Saturday, September 29, 2007

Interesting Online Archival Collections: The Internet Archive's Movie Archive

Located on the Internet are some fascinating sites relating to history studies. One such site is the Internet Archive Movie Archive. This interesting site, a part of the massive Internet Archive, contains literally thousands of online movies. The visitor can find most anything in this collection including big bands of the 1940's, public service films from the 1940's and 1950's, old silent Hollywood movies, and television commericals from the 1950's to modern documentaries. Many of these movies are public domain movies and documentaries.

Of special note in this collection is the Perlinger Archives where nearly 2,000 movies are viewable and downloadable. The Prelinger Archives was founded in 1983 by Rick Prelinger in New York City. Over the next twenty years, it grew into a collection of over 60,000 "ephemeral" (advertising, educational, industrial, and amateur) films. In 2002, the film collection was acquired by the Library of Congress, Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division.

The Movie Archive is fully searchable and the various collections can be browsed. For example, a simple search of “Mississippi” produced 79 results. Some interesting general searches resulted in the following:

To Hear Your Banjo Play: This 1947 film presents the origin of the banjo, the development of southern folk music and its influence upon Americans. Pete Seeger plays his banjo and narrates the story.

Southern Highlanders: This 1947 film records residents of the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee and their culture.

The Mississippi River Flood of 1927: This 1936 short silent film was produced by the Signal Corps of the Mississippi flood of 1927.

Lewis and Clark: This is a 1950 film dramatization of the expedition made by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to explore the land from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Coast.

The Plantation System in Southern Life: This 1950 documentary is a view of the plantation system and its effect on Southern culture.

Building a Levee With Mule Power: This 1937 documentary footage is from a Depression-era documentary that describes the importance of the Mississippi River.

Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge: This beautiful 2005 documentary was produced by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Internet Archive Movie Archive is simply a massive collection of films where the researcher can literally spend hours on end viewing all types of movies – everything from television commercials of the 1950’s and Depression era documentaries to Hollywood silent movies and modern films.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Carolina Community Heritage Day This Sunday Honors Early Itawamba Settlers

This Sunday, September 30, the Carolina Community will celebrate 174 years of community from 9:30 a.m. – until. Carolina Heritage Day organizers are excited about hosting past and present residents, former students, historians, and friends at the Carolina Community Center. Admission to the event is free and donations will be accepted for the community center restoration. The community center is housed in the old brick Carolina School.

Carolina was established during the 1830’s when pioneers from the Newberry District area of South Carolina began to settle in the newly opened Chickasaw Cession lands of Mississippi. Because the rolling hills of Itawamba County strongly resembled the settlers’ original home, the community became known as Carolina.

Most of Carolina is geographically located between the Boguefula and Boguegaba Creeks in Itawamba County. Between those creeks, the visitor can discover the heart of the community with many roads containing beautiful scenes of nature, rural farms, forests, wildlife, and more.

Today, many citizens of Carolina are direct descendants of those early pioneers. Organizers of the event are hoping that Carolina Heritage Day will generate interest in the community’s rich history. Everyone attending the event is invited to dress ‘old fashioned’ as way of participating in the community’s celebration. There will be an old-time covered dish lunch served at noon.

Activities will include a grist mill demonstration, Carolina classroom re-enactment, wagon train, story time, dulcimer music, quilting, and other activities. Displays will include Chickasaw artifacts from the community, Carolina School photos, family photos, and much more, Most of the historical activities will occur during the afternoon.

Nearby cemeteries contain the graves of many of the area’s first settlers. These cemeteries include the Carolina Cemetery, Wiygul Cemetery, Conwill-Goodwin Cemetery, Myers-Shumpert Cemetery, New Chapel Cemetery, Elliot Cemetery, Boozer Cemetery, and Bean Cemetery. Local family historians will be able to assist visitors in locating the graves of these first settlers.

The Carolina Community Center is located on Carolina Road off Highway 371 in southwestern Itawamba County.

Photographs: Conwill's Store in the Carolina Community and Livingston pottery monument in New Chapel Cemetery.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

When You’re Hungry, Thirsty or Tired…

This slogan has greeted generations of Itawambians at the corner of West Main and North Cummings Street in Fulton. The Senter Drug Company was established during the early 1920’s by Dr. John Senter. The business faced Cummings Street giving the long brick wall exposure to the busy Bankhead Highway (now Main Street). For years, Senter Drug Co. was a gathering place for area residents. The business not only dispensed medicines, but gift items as well. A prominent feature of the business for many years was the soda fountain and the big hand-painted soda advertisement on the south wall of the brick structure.

