Friday, April 30, 2010

The 'other' Jesse Davis

There are two Jesse Davises buried in Providence Cemetery north of Tremont in Itawamba County, Mississippi, and I've been unable to find a connection between the two of them. The tombstone for this Jesse Davis indicates that he was born September 22, 1821 and died January 15, 1906, and that he was the son of Byrd Davis. I've been unable to find a Byrd Davis although admittedly I've haven't invested a lot of research time in doing so.

The reason I'm interested in finding more about Jesse, son of Byrd, is that my great-great-great grandfather Jesse Davis is buried in the same cemetery and was a contemporary of "the other" Jesse. My Jesse was born 1816 in Pendleton District, South Carolina. The other Jesse Davis was born in 1821, and based on his census records, in Alabama. Jesse is a very common name used in our Davis family. In fact, my Jesse's father was named Jesse.

Recently, at the D.A.R. Library in Washington D.C., I came across the following transcribed record in Pioneers of Georgia, Vol. III by Joyce D. Payne:

Jesse Davis of Wayne Co., Ga. changed his name from Jesse Bird December 14, 1819. Georgia General Assembly Minutes.

Now I'm wondering if there is a connection from that record to the Jesse Davis buried in Providence Cemetery. Unless the date of birth of the "other Jesse" is incorrect on his tombstone, the found record has to belong to yet another Jesse Davis with a "Byrd" connection. The mystery continues!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Western Auto Store opens in Fulton

After World War II, Fulton experienced a retail boom of sorts. Many new downtown businesses were started up, one of which was the Western Auto store opened by Paul Eugene Mize. Mr. Mize came to Itawamba County largely due to the lovely Miss Hazel Sheffield, daughter of Isaac L. Sheffield and Anna Walker Rogers. The Mizes owned and operated the Western Auto store in Fulton for many, many years.

The store's grand opening was announced in the May 2, 1946 edition of the Itawamba County Times. Delmus Harden, the owner, editor and publisher of the Times newspaper, was very cognizant of the symbiotic relationship between merchants and the community newspaper. From reading earlier newspapers ("News Beacon" "County News" etc) and then transitioning to the Times, one can easily see Delmus's (as I've always referred to him, although he was always Mr. Harden when speaking to him!) view of the role of the community newspaper. I've really come to appreciate and admire Delmus Harden's impact on our little county - not that I wasn't aware of his contribution before - but now I've been able to see it from the beginning of his ownership of the county paper.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Worm Fiddling

Don Dulaney is a man of many talents, but I never knew worm fiddling was one of them. Worm fiddling, also known as worm charming or worm grunting, is the practice of vibrating the soil to cause earthworms to move to the surface. Don is using a saw with a wooden stake to vibrate the earth, and the results of his efforts are revealed in the second photo. It is good to know that there are some Itawambians who still practice this practically lost art. Don fiddled up this worm (and hopefully others!) in the Bull Mountain bottom of Itawamba County this past weekend.

Spring time is the best time for fiddling worms, especially after a rain when the soil is moist. These days, bait shops supply worms for fishermen, but if you are willing to work a little and have some patience, worms can be obtained by a fairly simple technique. Ask Don to give you a demonstration.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Beekeeping in Peaceful Valley - then and now

Mike and Pat with their hives in Spring 2009

Beekeeping in Peaceful Valley is nothing new although it has been several years since bees have been kept in the Valley. The last beekeeper was William Hugh Pennington who died in 1959. Known as "Big Daddy" to his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, he had hives into the 1940s. During a recent conversation with his daughter, my Aunt Tootsie, she told me that when she was growing up her father kept two or three bee hives near the storm cellar to the right of their house.

Big Daddy told Tootsie that the bees had to be handled very gently and that you had to let them know that you were not afraid of them. Tootsie, who was afraid of bees but loved their honey, would stand in the distance and watch her father as he robbed his hives. She watched him as he would take his hammer and gently tap the nails from underneath to loosen the wooden top, then gently take off the top and reach into the hive to remove the honey and honeycomb into a dishpan waiting on a nearby table.

