Thursday, January 31, 2013

Before Norma Rae -- There Was Brookhaven's Addie L. Wyatt

Photo may be subject to copyright.
Used for educational purposes only.
Meet Addie L.Wyatt -- perhaps one of the more celebrated Brookhavenites of whom you may have never heard.

Born in Brookhaven on March 8, 1924, Addie L. Cameron moved with her family to Chicago at age 6 after her father got into a dispute with his boss during the Great Depression.

Her father's taking a bold stand at a very uncertain economic time in American history must have made a powerful impression on young Addie and undoubtedly shaped her life in immeasurable ways.

She would grow up to be a union, church, civil rights, AND feminist leader.

A "Warrior Queen," she went to work in the meat packing plants of Chicago in 1941 and soon became the first female president of a local chapter of the United Packinghouse Workers of America.

Deeply spiritual, she and her husband, the Rev. Claude S. Wyatt Jr., renovated a garage in 1955 and founded the Vernon Park Church of God.  Initially leading a flock of about 25 people, their following grew to nearly 1,000 by the year 2000.

And the accomplishments kept on coming.  She went on to serve as an adviser to elected officials and leaders, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

With Barbara Jordan, she was the first black woman to be featured as Time Magazine's Person of the Year, in 1975.  She was also honored by Ebony Magazine.

Last year in mid March, shortly after I began this blog, I discovered this "Gee, I didn't know that" story and made a mental note to track down her contact information and call her in the hope of interviewing her about her earliest memories.

Just one week later, I would Google her name again and sadly discover that she had died on March 28 at age 88.

An opportunity lost.

For more information on this trailblazer, please see this link and/or this one.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Daddy's Hands ...

John Holly Williams Collection, LLF Library
"Unidentified Family of Seven -- This family group has mother, father, two daughters and three sons. Name is unreadable, but may be Hosea F. Carmeil or Arnold. No date is noted." -- Library caption.
While this family's facial expressions are immensely charming, it is the father's hands that are most telling.  They brought to mind the lyrics of the Holly Dunn Country song, Daddy's Hands... "You could read quite a story in the callous and lines; Years of work and worry had left their mark behind." 

Depending on one's lot in life, in certain parts, time could stand still when it came to fashion and hair styles, thereby making a date harder to figure. We can pretty much deduce the photograph was taken during the summertime, given the father's tan hands and the two youngest's bare feet, the kids' light clothing, and the mother's flowery, short-sleeved dress.  

Given that this is a John Holly Williams' photograph and he was most prolific post-World War II, my best guess is that this perhaps from the late 40s, early 1950s. 

As always, if anyone recognizes these folks (note the clue to their possible name in the library caption above) and know from whence they came, please leave a comment here or on my Facebook page.
UPDATE: This is the Hosea (Hosie) Farmer family.  I am told this photo recently ran in the Daily Leader and that son J.C. identified the picture.  Mrs. Farmer was actually expecting J.C., their sixth child, at the time this photo was taken.  Therefore, according to those who know J.C., this photograph was taken in the late 1940s, possibly 1947.  Also, if the sons in the back look like twins to you, you'd be correct!  I am also told that the little tow-headed boy in the father's lap died tragically in a farming accident at a tender age. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Smiles a Pixie Would Love

"Two older ladies are sitting together. One of the ladies may be Rosa Barlow; Rt 1 ...,Wesson Mississippi. No date is noted." --  Library caption.  From the John Holly Williams Collection at LLF Library.

Ha! These ladies are adorable. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Strike Up the Band ...

This is a photo I took of a framed sepia-toned picture that hangs in the back room of the Iron Horse Grill* in downtown Brookhaven, 103 S. Railroad Avenue -- where Gregg Woodcox is selling good eats from the old Inez coffee shop location.

This shot is likely from the late 1890s to the early 1900s. Town folks appear to be gathered for a parade of some sort and they've brought out the musical instruments for the occasion.  Note the different style hats and caps and that snazzy plaid clothing on a man dead center of the crowd.

In the background is the old Masonic Hall to the right; mid-street the old Seavey building, which for years housed the Woolworth's that went up in smoke in 1969.  Toward the end of the block, note the long-gone cupola on the old Storm & Sons Building, which is one of the oldest surviving brick buildings in the downtown area.

To the immediate west of the Storm building appears the parapet and awning of Staffler Jewelers, yet another post-Civil War building that is still standing and I believe still operating as Staffler's.  Like the old Masonic Hall, which was torched by a firebug on the night of Easter Sunday in 1951, this smaller building was designed by Capt. A.E. Moreton, the Baltimore architect who met a stranger on a train in 1859 and forever changed the lives of countless people who have since called Brookhaven home.

