Deason Home – A Landmark

Without nails, how does it stay together?

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Ellisville has grown into a prosperous little city.  No resemblance of what it was like when Amos and Eleanor (Baskin) Deason moved here from Lauderdale County, Mississippi shortly after 1840 and settled in their new home.  The couple and their three daughters originally came from Lancaster County, South Carolina from an area known as either Hanging Bucket or Hanging Rock.

The Deasons’ elaborate home of the times, characteristic of wealth, provided  stark contrast to the home of most farmers such as Jasper Collins or Newt Knight.  During this period the majority of Jones County’s population lived in one room split or pole log houses.  If you were of some wealth the house might be a double-pen log house or have an attic or loft.  Floors were optional, wood or dirt.  A few larger homes had separate kitchens, but most had the traditional fireplace inside which was used for both cooking and warmth during the winters.  Later the Deason Home would be used a a central gathering place for local merchants, soldiers and politicians.

Actual construction of the house is believed to have started in the 1830s by Ed Chapman who died prior to completion.  Boyle McManus is said to have complete the house later.  However the official date has been established as ca. 1845.  It is an accepted fact that Amos and Eleanor Deason were the first family to occupy the house and original 700 acre homestead.

 

The original house has two architectural features that are unique to this area and time period.  First the exterior of the house appears to be made of stone.  The planners employed a technique that George Washington had used at Mount Vernon to transform wood to the look of stone.  Second is the front entrance to the house which has a uniquely hexagon shaped vestibule with French doors opening onto the porch.  The doorway is flanked on each side by an angled side panel.  It is believed the original panel contained partial glass.

 

The house was built of hand hewn timbers from the hearts of virgin pine forests that surrounded the property at the time.  The heavy framework of the house was pinned together with wooden pegs.  The weatherboards [siding] were heavy pine panels fastened  by smaller wooden pins.  No nails as we know them today were available.  The full 1 1/2″ thick weatherboards, twelve inches wide were hand beveled on all four sides and then crossed beveled at twelve inch intervals to resemble blocks of masonry.  The weatherboards were then painted [more like a white wash], and an application of sand was applied to the wet paint, and then after drying a second coat of paint was affixed.  This gave the exterior an appearance of unpolished limestone or granite rather than wood.  This is similar to the style of George Washington’s home.  The moldings, doors and trim were made on site by skilled craftsmen and indentured labor.  Glass for windows and doors, hardware and other miscellaneous items had to be transported from Mobile.  Bricks for the chimney were made from native clay and burned on the homestead.

The original roof structure was stripped and lathing and hand split wooden shake shingles were applied in an interlocking method to prevent leaks.  One can still see the underside of the original lath and shingles from the attic.

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The home is open for tours the first and third Saturdays of each month.  Admission is $5.  Private tours and ghost hunts are also scheduled.  The Deason Home will also be open on Saturday, June 25 from 4 – 7:30 for tours.  For more information, please visit our website http://www.deasonhome.org.  Be sure to like us on Facebook (Deason Home).  The home is located at 410 Anderson Street, Ellisville, MS in the heart of the Free State of Jones.

The Secret Passage

The secret passage in the Deason Home housed many secrets over the years.

Oral family history tells the story of a secret passage in the parlor of the Deason Home located adjacent to the fireplace.  To obtain entrance one would have to press a particular panel in a specific spot.  The panel which served as a door then would come open.  The passage itself is an opening or crawl space around the fireplace and chimney which afforded an excellent hiding place.  During the War Between the States, Mrs. Eleanor Deason is said to have stored her gold in this passage for safe keeping.  The gold was reportedly part of a sizable dowry that Eleanor received upon marrying Amos Deason.  Other oral history states she concealed a wounded Confederate soldier in this passage when she heard that the Yankees were coming.  The soldier was staying at the Deason Home while recuperating from injuries received during front line fighting.  After the death of her husband, Grandma Anderson [Sarah Pool Anderson] is known to have kept, for protection, a double barreled shotgun hidden in this passage.

Down through the eon’s of time one can only imagine what other items were housed – What other secrets this passage holds.  Today the passage opening has been reduced in size and the secret passage has become a closet for the bedroom – the famous “Murder Room” – located behind the parlor.

The home is open for tours the first and third Saturdays of each month.  Admission is $5.  Private tours and ghost hunts are also scheduled.  The Deason Home will also be open on Saturday, June 25 from 4 – 7:30 for tours.  For more information, please visit our website http://www.deasonhome.org.  Be sure to like us on Facebook (Deason Home).  The home is located at 410 Anderson Street, Ellisville, MS in the heart of the Free State of Jones.

Passing of Newt Knight

Obituary for Newt Knight, self proclaimed governor of The Free State of Jones

 

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The following obituary is copied from The Ellisville Progress Newspaper, March 16, 1922.  No changes or corrections made.  It was reprinted in our book Secrets of Historic Deason Home.