For many years, the advertising medium of painted advertisements on buildings was very popular and today there has been a renewed interest in the hand painted signs. During the heyday of painted advertising on buildings, almost all outdoor advertising companies offered a wall-painting service in the early years. The paint was usually brightly colored. The signs were painted usually once a year, but sometimes twice or more a year. The painters were known as "wall dogs," and they had to work with many different kinds of surfaces.

Various companies “rented” the space on buildings and would pay the building owner a monthly rental for the sign space. Thousands of these unique treasures of Americana in cities, towns, and rural areas across America are not as fortunate as Fulton’s treasure. These signs are doomed, either by destruction of the buildings that are their canvasses, a fresh new coat of paint, or simply weather and time.

Photograph by Bob Franks

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Mystery of Betsy Noble

Historic New Chapel Cemetery located in the Third District of Itawamba County just a few miles north of Monroe County is one of the largest historic cemeteries in Itawamba County. Settled by pioneers from the Newberry District, South Carolina area, early pioneer families included the Shumpert, Riley, Mayfield, Estes, Dabbs, and Monts families among others. Today there is a Methodist church at the site and at one time the grounds hosted two churches, the present-day Methodist church and a Presbyterian Church.

Located in the cemetery is a monument erected by church members back during the 1960's memorializing the first person buried in the old cemetery, Betsy Noble, who died around 1837. My uncle, Samuel Feemster Riley told me once that she was a young girl when she died. Riley's grandfather, John Riley and his brother Moses Riley, donated the original land to the church and cemetery shortly after arriving in Itawamba County from Newberry District and the story of Betsy Noble had been handed down through the generations.

Todate, I have been unable to find any information on a Noble family in early Itawamba County. Betsy Noble is simply an Itawamba County mystery.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Autumn's Sights, Scents and Tastes in Itawamba County

This Sunday marks the autumnal equinox for Itawamba County. Autumn is a magical time of year in northeast Mississippi’s hill country. Autumn brings back all sorts of childhood memories for me, including the trees in the hills and hollows bursting into vivid yellows, oranges and reds. It was a time when the frost was on the punkin’ and the days were ushered in with a cool damp frosty sunrise. I remember autumnal scenes from childhood such as the local grammar school’s annual Halloween carnival where you could bob for apples or take a chance on the cake walk with the possibility of winning a beautiful and tasty 3-layer home-baked blue ribbon Lane cake.

It was a time when the farmers burned off their fields and white gold in the form of King Cotton was hauled from the bottomlands, with miles of roads in the countryside being littered with scraps of the white gold that had blown off the cotton wagons on the journey to the gin, like a surreal snow. Autumn was also a time when hill country fields of sorghum and ribbon cane produced the tasty syrupy molasses that was a staple in all the country households.

Cane molasses has been a staple in southern households for generations. Since the 1800’s, sorghum cane and ribbon cane were the two predominant canes used in production of southern molasses. The juice was extracted with horse or mule-powered crushers and the juice was boiled, like maple syrup in New England, in a flat pan, and then used as a sweetener for other foods.

During autumn in Itawamba County, sorghum molasses mills would spring up in various communities. During childhood I remember playing around the molasses mills. The horse would slowly make its trip around the mill enabling the crusher to crush the fresh cane. Workers would feed the cane into the crusher and the sweet juice would drain into a large rectangular pan that was heated by a wood fire. Several workers would slowly stir the liquid with big wooden paddles removing the foam. When the liquid got to the right consistency, the molasses would be drained and sealed into metal buckets.

My most vivid memories of the local seasonal sorghum cane mill was fighting the thousands of buzzing bees hovering near the cane pulp pile hoping to get a taste of the sweet sorghum, and chewing on the fresh sugar cane with the rest of the community children. The cane mill was a gathering place for the community and molasses making was truly a community affair.

Today when autumn arrives in the hills of Itawamba County, I always think of the old- time molasses mill and usually pick a crisp cool morning to bake a big batch of oversized Mississippi buttermilk biscuits from scratch. After slicing a few of the biscuits open, and adding a heaping portion of fresh butter on the open biscuits followed by a generous baptizing of sog’um molasses over the melting butter, I sit down, and savor the scents, tastes and memories of a time gone by.

Shady Valley Photograph by Bob Franks
Itawamba County Sugar Cane Mill Photograph by Wanda Booth Turner

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

New York Times Online Archives 1851-1923 And More Now Free

At midnight last night, The New York Times stopped charging web fees for parts of its website including columnists and archives back to 1987. Articles going back twenty years are now free. But a most important part of this change for researchers is the older archives from 1851 through 1923 are now free. The researcher can view, not transcribed articles, but actual images of those historical articles in PDF format. This is a major development in providing free online access to historical records. To search the newspaper archives visit and in the fourth column select “The Archive” link. This link will take you to a query page. To query the free-view newspaper articles from 1851 to 1923, in the drop down menu to the left of the search button, select “NYT Archive 1851-1980.”

