Sunday, August 26, 2007

Itawamba County's Highest Elevation Along the Tennessee Valley Divide

Terry Thornton, editor of the blog Hill Country of Monroe County, Mississippi recently blogged about the highest elevations in neighboring Monroe County to the south of Itawamba. Itawamba County shares not only many characteristics with Monroe, but Itawamba and Monroe have been connected for generations by close family connections, especially between southern Itawamba and northern Monroe.

As Terry published his blog about the highest hills of Monroe, I decided to write about the highest elevation in Itawamba. The eastern portion of Itawamba County, like neighboring Monroe, has many rugged hills and hollows, especially along the Alabama state line. There are many scenic ridges in the eastern portion of the county that stretch from Tishomingo County down to Monroe County and one would suspect Itawamba County’s highest elevation would be in this chain of rugged hills.

However, Itawamba County’s highest elevation is in the extreme northeast portion of the county along Ridge Road. Ridge Road, aptly named, connects State Highway 25 with Red Bay, Alabama. Ridge Road also follows a natural boundary called the Tennessee Valley Divide. North of this divide, the land is a part of the Tennessee River Valley and south of this divide, the land is part of the Tombigbee River Valley. Water the in the Tennessee River Watershed of Itawamba County north of the divide flows north into the Tennessee River and water south of this divide flows south into the Tomgibee River. The lowest point along this divide in Itawamba County is around 600 feet with the elevation rising to around 660 feet in places. At the intersection of Ridge Road and Antioch Church Road, the elevation is 660 plus feet, making this the highest elevation in Itawamba County.

At one time, during the 1800s this area was known as Oak Farm and later in the 1800’s there was a Pleasant Ridge post office in this area. The photographs show the Tennessee River Valley area of Itawamba County north of Ridge Road (top photo) and the Tombigbee River Valley area of Itawamba County south of Ridge Road (bottom photo). The Tennessee Valley Divide is an interesting geographical spot in Itawamba County.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Greenville Researcher Presents August Program Meeting

Martha Bone, long-time society member from Greenville, Mississippi was the featured speaker at the regular monthly meeting of the Itawamba Historical Society. The program, Itawamba County Items at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, was presented to a full auditorium on Tuesday evening, August 21 in the Gordon McFerrin Assembly Hall of the George Poteet History Center in Mantachie.

Members and guests from Itawamba, Monroe and Lee counties heard an informative talk about what research material is available pertaining to Itawamba County at the MDAH library in Jackson. Included in the talk was information about non-genealogical materials that contain a wealth of information about Itawamba County families.

The members and guests enjoyed a dinner featuring old-time Mississippi chicken and dressing with all the trimmings prepared by society members.

Martha Bone is also the author of the new book Itawamba County, Mississippi World War I Draft Registration Cards With Supplemental Information. This hard-bound book is available for purchase from the society. For further information, contact the society.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Non-Genealogical Publications Can Offer a Plethora of Information on Itawamba County Families

In performing genealogical studies, most researchers think of searching traditional genealogical volumes and material such as census records, cemetery records, biographies, church records and the like. However, there are many publications that can serve as a treasure trove of information about your ancestors.

As a case in point, take the publication, Itawamba County Mineral Resources : Geology and Tests, a 1947 publication of the Mississippi State Geological Survey written by F.E. Vestal and H.J. Knollman. This technical 64-page publication offers the standard scientific information relating to the subject at hand. However, an entire section of the publication entitled The Potteries gives a detailed account of nine of the old Itawamba County pottery operations.

Southeastern Itawamba County was once known as the “Jug District” where pottery manufacturing businesses dotted the rugged countryside. This publication takes each of the potteries and gives the names of the owners, giving a brief description of the operations as well as the location of the businesses and the locations of their clay fields.

This scientific publication details the following Itawamba County pottery operations: the W.C. Davis and Sons pottery, the James Davidson pottery, the W.A. Summerford pottery, the E.P. Kennedy pottery, the R.J. “Bud” Middleton pottery, the State Line pottery, the D.E. Summerford pottery, the Plunkett and Ford pottery, the John Plunkett pottery and the J.B. Young shop.

In this publication there are three plates including an interior view of the D.E. Summerford Pottery showing potters at work and an exterior view of the J.B. Young Pottery works.