While it's not easy to detect, on closer inspection, it appears that the newspaper office once called Cherokee Street its home.

*Editor's Note: Iron Horse Grill has since closed.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Good Doctor and His Dog

Photo by Brenda Young, from Findagrave, 3/28/2011
Photo by Michelle Woodham, from Findagrave, 3/25/2009

While we are on cemeteries and nosing around Copiah County, I decided to present these photos today, lifted from Findagrave and de-colorized, for I favor the feel of black and white photos when it comes to history. (Note: these photos may be subject to copyright, and are presented here for educational purposes only.) 

I first stumbled upon these pictures on a Flickr stream and read much speculation in the comments section as to whom this gentleman may have been.  One man offered up an oft-told tale that Lockwood was a homeless man who panhandled about town with his dog and when he and the dog died tragically, shocked shopkeepers felt awful, took up a collection and had this memorial erected in his honor.

The skeptic in me started Googling and I soon found out that this man was not homeless, but a young surgeon, the son of Dr. Theodore Prentiss Lockwood, a prominent physician who was born near Crystal Springs in 1839.  

Himself the son of a prominent doctor, Theodore Prentiss Lockwood, who had a pedigree dating back to the founding of this country and mentions of Yale graduates in his family tree, married Olivia Emma Patton in 1869, and they had three children, the eldest of which was Benjamin Mott Lockwood.  (Their other two children were William B. and Olivia Genevieve.)

I could find little as to the cause of Benson Mott's untimely death, but it appears he died at the age of 26, "and at the time he was one of the most brilliant and promising young physicians in the state." He was graduated from Beaumont Medical College of St. Louis, MO -- from Mississippi: A Contemporary Biography, edited by Dunbar Rowland. 

Young Mott was in his father's medical practice at the time of his death. He left a wife and a young son, Benson Miller Lockwood. 

Further research showed that their son, Benson Miller, born on Nov. 1, 1894, died on Dec. 14, 1907, at age 13.  His cause of death is also unclear, and he is buried in the same cemetery as his father and grandfather, in Crystal Springs.

Close-up from Michelle Woodham's photograph
Note the stones placed on the pedestal in the first photograph -- a lasting sign that more than one person has been there to pay their respects.

If anyone knows more about this captivating memorial and the Lockwood family, feel free to leave a comment here or on my Facebook page.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Bethesda Cemetery 1948

"This is Bethesda Cemetery. The date is 1948. There is no other info for this picture."  -- Library caption.

These photographs are just a handful of what looks to be a photo essay that was most likely taken by John Holly Williams himself.  (Although it should be noted that the photos are damaged and the exposures not up to his usual standards.)  

Note the Kudzu vines and the Spanish moss on the trees and what appears to be a live oak in the fourth shot.  I am not certain where this cemetery is, but it reminds me of Louisiana or perhaps the Natchez vicinity more so than the Piney Woods.  

That said, yesterday's posting featuring children at a church in 1939 turns out to be Bethseda Church east of Hazlehurst.  

Could this essay be connected to that community and cemetery or simply a coincidence of name?

UPDATE: I am told by a former Copiah County resident and librarian that Bethesda cemetery in the church yard of Bethesda Methodist church east of Gallman, MS, between Hazlehurst and Crystal Springs in Copiah County. The graves date back to the late 1800s.

Friday, January 25, 2013

In Their Sunday Best: Knee Pants and Hair Ribbons

Old School Primary Class 1939

"This group of pictures were all in one box labeled "Old School." Most of them are copies that Mr. Williams made for customers. This is a Sunday School class. On the negative is written 'Primary Dept of Bathesada Sunday School.' And the date 1939 in on the picture." -- Library Caption.

Hmmm, based on the hairstyles and clothing, I would have guessed this photo to be older than 1939 -- just goes to show you what I know!  I love the smallest girls with their fingers shyly in their mouths and the two little boys who are boldly arm in arm. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Striking a Stylish Pose

Single pose of woman wearing a coat. Copy made for Robert Dixon. Date June 8, 1946. -- Lincoln Lawrence Franklin Library caption, from the John Holly Williams Collection

Yet another one of the those WWII-era photographs with je ne sais quoi.  As always, if anyone knows more about this lady, please feel free to leave a comment here or on my Facebook page.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Benjamin Porter Watkins -- A Good Breed of Man with Honor

From Ray L. Bellande's Blogspot, depicting the artwork of the late Ben Watkins --  subject to copyright -- for educational/edification purposes only
Blogger's Note: The following is rewrite of information gleaned from Ray L. Bellande's blog on the history of Ocean Springs, MS.  I have requested permission to quote from his blog, but it is unclear if he received the request via Facebook's new messaging system.  I do not wish to step on copyright toes, so be admonished that the photograph and the following is for educational purposes only and may be subject to any copyrights by Ray L. Bellande and/or others:

Benjamin Porter Watkins -- artist, art historian and professor -- was born "at" Brookhaven, MS, on Feb. 19, 1913 -- a "farm boy who became a scholar."

