Copyright © Janice Tracy, Mississippi Memories

Saturday, February 28, 2009

More About the Pettus Family

Earlier this week, I wrote a post about the Pettus Family in Holmes County. During some research for that post, I discovered that William Pettus of Fairfax, Virginia, is writing a book about the Pettus Family of Virginia. According to William, he has included information about at least one Mississippi Pettus family, that of former Mississippi Governor John Jones Pettus, who served from 1859 - 1863. Known as the "War Governor," Governor Pettus played a significant role in Mississippi's history for his involvement in leading his state to follow South Carolina's succession from the Union on January 9, 1861.

Although William is quite busy with indexing the Pettus book, with its date of publication still sometime in the future, he was kind enough to communicate with me by email. During our contacts, he and I traded some information about our respective branches of the Pettus family. One thing that I learned from William is that my Pettus relatives in Mississippi likely descend from Stephen Pettus, son of Thomas Pettus II of Littletown Plantation. According to William's research, Thomas Pettus II was the son of Colonel Thomas Pettus, of Littletown Plantation, the latter being the original Pettus emigrant from Norwich, England.

Stephen Pettus, Sr. married Mary Dabney, daughter of Captain George Dabney of King William County, and they lived in New Kent and Hanover Counties in Virginia until Stephen's death about 1775. The Pettus lineage that descends from Stephen and Mary often used Mary's maiden name as a middle name for male family members. Two of these descendants were William Dabney Pettus, a wealthy plantation owner who lived in Lafayette County, Mississippi, and John Dabney Pettus, a brother of my maternal great-grandfather, William Elza Pettus.

I anticipate that William Pettus' book, when it is published, will be well-received by the genealogical community. As a family history researcher, I am personally excited at the prospect of having my own copy, and as soon as the book is published, I plan to announce it here.

Slowly and surely, my own Pettus Family puzzle is finally taking shape, although I still have some missing pieces. I will find those pieces, so stay tuned for more later.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Froggie's Friday Book Review

The subject of today's book review is "The Netherland, Leatherlin Legacy with Allied
Crane and Walls Families," written by Gena Ayers Walls, of Houston, Texas.

But first I want to tell a brief story about how I first became aware of this book. It all started on the genealogy floor of the wonderful Erikkson Library in Dallas, Texas, where I was researching several family lines, including the Netherland family. I found the book among the many volumes there written specifically about various families in the United States. If you have never been to this library, I can only say that it seems a book is available there for every name known to man. Handwritten inside the cover of the book's cover was an inscription by Clarence Netherland, indicating he was a Dallas resident who had donated the book to the library.

After perusing the book's pages, I decided that I wanted to purchase a copy for my mother. As soon as I returned home, I looked up Clarence Netherland, who just happened to have two more copies of the book that he agreed to sell to me. Not only did I obtain a copy of the Netherland book, I also found a Netherland cousin. Unfortunately, Clarence Netherland, a well-respected Dallas resident, a petroleum engineer and founder of his own consulting firm, died early last year.

The name of this book itself, "The Netherland, Leatherlin Legacy with Allied Crane and Walls Families," offers some insight into its contents. Actually, this book has been written by Mrs. Walls about her husband's ancestors, his Netherland, Crane, and Walls families. The title is an indication of one of its contents, a discussion of the origins and variations of the present day Netherland family's name. In her well-researched and documented book, Mrs. Walls provides an in-depth discussion of the family's initial settlement in colonial Virginia and traces its migration path westward into Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. Included in its almost 300 pages are many family pictures and other documentation that includes birth, marriage, and death records. Photocopies of other types of historical documents are provided in the book, as well. Some of these are copies of land grants, wills, and war records that may provide the researcher with evidence needed to establish a long sought after familial relationship.

Of particular interest to me, a Netherland family researcher myself, was medical history information that I gleaned from death certificates included in the book. It was because of this finding that I now know that five of my maternal grandfather's family, including my grandfather himself, died of complications from stomach cancer.

Although the book written by Mrs. Walls was first published over 10 years ago, it is still the leading genealogy book available about the Leatherlin, Neatherlin, Netherland family in the United States. If you have ties to the Crane, Netherland, or Walls families in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, or Texas, this book may be able to assist you in finding your "roots."

New copies of the book may still be available by contacting Gena Ayers Walls directly.

Recently, I was able to purchase an inexpensive used copy of the book for my uncle through this bookseller:

Barbara A. Geisert, 290 Birchfield Dr., Marietta, GA 30068-3803. Barbara can also be contacted by email at

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Pettus Family of Holmes County, Mississippi

A few months ago on Attala County Memories, I wrote a post about the Pettus family that migrated from Norwich, England to Virginia. Although I did include some information in that post about my maternal grandmother, Rosa Mae Pettus Netherland, who lived in Holmes County, Mississippi, I did not include anything about other Pettus family members who lived in Mississippi.

My Grandmother, Mother, and Me, Lexington, MS
Photographed by my father in late 1946

The fact is that I knew very little growing up about this side of my family. One reason for this was that my Pettus great-grandparents died when I was very young, and my mother and her mother seemed to known very little about the family's history. But thanks to two of my readers, Robby Pettus and R. E. Harthcock, newly discovered cousins in Mississippi, I now have some of that information. Interestingly, Robby's great-grandfather and mine were brothers.

Based on available family information, the Pettus family in Mississippi may have migrated from Virginia, via South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama . Verified information about my branch of the Pettus family, however, begins in 1830, when William Spencer Pettus, was born in Holmes County, Mississipi, on June 30th of that year. On an unverified date in 1867, William Spencer married Martha M. Thomas, in Holmes County. The daughter of Patrick Boyd Thomas, Sr. and Mary Frances, whose surname is unknown, Martha M. Thomas was born on October 30, 1847. According to the 1870 U. S. Census taken in Holmes County, Mississippi, William Spencer and Martha M. Thomas were living near Tchula, Mississippi. In 1880, the U. S. Census taken that year listed the family, now with three children, as residents of Beat 4, Holmes County, Mississippi. William's occupation was shown as "carpenter."

The marriage of William Spencer and Mary M. Thomas Pettus ultimately produced seven children. Their oldest child,
John Dabney Pettus, was born in 1881 in Holmes County. When he was about 27 years old, John Dabney Pettus married Evie Lena McLean on November 2, 1907, also in Holmes County. Evie McLean, the daughter of Edward Dudley McLean and Adeline Cecilia Ferrell, was born on February 24, 1890, in Attala County, Mississippi. John Dabney Pettus died in 1909, and Evie McLean Pettus did on February 26, 1960 in Holmes County. During their marriage, Evie gave birth to 2 children, John Pettus and Charley Pettus.