This is just once such example of where valuable genealogical and historical information can be found in old non-genealogical publications. In researching your Itawamba County roots, always keep in mind that a valuable tidbit of genealogical information can possibly be found in a most unusual source. In researching your family always remember to check old sources for the geographical location that are not necessarily genealogical or historical in nature. You may be pleasantly surprised at what you may find.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Fall 2007 Issue of Itawamba Settlers Magazine at the Printers

The Fall 2007 issue of Itawamba Settlers, the quarterly journal of Itawamba County, Mississippi history and genealogy is currently at the printers. This issue should be in the mail to society's membership during the first week of September. The Fall 2007 issue of the 56-page membership magazine features the following articles:

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

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

Sunday, August 12, 2007

It's Election Time in Mississippi: The Old Time Candidate Speaking

It’s election time in Mississippi. With election year comes the candidate speakings. In Itawamba County , candidate speakings had their beginnings in the 19th Century. During that era, travel was slow, so each community had their own speaking.

Usually the speakings were held at a country store or school house. Pictured is an Itawamba County candidate speaking at Hall’s Store in the First Supervisor’s District at Fairview during 1907. At such speakings, hundreds of citizens from the countryside miles around would attend, where they could listen to political debates, visit with friends and relatives and refresh themselves with ice-cold lemonade in the shade of the oak trees, against the oppressive August Mississippi heat.

Photographed (larger view) among the candidates on the back row are Willis Harrison, who was running for County Treasurer; Dee Faulkner, a candidate for Justice of the Peace; Tee Hall seeking the Tax Assessor’s office; Ben Graham; and Sam Mayhall, also seeking the County Treasurer post. Also on the back row are: Gaines Crouch and Uncle Joe Sandlin both aspiring to be County Superintendent of Education; Bill Bullen who was seeking the Constable’s office; Tom Senter, for Chancery Clerk; and Babe Dulaney running for Supervisor. Jim Senter is in the middle and was seeking the education post too.

Political speakings are still held in Itawamba County. Just this year speakings were held in all parts of the county including Fulton, Mantachie, Houston, Ryans Well, Carolina, Friendship and Banner.

Many Itawamba County Schools Dotted the Countryside Before Consolidation

At one time most every community in Itawamba County had a school. The countryside was literally dotted with these small community schools. Today scores of the schools are no longer with the only thing left are memories. It was not until the 1950’s when school consolidation took place that many of Itawamba’s small country school were consolidated into larger schools.

One such school was Austin. Pictured above is the 1936 Austin basketball team. According to the family names of the basketball players, this school was probably located in northwestern Itawamba County north of Twenty-Mile bottom in the Ozark-Kirkville area. If any reader has information about Austin School, please contact the society.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Society Adds More Archival Photographs and Digital Images Online

As part of its ongoing project of digitizing more material relating to the history and heritage of Itawamba County, The Itawamba Historical Society has added two more collections to its online archives. One special collection is photographs taken of Mantachie during 1920. These photographs vividly illustrate the importance of the small town business district during the early 1920's and features various scenes of current Church Street near the historical society's headquarters. Featured in the photographs are various buildings and street scenes showing the town packed with shoppers on a busy Saturday.

The society has also digitized a 1934 history and church directory of Fulton Station Methodist Episcopal Church South (presently First United Methodist Church in Fulton). This 12-page booklet was privately printed during 1934 and features an indepth history of the church written during 1934 by Fulton historian and church member Zereda Greene. Also featured in the booklet are advertisements from various businesses and a church membership roll.

The society is continously adding new material to its online archives with special emphasis on digitizing source material. Look for many new exciting additions to this collection in the near future.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Many Surprising Genealogical Gems Are Found in Itawamba County’s Old Probate Court Packets

The Chancery Court Clerk’s office in the Itawamba County Courthouse in Fulton houses the county’s old deeds, land plats and court records but perhaps the most interesting records housed in this office are the loose probate court records found filed in cabinets along a wall of the office. There are literally hundreds of packets with each packet consisting of a few pages to literally hundreds of documents. These probate court packets are truly a genealogist’s grab-bag gift of priceless information.

Each packet is numbered and has the plaintiff name and defendant name or estate name labeled on the outside of the packet. However, such labels can be misleading as to the priceless contents that may be uncovered inside. It is always wise to explore the contents of a packet as important genealogical information can be found on families not even mentioned on the packet label. A case in point is Packet Number 337. Simply labeled as “Houston and Reynolds and E.G. Betts vs. G.W. Howard, etal” this packet contains considerable information on the Bullard family.

