The Bonner Home
Excerpt from "Some Historic Homes of Mississippi" By Mrs. N. D. Deupree.
This home on Salem street, in the historic little city of Holly Springs, was built in 1858 by Dr. Charles Bonner, a native of Ireland, who in the "Flush Times" came to Mississippi, and finding it a goodly land, cast in his lot with the cultured and refined people that he found had preceded him to this land of promise. Among the lovely daughters of the sunny clime there was one fairer than all the rest to the young doctor from across the seas, and to her he offered his heart's best affection and won her love and hand in marriage. Having secured the bird, he must needs furnish the cage. The home is a commodious brick mansion built in Gothic style, with windows opening to the floor, a wide portico in front, the roof supported by ten slender iron pillars, with handsome fret-work also of iron joining the pillars. The balcony has the same design of fret-work in the balustrade that surrounds it. One enters a wide reception hall; on the left is the library peopled with books, bright with pictures, luxurious with soft-toned rugs and richly carved furniture; a big, open, wood fire-place, tiled in pale yellow, surmounted by a hard-wood mantel, and with brass andirons, which were piled high with blazing logs whenever the frost-king overstepped the bounds of his domain. From the chimney-piece the astral lamps shed a soft radiance over a long table piled with books and papers. The library is connected with the hall by folding doors. On the right is the drawing room, also connected with the hall by folding doors. When these doors open, the whole front of the house is converted into one grand room. The family was preeminently literary, and the literateurs of the country often visited there; and when the grand drawing-room was ablaze with light that "shone o'er fair women and brave men," it was a scene of delight. From the rear hall a broad stairway leads by easy flights to the upper story; on the first landing is an arched window in two sections filled with tinted glass. The upper hall is without a partition and has a sash door opening onto a balcony in front. There are four large bedrooms on the second floor, with double windows in front and long narrow ones on the sides. In the rear yard, and remote from the dwelling, as was the custom in days gone by, are the servants' quarters, the kitchen and store-rooms. Beyond these lie the vegetable garden and orchards, which were planted by Dr. Bonner.
The house stands quite a distance from the street, and is surrounded by a spacious lawn shaded by fine old oaks, holly and cedars. A large grapevine has claimed one old monarch for its own, and after climbing to the top and falling back has then climbed up again until but little of the tree can be seen. On the west side of the lawn there is a broad driveway bordered by a row of walnut trees; on the east side is the garden devoted to flowers of every variety native to the soil and climate.
Into this lovely home came sons and daughters to bless and to brighten its lofty rooms and spacious grounds. First came Catherine Sherwood, who inherited her sense of humor and love of books from her father, her beauty and womanliness from her mother; the next to gladden the hearts of the parents was Ruth Martin, now Mrs. David McDowell, who lives in "The City of Flowers." The eldest daughter is best known as "Sherwood Bonner." Her life was beautiful in the charm of intelligence and sensibility that were ever about her, like a rose-tinted atmosphere heavy with the perfume of flowers. She was a brilliant conversationalist and won the admiration of all who heard her low, sweet voice. A fine linguist, she lived in the English classics with a love that made her akin to their genius. Her contributions to literature prove the excellence she might have attained had her life been longer spared. (For a more extended sketch of the life and writings of this gifted woman see Vol. II. of the Publications of the Mississippi Historical Society.) During the Civil War, Dr. Bonner had charge of the hospitals of the city and frequently gave rooms in his home for the use of convalescents, who, amid the beautiful surroundings and under the care of the lovely Mrs. Bonner, soon regained health and strength. The home was several times occupied by the Federal officers as headquarters. At one time the family was turned out of the house and it was filled with sick and wounded Federal soldiers. Raids were made not only on the dwelling, but on the larder as well. The time came when the poultry-yard was reduced to three chickens, and the farm-yard had but two little pigs scampering around. Mrs. Bonner, hoping to save these for a time of greater need, hid the chickens in the attic and the pigs in the cellar; but alas! the chickens would cackle, and the pigs would grunt, thus betraying their hiding-places, and finally paid the penalty of their noise by falling a prey to Yankee appetites.
In 1903 the home passed out of the possession of the Bonner heirs and was purchased by State Senator William A. Belk, who has given his home the pretty and appropriate name of Cedarhurst.
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