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Children’s Cemetery at Lakeport Plantation

Just behind the Lakeport house is a small children’s cemetery with post-Civil War burials of Lycurgus and Lydia Johnson’s children and grandchildren. Unprotected for many years, markers had been lost–some apparently drug into the field by tractors.  Before restoration, the small crypt was the only for sure burial. Parts of four small markers were eventually discovered  and ground penetrating radar revealed that there are at least two other burials and likely a third.  

Of the four markers, only two have initials: “C.J.” for Cable Johnson (b. March 15, 1865; d. August 5, 1867) and “L.J.S.” for Lydia J. Starling (b. October 19, 1879; d. 1882). The third and fourth markers do not have any visible initials. Those markers are likely for Julia J. Johnson (b. July 12, 1860; d. November 1, 1869) and Lucie C. Worthington (b. January 8, 1880; d. June 5, 1881).

Parts of four markers were found around the children’s cemetery. Only two had any identifiable marks.

However, a recently discovered record suggests there is a fifth child buried in the cemetery.

Emma Peak and Walter Johnson married at Grand Lake, Chicot County on January 7, 1886. Emma, writing in 1937 in an unpublished memoir, stated, “Shortly afterwards we moved north to Wilton [Iowa] to be near Mr. Johnson’s business.”  In a chapter titled, “Baby John,” she writes about the loss of her first child:  “My first baby was a plump little boy with lovely large light blue eyes and red curls. A baby with lovely disposition. He loved people and would go to everybody who held out their arms to him….Little John stayed with us for fourteen months a baby loved by everyone.”

Wedding of Walter Johnson and Miss Emma Peak, Greenville Times, January 16, 1886

This ca. 1890 photograph of Emma Peak Johnson, taken in Wilton, Iowa, was found behind the drawing room mantel during restoration.

According to Iowa, County death records, 1880-1992, John P. Johnson, 13 months old, died on July 25, 1888 in Wilton Junction, Iowa. The record shows he was buried at Lakeport, Arkansas, very likely with his cousins behind the Lakeport family home.

Lycurgus and Lydia chose to bury their children who died before the Civil War in Frankfort, Kentucky and would eventually join them in 1876 and 1898.  Unlike their parents, the Johnson daughters, Annie Starling and May Worthington, as well as Emma and Walter Johnson and chose their childhood home, Lakeport, as the place to bury their children–even sending little John Peak Johnson all the way from Iowa.

Notes (updated December 12, 2018):

The cast iron fence was added around the cemetery was added in 2008. A gift of Annie Paden, a descendant of Mary (May) Johnson Worthington, the iron fence surrounded Annie Taylor Worthington Spencer’s home on the Glen Allan Plantation in Glen Allan, MS.

Lydia Starling (1879-1882) was the daughter of Annie Johnson Starling (daughter of Lycurgus and Lydia Johnson) and Charles Hensley Starling. Nine-year-old Julia J. Johnson died in November 1869 about eight months after her brother, Cable.  Lucie Worthington (1880-1881) was the daughter of Mary (May) Johnson and Isaac M. Worthington, Jr.

A copy of Emma Peak Johnson’s unpublished 1937 memoir, Growing Pains are Heaven, is on file at the Lakeport Plantation.

John P. Johnson’s death is indexed as “John P. Jackson,”https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XVQR-BM4 but it is clear in the original that it is “Johnson.”

Also see this post from 2012 —

Courthouse Records: Lycurgus Johnson to Lydia Taylor



Lakeport Legacies · September 27 · Casqui and Hernando de Soto’s Cross: Is Parkin the Place? · Dr. Jeffrey Mitchem (Arkansas Archeological Survey)

Casqui and Hernando de Soto’s Cross: Is Parkin the Place?

Dr. Jeffrey Mitchem

(Arkansas Archeological Survey-Parkin Research Station)

Thursday, September 27

Refreshments & Conversation @ 5:30 pm
Program @ 6:00 pm

All four de Soto narratives describe the erection of a cross on the main ceremonial mound at Casqui. The site has been a National Historic Landmark since 1964 and an Arkansas State Park since 1994. Photo courtesy The Archaeological Conservancy.

 

On July 5, 1541, the Hernando de Soto expedition erected a large wooden cross atop the main ceremonial mound at Casqui. That site is believed by archeologists to be the Parkin Site in Cross County, Arkansas.

In 1966, archeologists discovered the remains wooden post atop in the main ceremonial mound. While samples taken in 1966 dated to the post to between (1515-1663). A new excavation of the post in 2016 holds the promise of precision and a date closer to de Soto’s arrival in what is now eastern Arkansas.

