Elbert Store and Masonic Lodge

Elbert Store

The Elbert Store was once part of a string of businesses along both sides of the street, including two grocery stores.  During our visit with my two cuz from mother’s side of the family, we stopped in to visit with family members of the current owners.  We were invited to visit the upstairs, which I had always assumed had once held living quarters.

The former Elbert Masonic Lodge was housed on the second floor.  In the original store configuration, the stairs had been on the outside of the building.  Two moveable metal stair cases now provide access from the rear.  The walls still retain the bead board paneling, and the podium and elevated stage area remain in the room which was the meeting location for the Lodge until at least 1936 or 1937.

Thus far, I have not located any additional information about the building or organization.

Update June 9, 2018:  W. P. Vaughn in the Handbook of Texas Online, “Freemasonry” said the Great Depression brought an equally dramatic decline of Masonic membership in Texas.  The membership numbers dropped from 134,000 in 1927 to 95,000 in 1937.  Vaughn indicated a number of local lodges lost their temples.  With the population of Elbert being quite low anyway, and the serious economic impact of the Depression, the closure of the Lodge in Elbert in 1936 or 1937 was likely due to economic reasons.

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Papa’s Farm


During our cousin reunion/research, we drove up to Elbert one morning to the old farm where we spent so much time as children.  The current owner, who knew my grandparents and parents, is always kind to let us visit, although this is only our second trip since Papa died.  On our way out, we spotted this large nest near the water of the stock tank.


Of Texas birds in this area, it could be a Great Blue Heron, or the more common red-tailed hawk.  Egrets are also common in this area of Texas, and seem to make more sense over water.

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Wizard Wells

Wizard Wells courts

As cuz and I returned from the Gibtown Cemetery where we were researching headstones for the Rogers side of the family, I impulsively said I wanted to detour through Wizard Wells.  I accurately speculated that it might have been one of the “tourist” locations for mineral water bathing and drinking.  Wizard Wells was originally named Vineyard, after George Washington Vineyard who established his home there in the 1880s.  When he dug a well, he discovered the high mineral content of the water made it relatively undrinkable taste-wise, but in bathing in it, he reported his leg ulcers were cured.  Word spread and people began to show up at his door.

In 1914, the Wizard Wells Health Resort Co. was chartered with a capital stock of $6,000 by investors James Odell, H. F. Stamper, and W. C. Stamper, and the certificate of dissolution was issue in 1916.  A number of businesses sprang up around the mineral water’s alleged healing properties, including the Crystal Hotel, the Mountain View Hotel, and this rock-veneer tourist court.  Between the 1920s and 1940s, population was around 175, and estimated at 70 in 2000.

Pulling off to read the historical marker, we were entranced by the treehouse (possibly the base is the remains of a water tower?) and the labyrinth.  The labyrinth contained a variety of colors of crystal stones, and seemed to include the symbols of several religions within the paths.

A search located the names of both the Center of Divine Light and the Whispering Waters Spiritual Retreat.  The house is also listed on Airbnb with photographs of the rooms and common areas.  The proprietor described himself as a Hippie, which seemed fairly obvious from the eclectic array of elements.

While we at first thought it was just a roadside historical marker in front of what we presumed to be mid 1930s tourist courts, it soon became obvious we were on private property and thus, we ventured no further.  However, the place is beautiful, and peaceful–even in the very hot afternoon Texas sun.  While I do not see myself being adventurous enough to engage a room there, it is apparently also available for retreats and other group meets.  The “pseudo-hippie” girl of my adolescence would go; the mature seeker of peace in my old age will not.

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Semi-off the grid in Texas

Dawn and Rosie in Black-eyed Susans

I am down in Texas for a bit of research–personal family history, and New Deal, combined with the task of cleaning out a house and 8 outbuildings after a lifetime of accumulation.  No Internet except for the occasional option in town, and mostly, no cell phone coverage.  I am learning to love my minimalist lifestyle.