A unique character of national repute passed away at his home several miles north of Soso,  Miss., about three weeks ago.  For some unaccountable reason the newspapers failed to hear of his death or else the account of his death would have been given wide publicity.  Newt Knight was about ninety years of age when he died.  His claim to notoriety was due to the fact that he walked off from the Confederate army sometimes after enlisting, and organized a band of deserters which held together until the close.  Capt. Knight and his followers held that after the twenty negro law was passed during the war they had no interest in the fortunes of the Confederacy, and it became their own families, and there was a great deal of truth in their connection.

Note: Newton “Newt” Knight –  born Nov 10, 1829, died Feb 16, 1922 – Buried in the Knight Family Cemetery Jasper County, MS. Dates are as recorded on tombstone.

For more information about the Deason Home, please visit our website at http://www.deasonhome.org and be sure to like us on Facebook – (Deason Home).

Deason Home Publications

List of books published by the Tallahala Chapter about the history of the home and Jones County.

Since the Deason Home is owned by a group of ladies, none of whom are independently wealthy, we have to be creative in our fundraising efforts.  One of the ways we raise money is through the sale of books that we have published.  Here is a list of our books and a brief description of each.  All proceeds from the sale of these books goes to the restoration and upkeep of the Deason Home.

Secrets of Historic Deason Home

This book was published in 2002.  It has 32 pages of information about the Deason Home.  Chapters included are Amos Deason Home – A Landmark, Truths-Legends-Hauntings-Tales of the Deason Home, Amos Deason Family – South Carolina to Ellisville, and Ramblings from the Past – Jones County History Tidbits.  There is a 1902 Map of Ellisville, MS and a full name index.  The price is $12.

Major Amos McLemore – Confederate States Army Soldier  – Legendary Man, Legendary Time

This book was first published in 2002 and republished in 2013.  It is 26 pages long and includes the following chapters: Major Amos McLemore – Legendary Man – Legendary Time, C.S.A. Roster Co. B. 27th Mississippi Infantry Regiment, Major Amos McLemore (a.k.a. McLemore) Family Cemetery, Bombardment of Fort Sumpter, South Carolina – Start of Civil War, and a full name index. The price is $12.

Treasured Recipes of Yesteryear

First published in 2013, we are now into our second printing of this cookbook.  The book contains recipes from today and the past.  There are 123 pages of delicious dishes and indexes of contributors and recipes.  The price for this book is $15.


 

Several years ago, several of our members began a labor of love.  The Ellisville newspaper, The Progress-Item, was once the main source of news for residents of southern Jones County.  This newspaper included articles about citizens from the area and how they came to live in Ellisville, obituaries, human interest stories, feature articles about local businesses and the day to day happenings in the busy small town of Ellisville.  Sadly, this newspaper was not microfilmed and the only remaining copies are crumbling.  These tattered remains are the record of our history and Cynthia Lorraine DeVall and Sue Thomas Coker, members of the Tallahala Chapter NSDAR could not let that history die.  They began compiling these old stories into books that will preserve these wonderful stories for future generations and Ellisville, Mississippi – A Testament to our Ancestors was born.  To date they have completed four volumes.  Volume 1 is out of print at the present time, but Volumes 2 – 4 are available for purchase.

Ellisville, Mississippi – A Testament to our Ancestors Volume 2

This book was developed from the 1962 edition of the Progress-Item newspaper.  Articles about the growth of Ellisville as well as the progress of its citizens and genealogy of its families are covered.  Obituaries from the newspaper yield much information about the dedication and hard work and love of family and country present in the citizens of Ellisville and surrounding communities.  The price is $15.

Ellisville, Mississippi – A Testament to our Ancestors Volume 3

This book was published in 2015.  The 99 pages in this book came from the 1960-1961 editions of the Progress-Item newspaper.  Articles about Ellisville State School and Jones County Junior College are included in this book along with 40 pages of obituaries.  The price is $20.

Ellisville, Mississippi – A Testament to our Ancestors Volume 4

Our most current book was published in 2016.  Volume 4 consists of articles from old Ellisville newspapers, discovered in the Ellisville Courthouse, plus obituaries and articles from the 1963 Progress-Item.  The 100 pages are packed with information about early Ellisville and its inhabitants.  The cost is $20.

These books are available locally (Ellisville, MS) at Ward’s Pharmacy and at the Deason Home and can also be purchased by mail.  Please send your request and check to Deason Home Restoration, PO Box 643, Ellisville, MS 39437.  Add $5 for shipping.

For more information about the historic Deason Home, please visit our website at http://www.deasonhome.org.

 

 

 

Preserving history

The Deason Home was donated to the Tallahala Chapter National Society Daughters of the American Revolution in early 1991 by Mrs. Frances Anderson Smith, granddaughter of Isaac Anderson, Jr. and Sarah Pool, second owners of the home.  Her main stipulation was that the home be preserved as a historical entity for all the people of Jones County, present and future generations.  Another provision was that the house be open at intervals to school children and the general public.  We regularly schedule school field trips and the home is open on the first and third Saturdays of the month from 1 – 4 P.M.  Open houses are scheduled throughout the year and private tours and ghost hunts are scheduled by appointment.  The home also hosts weddings, family reunions, showers and parties.  Visit our website for more information – http://www.deasonhome.org.