 

Please Register for this FREE event.

(by phone, email or online)
870.265.6031 · lakeport.ar@gmail.com

601 Hwy 142 · Lake Village, AR 71653

 



Lakeport Legacies · August 23 · Fixed and Fleeting: Some Arkansas State Symbols and Why they Matter · Dr. David Ware (Capitol Historian at Arkansas Secretary of State)

Fixed and Fleeting: Some Arkansas State Symbols and Why they Matter

Dr. David Ware (Capitol Historian at Arkansas Secretary of State)

Thursday, August 23

Refreshments & Conversation @ 5:30 pm
Program @ 6:00 pm

 

Dr. David War, Arkansas Capitol Historian, is the author of It’s Official!: The Real Stories behind Arkansas’s State Symbols, now in its 2nd edition.

Arkansas’s Capitol Historian, Dr. David Ware, will discuss the utility of symbols, the significance of Arkansas’s earliest adopted symbols and will conclude with some observations on the potential for using the state symbols in interpreting the state’s history, geography and even its economic profile.  And tell a couple of sea stories along the way.

 

Copies of It’s Official!: The Real Stories behind Arkansas’s State Symbols will be available for purchase for $24 each.

Please Register for this FREE event.

(by phone, email or online)
870.265.6031 · lakeport.ar@gmail.com

601 Hwy 142 · Lake Village, AR 71653

 



Lakeport Legacies · July 19 [Encore July 26] · Old Houses of Blanton Park: Greenville’s Lost Downtown Neighborhood

Old Houses of Blanton Park: Greenville’s Lost Downtown Neighborhood

Princella Nowell (Washington County, MS)

Thursday, July 19 — Encore Presentation on Thursday, July 26

Refreshments & Conversation @ 5:30 pm
Program @ 6:00 pm

Blanton Park, Greenville, Miss. looking North, ca 1911. Image courtesy of Ann Rayburn Paper Americana Collection, Special Collections, University of Mississippi Libraries

Blanton Park emerged as a downtown neighborhood in 1886 from Harriet (Blanton) Theobald’s old homeplace. In 1865, Theobald donated part of her plantation for the town of “New Greenville” just behind Island No. 83 on the Mississippi River. After her death, her surviving son, Orville M. Blanton, subdivided her personal property into Blanton Park. Blanton Park became a residential subdivision with homes of family members, professionals, and politicians. On its corners and edges were churches, businesses, clubs, and the Greenville Sanitarium. Washington County Historian Princella Nowell will explain how the “Park” was subdivided, who lived there, and what eventually happened to the homes and churches as they were abandoned to fire, flood, and neglect.

Register for this FREE Event (Registration is closed for July 19)  Register for July 26
(by phone, email or online)
870.265.6031 · lakeport.ar@gmail.com

601 Hwy 142 · Lake Village, AR 71653



Lakeport Legacies · June 21 · Yankee Mistress of the Old South: Plantation Life in the Arkansas Delta, 1847-1866

Yankee Mistress of the Old South: Plantation Life in the Arkansas Delta, 1847-1866

 Dr. Gary Edwards (Arkansas State University-Jonesboro)

Thursday, June 21

Refreshments & Conversation @ 5:30 pm
Program @ 6:00 pm

http://www.civilwar.si.edu/slavery_visit.html

Winslow Homer’s A Visit from Mistress (1876) exemplifies the tensions between former slaveholders and their former slaves in the years after the Civil War. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of William T. Evans, 1909.7.28

Lakeport Legacies for June 21 will feature Dr. Gary T. Edwards. Edwards, associate professor of history at Arkansas State University, will examine the life of Amanda Trulock (1811-1891). Born and raised in Connecticut, Trulock was widowed in 1849 and found herself the mistress to 62 enslaved laborers on a plantation in Jefferson County. Letters and plantation records reveal a complicated relationship with slaves as she managed her plantation near Pine Bluff.  Edwards’ chapter on Trulock was recently published in Arkansas Women: Their Lives and Times (University of Georgia Press, 2018). A limited number of copies will be available for purchase.