Another of their sons, William Elza Pettus, my maternal great-grandfather, was born on June 1, 1876 in Holmes County. I was able to locate William Elza on census records only once, in 1900, when he was shown as a "Boarder" in the Thornton, Mississippi home of Molly Malone, a widowed mother of three children. Later that year, William Elza Pettus married Lucy Lula Trigleth in Holmes County. Lucy Lula was born in 1881 near Brozville, Holmes County, Mississippi, and was the daughter of George Walter Trigleth, Sr. and Susan Elizabeth Elviney Coggins. Lucy died in 1951 and was buried in Coxburg Cemetery in Holmes County. William Elza Pettus died the next year, on December 15, 1952, and was buried along with other Pettus relatives in Holmes County. During their marriage, William Elza Pettus and Lucy Lula Trigleth had four children, Mary Sue, William O., Rosa Mae, and Eloise.

Their oldest child, Mary Sue Pettus was born on September 9, 1903 in Holmes County. Mary Pettus married Robert Autry Chisolm on December 29, 1920, also in Holmes County. On January 19, 1961, Mary Sue Pettus Chisolm died, and she is buried in Coxburg Cemetery, Coxburg, Holmes County, MS.

William O. Pettus, the couple's only son, was born on October 17, 1904, in Holmes County, MS, and died on January 12, 1968, also in Holmes County, MS.

Rosa Mae Pettus, my maternal grandmother, was born on August 18, 1908, in Holmes County. She married Ralph Ernest Netherland, my grandfather, and they divorced around 1940, when my mother was 14 years old and her brother was around 10. A few years later, Rosa Mae remarried, but she became a widow in the early 1950's. After her second husband's death, Rosa Mae moved from Holmes County to Jackson, where she worked as a nurse at St. Dominic's Hospital until she retired. After Rosa Mae retired, she settled near Yazoo City and lived there until her death on January 4, 1986. My grandmother is buried in Coxburg Cemetery, Coxburg, Holmes County, MS, just miles from where she was born, grew up, and married my grandfather.

The couple's youngest child, Eloise Pettus, was born on August 18, 1910 in Holmes County. She married Joseph Elijah Gilmore about 1929, also in Holmes County. Eloise (pronounced "Eloyce") died on November 12, 1996 and is buried in Holmes County, as well.

In addition to John Dabney Pettus and William Elza Pettus, William Spencer Pettus and Mary Frances Thomas Pettus had five other children, Mansfield, born about 1868, James, born June 1870, Alice born circa 1875, Tildon, born June 1878, and Elmer, born on June 16, 1880. Elmer died on October 10, 1934. Like their brothers, John Dabney Pettus and William Elza Pettus, all five of these children were born in Holmes County, Mississippi.

According to my new cousins, most of our Pettus ancestors are buried in Oak Grove Cemetery in Holmes County, Mississippi. Others are buried in Coxburg Cemetery and in nearby cemeteries. Later this spring, I plan to post pictures of their gravestones on Cemeteries of Dancing Rabbit Creek, my cemetery blog, and I hope you will stop by.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Resting angel atop monument in Odd Fellows Cemetery, Holmes County, Mississippi

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Happy Mardi Gras!

Tonight at midnight, Mardi Gras celebrations are officially over, and the season of Lent begins. It seems this celebration, a religious-based one that dates back to the second century in ancient Rome, catches on in more places every year. Although large parades and related festivities are still confined to predominantly Catholic areas in Louisiana and coastal cities all the way from Beaumont, Texas to Mobile, Alabama, including the Mississippi Gulf Coast, smaller celebrations of green, gold, and purple continue to pop up every year in areas farther north. King cakes, with plastic "babies" are sold in chain grocery stores throughout the midwest, and colorful beads hang from the rear-view mirrors of cars whose owners have never set foot in "Mardi Gras Country."

It seems that Mardi Gras has become "everyone's celebration."

Why has this happened? Have we become a country of party-goers and merrymakers, where everyone is looking for something to celebrate? Maybe. But more likely than not, traditional celebrations such as Mardi Gras serve as means to bring people together in ways that ordinary, everyday celebrations cannot. They create a common bond of tradition, promote a spirit of community, and create an opportunity to live for a few moments in the present that removes some of the stress of everyday life.

And during these difficult economic times, celebrations like Mardi Gras, with its meaning steeped in years of history and tradition, are important to all of us.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Swinging Bridge at Byrum

Almost everyone who was a teenager growing up during the sixties in Jackson, Mississippi knew about "the swinging bridge," south of town. But few of them ever crossed it in a vehicle. Most ventured there because it was in a remote, wooded area, far away from their parents' eyes. Those days are now long gone, and foot traffic from curiosity seekers is all the traffic the bridge ever sees today. At least for now.

Built in 1905, the "swinging bridge" that spans the Pearl River near Byrum, Mississippi, is a single-span suspension bridge that transported vehicles from this portion of southern Hinds County into nearby Rankin County during the early part of the twentieth century. It was fairly typical of similar bridges built in Mississippi and in other places during that time frame. Once used for various types of vehicular traffic, possibly including log trucks going into the pine forests nearby, the bridge has been closed to vehicles since about 1987.

Although visitors can be seen walking across the bridge in the picture here that I took in April 2008, I would warn against doing so. Curiosity seekers still come in large numbers, particularly on the weekends, due in part to events at a nearby raceway. But walking on the bridge may not be as safe as it looks. During our venture there with my brother and sister-in-law last spring, we observed the bridge in a somewhat dangerous state of repair. Not only did we notice that pieces of large boards were missing, we observed gaping holes left by those missing pieces that were large enough to afford anyone brave enough to venture near with a clear view of the river some 100 feet or so below.

My brother mentioned that he had heard the bridge was scheduled for a restoration  roject to begin in late 2008. I certainly hope the project is ongoing.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Netherland Family of Holmes County

According to the U. S. Census recorded in November 1850 for Warren County, Mississippi, John P. Netherland was 46 years old and was shown with a birthplace of Scotland. John P. Netherland, or "Patrick," as he was known, was my maternal great-great-grandfather. According to Gena Ayres Wall, in her book entitled "Netherland, Leatherlin Legacy," John Patrick Netherland was the son of William Neatherlin, born about 1776 in Richmond, Georgia, and Rachel Fenner, born around 1780 in Tennessee. I have found no information to tell me how their son, John Patrick, would have been born in Scotland, although most research indicates that Rachel Fenner's parents had migrated to the U.S. from Ireland.

On October 1, 1848, Patrick married Mary Denkins, who was born in Kentucky. On the U. S. Census of 1850, Patrick headed a household in Warren County, Mississippi, that included Mary, age 30, and their 3-month old son, William. According to the census record, Patrick was a "carpenter." Although young William had been born in Mississippi, only a few of those who lived near the Netherland family in 1850 had been born in Mississippi; the majority were born born in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Tennessee, and Alabama. Their occupations were planter, overseer, merchant, raftmaker, and engineer.

