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Tag: History

Gifts of 2012

The Season of giving is the perfect time to reflect on the gifts Lakeport has received in 2012.

In April Lakeport received nineteen of the original balusters that had been removed and placed in Helen Epstein Kantor’s Greenville home ca 1950. Read more about the balusters in the post:  Balusters Return to Lakeport!

Balusters in Kantor house, 2008

In June Richard M. Johnson, brought Lakeport a number of goodies for a long-term loan. We received several books; Two books, from the 1830s, belonged to Richard’s great-grandfather Lycurgus L. Johnson; the remainder of the books belonged to Richard’s grandfather, Dr. Victor M. Johnson and included medical texts, a bee keeping manual, and literary volumes. Richard also brought Lakeport his grandmother Martha Johnson’s beaten biscuit maker, his grandfather’s bee foundation maker, and a cradle that was in use in the family from the 1870s into the 1970s. Richard also donated a love seat which needs restoration.

In September, during the opening of our exhibits, we received several donations.

Cat Johnson Pearsall, daughter of Robley Johnson, donated her father’s baby book, family newspaper clippings and her father’s final written memories of Lakeport. Inside her father’s baby book we found a lock of young Robley’s hair and his first photo from Thanksgiving Day 1908 in Greenville, Mississippi.

Victor & Martha Johnson with son Robley, Thanksgiving Day, 1908, Greenville, Miss.

The 1908 photo’s location in Greenville has proved a bit of a mystery. There seems to be an iconic rose window in the background that might be a church. Victor and Martha were introduced at the First Christian Church in Greenville, a church his sisters Linnie Johnson and Annie Johnson Starling founded. But the structure in the background doesn’t seem to resemble known images of the Christian Church (like this one at the Mississippi Department of Archives & History) or any other turn of the century church in Greenville.

Bill Gamble, a Greenville resident and a descendant of Lyne Starling, donated Lyne’s 1871 Yale Yearbook. The Starlings, led by William Starling, purchased Sunnyside Plantation in 1868. Lyne’s brother Charles also attended Yale that year and married Annie Johnson at Lakeport in 1878. You can read about their sister Lollie’s memories of Lakeport in the post Laura (Lollie) P. Starling (1854-1946).

On a related note: Ben & Phyllis Starling, residents of Botha, Alberta and descendants of Charles Starling, donated William Starling’s Civil War notebook and surveyor’s hand level (ca. 1863).

Finally, two portraits were shared with Lakeport.  One is a portrait of Sam Epstein, who bought Lakeport in 1927 from Victor Johnson. It is on loan to Lakeport from Lynda Festinger White, grand daughter of Mr. Epstein.

Sam Epstein, ca. 1940

Ed Warren, grand nephew of Frank H. Dantzler, Jr. donated the portrait of Mr. Dantzler’s mother, Julia Drake Dantzler. The portrait hung at Lakeport while Mr. Dantlzer managed Lakeport from 1927-1950 (Dantzler partly owned Lakeport between 1927-1940).

Julia Drake Dantzler, mother of Frank Dantzler, Jr., ca. 1880

Thank you to all the donors in 2012 and years past! Donations deepen our understanding of Lakeport’s history and create a richer experience for visitors.

A Stroll through downtown Warren, Arkansas

After a meeting in Warren (Bradley County), I had the chance to stroll around downtown Warren.  I was impressed with how much of its historic fabric is still intact.

The courthouse is an impressive two-story structure designed in 1903 by Little Rock architect Frank W. Gibb.  The National Register form on AHPP’s website describes the building as :
 an impressive two-story brick structure with towers.  Distinctive features of the building include brick quoins arched windows with keystones, gauged brick voussoirs, denticulated cornices, and the usage of two colors of brick.  A cut-stone water table extends around the entire building.  The most distinctive feature of the building is the clock tower located on the southwest corner.  The main body of the tower is two-and-one-half stories with a four-faced clock located atop.  Centered above the clock is a cupola featuring archways, denticulated cornice and a hexagonal roof. 

Near the courthouse are two Art Deco style buildings, the 1931 Warren Municipal Building and the 1948  Warren YMCA (now the Donald W. Reynolds YMCA after a 2005 remodeling and expansion).

