Thursday, October 8, 2009
Keeping history and hope alive
By LEONA HARRIS
The Ida B. Wells-Barnett Museum and Cultural Center of African American history and the Holly Springs Federated Improvement Club are working diligently to keep the dream alive.
A white slave owner built the Bessie Jones house, Victorian gothic design, in the early 1800s.
Beside the 12-room, two-story house, there was a slave quarters building, a large barn, carriage house and other outbuildings. The slave quarters included the main kitchen and houses for the slaves, who worked in the house, and those who worked on the farm. The house survived the Civil War and was sold with the surrounding grounds to Griffin Logan, an African American man, and his family in 1897.
This home was a residential showplace and became rich in African American history with the African American family’s ownership. The property was sold in 1917 to Bessie Jones’ family, another well-known African American family with wealth. Bessie Jones converted the barn, carriage house and the surrounding buildings to living quarters for rent. She also altered the house to fit her needs.
As a boarding house, many found comfort and a place to lay their heads when rooming apartments were not available, especially those from Mississippi Industrial College and Rust College students. The Bessie Jones house served as a temporary dorm for Rust College after their men’s dorm burned in the 1940s. Many Marshall County married couples started their lives in this very house renting rooms for years.
One such couple was Henderson and his wife Mary Milan. Mr. and Mrs. Milan moved into the Bessie Jones home from 1951 after their marriage and lived there until 1959. Today, they are the only known surviving couple to have lived in this establishment.
When remembering the Bessie Jones house, the Milans have some very fond memories. Sitting on the porch of the Bessie Jones house, Mr. and Mrs. Milan began to reminisce of a time filled with love, joy and laughter on the second floor of the northeast corner. This was the living quarters they shared with each other for eight years, that included a one-bedroom and private kitchen apartment.
Other fond memories were of an old black heater grate that burned coals to keep them warm.
As they continued to walk down memory lane, Mrs. Milan became nostalgic when speaking of their wedding day. Mrs. Milan recalls how Henderson, her husband-to-be, was all dressed up in his service uniform and she was dressed in a beautiful white, long, satin gown that she had purchased from Goldsmith’s. She smiled and she talked about these wonderful memories; he was 30 and she was 27 when they married on Oct. 24, 1951.
As they continue reminiscing about the years gone by and thanking God for being able to come sit once again on the porch where they started together, the couple got an early start on celebrating their 58th wedding anniversary. Although the couple’s actual anniversary is not until Oct. 24, the couple were pleased to share these memories on Sept. 30.
These memories were shared with Ida B. Wells-Barnett Museum and Cultural Center of African American History and the Holly Springs Federated Improvement Club; Eddie L. Smith 4-H Club, Autriniece Folsom, leader; Lee Richmond and her family; Rev. Leona Harris; Obera Jones and Hubcap. Because of the Milans, who shared their anniversary memories, the Ida B. Wells-Barnett Museum and the Federated Club continue to keep history and hope alive through the generosity of others. We invite all of Marshall County to help us keep the dream alive by becoming a volunteer, serving on a committee or by contributing financial support. For information, please call 662-252-3232.
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