Monday, June 30, 2008

Fulton Scenes on a Sunday Morning

Petunias and Crepe Myrtle (top) are in full bloom at Fulton City Hall on the town square in Fulton. The roof of the Itawamba Christian Church (bottom) on West Wiygul Street in downtown Fulton towers above the roofs of neighboring buildings.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Dear Old Tombigbee

Pictured is the old Tombigbee River in the river bottoms west of Fulton. The Tombigbee River begins in northern Itawamba County and is formed by Mackeys, Brown and Donnivan creeks. The river flows south through northeastern Mississippi into Alabama where it, along with the Alabama River forms the short Mobile River that empties into the Gulf of Mexico.

The circuit-riding preacher Lorenzo Dow was in the Tombigbee country during the 1790’s and early 1800’s. In his journal he wrote quite a prophetic passage: “The river Tombigbee, like the Nile, overflows once a year…and will one day become the glory of the south part of the United States as the trade of the Tennessee…will pass through it.” Today, more than 200 years later, cargo-laden barges, sailboats and yachts pass through the hills of Itawamba County daily along the old ‘Bigby Valley upon the waters of the majestic Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway east of the old river headed to and from the Port of Mobile to the south and the Tennessee River to the north.

On February 1, 1907 a speech was given in the US House of Representatives by Congressman Ezekiel Samuel Candler (1862-1941) of Mississippi. Part of his speech reads:

"I have heard its murmuring waves as they went singing their beautiful song toward the Gulf since early childhood, and they have continued to sing along the path of my life and have given me inspiration to love the beauties of nature and admire those grandeurs and those glories that come alone from the great creative hand of God above..

The Mississippi’s wide and grand,
The Suwanee’s famed in song;
The waters of the Wabash, too,
Flow merrily along;
But all their beauties pale and fade
And have no charm for me,
For I have known since childhood days
The dear Old Tombigbee!"

Photograph by Bob Franks

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Itawamba County 's Firecracker Festival is July 1 in Fulton

Itawamba County will be getting a head start with the celebration of American Independence with a Firecracker Festival on Tuesday, July 1.

Festivities begin at 6 pm at the Itawamba Community College practice field north of West Main Street in Fulton with the announcement of Mr. and Miss Firecracker followed by local entertainment until 8 pm.

Itawamba County has a plethora of topnotch cooks and at 6:30 judging will begin for the Best Pie Contest. Anyone can register up until the time of the contest. Ribbons will be awarded for the best pies including a First Place winner. Those wanting to register early can contact the Itawamba County Development Council at 862-4571

A karaoke contest will begin at 7 pm with prizes given for first, second and third place.There will also be carnival games, snow cone and cotton candy booths and a number of tasty food booths set up by area organizations and churches.

The grand finale will be a spectacular fireworks show provided by the City of Fulton. The patriotic show begins at 8:45 pm. Visitors are encouraged to arrive early to get a good view of the fireworks spectacular.

Butterfly Weed at Its Prime Now in Itawamba County

The brilliant orange flowers of the Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberose) are a familiar sight along the country roadsides in the upland fields of Itawamba County during late June and July. It is an American native wildflower.

A member of the milkweed family and producing plenty of nectar, it is common to see many butterflies dancing in a cluster around this plant. Adult monarchs also lay their eggs on the leaves of the milkweeds.

The plant is most common around disturbed roadsides, embankments, bluffs and abandoned fields. When driving through Itawamba County, if you notice a bright orange flower around such places, more than likely it’s a butterfly weed.

Photograph by Bob Franks

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Table Wine of Itawamba County

I’ve read where tea is considered the table wine of the South. The making of good tea here has been raised to an art of perfection over the generations. Good Southern tea requires plenty of two things – sugar and ice. Here when you ask for tea, you are simply going to get it ice cold and sweet.

In growing up I remember how my mom brewed tea. Back in those pre-tea bag days, the loose tea leaves were poured into boiling water and then steeped. In the meantime she would pour about a cup and a half of cane sugar into a glass pitcher and pour some hot water over the sugar and stir until the sugar was dissolved. She would then take a tea cloth, cover the pitcher opening and pour the steeped tea into the cloth letting it strain into the pitcher, after which she would stir the mixture until well mixed. And that tea was always served in a glass with plenty of ice.

The oldest known recipe for sweet iced tea was published in an old recipe book entitled Housekeeping in Old Virginia during 1879 and through the years since, this beverage has been enjoyed by generations.

Sweet tea has always been a staple around here. From the farm to the church social and in cafes and restaurants, it is always available in generous quantities. Many hours have passed over a glass of good Southern tea while visiting family and friends. And there’s simply no better quality time on a hot and humid Mississippi day than sitting in a rocking chair in the shade of the front porch enjoying a good glass of cold Southern tea while lazily watching the world go by.