Warren Municipal Building

Warren YMCA / Donald W. Reynolds YMCA

Two other bulding that caught my eye were the First State Bank of Warren (1927) and the Bailey House (ca. 1900).  The Bailey house, built for a local druggist, has a unique cupola and other Victorian features. AHPP’s description of the Bailey house claims it “is one of the most architecturally interesting residential structures in south Arkansas.” The First State Bank of Warren struck me with its proportioned neo-classical architecture and the watchful eagle perched atop the building.  First State Bank does not appear to be on the National Register.

Bailey House

First State Bank of Warren

There are many other historic buildings in downtown Warren.  AHPP’s website lists 13 buildings that are on the National Register, so you can explore more there.  Luckily, in July 2012, AHPP will hold a Walks in History Tour and we’ll be able to learn more.

Walks in History Tour sponsored by Arkansas Historic Preservation Program

July 14, 2012 – Historic Downtown Warren

Historic Downtown Warren. In 1880 Warren, the Bradley County seat, became the western terminus of the Ouachita Division of the Little Rock, Mississippi River & Texas Railroad, providing a reliable means of transportation for the town’s vast timber resources. A multitude of small lumber mills operated in Warren and Bradley County in the 1880s, but the industry was later dominated by large mills like the Southern Lumber Company and the Arkansas Lumber Company. The aforementioned companies partnered in 1899 to build the short-line Warren & Ouachita Valley Railroad from Warren to Banks to aid in the shipping of timber. Warren is also the self-proclaimed “Pink Tomato Capital of the World,” hosting the Pink Tomato Festival each June. The tour group will meet at the Dr. John Wilson Martin House at 200 Ash St. Co-sponsored by the Bradley County Historical Museum.

Courthouse Records: Lycurgus Johnson to Lydia Taylor

The marriage of  Lycurgus Johnson, age 24, and Lydia Taylor, age 19, on June 13, 1842 is recorded in county records at the Chicot County Courthouse.  The marriage was officiated by Lycurgus’ uncle, Benjamin Johnson, who was the Federal Judge for the District of Arkansas.

Lydia Taylor was the daughter of Col. Benjamin Taylor.  Col. Taylor was among the Kentucky kinsmen who began buying Arkansas land in the 1830s.  He had four daughters, Ann Taylor Johnson Worthington (widow of Lycurgus’ uncle James Johnson before marrying Isaac Worthington), Mary Jane Taylor Cable, Lydia Taylor Johnson, and Theodosia Taylor Sessions.  Col. Taylor died in 1850 when he and his horse were swept away and drowned during a rainstorm.  He is buried in Lexington Cemetery.

Lycurgus and Lydia had twelve children during their marriage:

1. Joel Johnson, born May 16, 1843, died Dec. 30, 1847
2. Benjamin Taylor Johnson, born March 25, 1845, died Jan. 8, 1848
3. John Henry Johnson, born Oct. 23, 1846, died Dec. 20, 1847

4. Mary J. Johnson, born October 21, 1848
5. Linnie Johnson, born September 12, 1850
6. Theodore Johnson, born May 6, 1852
7. Annie Johnson, born April 25, 1854
8. Cave J. Johnson, born February 13, 1856
9. Walter L. Johnson, born January 8, 1858
10. Julia J. Johnson, born July 12, 1860, died November 1, 1869
11. Victor M. Johnson, born February 17, 1863
12. Cable Johnson, born March 15, 1865, died August 5, 1867

Except for one, all the children, were born in Chicot County, Arkansas at the Florence Plantation or Lakeport Plantation.  Linnie Johnson was born in Lexington, Kentucky in September, where the family spent their summers. The couple’s first three children died within three weeks of each other at the Florence Plantation in Arkansas.  Mostly likely the cause of their early deaths was a cholera, yellow fever or influenza epidemic.  Those three children are buried at the Frankfort Cemetery in Frankfort, Kentucky.  The two children who died at Lakeport Plantation after the Civil War, Cable (d. 1867) and Julia (d. 1869) are buried at Lakeport.  Lydia and Lycurgus are both buried in the Frankfort Cemetery near Lycurgus’ father, Joel.  It is unclear where Lycurgus’ mother, Verlinda Claggett Offutt (1795-1868), is buried.  There is no marker for her at Frankfort Cemetery and she’s not listed on Joel’s obelisk marker.