One of the things that Big Daddy did to prepare for his honey-robbing was to tightly roll up an old piece of cloth, usually an old quilt piece, and tie it with a string. He would then set the cloth on fire, let it burn out and start smoking. This smoking piece of clothe would be laid on the ground for use in case the bees became angry at which time Big Daddy would pick up the smoking cloth and wave it at the bees to calm them. Aunt Tootsie said that rarely did Big Daddy have to do this however.

If a bee did sting Big Daddy, he would reach over and gently lift the bee between his fingers and wave it off of him. Generally though, Big Daddy rarely got stung. He didn't have special apparel that he wore when working with his bees, but Tootsie noted that he would roll down his sleeves and button his shirt at his wrists. Uncle Joe Blake, Big Daddy's brother-in-law, kept bee hives in Peaceful Valley too. He had a straw hat with netting that Aunt Zadie Blake had created, and Uncle Joe wore this hat when he robbed his hives. Uncle Gainey and Uncle Luther were both nervous around bees and thus didn't have hives, but Tootsie said that she remembers Uncle Gainey would keep an eye out in the woods for trees with holes or knots in them that might harbor bees and then let Big Daddy know about them.

Unlike today, there were many wild bees that could be found in the woods. If a tree looked like a potential spot for a bee hive, it would be watched closely for bee activity. When the bees started swarming outside, this was a signal that it was time to rob the hive in the tree. Big Daddy would cut down the tree as gently as he could. Often, he would have Uncle Joe there to help, and they would not only get the honey, but also the bees as well. How did they capture the bees? Tootsie said they could get the bees to stop swarming by banging on a plow with anything metal. The bees would swarm to the plow where an empty hive had been placed nearby awaiting the bees.

Tootsie said that there was no sound like the sound of swarming bees. Everyone recognized the sound and knew what to do. You were to get something metal and beat on it with a metal spoon or rod to stop the bees until the swarm could get captured. Tootsie herself did this a couple of times although after doing so she would run to the fields to get help from Big Daddy. She told me that you could see the swarm of bees as a ball flying through the air.

After robbing the bee hives, the honey and comb would be collected and put into quart jars. If the honey was particularly bountiful, some would be shared with neighbors who would do likewise when they robbed their bee hives. The honeycomb was what Tootsie loved; she would cut off a chunk to suck out the honey and then chew on the remaining comb. A jar of honey was generally kept on the dinner table and made a meal of biscuit and gravy especially tasty. Some things never change!

Big Daddy's son, Fessie, wasn't a beekeeper but he allowed the Homans of Shannon to keep some hives on his farm back during the 70s and 80s. In exchange, the Homans kept Fessie and Beck in honey. The Homan brothers, who still are in the bee business, were a great resource for Mike when he re-established new colonies of bees in Peaceful Valley last year. According to the Homans, the honey from Peaceful Valley bees has a unique taste due to the peppervine plant that grows down in the Tombigbee River bottom. This is true. The small bit of honey that was gathered last year had a wonderfully distinctive flavor.

Last year was not a good year for the Peaceful Valley bees. The early summer months were unusually wet, and the bees did not have enough opportunities to gather pollen for their hives. They had honey heading into the fall, but not enough for us to rob their hives and still leave the bees some to live on during the winter months. Just a little bit was gathered, shared, and quickly gone. Winter was hard on the bees too, with two or three long hard freezes, but most of the bees came through with some minor losses.

With the coming of spring, new bees have been acquired and placed inside newly built hives. More hives should equate into more honey but we'll see how it goes. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Peaceful Valley Bees

Some stories can only be captured by photos. Imagine the free bees hanging in a swarm on the young walnut tree, watching my Uncle Pat and son Penn "work" the domesticated bees in the hives. Who has it best? The free bees, or those living in the man-made boxes and drinking free sugar water? Well, the pictures below show that freedom is not forever as Pat and Penn can be seen capturing the wild swarm.

The apiary is just east of Fessie's barn, and the hives belong to Pat and Mike. Penn is turning into a fine apiculturalist, and the colorful hive, or brood, boxes were painted by Rebekah.

These Peaceful Valley bees have a diverse background. Most are Italian, but there are Russian and Carnolian bees as well. Of course, now they are all Itawambians!