Photograph by Bob Franks

Thursday, June 26, 2008

New Salem Cemetery

The historic New Salem Cemetery, located between Fulton and Smithville, contains monuments for many of Itawamba County's early landowners of the Bull Mountain Creek - Tombigbee River area including the Stegall, Mattox and Evans families. The narrow cemetery winds back into the woods adjacent to the New Salem Methodist church.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

An Amber Sunset

Late this afternoon thunderstorms rolled through to the west and the heavy clouds and setting sun produced a beautiful amber sunset in Itawamba County.

Along the Road to Hopewell

The road between Kennedy Chapel and the old Hopewell Methodist Church cemetery in southeastern Itawamba County follows a high ridge. The scene above is looking south from the old road.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Mapping the Old Chickasaw Cession Area of Present-day Itawamba County

While going through some of my research papers stored in a filing cabinet I came across some interesting research I completed twelve years ago. During 1992 I invested several weeks tediously researching the Chickasaw Cession surveyors’ notes for Itawamba County. Located in the Chancery Court Clerk’s office, this large volume of several hundred pages contains the field notes and observations of the government surveyors for the Chickasaw Cession area that eventually became Itawamba County. Most all the notes are surveying field notes giving distances and landmarks in laying out the section, township and range system for Itawamba County. However this book also offers the researcher a description of the land (hilly, flat, swamp, what types of vegetation etc.).

Another most interesting feature of the book’s records is whenever the surveyors came across any type of improvement upon the lands they were surveying, these improvements were usually documented.

After consuming several weeks tediously reading over the hundreds of pages of detailed notes, I compiled an inventory of all improvements denoted that I found and then created a map of current Itawamba County illustrating the improvements seen by the government surveyors during 1833 – three years before the county was officially created..

It is interesting to note that all the Chickasaw improvements I came across in the notes were west of the Tombigbee River with a significant concentration of such improvements in the Mantachie, Ozark, Ratliff and Kirkville areas (basically northwestern Itawamba County). In this area of Itawamba County were references to many Chickasaw paths and trails. One such trail connected the Natchez Trace to the present-day area of the town of Mantachie. There were also several Chickasaw improvements noted along present-day Boguefala Creek in southwestern Itawamba County. On the other hand, all improvements I discovered representing early pioneers were east of the Tombigbee basically along two wagon roads entering Itawamba County from adjacent Monroe County . These two roads merged into one single road not far into Itawamba County, north of Bull Mountain Creek.

Also of interest in the notes were the names of some creeks. Present-day Mantachie Creek was listed as Hatchie-Pullo Creek and Boguefala Creek was listed as Long Creek. I have published online a portion of the map I created illustrating the part of the cession that became lower Itawamba County (view the map). I plan to publish online a similar map for upper Itawamba County at a later date.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Old Wagon Road Out of Eastern Monroe During Pre-County Days: Part IV

Rachel McNiece Dulaney, wife of Alfred Dulaney, and sister-in-law of John Dulaney (left). The Alfred Dulaney pioneer log home near the John Dulaney homestead (right).

When the Federal government surveyed the Chickasaw lands acquired by the Treaty of Pontotoc (1832), only two roads were mentioned in the survey field notes in what later became Itawamba County. They were listed as the Old Natchez Road (Natchez Trace) and the Wagon Road. The Wagon Road entered what is now Itawamba County near the site of the State Highway 25 running north out of eastern Monroe County into present-day eastern Itawamba County. From reading the survey field notes from 1833, it is evident the road ran northward basically along present-day State Highway 25, the veering basically onto present-day Clay-Tilden Road running northward into the Clay community (nearly 13 miles).

The surveyors documented four white families in the area along this old road. The Benjamin Wise, Eliba Allen and Walter Maxey families were discussed in previous posts.

About four miles north of the Maxey and Allen settlements at the end of the wagon road, the surveyors encountered the John Delaney (Dulaney) settlement, northwest of present-day Clay community.

John Dulaney, the son of Thomas Dulaney and Rhoda Thrasher (the daughter of Henry and Elizabeth Thrasher), was born July 11, 1803 in Pendleton District, South Carolina. After the death of Thomas, Rhoda and her family moved to Tennessee and then to Alabama. By 1823 the Dulaneys were in Jefferson County, Alabama, where Rhoda was a member of Cahawba Baptist Church (now Trussville First Baptist Church), and still there when John married Margaret Martin on March 16, 1826. By the 1830 census, his family was living in Marion County, Alabama. John Dulaney’s siblings were Alfred, Gilbert, Elizabeth and Nancy.

John moved his family to the Chickasaw Nation across the state line into Mississippi before the 1833 cession survey. John’s brother Alfred soon followed him in 1836 when Itawamba County was organized. John and Margaret’s children were Elizabeth, Thomas, Mary, James M., Emily, Mary, Linnet, Margart, and Sarah.

Later in life, John Dulaney had moved to Baldwyn in Lee County and is buried in the Baldwyn Cemetery.

