Monday, November 2, 2009

In the Woods...

The recent dry weather with clear skies and beautiful sunshine has been a welcome addition to Itawamba County after the wettest October ever recorded. Sunday was the perfect time for a walk in the woods as the Autumn leaves in Itawamba County are at their peak now painting the hills and valleys with vivid hues of red, orange and yellow.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Pass the Peas..... Please

The Columbus Decorative Arts Preservation Forum and Antiques Show and Sale will be held November 5-8 in Columbus, Mississippi. On the Tombigbee River, downriver from Itawamba County, Columbus is known for its many antebellum structures. Events at the forum and antiques show include:

Gala Preview Opening: Thursday, November 5 from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. at the Trotter Convention Center located at 123 5th Street North. The Antiques Show and Sale will be Friday and Saturday, November 6-7 from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. at the Trotter Convention Center.

The Decorative Arts and Preservation Forum begins on November 6 with Pass the Peas, Please… The 19th Century South and its Changing Palate at 9 a.m. At 8 p.m. in Carrier Chapel on the campus of Mississippi University for Women, Jim Gibson, pianist from Atlanta, Georgia will be featured. On Saturday, November 7, beginning at 8:30 a.m. free lectures featuring prominent nationally known speakers, including John W. Keefe, Curator Decorative Arts, New Orleans Museum of Art and Carolyn Bercier, Deputy Director, Herman-Grima/Gallier Historic Houses, New Orleans.

Dinners and entertainment will be held in historic Columbus homes. For advance tickets and forum information call the Columbus Cultural Heritage Foundation or Convention and Visitors Bureau at (800) 327-2686 or visit

The Columbus Decorative Arts Preservation Forum is funded in part by a grant through the Mississippi Department of Archives and History and the Billups-Garth Foundation.

Poster photography Neil Alexander, Southern Lights Photography

Friday, October 30, 2009

National Day of Listening is November 27

StoryCorps, the most ambitious oral history project ever undertaken, has announced the second annual National Day of Listening, to take place on November 27,2009. The National Day of Listening is an effort to encourage all Americans to honor a friend, a loved one, or a member of their community by interviewing them about their lives. The interview process takes less than an hour and offers a meaningful alternative to holiday consumerism.

Participants are encouraged to record their National Day of Listening interviews using equipment that is readily available in most homes – from cell phones to tape recorders to computers or even pen and paper. StoryCorps has created a free Do-It-Yourself interview guide with equipment recommendations and interview instructions available online at

“In the midst of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, the idea of listening during the holiday season has clearly resonated with people across the country,” says StoryCorps founder and MacArthur “Genius” Dave Isay. “The National Day of Listening, which coincides with Black Friday – traditionally the largest shopping day of the year – proves that simply listening to one another is the least expensive and most meaningful gift we can give.”

StoryCorps’ national partners for the National Day of Listening include NPR, the Corporation for National and Community Service and the American Library Association. Although StoryCorps does not currently have the capacity to include National Day of Listening interviews in its collection at the Library of Congress, the organization provides simple instructions for recording and preserving interviews at

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

An Autumn Afternoon

Yesterday afternoon I couldn't resist photographing the giant sugar maple tree on Fulton's West Main Street just off the town square. Not long after the Cotswold cottage style home was built during the late 1930's on the site of an old antebellum home lot, this tree was planted and for generations, has been probably the most photographed tree in Itawamba County. Every autumn the tree bursts into vivid hues of yellow and orange greeting visitors driving up the hill into downtown Fulton.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Headed South

A sign of the colder season coming, this flock of geese was seen headed south over Itawamba County along the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway last week.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Ancestry Magazine Added to Google Books

Google is an excellent resource for the historian and genealogist and the company is always introducing exciting new features. I am an avid user of Google Books and Google Scholar.

This past January I wrote about Google Books adding magazines to its offerings. In December of 2008 Google announced an initiative to help bring more magazine archives and current magazines online, partnering with publishers to begin digitizing millions of articles. Included now in the ever-growing collection is Ancestry magazine.

All issues of Ancestry magazine are available for reading from the January-February 2004 issue through the January-February 2009 issue. Each issue of Ancestry magazine is packed with stories, articles, and expert advice to help family historians take their research further than ever before. From where to look for new family history clues to detailed how-they-did-it breakthroughs and regular features including Megan Smolenyak's "Found!," reader-submitted heritage recipes, photos, and backstories, Ancestry magazine offers the inspiration and the know-how in every issue.

More and more magazines are set to appear in Google Book search results and you can limit your search only to magazines through the advanced search features. From the Google Books search page, simply click “Advanced Book Search” and from the advanced book search page, select “Magazines" and search for “Ancestry Magazine.” To browse all issues, simply click the “browse all issues” link in the upper left corner of the page.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Genealogy Fair Via Interactive Video Network to the Held in Fulton

An upcoming Genealogy Fair will be held over interactive video network on November 6, 2009, beginning at 12 noon until 5:00 pm. There will be a great line-up of genealogists who will speak on a wide array of topics.