In 1860, "Jane" and William Netherland were living in the Eulogy Beat of Holmes County and were enumerated in a household headed by John Allman, 48 years old, and his wife, Amanda Allman, age 38. Jane is likely "Mary Jane," who was married to Patrick Netherland in 1850. John Allman's birthplace was shown as Virginia, and his wife's as Tennessee. A farmer by occupation, the value of John Allman's real estate was estimated at $5,400, and his personal property at $5,115.

Since no relationship information is shown for either Jane or William, it is impossible to know whether these household members were related to Jane Netherland or to William's father. Perhaps Amanda was Mary Jane's younger sister who had taken her in, along with her child, after she and Patrick Netherland had separated, or perhaps after his death.  Although no age information is shown on the 1860 census record for the mother and her son, Jane would have been about 40 years old, and William would have been just over 10.

By 1870, William Bailey Netherland, raised primarily by his mother, had already served in the Confederate States Army (CSA), as a member of Red's Company, Mississippi State Troops. According to the U. S. Census recorded that same year, he was shown living in the Eulogy Beat of Holmes County, Mississippi. There he is shown as the 25-year old head of a household that included Elizabeth Netherland, age 45, who was listed as "keeping house." No relationship was shown for Elizabeth, and this fact, along with her age, created a question in my mind. Just who was this Elizabeth? Was she an aunt or a hired housekeeper? Or was she Elizabeth Jane?  But then who was Mary, and who was Jane, names shown on earlier census records? My questions were resolved after a review of the U. S. Census of 1880, detailed later in this post.

By June 1880, my great-grandparents, William B. (Bailey) Netherland, then 35 years old, and M. E., aged 25, were already married. The initials, "M.E." stood for Martha Elizabeth Garrard. Ironically, Richard M. and Mary H. Garrard, along with their daughter, Martha E. and her four sisters, Cena, Alice, Theodocia, and Victoria, had lived in the same community since at least 1870, when they were enumerated on the same page of the census taken that year, also living in the Eulogy Beat of Holmes County. Two other Garrard families  lived nearby, one headed by John, age 52, and another by William Garrard, age 22. Although John Garrard and Richard Garrard, Martha Elizabeth's father, and likely brothers, were born in Georgia, Martha Elizabeth, according to the census record, was born in Alabama.

The U. S. Census recorded in June of 1880 shows that William Bailey and Martha Elizabeth Netherland already had six children. Living in the household were three daughters, A. E., age 7, and M. O., age 2, and J. A., age 6 months, as well as three sons, J. K., age 6, William B., Jr., age 5, and B. L., age 4. William Bailey, as he was known to his family, was a farmer, with personal property valued at $200. Also living in the household with William Bailey and his wife, was E. J. Netherland, identified on the census as William's 53 year-old mother. Strangely, over a period of 30 years, not only had William's mother been enumerated as Mary, Jane, Elizabeth, and now E. J., her age, if correct in 1850, had been recorded incorrectly on each subsequent census record.

Eventually, six more children were born to William Bailey and Martha Elizabeth Netherland, and one of those children, born on February 1, 1886, was my maternal grandfather, Ralph Ernest Netherland.

Often, family history research finds little known or long forgotten information. In her book mentioned earlier, Gena Ayres Wall has included information about causes of death, including copies of the death certificates for some of the children born to William Bailey and Martha Elizabeth Garrard Netherland. These documents, along with other research, produced an ironic and sad fact: 5 of these 12 children Netherland children, including my own grandfather, died of stomach cancer.

The picture seen above was taken by Weaver Photo on October 20, 1921, in the front yard of the Netherland home in Holmes County, Mississippi. Seated in the center are my maternal great-grandparents, William Bailey and Martha Elizabeth Garrard Netherland. Since Elizabeth Netherland had died on July 1, 1901, the lady in widow's garb seated to the right of Martha Elizabeth, must have been her mother and my great-great-grandmother, Mary H. Garrard. Ralph Ernest Netherland, my maternal grandfather, is the tall, dark-haired man wearing a bow tie, pictured on the right side of the back row.

U. S. Census records for Holmes County, MS, 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, and 1900 - personal research.

Dodd, Jordan, Liahona Research, Mississippi Marriages, 1826-1900

Wall, Gena Ayers, Houston, TX, The Netherland, Leatherlin Legacy, with Allied Crane and Wall Families

Harthcock, R. E., Register Report for William Neatherlin (Developed using and FamilyTreeMaker)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Mississippi Memories Receives Kreativ Blogger Award

Yesterday, Judith Richards Shubert who writes Cemeteries With Texas Ties, Genealogy Traces, and a new blog entitled Tennessee Memories, conveyed the Kreativ Blogger Award to Mississippi Memories. I feel honored that she considered this blog deserving of such an award. Now that the Geneabloggers group includes over 300 talented and resourceful writers, I am extremely pleased and delighted to be among the bloggers that have received the Kreativ Blogger Award. Thank you, Judy!

Here are the procedures that connect with receiving the award:

1. Copy the award to your site.
2. Link to the person who sent you the award.
3. Nominate 7 other bloggers.
4. Link to those sites on your blog.
5. Leave a message on the blogs you nominate.

And the award goes to......

1. Terry at Hill Country of Monroe County

2. Anne Parks and her Mother at The McQueen Family
3. Judy at Cemeteries With Texas Ties
4. Mona at Itawamba Connections
5. Jon at
Mississippi Garden
6. Tim at
Walking the Berkshires
7. Lisa at
A Light That Shines Again

Friday, February 20, 2009

Froggy's Friday Book Review

Recently, while researching the Cherry Hill Community of Calhoun County, where some of my Gibson ancestors lived over 100 years ago, I found an online book written about this particular area of Mississippi. Assembled, edited, and copyrighted by James M. Young of Ft. Walton Beach, Florida, as a second edition in 2000, the book is a compilation of typewritten and handwritten letters and notes Young received during the 1980s from his mother, Monette Morgan Young.

Mrs. Young's information primarily came from records and recollections of family historians who lived in early Calhoun County, Mississippi, as well as recollections of her own. Entitled "The Cherry Hill - Poplar Springs - Reid Community of Calhoun County," and published online through "Scribd," the book traces the early history of life in the Poplar Bluff community that later became a part of Calhoun County. Logically presented and easily read, this book is a valuable resource for those who are searching for ancestors who lived Mississippi during the 1800s.

Young's book is a must-read for anyone who has family roots in Old Monroe County, the community of Egypt, or sections of Chickasaw and Yalobusha counties, since large numbers of residents of those particular areas migrated into and settled newly formed Calhoun County in the early-mid 1800's. Specific family profiles make up a large portion of the book's pages, along with historical information about the area's businesses, churches, and schools. Anecdotal accounts of everyday rural life in this remote area of the state are often included in the family profiles found in the book. Of particular note, an early census of the Poplar Springs Baptist Church can be found near the end, and an alphabetical index allows the reader to easily search for individual names referenced throughout the book's 272 pages.