Watkins earned his Bachelor's and Master's degrees from Louisiana State University and received his PhD in Art History from the University of Minnesota in 1971.

Watkins taught at Phillips University, Southern Illinois University, and at Eastern Illinois University from 1971 to 1984, when he retired.  During his retirement years, he was a visiting professor of art history at the University of Evansville (Indiana).

In 1985, Dr. Watkins, by now a widower, moved to Ocean Springs, MS, where he acquired a small edifice built in 1888, known as the Van Cleave-Wilson Cottage to use as his studio. Soon, he met and married Inez Delaney Gordon, also widowed, and they lived in the St. Martin Community across Old Fort Bayou.

According to an Ocean Springs historian, Ben Watkins "melded well with the locals."  He became a regular at a local coffee club and forged a close friendship with local artist and etcher, Glenn E. Miller, who would spend hours with him in Watkins' studio, discussing art and politics.

And then, tragedy of the inevitable, would strike.

From Ray L. Bellande's blog on the history on Ocean Springs:
"Death came quickly to Ben Watkins in his beloved art studio on November 23, 1993.  He suffered from a rupture of his aorta. Friend and fellow artist, Glenn Miller, memorialized Watkin's demise in this poem:
'Ben, I went to your studio today.
All that was left were torn off
buttons of your gentle shirt.
They tried to save you there on
the floor.  Medical debris lying
where you died.
I held the buttons and cried.
Ben, an artist full of knowledge and skill.
Ben, the teacher, the lover of books,
a farm boy who became scholar,
a good breed of man with honor.
Our sparkling conversation
on history and art.  The shape
of trees, the proper shade of green.
Ben Watkins, your death was
a robbery, too swiftly taken.
I wasn't through enjoying you.'    

"Inez Gordon Watkins sold the Watkins Studio to (blogger) Ray L. Bellande (b. 1943) on February 3, 1994."
I don't know about you, but Ray L. Bellande's story and Glenn Miller's poem made me wish that I had had the pleasure of knowing Dr. Watkins.
As always, if anyone out there can tell us more about Dr. Watkins and his connection to Brookhaven, please pipe up here or on Facebook!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Smiling for the Camera

"Young lady with little girl standing outside. Copy made for James Jenkins. Date of copy 1/24/1962." -- Library caption

Based on the clothing and the hairstyles, my guess would be this was a sunny summer day in the Roaring Twenties.  We've observed before that people often didn't smile for the camera back in the "old days," but by the 1920s all that started to change.  Not only do I like that the woman is smiling, but I love that the little girl is sticking out her tongue.

This copy was made by John Holly Williams for James Jenkins, which is our only and best clue as to whom these folks may be.

Comments and observations are welcome here and on Facebook.

Monday, January 21, 2013

What Kind of Stove Does She Want? Why Caloric of Course!

Please see this link to The Daily Picayune, New Orleans, LA,  dated Feb. 28, 1912.
Photo I took on my last trip home, at the Inez Hotel, tile dating from circa 1904.

Figuring this one out wasn't easy.  For starters, in the article above, the groom's given name is Nathan, not Max, although it's quite possible Max was his nickname.  Dorris Daniel's first name is misspelled in any number of records online, and further complicating matters -- her mother is recorded in as being dead in 1908, when clearly she was her daughter's Matron of Honor in 1912 -- if the Hymeneal is to be believed.

It took a lot of wrestling with and Google, but I finally figured out that Dorris and her new husband went back to Philadelphia to run what would eventually become the Caloric Range Corp. (Click on turquoise link for Nathan Klein's obituary and a history of his business dealings.)

As the Hymeneal clipping indicates, Dorris (1890-1971) was given away by her maternal uncle, Richard T. Scherck, the builder of Brookhaven's beloved Inez Hotel, as her father, Sally Daniel (1861-1908) had passed away some four years earlier.

According to, Dorris's new husband, Nathan Klein, was born Germany on Nov. 2, 1886, to Samuel Klein (1855-1950) and Minna Daniel (1858-1951).  (Minna's maiden name made me wonder if the happy couple happened to be cousins, but I was unable to determine if the surname Daniel on both sides of the aisle was merely a coincidence or a shared branch in the family tree.)

