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W. P. A. History of Pontotoc County, Mississippi



JOHN A. DONALDSON records some recollections of people and happenings along or near the Pontotoc - Houston Highway:

"Among the settlers who came to Pontotoc County soon after the Treaty of 1832, was John N. Wiley. He lived immediately below town with his bride, Elizabeth Franklin, a daughter of the Franklin after whom Franklin County, Tennessee was given its name. John N. Wiley bought this land on which he lived, sawed the lumber with his slaves with the old fashioned whip saw, and built the old Wiley home on the outskirts of the town of Pontotoc. The next person on this highway was Joe John Pickens, who lived on the hill where Holt James now lives. Pickens was once an officer in Pontotoc County.

After him, in point of distance, was Dr. Marshall Weatherall, who built a house and settled where Mrs. Hattie Webster now lives. Just across and on the west side of the Houston Road from Weatheralls, a man by the name of Alexander built a double log house where Walter Donaldson now lives. South of him, where Ellen Ware (colored) now lives, Billie Walker settled and lived until his death.

Across the Two-mile Creek and on the hill stands today the historical home of Robert Gordon, Lochinvar. Mr. Gordon was a Scotchman who came to America in the early history of this country and later came to Mississippi, from Savannah, Georgia, traded with the Indians and was an extensive real estate dealer. He founded the city of Aberdeen, Mississippi, naming it first Dundee after his Scotch home; later changed to Aberdeen because the people could not give the correct Scotch pronunciation of Dundee. It is said that when Robert Gordon died he left to his son James Gordon, a vast fortune which, if reckoned in the values of today would amount to over a million dollars. James Gordon has been heard to say that if his father left him, besides land, notes, bonds, mules and slaves over $50,000 in clean cash.

South of the Gordon farm where Ol Wood lives, was the home of old Dr. Hanna. Dr. Hanna was not only a practicing physician but a man of considerable wealth. Besides his extensive land ownings, he possessed a great number of slaves. On the hill across the Hanna Creek lived a man who was a son-in-law of Hanna's by the dame of Teter.

On the Natchez Trace north of Toxish the Dukes settled. They were a very influential family in the early history of Pontotoc. William Duke, it has been said, was founder of the family. Among other members were Henry, who at one time was sheriff of Pontotoc County, Jack and Tobe Duke, who were prominent merchants and citizens of the town of Pontotoc, and Miss Sina Duke, who afterwards married Richard Pinson, who died at an advanced age in Memphis not many months ago. Governor Cade, a typical southern gentleman, lived for a number of years with the Dukes. He rode a dapple grey horse which he called "The Grey Eagle".

Another family who lived in the same neighborhood with the Dukes was the Hancock family. Most all of the older members of this family had died before I was born. I remember having heard many of the older citizens speak of this prominent family. I have talked with some of the ex-slaves who belonged to the family, among others, Uncle Jeff Hancock, who told me very many interesting stories of his association with the Indians, and who said that he remembered very distinctly the location of the Council House when the treaty of peace between the Federal Government and the Chickasaws was signed.

South of Teter was the Stephen Daggett home. Stephen Daggett was a man of wealth as well as a very influential citizen in both civic and religious affairs of early Pontotoc history. He and Robert Gordon were brothers in law, both of them having married Waltons. They were witnesses to the Treaty of 1832 between the Chickasaws and the Federal Government.

Just east of the Dagget's was I. N. Cameron, a prominent early citizen, and adjoining his land was the land of J. R. Calloway, also early settler and prominent man in the county. Calloway gave a deed to land on which the Camp Ground Church now stands. Camp Ground was a famous religious center for not only Pontotoc County, but for the entire section. It was on the Natchez trace, and people followed this trace and came annually to the old fashioned meetings that attracted communicants from a wide area

Among others, in and around Camp Ground, were Bracket Owen and the Rev. Robert H. Bonner. Many of Owens's descendents are still living in the county, and Robert H. Bonner, who was a Methodist minister, was the spiritual leader of the community and carried spiritual aid to people not only in his immediate community, but to all parts of Mississippi. Preachers in the early history of this section were few and far between. South of the Daggett place was the famous Monroe Missionary Station that was founded by Father Stuart, a Presbyterian Minister. This was the first church established in this part of Mississippi.

Across the creek, and on the Houston highway from Monroe Church was the Williams place. This Williams was a relative of the Thomas H. Williams who was an early U. S. Senator from Mississippi. South of this Williams residence was the Sammy Crawford home. The Crawfords were prominent people and influential in building up the early civilization of Pontotoc County. Some of the grandsons of Sammy Crawford are still living in this old community.

South of Sammy Crawford lived his father-in-law, Hamp Beckham. Next to the Beckham place on the Houston Highway was the early home of the U. S. Senator Thomas H. Williams. Henry Thompson, a son in law of Ed. R. Williams, now owns and occupies the old Williams home. Near the Beckham place was the home of the Rev. Thomas Stuart (Father Stuart). Near him on the east was Dr. Ware. Dr. Ware's descendants still own part of his original home which has an interesting history connected with it. (See Chapter 6, Ante-bellum Days) Dr. Ware secured a patent for this land signed by Millard Fillmore, then President of the United States. On this Houston Highway south of the old Stuart home was the home of the Pulliams. On or near the old Pulliam Home have been found many evidences of Desoto's battleground with the Chickasaw Indians. Among these evidences Dr. Tom Williams, when a young medical student gathered enough human bones to construct a human skeleton. Besides these bones have been found all kinds of Indian relics and many bullets that were perhaps fired from the guns of the Spaniards. In this same community lived the longest, the Thompsons, the Hollidays and many others.

South of the ground where Old Houlka stood was the Harrell home, and near this home were the Marions, the Pedens, the Wilsons, and others, The Hobsons lived on this highway and Warren Reid, the father of L. B. Reid, who has been the superintendent of the Houston City Schools for more than a fourth of a century, came to this county on Christmas Eve of 1835 and settled on what is now the Reid old home. This land has been in the same family continuously since that date. These are a few of the names of prominent families who lived on or near the Pontotoc Houston Road.

In the early settlement of this country these pioneers realized the necessity of a connecting link between Pontotoc and Houston, so they came together and took their slaves and after having the road surveyed, cut out the Houston Road from old Houlka where the Natchez trace ran, on to Pontotoc. An old negro, Roland Hanna, a former slave of Dr, Hanna, said that the old master, Dr. Hanna, along with the Gordon's, the Daggetts, the Williams, the Dukes, the Crawfords, and perhaps others, took their slaves and cut out the original Pontotoc Houston road.(1)

(1)John A. Donaldson, Sherman, Miss.

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