Where’s the Privy?

Ground penetrating radar helps locate the outbuildings on historic properties. Two such buildings were recently located at the Deason Home.

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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

 

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)

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.

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.