The Hymeneal makes no mention of the groom's parent being present at the nuptials in Brookhaven.  (Minna, according to, was born to Meyer Daniel and Rachael Bieber in Prussia.)

I had some trouble tracking Julia Scherck Daniel, but it appears she was born to Abraham Scherck and Sara Green Scherck, in 1864.  Abraham was born in Posen, Germany in 1838, and came to the United States via the port of New Orleans in 1851 at the age of 13.  His union with Sara Green, born in Gnessen, Germany, in 1840, produced the aforementioned Richard T. and Julia, apparently being twins, according to information on FindaGrave.

But, getting back to our happy couple -- they went on to have two children -- Muriel Rose Klein and Selma Daniel Klein.

I was unable to find an obituary for Dorris, but I did find that her name lived on into modern times.  An event at the prestigious equestrian event at Devon evidently was named in her honor in 2010.

This ad for Caloric shows Nathan Klein on the upper right.

I found little or nothing about the Parkside Hotel in Philadelphia where the couple took up residence after their honeymoon.  However, I DID manage to find this bit of history in general of Parkside in Philly, which gives us some idea of the aforementioned "prominence."

For those who want to read more on the families, here are three links from linklink2  and link3. (Although if you are not a member of Ancestry, be forewarned the links do not always work.)

Update: Here's a link I found showing a picture of Nathan Klein in 1965.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Hosea Reed -- Is That You?

From John Holly Williams Collection, LLF Library
"Single pose of young man sitting outside on a large rock. Copy made for Hosea Reed. No date." -- Library caption.

I chose the photograph because I vaguely remember Hosea Reed and his wife, Izola, who lived in a modest shingle-clad home not far from the old Haley Market -- before Brookway Boulevard forever changed the face of the area west of Highway 51.  

As I recall, Mr. Reed was somewhat reclusive, staying put in a darkened room of the little house when visitors came a calling, while a white-haired and kindly Mrs. Reed, born in 1900, took in sewing and ironing in a small annex to the house to help pay the bills.  

I got to know Mrs. Reed when my working mother got too busy to alter my clothes -- we took them to Mrs. Reed and she tailored them for a reasonable price.

My question is: is this a photo of Mr. Reed himself?  Or is it possibly of a former co-worker or a friend or relative?  According to the 1940 Census, Mr. Reed, born 1903, was a WPA laborer who was out of work 104 days when the census taker visited their Lincoln County home to gather their information. The census states that he had worked 39 weeks during 1939 -- my guess, on a local WPA project.

As always, if someone has more information to add, please feel free to offer a comment here or on my Facebook page.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

White Boots and a Shiny Baton

John Holly Williams Collection -- LLF Library
"This girl is posing in her majorette uniform. Her name is Sandra Lee Wesson. This was taken when Sandra was in the 11th or 12th grade at Wesson Agricultural School." -- Library caption.

Could she be a descendant of Col. James Madison Wesson who founded the mill town of Wesson -- home of "Mississippi Silk" -- in 1864 after his mills failed in Bankston, MS?  

Curiosity got the better of me and I Googled her name.  The 1940 Census shows a Sandra Lee Wesson born in 1937 to John J. and Ruby G. Wesson in Saltillo, MS, not far from Tupelo.  Could it be this Sandra Lee Wesson and her family relocated to the tiny town of Wesson in time for her to become a 
majorette in high school?  If so, this picture would likely be from the early years of the 1950s.

After that, the trail went cold and I could not find corroborating information that I even had the "right" Sandra Lee Wesson -- so, I need help from folks who may know more about this smiling young lady from Copiah County.
----- Update: It appears that a Sandra Lee Wesson went on to Ole Miss, where she was a member of Zeta Tau Alpha and in the Class of 1955.  I found another link, thanks to the search engine Dogpile, that provides more information on the later life of the young lady in the photo, but does not actually answer the question whether she is a descendant of Col. James Madison Wesson.  

Friday, January 18, 2013

She Should Have Been in Pictures!

From the John Holly Williams Collection, LLF Library 

"Single pose of pretty young lady. Copy made for Arthur Samuels. Date 7/1/1946. On bottom of photo the words Hollywood Studio is stamped." -- Library caption.

Hollywood appears to be calling with what appears to be a studio headshot.  Who she is and what her connection might be to Brookhaven, if any, is a huge, unanswered question.  Notice above Hollywood is another embossed word, but I cannot make it out. It almost looks like Francois, which might change everything.

I am hopeful someone out there can enlighten me.  Is she someone famous that I'm not recognizing?  Is she a Hollywood Wanna Be with a backstory that leads to Brookhaven?  Or is she just another pretty face?  Perhaps our best clue to solving this mystery is the name Arthur Samuels, but it's not a name I'm familiar with.