Genealogy is considered to be the fastest growing hobby in America with an estimated 60% of the American population interested in learning more about their family history.

The speakers for the fair starting at 12 noon - 1:15pm: Ms. Betty Wiltshire, owner of Pioneer Press of Carrolton, Mississippi. Ms. Wiltshire is considered to be one of the foremost genealogists in our state. She will discuss how to get started in genealogy research. 1:30 – 2:45 pm: Dr. Lynne Mueller is a reference librarian in the Special Collections department at Mississippi State University Library. In addition to being a certified genealogist, she organizes the annual Genealogy Fair at MSU which attracts enthusiasts from across the southeast. Her topic will be the use of courthouse records to discover historical clues. 3:00 – 4:15pm Dr. Edwin Ellis is a retired MSU professor who spends every available moment researching his family history. He brings a great deal of humor and practical insight to conducting genealogy research. He will discuss using Civil War records to glean information about long lost relatives. 4:30 -5:00pm Ms. Mariah Smith from MSU will show us how to preserve memories and converting photos to fabric.

The fair will be held at the MSU-Itawamba Extension Service located at 304C West Wiygul Street in Fulton. Please bring your lunch, come and stay, or come and go. For more information please call 662-862-3201.

A Change of Seasons

This morning while doing some yard work I snapped a photo showing the yellow leaves of a buckeye in the edge of the woods behind my house. Leaves are just now turning in Itawamba County with autumn colors nearing their peak probably within the next two weeks.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Genealogy Fair to be held in Fulton

The MSU-Itawamba County Extension Office invites local genealogy enthusiasts to participate in a Genealogy Fair to be held on November 6, 2009 at the MSU-Itawamba County Extension office. The Genealogy Fair will offer beginners a chance to learn more about conducting genealogical research. Guest speakers will cover a wide array of topics such as, beginning your genealogy search, using courthouse records, using military pensions and preserving family memorabilia.
The schedule is as follows:

12:00-1:15 PM Beginning Genealogy Research
1:30-2:45 PM Using Courthouse Records
3:00-4:15 PM Using Military Records
4:30-5:00 PM Preserving Memorabilia

Sessions will begin at 12 noon and go until 5 p.m. Bring a sack lunch and join us for a fun afternoon learning how to dig up your family history. Please call the Extension office at 662-862-3201 to sign up.

Magnolias on the Court Square in Fulton

Massive creamy white and extremely fragrant flowers grace the one of the magnolias on the Itawamba County Courthouse lawn during the summer each year. The magnolia is entwined with the history of the south and especially Mississippi. This majestic tree serves a dual role as the state flower and the state tree. There’s no wonder Mississippi is known as the Magnolia State.

Magnolia grandiflora, commonly known as the Southern magnolia or bull bay, is a native of the southeastern United States.

It is an ancient genus, having evolved before bees appeared. The flowers developed to encourage pollination by beetles and as a result the carpels of the magnolia flowers are tough in order to avoid damage by eating and crawling beetles.

The fragrant blooms of the courthouse magnolias are enjoyed by residents and visitors alike.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Autumn is on the Way

A maple tree's leaves are turning a golden yellow and vibrant orange in front of the Administration Building on the campus of Itawamba Community College in Fulton. This time of year, the days get shorter and we wake up to cool mornings with the hint that colder weather is on the way.

Bonds House Before Restoration

I snapped this photograph about 25 years ago before the historical society began restoration efforts to save the old structure. Today this ca. 1895 structure is Itawamba County's museum of history operated by the society and has seen thousands of visitors from most every state in the union, as well as several foreign countries.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Celebrate Alabama Archives Week at the Alabama Department of Archives and History

Itawamba County is one of the Alabama border counties of Mississippi and during 1836 when the Chickasaw Cession of 1834 opened up this region for settlement, settlers poured in from neighboring Alabama. Today many Itawamba County families have ancestral ties to Alabama.

As part of American Archives Month, the Alabama Department of Archives and History are presenting several special events. Below is an announcement from ADAH:

October is American Archives Month. The Alabama Department of Archives and History (ADAH) invites all Alabamians to celebrate Alabama Archives, October 14-17, 2009. Highlights of the activities include a Basics of Archives Workshop; an ArchiTreats presentation, The Civil Rights Movement in Alabama by Odessa Woolfolk; a discussion and book signing with author Hasan Kwame Jeffries; and a special Saturday opening on Archives Day, October 17, with museum tours and research opportunities.

All events will be held at the Alabama Department of Archives and History, 624 Washington Avenue. Join us Wednesday, October14, from 9:00 - 3:00 for the Basics of Archives Workshop presented by Archives staff. Individuals and organizations can learn how to care for personal photographs, diaries, and letters. A $35 registration fee includes lunch, break snacks, and a workbook.

