Front Street Block B, Lula, MS

the building on the left

This was the site of the Keesee Building. It was a white stucco building of Spanish design with red tiles running along the front top porch. There were round windows along the side. Two windows on either side of a screened in door were at the front. The Keesee Building operated as the farm headquarters for Thomas Morris Keesee. He was a large farmer who moved from Helena, Arkansas sometime after 1930 and his farm and Home were on the north end of town across the tracks. His office was in the back and it may have operated as a commissary. After his death in 1971, it was used as storage and was eventually torn down in the early 2000s.

The middle building and right building were built at the same time and of similar design. There was a large skylight in the roof of each building. All three buildings were connected though. This building was the headquarters of the farm owned by Thurston Evans Hamblett and his wife Kate B. Hamblett. They moved to Town prior to 1930 and appear on the census living in Lula. In 1926, Kate B. Hamblett was in a group that organized the Lula Light and Power Company. They farmed a large plantation in both Coahoma and Tunica counties. The family also had a cotton gin in Lula. He died in 1956. Several more farmers used it as an office including Donald McKnight. Eventually it would be purchased by Wilbur and Georgia Bell Hanks who would operate it as a clothing store. She sold it to a family along with her grocery store who turned it into a laundry mat. James Dean, Jr. eventually bought the store and laundry mat running it for years before retiring. It closed a few years later and the roof has now collapsed. There was painting on the side wall of the famous Kate Adams steamboat and blues men from the area.

The building on the right

It is not quite certain who owned this building first, but by 1940 it was a grocery store owned by Eugene Joe. He and his cousin, Billy Joe, were operating it. Eugene Joe had came to the United States from China. His store was called Union Grocery. There was an addition on the back for a garage and apartment where the family lived. Joe eventually brought his wife to the U.S. and they moved to Memphis selling the business to Wilbur and Georgia Bell Hanks. It was renamed Lula Grocery. Georgia Bell Hanks would run the store along with a clothing store next door until retiring.

The business would change hands again though when James and Lena Dean purchased it. James and Georgia Bell were brother and sister. After James Dean retired, both stores were sold and have eventually closed.

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Some Delta delegates to the Arkansas and Mississippi Secession Conventions

 

 

Map of Mississippi before the Civil War

Mississippi 1852

Tunica County, Mississippi

Andrew Miller was born on December 6,1801 in South Carolina.  He moved to Mississippi and began planting near Austin in Tunica county.  Representing Tunica County in the secession convention, he voted strictly secessionist. Miller was too old to join the Confederate Army and died in August, 1864.  He is buried in Pontotoc County, Mississippi.    His brother, Hugh Reid Miller, was also a convention delegate representing Pontotoc County. When the war broke out, Hugh Reid Miller served as a Captain and later Colonel of the 42nd Mississippi Infantry.  He was mortally wounded at Gettysburg and died July 19, 1863.

Coahoma County, Mississippi

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James Lusk Alcorn was born November 4, 1816 in Illinois and his family moved shortly after to Kentucky.  He worked in Arkansas awhile before moving to Coahoma County, Mississippi where he owned a plantation and operated as a lawyer near Friar’s Point.  Alcorn represented Coahoma County at the secession convention and was viewed as a cooperationist.  He voted against secession first, but changed his vote to yes in a show of unity.  Alcorn briefly served as a brigadier general in the state militia before serving in the Mississippi General Assembly.  After the war, James L. Alcorn joined the Republican Party serving in the state legislature, as Governor, and U.S. Senator.  He died December 20,1894 and is buried in Coahoma County.

Tallahatchie County, Mississippi

Alexander Patterson was born around 1822 in Tennessee and was living near Charleston in Tallahatchie County as a farmer in 1860.  He is recognized as one of the first settlers of the county. Patterson represented Tallahatchie County at the secession convention.  Not much else can be located about him.  His wife is buried in Smith-Murphy Cemetery in Tallahatchie County.  She died on April 21, 1865. He possibly died before 1870.