Link to AP Article

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Itawamba Biographies: William Sheffield

PIctured to the left is a portrait of William Sheffield and his powder horn from his Civil War Service. William Sheffield was born on March 5, 1841 in Wilcox County, Alabama. He was the son of Adam and Elizabeth Hare Sheffield of that county. He married Mrs. Charity Truett Brown, widow of John Brown on October 16, 1865 in Clarke County, Alabama and died on September 20, 1916 in Itawamba County, Mississippi. During the Civil War, William served the Confederate States of America in Company B, 38th Alabama Infantry in Clayton's Brigade. He enlisted during 1861 in Clarke County, Alabama.

In July of 1864, William was wounded in a battle at Jonesboro, Georgia, where he was shot through the hip twice and shot through the arm and leg. A newspaper article from the March 20, 1913 edition of the Itawamba County News tells of William's war experiences. The article reads: Uncle William Sheffield was here this week visiting relatives and told about seeing seven men shot on their coffins for deserting. Also, his knowledge and skill as a blacksmith, enabled him to release 14 soldiers one night who were condemned to die next morning for having deserted the army. This occurred in Atlanta, Georgia.

After his regiment surrendered in Mobile, Alabama and the war was over, William returned home to Clarke County, Alabama. A neighbor, John Brown was killed in the war, and William married his widow, Charity D. Truett Brown. Charity had four children from her previous marriage -- William, Melissa, Peter B., and Mary. In 1869 William and Mary, along with William's family moved to Itawamba County, Mississippi, south of present-day Peppertown. Other members of the Sheffield family had been living in Itawamba County since 1839. Life was hard during the reconstruction years in Itawamba County. One day while William was away, Charity was plowing the fields with their mare. As she got near the split rail fence at the edge of the field, their colt became spooked. She looked into the woods and saw what was frightening the colt. There was a panther prowling in the undergrowth. She quickly unhitched the mare and ran to the safety of their house.

In spite of his war wounds, William enjoyed hunting with his hound dogs and "Old Betsy," his gun. He also helped operate the Fulton Ferry across the Tombigbee River. After the turn of the century, William and his spouse lived with their daughter's family, the Stovalls. During February of 1907 Charity died. William had a fatal stroke while holding his infant grandson, Cleveland Franks, and later died on September 20, 1916. William and Charity Sheffield are buried in the Walton Cemetery of Itawamba County.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Family Research Association of Mississippi to Host Genealogical Fair in November

The Family Research Assocation of Mississippi will host its Genealogical Fair on November 10, 2007 from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. The fair will be held at Hinds Community College, Rankin Campus at the George Wynne Conference Center located on U.S. Highway 80, one mile west of Exit 52 off I-20 (Jackson Airport Exit).

This fair is an excellent time to present and discuss your personal and other genealogical research to all interested and display your genealogical and family treasures on tables and spaces provided by the Family Research Association of Mississippi. The cost per table is $15. The fair is also an excellent opportunity for obtaining expert opinions, finding family cousins, sharing, exchanging and selling any publications you may have. There will be no formal lectures or programs, but plenty of visiting and discussions.

Family Research Association of Mississippi members and non-members, as well as all genealogical and historical societies and groups in Mississippi are invited to participate. Book vendors are also invited. Refreshments will be provided.

Admission is free and table rentals are $15. It is strongly encouraged that those planning to attend pre-register. For a registration form contact the association at: FRA, PO Box 13334, Jackson, MS 39236-3334 or email

Saturday, September 8, 2007

September Program Meeting: The Battle of Ackia: 1736

On Tuesday, September 18, the Itawamba Historical Society will hold its regular monthly meeting. The program will be The Battle of Ackia, presented by Buddy Palmer of Tupelo. Mr. Palmer is known throughout northeast Mississippi as an excellent Mississippi Chickasaw researcher and historian. The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. in the Gordon McFerrin Assembly Hall of the George Poteet History Center located at the corner of Church Street and Museum Drive in Mantachie.

The Battle of Ackia was fought in present-day Tupelo in neighboring Lee County. The Chickasaw village Ackie was attacked by the Southern force of the French during the French-Chickasaw Wars of 1736. The French forces, include grenadiers, regulars, Swiss and various companies of militia, assembled at Mobile during March of 1736.

By the first of April they proceeded by boat up the Tombigbee River for 270 miles. By April 23 they reached its forward depot at Fort Tombecbe (present-day Sumter County, Alabama) which had been prepared in anticipation of the campaign. At Fort Tombecbe they mustered 544 European and 45 African men before meeting a 600-man Choctaw contingent up-river.

Departing Fort Tombecbe on May 4, 1736 by boat and on foot the combined forces reached the present-day vicinity of Amory in neighboring Monroe County on May 22. They quickly fortified a base camp to protect the supplies and boats, which were essential for their return. The forces departed on May 24 for the nearest Chickasaw village, located about twenty miles towards the northwest.