Historic Preservation in Lake Village: Remembering, Tearing Down, and Preserving History

Back in April, the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program focused on downtown Lake Village for their “Walks Through History Tour.”  In February, Lake Village’s downtown was added to the National Register for its local significance under Criterion A (economic development of the city) and C (mid 20th-century architecture).  According to AHPP, “The Lake Village Commercial Historic District exemplifies the growth of the city through its peak in the 1950s.  The period of significance extends from 1906 to 1960.” 

The script for the AHPP tour, given and researched by Rachel Silva, is now available on AHPP’s website as a pdf file.  My Pictures of the tour are below:

This August one of the buildings discussed in the tour, the Dixie Queen, was torn down.  The tour script says, “Not in district—built about 1935 as a filling station. Later became the Dixie Queen Dairy Bar, a popular hangout for Lake Village youth in its heyday.”

Dixie Queen, April 2011


Dixie Queen, August 3, 2011. Photo by Ned McAffry.


Slab on N. Lakeshore Dr., August 8, 2011

While the loss of the 1935 Dixie Queen / filing station leaves a hole in the city’s historic fabric and an empty lot along the lake front, the city of Lake Village continues with its plans to restore the historic Tushek Building for city offices.


Tushek Building, April 2011

The 1906 Tushek Builing is described in the National Register nomination as the “finest example of a commercial building designed in the Beaux Arts style in the county seat of Lake Village.”  The earliest known photo of the building is from a 1908 postcard:

1908 Postcard of Lake Village (corner of Main & Court Streets).  Courtesy of Blake Wintory

Meanwhile, over in Monticello (Drew County), the city celebrated the dedication of the rehabilitated Ridgeway Hotel Historic District (includes H. M. Wilson Building).  The Ridgeway, a 1930 hotel and a 1912 hardware store, have been rehabed into senior living apartments.  The historic district was added to the National Register in 2009.

1935 Lake Chicot Garden Club Visits Lakeport

While doing research at the Arkansas History Commission in the Clara B. Eno Collection, which contains the source material for her 1939 book, Historic Places in Arkansas, I found a June 1935 article about the Lake Chicot Garden Club’s visit to Lakeport.

By 1935 Lakeport had been vacated by the Johnsons, who moved to Greenville, Mississippi, and sold to Sam Epstein.  Frank Dantzler and his wife, Fannie (both originally from Macon, Mississippi), occupied the home and ran the plantation for Mr. Epstein.  Mrs. Dantzler died in 1936 and Mr. Dantzler continued to operate the plantation until 1950.  He died in 1952.  Both are buried in Odd Fellows Cemetery in Macon.  

The article describes the house (not always accurately) as having a “spacious front lawn filled with oaks and magnolias,” “wrought iron balconies, 12-foot tall mahogany doors, arched doorways, winding stairs and beautiful coped ceilings.”  Outside the house, the ladies of the club found “old slave quarters, dairies and outdoor kitchen still in perfect condition.”

Commentary: The ornamental iron is cast iron, the doors are 10′ 8″ pine with a faux grain in oak and rosewood, and there is only one arch in the house.  There was probably only one dairy and the “outdoor kitchen” was likely the smokehouse, since the kitchen, with a built in cast iron stove, is attached to the house. I’m very curious about the “old slave quarters”; is it the collection of building north of the house captured in a 1927 photo during the flood?  We have since decided these buildings date to after 1870, probably to the time Victor Johnson ran the plantation.

Eno listed 11 historic places in the Chicot County (vs. 34 in her home county of Crawford).

 Eno’s Historic Places in Chicot County (1939)

1. Battlefield of Dutch [sic Ditch] Bayou.

2. A Skirmish during the War between States occurred on the Tecumseh Plantation.

3. Confederate Monument at Lake Village, erected by the Capt. McConnel Chapter of Lake Village, George K. Cracraft Chapter of Eudora, and the citizens of Chicot County.  It stands on the Court House lawn on the lake front.