James M. Young also compiled the first edition of the book, a non-digital version, and presented a copy to his mother as a surprise gift for her 69th birthday in 1984. According to the preface written by Mr. Young in the second edition published online, approximately 100 copies of the book's first edition were ultimately printed and distributed to family members and several museums and bookstores.

Born in Reid, Mississippi on July 5, 1915, Monette Morgan Young died at St. Dominic's Hospital in Jackson, Mississippi, on February 18, 2000. She is buried next to her first husband, Tom Young in Hillcrest Cemetery in Vardaman, Calhoun County, Mississippi.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Ghosts of Our Ancestors

A few years ago, after I became aware that I had a Gibson great-great-great grandfather, I began my search for Gibson ancestors with virtually no facts at all. Little did I know, however, how much information I would discover about this family. My research found that much of what has been written about the Gibson family in America concerns this family's biracial roots, ones that began in Virginia and continued as the family migrated into North and South Carolina and on to Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisina and places beyond. Today, descendants of the early Gibson family of Virginia can be counted in the hundreds of thousands.

My Gibson story began with one man, John P. Gibson. All I knew in the beginning was that he had been born around 1799 in South Carolina, and he first appeared on a U. S. Census record in Mississippi in 1860. I later found that he had married Margaret J. Williams, born around 1820, in Monroe County, Mississippi on January 3, 1843. Through U. S. Census records recorded in Mississippi in 1860 and 1870, I found that John and Margaret Gibson became parents of seven children. One of their daughters, Malverda Gibson, later became my paternal great-great-grandmother. But along the research road, I found not only information about my South Carolina Gibson family and its descendants, but a treasure trove of interesting books and published articles about the biracial and multiracial heritage of this country.

One such book was "The Free State of Jones," written by Victoria E. Bynum and published by the University of North Carolina Press. This publication, a portion of which is available on
Google Books, begins with an interesting quote by Sam Dabney, taken from James Street's "Tap Roots," published in 1943:

"We can't boast of our ancestors, because when we get started talking about our families, out jumps the ghost of a pirate or a cousin of color."

A reference to America's rich racial heritage, contained in Victoria Bynum's book, states that racial sentiments in the South "evolved over a period of three centuries." She states that "by the 1840's, claims of Indian, Iberian (Spanish), or Mediterranean (Moorish) ancestry, defended one's whiteness against race-based laws and social harassment." Gideon Gibson, a "light-skinned slaveholder of partially African ancestry" and a member of South Carolina's so-called Regulator Movement, is mentioned in Bynum's publication as a person who exemplified how racial identity was often "fluid" and "even negotiable in some cases."

Bynum goes on to say that "many of Gideon Gibson's descendants, migrated west in search of whiteness as well as lands." We know this is true, since some of the descendants of South Carolinians, Gideon Gibson, Jacob Gibson, and Jordan Gibson, eventually settled in the state of Mississippi prior to the Civil War. Their lives and the lives of some of their descendants have been well-documented in historical publications about several southern states, including Mississippi and Louisiana. Often, these publications mention the ethnicity of Gibson family ancestors.

One thing that is known for sure is that regardless of whether a person was labeled as a Mulatto, Mestizo, Mustee, Melungeon, Creole, Cajun, Redbone, or similar names denoting something other than an "all white" ancestry, racial "mixing" has occurred throughout American history. And it has not occurred only in the South Carolina backcountry and other states commonly known as "The South." Class consciousness was widespread and very real in the 1800s; it became common for those who had migrated from the colonies, including North and South Carolina, to portray their ancestors as aristocratic patriots and slaveholders. The facts, when known, often revealed that many of these "aristocratic" ancestors were actually Regulators, itinerant preachers, and even Tories.

In my quest to find my own Gibson ancestors, I found that members of this
South Carolina family were not only involved in the infamous Regulator movement in that state, but their descendants later became civic and governmental leaders in Mississippi, Louisiana and Kentucky. The involvement of Gibson family members in business and politics has been well-documented. One well-known Gibson descendant, Randall Gibson, was instrumental in the founding of Tulane University, while another descendant, Tobias Gibson, is credited with the spread of Methodism in the South.

An interesting bit of history that I stumbled upon during this research that began with the Gibson family was the story of Dr. Walter Ashby Plecker, a small-town doctor who became the Registrar of Virginia's Bureau of Vital Statistics in 1912. Dr. Plecker's views about racial mixing became the impetus for the passage of the Racial Integrity Law of 1924, commonly referred to as "Plecker's Law." Details about this law can be read on the University of Virginia's website, in an article entitled "Battles in Red, White, and Black."

This law became Virginia's infamous "one drop" statute, and its language created two racial categories, "pure" white and everybody else. The law's passage allowed Dr. Plecker to pursue his alliance with John Powell of the Anglo-Saxon Clubs of America in waging an all-out war against the mixing of the races. One of his efforts entailed a push for "ancestral registration." Virginians were reluctant to comply with the idea of "ancestral registration," even though the state had already passed the first anti-miscegenation law in 1662. At that time, "passing" as white may have been rather commonplace, but proof of racial purity was difficult to obtain.

Plecker's method involved identifying racial impurity by compiling a list of family surnames that were "known" to be "mixed." The list was arranged by Virginia counties and included the names of "racially mixed" families who lived in these counties.

Counties and surnames included in "Plecker's List," as this list became known, appear below:

Amherst County:

Pumphrey (Migrants to Allegheny and Campbell) Adcock (Adcox), Beverly (according to Dr. Plecker, this family was trying to evade the situation by adopting the name of Burch or Birch, which was believed to be the name of the white mother of the adult generation at the time), Branham, Clark, Duff, Floyd, Hamilton, Hartless, Hicks, Johns, Lawless, Nukles (Knuckles), Painter, Ramsey, Redcross, Roberts, Southwards (Suthards, Southerds, Southers), Sorrells, Terry, Tyree, Willis, and Wood

Bedford County:

Branham, Burley (See Amherst), Cash, Clark, Coleman, Duff, Floyd, Hartless, Hicks, Johns, McVey, Mason, Maxey, Mayse (Mays), Painters, Pults, Ramsey, and Wood

Charles City County:

Adams, Allmond, Collins, Custalow (Custaloo), Dennis, Doggett, Dungoe, Hawkes, Holmes, Howell, Langston, Miles, Page, Spurlock, Stewart, and Wynn

Caroline County:

Byrd and Fortune

Henrico and Richmond City:

See Charles City, New Kent, and King William

King William County:

Adams, Allmond, Bolnus, Bradby, Collins, Custalow (Custaloo), Dennis, Doggett, Dungoe, Hawkes, Howell, Langston, Miles, Page, Spurlock, Stewart, Wynn,

Nelson County:

See Essex

New Kent County:

Adkins, Bradby, Collins, Langston, Stewart, and Wynn

Elizabeth City and Newport News:

Stewart (descendants of Charles City families)

Essex and King and Queen Counties:

Brooks, Broughton, Byrd, Cooper, Fortune, Hammond, Mitchell, Prince, Nelson, Robinson, and Tate.