On Thursday, October 15, at the noon ArchiTreats: Food for Thought program Odessa Woolfolk will present The Civil Rights Movement in Alabama. This presentation is part of a year-long lecture series providing a chronological history of the state of Alabama as part of the Year of Alabama History.

Hasan Kwame Jeffries will be on hand at noon, Friday, October 16, to discuss the research and writing of his new book, Bloody Lowndes: Civil Rights and Black Power in Alabama’s Black Belt. Books will be available for purchase and a book signing will follow.

The Archives Week activities will conclude on Saturday, October 17, from 8:30 - 4:30, when the Archives will open its doors for a rare weekend opportunity to explore the museum or visit the research room. Special activities will be available for children and the whole family. Guided tours of the museum will be offered at 9:00, 10:30, 12:30, and 2:30. The documents in the Archives will come alive throughout the day through Alabama Voices dramatic readings. Children’s activities will focus on family history and traditions and the Research Room will be open with staff available to help adults explore their family history or other research projects. Archives staff will also conduct mini-workshops to help researchers learn more about using on-line digital collections available on the Archives website to explore photographs, documents, publications, maps, and military records. All events are FREE and a complete schedule of events is available for download in PDF format.

Online Tools For Your Research: Inflation Calculators

In our research we come across many old documents relating to our subjects’ finances. Even in census records, financial information is disclosed. The 1850 census reveals the value of real estate a person owned. The 1860 and 1870 census reveal the value of real estate owned as well as the value of personal property. In such record groups as probate, deed and court records, property values are given. And of course, the dollar unit in the past had more value than the dollar unit today. By using an online inflation calculator you can convert a historical dollar value into its present value.

As an example, the 1860 Itawamba County US Federal Census shows Christopher Hussey, an Itawamba County planter in the southwestern part of the county, to be worth $114,445 in both real estate and personal property. Calculating this amount using an online inflation calculator, shows that in today’s dollars, his worth was equivalent to $3,057,115.61, using the consumer price index formula.

There are several online inflation calculators. A most excellent one is MeasuringWorth. With this calculator you can convert the value of historical dollars to present values from 1774 to the present. Presented here are six indicators for making such comparisons in US dollars between any two years from 1774 to 2008. You can perform calculations using different formulas using different methods - the CPI, the GDP Deflator, the consumer bundle, the unskilled wage rate, the GDP per capita, and the GDP. Only two indicators, the CPI and unskilled wage are available from 1774 to 1790, and the consumer bundle is only available from 1900 to the present. This site has a description of the indicators and some really interesting examples using such subjects as George Washington, the Erie Canal, Babe Ruth and the Model T Ford.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has an online inflation calculator that performs calculations from 1913 to 2009. Their CPI inflation calculator uses the average Consumer Price Index for a given calendar year. This data represents changes in prices of all goods and services purchased for consumption by urban households. This index value has been calculated every year since 1913. For the current year, the latest monthly index value is used.

WestEgg has an inflation calculator that performs calculations from 1850 to 2008. The pre-1975 data are the Consumer Price Index statistics from Historical Statistics of the United States (USGPO, 1975). All data since then are from the annual Statistical Abstracts of the United States.

With the use of online calculators such as the ones mentioned here, we can gain a better understanding of the lives and times of our ancestors.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Airing in the Breeze

About thirty years ago I was driving around the countryside north of Tremont and came upon this beautiful quilt hanging on the clothes line at a farm house. Needless to say I stopped and visited. Can anyone identify the pattern of this quilt?

October is Archives Month

October is Archives Month and Mississippi’s theme this year is “I have so much to tell you…” Organizations throughout Mississippi are showcasing multifaceted collections that represent our history and its continuing relevance from generation to generation. Workshops and tours are being held throughout the state.

Initiatives are led by the Society of Mississippi Archivists and the Mississippi Historical Records Advisory Board (MHRAB), with partial funding provided by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

Included in the special events is Personal Treasures presented by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. To be held October 15-16 at the Corinth Public Library in nearby Alcorn County, this popular program is based on the Antiques Roadshow format.

The public is invited to bring household items, books, maps, photographs, textiles, coins, stamps, architectural elements, and military items (except weapons) for expert advice on the age and origin of the item and its conservation and care. Monetary appraisals are not available at this event. Personal Treasures is free and open to the public.

For a complete listing of statewide events being held during Archives Month throughout the state, visit the Society of Mississippi Archivists website.

Poster ©Society of Mississippi Archivists

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A Fulton Landmark is Being Saved

For generations, the old home atop the steep embankment on Fulton’s Main Street has greeted passers-by. From the days during the 1860s when the road was the Fulton and Russellville Road to the times when it changed to Bankhead Highway, the old home has withstood the passages of time.