Help, Y'all! 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

I Wanna Go Back to that Little Grass Shack ...

From the John Holly Williams Collection at LLF Library

Here's the library's caption: Three girls in a beauty contest. May be the Water Carnival. Taken for Mrs Edna West. No date.

I suspect this photo is from the late 1940s.  Anyone recognize anyone?  If so, leave a note here or on my Facebook page.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Family of Seven

"No info available. Date is estimated from 1850 to 1920."  From the John Holly Williams Collection, LLF Library.

Based on the clothing, my best guess is the original picture was taken in the late 1800s.  This photo appears to have been restored or enhanced by an artist.

As always, if anyone recognizes these folks, please leave a message here or on Facebook.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Copy for Oberland Carr

Young couple. Copy made for Oberland Carr. Date 1/20/1945.  From the John Holly Williams 
Collection at the LLF Library

A new year has dawned, and WWII is winding down.  Who is in the picture and where it might have been taken is a mystery.  It is one of several photographs that Oberland Carr had Mr. Williams copy. 

If anyone recognizes this couple or the name Oberland Carr, please leave me a note here or on Facebook.

Monday, January 14, 2013

An Immigrant Photographer/Jeweler/Gardener

Portrait photograph of two female children seated in window in front of backdrop; they wear dresses, fur stoles, one with fur muff; both wear very large hats.  Elisaeus von Seutter - Jackson, Mississippi, Hinds County, 18-- 
Portrait photograph of unidentified child. Armine von Seutter - Jackson, Mississippi, Hinds County, 18--
Both photographs are from the MDAH digital archives. 
"The E. von Seutter Photograph Collection consists of  35 original stereocards and 48 photographic prints collected by the Elisaeus von Seutter family of Jackson, Mississippi. The majority were taken by photographers Elisaeus and son Armine. ... The stereocards feature images of downtown Jackson in the aftermath of the Civil War. The portrait photographs include samples from the von Seutters' studio, as well as images of the von Seutter family, home, and garden." -- From the MDAH website.

I selected these two photos from the collection because they have that inherent quality that draws you in and causes you to marvel and ponder. 

Also intriguing in the collection are the photographs of the von Seutter's home, Ivy Cottage.  I started to research the home and the unusual, exotic plants featured in the photographs when I stumbled upon this excellent blog account of the von Seutter family and its history. 

Why reinvent the wheel?  Above in turquoise is the link that provides ample photographs and plenty of information about the family and their home in Jackson, including the fate of Ivy Cottage.  It is a very interesting read from a self-appointed "Curator of Shit" who decries, "Just because you live in a trailer doesn't mean you need a couch on the porch!"

If you don't care to click on an unknown blog,  here is the MDAH account.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

A Recital, a Tea Party? Or Both?

Both photos by John Holly Williams, LLF Library

These are but two of several John Holly Williams photographs from the same occasion in Brookhaven  on September 6, 1958.  The photos were made for Dr. Elsie Hennington.

I recognize quite a few faces from the Brookhaven High School Class of 1961, making many of these young ladies approximately 15 and 16 years old -- all gussied up in pearls, heels, party dresses and hats. Note that many have on corsages, and white gloves are atop some purses in the foreground.

I am hopeful that one of the subjects (and she surely knows who she is) will email me and provide as many names as she can recall and perhaps enlighten me as to the occasion and the location.  While I recognize many faces, I don't trust my memory to assign names, since I was just 5 when this photo was taken.  

Others who may recognize these young ladies, please chime in either here or on Facebook.
Update: Dr. Elsie Barge Wilson Hennington was a piano teacher and accomplished musician.  She attended Whitworth College, 1914-1915.  Born in 1898, she died four years after this photo was taken, in December 1962.  She lived in a big yellow home on Cherokee Street, but it is unclear at this time if that home is the location of this photo.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Blues Trail Piano Man -- Little Brother Montgomery

 Credit:Red Lightnin' RL0033, Photographer: Axel K├╝stner (shamelessly lifted from the Wirz link below)  
Eurreal Wilford "Little Brother" Montgomery was born down the road in the sawmill town of  Kentwood, LA, at the state line, on April 18, 1906.  He took to the piano at age 4 and was largely self-taught.  Born into a family that worked the various lumber mills in the region, he spent part of his life in Norfield, the boom town just south of Brookhaven.

He could play blues, jazz and boogie-woogie and just about anything else.  It is said that once he heard a tune through, he had it memorized, so the need to read music was immaterial during recording sessions with other musicians. 

