Sunday, July 20, 2014

Heard Four Shots

Hystercine Gray Rankin was ten years old when she heard four gunshots while retrieving water from the pond. She thought it was hunters in the woods but the shots heard had killed her father. Denver Gray had been murdered by the owner of the land where he was a tenant farmer. Gray laid in the road until the log truck came to pick him up.

Quilting was taught to Hystercine by her maternal grandmother. Hystercine was recognized for her quilts by the National Heritage Fellowship. She used quilt making to capture her experiences growing up in rural Mississippi. Below is a scene from the day of her father's funeral.

"The day of my father Denver Gray's funeral was also the day we left Union Church. My Grandmother, Alice Whalem, moved us to the Blue Hill community To live with her father, Joe January, who was born a slave and later bought 100 acres of the land he was a slave on, and built a very large house there in 1890. He died in 1941 I moved in 1946, when I married Ezekiel Rankin, a staff sargent [sic] in the US Army. My Grandmother died in 1943 and my Mother Brothers And Sisters continued to live with my great uncle Lovie January My Mother Laula Gray died in 1950 of Cancer." Hystercine Rankin
The Full Quilt

Newspaper Account of Denver Gray's Murder
Farrell Humphreys Killed Negro Monday

Surrendered to Sheriff and Released on Bond to Await Grand Jury Action

Mr. Farrell Humphreys who owns and operates a farm property on Highway 20 about 15 miles east of Fayette shot and killed a negro tenant on his place about seven o'clock Monday evening, April 3, The negro, Denver Gray, about 38 years of age, and Mr. Humphreys had been having tenant and landlord differences for several days prior to the difficulty that resulted in the killing.

Mr. Humphreys gave himself up to the Sheriff's office, waived preliminary hearing and was admitted to bail to await grand jury investigation. Several witnesses are reported to have seen and heard all that passed between the two men at the time of the shooting.

The Chronicle has heard no detailed statement of the trouble that caused the tragedy.

Denver Gray was the son of Walter Gray and Gaule Williams. He was born March 27, 1905, near Union Church, Jefferson County, Mississippi. He married Laula Meeks/Mix, daughter of Alex and Alice January Whalum.

Sources: The Fayette Chronicle, April 7, 1939, Page 1
Hystercine Gray Rankin

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

E. M. Ross' Letter ~1867
All Our House Servants Left Us

Members of the Daniell family pose on the steps of "Retreat," home of the Freeland family. On the front row is Dr Williams, who married the widow of the builder of Windsor. Next is Smith Coffee Daniell, IV, Katherine Freeland Daniell Williams, Aunt Lizzie. On the back row are Priscilla Daniell Magruder, Thomas Freeland Daniell, his daughter Katherine Crane Daniell.

Elizabeth Magruder Ross writes another letter to Sue encouraging the family to use their land for farming. She complains about the free Negroes and their wages, and that all the house slaves left including Charity and Abe who were mentioned in previous letters. She informs Sue about the well being of Smith Coffee Daniell's family. The children are maturing and the rumor that Daniell's widow is to remarry is not true. Smith's widow did remarry on 21 Nov 1868 to William G Williams.

Direct your letter Care of Mrs C. S. Daniell
July 9th 1867

My Dear Sue

Your welcome letter was received one month after it was written; it remained unansered (sic) longer than I entended (sic); I had a good deal of sewing to doo (sic) at the time I received it, and have just got through.

I was very glad indeed to hear from you all once more. hope you have entirely recoverd (sic) by thise (sic) time. your hair of course will grow out as thick as ever, and may come out curly. I have often seen it the case. I am glad you and your Sister are so well employed. I hope you will be successful in your undertaking, and trust, you will prosper in every thing you undertake, so that you may make useful and happy women. If your Brother is industrious and enerjetic (sic) and perfers farming, I think he could hire sufficient hands to put all of the land in cultivation, and he could overlook them and keep them at work, -for they will not work with out. I think by perseverance and industry, he will be able to make and ample support, and live comfortably. he can raise his one meet (sic) and corn and vegetables; he can make mony (sic) by his Orchard and garden, raising fouls and selling butter. I think a farmer's life is much the happiest life. I think your Mother would be much better satisfied at her one (sic) home. We find it hard to get along with free Negrows (sic), have to pay them such high wages and get very little work out of them. we hardly make enough to pay expences (sic).

All of our house servants left us, one hundred and fifty of our Negrows (sic) never left us. Charity Fleet and Abe left several years ago I do not know what has become of them.

I am sorry Mr Brown has acted so as to cause dissatisfaction; I use to like him so much, and thought him such a good man; I hope all will turn out for the best, and you may find him to be and honest man.

Cove is not married yet. I think she is very hard to pleas (sic). She is living withe (sic) her Sister, helping her to take care of her Children. Cecilia was hre (sic) a few days ago she looks well, has three fine Children lost two beautiful little Boyes (sic).