The Smiths had a concern for possible school acquisition of the property through eminent domain and subsequent demolition since the home is surrounded by the campus of South Jones High School.  They decided to save the home for present and future generations by placing it on the National Register of Historic Places and this process was completed in 1984.  Subsequently the home was established as a Mississippi Landmark in the year 2000 by the Tallahala Chapter NSDAR. *

The Tallahala Chapter has been restoring the home for a number of years.  The inside is complete.  The decor is from the Victorian era.  The home features authentic Victorian colors in each room and the mantle in the parlor boasts a faux marble finish.  Floors have been sanded and sealed and the home has been completely rewired and re-plumbed.  Central heat and air were installed and the kitchen and bathrooms were updated.  Most of the furniture has been graciously donated by family members and friends.

Over the last year, great strides have been made in restoring the outside of the home.  Late last summer, the west side of the home was completely restored.  Rotten wood was replaced, a gutter was added to prevent further water damage, the beveled wood blocks were sealed and the original sand finish was replicated.  The front of the home received a facelift in the early fall.  Over the last few weeks, the rotten wood on the eastern side of the home has been replaced and this week that side of the home will be sealed and receive a fresh coat of paint!  As money becomes available, the back of the home will receive the same TLC.  It is so rewarding to see this old home restored to its former glory.

 

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*Information from the book Secrets of Historic Deason Home was used in this post.  The book and other Deason Home publications are available locally at Ward’s Pharmacy (Ellisville, MS), Southern Antique Mall (Laurel, MS),  and at the Deason Home and can also be ordered by sending $12 plus $5 for shipping to Deason Home Restoration, P.O. Box 643, Ellisville, MS 39437.  Other books are individually priced.  Information about these books can be found in the preceding blog and on our website http://www.deasonhome.org.

Background before you see the movie..

Did Newt Knight shoot Amos McLemore?

This Friday, the movie The Free State of Jones will be showing in a theater near you.  There has been a lot of talk about the movie and its connection to the Deason Home.  To start this blog, I wanted to give you the story of Newt Knight’s association with this historic home.  The following is an excerpt from our book, Secrets of Historic Deason Home, published in 2002 by the Tallahala Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution, owners of the home.

“It was on a dark and stormy night in 1863 that Major Amos McLemore stared into the fire, exhausted.  Somewhere in the dark of the night, the War Between the States raged on.  He sighed and sat down in the old wooden rocker.  Laying his sidearms down on the table, he wrenched off his mud-encrusted boots.  It was good to be in a warm, comfortable place tonight.  His soldiers were quartered elsewhere but his friends Amos and Eleanor Deason, had invited him to stay at their home.  He was happy to accept.

McLemore’s eyes were getting heavy and his head was nodding.  Outside, unknown to the tired man, Newt Knight was stealing up on the house with some of his followers.  Newt being the self proclaimed leader of the band of Leaf River Rowdies that Major McLemore may have been sent to apprehend and Newt was determined not to be caught.  Suddenly the door to the room was flung open.  Newt Knight stormed into the room, shot Amos McLemore, and vanished into the night.  The wind moaned as Amos fell and died* in front of the fireplace.  Other accounts state that Newt Knight shot him through a window.

The family was shocked, the town grieved and the soldiers swore to avenge their Major’s death.  Eleanor Deason openly wept as she cleaned the blood of her friend from the floor and fireplace.  Major Amos’ lifeless body was taken home to his old homeplace where he was later mournfully buried and time passed.  Somehow Newt Knight always managed to evade capture and lived a long life. ”

*Correction to the story:  Major McLemore was taken home to Eastabuchie, where he died a few days later.

A few questions and answers:

Q. Was any of the movie filmed at the Deason Home?

A. No.  The movie was filmed in Louisiana.

Q. Will the Deason Home receive money from the movie company or proceeds from the movie?   Does the home receive government funding?

A. No.  The Deason Home has not received any money and does not anticipate receiving any money from the movie, although we would gladly accept if any money was offered!  The Deason Home is privately owned and we do not receive any money from the state or national government.  All money used for the upkeep and restoration of the home comes from tours, ghost hunts, sales of books and other products and donations from Tallahala members and the public.

Q. Will a home representing the Deason Home be in the movie?

A. Not having seen the movie, we do not really know.  However, many names were changed so characters in the movie that were based on real people now have different names.  It is not known whether or not the shooting of McLemore is in the movie at all.

The Deason Home is a wonderful home, full of history and character.  It is open the first and third Saturday of each month from 1 – 4 PM.  Private tours and ghost hunts can also be scheduled.  Contact us at 601-577-1066.  We hope you will find time to visit this summer!

Visit our website – http://www.deasonhome.org.