Photos are courtesy of Cousin Don Dulaney.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

WWII Vets Welcomed

Mike and I have been in D.C. the past few days on business - Mike with his court stuff and me with research at the National Archives and DAR Library. Yesterday was a long travel day that started with our arriving at the Reagan National airport in D.C. around 8 a.m. and ended with our finally getting home near 1 a.m. this morning. Long story, but the second leg of our flight into Memphis got canceled and we spent ten hours in Charlotte.

The day, however, started off with a bright spot in the D.C. airport. As we got in line for the security check, we saw and heard a group of folks clapping and hollering as several elderly men exited the gate area of the airport. Soon, people standing in line started clapping their hands as well. The men (and some women!) were World War II veterans who were arriving in the nation's capital as part of the Honor Flight organization which is a nonprofit, volunteer-run network that honors World War II veterans by flying them, free of charge, to see their memorial in Washington, D.C.

As we passed through security and entered the gate area, there was a large welcoming crowd along with a small band that was playing patriotic tunes. Every veteran was getting off the plane with a huge smile on his or her face. Some were in wheel chairs, and all were very happy to be there. If you would like to donate to this worthy cause, click here to learn about a tax-deductible gift. You may even know of an Itawamba veteran who would be interested to learn of this entirely free flight to see their memorial.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Life Goes On

All that is left of the old William Hugh Pennington-Ethel Dee Sloan homeplace is this chimney. Termites had destroyed the home's foundation and had invaded the rafters when they were discovered a few years ago. After salvaging as much of the lumber, doors, etc. from the four-room house as possible, it was burned with the help of the Cardsville Volunteer Fire Department. The house, which was built in 1945, held a lot of memories for a lot of folks. We were surprised last spring to see these old-fashioned petunias blooming out of the old fireplace My mother said she remembered that her grandmother grew those flowers but had not seen them blooming in years. Apparently the seeds had remained dormant for over fifty years before reappearing.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Different Loyd-style Pottery Marker

Terry Thornton, over at Hill Country of Monroe County, came across this unusual brown-glazed Loyd-style grave marker in one of Itawamba County's cemeteries recently. Terry does a great job in photographing and cataloging old and/or abandoned cemeteries of Itawamba and Monroe Counties, and his website is well-worth a visit if you haven't already checked it out. You can reach it by clicking on the Hill Country H.O.G.S. Webpress link to the left of this post.

On one of Terry's forays to an old cemetery, he found this marker half-covered with dirt, but he knew instantly that it was a Loyd-style marker. (For more information from Terry about this style of grave marker, you can click here.) The grave markers made and patented by the William P. Loyd family have a distinctive and well-recognized style and are found with blue-glazed lettering. Since my ancestors include the Loyd family of potters, Terry asked if I had seen or heard of a brown-glazed marker. I haven't so this is a real find. We don't know if the marker was made by the Loyd family, or if it was made by one of the other pottery shops that made the markers under license from the Loyd family.

In addition to the find of the brown-glazed marker, there was another "find" when I read Terry's post about the cemetery. William P. Loyd's daughter, Ellen, is buried in that cemetery! I had lost track of Ellen after the 1910 census in which she and her husband were living with their son, Walter Linwood Dickinson. Most of the information I had about Ellen came from Loyd family researcher, James Edgar Shotts who died in 1999. Mr. Shotts had indicated that Ellen had been married three times, once to a "carpetbagger," but the names of her first two husbands are not known. Thanks to Terry's visit to Little Cemetery and his photographing and cataloging of the tombstones there, I now know Ellen's full name (Amanda Ellen) and her actual dates of birth and death. In addition, I learned of a heretofore unknown child, Cora, who was two years old when she died in 1878. Thank you, Terry!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Clifton and Cora Haney Davis

Clifton Lanier Davis, pictured above, was the oldest son of Joab Washington Davis. Census records indicate that he was a blacksmith and a preacher, and in his father's 1946 obituary he was living in Pocahontas, Arkansas. Clifton was married to Cora Isabell Haney, and after Clifton's death in 1951 Cora remarried to another Davis fellow, Sheriff Morgan Davis. Morgan was the son of Samuel McGee Davis. Samuel and Joab were half-brothers, sons of Jesse B. Davis, a Georgia native who moved his family from St. Clair County, Alabama to Itawamba County, Mississippi around 1870. Joyce Blue, granddaughter of Clifton and Cora, shared these photos with me. Joyce lives in New Hampshire and is interested in any information about the Joab Davis family. There is some indication that Joab was married to Amanda "Mandy" Cantrell but have found no support for that conclusion. She may have been a Tharp, based on early census records, but that is inconclusive too. Thanks, Joyce, for sharing the photos with us.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Rachel McNiece Dulaney