What you heard about Catharine is not so, I do not think she has any idea of getting married. She does nont (sic) believe in Widows marring (sic0 again Pris is nearly as large as her mother and Tom is almost grown in size. they have a vacation at this time. Pris will go to New Orleans in the fall to complete her french and musick (sic).

You did not say any thing about your Grand Father's family; when you write let me know what has become of them.

Let me know what has become of Mr Andrew I would like very much to hear from him.

I hope you will come and see me as soon as you can it will give me much pleasure to see you. I would like to visit you all again if I ever should get money enough to travel on. I am afraid I never will I cannot find the receipt for the money I let Tenly have. if he is not honest enough to pay me you cannot make him. if you should succeed in getting it just inclose (sic) it in your letter when you write I will not trouble you about getting any thing. I believe I have said every thing I can think about.

Give my love to your Mother and Susan. I think of them often and wish them well my love to all that ask for me; let me know what has become of Mrs Worthington Sisters

I remain with love E. M. Ross

SOURCE
Windsor 1830-1969 - Vertical File - SF/Windsor 1830-1969 - Picture found in this file.
Ross (Elizabeth Magruder) Letters - Z/1480.000/F/Folder 1
Letter and picture found at Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

E. M. Ross Letter ~ 1867
No One to Protect Us

The Civil War is over but the sting of defeat is fresh. Elizabeth Magruder Ross writes to a nameless niece about the devastation of war on Windsor, the death of Smith Coffee Daniell and his four children since the completion of the house.

Smith Daniell has in his 1860 household Eliza Ross, 55 years of age, born in Maryland. In this letter, Ross refers to Daniell's wife, Catherine, as Sister. I have not seen anything in the census records that supports they were siblings, maybe, it was a term of endearment.
__________________________

January 25th 1867

My dear Child

Seeing your likeness to day prompts me to undertake my long neglected duty: though sevelal (sic) months have passed, since the reception of your most welcome letter. I have not forgotten that it ought to have been enswered (sic) long ago but plead as usual my extreme dislike, to writing; time passes away so rapidly that it seems to be but a few days since I received it. I was delighted to hear from you all once more; I had almost dispaired (sic) of ever hearing from again.

Sad changed have taken place in the last six years. Smith Daniel and four of his little Children have died, only six of us left, my Sister Catherine, Pris, Tom, and little Smith who was born six months after his Fathers (sic) death. We had no one to protect and fight for us during the war: the anxiety and trouble we passed through is pass (sic) discription (sic), all of our property taken from us, one hundred and sixty five horses and mules taken from us, three steame (sic) gins, three thousand bals (sic) of cotton burnt at one time. Our hous (sic) searched about twenty times; Grant made this his headquarters for two days and then made our house a Hospital. Had between (sic) foure (sic) and five hundred wounded in the house at one time they would not suffer us to leave the house; aloud (sic) us four rooms in the third story.

Our cook, cookes (sic) our meals out at her house, and brough (sic) it in a waiter from day to day until they left here, The smell from their wounds was very offensive we could hardly bear it. They made our yard their burying grond (sic). If we made any complaint, they would threaten to burn our house, so we had to bear it patiently.

We feel thankful that our house and lands have been saved to us we can rent out or lease our plantation so that we will be able to live comfortably.

I loaned Tenly one hundred dollars about seaven (sic) years ago, he promised to pay me back again when he got able; I wish you would try and collect for me. If you can get it I will let you know in my next letter what I wish you to get for me with it. I am very sorry to hear that your Mother’s health is not good. When you answer this letter you must tell me some thing about all the family how you are getting along.

What has become of Susan? Is her Father living yet? If you doo (sic) let me know. I would like to hear some thing from all our old neighbors (sic), how they are getting along. Particularly Mr Brown.

You did not say who Olinsker had married I would like to know. Let me know how many Children Josephene (sic) has, give my love to them all when you see them, and to all that ask for me.

Let me know how your Grand Fathers family are getting along. You must take time and write me a long letter. You can write a great may (sic) things that would be interesting to me, whilst I have nothing to write that would be interesting to you.

I have not written for so long a time I have almost forgotten how. You must overlook all mistakes.

Give my love to your Mother and all the family I remain with much love your

Affectionate Aunt E. Ross

SOURCE
Ross (Elizabeth Magruder) Letters - Z/1480.000/F/Folder 1
Letters found at Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

E. M. Ross's Letter - 1860
Go Without a Servant

Elizabeth Magruder Ross writes to a young Susan advising her not to rush into marriage, remain in school for another year, see a little of the world, and to marry well. She mentions Windsor is almost finished, and she would like to visit Susan and her family but does not have a suitable slave for the visit. She mentions Bena's illness. Bena was a nickname for Smith Coffee Daniel's daughter Lavinia.

