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.

Posted in Bank buildings, City Hall buildings, Historic Downtowns, Mississippi, Mississippi Delta Towns | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

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.

Posted in Historic Downtowns, Mississippi, Mississippi Delta Towns, Public Works Administration, water towers | Tagged | 1 Comment

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.

Posted in Bank buildings, Historic Downtowns, Mississippi, Mississippi Delta Towns | Tagged | 4 Comments

Where the Southern Cross the Dog

Where the Southern cross the Dog 2

Back a number of years ago, I first read about where the Southern Cross the Dog in a Farm Bureau magazine quiz.  I had never heard of it, and it was an intriguing story about the town of Moorhead and the junction of the old Southern Railway system and the “Yellow Dog”–commonly thought to mean the Yazoo Delta Railway.  W. C. Handy wrote the song “Yellow Dog Rag” in 1914, and in 1919 renamed it “Yellow Dog Blues.”  Handy’s inspiration for the song was the line “Goin’ where the Southern cross the Dog”, a refrain repeated three times by the guitar playing man at the Tutwiler depot.  Handy said he composed the song as a sort of answer to Shelton Brook’s song “I wonder where my easy rider’s gone” and used the line.  The song has been recorded a number of times, probably most famously by Bessie Smith in 1925 (or 1928 or 1929, depending on the source), and Louis Armstrong in 1954.  In 2014, Studio 360 in conjunction with Public Radio International, Slate, and WNYC sponsored a cover version contest for the song. I include the links to the winner, and a couple of others that I liked at the end of the post.

Southern cross the Dog landmark

The original Yazoo Delta railway line ran from Yazoo City, eventually to Tutwiler, crossing the Southern Railway line at Moorhead. The Yazoo Delta was begun in 1897, first to Ruleville, and in 1899 on up to Tutwiler.  J. M. Lawrence of Sunflower was the secretary-treasurer of the new railroad (Enterprise-Tocsin, 15 Jan 1897, p. 2).

The Yazoo Delta was acquired by Yazoo and Mississippi Valley Railway around 1903, possibly due to the annual deficits reported in 1898 (Natchez Democrat, 04 Aug 1898, p. 1) and in 1900 (Clarion-Ledger, 11 Oct 19, p. 8).  Alan White ( made the case that the ‘yellow dog’ referenced the Yazoo and Mississippi Valley Railroad line, rather than the Yazoo Delta because by 1903 (supposedly when Handy heard the line for the first time), the Y & MV was the crossing in Moorhead, as it was in 1914 when Handy wrote the “Yellow Dog Rag.”

Scholars also disagree with whether the reference to “Yellow Dog” is related to the Yazoo Delta line, the term “dog or short-dog” meaning a short railway line, or a reference to the “yellow dog contracts” where local lines had workers sign a contract agreeing not to join a union.  Yellow dog was a derogatory term similar to the union term “scab.”  The Southern, later acquired by the Illinois Central was a union company.  C. H. Pond, credited with establishing the Yazoo Delta line from Moorhead to Ruleville in 1898, died in 1912.

Winner: Westy Reflector cover of Yellow Dog Blues.  Of it, the judge Marc Anthony Thompson said “I just wanted something that I really liked to listen to.”  Westy Reflector said “no one in the story is in a fixed place” and “blues was never fully about composition as an end, but about a rich community of shared source material.”

My faves: All of which, “I just really liked to listen to.”

Ari Swan cover of Yellow Dog Blues.

The City of Light cover of Yellow Dog Blues.  I liked that he repeats the refrain ‘Southern cross the dog’ as did the original Handy heard.

Addieville featuring Sara Murphy cover of Yellow Dog Blues.


Posted in Historic Downtowns, Mississippi, Mississippi Delta Towns, railroad lines, train station depot buildings | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

Mississippi Gulf Coast…for real

This spring is flying by…or more accurately, driving by.  I have been on the road more days than not since January 1.  The first week of March was the annual conference for the National Association of Social Workers.

Gulf Coast mural airport

My colleague from Maine flew in–his second time to attend our conference since he worked Disaster Recovery with me and many other social workers from across the nation following Hurricane Katrina.  One of the things I love about being a social worker–and there are many!–is the connection with like-minded people.  Not every social worker wants to be one because of the core values that form the essence of the profession.  Some who call themselves social workers do not believe in those core values, nor adhere to them, which is of course, a violation of the Code of Ethics.  Sometimes, it is subtle, and other times, blatant.  What I love about those who are my kindred spirit social workers is that we stand for something, and we will say so and take risks in order to serve–a core value of the profession.

Value: Service

Social workers’ primary goal is to help people in need and to address social problems.

Social workers elevate service to others above self-interest.  Social workers draw on their knowledge, values, and skills to help people in need and to address social problems.  Social workers are encouraged to volunteer some portion of their professional skills with no expectation of significant financial return (pro bono service). (Code of Ethics of the National Association of Social Workers)

Gulf Coast mural

While I waited for my friend, I thought about the devastation that hit these coastal cities in 2005, and the days we spent working in Biloxi, Ocean Springs, Gulfport, Waveland, Bay St. Louis, and Poplarville.  We were assigned to the Department of Human Services Geriatric Outreach to assess the needs of older adults and link them to services and resources.  As the only social worker from Mississippi there that week, I also had the only transportation–my little white pickup with the jump seat.  I put 1,385 miles on that little truck that week–transporting social workers, delivering supplies, making home visits to those unable to get to the DRCs but reported in need by FEMA or MEMA staff in the field.


It pains me to see social workers not observing the ethical principals based on social work’s core values.  It is a reminder that we still have much work to do in the world, and in our own profession.  Who should be a social worker?  The person who is educated in a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, passed the Association of Social Work Boards license examination for competency, and is licensed by the state in which the social worker practices.  A social worker adheres to the core values of the profession:

  • Service
  • Social Justice
  • Dignity and Worth of the Person
  • Importance of Human Relationships
  • Integrity
  • Competence


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From high atop downtown Jackson

Jackson downtown

Last Thursday night found me on the 11th floor of the Jackson Downtown Marriott Hotel.  While I enjoyed my room service meal of chicken milanese, with baby broccoli in beurre blanc, and smashed potatoes, I could not help but wonder what the meal would have been like had I dined there years ago when Chef Nick Wallace was in the kitchen.  My room service waiter was graciously courteous, asking “May I come in? Where would you like me to place your tray?  Shall I pour your wine for you?”  I am not a snob (I pour my own wine all the time), and I have a golden rule of treating service staff with respect and courtesy (whether it is the cranky person at Subway or a tuxedoed staff at a really nice restaurant), but it made me feel very nurtured and appreciated after what has been a difficult time for the past several weeks.

Jackson downtown skyline

I opened the drapes–my usual action when I am in a room with a view out, but not in, and savored the evening sunset.  Later after working a while on the assessment report due the following day while I had to be in Jackson representing the MS chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, I decided one more nurturing experience was in order…and shortly thereafter, my impeccable and tuxedoed waiter from earlier was bearing a tray with a chocolate lava cake topped with vanilla bean ice cream and a single-serving carafe of white wine.  I confess; I wondered what dessert would have been from a tractor-driving Chef Wallace.  But hey, one of these days, I will eat at his table and be able to answer the question for myself.

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