Map of Arkansas in 1860

Arkansas 1860

 

Monroe County, Arkansas

William Montgomery Mayo was born on September 26, 1822 in Martin County, North Carolina.  After a brief time in Tennessee, he moved to Arkansas in 1853 and bought a tract of land near Indian Bay in Monroe County.  He was selected to represent Monroe County at Little Rock in the secession convention.  Afterward, he enlisted in the Confederate Army as a private in the Monroe Rebels of the 25th Arkansas. He soon received a commission as Captain to raise a company of partisan rangers to operate in Eastern Arkansas.  This company eventually became Company C of the 47th Arkansas Mounted Infantry.  His unit participated in the battles of Clarendon and Fort Davidson.  It was in this last battle that he received a severe wound in the shoulder.  He was at home when the war ended.  William Montgomery Mayo died on October 21, 1890 and is buried in Monroe County, Arkansas.

Phillips County, Arkansas

Thomas Burton Hanly was born June 9, 1812 in Jessamine County, Kentucky.  He later moved to Arkansas serving as a member of the Arkansas House of Representatives and Senate.  Hanly was a lawyer. He was chosen to represent Phillips County at the secession convention Little Rock.  His wife was the daughter of Sylvanus Phillips, the founder of Helena. After the war started, he was elected to represent Arkansas in the Confederate House of Representatives  from 1861 to 1865.  He died June 9, 1880 and is buried in Phillips County.

Arkansas County, Arkansas

James Lockart Totten was born March 23, 1804 in Tennessee and moved to Marshall County, Mississippi.  He was a prominent lawyer and state senator from Holly Springs, MS.  Totten gave up his law practice and moved to St. Charles, Arkansas buying a plantation.  He was chosen to represent Arkansas county at the secession convention in Little Rock.   James Totten died at DeWitt on April 22, 1867. Have not been able to locate his place of burial.

Phillips County, Arkansas

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Charles William Adams was born August 16,1817 in Boston, Massachusetts.  He moved to Indiana and then to Helena in 1835.  He was a lawyer, judge, and planter.  Adams was chosen as one of two representatives at the secession convention in Little Rock.  Early in 1862, he helped organize the 23rd Arkansas Infantry being named Colonel.  Adams was transferred to the Trans Mississippi and organized an infantry regiment called Adam’s Infantry serving as it’s Colonel.  Later he was Chief of Staff for General Thomas C. Hindman.  Adams served as Commander of the Northern Sub-district of the Confederate Department of Arkansas.  However, his department was behind enemy lines so he basically was a figure head.  Although listed as a general, he was never officially promoted to that rank.  After the war, he moved to Memphis, TN and died  September 9,1878 of yellow fever.  He is buried at Elmwood Cemetery in Shelby County.  He was the grandfather of Helen Keller.

Issaquena County, Mississippi

Albert C. Gibson was born in Mississippi around 1828 and became a wealthy planter in Issaquena County near Skipwith’s Landing.  He owned a large plantation and worked 87 slaves in 1860. He voted straight secession and joined the Confederate army when the war began serving as a Lieutenant in the Issaquena Artillery.  He was captured at Fort Donelson and sent to Johnson’s Island prison.  After the war, he moved across the Mississippi to Madison Paris, Louisiana and served in the Louisiana Legislature in the 1880s.  Gibson died in 1892.

De Soto County, Mississippi

Stephen Darden Johnson was born on February 6, 1812 in Georgia.  He moved to De Soto county where he was a large planter, owning 55 slaves in 1860.  Prior to the Civil War, he also became involved in politics serving on the county board of police as well as the state legislature.  He represented De Soto County where he voted for one of the delaying amendments before voting for secession. He was too old to join the army and died during the war on August 21, 1863, apparently by falling from his horse while fleeing Federal troops.

Bolivar County, Mississippi

Miles Hill McGehee was brother of fellow delegate Edward F. McGehee.  Miles was born in Georgia on Novemeber 26, 1813.  Like his brother, he moved to Mississippi and became a large planter in Bolivar County near Concordia.  He was one of the largest planters in Bolivar County and one of the largest slave owners in the convention possessing 234 slaves in 1860.  He also served in the state legislature representing Bolivar County.  he had defeated Charles Clark.  McGehee did not support secession voting three delaying amendments before voting for it.   He served as Quarter master General for the Mississippi Army of 10,000 made up of militia in 1861.  McGehee also paid for an entire company to be organized and outfitted that would become part of the 20th Mississippi Infantry.  He died during the war on January 15, 1865.

Washington County, Mississippi

Jacob Small Yerber was born in Pennsylvania on January 11, 1810 and moved to Tennessee as a child.  He later joined the Tennessee bar and practiced law in Nashville.  Yerber moved to Vicksburg in 1837 and then to Greenville in Washington County where he served in the state legislature and as a circuit judge.  Representing Washington County, he was an ardent cooperationist and eventually voted for secession. He was too old to serve, but sent four sons off to war.  One died during the conflict.  Afterwards, he was President of the 1865 Constitutional Convention.  He died on July 14, 1867.