This is a familiar picture that accompanies most Dulaney family histories. It has appeared alongside the Dulaney family history in the Itawamba County Times as well as the historical society's publication Itawamba Families. Rachel McNiece was married to Alfred Dulaney, one of the original three Dulaney brothers who arrived in Itawamba County in the early 1830s. She was born in 1812 in South Carolina, the daughter of Henry and Polly McNiece. [This surname can be found spelled also as McNeece, McNeese, and even Macknese. ]

Rachel and Alfred had ten children, all but one who lived and died in Itawamba County. Their son Thomas moved to Arkansas, and his descendants are scattered throughout Arkansas and Texas.

I think the reason that we so often see Rachel McNiece's photograph alongside Dulaney family histories, aside from the fact that she married a Dulaney, is that this is one of the oldest, if not THE oldest, photograph from that generation of Dulaneys. Yesterday, I had the occasion to the see the original 8 x 10 inch tintype photograph of Rachel and meet its owner: Charlie Dulaney, son of Vecil Dulaney and great-great-grandson of Alfred Dulaney and Rachel McNiece. Cousin Charlie was gracious enough to meet with Don and me yesterday at his lovely home in Batesville during a busy Saturday afternoon. In addition to Rachel's photograph, he shared original Civil War-era letters from the Dulaney and McNeiece families - true treasures to be sure. Just to hold and read letters from that era was amazing. Vecil Dulaney, Charlie's father, was an early family historian and his collection has been a wonderful resource for johnny-come-lately genealogists such as myself.

The scanned version of Rachel's photograph, above, certainly looks fresher than the other copies I've had or seen, and I'm grateful for Charlie Dulaney's spirit of sharing.

Friday, April 16, 2010

That's some fish

It's time for a fish photo. Several in my family have been fishing lately, although none have a caught a fish nearly this big! Elby William Davis, center, is holding what appears to be a prize catfish in this circa 1950s photograph. Elby was the son of James Kelly Davis and Queenie Victoria Clayton, and brother to my grandmother Beck.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Bridge over the River Tombigbee

Fulton News Beacon
February 16, 1933

The "new road" appears to be what is now known as Highway 278, although today Highway 278 veers up toward Tupelo and bypasses Okolona. It also travels west out of Oxford toward the Mississippi Delta instead of north to Holly Springs.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Luke, Pearl and James

The occasion could have been Daddy's (James) graduation from Fulton Grammar School. Or it could have been made before church one Sunday. In any event, it appears that the Robinson family was dressed up for something. I don't recognize the background or the building. Note that Luke has his right hand behind his back? Probably holding the ever-present, but not usually lit, cigar. What a flashy tie he has on!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

John Gainey Sloan homeplace

John Gainey and Dora Sloan lived in this house with their family of eight children. The house, built in 1935, was located along the Carolina-Van Buren Road in the Peaceful Valley community. Within hollering distance were the homes of some of Gainey's siblings: Luther, Dee (my great-grandmother), Zadie, and Cliff. Gainey's house burned in 1952, a couple of years after he died. Today, there remains a couple of Sloan descendants within hollering distance of the old homeplace: Zadie Sloan Blake's grandson, Bobby Joe Blake, and Ethel Dee Pennington's granddaughter, Brenda Pennington Gilmore.

If you click on the photo, you can see a woman standing in the bottom left-hand corner, probably Aunt Dora, and there are a couple of children sitting on the front steps.

Gainey's granddaughter, Acel, shared the photo with me. I found the following newspaper item which indicated a fine Sunday dinner at the John Gainey Sloan home in 1946.

