You are here
Mr. William F. Crawford
Henry J. Ledet
July 2, 1996
Ledet: This is Henry Ledet. It's July 2, 1996 we're in the Lincoln County Public Library. I'm sitting with Mr. William F. Crawford. Mr. Crawford, I'd like to ask you to give me your occupation--I know you're retired, but tell me about, first of all, your educational background.
Crawford: Do you want me to give my education first?
Crawford: I am a retired banker, I was for thirty years a banker, and I retired as Chairman of the Board of State Bank and Trust Company. I am a native of Brookhaven, I was born here on July 31, 1929. I was educated in the public schools of McComb, as we lived in McComb for ten years because my father's employment was there. Then we moved back here and I was graduated from high school at the Copiah Lincoln Agricultural High School. I attended Copiah-Lincoln Junior College for two years and then transferred to the University of Southern Mississippi, which was called Mississippi Southern College at that time. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in 1951 and with a Master of Arts degree in 1952.
Ledet: Thank you. I didn't know that you had gone to school in McComb. I know you have a lot of interests. Can you tell me a little about that as background? Horses, for example.
Crawford: We owned and showed and raised Tennessee Walking Horses for approximately twenty years. I've owned horses that were World Champions; one horse that was five times a World Champion and twice a World Grand Champion. I have had two or three other horses that have attained World Championship status at the Walking Horse National Celebration in Shelbyville, Tennessee, where they crown the World Champions. That was a very enjoyable experience, but we do not presently show horses or raise colts. I have some brood mares, but they stay at a breeding stable in Franklin, Tennessee. It was my pleasure to serve for five years as vice-president of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders' and Exhibitors' Association, which is headquartered in Lewisburg, Tennessee. I served one year as president of that organization. It is an international association, it is the keeper of the Stud Books, the Registry of the Tennessee Walking Horse. It also is the promotional arm of that breed.
Ledet: Very interesting. Has your family always been interested in horses or are you the first generation to develop that interest?
Crawford: I'm the first generation with an interest in the sporting part of it, but my ancestors were interested in horses--as a mode of travel and to operate their lumber mills and to log with them. My great grandfather was interested in horses and had a demonstration farm here at Cold Springs, Mississippi. When he owned Moreton and Helms Lumber Company, he had a demonstration farm where they bred and developed horses that would be suitable for logging as well as for riding. There's a reference to that in Hoffman's book, Dummy Lines Through the Longleaf.(1)
Ledet: Let's go now to your family. I'm sure you've given this a lot of thought. We can go from the back to the front or the front to the back, which ever way you'd prefer to go.
Crawford: You are to interview me about Captain Alfred Elliott Moreton, who was my great grandfather. My mother was Lena Moreton, the daughter of Robert Moreton, who was one of the sons of Captain Alfred Elliott Moreton, that establishes the descent.
Ledet: Let's review that one more time to help me get it straight in my head.
Crawford: My mother was a daughter of Robert Moreton
Ledet: Her name was--
Ledet: Robert was--
Crawford: Her father, and was the son of A.E. Moreton. I'm a great grandson of A.E. Moreton.
Ledet: Mr. Moreton was one of the most important people in Brookhaven's history, background. Can you tell me about how his business developed here, where he came from?
Crawford: He came here in 1859 by way of New Orleans. He was a native of Baltimore, Maryland, having been born there on August the ninth, 1835. He was the son of Samuel Moreton, Junior. His father was born in 1801 in Manchester, England. The members of the family were in cotton manufacturing for several generations. In 1826, Samuel Moreton, Jr. came to the United States, settled in Maryland and established a cotton mill there. The cotton mill was at a village called Oakland, in Carroll County, the same county as Baltimore. The village of Oakland grew up around the cotton mill property. Samuel Moreton Junior died in Baltimore, Maryland in 1870. Their son, Alfred Elliott Moreton, the subject of this interview, was educated in Baltimore. He was a graduate of the School of Design of the Maryland Institute for the Promotion of the Mechanical Arts. He graduated on the 26th of March 1856.
Ledet: He graduated in 1856. Did he go to New Orleans right after he graduated?
Crawford: Until 1859 he worked in the profession of Engineering and Architecture in Baltimore, probably worked for someone there. In 1859 he went to New Orleans in regard to some special work in connection with the old French Opera House, which, as we know, was constructed under the supervision and design of James Gallier, Jr. After his work was finished there, he was returning by train to Baltimore when he had a chance meeting with Milton Whitworth between New Orleans and Brookhaven. Mr. Whitworth, being the founder of Whitworth College, persuaded him to stop off in Brookhaven and discuss the design and erection of some buildings on the college campus. This he did and he remained here and was engaged as a contractor and builder until the outbreak of the Civil War. He built the first brick building in the city and he also built a brick building in 1867 that still stands, it is one of the larger buildings in the downtown area known as the Storm Building.(2)
Ledet: I heard this meeting took place on a train.
