Unexpected Gift Has Become a Labor of Love for the Ellisville DAR Chapter

The ladies of the Tallahala Chapter NSDAR have worked tirelessly to renovate the Deason Home, the oldest home in Jones County, MS.

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.

Where’s the Privy?

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!

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Look over and to the left of the front steps and you will see what we believe is the old kitchen.

 

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.

For more information, please visit our website – http://www.deasonhome.org

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It’s how old?

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.

 

 

Resting in Peace

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.

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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.

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Visit deasonhome.org for more information about Jones County’s oldest home.

 

Old Town

The story of Ellisville’s early days

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Ellisville:  The water of the Tallahala ran deep and clear and animals enjoyed the freedom and fragrance of the verdant forests which guarded the winding banks of the creek when the firs white settlers came to the area now known as Ellisville.  The year was 1795.  The name of that settler is lost to history, but when he arrived with his family and constructed a log dwelling on the banks of the creek he established the beginning of a small community of hard-working people who came this way to seek a home and better life. This pioneer citizen subsequently built a ferry on the road leading to Paulding and Mobile.

Located in the long leaf pine region of the state, Jones County in finely timbered.  On the rivers and creeks are found oaks, hickory, elm, beech, ash, bay, gum and magnolia.  The soil in generally thin and sandy on the uplands, fertile in the creek and river bottoms.  It produces cotton, corn, oats, potatoes, sugar-cane, sorghum, field peas, peanuts, and most of the vegetables and fruits.  The scuppernong grape thrives in the region and pecan nuts are grown in abundance.  Pasturage for stock is good and sheep husbandry and the raising of livestock are rapidly growing industries.

Jones County, Mississippi was established January 24, 1826 and carved from the existing counties of Covington and Wayne.  The boundaries were declared to be “all that part of Covington County lying west of the center of range fourteen, and all that part of Wayne County lying west of range nine.”  The northern boundary is formed by the Old Choctaw line established by the treaty of Mt. Dexter, Nov. 16, 1805, which divides it from Jasper County, and its southern boundary is formed by the line between townships five and six which divides it from Perry County.  It has a land surface of 674 square miles and was named in honor of Commodore John Paul Jones, the founder of the American Navy.  The county is well watered by the Leaf River, which flows through the western part and by the Tallahala, Tallahoma and Bogue Homa Creeks, together with their numerous tributaries.

Ellisville was declared the county seat and when it was first established {Today referred to as Old Town or Old Ellisville} it was on the high banks of Tallahala Creek about a mile north of the present site of the town.  Ellisville was founded in the early 1800s.  Some historians give 1817 as the date while others give 1826 or 1827 as the correct date.  However the official charter date is accepted as 1826.  This was fifty years after the birth of the United States in 1776 and nine years after Mississippi statehood in 1817.  Old Ellisville in 1841 was described as a court house and a mere cluster of houses–some four or five.  One of these houses was said to have been an Inn.  However it eventually grew into a little town that initially boasted a courthouse, jail, hotel, cotton gin, a half-dozen stores and about fifteen homes.  Today little but lore marks the tenure where Old Ellisville had its beginnings.

The town was named for Powahatan Ellis, a member of the Supreme Court and United States Senator, said to be a descendent of Pocahontas, Ellis, a native of Virginia, moved to Mississippi and began his political career in 1818.  Now after all those accolades, the rest of the story.   He was said to have rendered a strange decision in a case of Bradley vs. the State.  He held to the old feudal doctrine that “a husband might chastise an obstreperous wife, provided he used a rod no larger than the thumb.”  Obstreperous translated means noisy, boisterous or unruly especially resisting or opposing.  In essence, he advocated spouse spanking to keep the lady of the house in line.  Powhatan Ellis never married.  Another event that Ellis can lay claim to fame is being remembered as “The Man Who Lost His Underdrawers.”  The story goes that one day while Ellis, a chubby little man, was traveling he came upon Tallahala Creek that was swollen from recent rain.  In attempting to ford the creek, he stepped into a deep part and went under water.  As he was struggling to prevent sure drowning, he turned loose of his travel bag and it drifted away.  A few days later he posted an advertisement in the newspaper for return of his bag and included all its contents, even his under drawers.  Oh well we all can’t be perfect – We still like the name Ellisville.

The population of Ellisville and Jones County grew rapidly for several years until the Choctaw lands of North Mississippi were opened for settlement.  An emigration at that time began which almost depopulated the county.

Ten years later in 1836 the county had a population of only 1017 whites and 108 slaves and until the advent of railroads around 1882-1884 it remained one of the most sparsely settled and unproductive counties in the state.  The advent of the railroad was a milestone in the history of both Ellisville and Jones County.

The Ellisville News   Newspaper Industrial Edition, Apr 18, 1902.

http://www.deasonhome.org

 

Haunted House?

From heavy footsteps to opening doors to children peeking out the windows of an empty house, the Deason Home seems to be host to some ghostly inhabitants!

 

house2Constructed around 1845, it is only natural that this old historic home be connected to the distant past with recorded truths, legends and tales of its occupants and their lives.  A mystery of murder, blood stains, buried gold, secret passages, deaths, funerals, squeaking hinges and yes, ghosts! remain a part of the Deason Home legacy.