Susan at Wizard Wells

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Humphreys Street Commercial Buildings

112 E Humphreys Street

112 E. Humphreys Street is a c. 1905

Two-story masonry commercial building stuccoed and scored to resemble stone block construction. Two inset panels in parapet for signage contain round vents. Parapet capped with metal. Three symmetrically place arched headed window openings contain keystones. The windows have been replaced with double vertical panes and partially in-filled with wood. Between the second story windows and storefront are four arched partial window openings with double horizontal panes topped by in-fill. Ground level store front contains central four-light transom flanked by three-light transoms; all have been either boarded or painted over. Original metal pilasters are stamped with ‘Chickasaw Iron Works, Memphis, TN.’ All ground level fenestration has been either changed or covered with vertical wood panels and an entry placed to the left. (Gatlin & Tietz, 2009)

The building is still considered contributing to the “small but mainly intact two block commercial area in the center of town along Humphreys and Front Streets” (Gatlin & Tietz, 2009).

112 E Humphreys Street renovations

Mr. P's Barber Shop?

108 E. Humphreys Street is identified as the former Mr. P’s Barber Shop, c. 1915.  Although also remodeled with infill windows and lower window and transom infill, it appears as if the basic structure of the facade is still intact, and it is considered contributing to the downtown historic district, unlike the former post office next door.

Two-story painted rough-faced cement block commercial building with flat parapet topped with a metal cap. Four-bay second story contains a pair of windows flanked by single windows. All have been replaced with undersized panes and wood in-fill and have cast concrete sills and headers. Main entry contains double single-light over recessed panel doors. Canted full-length fixed panes flank the doorway and adjoin large fixed display windows over low wooden knee wall.  Secondary entrance is single solid wood door to the left. A sloping shingled awning [since removed] shelters entire front facade and obscures boarded four-light transom [now visible]. (Gatlin & Tietz, 2009)

A “disastrous conflagration” occurred in 1902 when six stores on Lake Front belonging to Mr. P. Cohen were destroyed (Greenwood Enterprise, Aug 15, 1902).  The Indianola Enterprise reported “At one time it looked as if the entire town would be destroyed but the heroic efforts of the bucket brigade succeeded in confining it to that section.  Four or five larger stores were completely consumed with all their contents entailing a loss of $40,000 or $50,000, covered partly by insurance” (Aug 22, 1902).  A downtown fire in 1898 originated in Mr. J. L. Haley’s store and “soon the whole town was in ashes” and every business in town was destroyed except for two small stores, “one owned by a Chinaman” (Weekly Democrat-Times, 11 Jun 1898, p. 2).  The Democratic-Herald reported only the stores of J. J. Long & Co., and P. Collins were not destroyed (16 Jun 1898, p. 1).

Gatlin & Tietz reported that the downtown area largely was rebuilt to its current configuration by 1909.

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“Old” Itta Bena Post Office

Post Office and East Humphreys Block

Which building do you think was the post office?  According to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, the “old post office” was 110 E. Humphreys Street, the red brick, two-story building at the right. They give the date as c. 1925.  Piecing together items about the building history, it was owned by W. F. Townsend and did indeed become the post office in 1927.  There were at least 2 earlier post office locations, and possibly others.

Two-story brick commercial building with inset rectangular panel for signage under soldier course header, flanked by basket-weave masonry panels. Three symmetrically placed second story windows contain replacement 1/1 undersized windows and partial infill.  Former transom has been either in filled or covered and contains three vents, topped by a basket-weave pattern string course. Entry consists of three-light transom over double one-pane doors to the left and a double fixed pane windows to the right.  The remainder of the storefront has been enclosed with unadorned painted wood.  A flat suspended awning shelters the storefront. Unsympathetic alterations have damaged the integrity of this building. (National Register of Historic Places, Itta Bena Historic District, Gatlin & Tietz, 2009)

In 1881, the Benjamin G. Humphreys home was the location of the post office (Gatlin & Tietz, 2009).  Humphreys established a plantation and home, which he named Itta Bena, Choctaw for “home in the woods” and the city of Itta Bena eventually grew from the plantation.  Additional mentions of post offices in Itta Bena were from the 1895 Rand McNally Atlas, the 1902 Greenwood Enterprise item on the new boxes, fixtures, lock boxes, and electric lights of the post office, and the 1918 minutes of the 58th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church.  The post office was located in the Harper Building on Schley Street prior to being moved to the above building.