 

Fort Curtis, Phillips county

Fort Curtis played a pivotal role in the Battle of Helena on July 4, 1863. This Union stronghold was attacked that day by a Confederate army hoping to draw attention away from Vicksburg. It resulted in a Union victory though as they were able to stop the Confederates. Today this recreated fort stands a few blocks from the original which stood where the Baptist Church does today

The fort is smaller than the original but is exact on how it looked.

The fort is part of the Delta Cultural Center and is free for the public to view from 9 am to 4:30 pm everyday. Sometimes it is closed on Sundays and certain holidays.

Re-enactors are there on many occasions and tours can be arranged if you call ahead.

Museum of the Arkansas Grand Prairie, Arkansas County

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I had been by this museum several times and I am glad I finally stopped.  Arkansas County is the perfect place for this museum because of the agriculture industry that is so prevalent in that county.  Riceland Rice is based there and this community owes much of it’s wealth and vibrancy to this company.  The Museum of the Arkansas Grand Prairie focus on agriculture and is a large facility.

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On As you walk in, one of the first things you will notice is the large row of equipment.

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There is an entire town with some wonderful exhibits.

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Because of the importance of duck hunting in Arkansas County, there is a neat section dealing with it.

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If you like agriculture, history, or hunting, this museum is definitely for you.  Try a trip to Stuttgart, Arkansas.  Lots to see.

Tina’s Place, Monroe County

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As you travel through life, there are some places that you just stumble into by accident and leave very glad you did.  Tina’s Place in Clarendon, Arkansas is one of those places for me.  When my day started in the morning, I didn’t expect to run up on a restaurant like this.  I figured I would find a normal little place to eat like they are all over the country.  Well Tina’s Place is definitely not one of those restaurants.  I was taking pictures of the court house when the Mayor walked down and we started talking.  Toward the end of our conversation, I asked where a good place to eat was.  He listed several and said they were all really good, but I should try this little place down by the railroad tracks.  The mayor told me to turn right and then left.  Go straight till you get to the railroad track and can’t go anymore.  Look over to your left and you have arrived.

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The building reminded me of those good old greasy spoons of my youth.  There was a creaky screen door in which you enter and automatically after you walk in, you realize you are not in a regular place.  There are clothes all along one wall and along the other is a kitchen you might see in your house.  In fact I really think this place may have been somebody’s house at one time.  There is a tiny lady behind a counter that is almost taller than her who welcomes you to her place.  I notice there is only one window air conditioning unit, and it is already a little warm inside.  She is preparing catfish to fry.

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I tell her that the mayor sent me down and told me how good the cheeseburgers were.  She agreed they were really good.  I look at the menu and I say I may get the catfish because it looked good.  Mrs. Tina said “No,  you want the cheeseburger, thats what you need.”  I realized there was no argument, so I said “Yes Ma’am.  She said I wanted everything on it.  I told her no pickles and she agreed and I sat down.  The tables are a mixture of kitchen and whatever else she has chosen.  Its comfortable though.

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When you hear a burger cooking before you smell it, you know its gonna be a good burger.  Thats exactly what happened.  I tried to talk to Mrs. Tina to find out a little more about her place, but she said, ” I can’t talk and walk at the same time, so she would talk later if she didn’t get busy.  The meal was reminding me of going home and your Mother having supper ready. You didn’t know what you were gonna get ahead of time, but it was gonna be good.  When it was ready, I went up to pick up the foam container with my food and she told me to get a pop out of the cooler.  I sat back down after I got my diet dr. pepper and opened up the tray.  Oh my Goodness!!!! What I found.

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I usually don’t take pictures after I’ve starting eating, but I had to this time. The burger was a joy to the taste buds.

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When I was a little kid, my Father would carry me to bars making deliveries and the club owners would cook up burgers for us.  This burger tasted like those old fashioned greasy delicious ones.  Tina’s place is located at this intersection by the railroad track.

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Her menu changes a little depending on business and what she is cooking that day.  A crowd had gathered by the time I was finishing up.  Everybody was nice and many said that I had found their secret.  Workers were coming in for their lunches and others were picking up to go orders.  Yes I was glad I found this place.  It’s one of a kind.  If you are in Clarendon, definitely go by Tina’s place.  You will never forget it.

