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

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