Smith Daniell has in his 1860 household Eliza Ross, 55 years of age, born in Maryland. Ross' relationship to the family is not explained in her letters.
__________________________________

10 August 1860

Dear Sue,

I was truly gratified my dear child, by the reception of your kind letter, which was received the 20th of July; it was forwarded to me from Rodney, I received one from your mother at the same time, for which I was delighted to receive, and read them with much pleasure.

I feel gratified that you all are anxious for me to visit you again. You must not think for a moment because, I have not written to you, that I have forgotten you.

I will explain to you why your letters were not answered, the one dated the 19th of January, I received just on the eve starting to my Aunts, and Cove promised to answer it for me, and I was under the impression that she had done so until I saw her again. The next one I received a day or two before I was sent for to go home to nurse little Bena, who was very ill, we had to sit up with her four weeks.

After she got better I got Cove to write to you, it was directed to Tee Tee in the care of Mr Brown, Ever since I received your last letter I have been dreadfully afflicted with blood boils I had twenty or thirty on me at this tim (sic); I have as menny (sic) on me at this time, which are quite painful; I do not think I will be able to write you but a few lines. It would have given me unbounded pleasure to have visited you this summer, but I did not like to go without a servant. Charity had two children and Eliza is all the time sick, and I did not like to take one out of the field, to be a trouble, instead of assistance. I hope you do not intend to quit school at this time. I think you ought to go one year longer and when I go to see you I will bring you home with me and let you see something of the world before you get married. I hope you will not think of it before you are twenty years old, that will be plenty tim (sic) to commense (sic) the troubles of life. You must try and get some one that has property for you know you do not like to work much.

We have a splendid house nearly done which will cost over one hundred thousand dollars. When I heard from home last they were all well. Smith Catharine and little Bena Have gone to the Red Sulfer (sic) Springs in Virginia to spend the summer.

Every thing here is parched up for the want of rain it has been five months since we have had any rain to do any good, very little corn or cotton will be made in this county.

When you answer this letter get a larger sheat (sic) of paper and tell me some thing about all of the neighbors (sic)

You have never named Molly Lanhan in any of your letters, what had become of her? Has Mrs. Burn any more Children? I suppose your Mother’s health is entirely restored as you never say anything abot her being sick; I hpe she will be spared to raise her Children and see them all turn out well. I hope Bud will prove a blessing to her, and make a useful man. He always had such an innocent look. I cannot elp thinking he will be a good man if he lives give my love to him and tell him he must study (sic) hard and try and turn out as I hope he will; I daily offer up a prayer in behlf (sic) of you all. Give my love to your mother Susan Sis and kiss the little Children for me remember (sic) me to the servants. When you write let me know when you heard from Andrew remember (sic) me to Mr. Pollac and all that enquire for me except a large portion for yourself

E. M. Ross

SOURCE
Ross (Elizabeth Magruder) Letters - Z/1480.000/F/Folder 1
Letters found at Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Cecilia Beall's Letter ~ 1854
Reunion of Slaves

The letter writer observes the reunion of slaves who apparently have not seen each other for some time. She is surprised and amused at the affection between the slaves. Cecelia Beall wrote this letter to Mrs Ross, March 14, 1854.

I believe Cecelia is in the 1850 Claiborne County, MS, household of Smith Coffee Daniell, future builder of Windsor Plantation. She is listed as Celia Bell, 17 years old female. Celia married Thomas Freeland, cousin of Smith Coffee Daniell, 20 Jul 1854, in Claiborne County, MS.
__________________________________________

Dear Mrs Ross,

I write to acquaint you with the safe arrival of Aunt Eliza. They had a very pleasant trip down the river and arrived in Rodney about 10 o’clock Wednesday the 8th of this month. Cousin Smith came out home in the night and Aunt Eliza remained in Rodney with a friend until the next day. Cousin Kate went in for her early on Thursday, and they came out to dinner. I do not see any change in Aunt E. since the last time I saw her. She scarcely recognized (sic) me. I have grown a great deal – and exchanged my sallow complexion for a very ruddy one.

We are all glad to have Dear Aunt Lize with us. But she says everything is changed from what she knew. The old hills hardly look like the same to her and those friends that she knew here are nearly all gone.

Mrs Ross, I wish you could see our forest and gardens. The spring is very far advanced. Nearly all the trees are putting out, and many are already covered with foliage. The peach and plum trees are dropping their blooms. Our garden is very backward, but we have peas several inches high. All the roses are putting out. At Aunt Freeland’s about two miles from here, several rose bushes are in full bloom. Aunt Lize reminded me of a promise I once made you - of sending up some rose cuttings. So few of my acquaintances ever go to St. Louis that I have not had opportunities for sending anything. The boats do not land at Rodney unless taking in passengers, which is very seldom. When Cousin Smith went up I might easily have sent them, and it was just the right season – but indeed it never occurred to my mind atall. I am really sorry to have let such an opportunity slip. I will keep "a strict look out" now, and will not fail to improve the first opportunity.