After the formation of the county, John Dulaney received a patent for the land where his homestead had been located since at least 1833. The Dulaney homestead of pre-county days continued to be held by the family for generations. Today, the creek running through the nearby valley is known as Dulaney Branch.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Old Wagon Road Out of Eastern Monroe During Pre-County Days: Part III

When the Federal government surveyed the Chickasaw lands acquired by the Treaty of Pontotoc (1832), only two roads were mentioned in the survey field notes in what later became Itawamba County. They were listed as the Old Natchez Road (Natchez Trace) and the Wagon Road. The Wagon Road entered what is now Itawamba County near the site of the State Highway 25 running north out of eastern Monroe County into present-day eastern Itawamba County. From reading the survey field notes from 1833, it is evident the road ran northward basically along present-day State Highway 25, the veering basically onto present-day Clay-Tilden Road running northward into the Clay community (nearly 13 miles).

The surveyors documented four white families in the area along this old road. The Benjamin Wise family living north of Bull Mountain Creek on the line between Sections 29 and 30 was discussed in Thursday’s post and the Eliba Allen family living on the line between Sections 11 and 14, Township 10 South, Range 9 East was discussed in yesterday’s post.

Less than one-half mile west of the Eliba Allen farm, the Walter Maxey family lived west of the old wagon road. Walter Maxey was probably related to Eliba Allen, being his wife was an Allen. Research indicates that his wife Sarah, was Nathaniel N.G. Allen’s sister. This would make Walter and Sarah Maxey the uncle and aunt of Eliba and Zachariah Allen.

Walter Maxey, the son of Jessee and Elizabeth Loving Maxey, was born September 12, 1775 in Washington County, Tennessee. He grew up near Gallatin, Tennessee and married Sarah Allen on September 26, 1795 in Sumner County, Tennessee.

Like his father, Walter was on the move. He was listed in the 1804 tax list of Wilson County, Tennessee with 140 acres of land. Walter and Sarah were in Lauderdale County, Alabama during 1817 when their son Henry was born and it was in this county during 1818 that their son Edward, served as a lieutenant in the militia. On May 8, 1818 Walter assigned all his interest in 159 acres of land in Township 1 of Lauderdale County to his brother-in-law, Henry D. Allen.

A letter from Walter to his brothers in Illinois dated October 6, 1820 stated that he had settled at last on Sipsey Creek, Marion County, Alabama. However, Walter and Sarah’s youngest child John, was born in adjoining Monroe County, Mississippi the following year.

Walter Maxey later appears in 1828 on a tax list of the area that later became Pulaskie County, Missouri, and it was here that four of his children were later to settle. By 1830 Walter and his family appear back in Marion County, Alabama and are enumerated on the 1830 census there. By 1833 the Chickasaw Cession surveyors found Walter and family in the Chickasaw Nation cession lands (later Itawamba County) west of the wagon road.

Walter Maxey died in Itawamba County on August 17, 1839 and was buried along the west side of the old wagon road on his farm. A monument marking his grave is found in the dense woods. The old Maxey settlement of pre-county days continued to be a settlement in Itawamba County until the early 1900’s. The old Maxey cemetery is located on the original lands and at one time the Maxey Schoolhouse was located adjacent to the cemetery.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Monuments of Iron

Itawamba County is known far and wide for its unique pottery cemetery monuments made in the various local pottery operations of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Another unique monument type found in Itawamba County cemeteries is the cast iron monument.

The cast iron monuments found in Itawamba County cemeteries were patented during 1887 by James K.P. Shelton, a native of northeast Mississippi (born in nearby Pontotoc County) who lived in Sumter County, Alabama at the time the patent was awarded.

These cast iron monuments were used primarily to mark the graves of recently deceased family members, whereas the pottery monuments widely in use at the time, were used extensively to mark the grave sites of family members long since deceased.

The Shelton patent reads in part: “Be it known that I, James K.P. Shelton, a citizen of the United States, residing in Gaston, in the county of Sumter and State of Alabama, have invented certain new and useful improvements in Monuments or Sign Holders or Posts…It is frequently customary to place a photograph of a deceased person upon a tombstone or within a cavity formed for that purpose therein, and a construction of my particularly adapted for this purpose…The inscription usual in such cases, together with the photograph, or other memento may be attached to a plate of any desired material and placed within the receiver…if desired a glass plate may be secured in front of the plate…”

Unfortunately this was not a good idea. In Itawamba County, no cast iron monument has been found yet to contain the glass and mementos intact and the result is scores of cast iron monuments marking grave sites, with no personal information about who is buried beneath the monuments.

James K.P. Shelton was born July 19, 1845 in Pontotoc County and died March 18, 1896 in Sumter County, Alabama (buried in Chestnut Grove Cemetery). He was the son of Andrew Jackson Shelton (born December 26, 1821 in Lauderdale County, Alabama, the son of Robert Roan Shelton, and died December 23, 1881 in Sumter County, Alabama) and Elizabeth Faulkner (born March 19, 1824 in South Carolina, the daughter of Jabal Faulkner, died October 13, 1906 in Sumter County, Alabama, buried in Chestnut Grove Cemetery).

James K.P. Shelton served the Confederacy during the Civil War, serving in Company A of the 12th Mississippi Cavalry. In all the census records through 1900, James K.P. Shelton is listed as single. He is listed in the 1850 Pontotoc County, Mississippi census and in Sumter County, Alabama in all subsequent census records through 1900.