Elizabeth City and Newport News:

Stewart (descendants of Charles City families)

Fauquier County:

Colvin, Hoffman (Huffman), Phillips (See Prince William) and Riley

Greene County:

Shifflett, Shiflet

Halifax County:

Epps (Eppes), Stewart (Stuart), Coleman, Johnson, Martin, Sheppard, Shepard, Talley, and Young

Lancaster County:

Dawson (aka Dorsey)

Lee County County:

Bolden (Bolin), Bunch, Collins, Delph, Freeman, Gibson (Gipson), Goins, Hawkins, Mise (Mize), Moore, Mullins, Ramsey (chiefly "Tennessee "Melungeons")

Norfolk County and Portsmouth:

Bass, Bright, King, Locklear (Locklair), Porter, Sawyer, and Weaver

Prince William County:

Tyson, Segar (see Fauquier)

Lancaster County:

Dorsey (Dawson)

Roanoke County:

Beverly (see Washington)

Rockbridge County:

Southerds (see Amherst), Sorrell, Terry, Tyree, and Wood (including migrants to Amherst Co.)


Dingus (see Lee County)

Smythe County:

See Lee County

Russell County:

Castell, Keith, Meade, Proffitt, and Stillwell, also see Lee and Tazewell Counties

Washington County:

Barlow, Beverly, Hughes, Lethcoe, Thomas, and Worley

Westmoreland County:

Atwells, Butridge, Okiff (Okeefe), Sorrells, Worlds (Worrell)

Wise County:

See Lee, Scott, Smyth, and Russell Counties

As Virginia's Registrar, Dr. Plecker had the authority to change various forms of registration required in Virginia, including birth certificates and marriage records. Since he exercised this authority and changed or added to the documents as he saw fit, this process was referred to as "pleckerizing."

This article was written to commemorate Black History Month in the United States and to remind us all of the contributions made by so many African Americans, as well as those with biracial and mutiracial heritage, to the history of our country.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Chasing the Meriwethers

Several weeks ago, I wrote a post on my Cemeteries of Dancing Rabbit Creek blog about Colonel James Drane, whose house and grave marker can be seen at French Camp, Mississippi, a small historical town on the Natchez Trace. The next day, I received an email from a reader who told me that Colonel Drane's actual grave is located somewhere else in the state. The reader offered to provide me with photographs of the grave that actually contains the remains of Colonel Drane, and I accepted the offer. I hope to write a followup post as soon as I receive the photos. In her email, the reader asked me if my family is descended from Colonel Drane, and I responded that I have no knowledge of such a familial connection.

But her question actually raised another for me, one that involves the Drane family and my own Merriweather family. Here is the question and the story behind it. Over ten years ago, I decided to research my great-grandmother's family. I had always known that her maiden name was "Merriweather." This old surname, with its origins in England and Wales, traditionally has been spelled "Meriwether." Alternate spellings include "Merriweather," the one used by my great-grandmother, along with "Meriweather," "Merryweather," "Merriwether," and "Merryweathers." If you are interested in researching the Meriwether Family in the United States, I highly recommend The Meriwether Society and its publications as a great place to start.

I began my research with little knowledge about how much genealogical grief the spelling of my great-grandmother's name would cause for me. Initially, I searched for information about a known event, something that I only needed to substantiate: a record of Margaret Susanna (Maggie) Merriweather's marriage to John J. Porter, in either Attala County or Carroll County. After several failed attempts, searching under all the variations of the name listed in this post, I ultimately found the marriage record. It was just a stroke of luck, however, that I found it at all, since Maggie's last name was not spelled like any of the known spellings: it was phonetically spelled "Morsiweathers." I was elated to find the record, but it was difficult for me to believe that it had even been possible, considering the spelling.

My next foray into Merriweather research was the first time I encountered the Drane name. But first, I must provide some additional background. My grandmother, Maggie's daughter, told me the story about how Maggie's father, Wilds Merriweather, had deserted his family which included Maggie's mother, Malverda Gibson Merriweather, Maggie, and her younger brother, Lewis Merriweather, sometime around 1880, after Malverda had given birth to a stillborn child. The child's death is documented in the Mississippi Mortality Index published for the mid-late 1800's, but the actual story about the desertion remains unsubstantiated. One thing for certain is that Meriwether family members living in Mississippi did return to their native Shelbyville, Kentucky, near Louisville.

Malverda Gibson Merriweather eventually remarried when Maggie was about 12 years old. With this knowledge, I searched for a record of her marriage to Newell Autry Felts that would have occurred in the late 1880s, and I found the document in the records of Yalobusha County. According to the document, "Jim Drane" posted a marriage bond for Malverda Merriweather's marriage to Mr. Felts. It is very likely this individual was actually "James Drane" who lived in nearby French Camp.

My family research has not found anything to indicate that Jim Drane was a relative by blood or by marriage. Maybe he was a friend, neighbor, or perhaps Newell Autry Felts worked for him. Apparently, he knew my great-great-grandmother and her intended husband well enough to post a surety bond attesting to their legal abilities to marry each other. But I still don't know why a surety bond was needed for this particular marriage, since others during this time frame were being performed without such a bond. One possibility is that it had something to do with the fact that Malverda's husband had deserted her when he moved with his family back to Kentucky. Since I have been unable to locate a record of their marriage, maybe Malverda and Will were never legally married at all. And perhaps Jim Drane was aware of the situation and attested to this knowledge by posting a surety bond.

The actual story surrounding the relationship between my great-great-grandparents, Malverda Gibson and Wilds Merriweather, remains one of my family's unsolved mysteries, one that I hope one day to solve. But as those of us who love family history know for certain, genealogy research is never complete.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Presidents' Day Remembered

Mississippi is among the list of U. S. states that have counties named for former presidents, with eight counties in the state that have this distinction. The list includes some of the older counties formed in the State of Mississippi: Adams, Harrison, Jackson, Jefferson, Lincoln, Madison, Monroe, and Washington. According to Wikipedia, a total of twenty-four presidents have been honored with U. S. counties named for them.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day

The Red Plate pictured here today simply says "You are special today." And that is the Valentine's Day sentiment that I am sending to all of you who read this blog. Thank you, and I hope you stop by often.

Just in case you are not familiar with the concept of "The Red Plate," I can explain. Although the heart-shaped version of The Red Plate is a smaller one, a Valentine version, The Original Red Plate is the same size as a normal dinner plate and can be used for any occasion. Both bear the same inscription. Made by Waechtersbach, a German company that dates back to 1832, and self-designated "The Original Red Plate Company," the plate is used as a "visible reminder of love and esteem, a way of showing someone dear to you that they are appreciated and remembered. When The Red Plate is used, any meal becomes a celebration, honoring that special person, event, or deed."