The servants all seem glad to revisit their friends, but Old Uncle Clinton says “the eatin is different here from what it is there.” There, there are few to eat, and plenty of good food. Here it is quite the opposite. Poor Abe cries until his eyes were nearly put out, the first night he stayed here. I told him if I was him I would’nt (sic) cry for a mother that didn’t care a grot for me.

They all look very familia (sic) to me. You would have ben (sic) highly amused to have seen the meeting between Aunt Letty and our cook – a woman larger than Aunt Letty. They rushed into each other’s arms and hugged and kissed most earnestly. Aunt Letty gave me a very affectionate hug.

I was very sorry to hear of your ill health. It seems that we are never free from some clog to our happiness. Susan Ann used to be the invalid. You must give my love to all of them. Tell Susan & Susan Ann they must write to me sometimes.

Aunt Eliza wished me to say that she was in no hurry to have the things send down, but could wait until the roads are better. She wished you to keep the knives and the castor, as she will have no use for them. She says she will write soon.

Please give my best regards to Mr. Ross and accept for yourself the love and best wishes of

Your sincere friend
Cecilia Beall

SOURCE
Ross (Elizabeth Magruder) Letters - Z/1480.000/F/Folder 1
Letters found at Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Magnificent House ~ Windsor

"The first plantation we came to (on the high ground overlooking the river) was the most magnificent I ever saw. The house could not have cost less than a hundred thousand & perhaps half as much more. It was three stories brick & completely surrounded with a row of massive Corinthian pillars extending from the ground to the roof."
George Smith, a Union Soldier, May 6, 1863

Smith Coffee Daniell, II, built one of the finest, if not the finest house in the Old South during the antebellum era near Port Gibson. Smith was a property owner without peer in the South. Per a newspaper article, he owned 21,789 acres of land in Louisiana and Mississippi, and hundreds of slaves.

Windsor had been built in a period when mansions were a status symbol and each new one outdid the last in grandeur. Smith Coffee Smith, II, was the builder. His father, Smith Coffee, Sr., had come to the area in 1824 as an Indian fighter. He had stayed to become a landowner and farmer.

The house was designed by David Schroeder, who is also credited with having built Rosswood in Jefferson County.

Smith Coffee Daniell, II and wife Catherine Skinner Freeland

Construction of the house started in 1859. The cost of the house was then $175,000. Today's cost would be over $4,000,000. The basic materials, bricks and lumber, were produced on the plantation. Slaves made the bricks and likely the lumber on site, and did the rough work. Artisans from New England were brought in and lived on the plantation for nearly two years of construction.

Iron work for the steps, bannisters, columns, and grill work were made in St Louis, shipped to the site by barges on the Mississippi River to Rodney or Bruinsburg. Marble for the fireplaces came from Italy, Georgia and Tennessee.

The house contained 23 rooms with an above ground basement, two residential floors and an attic. Water for the two bath rooms was stored, cistern fashion, in huge tanks that were under the eaves and beside the fourth floor ballroom. Rain water flowed off the roof into pipes that carried water into the tanks.

A cupola from which the Mississippi River could be viewed was centered on top of the roof.

The house was almost two houses in one. In front was the main portion with columns all around and porches encircling both the second and third floors.

Another house, with columns only along the front and end, was on the back. This held the kitchen on the ground floor, the dining room and pantry on the second floor.

Windows spanned from floor to ceiling in the big rooms and a wide hall ran through the center. The ground floor had a school room, commissary, doctor's office, and storage. On the second floor were two parlors, library, study, the master bedroom, and bath. Third floor rooms were all bedrooms except for the second bath and a sewing room.

Smith Daniell II was to live in Windsor for only a short period, he died 12 Apr 1861.

Windsor barely missed being burned by Grant's army when a guard was shot at the front door, but for Mrs Daniell's persuasive argument that none of the family had anything whatsoever to with it; and during a lesser incident when the army discovered that messages were being sent to Louisiana by light flashes. When officers came up to investigate, Mrs Daniell hid the signal equipment. After the battle of Port Gibson, May 1, 1863, the wounded were brought back to Windsor.

On Feb 17, 1890, the house was destroyed by fire when a careless party goer threw a lit cigarette into trash made by carpenters doing some repairs. All that is left is the picturesque ruins.

SOURCES
Windsor Plantation - National Park Service - Drawing of Windsor
Smith (George) and McKenzie (James) Papers - Z/1454.000
Windsor 1830-1969 - Vertical File - SF/Windsor 1830-1969
Papers and vertical file found at Mississippi Department of Archives and History.