A Blues Trail Marker commemorating his contribution to music was erected in the town of Brookhaven at the Godbold Transportation Center in October 2011.  To read more about Little Brother and his importance in the blues/jazz music scene along the north/south stretch of highway linking New Orleans and Chicago, please see this link.

To listen to him tickle the keyboard, this link offers a nice sampling of his work.  To see more photographs and purchase his tunes, here is a good source.

Little Brother (so named because as a youngster he strongly resembled his father) Montgomery died in Champaign, IL, on September 6, 1985.

Friday, January 11, 2013

I'm So Glad Good Whiskey's Back

Bluesman Jim Brewer, born October 3, 1920, in Brookhaven, MS; died July 2, 1988, Chicago, IL. Photo credit: Armen Katchaturian, on the main stage at the '84 Old Songs Festival; source: Sing Out! 31/2 (1985), p. 26;   (I confess: I nabbed it from the internet.)

Yesterday's post may have been a "stretch," seeking a possible link to an old photo in the local Piney Woods library to an iconic blues singer from the Mississippi Delta.  

Today, we are working with the real deal from Lincoln County.  This is to highlight the life and music of Brookhaven's own "Blind Jim Brewer."

In writing this, I use the nickname "Blind Jim" with some hesitancy. Perhaps Jim Brewer's most well-known quote is "My mother didn't name me 'Blind,' she named me 'Jim.'"

To learn more, a piece about Jim Brewer is contained in this link, by his friend and supporter Andy Cohen. I urge you to take the time to read this to get a glimpse into the man's life as a Maxwell Street singer and journeyman musician.

To listen to "I'm So Glad Good Whiskey's Back," please click on this YouTube link.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Annie Mae Hooker

"Older woman in printed dress with her hair parted down the middle. Name Annie Mae Hooker. Copy made 5/29/1958. No other info." -- LLF Library Caption, from the John Holly Williams Collection.

This picture in particular has intrigued me ever since I discovered the wonderful treasure trove of photos in the local library's online archives.  In so many instances, we have no idea of names or dates.  In this case, we know her name: Annie Mae Hooker, but not much more.

I Googled her name and an instant hit came up in the form of Delta "Front Porch" Blues singer John Lee Hooker's song Annie Mae.

At first I wondered if she could be his grandmother or aunt, but no amount of Googling helped me answer that question.  Upon listening to the lyrics, I realized that it is a torch song and to link it to this lady from another place in time is, well, quite a stretch.

Still allured by the coincidence and the possibility that they could be related, I decided to feature this photo in the hope that someone reading this will know more about Annie Mae Hooker and share that information either here in the comments section or on my Facebook page.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Goodness Gracious, Great Balls of Fire!

A photo of an autographed picture (note what appears to be thumbtacks in the corners) of Jerry Lee Lewis performing on a double-yellow-lined road, with a passenger train on the bluff above.  This is in the John Holly Williams Collection at the Lincoln, Lawrence, Franklin Library, with no date or information as to location or occasion.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

It All Started with a Husband's Simple Question ...

What kind of stove do you want?
This story takes place up the road a piece from the Piney Woods, on the edge of the Delta, in Greenwood, MS.

The germ of this posting sprouted when I read a few days ago a news article on the younger Madoff brother, Peter.  In the run up to Peter Madoff's scheduled imprisonment for his role in the nation's largest Ponzi Scheme -- his Upper East Side Manhattan two-bedroom condo was sold to a Chicago lawyer for the bargain price of $4.6 million.

Peter and his wife Marion had expected to be able to remove various valuable possessions from their Manhattan pied a terre, but the federal marshals would not allow them more than the clothes they kept there, and a mattress and box spring.

In reporting the Madoff's latest upsetting news, the Daily Mail ran a series of photographs of the interior of their tony apartment.  One photo was of the all-stainless-steel kitchen, which sported a Viking stove and a Subzero refrigerator. (If you're curious to see this photo, please click on the embedded link in turquoise above.)

The mention of a"Viking stove" started the wheels turning in my brain.  Aren't Viking appliances manufactured in Greenwood, MS?