In our family, we used The Red Plate to celebrate birthdays and special events that revolved around school (academics and sports), church, and community involvement. Everyday things like making your bed, cleaning your room, and walking the dog did not qualify. But things like making the Honor Roll, being baptized or confirmed, or getting selected to appear in a program or play on a specific sports team, meant The Red Plate would appear at some one's place at the dinner table. Sometimes smaller milestones, too, would mean The Red Plate was on the table, such as receiving a good grade on a special paper or project or helping a neighbor carry groceries into the house. The children all loved the tradition we created, one that shows praise and attention in the form of four simple words, "You are special today," can mean so much.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Froggie's Friday Book Review

Today, I would like to introduce you to my new blogger helper, "Froggie," pictured here, who will assist me in writing a book review on Friday of each week. All books reviewed will be those written either by a Mississippian or those written about Mississippi or things Mississippi-related.

Although Froggie's choice today is not a newly written book, or one that is on a hot best-seller list, it is one that presents a story about Mississippi that is important enough that it should not be overlooked. The book, "Historic Architecture in Mississippi," was written by Mary Wallace Crocker and was published by the University Press of Mississippi in Jackson, in 1973. The book I own is a result of a third printing in 1977. One of the purposes of the 191-page book, as stated by its author, was to stimulate interest in historic buildings within the State of Mississippi.

The book is a large, coffee table size book that has a beautiful picture on its dust jacket of the lovely plantation house of octagonal design, Waverly Plantation, located in Columbus, Mississippi. This picture offers both a glimpse of what the book contains and a pictorial invitation to peruse its pages. Once the cover has been opened, a treasure trove of photographs, both old and more recent, provide the reader with pictures of "representative historic buildings from various sections of the state." The contents of the book are divided into five distinct sections of the state, and homes, churches, and other historically significant buildings profiled are located in Natchez, Vicksburg, Jackson, Canton, Sandy Hook, the Gulf Coast area, Macon, Columbus, Aberdeen, Pontotoc, Oxford, Holly Springs, Horn Lake, Carrollton, and Washington County. The location of the area featured is shown on a simple state map placed at the beginning of each of the five sections.

The author's intent was not to present photographs of every historical structure in Mississippi, but to offer up a significant book that would stimulate an interest in historic architecture throughout the state. And by the use of specific facts and details about the various types of architectural designs employed in Mississippi during a period that spans almost two centuries, Ms. Crocker seems to have accomplished her purpose. It is within these details about the building's owner, the purpose and planning that went into its specific construction, and the architect's work to accomplish the owner's mission, that the author seems to breath life into these grand and unique old structures. Floor plans and other architectural drawings frequently included serve to aptly guide the reader through the actual building process.

By the end of the book, those who read this fine account of historical architectural design in Mississippi can only be amazed by the works of art that were built during a time and in a place where construction was painstakingly manual by nature.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Violets

This pseudonym was used by several Attala County ladies who wrote a newspaper column about Shrock, Mississippi shortly after the turn of the 20th century. In a time before most folks had automobiles or telephones, weekly newspaper columns such as the one written by "The Violets" served to keep residents of communities informed about each other. They contained information about events, including engagements, marriages, births, and deaths, and provided details about other local items of interest. Variations of the pseudonym "The Violets" were used to sign the Shrock column, including, "Violet," "Two Violets," "Three Violets," and "We Violets." This type of column appeared over the years in other newspapers in Attala County, as well as neighboring counties, and these columns used similar pseudonyms, such as "Daisy,", "Country Cousins," "Golden Hair," and "Whippoorwill."

Reprints of these columns that span almost thirty years and chronicle daily life in the small communities of Attala County, appear in the book, The People of Shrock, Mississippi 1895 to 1922. Privately published by Duncan C. Covington, an Attala County native who now lives in College Station, Texas, this book is a valuable Attala County family research tool. Not only does it contain a wealth of names, events, and dates, it provides an alphabetical index that lists each name appearing in the book and the page number on which it is located.

An excerpt from Covington's book, a column that was published in Kosciusko's newspaper, the Star-Ledger, exactly 107 years ago today, is reprinted below. The column, dated February 12, 1902, and signed by "Two Violets," has some personal significance for me: it contains an announcement of the birth of a son to Mr. and Mrs. John Porter, my paternal great-grandparents.

"Mesdames G.W. Thomas and W. C. Hearst spent part of the past week in Camden.
Both are wearing broad smiles at the arrival of a granddaughter: one at the home of B. J. Barnette, the other at Mr. J. P. Hearst's. Both arrived Sunday last. Great joy to the little ladies.
Miss Carrie Shrock is spending a few days in Kosciusko, the guest of Miss Hassie Riley.
Messrs Phil Simpson and Frank Shines were with us Sunday. Mrs. Nettie Mabry is nursing a sprained ankle. Hope she will soon be all O.K.
Messrs E. L. Hearst and I. E. Stingley are attending court this week.
Mr. and Mrs. John Porter are rejoicing over the arrival of a fine baby boy who arrived on the 1st.
Mr. and Mrs. Hal Shrock visited Mr. Will Ward Sunday near Artesia Springs.
Misses Donald spent Sunday in Goodman with their cousins, Mrs. Ella and Ruth Donald.
Miss Lillie Holley has returned home after spending several days with relatives near Dossville, and friend in Kosciusko. She was accompanied by her brother George.
Miss Hattie Mabry has gone to Clarksdale to college.
Miss Florence Bunch has gone to Aberdeen to visit her aunt.
Mr. Philip Shutleworth was here on business Monday.
Mr. Luther Donald returned to Goodman last Sunday, after spending a few days at home recuperating and taking a rest.
Little Madeline DuBard is her jolly little self after a short spell of fever."
"Two Violets"

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Train Depot at Terry, MS

Last evening, I was going through some photos of my niece's lovely wedding last April. The ceremony took place at The First Baptist Church in Terry, Mississippi, an old church that is still very active in this small town of slightly over 700 people. Needless to say, my niece was a beautiful bride, her groom was handsome, and our families and their guests had a wonderful time.

Following the afternoon ceremony, we traveled a few blocks away for the reception at the old Terry Train Depot, an historic building that has been refurbished and used for events such as my niece's wedding reception. The picture here was taken as we approached the front doors to the depot on the evening of the reception. Note the mileage between Chicago and Jackson and New Orleans and Jackson above the doors.

I had not been to Terry for many years, but the small town, located about 15 miles southwest of Jackson, was much as I last remembered it. It was during this trip to the wedding and the reception that I first learned the story of the reclamation of the Terry Train Depot.

