Photo by Sue WatsonHolly Springs visitors tour the historic First Presbyterian Church downtown.
Photo by Sue WatsonDavid Person and Jodi Skipper (at right) lay out the tour plan for guests participating in the side tour connected with the Faulkner Conference in Oxford. The group gathered first at The Bottomless Cup.
‘Telling the full history’
The theme of this year’s 45th annual Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha Conference was slavery.
Jodi Skipper, associate professor of Anthropology and Southern Studies at Ole Miss, said each year the conference focuses on a theme, and because of her connection with Holly Springs a tour was arranged to visit the city.
Twenty-three conferees took the bus tour to Holly Springs. They began the day with coffee at The Bottomless Cup, walked down the street to the historic First Presbyterian Church, toured the slave quarters at the Hugh Craft House, McCarroll Place, Burton Place and The Magnolias, and shopped at the I.C. Levy Project. Lunch was enjoyed at The Depot in Holly Springs with Gwen Wyatt as hostess.
“My colleague J. Watson runs the conference and wanted to come here this year,” Skipper said.
McCarroll Place, recently purchased by Harvey Payne of Holly Springs and a home some claim was frequently visited by the literary giant William Faulkner, was a highlight of the tour, according to David Person, who co-hosted the tour with Skipper.
“We are not going to stray too far from the theme this year – a topic very close to us in Holly Springs,” Person said to tourists at the onset of the tour at The Bottomless Cup.
He tied this tour in concept and theme to a recent tour of the city by the National Trust a couple of months ago entitled “Telling the Full History.”
“Part of our objective today is to tell you the full history,” he told the visitors.
He noted the chosen site for lunch, the historic Depot, which he said was the economic boom probably as well as the center of commerce before the Civil War.
Person said the county was probably the largest demographic of enslaved people in the area, as well, before the Civil War of the 1860s.
Noted in the conference program are comments on Faulkner, who it is said “evinced little serious interest in the issue of slavery or the lives of the enslaved: their experiences, words, deeds, consciousness, personal relationships, or historical legacies.
“This is perhaps surprising, given the fact of slaveholding, and the likelihood of sexual liaisons between enslavers and the enslaved, in Faulkner’s own family history. After 1930, however, the year he moved his family into an antebellum town house, “Rowan Oak,” built by a slaveholding Mississippi planter, Faulkner turned repeatedly to the subject of slavery over subsequent decades of his writing career.”
The local tour included a “Behind the Big House” tour of former slave quarters in Holly Springs. It also included New Albany and the Ripley city library where participants heard about the Ripley/Faulkner background, and to the Ripley cemetery – where Faulkner’s great-great-grandfather, “The Old Colonel” is buried beside his impressive statue.
Person summarized the importance of this visit.
“Holly Springs is rich in cultural, historical and heritage venues and sites,” he said. “We are just now understanding how interwoven these sites are with a growing and expanding demand for truthful dialogue and first-class presentation of our assets. Holly Springs is waking up to the connections our community has to a very large tourism market.
“This market expects and demands much more from Holly Springs, especially when groups like the Faulkner Conference, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Social Justice Weekend make plans to visit our wonderful city. Families and single groups of visitors expect the same quality and experience as well.
“We are seeing first-hand the importance of Heritage Tourism – the fastest-growing segment of the tourism industry. We must partner and work together to earn our portion of the heritage tourism ‘pie.’ The Faulkner Tour is just the beginning.”