I started my Google search and this is what I found -- the story of Viking founder Fred Carl Jr.  If you don't wish to read it all by clicking on the above link, below is the operative paragraph(s):
"In the early 1980s, Fred was building a new home for himself and his family. He asked his wife, Margaret, what kind of stove she wanted in her new kitchen and discovered that she longed for something similar to the shiny white and chrome porcelain Chambers range she had learned to cook on when she was a child.
The stove was a heavy-duty classic, but it was no longer in production. Fred fancied a true restaurant range and offered that as a possible alternative but knew a restaurant range wasn’t really suited for use in a home because of the intense heat it put off, being hot to the touch when in use, the extra weight and the fact that its oven had no broiling capability.
After an extensive search, he discovered that there was no commercial-style range being produced for the home. 'I found it unbelievable that there was nothing like this and that no one recognized the need,' he said. 'No one saw the niche.'
So he sat down at his familiar drawing board and, after countless late nights, arrived at a design for a high-end home range with the look, styling, cooking power and features of a professional range but with the needed features of a high-end residential gas range, something that didn’t exist at the time.
As the drawings progressed and he became convinced that he was on to something, Fred held a brainstorming session with a small, local ad agency owned by a good friend to come up with a name for the product and the company. The goal was to generate a strong name that would embody the concept of commercial-type stoves for the home. After narrowing the list down to five names, the group unanimously decided on Viking." (Quote Credit --
And the rest, as they say, is Mississippi history.

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Case of a Skull and Bones in Boone Dyke

A self-described raconteur, Royce R. Hart loved nothing more than to tell a good story.  A grandson of early settlers of Mississippi, he was the charming and erudite father of my classmate, Ethebet Hart, who encouraged him to publish a book of his stories and essays in the waning days of the 1970s.

Home from New York to visit my parents around that time, I stopped by to see the Harts at their home on Storm Avenue, and Mr. Hart  -- with great flourish -- gave me an autographed copy of his book, "Hi, Y'all!" on April 30, 1979.

His in-print musings have been in my possession ever since, and only lately have I sat down to re-read his prose.

Catching my attention today was the retelling of a tale Mr. Hart's father related "from the end of the last century" of a peddler who plied his trade from Bogue Chitto to Monticello.

Peddlers -- enterprising men, usually European immigrants, with padded, compartmented bags mounted on their shoulders -- would walk a regular rural route and supply to farmers and their families spools of thread, cookware, shoe leather and tacks, laces, ribbons and other non-bulky items. Such enterprise proved to be a welcome convenience to the poor farming families who had little means to regularly travel to towns that would otherwise be a source of these necessities.

The unnamed peddler of which Mr. Hart wrote would embark on his route in the spring, sell his wares along the way, and hope to sell out as he reached the Pearl River by mid-year.  There, he would meet supply boats, restock his wares and retrace his steps back to Bogue Chitto, reaching his destination by early winter.  From there, he would take a train to New Orleans and overwinter there before resuming his route once again in the spring.

One fall, Mr. Hart wrote, the peddler failed to show along on his regular route. Neighbors inquired of neighbors, and it was established that the peddler had last planned to spend the night with a farming family in western Lawrence County.

That was the last anyone had heard of him.

The family, however, disavowed any knowledge of that plan.

Winter "came and went," according to Mr. Hart, and presumably, the puzzle of what had happened to the peddler faded from collective thought.

Around that time, hard work continued on a dyke project perpendicular to a stream called Bardwell's Creek, a tributary of Boone's Creek, near the Mount Olive church community.  A couple of years passed, and the dyke project, designed to steer flood waters and thereby enrich soil for crops, was finally completed.

"Then it happened," wrote Mr. Hart, "a gigantic long-lasting freshet impounded so much water above the dyke that a section of it was washed away, and when the waters finally receded, old man (John) Boone and his crew went to examine the damage inflicted by it.

"Imagine their amazement when they discovered the skull and other bones of a human skeleton in the mud below the ruptured section of the dyke!"

County authorities were called in to investigate, and while nothing of legal substance was ever discovered, "it was said Mr. (X) became increasingly nervous."

The case evidently ended after "the nocturnal departure of Mr. (X), who reportedly headed west across the Mississippi River at Natchez, over to Vidalia, Louisiana," and then south into "swampy, wild, untamed land," where the denizens "were not exactly friendly with 'the law.'

"Mr. (X) was never again seen in these parts, so they say," wrote Mr. Hart.
Note: To wear the hat of a defense attorney, it should be pointed out that in this story, the authorities never established that the bones were actually that of the peddler, and one can only imagine that the suspect, unable to prove a negative in the late 1800s, may have well felt intimidated by the inquiries of the authorities and fled, not necessarily out of guilt, but out of fear and intimidation of being prosecuted for something he did not do.