4. Site of the Corneil Warfield home on Grand Lake on Highway 65 just beyond Eudora.  It contains secret closets.

5.  Home of Lycurgus Johnson, a noted family.

6. The John Saunder home, occupied as a hospital during the War between the States.  Now the home of Judge Harry C. Cook.

7.  Lewellen [sic Llewellyn] Place 12 miles above Luna Landing.

8.  Luna Landing in the northern part of the county on the Mississippi river, where the inhabitants of the nearby county received their supplies from 1840 to 1903.  From the Steamboat Landing on Grand Lake, those in the southern part were supplied.

9. A monument marks the sight where Lindbergh made his first night flight in 1923.  This is on Highway No. 2, two miles north of Lake Village.  Marked by the Delphian Club.

10.  Indian Mounds, Mt. Tecumseh, about 50 feet high.

11.  Lake Village County Seat, marked by Centennial Commission.

I plan on visiting Eno’s sites and updating their description.  Check back for more information.

Laura (Lollie) P. Starling (1854-1946)

Lollie Starling, ca. 1930. Photo Courtesy Margaret Hink Starling,
Sherwood Park, Alberta, Canada.
Lollie Starling came to Chicot County from Kentucky after her father, William Starling, purchased the Sunnyside Plantation in 1868. In her “Memories,” Lollie describes details of the Lakeport home and the marriage of her brother, Charles, to Annie Taylor Johnson at Lakeport in October 1878. After the sale of Sunnyside to the Calhoun Land Company in 1881, the Starlings moved to Greenville, Miss. Her brother Charles and his family moved to Canada in 1908. Lollie later moved back to Kentucky writing many letters to family in Mississippi, Kentucky, and Canada.

Lakeport Selection from Memories of Laura P. Starling
The Johnson home at Lakeport, Arkansas, was really a beautiful home. Mr. & Mrs. Jonson had built it to suit themselves, soon after they were married. There was a long broad hall opening into a reception room at the back. In this room there was a lovely bay window that made it a beautiful room for entertaining. Several wedding ceremonies were performed here (Cave’s mother and father were married in this room).

[Lollie is referring to the marriage of her brother Charles Starling to Annie Taylor Johnson and their son Cave Johnson Starling (b. 1885 in Greenville)]

A very large parlor and family dining room were on the left side of the hall. Cave’s father made the punkah (swinging fly brush used over the dining room table). The parlor had beautiful brasses and a very handsome velvet carpet, Aubusson, I think–that Mrs. Johnson’s mother-in-law had used fifty years, then given it to Mrs. Johnson and she used it fifty years.

[Lollie discusses the South Parlor of the house, which is the most formal of the parlors. In this room portraits of Lydia and Lycurgus hung above the mantle (portraits were painted by William F. Cogswell in the mid-1850s). This is also one of the few references we have to floor covering in the house–possibly a French Aubusson carpet. Traditionally, floors were completely covered in antebellum and Victorian homes with carpets and floor cloths. We see evidence of carpet in many of the rooms (i.e. tack marks in the corner),as well as photographic evidence of the carpet that once went up the stairs. And, of course, we have the entire 15′ x 26′ floor cloth from the entry of the home.  

Update 12/11/12: Lollie may have remembered an Aubusson,  but  they are delicate carpets that would not be fitted to a room or tacked down.  Therefore, the tack marks in the South Parlor at Lakeport would have been for a fitted carpet such as a Wilton (cut pile) or Brussels (loop pile).  

Lollie also makes the only known reference to a “punkah” in Lakeport’s dining room. You can still see “the swinging fly brush” at many antebellum homes in Natchez. Lakeport’s punkah is gone, but evidence of its installation was found in the ceiling during restoration.]

Remembering the Old Bridge; Getting Ready for the New

Alvin, Katie & Mary Jane Ford on Greenville Bridge, ca. 1952. Photo found behind Dining Room Mantel at Lakeport
This post is a companion to today’s Southern Fried Blog, where Rex Nelson looks back at the old Greenville Bridge. The old bridge is slated for demolition later this year, since no one has offered to relocate it.

