was the Greene Store (general merchandise and undertakers). The roof line seen in the background beyond the buggy is the old Fikes Grocery. To view larger photographs, visit the society's photographic exercise page.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

A Photographic Exercise: Fulton Town Square Then and Now

The town square of Fulton has been the hub of county activity for more than 170 years. Being the county seat of government, the town square has served as a meeting place from the pioneer days of the 1830’s to the present. Perhaps the apex of town square activity was during the 1940’s and 1950’s when, on Saturdays, the square was filled with folks from all over the countryside, shopping and visiting.

However, like many other small towns across America, much of the retail business has left the traditional town square and moved to shopping centers. The black and white photo was taken from the corner of North Cummings Street and West Main Street during the mid-1940’s. The color photograph was taken on Wednesday, June 6, 2007 in the same location. It is amazing how the buildings have basically remained the same over sixty plus years as just minor changes in design and color have taken place.

To view much larger versions of the photographs, visit the Itawamba Historical Society’s Photographic Exercise page. The next posting will be a comparison of town square scenes spanning 100 years.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Orchestra Leader Jimmie Lunceford's Itawamba County Roots

The Itawamba County pioneers from the 1800s produced many illustrious citizens from all walks of life during the county’s 170-year history and the entertainment field is definitely represented with such a list. One successful entertainer in the music field from Itawamba County was Jimmie Lunceford.

Jimmie (James Melvin) Lunceford was born northeast of Fulton in Itawamba County June 6, 1902 on his family’s farm. Shortly before 1910 (James appears as 5 years old in the 1908 Itawamba County school census) the family left Itawamba County and moved west, first to Oklahoma and then to Colorado where he attended school. After attending school in Denver he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Fisk University. During 1927 while teaching high school in Memphis, Tennessee, he organized a student band called the Chickasaw Syncopators, whose name was later changed to the Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra after it began touring. The first recording made by the orchestra was during 1930. After a period of touring, the band accepted a booking at the famous Cotton Club during 1933 in New York City. Shortly thereafter Lunceford’s reputation began to grow. By the 1930s, his orchestra was considered the equal to Duke Ellington and Count Basie. His orchestra began recording for the Decca label and later signed with Columbia’s subsidiary Vocalion during 1938. He and his orchestra toured Europe extensively during 1937 and later he returned to the Decca label. During 1947 while playing in Seaside, Oregon, Lunceford collapsed and died while signing autographs. Lunceford was buried in Memphis, Tennessee.

Jimmie Lunceford was the son of James Leonard and Beulah Idella Tucker Lunceford. James Leonard Lunceford, his father, was born during 1878 in the Clay community of Itawamba County and during 1901 he married Beulah Idella Tucker. James Leonard was the son of Daniel and Gracie Lunceford. Daniel and Gracie Lunceford came to Itawamba as slaves with the David Lunceford family from Johnston County, North Carolina around 1860. After emancipation Daniel and Gracie Lunceford purchased land north of the Clay community where he was a successful farmer for many years.

The beautiful and exciting melodies produced by Jimmie Lunceford have been enjoyed by listeners for generations. Considered as one of the great orchestra leaders of the 1930s, Jimmie (James Melvin) Lunceford had his beginnings in Itawamba County, Mississippi where his ancestors had lived since the 1850s. He is an Itawamba son who definitely made his mark in the entertainment world.

Research Notes:

1920 Colorado Census, Denver County
City of Denver
Page 210
Ivanhoe Street

James Lunceford, 41, MS
Ida: 35, MS
Melvin, 17, MS
Cornelius: 15, OK

1900 Mississippi Census, Itawamba County
Page 229, Fulton Beat
Ross Wilson Household

Leonard Lunsford: Oct. 1876, 23, MS, NC, NC

1880 Mississippi Census, Itawamba County
Page 512
Fifth Supervisor’s District
Daniel Lunceford Household

James Lunceford, age 2

1870 Mississippi Census, Itawamba County
Page 378
Township 9, Fulton Post Office
Daniel and Gracy Lunsford Household

Itawamba County, Mississippi Marriages
J.L. Lunceford
and Miss Beulah Tucker
O.W. Warren, Minister of the Gospel

16 December, 1901

Jimmie Lunceford Articles:


BBC Radio

For further reading, consult the Spring 2006 issue of Itawamba Settlers quarterly for an excellent article by Robert Gilliland, Jazz Great Jimmie Lunceford.

Monday, June 4, 2007

An Old Log Pioneer Home Has an Interesting Connection

There are many old pioneer log structures standing in Itawamba County today. These old structures are a testament to the craftsmanship of those early hardy pioneers of the Tombigbee country. One such pioneer structure standing today is what has been known by many as the old Joshua Hood homestead. Believed to have been built by Hood around 1853 shortly after coming to Itawamba County from Alabama, this home is nestled in the edge of the woods off a rural road north of Fulton.