Crawford: On a train between New Orleans and Brookhaven.
Ledet: So, at that time, the line was complete through...
Crawford: Yes the line for the railroad, and the first train came through here about 1858.
Ledet: Was this one of the first?
Crawford: Perhaps that was one of the first. I think the line terminated in Canton.
Ledet: Do you know what they would have done then? They would have ridden the railroad to Canton and--
Crawford: I think there was a railroad, and I don't know the name of it. I think it was called the Mississippi Central, not to be confused with the Mississippi Central that later came through here on an east and west route. But, it went on to Holly Springs and on to Memphis and perhaps to points north from there. I believe that's true, but I'm not certain about that.
Ledet: We've got Mr. Moreton here working on the Whitworth campus and having built the Storm Building.
Crawford: In 1861, however, supporting the Cause of the South, he enlisted in the Lawrence Rifles, a company that was raised here, in Lawrence County-- Brookhaven was part of Lawrence County at that time. He was later appointed Captain of the 12th Mississippi Regiment. That appointment came in the field. He was paroled with other members of Forrest's brigade in May of 1865 and returned home and resumed the pursuits of peace. After that, he carried on his building activities until about 1880. He recognized the possibilities of the great pine forests surrounding the area and in 1880 he determined to begin the development of the pine sections of southern Mississippi. He organized and built the first yellow pine mill in the southern part of the state. This company was known as the Moreton and Helms Lumber Company; he formed a partnership with Captain J.J. Helms, a veteran of the "Northern persuasion." They were partners until the time of Mr. Helms' death. In 1899, Captain Moreton sold his interest in the Moreton and Helms Lumber Company and was instrumental in organizing the Pearl River Lumber Company. He became president and general manager of that institution, building the lumber company. It is stated, in a very interesting manner about the development of the Pearl River Lumber Company, by-- the man who wrote the book--
Ledet: Dr. Hoffman
Crawford: Dr. Gilbert Hoffman, in Dummy Lines Through the Longleaf, a publication that sets out that Captain Moreton designed and built a system at the Pearl River Lumber Company where the logs would come in and would not be touched by human hands-- it was almost fully automated system, for that time. It was at that time the largest lumber mill in the state. They later sold this to the Great Southern Lumber Company in Bougalousa and the mill was dismantled and moved to Bogalousa.
Ledet: Where was the Pearl River Lumber Company Located?
Crawford: The Pearl River Lumber Company was located at what we call Pearlhaven. Pearlhaven was the mill town, it was a separate incorporated town with its own mayor, it had a hospital and a doctor, a commissary, a school. The school was supported by the Pearl River Lumber Company. At one time the population of Pearlhaven exceeded the population of Brookhaven.
Ledet: Pearlhaven has been incorporated into Brookhaven now.
Crawford: It has been incorporated now and is served by one of the Wards here.
Ledet: Captain Moreton was one of the early lumber people here. I think its very interesting that he came here first and then saw that [potential]. Often you hear that it was outsiders who came in, harvested the trees and left the local people with nothing, but this is the opposite: he was here as a resident. Mr. Moreton married. Did he marry a person from this area or did he bring--
Crawford: It's interesting that you should mention that. When he came here as a young man, returning from New Orleans and was engaged in the building of the Whitworth College buildings, he had a room at the residence of Thomas Decell, who was later to be his father-in-law. A member of that household was a little girl named Laura Rebecca Decell. He used to braid her hair for her to go to school. She was fifteen years younger than he. He went off to the war, and came back. His wife to be was the valedictorian of the first graduating class from Whitworth, to be graduated after the Civil War. Soon thereafter they were married, on the 22nd of October 1868.
Ledet: In 1868. When did he build his house?
Crawford: His house was built for his bride. I suppose it was completed in the fall of 1868; however, it was only three rooms and a porch.
Ledet: Did they have children immediately?
Crawford: Yes. They did. As you know, the infant mortality was very high at that time. They had one who was stillborn, and they had one who lived a year and died, but they had a large family. How far do you want me to go into that?
Ledet: Why don't we just follow your line. If you would, we'll photocopy the full information.
Crawford: No, I don't mind.
Ledet: For the purpose of this interview, we'll stick with your line.
Crawford: Let me state then, he had five children that lived to adulthood. Samuel Evans Moreton was his eldest son. He had a daughter next, Frances Decell Moreton, she died at the age of 94. Robert D. Moreton was my grandfather. He had a daughter named Mary Hubbell Moreton who died when she was in her early 20's, unmarried. He had a son, Alfred Elliott Moreton, Jr. and lastly a daughter, Laura, the youngest.
Ledet: Do these ancestors have families in the community still?