Cypress Trees in Bigby Swamp

A Cypress grove is located below River Hill east of the Tombigbee River on the north side of the old Bankhead Levee

The Old Wagon Road Out of Eastern Monroe During Pre-County Days: Part II

When the Federal government surveyed the Chickasaw lands acquired by the Treaty of Pontotoc (1832), only two roads were mentioned in the survey field notes in what later became Itawamba County. They were listed as the Old Natchez Road (Natchez Trace) and the Wagon Road. The Wagon Road entered what is now Itawamba County near the site of the State Highway 25 running north out of eastern Monroe County into present-day eastern Itawamba County. From reading the survey field notes from 1833, it is evident the road ran northward basically along present-day State Highway 25, the veering basically onto present-day Clay-Tilden Road running northward into the Clay community (nearly 13 miles).

The surveyors documented four white families in the area along this old road. The Benjamin Wise family living north of Bull Mountain Creek on the line between Sections 29 and 30 was discussed in Thursday’s post.

Eight miles north of the Wise settlement, along the wagon road deeper in Indian territory the surveyors found the Eliba Allen settlement on the line between sections 11 and 14 of Township 10 South, Range 9 East. The survey map shows the old road drawn by the surveyors.

Eliba Allen was born in Tennessee on November 10, 1799. Zachariah, his brother was born December 12, 1805 also in Tennessee. They were the sons of Nathaniel N.G. (born February 7, 1775) and Celia Bloodworth Allen. Research indicates Eliba and Zachariah were the grandsons of Rhody and Mary Allen.

Nathan N.G. Allen and family immigrated from Tennessee into Alabama and later into Monroe County, Mississippi, where they were living before 1824. The first license to a preacher to perform a marriage ceremony in Monroe County was issued to Nathaniel N.G. Allen in 1823. Research indicates he was a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

The Allen family was from the Sumner County, Tennessee area and had moved to Monroe County by 1820. Eliba Allen had moved to the Chickasaw territory in what is now Itawamba County before the survey of 1833 where he lived on the present-day Clay-Tilden Road (the old wagon road). Zachariah, his brother, soon followed him after Itawamba County was created in 1836. Eliba and his brother are found on the 1836 through 1840 Itawamba County tax lists. Eliba and his wife, Nancy Walden Allen are found on the 1850 Itawamba County census where they are listed along with their daughter, Mary (born 1833 in the Chickasaw territory of present-day Itawamba County).

After the formation of Itawamba County in 1836, Eliba Allen was elected to the first board of police and by 1838 was serving as president of that body. On October 4, 1847 Eliba registered in the county as a minister of the Gospel.

Eliba and his family had left Itawamba County and moved to Lavaca County, Texas by the 1860 census.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Andrew Davison Monument

The Andrew Davison monument is located in the old Hopewell Methodist Church cemetery south of Tremont in the hills of eastern Itawamba County.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Old Wagon Road Out of Eastern Monroe During Pre-County Days

When the Federal government surveyed the Chickasaw lands acquired by the Treaty of Pontotoc (1832), only two roads were mentioned in the survey field notes in what later became Itawamba County. They were listed as the Old Natchez Road (Natchez Trace) and the Wagon Road. The Wagon Road entered what is now Itawamba County near the site of the State Highway 25 bridge (pictured above) running north out of eastern Monroe County into present-day eastern Itawamba County. From reading the survey field notes from 1833, it is evident the road ran northward basically along present-day State Highway 25, the veering basically onto present-day Clay-Tilden Road running northward into the Clay community (nearly 13 miles).

The surveyors documented four white families in the area along this old road. One such family was the Benjamin Wise family living north of Bull Mountain Creek on the line between Sections 29 and 30, Township 11 South, Range 9 East (just northeast of the photographed site above).

Benjamin Wise, according to the 1850 Itawamba County census, was born during 1802 in South Carolina.

William Wise was born in South Carolina around 1765. He was in Laurens District, South Carolina for several years where he married Katherine Elizabeth Gideon. The Wise and Gideon families were pioneer settlers in Bedford County, Tennessee. During 1816-17, William Wise, his brother Henry Wise and his sister-in-law Elizabeth Wise (probably the widow of John Wise) left Bedford County migrating to Monroe County, Mississippi. They came down the Gaines Trace on horseback. Legend has it that on this trip the Wise family lost one of their oxen and later found it on a high ridge near the Mississippi and Alabama state lines. They named this ridge Bull Mountain.

After arriving in northeast Mississippi, the Wise families cut logs to build a house, but they didn’t finish because Levi Colbert (Itawamba-mingo) said the logs had been cut on their site of the Gaines Trace (the treaty line at the time). They were ordered to move south of the Gaines Trace by Colbert. Their new location became the Quincy Settlement of Monroe County.