The area that later became the town of Terry, Mississippi, was established in 1811 by settlers from Virginia. Terry did not become an official town until 1877, when the Illinois Central Railroad came through the area. For some reason I don't know, the old Train Depot building was moved from Terry in the 1950's to Parham Bridges Park in Jackson. But sometime during the 1990's, a group called Friends of Terry, with some help from the Hinds County Board of Supervisors, successfully returned the historic building to the town of Terry, Mississippi. After the depot's return to the town, the group known as Friends of Terry was instrumental in raising funds to restore it.

Although many newly married couples may remember the Train Depot as the place they cut their wedding cake and danced the night away, this lovely old building stands as a wonderful reminder of the railroad's contribution to many small towns in Mississippi and elsewhere.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Private Meriwether - Is he Lewis or is he Albert?

I have posted this picture before in the hopes that one of my readers would be able to help me identify the man in the picture, but the mystery is still unsolved. So I thought I would try again today. What you see here is a picture postcard that I found among the pictures in my paternal grandmother's photo album. Handwritten on the reverse of the postcard is "Pvt Meriwether." I am unable to identify the writer, although I know for certain that it is not the handwriting of my grandmother.

My best guess at Private Meriwether's identify is based on this information: My great-grandmother's name was Margaret Susanna Merriweather. She had only one sibling, a brother named Lewis, who served in World War I. I have always assumed the man pictured here was Lewis. But recently, I found that Maggie, as my great-grandmother was nicknamed, had a cousin, Albert Merriweather, who also served in World War I. Albert and his family lived near Black Hawk in Carroll County, Mississippi. And now I am wondering whether the man in the picture is Lewis or if he is Albert.

Tracing the Meriwethers has been a difficult task for me, since the spelling ha
s varied in its use in different parts of the country, especially in Mississippi. The original Meriwether immigrant to the United States was Nicholas, commonly referred to as Nicholas I. And I descend from the family in Mississippi that was headed by Robert Emmett Meriwether and Susan Thornton Meriwether, who lived for a time in Carroll County. Many of them returned to Shelbyville, Kentucky before the Civil War began. Since very few descendants of this old family remain in Mississippi today, I have no one to help with the identification of the man pictured in the military uniform.

I have examined this picture closely to search for any clue that would help identify the man. His uniform appears to be very similar to a modern-day Marine's uniform, and the medal that he wears on the left breast of his jacket is similar to the Navy Cross. The picture appears to be a posed, professional one, and it was likely taken for the sole purpose of making the postcard. The room that appears in the background is richly decorated, with a leaded glass window, wood paneling, and what appears to be an oriental rug. I wonder if the location was somewhere in Europe.

I am hoping again that someone who sees the picture can identify Private Meriwether and possibly claim him (and me) as a relative.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Gardening in My Blood

February is here, and Spring is just around the corner, at least in my part of the world. And it is at this time of the year that I become excited at the prospect of seeing green leaves and colorful flowers again after a cold, icy winter. Since I already have daffodils, tulips, and narcissus peeking their heads out of the winter ground, the anticipation of having green trees and blooming plants around me again for the next 6-8 months is increasing daily.

This time of the year, especially in the weeks preceeding Easter, I often recall the memories of growing up with parents and grandparents who were true gardeners who learned their skills from families before them who had successfully lived off the land. As one might say in the South, they were born with "gardening in their blood," and it is without a doubt that I inherited my love of gardening from them.

Since every one of my relatives was raised in a rural setting, they were all true gardeners who grew everything "from scratch." They did not buy six-inch plants for the vegetable garden or 4-inch pots of bedding plants from a greenhouse or nursery. Nor were large discount or home improvement stores with "garden centers" available to them. I truly doubt my relatives would have used these resources even if they had been available. They grew most plants from seed. After consulting the "Farmers Almanac" for moon phases that designated the best times to plant, they planted vegetable and flower seeds alike with loving care and careful hands. They also grew plants, more often flowering plants, from cuttings passed between neighbors and relatives. And it was a common practice to split and share flower bulbs in the fall of the year.

My mother, who seemed to have a "handful" of "green thumbs," continued the tradition of growing plants from cuttings and often shared bulbs with family and friends. Even today, her gladiola and iris bulbs, and some of her ivy, are still growing in several states where her children have lived.

Although my Dad helped, my mother was the primary gardener in our suburban household. We lived on the north side of Jackson in a small subdivision built in the 1950s. Our house was a simple "ranch style," with a deep backyard that sloped downhill. The neighborhood was a typical one for that time period, and it contained everything a young family would want. An elementary school, a church, and a small wooded area that was a city park were all within a very short walking distance.

Unlike contemporary surburban developments, there were no strip shopping centers with "big box stores," pizza shops, nail salons, or dry cleaners. Neighborhood children played safely outside their unlocked doors, walked to school and to the park without parents, and the neighbors all knew each other. Kids who were old enough to ride a bicycle, and lucky enough to own one, could safely ride their bikes with their friends to a small family-owned store nearby to buy soft drinks, dreamsicles, bubble gum, and candy. It was a free and easy time, without so many of today's parental worries for the safety of their children.

My mother did most of the garden work, even cutting the front yard with an electric mower. And I was pleased when my friends often told me that we had the prettiest yard on the street. The yard contained lush St. Augustine grass and tall green pines surrounded the house. The needles produced by the tall pines were enough to mulch the mass of azaleas and gardenias that bloomed profusely each year. Climbing roses that covered our fence were heavy with blooms in May of each year. And the fragrant scent from my mother's flowers often filled the evening air that came in through open windows. I can still recall the scent of spring roses and summer gardenias in my bedroom at night. Like so many other 1950s families in the South, we had no air conditioning, and windows were left open all night. We felt safe in our surroundings then.

Our backyard contained fruit trees that my parents lovingly cultivated, and my mother turned the ripe peaches and juicy plums they produced into delicious homemade cobblers, fried pies, and jam. As children, my mother warned us that we should not eat green plums, or the green plum eater would suffer a severe stomach ache. I never liked green plums, so adhering to her rule was easy for me, but my brothers and their friends tested my mother's advice and ended up privately enduring a few stomach aches to keep from hearing her say "I told you so."

One of my favorite gardening stories from those years began with my dad's attempt in the 1950s to stop erosion in our lower backyard. He would never admit it, but his gardening skills were not as finely honed as my mother's, and I believe this story will prove that fact beyond a doubt. As I recall, it was his decision, not my mother's, to use red clover for the backyard erosion control project. She thought a retaining wall was needed, but my Dad thought that option was too expensive. And it was his decision to make a trip to the seed store for red clover seed that is the beginning of the story. Actually, it was not a seed store, but an old-fashioned hardware store where the owner sold everything from nails to appliances. Somewhere in between those two items, he sold seed. The store's seed supply was a "loose" one, kept in large, open bins and sold by the ounce, or more often, by the pound.