Crawford: Yes. Samuel Evans Moreton had five children and has had grandchildren and great grandchildren. I believe it was in 1991 that they had the last reunion of that family and there were more than 100 grandchildren, and great grand children and great great grandchildren there. My own family, that of Robert D. Moreton, had two children, my mother, who had two children, my sister is unmarried. I'm married and have one son. His son, who is deceased also, married and died without issue. Our family is very small. My son is not married so I have no grandchildren. Alfred Elliott Moreton, Junior had three sons. I don't think he had any daughters. One here is Steve Moreton, his grandson, who works here with the city. Samuel Evans Moreton, S.E. Moreton, Senior had the largest family. When Captain Moreton had his 90th birthday he had two great-grandchildren. The newspaper write up at that time said that friends pardoned Captain Moreton's pride in spending so much time with his only two great grandchildren on his lap. They were only six months old at the time. One was my sister Roberta and the other was Phyllis Johnson Spearman, who lives here now. He lived a long life, but he didn't get to enjoy but two of his great grandchildren.
Ledet: It seems that the family is a long lived family, which is particularly interesting because life spans were shorter at that time.
Crawford: Yes, that's interesting. I referred to Captain Moreton's 90th birthday being of local interest. Would you like me to read this? It appeared in the local newspaper, the Semi Weekly Leader. The caption,
Revered Citizen Passes 90th Milestone. Captain A.E. Moreton passed the 90th milestone of his victorious life's journey last Sunday, August 9th 1925. The community is glad that he lived so long exemplifying as he has before it the truths and promises of Holy Writ and the stalwart principles that made the most desirable success in life. Captain Moreton was cheered last Sunday by telegrams and letters and beautiful remembrances expressed in exquisite baskets of flowers. But friends and relatives will doubtless pardon him for the more intimate interest he took in his two lovely little great grand daughters, Phyllis Moreton Johnson and Roberta Moreton Crawford, both of whom made the revered honoree of the day a birthday call and nestled for a while in the willing arms of their honored progenitor. We congratulate both Captain and Mrs. Moreton on their devoted life together. For the greater part of the way, they having married in their early youth. The radiance of the love that has bound them glowed with unusual refulgence Sunday while the heart of Brookhaven went out to them in felicitations on Captain Moreton's natal day and rounding out the 90 years that he has passed.
Ledet: That is beautiful.
Crawford: Beautifully done, isn't it? They took plenty of time to say what they wanted to say. Henry's grandmother probably wrote that.(3) By then she was editing the paper.
Ledet: This is Henry Hobbs
Crawford: Henry Ware Hobbs, Jr. Mrs. B.T. Hobbs edited the paper for many years after Mr. Hobbs died. I read that to point out that, as you said, it was quite unusual for anybody to live that long. Captain Moreton rode horseback until he was in his 80's. He was a somewhat agile man. Would you like for me to continue? I believe we left off with his organization of the Pearl River Lumber Company. But he didn't retire then, he was already a man of retirement age, probably as old as I am now. He was instrumental in grafting paper shelled pecans. He was a man that seemed to be restless in his interests. He had a demonstration farm here. He went up to Wisconsin and he imported the first Holstein cattle into this part of the country. Dairy cattle.
Ledet: Which has developed into quite a big industry here.
Crawford: Yes. My mother has talked of going out to the farm with her grandfather. He had the gates fixed in such a way that he could drive his buggy up to the gate and pull a lever that would open the gate. He didn't have to get out. He'd go through and there was a chain he would pull to close the gate. I made reference earlier to his interest in horses and livestock. He also had a demonstration farm at Cold Springs in the early 1880's when the Moreton and Helms Lumber Company was in operation and that continued. Inactivity was foreign to him. In 1907 he and his son Samuel Moreton organized the Central Lumber Company. That was quite a large enterprise also. His son Robert, my grandfather was graduated from V.M.I. He was a Civil Engineer and he went into business with them at the lumber company and remained there until his death. Captain Moreton remained as president of the Central Lumber Company until about 1915. Gilbert Hoffman, in his book, has done research into that. After he sold the Moreton and Helms Lumber Company, he helped organize the Brookhaven Bank. He served as vice-president and a member of the board of directors until his death. He was instrumental in organizing the Brookhaven Oil Mill and he served as a director for the remainder of his life. He was one of the founding directors of the Brookhaven Compress Company and remained active on the board for the rest of his life. He was a partner in the Moreton-Wentworth Company, which was a plantation furnishing store in Brookhaven. His son, Alfred Moreton, Junior, was active in the Moreton-Wentworth Company. He was somewhat of an entrepreneur. He was an industrialist, of course. He probably was the first the first industrialist in the milling operations in this area.
Ledet: Where was the furnishing store located?
Crawford: The furnishing store was located on Whitworth Avenue, which was called Front Street, across from the depot. I don't know what's in that building now. The estate sold it, the building was finally owned by one of his grand-daughters. She since died and in settling the estate, they wanted to sell that building but it remained in the family for many, many years. He served as an alderman for the City of Brookhaven also. I have a reference to that.
