Walnut Room this way

Walnut Room this way

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Mound Bayou Cemetery Mapping: Azion

 In a departure from historic buildings, this is more in line with my posts in the past: people and things that matter, and service projects.  We have been working with the Mound Bayou community for well over a year now.  Our most recent efforts involved mapping the cemeteries for the US GenWeb tombstone transcription project-an effort to make it easier to locate ancestors as well as preserve history.  One signs up to walk a cemetery that has yet to be mapped and transcribed, record the locations of graves and tombstone data, and submit the information to the online database.
 We originally set out to locate the cemetery for which we had signed up, and get an idea of its size and layout.  It was shady for the most part, and fairly cool at the time, so we went to work.  The process involves identifying all of the data on a tombstone or marker, primarily name, date of birth and death, and recording the location of the grave in the cemetery.  That way, someone could note the order of the gravesite and find it, rather than having to look at every single gravesite in the cemetery.  That is followed by taking a photograph of the tombstone in order to provide a secondary record of the data and a visual image for people who want to see the location/tombstone data for themselves.
 It did not take long for the pleasant breeze and shade to depart, leaving us in the midst of a soy bean field, learning about the Delta sun in May.  We were diligent in persevering, however.  It was not easy.  Time, water, sun, and wind take their toll on metal and stone.  Sometimes, it was impossible to ascertain information.  Sometimes we could take a photograph of a stone, and enlarge it enough to read, and other times, we squatted, knelt, or even ended up on all fours trying to decipher dates and names, all without stepping on, standing on, or walking on graves.
 From my early childhood, I was admonished one does not stand on, walk on, or step on the actual gravesite.  I always thought it was as a sign of respect--and for me, it still is and I insisted no one could walk on, stand on, or step on the graves.  My friend told me, however (as did a woman who stopped by once and remarked she had been seeing us in the cemetery) that it is due to the fact that time and weather can cause graves to sink and the ground to give way around it.
 At times when the stone was so weathered, we were able to decipher by running our fingers over a stone in a sort of tombstone Braille.  One can also pour water on a stone to make letters more visible, but nothing else due to potential damage to the stone.  We swept off many flat markers to remove the dirt in order to be able to read the stone.  An additional difficulty we encountered was fire ant mounds on or near markers, and markers that had been broken and fallen face down with no wording visible.  That typically occurred in the historic cemetery, where graves were much older.
 A sad and sobering occurrence far too often was the inability to identify who had been laid to rest.  Perhaps the family had been unable to afford a permanent marker, or perhaps there had been no surviving family.  A burial marker supplied by the funeral home only can last so long, though.  Older ones were stamped in the metal, but rust eventually takes over.  Newer ones are paper, with the information typed, and after a while, it succumbs to moisture, light, and heat.
Even when the marker was gone, there were occasional indications that someone remembered who had been interred there.  That first night at dinner, and many times afterward, we discussed the emotions we experienced due to the number of "unknown" that we had to record.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Lion Service Station

 This shocking Pepto Bismol pink former station is identified as the Lion Service Station in the MDAH database, constructed 1937.  That is the extent of information, but a 1986 photo of the Temple Theater next door shows the building painted white, with service doors still intact, although the gas pumps were no longer present.  Its twin is in Morilton, Arizona, although it was green with white trim.
It appears to be part of the Leland Historic District, which includes parts of North Broad street and art deco architecture, which is where the building is located.  It currently houses a laundromat in the old service bay area (according to the sign) and a snack shop in the main part of the building.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Temple Theater and Masonic Lodge

Claude H. Lindsley designed this 496 seat theater/Masonic lodge in Leland, MS.  It was constructed in 1930 by builder J. Pat Fowler.  An earlier photograph shows the trim as pale blue, which was more attractive and less jarring than this dark blue.  I'm assuming this color was selected during the time the theater served as the Leland Blues Museum, prior to their move into an old hotel across the street.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Leland Elementary School

Traveling through Leland last week, we turned off the highway to locate a blues trail marker.  What we found was something far more exciting: this school designed by N. W. Overstreet and A. H. Town.  It was constructed in 1935 as part of the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works.  FEAPW was part of Roosevelt's New Deal, and was headed by Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes.  It was renamed the Public Works Administration in 1939.  PWA should not be confused with WPA, the Works Progress Administration, headed by Harry Hopkins.  PWA was involved in projects on a larger scale than the WPA projects.
This building complex illustrates the simplicity of the Modern movement that evolved during the Great Depression.  