Unfortunately Fulton has lost many of its architectural treasures but The Cedars on Main Street has withstood demolition in the name of progress. And thanks to the members of the Fulton United Methodist Church, present owners of the home, the old home can be enjoyed by future generations.

Through efforts of some members of the church, a community-wide effort was begun to move and restore the original section of the home, making room for a church parsonage. And their call for help has fortunately not gone unheard. A grassroots organization called Preserving Itawamba County’s Heritage has been formed and many hours of volunteer labor has been spent with the noble cause.

The organization is more than talk and meetings. There has been plenty of hands-on work. The Cedars was the site of a major volunteer effort Saturday, September 26, 2009 when nearly 100 volunteers devoted part of their morning to cleaning the grounds and the interior of the house. Debris was removed from the lawn and the grass mowed and trimmed. Inside the house all of the recent carpet and padding and several of the newer items were removed and the interior cleaned.

Fulton artist and art educator Teb Thornton recently completed two works which he has donated to Preserving Itawamba County's Heritage (PICH). The art work will be used as a means of raising funds for the relocation and renovation of The Cedars. The artist prepared a watercolor of The Cedars as it exists today --- and a limited edition of 100 prints signed by the artist are available to benefit The Cedars Project Fund (an affiliate of the Create Foundation of Tupelo). All proceeds will be used in the preservation effort to relocate and to restore The Cedars. You may reserve your copy of this limited edition print by contacting the PICH at its blog site Preserving Itawamba County's Heritage. Additional donations to the Create Gaither House Project Fund may be made online at the Create Foundation website.

During this month there will be a benefit at the historic structure in Fulton. Mississippi Hill Country Heritage Day will be Sunday, October 18, 2009 at the historic structure at 211 Main Street. The event will run from 2 - 5 PM and all proceeds will benefit the project.

Tickets to the Mississippi Hill Country Heritage Day event are $15 for adults and $10 for students with admission for small children free. Tours of The Cedars and information about its history, music, games, displays, and a tasting of period foods are all included in this one ticket price.

For further information about this worthwhile event, visit the Preserving Itawamba County’s Heritage blog.

A Lost Corner Scene ca. 1900

Pictured is the Yates and Elzie Conwill home located in the Lost Corner area of Itawamba and Monroe counties. The home was actually located across the county line in Monroe county but the subject is of Itawamba County people. The photograph was taken ca. 1900 and shows several citizens of the Carolina community of Itawamba County. Pictured are (left to right): Dave Armstrong, Metta Armstrong, Jesse Conwill, Ira Conwill holding Earnest Conwill, John Thomas, Babe Carpenter Green, Jonnie Mae Wiygul, Stella Conwill Duvall, Elzie Carpenter Conwill, Yates Conwill, Jr., wife of Bob Whitley (name unknown), Bob Whitley.

Yates Conwill was born September 18, 1857 and died August 28, 1921 (buried Wiygul Cemetery). He was the son of Yates Jury Conwill (born December 16, 1824 in Newberry District, SC, died August 18, 1860, buried in the Shumpert Cemetery in the Carolina Community of Itawamba County) and Nancy Herndon (born March 7, 1826, died March 13, 1916). Yates Jury Conwill and Nancy Herndon married on November 8, 1846 in Monroe County.

Yates Conwill was the grandson of Daniel G. Conwill (born about 1790, died 1863, buried in the Mound Cemetery in Monroe County) and Sophia Goodwin.

The Conwill and Goodwin families were prominent citizens of early Itawamba County in the Carolina Community and the families were located in the Lost Corner area as well, just south of Carolina, in both Itawamba and Monroe counties. The Carolina community was named for the state of South Carolina. Most of the citizens of this area came to Itawamba County from South Carolina, especially the Newberry District area.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

A Country Field

An old wagon in a field of yellow bitter weeds between the Hopewell and Greenwood communities west of the Tombigbee River is seen on an early Autumn day. In the olden days folks tried to keep their cows from eating bitter weed as it would make the milk bitter.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

An Autumn Standard in Itawamba County

Pictured above is a selection of mums at a business in Mantachie. Mums are an autumn standard in Itawamba County and during this time of year many potted mums are sold. When I was a kid, I don't believe you could buy potted mums such as what we have today. I remember mums were planted in the flower beds around the house and each autumn they would spring to life with colorful gold, purple and yellow blooms. It seems the mums now days are overloaded with blooms and the blooms don't last as long as they did when I was a kid.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Sheriff's House

Pictured above is the Sheriff's House in Fulton as it was being torn down during the 1960s. This residence housed the sheriffs of Itawamba County. The last sheriff to live in the house was Walter Wood (term of office - 1924 to 1928). The 19th Century structure stood at the present-day site of the parking lot of the Fulton Home Center on Main Street (old Piggly Wiggly and Walker's Big Star building).