Ledet: He was a business and civic leader; he was a leader in every possible way.
Crawford: He was very active in Masonic circles. When he left to go to war in 1861 he joined the Masonic Lodge by special dispensation on the eve of his enlistment in the army. At the time of his death, he was the oldest active Mason in the State of Mississippi in point of membership. He occupied at various times various chairs in the lodge and was a member of higher Masonic bodies like the Shrine and the Knights Templar. In his 90th year he was presented with the Past Master's Jewel, suitably commemorating his 64th year as a member of the order. At that time, it was a record. He was also a member of the Methodist Church and was a trustee of the local church for many years.
You mentioned his life span, he died in his 91st year. His wife lived to be 84, although she was 15 years younger than he, she also had a long life. Most of the children lived to be on up in years. My grandfather, Robert, was killed, he was murdered by one of the mill hands. He did not live a long life, he was 41 years old at that time. Those who died of natural causes lived to a ripe old age.
Ledet: Is there anything else we need to cover about Captain Moreton? If we think of something we can add it later. Do you want to say a little bit about your grandfather?
Crawford: My grandfather's name was Robert Moreton. He was educated in private school here in Brookhaven, of course we didn't have a public school at the time. They had a number of private schools. He then went to St. Stanislaus in Bay St. Louis. He was graduated from there in 1896, at which time he enrolled in Virginia Military Institute, Lexington Virginia and was graduated from there. When he came back here to Brookhaven, he was employed by the Central Lumber Company and at the time of his death he was Vice President and General Manager and Superintendent of the mills. He was married in 1903 to Lena Durfey (d-u-r-f-e-y) of Canton, MS.
Ledet: Do you know how they met?
Crawford: Yes. Lena Durfey was the niece of Judge and Mrs. Hiram Cassidy here. She used to come down to visit Judge and Mrs. Cassidy as a girl. She met him because they were both members of the young crowd. They had dances and things like that. That's how she came to meet him. Of course, Brookhaven was a small town at that time, everybody knew everybody else. Judge Cassidy's house was where Brookhaven Funeral Home is now.(4) In fact the nucleus of the building is where Judge and Mrs. Cassidy lived. They were a much respected family here.
Ledet: I did not know that that was their home. That's great.
Crawford: They had two children, a daughter and a son. The daughter's name was Lena, she was my mother. The son was named Robert. He became a noted physician and at the time of his death he was vice president of M.D. Anderson Cancer Research Hospital in Houston, Texas. I have one sister who is unmarried and Robert had no children.
Ledet: Lena married....
Crawford: Will Crawford.
Ledet: Was he a native of Brookhaven?
Crawford: Yes, they went to school together.
Ledet: How did they meet?
Crawford: In school. It was a small town.
Ledet: Do you want to say a little about your father and mother?
Crawford: My father died in 1954, my mother remarried and she died in 1988, at the age of 84 years. My father died in his 54th year. That's interesting too, as most of his sisters and his brothers died fairly early. I hope I can split the difference!
Ledet: I think we have pretty well covered the family history. Great. We can move on to the architecture. Do you want to rest for a minute?
Crawford: No, I'm fine.
Ledet: My interest is in how the architecture is influenced by the people who built it and that sort of thing. But what I really want to know is the history of these houses.
Crawford: Let me tell you what I know, then you can fashion it to fit with that.
Ledet: That would be great--just the nuts and bolts. Do you want to start with Captain Moreton's?
Crawford: Yes. The A.E. Moreton house, 425 South Jackson Street, you stop me and ask whatever you want to. It is a one and one-half story house which began as three rooms with a front porch. The house faced the north at that time--it did not face South Jackson Street. Can I have an aside?
Crawford: My Aunt Fannie, one of the children of the household told me that (she didn't put a date on it, but it was April 22, 1883 because that was the date of the cyclone, they called it the cyclone, that went through Wesson and Beauregard) she was playing on the front porch, her mother and father were out there, and it turned very dark in the north. She said it was almost like night. They knew there was bad weather somewhere but it wasn't until the next day that they learned the cyclone had blown away Wesson. This points up something that we take for granted now, communication. They didn't have the advantage of mass communication, they had to wait until they got the news. If you want to pinpoint the date exactly, Goodspeed has an article about the cyclone.(5) The house was built in 1868, the first three rooms and the front porch. It had a separate kitchen, which was the usual detached portion of the house. I don't know exactly where that was. It had the other outbuildings too. As the family increased, so did the size of the house. Captain Moreton, being a builder and a contractor as well having some knowledge of architecture, it was easier for him to add on to his house than it would be for most people. The end result, to me, is a house that doesn't seem like it was added on to, it flows well, it's not chopped-up. As his family grew and he needed more room, he added portions to it. The last part of the house that was added is the bedroom on the south-east corner. That was built sometime in the 1890's. No additions were made to the house in this century. It is enclosed with a heavy iron fence, heavier than usual. The fence was manufactured by the Stewart Iron Works in Cincinnati, Ohio. Stewart Iron Works is still in business, they still put out a catalog, they still build fences. It is interesting.
