WRITTEN BY A. A. KITCHINGS
(Based on a 1930 interview of T. J. Burks)
John H. Smallwood, Jr.
Copyright Ó 1997-1999, all rights reserved
Information acquired from Mr. T. J. Burks who was born near Harperville between the farm house and the Beeman place, in Scott County, September 14, 1851.
Nat Thornton taught the first school at Harperville. The flour mill was established at Harperville about 1868, under energies and vision of George Harper. Talk of a factory led some folks to come there, among whom was Dr. Lack and Matthew Jordan, Jim Turner and a Mr. Shannon. Holifields also moved there in early days, and George Harper married one of them for his second wife. They were probably married about ten years before this time. He lived at first south of Harperville towards Hillsboro. Around and near Harperville lived Tom Harris, Isaac Harrelson, William Harrelson, William Gaines--all these made a good community.
Rev. Burks father was a member of Hays Creek Baptist Church north of Harperville towards Pensacola.. During the war the pastor was S. J. Denson. William Butler was also pastor after close of the war. Jack Tripp followed him. The church then died. Mr. Tom Harris was the largest slave holder about Harperville at this time. The community doctor was Dr. Fonza Banks.
Rev. Burks was sixteen years old when he left this Harperville community. During his early life in the above named community he often went to Hillsboro, the county site [sic] of Scott. He brought mail to his friends from here. This mail came in on stage coach. Hillsboro was a sparkling little town made of lumber. There was one brick house that was Dick Smiths law office.
With the earliest recollection William Rogers was sheriff, Wesley Bounds was circuit and chancery clerks. There were three lawyers--Judge Wafford, Dick Smith and Pete Buckner. T. B. Graham had just begun to practice law when volunteers were called for, and went out as captain of the first company who left Hillsboro in war between states. Rev. Burks father, M. H. Burks, organized this company of troops and mustered them into service. T. B. Graham later became colonel of troops in the war.
Some citizens were Sam Kirklands father, J. C. Hardy, who killed six Yankees, old Bobbie Chambers, the grandfather of the Hederman brothers who no live in Jackson (1930); old man Gilmore lived there. He claimed to be a Republican and he was made circuit clerk and he filled the office through his son. Old Captain Owens claimed to be a Republican and was made sheriff after the war. His son, John, filled the office.
Rev. Burks moved two miles north of Ludlow, Leake County at the age of 16. At this time the war was just past. The Negroes drifted away from this part of the county. Rev. Burks married at the age of nineteen to a Miss Bettie Morgan, daughter of F. E. L. Morgan, a sister to Dr. Bill Morgan who practiced at Ludlow. After marriage he lived in Scott [County] two miles northwest of Ludlow.
Rev. Burks father was a son of James L. Burks, who moved from Tennessee to Georgia at an early age, and married a Miss Robinson. Afterwards he fought in [the] War of 1812. He was mustered out at New Orleans and was in the Marmarch from New Orleans up by Mobile, into Georgia and nearly starved to death. He left Georgia to go to Arkansas and enroute he passed through Ludlow. He and his company camped at Coffeebogue, west of Ludlow. Here he was met by S. J. Denson and they learned that their first wives were cousins. This fact led to a change of mind which caused him to stay in Mississippi. Later his son, M. H., married S. J. Densons daughter, whose name was Susan. Her mother was a Chambers. S. J. Denson came to Mississippi from Alabama. He came to Alabama from North Carolina where he was born and reared. He came to Mississippi in 1831 at the age of 31 years. In Alabama he was a shoemaker. He married an educated woman who taught him. He became pretty well educated. He was very fond of history and also fond of poetry. He became a successful cattle man on a ranch near Sand Hill. He was in the cattle business when he bought his first slaves. He moved here to an Indian town near Good Hope, but sold it to John Robinson, and moved to Ludlow. John Robinson was his brother-in-law, and the father of William Robinson, the great Baptist preacher. (I knew him to be the father of cousin Jim Robinson.)
S. J. Denson, while in Rankin County, became a member of the legislature,and be built the railroad from Jackson to Brandon. He moved to Brandon for a short time and here he kept his daughters in school for a while.
While he lived in Scott [County] he was made probate judge and was called "Judge Denson" ever afterwards. About 1854 he had a great house built about one mile west of Ludlow. The contract was given to old brother Miles. He died and old brother Hackett and his brother finished the job. This house was a real mansion. His assessment the year the war began was about $86,000.00. His oldest son was named William, who lived east of Ludlow about half a mile on what I know as the Davenport place. He married a Miss Jones, whose name was Jane,and she was the mother of Mrs. Richard Lee, Sr. I knew Aunt Jane. The second son was Josiah who became a doctor and preacher. He studied at home and in New Orleans. He was accepted as a great doctor. My mother has often spoken of him as doctor in her family. After he got old he quit the practice of medicine, and moved to Louisiana where he lived with his son John.. He built a fine home where Herd Stone lives now in 1930.
He and Rev. Burks father were married same night. He had to steal his wife. He married a Small.Her mother was a Burnham before she married Small. He graduated in medicine and began practicing quite young. He built his fine house before the war. He was there when Sherman came through.
