The Deason Home, completed in 1847, is the oldest home in Jones County and the scene of the infamous shooting of Major Amos McLemore by Newton Knight during the Civil War. The home is being lovingly restored by its owners, the Tallahala Chapter NSDAR. It has the reputation of being one of the most haunted locations in Mississippi.
Ground penetrating radar helps locate the outbuildings on historic properties. Two such buildings were recently located at the Deason Home.
The Deason Home originally had only 4 rooms attached to the house – the parlor and 3 bedrooms. This meant that there were many outbuildings on the property that were actually a part of the home. We know there was a separate kitchen, smoke house, barn and of course, a privy.
Recently, we were fortunate to have Dr. David Holt and Dr. Grant Harley from the University of Southern Mississippi Geography Department bring ground penetrating radar to help us determine the location of some of these outbuildings on the Deason Home property. GPR uses radar pulses to image the subsurface. It is completely nondestructive, using radio waves to locate objects underground including rock, soil not originally found in the area, water and remnants of old structures.
The original Deason Home property included 700 acres. Many of the outbuildings were probably located on what is now South Jones school property. Dr. Holt ran the GPR all over the yard of the Deason Home. He found water not far below the ground and also located a sizable area where it appeared dirt had been removed and then fill dirt brought in to fill in the hole.
Dr. Holt discovered the position of two outbuildings which more than likely belonged to the Deasons. To the right of the house, there is a filled in well. Just in front of that well, there was once a large structure. With its proximity to the well and home, we are reasonably sure that this building was the original kitchen. After closely studying the oldest picture of the home (pre 1890), we can actually see this structure to the side of the home. The privy was also found on the back of the property to the left of the home. It was quite a hike from the house, but surely the distance was a necessity!
We are very grateful to Dr. Harley and Dr. Holt for their interest in our home. Every little detail we can glean helps us to better understand the history of this wonderful old home.
Dr. David Holt operating the GPR.
Dr. Grant Harley, USM, Dr. Justine Jones, Deason Home Board, and Dr. David Holt, USM
Dendrochronology, the study of tree rings, is used to date structures. The Deason Home findings were surprising.
The Deason Home is the oldest home in Jones County. Several years ago, the Tallahala Chapter NSDAR, owners of the Amos Deason Home were contacted by Dr. Grant Harley, geography professor at the University of Southern Mississippi. Dr. Harley teaches a dendrochronology class, which is the study of tree rings. This scientific method of dating is based on the analysis of patterns of tree rings or growth rings. Each ring represents one year of growth for the tree with temperature and moisture affecting the amount of growth for that year. Data is collected from trees in the area as well as old structures to give the researcher a baseline to compare samples taken from additional structures and trees. Wood from existing structures can be analyzed to determine the date(s) of construction.
Dr. Harley and his students first visited the Deason Home in September, 2014. They took samples from the weatherboards (the blocks on the house that resemble stone), from underneath the house and from the attic. The team was especially excited to find wood in the attic with bark which assured them that they had complete samples. Different parts of the home were added at different times, so samples were taken from each part of the house. These samples were extracted with a hollow shaft drill bit. Once the samples were removed, the location of each sample within the house was cataloged and a map of the house was drawn. The samples were taken back to USM to be polished and studied to determine their age.
This study has become a labor of love for Dr. Harley. He has returned to the home several times to gather more samples to confirm his findings. He is presently compiling the results of this study to be published in an academic journal in the coming year
Surprisingly, Harley’s team has dated the beginning construction of the house as the mid 1830s, a full decade before the accepted date of 1845. We know that Ed Chapman began construction on the home but died before it was completed. Evidently, he started the home earlier than we knew and the home must have remained unfinished for a while before Boyles McManus finished it.
The addition to the home has always puzzled those connected to the home. Interior rooms have windows facing the halls and it has always been a theory that the addition was an existing building or buildings joined to the existing home. We know the rooms were added around 1890. Testing proved that the trees in this portion of the home were actually cut between 1855-1865, so it appears this portion was built during that time period and added to the Deason Home and so it appears the addition was not new construction.
Additional information from this study tells us that the trees used in the Deason Home were growing before Columbus came to America. This is almost impossible to comprehend. The proud old cedar tree beside the home was also tested and dates back to the 1830s as well. The Deason Home is an amazing structure and we are so fortunate to have it standing today and its condition is a tribute to the builders who constructed it.
For more information about the Deason Home, please visit http://www.deasonhome.org. The home is open for tours on the first and third Saturday of each month.
A trip through the Anderson Minter Cemetery in Old Town.
Ellisville was a bustling town when the Deasons arrived from Lauderdale County in the 1840s. Now a drive through the mostly wooded area known as “Old Town” could give one a feeling of melancholy. The buildings are gone, the people are gone, the “bustle” has given way to trees, mosquitoes and an occasional boxturtle crossing the road. The railroad enticed the town to move and rebuild to the west – maybe they called it progress…
Off the peaceful little road, scarcely wider than one lane, you can find two cemeteries. One is close to the road and easy to find. This is the Bynum Cemetery. The other, the Anderson Minter Cemetery, can be found only if you know where to look. It, like the Bynum Cemetery, is the final resting place of many familiar names from Ellisville’s history. Scarecly 2 miles from the Deason Home, one can picture the sad processions made from the home to the cemetery as one by one these early pioneers of Ellisville passed away.
This tiny cemetery is located at the top of a bluff…. the land drops off and the Tallahala Creek curls its way through the woods nearby. The first thing you see upon entering the cemetery is the Anderson monument. Walk a little further and you will find the Anderson family. Isaac Anderson, Sr. (1785 – 1871) is there between his two wives, Teresa Powell Anderson (1789 – 1850) and Sarah Deason Anderson (1829 – 1873), their old markers replaced with new ones or their graves would surely have disappeared long ago. The second owners of the Deason Home – Isaac Anderson, Jr. (1856 – 1903) and his wife Sallie Pool Anderson (1859 – 1939) are close by. There are other Andersons there, too, together forever on this quiet hill.
Walk a little further and you will find Amos Deason (1806 – 1878) and his wife Eleanor Baskin Deason (1816 – 1888). Eleanor was born on July 4, only 40 years after our nation first declared its independence on that day. The Deasons’ headstones have been replaced also, and many thanks go out to the person who made it possible for future generations to find their forefathers buried there. The Deasons’daughter Mary Ann Deason Jordan is nearby. Their third daughter Dorcas Deason Parker is buried close to Heidelberg where she and her husband Henry settled and raised their family.
A walk through the cemetery can prove entertaining as well. There are little statues and figurines placed on loved ones’ graves by those who knew them best. Every trip to this peaceful place turns up new treasures. There is a very healthy cactus growing in a green bathroom sink – complete with faucet! A concrete picnic table and bench is placed to the side, presumably so family members can enjoy a meal with their dearly departed. And visitor beware! There are fire ant beds aplenty. Consider yourself forewarned. There are also other past residents of Ellisville resting there in peace (hopefully). Sadly some stones are illegible and others are broken, while still others have weathered the elements quite well. Every family represented in this cemetery had a part in making Ellisville what it is today. Many thanks to them for their courage, strength and vision for the future.
Visit deasonhome.org for more information about Jones County’s oldest home.