Itawamba County Times
March 21, 1946
New Bethel News

Sunday dinner guests in the J. G. Sloan home were: Mr. and Mrs. Woodford Grace and son, Tomasette of Memphis, Mr. and Mrs. Coy Bean and sons, Joel and Charles and Mrs. Nancy Bean of Cardsville. Others visiting were: Miss Clara Nell Pennington, Mr. and Mrs. Luther Sloan, daughters, Ruth and Maecile, Mr. and Mrs. William Newton and children, Mrs. Boyd Allen and son of Aberdeen, Mrs. Elva Burdine, Miss Audie Neal, Mr. J. E. Newton, Mrs. Lawrence Cox, Miss Jessie Ellen Sloan, Mrs. Shellie Lindsey, Mrs. Ogal Sloan and Mr. Aqulis Sloan.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Wedded Couple

Henry Mills and Glader Johnson were married November 5, 1933. The above picture of the couple was photographed in December, just one month later. That is a mighty fine suit that Henry is wearing, probably his wedding attire. And doesn't Glader look beautiful? Click on the photo for a closer look.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

W D Suggs Jug

Rebekah and I came across this W. D. Suggs jug, labeled as a "Mississippi whiskey jug" although I don't know if that is exactly right. Although the jug could have been used to store whiskey, I'm sure there were other more likely liquids. Water? Milk? Sweet tea!

It is unusual to see such a jug with an intact handle. First, there weren't that many of these jugs made, relative to the production of more popular churns which is what is primarily found in antique shops and private collections. And, the looped handle is intact which is very nice to find. The price for this jug? $375 Mr. Suggs would be astonished, I'm sure.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Singing Thorntons

Thornton siblings - Nora, Ira and Thomas - were caught on camera singing at church, probably Sandy Springs Baptist Church, and the picture was shared with me by Glenda Johnson, Nora Thornton Johnson's granddaughter. Wouldn't it be wonderful to have a video tape, or even an audio tape, of this trio's performance? The Thorntons were a musical family, and Nora was said to have had a beautiful alto voice. Nora's children were also musically talented. Click here for a previous post about their musical talents.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Luke and Mona

That's me as a baby, or toddler I should say, in the lap of my grandfather, Luke Lee Robinson. We are sitting on the front porch of the Robinson house on East Main Street in Fulton (formerly Highway 78). Not sure what Granddad was holding in his other hand, but it was usually the stub of a cigar.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Easter 2010

A few scenes from the Easter gathering at Peaceful Valley yesterday. Next year we hope to have some little ones toddling around, something that we haven't had in quite a while. Penningtons have been gathering to hunt eggs for centuries (!) in Peaceful Valley, but this year we had the pleasure of the visit of the Easter Bunny.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter, Y'all!

Beck Pennington, a few Easters ago,
with one of her special cakes

Saturday, April 3, 2010


Grandchildren of Napoleon "Poley" Johnson and Mary Elizabeth Lester

From left to right: Mary, Mauvilla, Mauvillene and Cora Williams (daughters of Mittie Anne Johnson and Randolph Williams) with Lawrence Tucker (son of Ollie L. Johnson and Thomas Arlandgo Tucker). Seated in front is Olun Dulaney, son of Arvilla Johnson and Porter Gainsville Dulaney.

Terry Wilemon shared the photograph and Mary Williams Dulaney identified those in the picture (including herself!).

Friday, April 2, 2010

Abbie Dulaney

Don Dulaney met a new cousin this past week, and she shared a photograph of her father with him. Marjorie Adams is a descendant of John Dulaney, one of the original three Dulaney brothers who came to Itawamba County in the early 1830s, and she still lives in Baldwyn where Don tracked her down. Marjorie's father was Alfred Guy Adams, nicknamed Abbie, and he was known for his fish ponds as evidenced by the above picture.

Abbie Adams was the grandson of old John Dulaney, born in 1803 in South Carolina and died in 1889 near Baldwyn. Abbie's mother was Flora (sometimes found as Florida or Florinda) Dulaney and his father was John W. Adams.

There were only four children born to John Dulaney's second wife, Martha Patton. One son died young, and the other son had no children. Both of the sons are buried at the Masonic Cemetery at Baldwyn. Of John's two daughters, Mattie moved off to Texas with her family, but his daughter Flora stayed in Baldwyn where many of her descendants can be found today. The descendants of John Dulaney and his first wife, Margaret Martin, are scattered about Itawamba County and beyond.