Monday, September 28, 2009

A Birthday Cake and Radio Flyer

Margarita Cauthern Thompson with her Radio Flyer wagon on her third birthday (notice the birthday cake on the wagon). This photograph was taken in the Third District of Itawamba County in the Van Buren Community. She is the daughter of Elvin and Dot Brown Cauthern, granddaughter of Fonzo and Minnie Lee Gardner Cauthern and great grand daughter of Francis Marion and Nancy Neal Galloway Cauthern early Itawamba County pioneers who came to Itawamba County prior to 1860. A special thanks to Margarita Cauthern Thompson for sharing this special photograph with the readers of Itawamba History Review.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Blue Skies Return to Itawamba

Yesterday before sunset I had to snap a photo of the parting clouds over Itawamba County. For the past three weeks, we have had rain and damp weather. Many folks have recorded well over a foot of rain - five times the monthly normal. Thanks to Canadian high pressure that has finally entered the region, we're promised several days of low humidity and evening temperatures in the upper 40s and high daytime temperatures in the 70s. And we're finally getting to see sunshine! Many welcome this beautiful autumn weather.

B-Sharp Music Club in 1922

Pictured are the members of the B-Sharp Music Club during 1922 at Itawamba Agricultural High School. The president was Maurine GAither, vice-president Capitola Brown and Secretary-Treasurer was Ruth Howard. Pictured (front row left to right): Maurine Gaither, Corrine Ballard, Miss Irene McMullin (teacher), Edith Lay, Pearl Graham. (Back Row left to right): Hautie Page, Eva Crouch, Ruth Howard, Odell Pearce, Beatrice Senter, Capitola Brown, Utrinka Collum.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Sitting on a Log

Pictured are four young men during 1918. Left to right are: Allie Loden, Fred G. Martin, William Ezel "Zeke" Sheffield (son of Early Jasper and Nancy Lorena Wood Sheffield), Dr. Troy Sheffield. The scene was photographed in the Dorsey community.

Friday, September 25, 2009

An Old Homestead on the Aberdeen & Jacinto Public Road

About thirty years ago I took this photo of the old Hugh and Eliza Gregory house on the old Aberdeen and Jacinto Road north of Walton Cemetery. Located at an old crossroads this home was of log construction. The old home was torn down not long after the photograph was taken.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

In the Grove at White Springs Resort

A political gathering at the old White Springs Resort between Smithville and Fulton near the Tombigbee River ca. 1900. White Springs was one of Itawamba County's earliest resorts and was established well before the Civil War. At one time there was a hotel and cabins near the old mineral springs. Click photo for larger view.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

2009 Historic Natchez Conference Slated for October 8-10

The 2009 Historic Natchez Conference will be held in Natchez October 8-10 and shares the title of the Smithsonian traveling exhibit, Journey Stories, which will be a feature of the conference. The exhibit is produced in cooperation with the Mississippi Humanities Council and co-sponsored by the Goldring/Woldenberg Institution of Southern Jewish Life and the Historic Natchez Foundation.

The Historic Natchez Conference, with all sessions being free of charge, fosters the study, preservation, and appreciation of the history of the Natchez region by providing a forum for established scholars, graduate students, archivists and the general public to share research, resources and ideas. The Conference continues its tradition of highlighting the role of archival collections in researching and interpreting the history of the American South.

The conference is an outgrowth of the Adams County Courthouse Records Project, a public records preservation and research program initiated in 1992 by California State University, Northridge, and the Historic Natchez Foundation, with major funding and assistance provided by the Natchez National Historical Park. Graduate students serve as interns in a comprehensive summer program involving conservation, research, and interpretation of multiple manuscript sources. Most of the student papers presented at the conference are products of that program.

For more information about the conference, including the complete program, visit the conference website.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Tour of the Itawamba Historical Society Facilities in Mantachie: Part 5

Editor's Note: Terry Thornton, a member of the society's board of directors, has been giving a tour of the society's facilities in Mantachie over the past few days through text and photographs. Below is the fifth and final part of his tour.

In one of the areas of the museum still to be developed is stored part of an auditorium's canvas stage cloth or a theatrical backdrop of painted cloth (pictured above) --- with many of the local hand-painted advertising signs on the canvas still as bright and as colorful as ever. I was charmed by the painted ads --- and hope that the museum will determine a way to display this large piece so that others may enjoy it. The theatrical backdrop was done after 1922 if information from the ad pictured above is correct and once hung on the stage in the Mantachie School auditorium.

No museum with a collection of artifacts from early rural America would be complete without a spinning wheel. The Bonds House Museum has a spinning wheel upon which no doubt countless hours of spinning produced countless miles of yard. These devices so necessary to households just a few generations ago have always fascinated me.

Large metal pots for outside and fireplace use are displayed at the Museum. The small cooking pot on the bottom shelf far left is commonly called a "spider" and was used for hearth cooking over many decades in the history of the nation. The little three-legged pot could be used in the fireplace for cooking everything from stews and soups to chickens and dumplings or even used for baking. One of the items on my "bucket list" is to bake biscuits on the hearth using a spider. First I've got to get a hearth.