Arkansas Women: Their Lives and Times — $35

Register for this FREE Event
(by phone, email or online)
870.265.6031 · lakeport.ar@gmail.com

601 Hwy 142 · Lake Village, AR 71653



African American Fraternal Headstone Symbols in Arkansas: A Guide

 

[spiderpowa-pdf src=”http://lakeport.astate.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Arkansas-Fraternal-Headstone-handout-June-2018.pdf”]Arkansas Fraternal Headstone handout June 2018

pdf link



Lakeport Legacies · Growing Up on Yellow Bayou Plantation: A Conversation with Mr. Robert Fulford

Growing Up on Yellow Bayou Plantation: A Conversation with Mr. Robert Fulford

Mr. Robert Fulford (Dermott, AR)

Thursday, May 24

Refreshments & Conversation @ 5:30 pm
Program @ 6:00 pm

Robert Fulford, in addition to writing, photographs places and things that remind him of his childhood on Yellow Bayou in the 1950s and 1960s

Lakeport Legacies for May 24 features Mr. Robert Fulford of Dermott with “Growing Up on Yellow Bayou Plantation: A Conversation with Mr. Robert Fulford.” Fulford grew up on Yellow Bayou Plantation, just north of Lake Village, in the 1950s and 1960s. He has written three self-published books about his childhood and experiences on the plantation

Both of Mr. Fulford’s books will be available for purchase (cash or check only):

A Collection of Anecdotes During my Childhood While Living on Yellow Bayou Plantation: Book 1 — $12

A Collection of Anecdotes During my Childhood While Living on Yellow Bayou Plantation: Book 2 — $12

Dark Days of the South: Before & After Segregation — $12

 

Register for this FREE Event
(by phone, email or online)
870.265.6031 · lakeport.ar@gmail.com

601 Hwy 142 · Lake Village, AR 71653



Lakeport Legacies · Rev. Green Hill Jones: From Slavery to the State House · Blake Wintory (Lakeport Plantation)

Rev. Green Hill Jones: From Slavery to the State House

presented by

Blake Wintory (Lakeport Plantation)

Thursday, April 26

Refreshments & Conversation @ 5:30 pm
Program @ 6:00 pm

 

Rev. G. H. Jones served in the Arkansas General Assembly in 1885 and 1889. Courtesy of the Old State House Museum.

Rev. Green Hill Jones was one of over a dozen African-American men from southeast Arkansas who served in the Arkansas General Assembly between 1868 and 1893. Born a slave in Maury County, Tennessee in 1842, Jones was brought four years later to Kenneth Rayner’s Grand Lake cotton plantation in Chicot County, Arkansas. A young man when the Civil War began, Jones joined the Union Army at Memphis in 1863. After the Civil War, he became an ordained minister and received an education in the North. He returned to Chicot County in 1873 and was soon elected county treasurer (1874-1876), county assessor (1876-1878), and to two terms in the Arkansas House (1885, 1889).

Wintory will tell his story from church and school records, and interviews with Jones and others contained in his Civil War-era pension file.

Wintory’s talk is based on his research on Jones and Arkansas’s eighty-six other 19th century African-American legislators. His essay on the subject will be published in May 2018 in A Confused and Confusing Affair: Arkansas and Reconstruction. Edited by Mark Christ, the book will be published by Butler Center Books, a project of the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies at the Central Arkansas Library System.

Read more on Green Hill Jones: here and here

 

Register for this FREE Event
(by phone, email or online)
870.265.6031 · lakeport.ar@gmail.com

601 Hwy 142 · Lake Village, AR 71653



Lakeport Legacies Schedule for 2018

April 26 · Rev. Green Hill Jones: From Slavery to the State House  · Dr. Blake Wintory (Lakeport Plantation, Arkansas State University Heritage Sites)

May 24 ·  Growing Up on Yellow Bayou Plantation: A Conversation with Mr. Robert Fulford · Robert Fulford (Dermott, AR)

June 21 · Yankee Mistress of the Old South:  Plantation Life in the Arkansas Delta, 1847-1866 · Dr. Gary Edwards (Arkansas State University-Jonesboro)

July 26 19 · Old Houses of Blanton Park: Greenville’s Lost Downtown Neighborhood · Princella Nowell (Washington County, MS)

August 23 · Fixed and Fleeting: Some Arkansas State Symbols and Why they Matter · Dr. David Ware (Capitol Historian at Arkansas Secretary of State)

September 27 · Casqui and Hernando de Soto’s Cross: Is Parkin the Place? · Dr. Jeffrey Mitchem (Parkin Archeological State Park/Arkansas Archeological Survey)

Lakeport Legacies is a monthly history talk held at the Lakeport Plantation focusing on history in the Delta. Lakeport Legacies meets on the last Thursday from March through October at 5:30 p.m. Note exceptions in the schedule. All events are free and open to the public. Guests are asked to RSVP. The Lakeport Plantation is located at 601 Hwy 142, Lake Village, Arkansas. For more information call 870.265.6031 or visit http://lakeport.astate.edu.