 

Clarendon, Monroe County

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Clarendon is located along the White River near the mouth of the Cache River.  The area was first settled by French hunters and trappers around 1799 who built cabins near the mouth of the Cache.  They used these as a base to hunt and trap the surrounding wetlands and forests.

french trappers in boat

In the late 1820s, the Military Road was built from Memphis to Little Rock and soon a ferry and post office was established where it crossed the White.  The little village became known as Clarendon. It was probably named for the Earl of Clarendon of England.  On November 2, 1829, Monroe County was created from parts of Arkansas and Phillips counties and Clarendon was made the county seat.  The town was officially incorporated on May 12, 1859.  Plantation industry was the main source of income for the county as population grew.  Clarendon saw much activity during the Civil War because of it’s location on the White River.  In 1864, Union troops burned most of Clarendon after ships were fired on near the town.

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After the war, Clarendon was rebuilt and resumed it’s role as seat of government.  The Merchant and Planters Bank was established in 1890 and the building still stands and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

 

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A railway bridge was constructed in 1883 and a bridge was built across the White River in 1931.

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The Flood of 1927 devastated the town when the levee broke. A new and stronger levee was built in 1937 and it protects the town today.  The Monroe County Court House was designed by famous Arkansas architect Charles L. Thompson and built in 1911. The court house is the most prominent building in Clarendon and is an example of  Italian Renaissance Revival style.  It was added to the National Register of Historic Places on October 14, 1976.

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Several  historical markers and war memorials are found around it and the jail and public buildings are nearby.

 

 

The Court House is located near the levee.  Like much of the Delta, the town has struggled in recent years.  A strong community remains with a school system  though.  Clarendon perseveres with a business district and a focus on tourism. There is  an emphasis on hunting and fishing.

 

 

Access for boats on the White River can be found at Clarendon and the town is nearby the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge.

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Turn off the highway and visit Clarendon for awhile. The 2010 U.S. census listed the population at about 1,664.  Stop and eat at one of the several restaurants, visit the courthouse, and meet some nice people who will shake hands and give you a hearty welcome. I’m looking forward to going back.

Moon Lake Scenic Overlook

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A new pier has been built on Highway 1 in Northern Coahoma county  allowing access to Moon Lake for the public.  There is parking right off the highway and a nice walking trail down to the pier.

The pier offers a beautiful view of the lake and there is a covered area at the end of the pier with benches where you can sit.

360 degree view of historic Moon Lake

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Flood of 1935

In 1935, my Grandparents were living in the small community of Tibbs out from Sledge, when the worst flooding to hit that area ever occurred.  My Grandmother told me they went to sleep that night and awoke the next morning hearing a bumping noise under the house.  They thought it was an animal so my Grandfather walked outside to see and all the animals were on the front porch of the house.  Water had completely surrounded the house and it was water hitting the floorboards of the house that woke them.  The Sheriff came by in a boat getting people out and ordering the men to help fight the floodwaters.

According to WPA records of the time, this was the situation in Northern Quitman County.

” Coupled with freezing weather, the town of Sledge and the surrounding territory have been inundated, and the work of saving people stranded throughout the country-side has been handicapped to a great extent by the lack of boats and motors.  Rescue work has been going forward as rapidly as possible, however, and as we understand it, the majority of people caught in their homes by the waters have been brought to safety.”

“Water in the Main Street of Sledge has been full three and one half feet deep, and the whole town is covered with water, with the exception of the Yazoo and Mississippi Valley depot.  Refugees have been brought in there and cared for by the Red Cross under the direction of Mrs. E. York, chairman of the Quitman County Chapter. ”

“In the territory west of Crenshaw, which was the first struck by high water in this immediate vicinity, the situation is well under control; everyone in danger has been brought out, we understand from a resident of the town this Thursday afternoon. No deaths were reported in this territory.”

“Thie situation is still serious around Sledge, although not as bad as it has been for the past few days.  The extremely cold weather, with ice to push the boats through, hindered the work to a great extent.  The depot at Sledge has been full of refugees since the work started, and we understand many have been taken to Clarksdale to be cared for.”