The artistry in this quilt is both pleasing to the eye and inspiring. That so many small pieces of fabric could be cut and assembled by hand-piecing into all these various elements and then combined into a quilt top was a labor of love for someone years ago. Then the quilter(s) took over and fashioned a quilt from that top using thousands of small quilting stitches to join the top, the batting, and the lining together --- and those lines of stitches added even more to the overall pattern and geometry of the work. This quilt is charming.

At the Museum are displayed a variety of tools and metal artifacts --- from broad axes to horseshoes to a set of scales and the peas used to measure weights as well as dozens of other items. The object at the top right of this pictures is commonly called a set of "cotton scales" and was used to weight cotton as it was picked and collected for ginning. The scale had two surfaces upon which to measure weights --- one side of the scale required a small "pea" (shown hanging from the scale) to determine fairly light objects. The opposite side of the scale required a larger "pea" (shown just below the scale) to measure heavier loads. The scale had a top hook which could be attached to a secure limb or timber and the object to be weighed could be attached to the scale's bottom hook. Both are visible in this picture.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Tour of the Itawamba Historical Society Facilities in Mantachie: Part 4

Editor's Note: Terry Thornton, a member of the society's board of directors, will be giving a tour of the society's facilities in Mantachie over the next several days through text and photographs. Below is part four of his tour.

The Bonds House Museum has a variety of every-day objects used by earlier residents of Itawamba County. From high-topped lace-up ladies shoes to textiles of many differing types, the museum offers a up-close look at objects from our past.

Lovely shoes from yester-year could make a fashion statement even today are shown above.

Although the Bourland Family was in Itawamba County by 1836, it is not known when or where this textile treasure (shown below) was produced. Hand woven of various dyed threads, the Bourland coverlet is an excellent example of weaving and dying. The un-dyed background threads are probably cotton and the colored threads are probably wool --- blue dye was often made from Indigo and the resulting color was named "Indigo blue" whereas the red is called "Madder red" which was obtained from a dye extracted from the berries of the Madder plants (Common, Wild, or Indian Madder). Of course other plants may have provided the pigment for the red dye used in this coverlet.

This type of bed cover was sometimes called a "coverlid." In most cases, coverlids were woven on a simple overshot loom using solid colored or un-dyed cotton threads with dyed woolen threads. When linen threads were used instead of cotton and woven with wool threads, the resulting fabric was called "linsey-woolsey" which is often of finer threads than those used in coverlids.

It would be most interesting to hear a textile expert's assessment of this coverlid, to learn the types of thread from which it is woven, and to hear an explanation of the probable source of the dyes used in its manufacture.

Many homes throughout the South had a reed pump organ (shown below) in the parlor. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, salesmen traveled over the nation selling parlor organs on an installment plan. One such organ's paperwork (original contract and receipts for all of the monthly payments) was the subject of part of the first Internet article I ever researched and posted. That organ is probably similar in style and price as this one pictured from the Bonds House Museum.

That research showed that in December 1909, the Walls family of Kentucky contracted with R.J. Bowen and Brothers, Pianos and Organs, Winston-Salem, N.C., to purchased a Putnam Organ style 650 No 46211 for $65.00. The Walls agreed to pay $10.00 down and $15.00 every three months until paid in full. The Walls paid a total of $67.30 for their parlor organ --- and made the final quarterly payment of $12.30 on February 23, 1911. Here is that article called "Miss Lizzie's Trunk" (in three parts).

Although I don't know the company nor the seller of the parlor organ pictured from the Bonds House Museum, I have little doubt that it sold for about the same price as the one studied in Kentucky. More research is needed on the Itawamba County Mississippi parlor organ.

According to Marilyn Leary, the Society's Librarian and tour guide at the Museum, this large wall hanging of painted cloth showing the many flags of the Confederate States of America (shown below) is one of the most studied objects in the collection. Marilyn identified this item as being in the top three most discussed and viewed by visitors to the museum. This photograph does not show all of the flags or the labels in a readable size --- but many visitors to the Bonds House Museum will find the parade of Confederate flags of interest.

The Great Seal of The Confederate States of America (shown above) is also displayed at the museum. A large image of the Seal of the Confederacy in color shows George Washington on horseback surrounded by a wreath of plants. Those featured plants are Southern crops --- cotton, tobacco, sugar cane, corn, and wheat. The motto, Deo Vindice, means Under God, Our Vindicator. February 22 is the day of Washington's birth and the date when Jefferson Davis was inaugurated as President of the Confederate States of America.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Tour of the Itawamba Historical Society Facilities in Mantachie: Part 3

Editor's Note: Terry Thornton, a member of the society's board of directors, will be giving a tour of the society's facilities in Mantachie over the next several days through text and photographs. Below is part three of his tour.