In the party of 1816-17 there were three Wise families, two or three Gideons, Bookers, Weavers and Thames. Their location was so covered with dense forests that there was little area fit for cultivation. By the end of the first year, the group’s provisions became so scarce that it has been said William Wise was compelled to make the journey back to Tennessee after corn and other provisions. Before he completed his trip he was killed and robbed. The date of his death is usually given as 1819.

Benjamin was the son of William Henry or John Wise. At this time there is no conclusive evidence as to which of the above was his father.

Benjamin married Charity Gibson, daughter of Joseph and Lydia Rutland Gibson on March 123, 1822 in Monroe County.

When the government surveyors entered the Chickasaw Nation in 1833, they found him, along with his family living in the cession area just north of Bull Mountain Creek, east of present-day Highway 25.

Benjamin Wise is found in the 1836, 1837, 1838, and 1839 tax lists of Itawamba County. He is also enumerated in the 1840 census of the county. According to the 1850 and 1860 Itawamba County census records, his children included Francis, Anna, Benjamin, Sarah, John, Josephine, James and William. The Wise family had left Itawamba County before the 1870 Federal Census.

Oakland Historical Marker

The Oakland Normal Institute historical marker along Highway 23 north of Tremont is located about one mile east on the old school site in eastern Itawamba County.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Swamp

The Tombigbee River runs the entire length of the county north to south. From its headwaters along the northern border to its confluence with Bull Mountain Creek along the Monroe County line to the south, this river valley is home to vast areas of wetlands and swamps. Called “the bottom” by locals for generations, this area has been basically a no man’s land not fit for human habitation. In some places this area is two to three miles wide and where tributaries empty into the river, swamps were created.

Before the county road levee system was created and bridges were built, this area created a virtual barrier between eastern Itawamba and western Itawamba. During the wet season practically all travel across the river region ceased. During January of 1844 Itawamba County pioneer Josiah Hinds of western Itawamba County wrote in his diary: “Was at Fulton yesterday. Had to wade through Bigby Swamp. Got wet and don’t feel well.”

By 1860 Itawamba County had five ferries across the river including Walker’s Crossing, the Fulton Ferry on the old Fulton and Pontotoc Public Road, Bean’s Ferry, Ironwood Crossing and Barr’s Ferry. Although the ferries made crossing the river itself easier, the traveler still had to make their trek through the river bottomlands, oxbow lakes and swamps, and the road levees were primitive at best.

Over the years the Bigby Swamp has been the source of many legends and lore. From hidden Confederate gold and highway robbers to ghosts and moonshiners, this remote area of the county has produced many colorful tales and legends.

Today the Tombigbee River bottomlands continue to be a beautiful wildlife refuge area with a rich history and heritage dramatically cutting through Itawamba County from north to south.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Old Church Bell at New Chapel

The old church bell at New Chapel is displayed near the church building today. New Chapel, located in southwestern Itawamba County was organized during the 1830's by settlers from South Carolina. At one time New Chapel consisted of two churches - one Methodist and one Presbyterian, but today only the Methodist Church survives. The old cemetery is one of the larger cemeteries of the county with monuments dating back to the 1830's.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Historic Salem Cemetery in Northeastern Itawamba County

Pictured above is the old Salem Cemetery in northeastern Itawamba County. The view is looking north from the middle of the cemetery towards the old section. Located on a hill next to the historic Salem Baptist Church, monuments in the cemetery date to the mid-1850's.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Sacred Harp Echoes Through the Hills of Itawamba County

Every Fourth Sunday in July the beautiful sounds of Sacred Harp are heard through the eastern hills of Itawamba County at the annual Cherry Tree Singing at James Creek Primitive Baptist Church.

Sacred Harp has been sung throughout Itawamba County since the founding days of the county. Considered America’s earliest music, the early roots of this music have been traced to the “country parish music” of the early 1700’s in England.

During the mid-1700’s, the styles of English country parish music were introduced to America in the hymnal, Urania, published during 1764. This led to the publication of The New England Psalm Singer. These works form a major part of Sacred Harp.

The book used by many singers in the South, The Sacred Harp, was first published during 1844 and consists of hymn tunes, psalms, and anthems by late 18th and early 19th Century New England composers who were influenced by 18th Century English rural church music and early 19th Century Southern folk hymns and spirituals.

Singing schools and shaped note singing prospered during the early 19th Century as a popular form of recreation in the Southern frontier.

In Sacred Harp singing, the participants sit in a hollow square formation with one voice part on each side with all participants facing inwards. All singing is done without the use of musical instruments. Many have said the words, The Sacred Harp, refer to the human voice.

My great grandfather, Marion Albert Cockrell (pictured) was a Sacred Harp song leader in Itawamba County from the 1880’s until his death during 1944. He had come to Itawamba County with his family as a young man from the hills of northeastern Alabama. In Itawamba County he led singings at the Court House in Fulton, New Home Baptist Church east of Fulton and at Oak Grove Methodist Episcopal Church South, west of the Tombigbee River. The singing at Oak Grove was known as the Marion Singing, named in his honor.