Clarion-Ledger, August 11, 1927.

The post office was moved to the Townsend Building on Humphreys Street, which had been formerly occupied by the Itta Bena Cotton Company.  The Itta Bena Cotton Company had a short life, being established in 1926, and in receivership by May 1927.  It was fortuitous timing for Mr. Townsend that the post office needed a new location.  New fixtures were installed, “which gives the post office the appearance of a city equipment” (Greenwood Commonwealth, Post Office has moved, has new equipment, 25 Nov 1927, p. 1).  The W.F. Townsend building also housed the new Post Office Cafe on the second floor.

They are repairing the roof, putting on a new front, and remodeling the building out and out, and will install only first class fixtures. (New cafe ready in Itta Bena Dec. 1st, Greenwood Commonwealth, 25 Nov 1927, p. 1).

The Rotary Club began to hold their luncheon meetings in the Post Office Cafe in January. (Greenwood Commonwealth, 14 Jan 1928, p. 3).  Townsend was a hardware dealer.  In 1924, he was identified as one of the places of business painting and “otherwise building and improving” businesses and residences, which seems to indicate his building had been constructed at least a year or two earlier.  The tax rolls for Itta Bena list 106 and 108 and those numbers show up on Google maps as the post office building and the building to the right of the post office (not visible in above photo).  However, tax rolls identify the building construction date as 1910 and 1920 respectively, which would mean the “putting on a new front and remodeling out and out” made a significant change that renders the appearance closer to c. 1925 style.

As always, I spent way too much time in the newspaper archives, but that is what self-care and hobbies are for, right?  If anyone has any additional information, please comment!



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Corner of Humphreys and Schley

Corner of Humphreys and Schley 6

The corner of Humphreys and Schley streets in Itta Bena looks like many of the small towns in the Delta, including the “unsympathetic remodel” of storefronts.  Imagine in 1902, and the excitement that electric lights brought to this street!  On east Humphreys, the post office added new boxes, fixtures, lock boxes, and electric lights.  Somewhere in the town, Frank Manson’s Itta Bena Mercantile Co. was in business and the Chattanooga Foundry was furnishing ironwork for storefronts and metal shingles.

Chattanooga Roofing and Foundry Co.

From left to right in the photograph above, 206 W. Humphreys, c. 1915 1.5 story brick building with Chattanooga Roofing & Foundry Co. columns; 204 W. Humphreys, c. 1900 two-story commercial brick building with Chattanooga Roofing & Foundry Co. columns; 200 W. Humphreys, former Bank of Itta Bena, 1904.

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Former Bank of Itta Bena

Corner of Humphreys and Schley 4


Note the metal cornice along the top of the bank building.

The Bank of Itta Bena was chartered by Governor Longino in 1900 with a capital stock of $25,000 (Vicksburg Herald, 07 Jun 1900, p. 2).  In 1902, the bank let a contract for a $10,000 building “to be completed by fall” (Eupora Progress, 23 May 1902, p. 2) although it was not actually constructed until 1904.  William Gatlin and Susan Tietz (April 10, 2009) described the building:

…parapet with cast concrete cap, bracketed and dentilled cornice and 2/2 wood-frame, double-hung windows with keystones and continuous sill on the second story.  Two bay facade d-w fronts Humphreys Street.  First story windows consist of a series of recessed arched windows with in-filled headers over a single central light over eight small square lights, flanked by vertical side-lights.  A wide stone water table underlines first story windows, with a narrow belt course topping them.  Entrance is recessed and flanked with engaged stone columns within niches, set atop low brick walls that terminate at the water table.  Entrance is composed of double leaf, single-light wooden doors, sheltered by a contemporary hip-roof, asphalt-shingle clad portico supported by square wooden poles.