One of the most interesting artifacts I found at the Bonds House Museum was a Friendship Quilt from the early 1930s. That quilt brought back memories of numerous ones I recall my mother and my classmates' mothers making as fund-raisers when I attended Hatley Elementary School in nearby Monroe County in the 1940s.

At Hatley School, a quilt block pattern would be sent home to each student's mother who would piece together one quilt square from her fabric scraps and add names or other embellishments. The squares would be gathered up and sewn together to make a quilt top and the quilt top assembled with a batting of carded cotton and a lining. The quilt would be placed into a quilt frame and whoever was in charge of the friendship project would call a quilting bee. Numerous hands would then quilt the top, batting, and lining together using tiny delicate quilting stitches that were most often arranged in amazing geometric patterns. When the entire quilt was quilted, the raw edges were bound with a binding material, usually thin strips of bias cut fabric which matched the top. When finished the quilt would be raffled off and the proceeds used in a well-received fund-raiser for the school.

Such activities were also done to raise money for church projects or for other community projects.

But the Friendship Quilt at the Bonds House Museum is more than just an example of this genre of quilts --- it is a historical document. The museum's quilt was made in the 1930s by members of the Mantachie Methodist Episcopal Church South. For ten cents, residents could pay to have their name embroidered into the quilt which was raffled off. Funds were raised in two ways --- the selling of chances to win the quilt and by the ten-cents-per name charge for those who wished to have their name on a quilt.

And in the process, the Friendship Quilt of Mantachie is a historical document of names written in embroidery on cotton fabric of numerous local residents from about eighty years ago. Below are photographs of a section of the quilt followed by a close-up picture of one of the quilt squares.

I did a quick census search for the six names shown in the image above using the Lee-Itawamba County Library's access to Heritage Quest. Here is a summary of what I found:

  • Mr. and Mrs. Ezra Sandlin: Listed on the 1920 Itawamba County Census as living in Cardsville, Beat 3. In the household are Ezra, a farmer age 26 born in Mississippi and his wife Mary A. Sandlin age 21 born in Mississippi.

  • C.B. Camp: Could this be Charles B. Camp listed in the 1910 census of nearby Monroe County Mississippi? More research is needed rather than just a quick look for C.B. Camp.

  • A.S. Kirksey: Listed on the 1910 Mantachie Precinct on Cotton Gin and Marietta Road. In the household are A.S., farmer age 37 born Mississippi; his wife Mollie age 30; son Gordon age 10; daughter Vivian age 8; son Kermit age 6; son Elvin age 4; and daughter Burnice age 3/12ths all born in Mississippi.

  • Ronald Pearce and Ruby Pearce --- I could not sort out the Pearce family of Itawamba County using just a quick search at Heritage Quest. More research is needed.

  • Rev. A. E. Sandlin: Listed on the 1920 Cardsville Beat 3 Census of Itawamba County as Augustus E. Sandlin, farmer age 59; wife Margaret E. age 64; daughter Allie J. age 30; granddaughter Ann Nell age 8; and grandson Bradford age 6 all born in Mississippi.

I cannot image the wealth of family history this quilt can tell --- and I hope to get permission from the Itawamba Historical Society to inventory and publish all of the names on the quilt.

Friendship quilts are treasures especially when they contain so many names as the one at the Bonds House Museum.

Remember that the Bonds House Museum is located at the corner of Church Street and Museum Drive in Mantachie, Mississippi. The museum is open to the public free of charge Tuesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Tour of the Itawamba Historical Society Facilities in Mantachie: Part 2

Editor's Note: Terry Thornton, a member of the society's board of directors, will be giving a tour of the society's facilities in Mantachie over the next several days through text and photographs. Below is part two of his tour.

In typical farm-house design, the Bonds House has porches. The shade of the porches, abundant windows, high ceilings, large attic, and shiny metal roof helped cool the house in those years prior to electric fans and other cooling devices.

The foyer of the Bonds House Museum viewed through the front screen door creates a muted image of Marilyn Leary, Society Librarian who was the Guide on this tour of the house.

One of the most interesting artifacts in the collection is the Itawamba County jail door from 1852. This iron jail door was in use from 1852 through 1937. It now hangs in the Bonds House Museum.

"The Times" art deco metal sign that once adorned The Itawamba Times building in Fulton since the 1940s now graces one of the walls in the museum's Delmus Harden Archives. The Itawamba County Times continues to be published as "the only newspaper in the world that cares anything about Itawamba County"!

Several printer trays and old-fashioned newspaper block "print/type" are found in the Harden Archives at the museum. I was interested in the two exclamation marks shown below.

Vintage typewriters are also displayed in the museum.