Joshua Hood, Elvis Presley’s great great grandfather was born September 13, 1828 in Alabama. He married Margaret Johnson (born June 18, 1830, died April 13, 1910 in Itawamba County) in St. Clair County, Alabama on December 20, 1849. Shortly after William, their first child was born, they moved to Itawamba County around 1853 where he had purchased land about seven miles north of Fulton. During 1886 the year after the death of Joshua (April 17, 1885) the older children of Joshua Hood deeded their interest in the old homestead to their mother and younger siblings [Click Deed Illustration for larger view].

Joshua’s first son, William, was born October 4, 1852 before the family moved to Itawamba County. On October 23, 1875 William married Mary L. Warren (daughter of William D. and Minerva J. Davis Warren and grand daughter of early Itawamba pioneers S. John and Sarah Robinson Warren. Her uncle, Charles Warren was the first sheriff of Itawamba County in 1836.) [Click Marriage License illustration for larger view.] Their daughter, Minnie Mae was born June 17, 1888 in Itawamba County and married Jessie D. McLowell Presley (born April 9, 1896 in the Clay community east of Fulton.). Their child, Vernon Elvis Presley (born April 19, 1916 in the Clay community of Itawamba County) married Gladys Love Smith on June 17, 1933 in Pontotoc County. On January 8, 1935 Elvis Aaron Presley was born to the couple in Tupelo, in neighboring Lee County

Elvis Presley’s family roots run deep in Itawamba County with ties to several of the county’s old pioneer families and what is considered his great great grandfather Hood’s pioneer home, stands as a silent tribute to those hardy early settlers who helped forge a community from the wilderness of the rugged hills of northeast Mississippi.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

The Old Bankhead National Highway Built Through Itawamba County

Prior to the 1920s, the roads of Itawamba County were maintained primarily for horse and wagon travel. Many of the old roads had been used for generations and were named usually for the settlements they connected, such as the Fulton and Pikeville Road and the Aberdeen and Jacinto Road. Other roads were named for families and settlements.

During the early years of the twentieth century, more and more Americans were traveling by automobile and a need for better roads was voiced by many citizens. Thanks to John Hollis Bankhead, congressman from neighboring Alabama (grandfather of actress Tallulah Bankhead), a major national concrete road was built through the entire width of Itawamba County.

The Good Roads Movement came out of concern by many citizens for better highways and by 1916 the Federal Aid Road Act was passed. Congressman Bankhead was ready with his plan for a national road that would link the older states of the South and East with the new ones in the west.

The Bankhead Highway was a United States cross-country automobile highway connecting Washington D.C. and San Diego, California. It was part of the National Auto Trail system. The Itawamba portion of the national highway was built during the early 1920s and it transformed travel in Itawamba County. Although the progress of the road was slowed by World War I, construction continued and by the late 1920s the national road was complete. Considered the “Broadway of America” this national highway brought prosperity and commerce to the many towns along its route, including Fulton, where it was completed in 1923, the same year the Mississippian Railroad was incorporated in Amory. It was during this time that the major timber industry was developed in the county. A 1923 newspaper article from the Tupelo Journal reads: “Our neighbor on the east, Fulton, saw more building during the last six months of the year than has taken place within the ten years previous. Two new schools, the public school of Fulton and the Itawamba County Agricultural High School, and the new Baptist church there were built previous to 1923, but with the completion of the Bankhead concrete road an impetus was given the spirit of improvement which is bringing the town up to the point of being one of the most progressive towns in this part of the state.”

On November 11, 1926 the U.S. numbered highway system was adopted and it was then that the southeastern portion of Bankhead Highway became known as U.S. Highway 78. The new Highway 78 began in downtown Charleston, South Carolina and ended at Second Street in downtown Memphis. It was during the Great Depression, when the U.S. and state governments put men to work that a new Highway 78 was built through Itawamba County. The photograph above shows the newly constructed U.S. Highway 78 looking east from atop River Hill above the Tombigbee River (click photo for large image). The new highway followed basically the same path as the old Bankhead Highway and even today in Itawamba County there are several places where the old Bankhead Highway and the old U.S. Highway 78 intersect.

Today we have the new four-lane U.S. Highway 78 south of the old highway (which is now known as Highway 178) but there are several sections of the first old Bankhead National Highway still in use. And road names using portions of the old road in the county still honor Congressman Bankhead’s name. We have Bankhead Road East (Tremont area), Bankhead Road West (Dorsey area) and in Fulton there is Bankhead Street. Yet many areas of the old national highway are abandoned in Itawamba County. Today there are many stretches of the old road where the old desolate narrow concrete lane winds its way through pastures, forests and swamps - a silent reminder of the old national highway that was built through Itawamba County at the beginning of the twentieth century, bringing the hopes of development, growth and prosperity to many Itawambians.