Houston and Reynolds and E.G. Betts had purchased accounts the estate of A.B. Bullard held. G.W. Howard had purchased land from A.B. Bullard before his death and was to pay for the property in installments. After making three payments, A.B. Bullard died, leaving one installment due the estate from Howard. Howard’s account was one such account sold to Houston & Reynolds and E.G. Betts.

Inside the packet there are probably 25 to 30 loose documents and from those documents the following was abstracted from a single four-page document:

Houston and Reynolds and E.G. Betts, Guard. Complainants
G.W. Howard, residing in Itawamba County, Clarence M. Bullard, resident of Lafayette County, Mississippi, Laura R. Gilstrap and husband C.J. Gilstrap and Mary E. Bullard, residents of Pontotoc County, Mississippi, Emma D. Bullard, resident of Lee County, Mississippi, Martha Susan Boone and husband Squire Boone and James Paul Bullard and William Arthur Bullard, minors residing with their mother and step father Martha Susan and Squire Boone in Arkansas, and whose post office address is Ozark, Arkansas

Complainants state unto the court as follows: That on or about the 8th day of November 1865 A.B. Bullard sold to the defendant G.W. Howard, the following real estate in Itawamba County: E ½ of the SE ¼ of Section 3 Town 10, Range 9 East for the sum of One Hundred and Forty Two Dollars…

That during 1867 the said A.B. Bullard departed this life…leaving a widow Martha Susan who has since intermarried with the Defendant Squire Boone and the two minor defendants James Paul Bullard and William Arthur Bullard who reside with the said mother and step father Boone in Ozark, Arkansas and Clarence Bullard living in Lafayette County, Mississippi, Laura R. Gilstrap and her husband is C.J. Gilstrap living in Pontotoc County and Mary E. Bullard, minor, whose guardian is C.J. Gilstrap and resides with said guardian in Pontotoc County and Emma D. Bullard, minor living with her guardian L.J. Copeland in Lee County…

The above in-depth information on the Arthur B. Bullard family is found in this packet although the Bullard name is not even mentioned on the label. Arthur Bullard was a prominent Cumberland Presbyterian minister and attorney in the town of Fulton where he practiced law under the name of Mitchener and Bullard during antebellum times.

This one document found in the packet details land Arthur B. Bullard owned and later sold in 1865 and the amount received. The document also gives the death year for Bullard and names each of his heirs and where they lived during January of 1874. Additionally, the document shows that his widow had remarried to Squire Boone (also an attorney) and lived in Ozark, Arkansas, near the Oklahoma border at the time of the document signing.

This is just one illustrative case where a researcher can find unsuspecting genealogical data stored away in a probate packet where the packet label does not even mention a particular family. Always remember that a probate court packet can provide a wealth of information on many Itawamba County families. It is important to never rely entirely upon what is written on the probate court packet cover. Always remember that Itawamba County probate court packets may contain hidden genealogical gems providing a vast plethora of information on thousands of early Itawamba settlers.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Old Itawamba Cemeteries Reveal Interesting Tombstone Art

In genealogical studies, the researcher visits cemeteries to garner information from the old monuments. However, a fascinating hobby is the study of tombstones as art. There are many historic cemeteries in Itawamba County were old and unusual monuments mark the graves of the early Itawamba settlers.

Some of the more artistic tombstones can be found in such old burial grounds as Keyes, Fulton, New Salem and Center Star. It is interesting to note the symbolism on old tombstones. In Itawamba County the visitors sees many old monuments with clasping hands, a hand with the index finger pointed upward, the weeping willow tree and a ship’s anchor. All such artistic elements have a special meaning.

The following is a list of symbolic items found on tombstones in Itawamba County and what their significance is:

Anchor: Steadfast Hope
Arch: Rejoined with partner in Heaven
Birds: The Soul
Cherub: Divine wisdom or justice
Column: Noble life
Crown: Reward and Glory
Garland: Victory over Death
Heart: Devotion
Lamb: Innocence
Laurel: Victory
Lily: Purity
Olive Branch: Forgiveness and peace
Swallow: Motherhood
Crossed Swords: Life cut short
Torch: Eternal Life
Weeping Willow: Mourning, grief

A most interesting website listing websites dealing with tombstone art and symbolism is located at Family Tree Magazine’s website. Located on the site are nine links to various websites dealing with the subject as well as a listing of books on the subject. Another fascinating article on the subject is the Wikipedia entry for Headstone.