 The auditorium was constructed in 1936.
See Jennifer Baughn's extensive photographs, including the interior, at the MDAH site.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Mound Bayou Booze House

 I was excited to see work being done on the Eugene P. and Mary C. Booze home in Mound Bayou.  Mary Booze was the daughter of Isaiah T. Montgomery, one of Mound Bayou's founders.  She was a National Republican Committeewoman for a number of years.
Last fall when I first learned about the Booze home, it had this enclosed front porch.  I thought it was unlikely to be original to the house.
Due to the work being done, and a large truck parked in front of the house, we were unable to get close enough for a good view, however, it is obvious the porch enclosure has been removed and that work is occurring on the inside of the house.  I also located an early photograph of the home and it confirms there was no enclosure on the front porch.

Mr. Booze and his sister-in-law, Mr. Montgomery's other daughter, Estelle, fought over ownership of the house (Time, November 20, 1939) and Estelle was shot and killed by State Police.  She allegedly attacked Mr. Booze and the state police officers with a butcher knife after the courts awarded ownership of the house to Booze.  Estelle had been attempting to share in her father's fortune, but apparently had been disinherited (no information that I can find regarding that) and was almost poverty-stricken at the time.  I can imagine that this was something of the final straw for her.  By report, citizens of Mound Bayou were angry that Mr. Booze had called in state troopers (who were white) to kill Estelle, and they in turn shot and killed Booze.  I'm sure there is more to the story out there, and I will see if I can find it.

Updated news, June 1: Thank you to Diane, who provided that "more to the story" and sent the link below.  She located a letter from Estelle Montgomery to W. E. B. Dubois in which Ms. Montgomery explains the fear for her life and efforts of Mr. Booze to dispossess her.  She even suspicions that Isaiah T. Montgomery might have been poisoned by Mary, at the instructions of Booze.  Read the letter in full at this link to the University of Massachusetts Library Special Collections.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Last night in Mound Bayou: three cemeteries complete

A number of years ago, my dean's wife commented to me after spending a weekend clearing brush from the fence line on their ranch, "I told Lawrence 'I am 62 years old and I am too old to clear brush from a fence line.'"

I think I know what she meant after the last 4 days. As we have walked the cemeteries, and two of them twice, I am feeling the weariness. These students are incredible,though, getting up early, enduring sun, wind, smoke, gnats, and mosquitoes in order to complete the service project.

I had to be on a teleconference at 9 this morning, so the students went out without me. They were determined to finish the historical cemetery today, and we did. A community member stopped to talk with us about what we were doing...and point out another cemetery...or 2...We are thrilled that we have mapped three of them, including the historical cemetery (Mound Bayou or Common cemetery).

Lots of photos and updates of Suzassippi's Mississippi coming soon.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

More Mound Bayou: Developing the Grids and Visiting Another Cemetery

We spent the first part of the afternoon developing the grid that will be used for the the booklet, and coordinating photographs with lists. We made a stop at the oldest part of the Mound Bayou cemetery to confirm a couple of questions on location. Next thing I knew, the students had developed the grid of the partial parcel!

After that we took the downtown tour of Shelby and I shared the story of the "First Impressions" of Shelby. They found it interesting as well. Next, we set out in search of the Andrew Jackson Donalson house near Duncan. It took a bit of work, but we found the location east of the bayou. It was way too overgrown to see the remains. I plan a detailed post on the Donalson story once I return home.

Back out to the Azion cemetery (our first effort from Friday), and the grid went fairly quickly now that we have the system clarified. It was pleasant enough as it was near 6 and the area was somewhat shaded.

We did not have food to prepare, and as tired as we were, opted to drive in to Cleveland and eat. I'm pretty sure I may have gone over budget on this trip. It began to pour rain as we left the restaurant and it was actually quite cool after that.

Post Script: we just got back from a quick run to the cemetery. One of the students thought she left her cell phone there...do you have any idea how dark it is in a country cemetery at 10 PM?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Cemetery Mapping in Mound Bayou

It is the end of day three in Mound Bayou and we finally feel as if we have accomplished some things. While the students understand that community work is a process, and takes time, they are also beginning to see that community work measures even the tiny accomplishments because it keeps us going when we feel we have achieved even a partial goal.

