Thursday, February 27, 2014
Ben Martin brought joy to everyone who knew him
Mary Bea, Jack and Henry Green of Oxford were the weekend guests of their grandparents, Bea and Jimmye Dale Green.
Thank you to the Marshall Academy Lady Patriots and Patriots basketball teams for a wonderful, jam-packed season. Traveling to watch those young people play was so much fun! Seniors Carrie Graham and Elizabeth Skelton will leave a void on the team for sure, as they brought so much to the table to help the Lady Patriots get to the state playoffs! Those two ladies showed grace both on and off the court and will be missed greatly next season!
Happy birthday wishes to Charlie Johnson! She turned 6 Tuesday, celebrating with birthday cake and ice cream with her family.
Having issues in our neighborhood has made me a lot more aware of my surroundings, keeping my eyes peeled and watching more often than not. Sunday night, I noticed cars slowing while traveling down Salem Avenue. I then saw what appeared to be a human, flailing about near the curb. I saw a car stop and someone got out. I went to the sidewalk and hollered down asking if they needed help. I received no response. I called the police department, who informed me a policeman was on the scene. Not a minute later, the car’s lights on top began blinking. We walked down there to see if there was something we could do – what we heard were shouts of profanity by some person on the ground. Shortly thereafter, the police car left. It was nice to see them in action and glad to know they are helping us keep our neighborhood safe.
Monday morning, police cars were back in our neighborhood, only this time not for a crime. Beloved citizen of Holly Springs, Ben Martin, was found in his home not breathing.
I remember first meeting Ben when he bought his home from Ruff Fant roughly 13 years ago. I grew up knowing and adoring Big Margaret Rather, his mother, and of course “little Margaret (Brown),” but did not know Ben or his brothers.
It wasn’t long after Ben moved in that he started updating some things around his home. He even added a little treehouse in the side lawn for his grandchildren, Tanner and Tristan. If ever there was a love for children, Ben had it. He simply beamed when talking about his own children, Ben and Morgan, Ben’s children and Margaret’s children.
I envied his vast art collection. He has works from all over the world, fine pieces representing his phenomenal taste. He certainly was a connoisseur of beautiful artwork and surrounded himself with it.
His absence will leave a hole in the community. He brought joy to everyone who knew him. I was glad to have gotten to know the fine man who lived across the street and honored to have called him my friend.
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Wealthy families of Marshall County in the 1800s
Continued from February 20
One frequently reads highly exaggerated statistics of the wealth of some of the families in the county; however, none approach the actual wealth of Dr. Weldon Jones. There are many stories of the vast numbers of slaves held by some families, whereas the truth falls far short of the myths.
Large Slaveholders of 1860 and African American Surname Matches from 1870 is a very large research site prepared by Tom Blake and includes his considerable work on the two censuses. One can access his work at the MSGENWEB African American Resources found on Mississippi’s genealogical website.
His work shows that in 1860 in Marshall County there were only seven slaveholders who held more than 100 slaves. Among those were Col. John D. Martin, William H. Coxe, Eben N. Davis, William B. Lumpkin, Alexander M. Clayton and J.P. Hardaway, the last two of whom lived in what is now Benton County.
The seventh of those on the list, according to Blake, was Dr. Weldon Jones, the only slaveholder in the county to hold more than 200 slaves, with a total of 223.
The census of the time was more intrusive than one would expect in today’s world. One such question asked how many acres of land, improved and unimproved, one owned, and what it was worth.
Jones answered that he had 2,500 acres of improved land and 1,877 acres of unimproved land for a total of 4,377 acres, most of the land lying in the very southern portions of the county. This is the largest plantation in the county for which I could find records. In all of Mississippi in 1860 there were only 481 farms of more than 1,000 acres.
Earlier in the county history there were speculators who, either individually or as land agents of various land companies, had acquired vast land holdings in the Chickasaw Cession, but as speculators they quickly sold it at rapidly inflated prices. Such men were James Fort, who soon acquired nearly 27,000 acres or Weldon Jones himself who had 19,650 acres, and his brother John P. Jones in Lafayette County who had more than 33,000 acres. Samuel McCorkle of Holly Springs had more than 21,000 acres and Joseph Matthews, one of the government land surveyors sent in to survey the lands, and who was later Governor of Mississippi, had nearly 45,000 acres, but none of these were farmers; they were only buying and selling land, not using it. The acreage shown for these speculators includes only land directly patented from the USA and does not include other private purchases, for instance the land Jones owned in Marshall was all privately purchased except for one quarter-section of 160 acres.
Another question on the 1860 census required one to reveal the value of his property and assorted investments. Weldon Jones’ report to the census taker showed that he was worth $804,000. Using an Internet-based inflation calculator indicates that the amount he had in 1860 would be in excess of $21 million today.
Even with all his wealth and connections, he could do nothing about the cataclysm of the Civil War in which he was ruined financially. While working on deeds for this essay, Beverly Hurdle, in a role reversal, took advantage of my youth and inexperience in using deed searches and quickly found a couple of references for which I had searched fruitlessly for an hour. With her find in hand, it was apparent that as early as 1864, if not earlier, Jones’ lands were being lost for delinquent taxes. The losses continued into 1868 and later.
By 1870 he was living in Lawrence County, Alabama, with his brother Richard, and worth a total of $23,000. He died in 1875, nearly 85 years old and is buried in the Wheeler Family Cemetery there. He left what estate he had left here to his niece, Daniella Jones Wheeler, who in turn left it to her daughter Lucy Wheeler who died in 1924. With Lucy’s death in 1924, her sister Annie Early Wheeler inherited what remained of the Jones property in Marshall County.
Annie Wheeler did not file her sister’s will with the court in Marshall County until 1935. Beverly pointed out that when a will such as this one is filed years later, it usually means that preparations are being made to dispose of all or part of the estate. Congress passed the Flood Control Act of 1936 with Sardis Dam being the first approved on the Yazoo Headwaters Project. The USA had to acquire title to the lands along the proposed flood control project, and it is possible the Wheelers knew of the proposed legislation, and were anticipating the sale to the USA of their property. In 1938 Annie Wheeler did sell 725 acres to the USA for $6,900, or about $9.50 an acre. The land she sold was just west of Tallahatchie River Bridge now under construction, between the old Oxford Road and Whiskey Hill Road. Wheeler may have had other small properties to dispose of, but this transaction essentially was the end of the old Weldon Jones lands.
Annie Early Wheeler was one of the most famous women in Alabama history at the time of her death in 1955. She had worked with Clara Barton in Cuba, and then went to the Philippines where she worked in a military hospital during the Philippine Insurrection, she then went to Europe in WWI with the Red Cross, and worked from Alabama in WWII with the Red Cross.
She established schools on her plantation, paying the teachers personally for years, and led to the introduction of home economics in Alabama schools.
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