Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Cousin Don speaks.....

I recently asked Cousin Mona for the opportunity to share some of my favorite Itawamba county related photos with the followers of Itawamba Connections. I wanted the opportunity to give the readers a true feeling of the daily lives the people of Itawamba have been blessed with. These vivid stories are best told through a series of pictures I have collected of Old Itawamba County Home Places. When Ms. Mona graciously allowed me access to this blog, I started searching my collection for the perfect photo that would capture the true character of a people, the land, and the 175 year romance between them.

However, I soon discovered that these true southern stories are best told in a series. When I first started researching the “Dulaneys of Itawamba County” and their extended families, I was quick to discount a home place if it did not present a good vision of the original structure. As I became a more seasoned researcher, I came to understand the importance of every single clue and the light it could shed on the mysteries of the past. I then made the snakes and spiders move over, started digging in the ruins, and soon developed a passion for the story each dwelling has to offer.

Similar to the Chickasaw before them, early settlers used the rich soil of Itawamba to develop a “seed corn of life” enriched with deep morals, a strong faith in God, and a character developed by the sweat of their brow, as well as, decades of scorching Mississippi blisters upon their back. Through years of harvesting the bounties of Itawamba County, we find in ourselves a strong resemblance to the past. So I decided to start my stories with one of the pleasures Mona and I enjoy in doing research. At first glance the picture above does not seem like much, but it speaks volumes about the life of the George West(1855-1937) and Mary Elizabeth Dulaney West(1857-1913).

First let's talk about a common feature of the old house, which is the "Dog Trot" or "Breezeway" if you like. The dogtrot is believed to originated in the Appalachian area. So what does it tell me about Mary and George? They had air-conditioning! Yes, air-conditioning. A yellow pine door that gave entrance to the kitchen was on one side of the dogtrot, and on the other side was a bedroom that also served as a sitting room. Open a window in each, and a slow draft is created and cooled by our "breeze way".

The sitting room usually had one or more beds and straight back chairs circled in front of a sandstone fire place. The interior furnishings of both rooms, as well as its inhabitants, smelled of smoke. Burning a split piece of rich red oak wood, started with a splinter off of a cedar or pine starter knot, gave heat to the fireplace and wood burning stove. The ole fire place usually had a pine or oak mantle complete with the coal oil lamp and perhaps some hickory twigs used for brushing their teeth or used for a dipper for their Dental snuff. The soot from the chimney made good tooth paste at the time, not to mention a glisten of a shine. The snuff glasses made good drinking glasses and often could be found on the mantel, full of buttons, old coins or other necessities.

I can just see ole Mary with one foot on the hearth, pushed back on the two back legs of a straight back chair, a needle pinched between her chapped lips, listening to George tell how "Dulaney Branch is solid enuff to walk over"as he throws a back stick on the fire and pokes the fire up. Add a Sears Catalog -- it not only serves as a fire starter, but good reading in the sitting room and essential in the outhouse if corncobs were scarce. I could go on, as the picture of this old house "speaks" to me even more, but I'll stop here.


Anonymous said...

Well, Cousin Don, your photography says a lot for your endeavors! You are fortunate that some of these old homeplaces are still standing even tho they may not be habitable.

Since my maternal GGGgrandparents, John A. Dyer and Lena MNU came to what they believed to be Marion County in 1830 (later to be Itawamba Co along hwy 23 on the southern Itawamba county line with Monroe County - the maps say Turon, I have climbed the hill to the tabletop area where their homestead was located -powdery white sand is all that remains next to the Dyer Cemetery. It makes your skin tingle to have those touching moments recalling where your roots began.

My grandfather bought a Cody family farm in southwest Marion Co. AL in 1904 that contained the old Cody/Wright cabin located on the Amory, MS museum (old Amory Hospital) and I have memories of seeing it when I was less than 7 years old. It was a thrill to step inside the restored cabin in 2003 while attending a Cody family reunion.

We look forward to reading of your ancestors - were they known to any of my paternal Stone ancestors who entered Alabma via St. Clair County also? Will I gain anything about my ancestors while reading about yours? bettye

Arvel said...

Outstanding article Don.

REbekah said...

Enjoyed it, Don!

Don Dulaney said...

Thanks guys, Ms. Bettye, I enjoy reading your comments, I always learn something. Mona is the authority, If we connect Im sure she can explain it. And I am sure we do! Glad you guys liked it.