After being out in the heat yesterday and then staying up late for Dr. Moore to arrive last night, we really did not want to get up at 6, but had decided that an early start would be better.

We headed out to map the second cemetery by 7 AM this morning. The grass was wet with dew, it was quiet and still, but the haze of the morning from the sun beginning to burn off the damp grass was already evident. We had learned some things after yesterday's first effort and were more organized today. The first cemetery was small; we picked it in order to be able to complete one today and have that sense of accomplishment.

After that, we moved on to the oldest part of the original cemetery. We "partitioned" it into a grid with the landmarks and began working. The bayou was to the east and you could smell that distinct bayou water smell--not unpleasant, just distinct. After little more than an hour and mostly in the shade, I was wet with sweat, though the students were faring better.

We came back to the facility and began looking at the pictures and reviewing notes to map the layout. Dr. Moore cooked breakfast for us while we worked. After bacon, eggs, and pancakes, the students cleaned up the kitchen while I showered and dressed.

We decided on a road trip for the afternoon as part of the class is experiencing the culture of the Delta. We went to Leland, and I cannot wait to post some photos from there once I get back to Internet (I am limited to iPad 3G right now and no way to upload).

We were only 5 minutes from Greenville, so drove over to give a quick hello to one of our new grads who just finished his MSW last week. As we were driving back to Mound Bayou, I was talking about how much the Delta reminded me of the Texas plains, only not as green or as wet. It evoked the same emotions in me, however, as driving the llano estacado-the "staked plains."

For dinner tonight, it was just two of the students and me. We discussed the organization of the project, and after the morning's review, we finally have a more effective system. As the evening wore on, we engaged in conversation about our experiences, race and color and ethnicity, in what I would say was an open and respectful and honest manner. We talked about how and why we avoid it or try to pretend those experiences are irrelevant.

I tried to do a lot of listening to these young and clearly smart people. And I was also in my teacher mode. We were all exchanging experiences, but there were those moments when I had to move beyond that and point out systemic factors that affect all of this. Way too complex for typing with two fingers on the iPad but definitely worthy of discussion.

One last warm fuzzy--Jean and Brittany (Mayor's wife and daughter) and friend dropped by to make sure we were okay and had all we needed. Jean has her hands full right now and yet took the time to come by and make sure we are doing okay and have what we need.

Perhaps that is another of the reasons that Mound Bayou is a place you want to call home.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Cooking in the kitchen with mama

It is always fun to be with students in the community. I learn so much and hopefully, so do they.

Today we met with city representatives on project planning and then headed out to map the first cemetery. Let me just say once again--the Lexus GPS is a big old disappointment and we had to call on google on the iPhone to help us out. Interestingly enough, though the Lexus GPS says it cannot give us guidance or directions to the location, once we arrived, it piped up with "you have arrived at your destination."

It was a difficult task for all of us to map the cemetery--many graves will have to be reported as unknown.

As two of the students and I prepared dinner tonight, I shared my memories of learning to cook in the kitchen with my great-grandmother, grandmother, mother, aunt, sister, and my two cousins. Tonight felt a little like being back there, only I was Grandmother. I was able to pass on a few tips I learned from my chef friend though, and I'll bet Mama never heard of them.

It was much more difficult talking about the loss of identity of so many people who were buried with markers that had not survived.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

First Day in Mound Bayou

We're here!
It has been a long first day, but fun nonetheless. After a bit of a delay in getting set up at our quarters, we did the orientation tour to acquaint students with the community.

Afterwards, we picked up our needed supplies at the local Dollar General and got sandwich and breakfast items. We were too tired and hungry to cook. After clean-up, we drove over to Cleveland as neither student has ever been in this area. Part of the research is to look at the differences in the communities in the region.

