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.

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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.

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.