Washington County Courthouse’s Mysterious Belfry

Washington County Courthouse, Greenville, Miss., built 1890-91, is pictured here around 1900. The bell tower was most likely reduced in the early 1930s. Courtesy of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

Last year, I heard an odd story: the Washington County Courthouse’s belfry tower was originally a “hanging tower” used to hang convicted criminals. The sources were adamant but could only say they had heard it from others.

My first instinct was this was recent bunk history–people seeing an unfamiliar and altered architectural feature and drawing a wild conclusion. For a building built in 1891, this is not ancient history. If the courthouse’s tower was really a “hanging tower”–a gruesome public spectacle–there should be amble written evidence.

After researching the problem, my initial instincts proved to be correct. Newspapers from the early 20th century describe executions in the yard of the county jail behind the courthouse….and NOT in the courthouse itself. However, I was a little surprised to find one source that did describe an execution in the tower. I’ll examine that later, but first some background on the courthouse and jail

In January 1890, the Mississippi Legislature authorized the Washington County Board of Supervisors to issue bonds, not to exceed $100,000, to build a new courthouse and jail. In July, the Board selected plans for a courthouse prepared by the McDonald Brothers of Louisville, Kentucky. Meanwhile, the Board selected jail plans submitted by L. T. Noyes, an “agent for the Diebold Safe and Lock Company” (Board of Supervisor Minutes, July 12, 1890). Initially, Charles Dollman of Memphis was selected to build the courthouse and John F. Barnes of Greenville to construct the jail. Barnes would ultimately build both.

The McDonald Brothers’ plans called for an 80 x 100 foot, two-story high building including “a tower about 180 feet high with an open bell niche” (Greenville Times, July 19, 1890). We now call the courthouse’s architecture, popularized by Henry Hobson Richardson, Richardsonian Romanesque. Washington County’s courthouse is one of only two in this style in Mississippi. It also has a striking resemblance to another McDonald Brothers’ project, the 1888 Washington County Courthouse in Salem, Indiana. Today, the courthouse still has an impressive tower, but the bell niche or belfry was likely removed in 1930 when Jackson, Mississipi architect James M. Spain remodeled the building.

Washington County’s Courthouse, ca 1940, with the tower lowered and belfry removed. Unseen is the 1891 jail behind the building. Lakeport Plantation Collection.

Added to the National Register in 2014, the Washington County Courthouse is impressive public architecture to be marveled over. In contrast, the 1891 jail is, at most, an afterthought. The jail appears in Sanborn maps, but 20th-century images of the courthouse give no indication of a jail lurking behind it. [Note: there are at least two 1890s images that show the jail, they are published in Washington County, Mississippi]. In 1950, a new jail was constructed north of the 1930 Annex and, it seems, the original jail was erased from the public’s imagination.

This brings me to a 1990 article published in the Delta Democrat-Times. The article celebrates the 100th anniversary of the courthouse and coaxes the building to tell its stories through oral histories housed at the Percy Library. The author tells us several of the interviews “spoke of hangings at the Courthouse,” but “they were not viewed by the public.” However, the author cites a 1977 interview with Lille B. Parker that does mention a hanging in the courthouse. Parker attended the execution of Eddie B. Weeks on the morning of May 12, 1932 and believed it to be the last in Washington County. “They hung him down where the Court House is at, up there where a big old clock used to be,” she stated in the interview. She continued, “they was boards up there, two by fours or something—you could see it a long time. They done tore it down now.”

Washington County Courthouse and Jail, 1905 Sanborn Map, Sheet 17

Not to disparage Mrs. Parker and her memory, but her account is not supported by the written accounts of Weeks’ execution in 1932.

The DDT on May 10, 1932 wrote, “The gallows have been completed for several weeks and are located in the rear of the Washington County jail.” Two days later the paper reported, “Eddie B. Weeks…was hanged at Washington county jail here this morning…” Weeks walked “from his cell to the rear door of the county jail and ascend[ed] the stairs to the enclosed gallows that were to take him to his death….Near a thousand members of Weeks[‘] race gathered around the jail yard on all sides.”

Parker’s memory is also in conflict with a 1978 interview not mentioned in the 1990 DDT article. Leonard Brown is a solid source. He was born in 1896 and, according to the U. S. Census, was a janitor at the courthouse in 1930. In the interview, Brown recalled his duties as a cook, groundskeeper, and transporting prisoners to Jackson. When asked about hangings at the jail, he described what is most likely the 1932 execution of Weeks:

“Well, I never witnessed but one…they built a scaffold right out in the corner of the jail…the day of the hanging we wanted to go in where we could see it, but they wouldn’t let us go in. We had to stand out…we could see that afterwards…”

Earlier accounts in the Greenville Times support Brown’s memory of executions at gallows constructed in the now forgotten jail yard:

  • 1907 — private hanging — “took place in an enclosure on the west side of the county jail” — Greenville Times, Feb 16, 1907
  • 1908 — public hanging — “paid the penalty for his brutal crime on the gallows at the county jail” — Greenville Times, Feb 23, 1908
  • 1909 — public hanging — “paid the penalty with his life on the gallows…He was led onto the scaffold in the jail yard….” Greenville Times., August 21, 1909

The primary sources clearly debunk the story of the “hanging tower” at the 1891 Washington County Courthouse. While it is debunked, the story very likely has more depth than I initially anticipated. The rumors, perhaps, came to life in 1932 as Weeks’ execution intersected with the courthouse’s remodel. Accounts of the 1930 remodel by architect J. M. Spain don’t specifically mention work on the tower, however, the DDT, Dec 27, 1929, stated, “the upper floor would be repaired [and] new plans will take in the upper floor of the structure.”  Mrs. Parker’s recollection seems to mention work being done on the tower in 1932: “they was boards up there, two by fours or something—you could see it a long time. They done tore it down now.”

Mrs. Parker was one of nearly a “thousand people” gathered at the courthouse and jail that morning. Many of them, unable to see the jail yard execution in the enclosed gallows, looked up at the boxed-in tower and assumed the execution was taking place in that public, yet obfuscated spot. With the original jail replaced in 1950 and the yard paved over, the only place for people to attach memories and stories of the 1932 hanging is the mysterious and altered tower.

While people love a mystery or “hidden secrets,” there is no good reason to keep telling the story of the “hanging tower.” It is just not true nor does it lead to deeper understanding of the history of the courthouse or Greenville. Primary sources like newspapers, oral histories, and county records tell us legal hangings in Washington County, from the early 1900s through 1932, took place in gallows constructed in the jail yard behind the Washington County Courthouse.

The real mystery:

The real mystery is when exactly was the belfry removed. For such a public building, it is strange that historians and preservationists have not been able to pin down the exact date when the tower was lowered. Bill Gatlin’s 2014 National Register nomination states: “The tower was reduced from its original height in the 1930s, presumably during a renovation project led by architect James. M. Spain.” Local historian, Princella Nowell, makes the same case in an article published in Life in the Delta: [J. M. Spain’s] improvements [in 1930] included plumbing, heating and wiring. He may have been responsible for removing the bell tower.”

This 1927 flood photograph shows the Washington Courthouse’s tower still intact (left-hand corner). Courtesy of Princella W. Nowell.

The lowering of the tower can be narrowed down to around 1930 when Spain led a renovation of the courthouse. Nowell has confirmed the tower was still intact in 1927, as one photograph from the 1927 flood shows. Newspaper reports of Spain’s 1930 renovations of the courthouse and the Board of Supervisors records are vague, but a 1929 article in the DDT (cited above) mentions the work “will take in the upper floor of the structure.” Mrs. Parker’s 1977 recollection of the events in May 1932 speaks of the tower being boarded up. Finally, photo postcards ca 1940 show the courthouse’s tower reduced.

It’s hard to believe that a major alteration to such a public building went unnoticed and largely uncommented upon. If you know of primary sources that mentions or shows a change to Washington County Courthouse’s tower, send an email to lakeport.ar@gmail.com.

Sources:

Brown, Leonard. Oral History Interview, September 20, 1978, Special Collections, Percy Library, Washington County Library System [also online at MDAH].

The Daily Democrat-Times, December 27, 1929; May 10, 12 1932.

Greenville Times, February 22, July 19, 1890; February 16, 1907; February 23, 1908; August 21, 1909.

Hall, Russell S., Princella W. Nowell, and Stacy Childress. Washington County, Mississippi. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2000.

Nowell, Princella W. Email and phone communications, April 17, 2017-February 26, 2018.

Nowell, Princella W. “Old Courthouses,” Life in the Delta [emailed to the author, February 7, 2018].

Ingram, Deborah, “If walls could only talk … Courthouse could share tales,” The Delta Democrat-Times, May 8, 1990, in “Courts,” Vertical File, Percy Library, Washington County Library System.

Parker, Lillie Belle. Oral History Interview, February 18, 1977, Special Collections, Percy Library, Washington County Library System [also online at MDAH].

Washington County Board of Supervisor Minutes, Book 4.

More pictures of the Washington County Courthouse at the turn of the century from Ann Rayburn Paper Americana Collection Postcards, Special Collections, University of Mississippi:

Thanks

Special thanks to Princella Nowell, Clinton Bagley, Bill Gatlin, Benjy Nelken, and the staff at the Percy Library for their help.

Blake Wintory
Lakeport Plantation


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