The most notorious occurrence in the home is, of course, the shooting of Major Amos McLemore by Newt Knight.  McLemore was a guest of the Deasons when he was shot.  His blood soaked the heart pine floor in the bedroom where he fell.  No amount of scrubbing could completely remove this stain since it soaked through and ran down the joists below the flooring.  After that infamous night, family members reported that the door would fly open on the anniversary of the shooting and so the reputation of the home being haunted began.

Young Jennie Anderson passed away in the home around 1884-1885.  She was the bride of George Anderson, Eleanor Deason’s grandson.  The young couple had moved into the home to stay with Eleanor, who was widowed.  Sadly, Jennie died either while giving birth or shortly after the birth  of the couples’ only child, a daughter named A. Viola Anderson.  Jennie’s body was lovingly laid out adorned by gardenias clipped from the bushes on the grounds.  Her funeral was held on the front porch of the Deason Home.  Family and friends stood in the front yard while the funeral eulogy was delivered.  Jennie’s spirit is said to roam the Deason grounds in May when the gardenias peak in full bloom.  On occasion at dusk, a hazy specter can be seen drifting among the fragrant flowers followed by a sudden rustling of their leaves.

Before the elementary school moved to its new location across town, students at the old school often asked their teachers who the children in the old house were and why they weren’t in school.  Many former students will swear that they saw several little children looking out of the Deason Home windows and watching them play …. but the home was uninhabited at the time, at least by the living…..

After the home was given to the DAR, the ladies worked inside the home sanding and scraping paint, often into the wee hours of the night.  They experienced mysterious sounds and shadowy figures.  Contractors hired to rewire and re-plumb the home had some strange experiences as well.  Lights would turn on after the workers had turned them off and work completed one day would be undone when they arrived back the next morning. It seems the spirits were not happy about their home being changed in any way.

The spirits seem to dislike modern technology.  Batteries drain of their charges quickly in the home.  One camera placed in the attic to record ghostly motion was unusable when retrieved at the end of a ghost hunt and another camera placed in the attic was never found.  At least one cell phone was also unusable after a night at the Deason Home, its charging port melted.

There are enough stories to fill a book and in fact the ladies are currently working on a book about all the strange experiences they have had in the home.  The spirits are usually just playful, opening doors, drawers and curtains to let us know they are there.  Ghost hunts are usually eventful, too.  They are scheduled quite often.  If you would like to attend one, please visit our website or watch for events on our Facebook page.  Maybe you will get a chance to meet one of the residents of the Deason Home in person!

http://www.deasonhome.org

 

Anderson Family

The second owners of the Deason Home were grandson Isaac Anderson, Jr. and his wife Sallie Pool. They were responsible for the only additions to the home.

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The Anderson Family purchased the home after Eleanor Deason passed away.

Today, nestled between two modern schools, the Deason Home of “French Raised Cottage” design at the corner of Deason and Anderson Streets in Ellisville, seems oddly misput in its current surroundings.  Additions and modifications were made around 1890 when Amos Deason’s grandson, Isaac Anderson, Jr. and his wife Sarah Rebecca “Sallie” Pool, acquired the house after Eleanor Deason’s death in 1888.  Here they reared ten children, three of whom were born in the house.  Today the basic structure of the house stands much as it did in the 1890s.

Upon acquiring the property in 1890, Isaac Anderson Jr. took on a building and renovation project to accommodate his large growing family.  He enclosed porches, extended one of the small bedrooms, added rooms to the back and side of the house with connecting halls and brought the kitchen inside.

Of particular interest to the additions is the back left corner bedroom with four windows looking out on the back and side of the house.  This is referred to as Ma’s room (Sarah Rebecca Pool Anderson) and is known to have been the bedroom of Mr. and Mrs. Anderson.  This room is also referred to as the “summer borning room” because of the cool breeze that swept the room from the four windows  When it came time for birth during the hot summers, this was the coolest room in the house and allowed for complete privacy.  Mr. Isaac Anderson Jr. died in this room when Annie, his youngest child was two years old.

After the death of Isaac Anderson Jr. on April 14, 1903 [Age 47], Mrs. Anderson remained a widow 36 years and lived in the house until her death on August 6, 1939 [Age 79].  After her death the property remained in the Anderson Estate and was lived in  by various family members until 1965.  Needless to say that by this time the house was in disrepair.

Welton Smith and his wife Frances Anderson acquired the property in 1965 and started limited renovations to preserve the house and suit their life style.  In doing the remodeling they were careful to preserve this stately old homes’ original four room layout and basic exterior.

Today the house consists of the original layout: front porch, back porch with utility room, ten rooms, two closets, enclosed stairwell to attic and connecting hallways.  The present ten rooms are:  vestibule, parlor, sunroom, 3 bedrooms, formal dining room, breakfast room, kitchen, and bathroom.

For more information, please visit our website at http://www.deasonhome.org.  The home is open on the first and third Saturday of each month from 1 – 4 PM.  $5 admission.  Private tours and ghost hunts are also scheduled.  Be sure to like us on Facebook!  (Deason Home)