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.