Corner of Humphreys and Schley 2

Mississippi Department of Archives and History documents that the Bank of Itta Bena was constructed by builder R. Jesty & Co. from Winona in 1904.  Jesty (Frederick R. Jesty, born in England) also owned a brick and lumber company in Winona.  He and his wife had a son in Clarksdale and a daughter in Greenwood.  Frederick Jesty is first mentioned in Mississippi in 1875 as having purchased a subscription to the Clarion-Ledger and was residing in Vaiden.  He used the title Col R. Jesty in 1893, although it does not appear elsewhere in the newspapers that I located.  Jesty died in 1912.Bank of Itta Bena side

According to the Winona Times (10 Mar 1905, p. 4), Will T. Loggins was President of the Bank of Itta Bena in 1905.  The Bank of Itta Bena also made news in 1912 when they elected Mrs. M. V. Jones of Highlandlae [sic; apparently was Highlandale] as a bank director.  Mrs. Jones was described as a large stockholder in the bank and other enterprises, and

…recognized as a woman of rare tact and exceptional business judgment. (Jackson Daily News, 09 Jan 1912, p. 7)

The Bank of Itta Bena was one of the banks in Mississippi reported “already open” after the bank holiday March 1933 related to the Great Depression.  The building is currently used as the City Hall for Itta Bena.

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More Moorhead

Water tower 1

Continuing with the little jaunt through Moorhead, Mississippi’s downtown commercial area, the Moorhead Public Works Administration swimming pool constructed in 1934 was located near this site.  The pool was completed on December 13, 1934 for a total cost of $6,995. According to the Enterprise-Tocsin (“Park renovation starts Saturday”), the swimming pool was located at the park on Brookside Avenue.

As early as 1895, the Moorhead Improvement Company was beginning to sell land and establish businesses in the new community.   Among the ones identified between 1895 and 1900 were the saw mill, heading factory, stave factory, cotton mill factory, oil mill, hardwood lumber company.  The town also boasted a “first class hotel”, several stores such as Matthews Hardware and Lawrence Merchandise, a Knights of Pythias lodge, and the Ameda Gordon training school.100 block Washington 2Unfortunately, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Historic Resources Inventory database does not identify the majority of the commercial buildings remaining in Moorhead, nor any information related to their construction dates.  Most of them are centered along Washington Street 100-200 block, and a few along one block of West Delta Avenue. The building at 100 Washington looks to have have recent work completed.  The former Donald Drug Company was located at 116 Washington, the only commercial building identified by name.  Dr. R. M. Donald owned City Drug in the 1930s and after his death in 1936, his son assumed proprietorship of what was then renamed Donald Drug Company.  Most of the storefronts have been what is described as “unsympathetically remodeled” except for the recently spruced up building anchoring the corner now.

West DeltaWork is also being done on the corner of Washington and Delta Avenue, opposite the former Bank of Moorhead.

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Former Bank of Moorhead

Bank of Moorhead

The history of this building was harder to track down than a dog walking through a river.  I was unable to locate any mention of the bank in the newspapers until 1909.  However, Dunbar Rowland came to the rescue with the 1907 publication of Volume II of the Encyclopedia of Mississippi History.  He reported the Bank of Moorhead was established as a branch of the Grenada Bank in 1904.  Grenada built a new bank building in 1910 and the accompanying news item indicated it was the “head of a system of banks” including Moorhead’s bank.

Bank of Moorhead, along with other Mississippi banks, was closed March 2-March 15 in 1933 in response to the banking crisis of the depression years (Banks in state opened today, 15 March 1933, Greenwood Commonwealth, p.1).  The bank bought Citizens State Bank of Moorhead, established 1919, in 1953.  It was remodeled in 1969.

It was last a Regions Bank branch, and when they closed the branch in 2015, they donated the building to the Hope Federal Credit Union.

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