Daddy returned home with a large brown bag of seed, where he waited for just the right temperature, wind velocity, and a forecast of no rain for a few days before sowing it. When the right time arrived, he sowed the seed by hand, covering the entire lower backyard, even the ground under the fruit trees there. Next, he waited for green shoots to sprout up that would bloom and turn our lower backyard into the haze of crimson clover that he had envisioned would signal a successful project's end.

But something happened that altered the outcome of my dad's well-planned attempt at erosion control. Apparently, the seed bin at the hardware store was incorrectly marked, or someone, maybe even my Dad, had made a mistake when they filled the bag with seed. The seed was not red clover seed at all. It was "mustard seed." So my dad's dream of a carpet of red clover had now turned into green mustard, and we became the only kids on the block who had a portion of our backyard seeded with mustard greens. The thought of mustard greens for supper was not a pleasant one for my brothers or for me.

Although we grew up on homegrown vegetables, we did not have a vegetable garden in our backyard. There was no need to have one, since we had relatives who lived in rural areas where they had very large gardens and were willing to share the fruits if we were willing to share our labor. But my mother did grow a few tomato and bell pepper plants in the back yard. Along with these plants, she also grew another plant she called a "mirliton," or vegetable pear. She prepared the mirliton by cooking it in a casserole that contained onion, bell pepper, tomatoes, and ground beef. The resulting dish tasted something like an eggplant casserole, only better. I don't recall eating mirliton anywhere else, until I later lived in Louisiana. It was there that I saw mirlitons in the produce section of every grocery store and that I learned they were called "vegetable pears." My mother later explained to me that she first learned about mirlitons from some of her relatives who had moved to Amite County, Louisiana.

It's sad now that my parents can no longer care for their own yard that is home to the many lovely flowers and bulbs they painstakingly planted with love over the last 40 years. My mother has slowly given away most of her hanging baskets and large outside potted plants, because they required maintenance that she no longer can provide. And although the bulbs still come up and flower each spring, and the azaleas still bloom, it is not the same for my parents. I can sense and feel their sadness when they are able only to watch the seasons change.

But this spring, just like every spring, when I care for my own small flower garden, I will remember how my parents instilled in me the love of all living things, including the gardens they grew with so much care.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

St. John's Church, Washington County, MS

A portion of the old Greenfield Cemetery is situated amid the ruins of St. John's Church, near Greenville, Mississippi in Washington County. The ruins pictured here, according to some sources, are among the most photographed of any in the State of Mississippi. The church was burned during the Civil War, and according to stories written about the church, lead from the beautiful windows was melted down into "mini-balls."

Friday, February 6, 2009

Mississippi Sunset

Lovely sunsets can be found throughout our country and all over the world, but this Mississippi sunset over the Ross Barnett Reservoir near Ridgeland, Mississippi, is one of my favorites. This vast reservoir, a source of water and a recreational facility for residents of central Mississippi, is home to a variety of wildlife and waterfowl. Beautiful homes overlook the lake from dozens of waterfront developments, and during the warmer months of the year, local residents and visitors alike take to the water in an array of boats of all shapes and sizes. What better end to a day at the lake than a sunset like this?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Madison County Developments with Historical Names

Left: The Chapel of the Cross, located near Annandale, Madison County, Mississippi

Even with the economy in the shape it is, Madison County, Mississippi, seems to be a place where new construction is still ongoing, and I especially enjoy reading the names of new developments in the towns of Madison and Ridgeland. More often than not, these names are historical in nature, and the naming process seems to be one that local builders and county and city officials alike take seriously and put much thought into. Assigning developments historic-related names has been a consistent process since the county first began its growth, as evidenced by the names of some of the older housing areas. For this discussion, three of those particular developments come to mind, Annandale, Rose's Bluff, and Dinsmoor.

Annandale, of course, is named for the plantation of the same name owned by the Johnstone family, the same family responsible for building the Chapel of the Cross on Highway 463, or Mannsdale Road. Originally built in a pastoral setting about three miles southwest of I-55, with very few services nearby, the development known as Annandale is now one of many well-established neighborhoods of beautiful homes set behind brick walls, where tall, old trees grace lush St. Augustine lawns. The entire development surrounds two well-known Jackson-area golf courses, Whisper Lakes and Annandale Golf Club, the location of at least one PGA golf tournament each year.

A Natchez Trace Parkway scenic marker just north of Ridgeland marks the original location of Rose's Bluff. The place that was once a small, white, and secluded sandy beach on the Pearl River at the bottom of a steep bluff is now barely recognizable to those of us who went there as teenagers for picnics and to swim. What was once a place to escape the vigilant eyes of 1960's parents in nearby Jackson is now the home of an upscale waterfront development of the same name. Rose's Bluff, the development, is adjacent to the Jackson Yacht Club and its marina on the Ross Barnett Reservoir, a 33,000 acre water supply and recreational area developed over 30 years ago by building a dam on the Pearl River near the Madison and Rankin County lines.

The development named Dinsmoor is home to large, elegant homes with a range of stylish facades for even the most discerning homeowner, all set on well-manicured lawns and located near a full range of contemporary shopping options. The name Dinsmoor came from the name of a Choctaw Agent named Silas Dinsmoor who served in the Mississippi Territory from 1807 until the 1820s. A reference to the development's namesake was made in a press release dated December 10, 2008, prepared by the City of Ridgeland, an announcement was made about of historical markers planned for placement on Old Agency Road. In that release, mention is made of a "quarrel" that "took place between Dinsmoor and (Andrew) Jackson on Old Agency Road in front of the Choctaw Agency."

As a native Mississippian, I am proud of the rich cultural history of our great state. And it makes me even prouder that cities like Madison and Ridgeland continue to work so hard to preserve the heritage that all of us hold dear.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Little Red Schoolhouse

My mother's family has roots that date back to the 1800's in Holmes County, Mississippi, where Lexington is the county seat. And with relatives in Holmes County, as well as in neighboring Attala County, we often traveled there to see relatives during my childhood. It was during one of these trips that I first recall seeing the marker that directs travelers to "The Little Red Schoolhouse," a Mississippi landmark, just off Highway 14 near Richland, Mississippi. The cornerstone for the planned two story brick structure was laid in October of 1847, shortly after Masonic Lodges in Holmes County had raised over $3,000 for its construction. Although the original name for the school was to be the Richland Literary Institute, the name was changed to Eureka Masonic College shortly after its construction. In addition to being one of many privately endowed educational institutions that were built to address inadequate education in Mississippi during the 1800's, "The Little Red Schoolhouse" is also known as the birthplace of The Order of the Eastern Star. The historic building is now owned by the Grand Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star in Mississippi and is maintained in the honor of Dr. Robert Morris, the school's first headmaster and the author of the Order's ritual.

Must See Mississippi, 50 Favorite Places by Mary Carol Miller, Mary Rose Carter, Greg Iles, Published by University of Mississippi Press, 2007