Sacred Harping singing is an important part of the cultural heritage of America that goes back to the founding days of the colonial period. And in the beautiful hills of Itawamba County, this wonderful unique music that has been heard in the county since the founding days, still echoes through the rural hills and hollows of Itawamba County from the little white-frame James Creek Primitive Baptist Church.

Learn More About Sacred Harp

Awake, My Soul: The Story of The Sacred Harp

The Sacred Harp Musical Heritage Assocation

Sacred Harp Singing

Sacred Harp Resources

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Queen Anne's Lace Putting on a Show in Itawamba County

Queen Anne’s Lace is currently blooming in profusion along the country roadsides of Itawamba County. The plant (wild carrot, a member of the parsley family) was introduced into America from Europe and is the wild progenitor of our carrot. The plant is said to have been named for Queen Anne of England, an expert lace maker. Legend has it that she challenged the ladies of the court to a contest to see who could produce a pattern of lace as lovely as the flower of the plant but no one could rival the queen’s handiwork. While making the lace, she pricked her finger with a needle and a single droplet of blood fell onto the lace and this is said to be the dark purple floret in the center of the flowering head of the plant.

Early Pioneer Families: Bailey Duvall and Wife, Minerva P. Beene

Lewis Bailey Duvall was born during October of 1838 in Alabama, the son of Alexander Gabriel (born 1804 in Jackson County, Georgia) and Lucretia Duvall. He married Minerva Permelia Beene (born 1848 in Itawamba County), the daughter of Robert Samuel (born July 26, 1811 in Franklin County, Tennessee) and Julia Green Beene in Itawamba County on January 8, 1867. Minerva’s father, Robert Beene operated a ferry on the Tombigbee River in Itawamba County known today as Beans Ferry. Minerva’s grandfather, John Beene (born 1788) helped survey Itawamba County before its organization and was a member of the first county Board of Police.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Whitesides Plantation Along The Old Aberdeen and Jacinto Road

The old Whitesides Plantation home facing the old Aberdeen and Jacinto Public Road is located west of the Tombigbee River in Itawamba County below the old Woodlawn Post Office along Boguefala Creek. James Whitesides operated one of the larger plantations in the county. The home was built during the 1840's and was originally a two-story structure. During Reconstruction, the second floor of the home was removed to make the structure 1 1/2 stories.

James Whitesides was born during 1794 in York District, South Carolina, the son of Thomas and Isabella McTillion Whitesides. Before coming to Itawamba County during the 1840’s the family lived in Lawrence County, Alabama. James Whitesides married Sarah Guyton and their children (all born in Lawrence County, Alabama) included: Margaret (born September 22, 1822, married William P. McMasters), Thomas B. (born May 20, 1824, married Martha A. Keyes), Isabella (born March 31, 1826, married David Shumpert), Robert W. (born September 19, 1827), Catherine Edith Josephine (born December 17, 1830, married Nathaniel Ward), Major (born April 1, 1834, never married), Sarah Jane (born 1836, married Joshua W. Ward), James S. (born 1838, married Sarah E. Keyes) and Mary Ann (born March 25, 1841, married Alford R. Roberts).

James Whitesides died on December 4, 1860 on his plantation and was buried in the plantation cemetery.

During 1860, the plantation was the home to 74 slaves. An 1860 document dated December 26 of that year listed the slaves on the plantation at the time. The document enumerated the following: Amy and family, Samuel, Isom, John, Malverda, Linda and family, Ansi, Abb, Will, Elec, Adaline, Willis, Seth the younger, Emily, Lizie, Lindey the younger, Rob (Naris’s child), Jane and child, Seth, Lena, Andy, Ellen, Levi, Lamira, Visa, William, Caroline, Avizilla, Adison, Leonard, Lindsey, Hiram, Edney, Abb (Edney’s child), Clancy, Elic, Edney’s child, Shorlot, Jerry, Deanna, Jane (Shorlot’s girl), Elic (the blacksmith), Nancy, George (Elic’s boy), Elizabeth, Harriet, Lewis, Henry, George (Caroline’s boy), Sinthia, Easther, General, Mary and child, Burnel, David, Elvira, Foit, Farris, Bob, Jimberry, Donothon, Clark, White and Lucy.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

At Evening I Saw the Sunset's Golden Glow...

"At evening I saw the sunset’s golden glow across the river, and then I saw each twinkling star, the milky way, and all the firmament…"

Bryan Yancey Cummings' thoughts on witnessing an Itawamba County sunset after being away for forty years

Tonight before sunset I was mowing my lawn and as the low sun in the distant west peaked from behind heavy clouds while I was finishing my chores, nature provided a most spectacular show of colors in the form of an Itawamba County glorious sunset. I immediately thought of Bryan Yancey Cummings’ remarks made nearly eighty years ago.

Photograph by Bob Franks

The Importance of Obtaining Source Material To Document Research Data

With today’s Internet research, one small error can easily be propagated into hundreds of research errors. One case in point is the death date of early Itawamba County planter, George Shumpert.