Ledet: Which part of the house is the original?
Crawford: There is a room to the right off the front porch; on the south-west with two windows. That is the first of the three rooms. There was that one, the rooms went from there to the east, 1, 2, 3. The front porch was the area where the vestibule is and part of what we always called the back hall, I don't know what they call it now, probably a family room. All the Moreton houses had a back hall. We have one, you've been to my house, where we sat there, the large room is the back hall, they all have them. Then the front was put on. The second storey, the storey and a half, I think there are bedrooms up there now. Then the parlor, the bay on the front, north. That's when the house took on the character of facing South Jackson Street, the front entrance was put on then. If you look down at the roof, if you're coming across the railroad from the east going west on Minnesota, when you get to where you can see the roof line of the house, you can see that there are two gables side by side. The first gable was part of the original house. Then the back hall was put on when the porch was taken off. There is another gable that runs east and west. You can really tell more by looking at the roof line because it doesn't appear that it was added on to on the inside.
Ledet: I'll have to be sure to catch that in photographs.
Crawford: When you come toward Jackson Street from the railroad, you can tell. If you drive up into the driveway there and look at the back of the house, you can see how that is. That last bedroom was added in 1898.
Ledet: That's on the south east corner.
Crawford: The south east corner, where the Moak's bedroom is. My mother was born in that room while they were waiting for their house to be finished, in 1904.
Ledet: The original house was basically a traditional southern house with a center room, like a center hall and a room on either side and a front porch across the whole house.
Crawford: Perhaps. Later those three rooms became bedrooms.
Ledet: The next part to be added (I'm trying to see if I understood what you said) was--
Crawford: I don't know the order--
Ledet: Then was added almost an ell across the front of the house, or was it the whole width of the house?
Crawford: It was the whole width. Then it started going the other way, you know where the dining room is?
Crawford: I have an idea that that was added after the back hall or maybe at the same time because I think that kitchen over there, have you noticed how it sticks out in an ell?
Crawford: I have an idea that that was the original kitchen and was joined on to that house. I think the house was probably built to it [the kitchen], but I don't know that. Have you ever noticed the detail work in the ceiling of the dining room, the most beautiful use of wood that I've seen locally. That was part of his ingenuity; a cornice of made of applied woods and that ceiling in there, unless Tom's changed it, was like tongue-in-groove flooring; it was wood painted. It looked like plaster, but it was painted wood. You don't generally look up that much, but you might enjoy seeing it. The mantel in that room is particularly pretty, it is an Eastlake mantel with a little railing on it, have you noticed that?
Crawford: The one in the parlor is like that, too, has little shelves with fretwork. I suppose that, I tried to think of what style the house is and I really think if you were going to fit it to a style you would have to call it a form of Queen Anne because it has so many bays. That was one of the characteristics of Queen Anne. One of the original rooms, off the porch, although you don't notice it much, but it has a bay on the south end. Have you ever noticed that?
Ledet: No, I haven't.
Crawford: It is a bay. I don't remember Captain Moreton, I remember his wife and I remember being there as a child. That room opened with jib doors out on a screened porch. One of the windows in the bay had the jib door. You've seen those, they're gated.
Ledet: I wanted to ask what a jib door is.
Crawford: They are paneled at the bottom and you can push the sash up into a recessed pocket, in other words, so you don't bump your head when you walk out the window, and the jib is (j-i-b) is, gates, the paneling opens and it makes a door where you can walk out. There are more jib doors in that house. When you go from the back hall onto a glass porch, all those windows across there, unless they've been changed, would go up, the lower sash would go up into this recessed pocket to get the cross piece out of your way and those are jibs that open out there. They did that for ventilation. They could open up and let the out of doors in.
Ledet: That's great.
Crawford: I think you would call it Queen Anne. The sun porch on the north, that was an open porch and had wrought iron there just like is on the front.
Ledet: Was the wrought iron part of the original design?
Crawford: It was at the time it was put on-- it wasn't part of the original house. Yes. I was interested in where the wrought iron was made. But we don't know. Tom had the wrought iron taken off two or three years ago, he had to have some repair done on the porch. While it was down, he had it sandblasted and painted. I asked if he found the foundry mark on it, and he said no, that he particularly hoped that he would, but there was no foundry mark that he could find. I'd love to know if it was made in New Orleans, which I suspect it may have been because that's a heavier wrought iron than we see now. It could have been made in Baltimore, it could have been made in Philadelphia, but I would have love to have known.
Ledet: I've heard a story that the wrought iron on Jim and Val Hall's house came from that house.