Tomorrow begins our cemetery mapping and more work on asset mapping. One thing we were not prepared for is how hot it is here already!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

First Presbyterian Church

 First Presbyterian was founded in 1837.  This building was constructed in 1881 in the Romanesque Revival style, popular with both Methodist and Presbyterian churches during the late 1800s.
 Cawthon described it as:
...eclectic Romanesque Revival character with some Italianate features. (Pace, 2007, Historic churches of Mississippi)

The Mississippi landmark in front of the church identifies it as founded by early settlers of Scottish descent.  My mother's family were also from Scotland, and came to the US to escape religious persecution during the conflicts between the Protestants and the Catholics.  They settled in Texas, however, where many Scottish were stonemasons and built many of the historic buildings in the area in which I grew up.  Our family were storekeepers, farmers, preachers, and teachers, so it is highly unlikely they ever were involved in building something as fine as First Presbyterian.
The Mississippi Landmark designation is the highest form of recognition bestowed on properties by the state of Mississippi and offers the fullest protection against changes that might alter a property’s historic character. Publicly owned properties that are determined to be historically or architecturally significant may be considered for designation. (MDAH website)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Hendricks Machine Shop Water Valley

 There is quite a history to this building, built in 1860 on Water Valley's Main Street.  The 15,000 square foot building was mentioned in the 1912 volume 12 edition of the Publication of Mississippi Historical Society, along with the fact that in 1860 when it was built, there were 9,531 slaves in Yalobusha County.

It is also listed in the 1918 publication Penton's Foundry List: Directory of the Gray and Malleable Iron, Steel, Brass and Aluminum Foundries in the United States and Canada.  
Mickey Howley, manager of the Water Valley Main Street Association, referred to the blue glass on the building as a "best example" of Carrera Glass.  Carrera glass was one of three trade names for pigmented structural glass, "a colored opaque glass popular on early 20th century buildings" (Preservation, 2002).  Vitrolite and Sani Onyx were the other two brand names.  Many 19th century buildings on Main Streets across the US added the opaque glass to "hide their 19th century dowdy masonry" (Preservation).   The first claimed manufacture of structural glass panels was in 1900, and it was a popular material from the period of 1907-1937.  These glass panels could have been added at any point.  Replacement panels are difficult to find as they have to be salvaged from buildings.

The 1931 Watermelon Carnival Parade featured two floats by the Hendricks Machine Shop.  In 2006, the building (apparently only briefly) housed the Grand Central Station Antiques and Tearoom.  In 2010, it was purchased by Bill McGregor and "recently renovated" in 2011, winning Water Valley Main Street Association's "Saving Heritage Award."  A studio for stained glass was housed in the building in April 2011.  In December 2011, it was listed for sale, but "set off-market" in February 2012.

Friday, May 11, 2012

How's your back side?

Cutting through the alley that runs behind the Oxford Square will give you a definitely different set of images than walking around the picturesque historic square.

This is the side entrance from the alley, into the Library--the one that is a bar, not the one with books.  It strikes me as an unusual door for an alley, but I don't know the original use of the building either.

 The vertical bar beneath the window would have held electrical wires.  I have seen these in other older buildings around the area.

These columns appear in front of City Grocery.  The rear column is clearly an original, and is a type of plaster over it.  I tried to read the sign at the base, but it has too many coats of paint to be clear enough.  there are two columns that appear to be reproductions (of wood) in front of the other column.  You can also note the iron step, similar to the others from the Chickasaw Iron Works in Memphis that have been noted at various locations around the area.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Mound Bayou Community Development: The Recreation Center

 Monday's post introduced you to the Magic City Italian and Seafood Restaurant that one of the groups designed for our youth-led community development workshop.  This group designed the Mound Bayou Recreation Center: An escape for children, with multiple activities, including basketball courts, tutoring centers, swimming lessons, tennis courts, and soccer fields.
Their plan for accomplishing this feat:
Children volunteer their time and help out,
Have fundraisers,
Protecting our building when it is built. 
This group illustrates some important characteristics in understanding youth and their needs and desires.  First, it indicates that youth do value the importance of physical activity, academic success, and team play.  As we have worked with them on developing upcoming summer activities, physical activities have always been on the list.  They want to succeed academically, and work hard to do so.

Second, it indicates (through their plan for accomplishing obtaining this in the community) that they are willing to help it be a success, they recognize that it takes money to build and sustain community facilities, and also that they are invested in caring for the facility, and have a sense of obligation and commitment for it.

They see the importance of learning to work in teams to accomplish a goal bigger than oneself.