Unexpected Gift Has Become a Labor of Love for the Ellisville DAR Chapter
The Tallahala Chapter National Society Daughters of the American Revolution was organized in 1983. Little did these ladies know that in less than ten years, their group would own the oldest home in Jones County. The Deason Home in Ellisville was given to the chapter by Mrs. Frances Anderson Smith, the third owner of the home and descendant of both Amos Deason (first owner) and Isaac Anderson, Jr. (second owner). The home had been in the Anderson Estate for 25 years when Mrs. Smith and her husband Welton bought it in 1965. The Smiths began a limited restoration of the home before gifting it to the Tallahala Chapter.
In early 1991, Mrs. Smith donated the historic home to the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution with the stipulation that it be preserved as a historical entity for all the people of Jones County, present and future generations. Another stipulation was that the house be open at intervals to school children and the general public. Over the years Mrs. Smith, an avid genealogist and preservationist, had made acquaintance and become close friends with the DAR membership. The local Tallahala Chapter had also held various open houses for Mrs. Smith while she was living in the house. With these ties, she decided the time was right to act. One day Frances just presented the chapter with the deed to the Amos Deason Home.
It took the new owners a while to set a plan in motion to restore the home to its former glory. Mrs. Smith was responsible for having the home listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Tallahala Chapter also had the home designated as a Mississippi Landmark. This designation made the home eligible for a Landmark Grant. After receiving this grant, the task of restoring the home was begun in earnest. A new roof, central heat and air, old wiring replaced with state-of-the-art wiring, re-plumbing for gas and water, and remodeled bathrooms and kitchen, were just a few of the improvements made in the early 2000s. Sadly, the money from the grant ran out long before all the needs of the house could be addressed.
With the grant money depleted and limited funds available through fundraising, it became necessary for the ladies to do as much work as possible themselves. The home was often lit well into the night as ladies scraped, sanded, puttied, washed walls with bleach to eradicate mildew, primed and painted each room, often after working a full day at their real jobs. Period colors were used in each room. The fireplaces and mantels were restored with a faux marble mantel in the parlor (faux stone was discovered under the many layers of paint) and rubbed wood finish in Grandma’s room. Antique replacement mantels were used in Ma’s room and the breakfast room. These fireplaces had been removed by a former owner. Floors were sanded and either painted or stained, with the original finish replicated in each room.
With the inside of the home almost completely restored, work began on the outside. The front porch was rebuilt in the summer of 2012. Over the last year, the west and east side of the home have been completely restored. Rotten wood was replaced, weatherboards were sealed with caulk, and fresh paint made the home positively glow. The original part of the home has a very unique wood façade resembling stone blocks. Once the exterior was restored, the sand finish was replicated to restore the look of limestone. The outside work has become a source of pride for both the locals and Tallahala members, who can be seen driving past the home to admire its appearance, just as early settlers in Ellisville once rode past this same home to view the first painted house in the area.
All of this work carries a hefty price. The ladies of the DAR have become very experienced in fundraising. They host open houses regularly and the Halloween Reenactment (October 29) attracts hundreds of visitors each year. In keeping with one of the goals of the NSDAR, historic preservation, the ladies offer books about the Deason Home and Major Amos McLemore, the Confederate officer shot in the home by Newton Knight, of Free State of Jones fame. Four volumes have been compiled from stories and obituaries found in the crumbling pages of the Progress Item, a newspaper that was once published in Ellisville. Ellisville, Mississippi: A Testament to Our Ancestors Volumes 1 – 4 has become indispensable for those interested in the history of Ellisville and Jones County. Their latest book is just for fun. Strange Happenings at the Deason Home lives up to its name, telling about the experiences of the members in the home that simply cannot be explained! These books can be purchased at the Deason Home and Ward’s Pharmacy in Ellisville. Information for ordering books can be found on the Deason Home website, http://www.deasonhome.org. For information about tours and open houses, call 601-577-1066.
As is true with most old homes, work is never really complete. The home still needs to have the south side reworked. All windows need to be rebuilt and rotting wood replaced before the much anticipated paint can be applied that will signal the completion of the exterior work on the home. Once that paint has dried, the focus will be on the foundation, which has some major issues. Plans for a handicap access ramp are in the works. After approval is gained from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, the ladies will be seeking donations to help pay for this much needed addition.
The National Society Daughters of the American Revolution was founded in 1890 to promote historic preservation, education and patriotism. Its members are descended from the patriots who won American independence during the Revolutionary War. With more than 177,000 members in approximately 3,000 chapters worldwide, DAR is one of the world’s largest and most active service organizations. DAR members are committed to volunteer service having served more than 12.5 million hours in communities throughout the world during the past three years. To learn more about the work of today’s DAR, visit http://www.DAR.org or connect with DAR on social media at facebook.com/TodaysDAR, twitter.com/TodaysDAR and youtube.com/TodaysDAR.