Crawford: It did. It came from the north porch when the porch was made into a sunroom, they called them sun parlors back then. It was taken down and was stored in the barn. When Alice Johnson, who was Captain Moreton's grand daughter built the house where the Hall's live, her Aunt Laura, the youngest member of the family, the one who stayed there with the mother and father, gave the wrought iron to Alice to put on her house. They had no idea that the house would pass outside of the family. Yes, that did come from there.
Ledet: It's some of the most beautiful I've ever seen.
Crawford: I think Alice had it replicated on the back. You know there's an arched kind of-- thing-- you can come out on, a balcony, and a room under there, too, that looks out over the back lawn, I think that's a copy of the design that's on the front. The wrought iron is on the front of the house.
Ledet: It is beautiful and somewhat unusual. To my knowledge it is the only house on South Jackson with wrought iron.
Crawford: That's right.
Ledet: Did other houses at one time have it?
Crawford: I don't know of any that did.
Ledet: Not in your memory.
Crawford: Not in my memory.
Ledet: Were the storey and a half rooms added when the addition was made?
Crawford: When the front addition was made. That's the only part of the house where there is a half storey, as I recall. There are some attic rooms. The room over the southeast bedroom, the last portion to be [added], there is a window up there, but that's an attic up there, not living space. You could make it that way if you wanted to, I suppose.
Ledet: As I remember there are two bedrooms and a sewing room upstairs. It's not very much.
Crawford: That's right. During Captain Moreton's lifetime, until his eyesight failed, his drawing boards were upstairs, where he got good light from the windows. The stairway in that house used to go straight up from over by the dining room. Tom had the room re-papered after he moved there and when the paper was off the wall you could see the outline of the old stair. At some time when they did some of the work on it they put in the stair that curves. That stair used to have beautiful newel lights on it, newel post lamps. When I was a child, I can remember those. Then it got to be where it wasn't stylish anymore and they took them off, but I don't know what they did with them.
Ledet: Now they wish they had them back.
Crawford: That's right.
Ledet: This house, because of its location and its being one of the earlier residences of the town, has set the tone for the neighborhood, to my way of looking at things. It's an extremely important house.
Crawford: I imagine the lumber for the first part of it was not, he didn't have a saw mill when he built the first part, but I'm sure the later additions were, the materials were hand-picked and manufactured at a saw mill he had an interest in, Moreton and Helms. It's interesting to note that his youngest daughter to whom I was devoted, Laura, who stayed there and inherited the house, told me that when Captain Moreton had the mill at Cold Springs, ten miles south of here, that he walked to work to save train fare. He walked ten miles. He didn't walk every day, he would stay there and come home at the end of the week. They had the first telephone in town. It was a private line that came from Cold Springs to the residence so they could talk. Later they had one from there to Pearlhaven, which by buggy or surrey or horseback took a little while to get there, you couldn't just run up there like you could today.
Ledet: That's wonderful. When did the house pass out of the family?
Crawford: The house remained in the Moreton family's hands until 1968, for 100 years. It was the scene of many funerals and weddings. I was baptized there, in the parlor. My great-grandmother was, by that time, a semi-invalid. She wanted to see the baptism so they moved it there from the church.
Ledet: That's wonderful.
Crawford: I don't remember that! We believe in infant baptism. The property during the lifetime of Captain Moreton consisted of several outbuildings. I remember some of them. There was a servants house in the back yard. It had a brick floor, that impressed me as a child. A brick floor! There were two rooms and it had a fireplace in each room. The cook lived out there with her husband. They always had a man and wife so the husband could work in the yard and take care of the horses and drive for them, although Captain Moreton rode horseback until his 80's. They had a milk house. I don't remember if it was round or square, but it was brick up about two-thirds and the top was frame. It had a cistern in it that cooled the milk. They didn't have refrigerators or ice. It would keep the milk like at the bottom of a spring, in crockery. They had a carriage barn, which is still there, although it was a story and a half at that time. The roof has been lowered, Captain Moreton had the roof lowered in the latter part of his life. He had a woodworking shop up there. He and one of his friends used to make coffins for their Jewish friends. It seems they require coffins to be pegged together rather than nailed, something to do with their beliefs. So, Mr. McCormick and Captain Moreton, when one of their Jewish friends would die would make a coffin for them. You miss, and you almost long for, the spirit of cooperation and neighborly-ness that we don't have anymore.
Ledet: It is interesting that Mr. Moak has a woodworking shop in the old carriage house.
Crawford: Yes, that's right. Have you seen the remnant of the stairs, still in the back of that?
Ledet: I haven't noticed.
Crawford: They're not very wide, that's the way you got up there, when it was a full half storey. It's just an attic now. The horse stalls are still there. Have you seen them?