Historical Society Photographic Archives Being Published Online

The Itawamba Historical Society has begun a new project with the goal of providing more Itawamba County historical content online. The result of the new project is the society having published an Itawamba County photographic archives online. Hundreds of Itawamba County archival photographs are housed in the society's Gaither Spradling Library and so far, 75 of those photographs have been published online. The goal of this special project is to publish the society's entire collection online. The society also invites visitors to submit copies of old Itawamba County photographs for inclusion in the photographic archives. Copies may be mailed to the society at its regular address or emailed to the society. Simply click the "Contact the Society" link on this page. This photograph of the old Mantachie Hotel was taken from the society's photographic archives.

The old Mantachie Hotel was built during the 1880s and was located on Church Street opposite the current location of the Itawamba Historical Society's headquarters. Notice in this photograph, the hotel's kitchen is a separate building from the hotel (right portion of photograph background). The hotel was later made into a one-story building and served as a boarding house. The boarding house was run by Rev. Benjamin and Jane Cockrell East. For a much larger view of the photograph, click on the image.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Outlaw Days in Old Itawamba County: Homeguard Leader, Deputy U.S. Marshal and Detective Stokley Roberts

During the Civil War and days of Reconstruction, many atrocities were committed by bands of outlaws in Itawamba County. Many of these outlaws roamed the hill country of eastern Itawamba County along the Alabama state line. During the Civil War Stokley Roberts was in charge of the homeguard and during the Reconstruction years served as a deputy U.S. Marshal and later a lawman and detective. Roberts gained quite a reputation in Itawamba and surrounding counties.

Roberts was born January 23, 1824 in Alabama, the son of John and Sarah Mullins Roberts. In Itawamba County he married Laney Elizabeth Spearman, daughter of Itawamba planter, Elijah and Sidney Cotten Spearman. For many years Roberts made his home near his father-in-law’s plantation just north of Tremont on the old Cotton Gin Road. The Spearman family owned several thousand acres of land in the Bull Mountain Creek bottomlands.

During 1874 Roberts moved his family to the old John Rogers farm just south of Fulton where he purchased 160 acres of land (now inside the city limits of Fulton on South Adams Street) from the Rogers estate and around 1899 he and his wife moved to Coryell County, Texas. On a Monday morning , January 25, 1904 his body was found in the Leon River near his home about three miles north of Gatesville. The evening before he had left his home to go across the river to check on some cows and hadn’t returned. It was thought he had fallen in the river and drowned.

There are many tales told about Stokley Roberts, commonly known as “Stoke,” in northwest Alabama and northeast Mississippi. One interesting tale of many, is his capture of the head of the Miller gang out of Alabama. The following was taken from the Itawamba County Works Progress Administration Historical Records Survey:

“An interesting story of the combating of crime in Itawamba County was that of an outlaw by the name of Miller who sold whiskey in Itawamba, Monroe and adjoining Alabama counties for a period of 55 years. Miller succeeded in evading capture for many years until Stoke Roberts and Cleave Barnes took up his trail. They soon had Miller captured and carried him to Aberdeen jail. Miller was a heavy drinker and when he was put in jail and whiskey denied him, he became frantic. The night before he was to be sentenced he asked for a pencil, paper and a light. These were furnished him and he wrote a letter to his wife telling her that Stoke Roberts and Cleave Barnes had taken his life and urged her family to take revenge on these men.

After the letter was written Miller took his life by cutting his throat with his pocket knife. His body was taken back to Marion County, Alabama to be buried. After his funeral Miller’s family shook hands over his grave and swore that they would get revenge for his death.

A mob of about fifty men were organized who boasted that they were going to blow Fulton off the map and kill Roberts and Barnes. By the time the mob got across the state line into Mississippi, a few men learned what was going on and they hurried to Fulton to notify the citizens of the mob’s intention to destroy the town. Thirty or forty young men and boys formed a breast work across the highway outside of Fulton and made ready to defend the town. Guards were placed and the men stood ready with shotguns loaded with buck shot with orders to shoot any man who failed to halt and give an account of himself.

An unknown man supposed to have been a friend of the Miller gang slipped out of Fulton and met the mob seven miles east of Fulton and told them of the defensive measures the men of Fulton had taken to protect themselves.

When the mob found out what was going on, they decided it would not be wise to attack the town, and returned to their homes. However, guards were kept on duty for a number of months expecting the mob to return.

Some months later Stoke Roberts located and captured another member of the Miller gang and placed him in jail in Fulton. Several nights later about 35 men rode into town, secured the keys to the jail, took the prisoner out, and fired a 25 gun salute as they left town. Itawamba County has had no further mob or riot experience since.”

Illustration from The Life and Adventures of John A. Murrell and death information about Stokley Roberts from the January 28, 1904 edition of the Dallas Morning News.

The old Stokley Roberts family cemetery on the homeplace in the town of Fulton.