Regardless, the case of the missing peddler and the skull and bones in Boone Dyke is yet another death under mysterious circumstances in the Piney Woods.
Post Script: Mr. Hart, born Aug. 15, 1911, died on Oct. 11, 1989.  Mrs. Hart, who later moved to Tennessee to be near her daughter and her family, only recently passed away, on Nov. 13, 2012.  She was 87.  The Harts are buried in Mount Olive Church of Christ Cemetery. For more information on the Harts and how this beloved Brookhaven couple met, please see this link.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

More Moretons

From the John Holly Williams Collection -- LLF Library

Adeline Moreton Becker, Janice Moreton Hobbs, Susan Hobbs, Eola Moreton, S. E. Moreton, "Sam" Moreton, and Laura Moreton Hobbs -- Library caption.
The women's period clothing is suggestive of the town's centennial celebration in 1959, but ... I've been wrong before.
UPDATE:  Others suggest that based on Susan Hobbs' young age, that this photo is much earlier than 1959.  That leaves me at a loss as to why the women are in period clothing ... unless, of course, it was for a Tour of Homes circa 1950.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Timber to Lumber

From the John Holly Williams Collection, LLF Library

Dates and locations unknown.  In the top picture, the machinery is called a Logger's Dream.  Curiosity getting the better of me, I Googled "History of Logger's Dream" and found this link.  Based on the history of the machinery, these pictures are definitely post 1937, when the first Logger's Dream was manufactured in Louisville, MS. 

Friday, January 4, 2013

Another Fine Brookhaven Home That Long Leaf Pine Built ...

"This beautiful older home is located at South Jackson Street. According to local residents the home was originally built by S. E. Moreton. Moreton was involved in lumber mills called "Quentin Camps" and also in banking in Brookhaven."-- Library caption.
"Large family group photo. Taken in someone's home. Name of family is S E Moreton. No date." -- Library caption
Both photos from the John Holly Williams Collection at the LLF Library.  

Brookhavenites will recognize this house as one of the premier houses in the area realtors like to call "Old Towne," which was patterned after the Garden District of New Orleans, according to town elders.

UPDATE and CORRECTION, courtesy of Bettie Hatcher Cox: Adeline Moreton Becker is on the far left. Her husband, my Uncle Boozie (Ferdinand F. Becker II), is directly behind her. They married in 1933. The young woman seated on the far right is (I believe) Alice Moreton Johnson ... who was the mother of Phyllis J. Spearman. Phyllis did have a remarkable resemblance to her aunt Adeline at the age in the picture. Mr. and Mrs. S.E. Moreton are seated on the sofa. 
The history of the S.E. Moreton House is wonderfully recounted in a library interview by Henry Ledet of William F. Crawford, who is a descendent of A.E. Moreton, the Baltimore architect who made a fateful decision one day in 1858 to step off a train in Brookhaven after a chance meeting in a passenger car.  

In doing so, A.E. Moreton and Milton Whitworth, who needed an architect for his planned women's college and urged a homeward-bound Moreton to disembark to help him design the campus and buildings, forever changed the history of Brookhaven.

Interestingly, this grand home, often mistakenly called an ante-bellum, started out life as a much smaller Victorian. Below is an excerpt from that 1998 interview, referencing how the house pictured above came to look as it does today:

"Crawford: The first one was for his eldest son, S.E. Moreton, at 706 South Jackson Street. It was built in 1899 and began its existence as a one and one half storey Queen Anne structure, constructed at the direction of Captain A.E. Moreton for his son, S.E. Moreton.
Its design was similar to the other houses, which were later built by Captain Moreton for his children. So much similar that I think perhaps it was designed by Barber, but I don't know that. You've seen a picture of it. It has a definite flair that would make one think that it was designed by the same architect as the others. It's not identical to the others, but it was Queen Anne and it had the irregular roof line, bays and so forth. 
It was constructed of the finest materials, all long leaf pine. I imagine that lumber was manufactured by Moreton and Helms at Cold Springs because they were still in business at that time.  
Ledet: Was this house a wedding present?  
Crawford: No, they married in 1898 and a bedroom was added to Captain Moreton's house for them and they lived there. All of the children that he built houses for went there and lived at the mother and father's house until their houses were finished and ready. 
Mrs. Adeline Becker, who is the only surviving child of S.E. Moreton, and, by the way, is the only surviving grand child of Captain A.E. Moreton, told me that she was born there at 706 South Jackson in 1911. 
The house was remodeled extensively about 1913 and at that time it was made a full two storeys. The large columns were added, as it looks now. The present summer house, in the front yard, was actually part of the front porch of the original house. It was removed during the renovation and fashioned into a summer house. 
Other buildings on the property included a one and one half storey carriage barn that was later remodeled into a garage. In the early 1950's this building burned and the present three car garage was built in its stead.
There is a quaint cottage located on the northwest corner of the property which was the servants house. After being the home and the gathering place and being loved by several generations of the family, the title to this property passed out of the family in 1995. That's really all I know to say about that."