Crawford: The feed boxes. On the south end, have you noticed it has an open space with one by three's, that was for the horses to have ventilation in there. In the part where Tom's workshop is, where the larger doors are, that's where they kept buggies and surreys; the carriage room is what it was called. They kept hay in a portion of it. It seems to me there was a wood shed out there too, where they kept wood and coal. The fireplaces in that house were coal burning. I didn't think about this when I was making notes, but there was what they called the flower pit, like a greenhouse underneath that southeast bedroom. There was a part excavated and it had a cover of glass sashes. They were hinged. In the summer you'd prop them up to let in air. There were racks in there that pot plants were kept on. In the winter, they would let that down to keep them warm. Have you noticed on the back there's a projection and a door? That door went down there and the excavated part under the house was a root cellar. You went into the root cellar and if you turned left, you came out in the flower pit. [break] [The racks] were stepped back so you could put plants on this shelf and that shelf and they were not one upon the other; where the sun could get to all of them. There's a picture of Captain Moreton here. All my life I pictured him as a tall man, but he was not. You see this [picture of cold frame] that's like a green house, its glass. This is the last portion of the house to be added. You have a post card of this here at the library. That's S. E., Jimmy's father, that's one of Captain Moreton's horses and the man who worked there. Now, see how this is a bay and that is a bay and there's a bay around by the dining room? That was a bedroom. I think Tom calls it a music room. It's a bay. The irregular roof line, I suppose you'd call that. Something else that I miss, somebody took the chimneys down. They had pretty chimneys with belt courses on them.
Ledet: Would they have used brick from the Brookhaven brick plant? Is it old enough to have made the bricks that would have been there?
Crawford: No, probably the Seavey brick yard, which was older. A.C. Seavey and Sons had a brick yard.
Ledet: I didn't know that.
Crawford: It is interesting that you should mention that. Do you want me to read this?
Crawford: I ran across a local newspaper. On August 23, 1905 there was a newspaper account that said "Captain Moreton is to lay brick paving around his home." It also said a very nice thing about him, "No man among us has done more to adorn our city with beautiful homes, and to it upright citizens than has Captain Moreton." [end of tape 1] We were talking about the laying of brick pavement around the house. I, at first, thought he paved the road around it, but it was not. I remember as a child the area around the back, you know how the back comes along and it forms an ell by the kitchen, all that was paved in a herringbone pattern of brick perhaps eight feet wide. When I was a child, the brick had been there so long it had moss on it. Every time it would rain you'd go out there-- I couldn't keep my feet under me, I'd bet I slipped down more-- and I hated it, I hated to go out there because of falling. Another thing my Aunt Laura used to laugh about, when I was a child I liked to go upstairs, I think stairs intrigue all children, they want to climb the stairs. Those stairs turn and to make the turn, the steps narrow and go out in a taper. In my child's mind, I thought the step was broken and I wouldn't walk on that part-- I would sit down and back up or back down. It used to amuse my aunt to no end because I would talk about the broken step and she couldn't get me to stand-- she'd take my hand, but I wouldn't risk it. It's interesting the way these members, they don't support-- they are decorative [brackets]. This bay here, you had a window, and a window, and this other window that went out on this screen porch was the one that had the jib door. There are some on this back porch that is glassed now, back of the back hall. It used to be open [screened], like this. And it had glass sashes that would be put in for winter. They put them in with these thumb screws and enclosed that area so it would be warm. It wasn't all that warm then. Up until Aunt Laura died in 1958, these windows upstairs all had bar grills on them. You see this dark part? That's what that is, I don't know what became of them.
Ledet: Was that to keep people from falling out?
Crawford: It was for security. They had shutters they used for security downstairs. I don't know if you can see this picture was taken before it was glassed in over here. There's one of those swings on a frame, a seat here and a seat here and the whole thing would swing back and forth.
Ledet: One of the points I wanted to discuss was the landscaping around the house. This is a great place to look at the landscaping.
Crawford: There's a walk all the way around it. You can walk around and not be off the sidewalk. It went around to the brick part over here, then it picked up back by the kitchen, and came on around. There were two huge trees in the front yard with built up flower beds. It had a concrete coping around it. But the trees died and they took all that down-- I don't know if Tom did that-- Jimmy Moreton lived there for a while before Nellie left him this house out here, I don't know-- they took the screen porch out. This screen porch had floor to ceiling windows off of every bedroom, it had the jib doors and the sash went up into the pocket. It was wonderful. There was always a nice breeze. The only thing left is this part, the screen porch off Tom's bedroom.
Ledet: Would that have been a sleeping porch?
Ledet: Was that part of the main addition or was the porch added at a different time?
Crawford: It was added at some time when they were making additions, I don't think there was a "main" addition, there were several "main" additions.
Ledet: It just evolved.
Crawford: Right. It was back of this area that was original. Here's part of that. This gable goes on back here. This came from here, originally, all the way down the house, then this part was added on to it. When you are coming this way, you'd see the gable end of the original portion out the back (see picture).
Ledet: I'll be sure to get that in a photograph so it will make sense. I see a lot of bushes there. Do you remember what types of bushes they were?