Greenville-Lake Village Bridge postcard, ca. 1955.
As the bridge opened in 1940, the Delta Democrat-Times (Greenville, MS) reported the ferry operation of the Greenville Bridge & Ferry Co. was transporting “200 to 300 cars, plus trucks and busses” each day.
Delta Democrat-Times, September 15, 1940
“Visit Beautiful Lake Village Over the Free Bridge,” Delta Democrat-Times, October 29, 1950
As the new Bridge opens, Lake Village would like to welcome visitors again. Come see Paul Michaels, the Cow Pen, Lake Chicot, Lakeshore Cafe, Rhoda, and Lakeport Plantation.

The new bridge will be dedicated at 10 am on Monday, July 26 and will open to traffic on Wednesday, July 28. Lakeport will be open Saturday, July 31. I’ll post more about our Saturday hours tomorrow.

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Lakeport Explores the Delta: Hollywood Plantation, Benoit, MS

Last Tuesday my wife and I made a trip up to Benoit, Mississippi to see restoration work on Bolivar County’s last antebellum plantation home–The Hollywood Plantation (Burrus Home or “Baby Doll House”) .

Overseeing the restoration of the ca. 1858 home is Eustace Winn, a descendant of the original owner. Eustace has visited Lakeport on several occasions to check on our progress and compare notes.
John C. Burrus began construction on the Hollywood Plantation around 1858. According to the 1860 Census, nine Burrus family members lived in the house–the 45 year old J. C. Burrus, his 39 year old wife, Louisa, and seven younger Burruses ranging from 20 to 2. The two-story Greek Revival, was likely unfinished as the Civil War began in 1861. Most notably, the second story door lacks a balcony. This is a familiar theme for a home built so late in the antebellum period. We tell a similar story about Lakeport and how its interior was likely unfinished–unpainted, bare plaster walls, a missing medallion, and an unfinished ceiling medallion.
As far as I could tell in my limited search, there is not a lot of academic history written about the home or the Burrus family. James Cobb in The Most Southern Place on Earth: The Mississippi Delta and the Roots of Regional Identity (1992) mentions John and Louisa three times, citing the John C. Burrus Papers at the Mississippi Department of Archives & History, as well as a family account of the Civil War published in the Journal of the Bolivar County History Society in 1978. Citations of the Burrus Papers also appear in Harold Woodman’s King Cotton & His Retainers: Financing & Marketing the Cotton Crops of the South, 1800-1925 (1968).
The Historic American Buildings Survey documented the home in 1936 as the “Burris House.” In 1936 the house was likely vacant, but, from exterior photos, in decent condition.
Hollywood is most famous as the setting of the 1956 film Baby Doll. However, by 1956, Richard Sylbert, set director for Baby Doll, described the house as “a dilapidated, ramshackle, and hollow wreck.” Four of the columns were laying on the ground and the building “listed to the left about five or six degrees.” The interior was worse: “the entire stair railing, balusters, and curved handrail were gone”; “parts of floors burned away”; and “the walls had huge areas where the plaster had come free of the lathe.” According to Sylbert, the house was straitened, walls and ceiling were repaired “to exactly the state the story required.” (That last phrase definitely sticks out to me.) The stairway was also reconstructed. Sylbert claims to have found an original spindle sticking out of the yard; it was used to reproduce all the spindles you see in the film.

Until just a few years ago, Hollywood was again a shell, as evidence from this 2005 photo in Flickr. Even the Corinthian columns added by the set designers were gone. (Correction– The Baby Doll movie seems to show original columns, so Corinthian columns were likely added later by the Bolivar Historical Society by whom, then? .)

This image from the 1956 film Baby Doll seems to show the original Doric columns. It is not clear when the Corinthian order columns were added.

This image from the 1956 film Baby Doll seems to show the original Doric columns. It is not clear when the Corinthian order columns were added.


Eustace is making great progress since he began working on the family project three years ago. The new front columns, made of solid redwood from Washington state, replicate the originals and the interior is coming back to life again with new plaster, new woodwork that compliments what was left of the original, and, most recently, new stairs. When the restoration is finished, Hollywood will be open for tours and available for events.

After our tour, we headed up the road to Rosedale for some great food at the Blue Levee.

If the history and restoration of the Burrus House interests you, then you should visit the Lakeport Plantation across the river in Chicot County, Arkansas.  Lakeport is the last antebellum home in Arkansas along the Mississippi River.  Click here to learn about visiting Lakeport. 