“The Yazoo and Mississippi Valley Railway has been of great assistance in helping out in this disaster.  Cars have been spotted at various points along the line, and people living in them. This has been the only way to get to Sledge and Crenshaw, and Thursday was the first time in four days a train has been ale to go as far north as Crenshaw. ”

United States., & Powell, S.V. (1938). Quitman County WPA project. Works Progress Administration for Mississippi.

Rich, Coahoma County

Slow down after you pass over the Yazoo Pass bridge on Highway 315 if you are heading east from 61.  Look to your right and you will see the road leading to Rich.  That is the only way to get to Rich today from Lula because the bridge was taken out when they moved the highway over to cross on a new bridge.

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Rich was founded in 1888 around the store and post office of the Richberg family and along the railroad constructed by the Mobile and Northwestern.  In 1920, it had a population of about 200.

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As a child, I remember several stores being open and some very nice houses in this small community.  It was not an incorporated town, but it was a close knit place.  Mrs. Garrison ran a small store where the post office was located.  That building still remains but her store has been closed for years.

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An old service station was right across from her.  There was a cotton gin on the other side of the tracks.  I was always told that a wooden building behind Mrs. Garrison’s store was an old movie theatre long closed.

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Several stately mansions graced Rich harkening back to a time when Rich really was rich.  Most of these things are gone today, but their memory remains.

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Thomas Harris, the famous writer of Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal, and several other books is from Rich.

 

I knew his mother who lived in a home in Rich.  I was always told that Thomas Harris wrote many of his novels in this small house next to his Mothers.  Not sure if that is completely true, but when I pass this home, I always imagine those wild stories being written there.

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Fond memories of Rich.

Founders of Rich, the Richberger Family

 

Jacob Richberger was born around 1835 in Russian Poland.  He and his wife Fanny along with his son George migrated to the United States in 1864 and settled in New York.  After the Civil War,  Jacob moved to Mississippi for better opportunities.  He left his wife and son to tend to their store.  According to stories, George obtained an Irish accent because they lived in a predominately Irish neighborhood in New York.. In the 1870 census, he and his mother are listed in New York. Jacob is not there though. Evidently, he was looking for a place to settle in Mississippi.  The Mobile and Northwestern constructed a railroad from Jonestown to Lula in 1879. The population of northern Coahoma County was a growing.  Jacob established a store in Jonestown and sent for his family. After selling off some of their merchandise, Fannie and George bought a wagon and horses and headed south. In the 1880 U.S. census, Jacob is living in Beat 3, Coahoma County with his wife and Rosa Pachter.  He is a merchant.  In 1883, George became mayor of Jonestown.  George Richberger moved up the tracks to the Yazoo Pass and opened a store in 1888.  He became the first postmaster on March 13, 1888. The community of Rich was born. He would remain postmaster until Feb. 10, 1890. It was named after the Richberger family.  George met his first cousin Mary Pachter on a visit to Mississippi from New York and married her in 1889.  Soon her two brothers, Henry and John and come to Coahoma County to work for George and Jacob.  They often told stories of what they called frontier life in Rich.  There were Saturday night hold ups and fist fights. George Richberger was made postmaster again on January 10, 1892 and served in that capacity until March 23, 1893.  Soon other family members arrived. George and his family moved to Jonestown and opened a store there.  On the 1900 U.S. Census,  George is listed as living in Beat 3, Coahoma County with his wife and five children.  He is listed as a banker.  George got into some trouble then. On April 23, 1906,  George Richberger was convicted of embezzlement from the Bank of Jonestown and sentenced to 2 years.  He appealed to the Supreme Court but it was denied. After this legal trouble, he moved to Memphis.  For the next 30 years, George worked in the insurance and travel industry.  On November 20, 1938, George died in Shelby County, Tennessee.  He is buried in Temple Israel Cemetery.

In 1910, Jacob was the only Richberger still living in Jonestown.  Apparently, he and his son fell out after the embezzlement. In 1914, he left on a world trip.  On June 27, 1914, he dies on the S.S. Pannoria of the Cunard Line while on the high seas of heart failure.  His body was embalmed and interred at Gibraltar.  He listed his nearest relative as his brother David Richberger in Russia.  The company applied for information to the cashier of the People’s Bank of Jonestown who had given him a letter of recommendation.. That was the same bank his son had been found guilty of embezzling from.

Sources:  Issaquena Memoirs.com

Eichberger v. State.  Supreme Court of Mississippi 1907

Reports of Death’s of American citizens abroad 1835-1974

Find a Grave