Monthly Program Meeting Slated for Tuesday Evening, September 15

On Tuesday evening, September 15, the Itawamba Historical Society will hold its regular monthly program meeting. The special program will be a presentation by Thomas Childs on the water springs of northeast Mississippi’s hill country. Childs is a long-time attorney in Itawamba County and served as the Board of Supervisors attorney for several years. He was also a member of the faculty at Itawamba Community College. An active community leader for many years, he was elected by the citizens of Itawamba County as Citizen of the Year. He owns a mineral springs in neighboring Tishomingo County where he has manufactured and marketed bottled spring water.

The meeting begins at 6 p.m. in the George Poteet History Center with a light dinner followed by the program. The public is invited to attend. The George Poteet History Center is located at the corner of Church Street and Museum Drive in Mantachie.

A Tour of the Itawamba Historical Society Facilities in Mantachie

Editor's Note: Terry Thornton, a member of the society's board of directors, will be giving a tour of the society's facilities in Mantachie over the next several days through text and photographs. Below is part one of his tour.

The Itawamba County Mississippi Historical Society maintains its office, library, and facilities in Mantachie. One of the Society's greatest treasures is the historic Bonds House. Built about 1892, the house served the family of Andrew Bonds who was a merchant and the first mayor of Mantachie. Inside the Bonds House is the Museum of the Itawamba County Historical Society.

The museum is presented in various areas of the house which have the following designations:

  • The James Grissom Foyer (photographs and artifacts from early Mantachie post offices)
  • The Delmus Harden Archives (with emphasis on the county newspaper, The Itawamba County Times, and the Harden family)
  • The George W. Owens Archives (features numerous 19th century artifacts)
  • The Itawamba Historical Society Archives Collection (in three other areas of the house are more than 1,000 additional artifacts from the county's past including Chickasaw Indian artifacts; emphasis on the county's rural history and heritage)

On the lawn of the Bonds House Museum is a gazebo with benches and table and a double swing.

Next door to the Bonds House Museum is the George Poteet Center which houses the Gaither Spradling Library and offices of the Itawamba County Historical Society as well as the Gordon McFerrin Theatre. A full-service kitchen and offices are included within the building. The Historical Society meets at the George Poteet Center on the third Tuesday of each month except December.

The Center, the Bonds House Museum, the Library, and the Society's Offices are open to the public each Tuesday through Friday, 10 AM until 3 PM and at other times by appointment. The Society may be reached by telephone at (662) 282-7664 or by mail at PO Box 7, Mantachie, MS 38855.

In the following four articles are some views from inside the museum --- a few of the fascinating artifacts from Itawamba County's heritage are highlighted in photographs. You are invited on this brief tour of the Bonds House Museum --- and you are invited to visit the museum and the Society's facility at Mantachie. While you are there why not look into membership in the Itawamba County Historical Society? It is one of the largest and oldest county societies in the Hill Country.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Muscadine Harvesting in Itawamba County

Muscadine picking is in full swing in Itawamba County, Mississippi this weekend. This wonderful wild grape's vines hang from the towering trees with the fallen fruit staining the county roads. For generations muscadines mean tasty jellies and jams, hot and buttery cobblers and delicious wine.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Wagon Train Out of the River Lowlands

Pictured above is the lead wagon of a wagon train hauling timber out of the Tombigbee River bottomlands on the Fulton & Pontotoc Road (later Bankhead Highway and US Hwy 78)to the sawmill in Fulton. This photograph was taken ca. 1910. Click photo for larger resolution image.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The River Port on a Hot Summer's Day

The Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway at Fulton is seen on a hot summer's day. The scene was photographed at Port Itawamba looking south towards the John Elliott Rankin Memorial Bridge.

Fall Issue of Itawamba Settlers Goes to Press

The Fall 2009 issue of Itawamba Settlers is set to be delivered to the printers tomorrow. This issue of the magazine contains several articles relating to Itawamba County, Mississippi history and genealogy. The quarterly 56-page magazine is mailed to the current membership of the society, including more than thirty libraries. For information about joining the society and receiving this quarterly publication, visit the society's website at Articles in the Fall 2009 issue include the following:

Beauty's Grave
Cantrell Family Research
Judge William H. Elliott Biography
S.B. Lane Biography
James W. Reagan Biography
William Reagan Biography
Richard J. Reeves Biography
Francis White Biography
A Cauthern Family Portrait
William Doric Tynes Biography
Ruth Boren Photograph
1936 Centerville School Photograph
Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church Minutes
Dr. Sam Nabor's House Photograph
Itawamba County News Abstracts: 1911
A History of Fulton Methodist Church
A History of the Tombigbee Association
A History of the Judson Association
George W. Grissom and His Mule: 1917
Police Court Minutes: 1867

Friday, July 31, 2009

A Pot of Gold

Yesterday the heat and humidity in Itawamba County was almost unbearable. The perfect weather for brewing storms. By early evening before the sun set a line of thunderstorms came through the county cooling us off with strong breezes and rain and left a most beautiful rainbow for us to enjoy.