Update (12/17/2012):  The Hollywood Plantation opened to the public in June 2012.  It is available for rentals and tours by appointment. We’ve had several groups schedule tours at Hollywood & Lakeport the same day. Visit their website —

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Cobb, James C. The Most Southern Place on Earth: The Mississippi Delta and the Roots of Regional Identity. New York: Oxford University Press.
Sylbert, Richard and Sylivia Townsend, Designing Movies: Portrait of a Hollywood Artist. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2006.
United State Census, Manuscript Returns, Schedule of Population, 1860.
Woodman, Harold D. King Cotton & His Retainers: Financing & marketing the Cotton Crop of the South, 1800-1925. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press.

Lake Village, February 1860

Public historian Shirley Schuette shared an interesting link today on pre-Civil War Lake Village and Chicot County. Vicki Betts, a professional librarian at the University of Texas at Tyler, compiles and transcribes newspaper articles from the Civil War era.  One of her transcriptions from the Old-Line Democrat (Little Rock) contains an excellent article on Lake Village:   
[LITTLE ROCK] OLD-LINE DEMOCRAT, February 2, 1860, p. 1, c. 6
                                                                Lake Village, Jan. 9th, 1860.
Dear Old-Line.—Thinking that perhaps amid the din of political strife, a letter from the quiet and secluded little town of Lake Village, would operate as a balm to your weary soul, by again calling to remembrance those scenes of quietude remote from the bustle and confusion of this babbling world, and so seldom experienced in the life of an Editor.  I take my pen to jot down a few items of news from this beautiful place to solace you.  Know then that Lake Village is a pretty little town, situate on the banks of one of the most beautiful little lakes of the South.  It is the county seat of Chicot county, and is seven miles from the Mississippi river.  The surrounding country is one of the most fertile spots in the Mississippi valley, and rivals in richness the far famed Delta of the Nile.  The shores of Old River Lake are covered with magnificent plantations which are cultivated with great care, and the yield of cotton is almost fabulous.  The health of this country is reasonably good.
The town is small but improving very fast.  This appears to be one of the places where Lawyers “most do congregate” as there are a great many of them here, but as for the other learned professions, they are thinly represented.  The public buildings are all excellent, and especially the Jail, which is undoubtedly the best in the State—these public buildings are sure evidences of enterprise and public spirit.  The towns and surrounding country are very much in need of mechanics, and a good saddler, shoemaker, or tailor, could do better here than almost any where else, provided however, that he be a sober and industrious man.  Mechanics of other trades also can find plenty of work at high wages and ready pay.  I know of no place where mechanics can do better than here.  There will be a newspaper published here in a few weeks, which I take to be another proof of the prosperity and enterprise of the country.
Dr. Lyon has been here “feeling the public pulse,” for his prospects for Congress from this district.  He made a speech at the Court House the other night and defined his position to his audience.  He says that he is not an Old-Line Democrat—is in favor of re-opening the African slave trade, &c., &c.
The political atmosphere is quiescent at present, in fact the people are too busily engaged in their own private affairs to attend much to politics.  Your valuable paper has various subscribers here, and is very well liked.  Your moderate, yet firm course is entitled to the respect of all thinking men.  A project is on foot here to establish a Female College at Lake Village, with an endowment of $50,000, a considerable of which is now subscribed, and the day is not far distant, I trust, when Lake Village will be the site of one of the most magnificent and interesting female colleges in the South.  This place is one of the most beautiful and healthy in the world, and is of easy access, no school of like character is near, and it is due the enterprise of old Chicot that she should have one first class school within her limits.  The Chicot levy board are pushing on their works with great rapidity, and seem determined that the Mississippi shall never again visit the plantations of Chicot county.  The levys are built far back from the river, and are very large and substantial.
There has been some very cold weather for this country here this winter and no little know, but the weather is now warm and rainy.  The Post Office at Luna will soon be changed back to Columbia again, from whence it was removed to Luna last fall.
The planters have got their cotton crop nearly gathered, and a fine one it was too.  The planters of this county appear to have fine success in growing cotton, and their plantations are models of neatness and good farming.
Visit Vicki Betts’ page here and see the other transcribed articles from Old-Line Democrat here

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