On May 26 the forces approached three fortified hilltop villages named Apeony, Tchoukafalaya and Ackia that were collectively known as Long Town. After some final planning the army advanced for the attack. They avoided Apeony, where a trader’s cabin flew a British flag but stormed Ackia. The French immediately received a shower of balls from the Chickasaw fortifications and their shields proved totally ineffective.

They became pinned down on the side of the hill with mounting casualties but several outlying cabins were taken. After several hours of combat the French fell back without having made the slightest breach in the fortress at the point of attack. During the night hours the Chickasaw improved their position by razing surrounding cabins and vegetation. As the French were shot of ammunition and provisions, and worried they could not carry the wounded, they retreated the way they had come.

The Battle of Ackia location today is an important Mississippi historical site in neighboring Lee County.

Illustration: Excerpt from 'Plan a L'Estime ou Scituation de Trois Villages Chicachas', by Ignace-Fran├žois Broutin (28 June 1736) from the Centre des archives d'outre-mer of the French National Archives

For further reading:

The Chickasaw Campaign of 1736 from

The Chickasaw Campagin of 1736 from Wikipedia

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Historic Jefferson College Presents Marie Hull Exhibit

Historic Jefferson College brings works from the Mississippi Museum of Art to Washington, Mississippi from September 1 through October 7. Marie Hull, Home and Abroad presents paintings that record the artist’s travels throughout the United States, Europe, and Northern Africa. Drawn from the Mississippi Museum of Art’s Permanent Collection, these works demonstrate Hull’s interest in exotic locations and architectural details, as well as the landscape and people of her native state. Marie Atkinson Hull was born in Summit, Mississippi during 1890 and died in Jackson during 1980.

Historic Jefferson College is a historic property of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Near Natchez, at Jefferson College, the first educational institution of higher learning in Mississippi, visitors can tour a restored dormitory room, student dining room, kitchen buildings, and other historic sites. The adjacent nature trail winds up and down through a wooded ravine, past St. Catherine's Creek, over bridges, past Ellicott Springs, and a historic cemetery, with plants and trees clearly identified along the way.

Jefferson College, incorporated by an act of the first General Assembly of the Mississippi Territory in 1802, was named in honor of Thomas Jefferson, president of the United States and president of the American Philosophical Society. Territorial governor William C. C. Claiborne served as president of the college's first Board of Trustees.

For more information on the special exhibit, Marie Hull, Home and Abroad, call 601-442-2901.

Jefferson College photograph courtesy of the Library of Congress Society Unveils New Domain and Website

The Itawamba Historical Society has a new home on the Internet. The society's new home contains all the material the former site featured. The society is planning on adding many new archival items to its online collection as well as new research areas. Located on the society's website is information about the society's library, The George Poteet History Center, a section about Historic Bonds House, a membership information area and a growing digital archives. Links to the various areas of the society's online site are found on the right sidebar of this blog.

The society will maintain its site on Rootsweb as a mirror site as well. Be sure to check the society's website and new material is being added on a regular basis. The address of the society's new web presence is located at

Sunday, September 2, 2007

The Fall 2007 Issue of Itawamba Settlers To Be Mailed to Membership This Week

The society has received the Fall 2007 issue of Itawamba Settlers, the quarterly journal of Itawamba County, Mississippi history and genealogy from the printers. This issue will be mailed to the membership this week. There are several interesting articles in this issue that should be both educational and entertaining. The Fall 2007 issue of the 56-page membership magazine features the following articles:

Town of Mantachie Photograph: 1907
John Wesley and Mary McCain Walker Probate Records
Board of Police Minutes: 1886
Old Probate Packets of Itawamba County
Itawamba County Tombstone Art
Historic Maps in Your Research
Itawamba County Towns and Businesses: 1866
Itawamba County News Abstracts: 1912
Private Monroe West World War I Letter
The Clark Family Bible
Rachel P. Armstrong Obituary: 1930
John W. Thornberry Obituary: 1930
Israel Standifer Edens Probate Records
Directory and Historical Sketch of the Fulton ME Church South
Rowena Catherine Tynes Guardianship Records
Alphabetical Index to Itawamba Probate Records Online
The Old Hamptons Graveyard
Lunceford Store at Otis
The Itawamba County Fair: 1925
The Mississippian Railroad: The First Years
Bankhead National Highway in Itawamba County
Fulton Then and Now: A Photographic Exercise
Plat Book A Abstracts
Itawamba County Teachers Directory: 1931-32
Old Rankin Family Confederate Soldier Tintype

Itawamba Settlers magazine is mailed to the membership four times per year and is included with membership dues. For further information about Itawamba Settlers magazine, please consult the society's website.