Shumpert’s old monument is located in the dense woods of the old Shumpert Plantation cemetery in southwestern Itawamba County. The old thin monument is discolored and stained with more than one hundred and fifty years of exposure to the elements. The old monument is hard to read without a close inspection, but a careful inspection reveals his death date was March 19, 1853. Several years ago Shumpert descendants installed a beautiful new monument to compliment the historic monument, using the exact wording from the old monument. An inspection of Itawamba County governmental records - in particular the probate records of the George Shumpert estate, validates the death date found on both the actual historic monument and the more recently installed new monument.

More than 37 years ago a survey of the old family cemetery was completed and an error was apparently made in the death date, changing the 1853 year to 1852. Since that time, the incorrect 1852 death date has been propagated, and since the advent of the Internet, at a much more higher rate of speed. Today most all online files and data show the 1852 date and that date is being propagated into yet more family files.

The above Shumpert dilemma is one case in point that we should use published data with care. We must also keep in mind that un-sourced data in an online Gedcom file should be treated as merely a research hint and not necessarily as fact. In researching our family lines, we should always back up conveyed facts with as many source records as possible – both primary and secondary. Simply put, good genealogy research is a science, and much more than just collecting, importing and redistributing Gedcom files. A genealogist is both a sleuth and researcher, searching out and obtaining source documents to back up research theories. If data has been published, whether it be from a traditional print publication or an online website, information being published doesn’t necessarily make that information a fact. Mistakes do happen. We all make them at one time or the other.

In carrying out our research, we should always try to gather as much source material as possible to support the information we are conveying and document that gathered material by accepted standards and procedures. Correctly citing your source of information is an essential part of genealogical studies. In the long run, we will be doing ourselves, as well as those who follow us researching the same family line, a huge favor.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Mimosa Blooming Time in Itawamba

Mimosa trees (Albizia julibrissin) are now blooming in Itawamba County. There are many Mimosa groves in the county, especially in the edge of the woods along the highways. The tree was a popular yard tree during the pre-air conditioning days of the 1940’s and 1950’s and provided some relief from the hot and humid Mississippi summers. The tropical looking tree produces an excellent shade but over the years the Mimosa has proved to be quite invasive.

A Japanese native, the Mimosa is an over-sized member of the pea family and introduced during 1745. It was one of the first plants brought to North America purely for ornamental reasons.

The Mimosa folds its leaves at night and produces showy fragrant flowers. Many have remarked that the scent of the flower resembles nutmeg or watermelon.

As the tree is able to survive the winters in the southern United States, it has become an invasive species and is considered by many to simply be a messy pest crowding out native trees.

Photograph by Bob Franks

Sunday, June 8, 2008

An Old Homestead in the Hills

The solitude of the forested land on a steep hill is interrupted by a silent reminder that once this rugged land was a homeplace in days gone by. Located in a remote area south of Tremont in the eastern hills of Itawamba, the fireplace chimney was constructed of native stone from the surrounding hillsides.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Society Adds Book to Digital Archives

As an ongoing project of preserving Itawamba County records, the Itawamba Historical Society has digitized the entire Itawamba County Stock Mark Book.

A unique county record group in Mississippi is the collection of livestock markings. The Itawamba County Stock Mark book is a small bound book (6 ½ inches by 7 ½ inches) and contains registrations from 1851 through 1904. Most all the entries are ear marks.

During the 19th Century and early 20th Century, many farmers let their stock graze in unfenced areas called the open range. In Itawamba County the creek bottomlands and the Tombigbee River lowlands were popular areas for open ranges. Branding and ear marking were used to identify the owners of the cattle. The State of Mississippi passed livestock laws that included a system of registering such brands and ear markings. By the late 1800’s fencing laws were enacted and the need for a county stock mark book ended during the early 1900’s.

Common ear marks included such marks as crop, swallow-fork, under-bit, over-bit and half-crop. Livestock that was not marked was usually referred to as “slick-ear.”

The society transcribed the entire book and the transcription is published in the Summer 2008 issue of Itawamba Settlers magazine. A complete index of the book with digital images of all the pages have been placed in the society’s online archives. This book is just one of several such historic volumes the society plans to digitize in the future. Such projects are made possible by membership dues and donations. To help the society with its work, please visit the society’s membership area.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Tombigbee River Bottom Timber Being Hauled Through Fulton

During the early 1920's the timber industry in Fulton was developed. Pictured above is harvested timber being hauled through Fulton from the Tombigbee River bottomlands west of town. The scene was photographed around 1921.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Summer Issue of Membership Magazine Received from Printers

The Summer 2008 issue of Itawamba Settlers, the quarterly membership magazine of the Itawamba Historical Society was received from the printers yesterday. The society is processing the bulk mailing labels this week and the magazine should be in the mail to the 2008 membership later this week. This issue is an exciting issue with 56 pages packed with genealogical and historical information relating to Itawamba County.

