Photo by Sue Watson
Simpson Lumber Co. was uncovered recently while demolition workers took down the old Marshall County Lumber building.

Roy Ray

Simpson Lumber Co. remembered

People still recall Simpson Lumber Co., which was covered up when the building was expanded by Hardy and Roy Ray to become Marshall Lumber.

Johnny Boone remembered Simpson’s was still in business under that name in the 1960s, since he and Nancy Boone got married in the 1970s.

That information and the name Connie Ash, provided by Nancy Boone, helped trace a thread back a few years more. Ash, who lives on Marbury Drive, said she worked for Simpson’s for 21 years.

“We first moved to Holly Springs in 1956,” Ash said.

Her father, William Chesterman, worked at Simpson’s. He died in 1971.

Simpson sold out to Whitley Cocke, Flick Ash and Tootsie Hurdle in 1974. That partnership, ACH Lumber, kept the business until 1988.

Bill Seale was said to be the manager of the lumber company for Sarah Simpson.

Mack Simpson started the lumber company, George Humphreys said.

“That building was original in front until the Rays added on to it,” Connie Ash said.

The Simpsons also owned an old gin back behind the lumber company and they owned the house next door.

“Ms. Willie Simpson died and Rook Moore bought the house,” Ash said.

Ash began working for Simpson’s in 1967.

That brought Ash back from the old days until today. She said she does not like to live life in a rush.

“I stay on the two-lane and take my time,” she said. “I’m in no hurry to get anywhere anymore.”

That comment came on the heels of a discussion of how long people will have to wait for trains at the crossing on East Boundary while Salem Bridge is under reconstruction.

Roy Ray added more substance to the story. He said he believes the Simpsons started the lumber company in the 1930s or 1940s.

When he and Hardy purchased the company from ACH Lumber, there was a cotton gin behind the lumber company. In a separate purchase, they bought a second gin located across Salem Avenue near the Holly Springs Architectural Millwork and Manufacturing facility that Simpson was believed to have owned in a separate purchase.

When they bought the property, there were three or four pieces to it: the lumber company lot, the lot the gin was on behind the lumber company, and five or six acres north of the railroad track and five or six lots at Potts Camp.

Ray said he believes a Dr. John Sowell, perhaps a dentist, owned the Simpson house first – the house now owned by Rook and Marie Moore.

“My grandmother Sally Roberta Hunsucker Ray got married in the Sowell House,” Ray said.

His grandparents were John Thomas Ray and Sally Roberta Hunsucker Ray who lived on the Sowell farm. They are buried in the Salem Cemetery east of town on Chewalla Road.

“I have a letter dated 1912 from my great-grandmother, my grandmother’s mother, that tells of meeting Mr. Sowell at the bridge,” Ray said. “She was going to Texas and had come to Holly Springs from Ashland to meet the train. A flood came and she waited there, then caught the train to Texas at the railroad depot.”

Roberta Jane Ray Anderson, Hardy and Roy’s sister, incidentally, died July 26, 2017, at 2:10 p.m. She bore the middle names of her grandmothers from each side of her family.

Marie Moore clarified some things about the properties. She and Rook bought Wakefield in 1973 from the late Sarah (Mrs. Mack) Simpson and her sister-in-law the late Frances (Otis) Casanova of Rolling Fork.

The owners of ACH purchased the lumber company from Sara and Frances, Moore said.

Dr. Sowell did own Wakefield for a brief time. The house was built in 1858 by Joel E. Wynne, merchant and contractor of the firm Wynne and Watt, Moore said. Wynne sold the house to a widow named Anne Dickins with the coming of the Civil War. She moved in with her small family.

Union Garrison Commander W.A. Newton took over the house, moving the Dickins family to an upstairs room. Soldiers camped around the house. Nearby at the Depot, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant was amassing supplies for the siege of Vicksburg.

“Mrs. Dickins and Mr. Newton had a romance, creating a lot of town gossip, and they eventually married,” Moore said.

Sherwood Bonner recorded in her novel “Like Unto Like” about the romance which was a central incident in her novel. Moore said that tidbit was related to her by historian Hubert McAlexander. Bonner lived across the street from Wakefield.

Dickins and Newton lived in Holly Springs well after the war, Moore said, and Newton played a big role in Reconstruction.

They sold the house and left town with the final withdrawal of Union troops, Moore said.

“The house changed hands many times, thereafter, even once being lost in a poker game,” Moore said. “Sallie Calhoun owned the house at the time, around the turn of the century. She honored her husband’s gambling debt and they moved out. One of her descendants, from Ft. Smith, Arkansas, came to visit us years ago and said their grandmother was so angry about the loss of the house she dug up her rose bushes and took them with her when she moved out, saying, “they may have my house, but they shan’t have my roses.”

Holly Springs South Reporter

P.O. Box 278
Holly Springs, MS 38635
PH: (662) 252-4261
FAX: (662) 252-3388

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