In 1860, Judge Denson divided his Negroes with his children. When Sherman came through he had one hundred bales of cotton near where Will Lewis now lives. It was all destroyed. He lost all of his property. John Smith took his Negroes, stock, produce, etc., and went to the woods and thus saved all his property. But his store was burned and a lot of cotton burned.
Rev. Burks remembers that his mother sent Negroes, rails, etc., and moved rails enough to fence a small patch for farming. General Sherman camped at Judge Densons. He had a conversation with Sherman in which he related his faith in God to take care of him though the Yankees relieved him of all things. Aunt Jane said they even took her babies' napkins. Billie Densons girls had to go to bed till their dresses were washed.
Rev. Burks father-in-law had a big place north west of Ludlow. He had his Negroes and stock hidden out. Suddenly a Negro led the Yankees to the rendezvous and wiped all out. He had a fine horse he had brought from Alabama, named Bill Zancy. They got him with the mules.
About 1856 or 57 Starus Morman built a fine house for John L. Smith which later became property of L. B. Bilbro. He also built Josiah Densons house about 1859. These three fine houses were not burned by the Yankees. Judge Denson had a trunk of books fired by the "devils," but someone threw [put] it out.
Judge Densons first daughter married George McCabe from Tennessee. He was a fine mechanic. He and his father-in-law found a mill seat on Tallebogue Creek, a mile from Harperville. Here they erected a grist mill, maybe the first in the county.
McCabe was father of five children among them were Henry, , Mrs. Newt Burnham, Mrs. John Robbins, Mrs. Bob Lee and Mrs. Florence Butler.. Last named lives in Texas. Henry [McCabe] became a great lawyer in Vicksburg and was once a candidate for governor of Mississippi. The third daughter married Col. Joe L. Denson. He was father of Ed Denson and Mrs. Wiley White.. The next was one [who] married a Frank Smith who died in the war.. His widow married Col. Gill.. Mrs. Smith was mother of Mrs. C. A. Huddleston. The next child was Dr. Jim Denson, whom I knew and to whom I am indebted. He was studying medicine when the war broke out. He enlisted as a private in Capt. Tom Densons company.. He went through to the end and never got a scratch. His old servant lived with Brother Burks and talked a great deal about "Marse Jimmie." He became a captain in the army. He farmed a while and later studied medicine. He practiced up at Tuscola. He was in the "Black and Tan" Convention..
He was a member of the legislature once or twice from Leake County. He was said to be so astute in the Black and Tan Convention that his opponents "were as afraid of him as they would be of the devil at judgment."
Judge Denson was born in North Carolina in 1800 and died in Ludlow in 1888, at his old home. In his seventies he married a widow Lyon from Georgia who was a first cousin to Capt. John Hardin, who was the father of Rev. Paul Hardin, who started preaching up about Lena. There is an interesting incident which took place in connection with the Hardins.
One Sunday morning a blind man, Hamilton, who was a Methodist preacher walked into the church at Jerusalem.. He asked if Brother Denson was there. He wanted to go home with him for dinner. He was sent to Dr. Densons home for dinner. After dinner he asked Judge Denson to baptize him. He argued well that Denson should baptize him, even though his church had not authorized him to so. He baptized him in Coffee BogueCoffeebogue [Creek].
Judge Denson lost his sight in his seventies.
In naming Judge Densons children, Tom Denson was omitted. He was first married to Sallie Smith of Madison County. She did not live long. He then took back to her father all her property. She was a sister to John L. Smith.
He then married a Miss Ledbetter. Among their children were L. L. Denson, Abbie Denson, John and Tom. Tom Denson lived at Harperville. He kept boarders at Harperville. Judge Densons youngest daughter who married Frank Smith, was then mother of Mrs. C. A. Huddleston. After she married Gill she and two of her children went crazy.
Every one of Judge Densons children became devout members of the Baptist Church. Judge Denson took Mrs. Robbins when she was about two months.. Judge Denson reared her to womanhood. He also reared some Burns children--three. He also kept one Robinson girl.. McCabe sold his mill place to Mr. Harrelson. Judge Denson sent two McCabe children, Mrs. Burnham and Mrs. Bob Lee to a Catholic school, Nazareth, in North Carolina. The others went to school at Ludlow.
When Mr. and Mrs. Newt Burnham were married, Tressie and Florence [McCabe] went to live with them. Henry [McCabe] did not go with them. He and Fred Bostick left and got a job on the railroad as firemen. They got turned off because they were minors, in-as-much as the railroad lost a [law] suit in which a minor was concerned. He [Henry McCabe] was induced to go to Mississippi College by Mr. Newt Burnham. He finished and taught school at Ludlow. At the end of a session he went to Lebanon, Texas, to a law school. He located at Forest and married Miss Flossie Jack of Forest. He was elected to the legislature from Scott [County]. He later moved to Vicksburg and kept the law practice going.
When Judge Denson built his home west of Ludlow there was not a home between Sand Hill and Good Hope. The first store house built in Ludlow was right in front of the house where Will Lewis lives now (1930). It belonged to Judge Denson. One John Burks kept it for Judge Denson. When John L. Smith married into the family, he ran Densons store for him.
The second store at Ludlow was built by John L. Smith in the old Sam Pool store location. It was burned by the Yankees and rebuilt by John L. Smith.
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