Cardsville Area Cotton Carding Factory and Gin

Cardsville is an old community west of the Tombigbee River below the old river port town of Van Buren. The community was a voting precinct during the 1850's and was settled by the Shannon family (some members of this family left the community shortly before the Civil War and settled the town of Shannon in old western Itawamba County, now Lee County). The old river community was named for a cotton carding factory being located there well before the Civil War. Pictured above is a group of cotton farmers at an old cotton gin - carding factory operation during the late 1800's in the old Cardsville community of Itawamba County.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Apple After a Late Spring Shower

An apple after a late spring shower in an old orchard west of the Tombigbee River.

Photograph by Bob Franks

Monday, June 2, 2008

Underground Railroad Bicycle Route Travels Through Itawamba County

Itawamba County is seeing more and more bicyclists this season due to the fact that the 2,058-mile Underground Railroad Bicycle Route travels through the entire county from south to north. Starting in Mobile, Alabama, downriver from Itawamba County the route ends in Ontario, Canada.

The route is the result of three years of research and planning. Adventure Cycling Association, North America's largest bicycling organization, and the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Minority Health,unveiled the route last year. A breakthrough in both historically-infused adventure travel and active-living outreach to the African-American community, the UGRR promises to introduce people of all cultural backgrounds to the adventure and health benefits of cycling and bicycle travel.

"Cyclists can ride from the Deep South all the way to Ontario, Canada — nearly 2,100 miles," says Carla Majernik, Adventure Cycling's Director of Routes and Mapping. "Or they can take short rides on any portion of the route, which is filled with historic Underground Railroad stops and lots of excellent cycling through beautiful scenery."

This unique bicycle route honors the bravery of freedom seekers and those that provided shelter, by following the most fabled trek to freedom in American history. According to Adventure Cycling, more people than ever are traveling by bicycle and the UGRR, with its poignant stories and vibrant historical sites, adds new depth to the experience. It should appeal to history lovers looking for a great ride.

Starting in Mobile, Alabama, the route winds north along the Alabama and Tombigbee River valleys into Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio, before reaching Lake Erie, Niagara Falls, and its end-point in Owen Sound, Ontario on Lake Huron's Georgian Bay, the final destination for many freedom seekers. Besides the lush green scenery and the many small towns the route passes through, a host of museums, historic parks, and visitor centers bring the history of this remarkable period alive.

"We've all heard the story of slaves who escaped to freedom," says Dennis Coello, a veteran photographer and writer who recently rode and photographed the route for Adventure Cycling, "but here's a chance to feel that story — and to experience a continent along the way."

The Underground Railroad Bicycle Route was created with generous financial support from Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI), Bikes Belong, and the members of Adventure Cycling. Sally Jewell, the President and CEO of REI (America's leading outdoor gear retailer) says, "The Underground Railroad Route is a culturally engaging experience that links communities of cultural and historical significance with individuals, families, and cycling enthusiasts of all abilities. As a company that aspires to engage more individuals in human-powered recreation, we are proud to support the route."

To learn more about the route, visit A most excellent full color brochure on the route is also available online in PDF format.

The Itawamba Historical Society is excited about this route and welcomes bicycling visitors to Itawamba County, Mississippi.

Photo by Adventure Cycling Association/Dennis Coello
Map by Adventure Cycling Association


Garden Club Shares Bounty From Their Gardens

Each year, the Edelweiss Garden Club members share the bounty from their personal flower gardens to the community by arranging flowers and presenting the arrangements to the various county offices on the town square in Fulton. Dozens of beautiful arrangements are lovingly created by the women of the garden club. The annual flower arrangement distribution was held this morning, June 2.

Some of the most beautiful gardens in the county belong to members of the Edelweiss Garden Club and the club is one such civic organization in the county that adds to the quality of life in the community.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

A Sunday Sunset After Thunderstorms

Today was a typical Mississippi day - very hot and humid. Before sunset a line of thunderstorms passed through cooling the temperature with a cool breeze off the storms. The storms traveled just to the south of me with no rain at my house, although I did lose electricity for awhile. With the power off I headed to the front porch and noticed a beautiful sunset in the west with the sun painting the storm clouds with golden yellows and ambers.

Photograph by Bob Franks

Jane Cofield and Husband Elijah Cockrell

Jane Cofield (click portrait for larger resolution photograph) was born May 8,1854 in eastern Alabama’s Randolph County. She was the daughter of Lewis Elbeny Cofield (born February 4, 1831 in Georgia, died August 5, 1885 in Randolph County) and Mary Ann Collins (born February 20, 1832, died August 6, 1910 in Randolph County). She was the granddaughter of Thomas Nathan Cofield and wife Nancy Hughes and Samuel Collins and wife Mary Moore. She was the great granddaughter of Gresham Cofield who died in Twiggs County, Georgia about 1825. Jane married Elijah Cockrell about 1870 in Alabama and shortly thereafter during 1872 the family moved to Itawamba County with other members of the Cockrell family. Elijah Cockrell was a Confederate veteran, serving during the Civil War with Robert A. Hardie's Company (Company B: composed of men from Talladega County, Alabama) of the 31st Alabama Infantry.

Jane Cofield Cockrell died December 15, 1931 and was buried in historic Walton Cemetery west of the Tombigbee River.