Sunday, February 10, 2013

J.B. Nalty -- His Home and Businesses

All three illustrations are from the MDAH Cooper Postcard Collection
Without the mature trees that surround it today, at first I did not recognize this landmark "Old Towne" home.  The witch's hat is long gone, and some of the second floor fretwork is missing, but, by and large, this house at 328 South Jackson Street, Brookhaven,* is still easily recognizable as the same house in the above linen postcard from 100+ years ago. 

Although most Brookhavenites today have always known this house to be the McGrath home**, the picture postcard shows that it originally was the home of J.B. Nalty, the son of Irish immigrants who settled in Copiah County before the Civil War, and where he was born May 23, 1857.

The Nalty family moved to Brookhaven after the war.  J.B. Nalty was educated in a private school, attended college in New Orleans and returned home to open a mercantile business that catered to the lumber industry.

It was through that 10-year association that Nalty gained valuable knowledge about the inner workings of King Lumber.  He soon tired of the restrictions of his store, sold it, formed a partnership and bought a small lumber mill four miles east of Brookhaven.

Nalty assumed the role of secretary and general manager of the East Union Lumber and Manufacturing Company.  Incorporated in 1890, East Union grew to be one of two of the largest sawmills in the state -- the other one being the Pearl River Lumber Company, also located in Brookhaven.

By now an entrepreneur, Nalty expanded his lumber business to Hammond, Louisiana, and also served as president of the Crystal Ice Company and Dixie Creamery, established in 1907.

He married Mamie Halpin, a native of St. Louis, in 1885, and they reared five sons, Louis D., Willie H., Eugene, Ray, John Bernard Jr., and daughter, Naoma.

For those who wish to read more, this link contains a detailed biography of J.B and a small thumbnail photo portrait of him.  Written in 1906, it notes his hobbies, his disinterest in political ambitions, that he was a member of the Catholic Church in Brookhaven AND, among other fraternal organizations, was an officer in the Concatenated Order of Hoo Hoo, a lumberman's association that counted Teddy Roosevelt and Warren G. Harding among its members and whose motto was "Health, Happiness and Long Life,"

J.B. Nalty lived to 78, dying on March 16, 1936.  His remains are in the family plot at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Cemetery in Brookhaven.  To see a photograph of his memorial, please see this Findagrave link.

Further details on his lumber operations can been found in Early History of Lincoln County, Mississippi, by Dr. Jack E. Tindall -- available for sale at the museum in the old synagogue in downtown Brookhaven.

*This link is a Google street view -- the landing is approximate and is just down the hill from the actual address.  Click on the arrows to travel left up the hill to see the house as it appears today.  It's on the right and at the corner.

** Update: Mystery solved!  The John W. McGrath IV family lived in the house in the 1950s and early 1960s, which is how it came to be known as the McGrath house. Prior to that, the Naltys owned the properties from corner to corner, and the house that overlooks the elementary school evidently belonged to one of the Nalty sons -- this, according to Bettie Hatcher Cox, who conferred with Caroline Cohen Passmore who was friends with a McGrath daughter.  Additionally, Bettie noted that most of the McGrath homes were clustered together near the Teen Tavern at the end of Cherokee Street and most of them were demolished to make way for Brookway Boulevard.


  1. Is this the home "katty korner" of the red brick Perkins home on South Jackson?

  2. I'm not sure about the red brick home. It is on the corner of South Jackson and Chippewa. It is on the northwest corner, if that helps. The back yard is rather deep, has a carriage house but the roof line is a lower profile. If you drive west on Chippewa toward the elementary school, the house we always knew to be the Nalty house is "behind" this house, so to speak.