Crawford: That's smilax there, Southern Smilax. That's a native vine we had around our house (before my time) but we're still digging up smilax. They grow from a thing like a potato and it's very hard to get rid of them. They grow wild in the woods. They're evergreen. The greatest use I've ever seen of them, they were used for greenery for weddings. You'd see earlier-- not all that early, I can remember in my lifetime they'd write up a wedding and say, "used a profusion of southern smilax." They would wrap them around the arches in churches. That was an early thing. It was on an arbor. I have an earlier picture than this of the family sitting on the porch where it looks like rods had been put through the wrought iron here to make a trellis. This is an awning, I remember that awning. As long as Aunt Laura lived there was an awning there because the west sun came in there. She'd go out there and let the awning down in the afternoon. If she didn't the sun would shine in almost into the back hall and make it warmer. They had these roll up awnings on the porch to make it cooler.
Ledet: Do you know what the shorter bushes might have been?
Crawford: No I don't. They possibly were nandina, something like that. I've seen some early pictures that were made here. There were roses along here and obviously the walk had not been laid very long, because after a while the dirt will come to a walk but the walk looked like it had just been finished, the walk looked like they had just taken the form off. There were rose bushes along here at that time, and there was a beautiful bed of Easter lilies right along in here. I'm sure that was the occasion for making the photograph, they wanted a picture of the Easter lilies. Aunt Laura, again, the youngest daughter and the surviving one who lived there was a camera buff. She had picture albums that she had made. It always interested me, and that's how I got the idea that grandfather was a tall man because she always photographed him to make him look tall. This is a picture of him on one of his horses, that's the back of the servant's house. That's vent on it, see how...
Ledet: Beautiful iron work.
Crawford: Yes. See how it's filigreed?
Ledet: Is this the same plant you were talking about?
Crawford: I think it is.
Ledet: Picket fence.
Crawford: Of long-leaf pine, no doubt.
Ledet: There's a lawn in this picture. Is that what surrounded houses, even back then?
Crawford: Yes. Aunt Mary, Aunt Mary is the daughter who died, she was 22 (it must have been a crushing blow to them), Aunt Mary, Aunt Laura, her younger sister, told me that Mary liked to play lawn tennis. She would set up tennis nets out on this part of the yard. She always referred to it as "lawn tennis." We just say tennis now. I'm sure they must have played in high button shoes and dresses to here. I can remember as a child Aunt Mary's bicycle was still upstairs-- they never lived in these rooms, they were like attic rooms-- they were finished, floored and everything. But Aunt Mary's bicycle was kept in this room and it was made of wood, a wooden bicycle.
Ledet: That would be a real treasure.
Crawford: This is a picture of grandfather on a trip to Washington, apparently. We called him "grandfather." We called him grandfather because my mother and her generation did; they never did call him "Paw-Paw." Now if any of the cousins say anything about grandfather, we all know right away who we're talking about. We don't say our great-grandfather so and so. This is a picture of him made on a trip to Baltimore to see his sister Emily. She never married; and this is his brother, whose name was Ebenezer and they called him Uncle Eben. You can see a family resemblance through the eyes. That's a picture of Grandmother, apparently about the time they married.
Ledet: She was very beautiful.
Crawford: She has a great grand-daughter in Tennessee, when I first saw her about twenty years ago she looked a great deal like that. She's grown older and stouter now. I thought I had a picture of the cornerstone laying of the courthouse, it came out of an old newspaper. I wanted to show you how short he looked in relation to the other people. Some of those people who were named on that stone we saw at the governmental complex, that's what it was, here it is. Here's a copy of the bid for the courthouse (that they tore down)-- it is on letterhead of the Moreton and Helms Lumber Company.
Crawford: And he did build two courthouses. One was built in 1879 and it burned. That was for something like $8400. And this one, in 1894.
Ledet: Is there anything else we need to discuss about the house?
Crawford: About the house-- I've discussed the outbuildings, the carriage barn being one and one half storeys.
Ledet: Which was the first of the houses he built after that?
Crawford: The first one was for his eldest son, S.E. Moreton, at 706 South Jackson Street. It was built in 1899 and began its existence as a one and one half storey Queen Anne structure, constructed at the direction of Captain A.E. Moreton for his son, S.E. Moreton. Its design was similar to the other houses, which were later built by Captain Moreton for his children. So much similar that I think perhaps it was designed by Barber, but I don't know that. You've seen a picture of it. It has a definite flair that would make one think that it was designed by the same architect as the others. It's not identical to the others, but it was Queen Anne and it had the irregular roof line, bays and so forth. It was constructed of the finest materials, all long leaf pine. I imagine that lumber was manufactured by Moreton and Helms at Cold Springs because they were still in business at that time.
Ledet: Was this house a wedding present?
Crawford: No, they married in 1898 and a bedroom was added to Captain Moreton's house for them and they lived there. All of the children that he built houses for went there and lived at the mother and father's house until their houses were finished and ready. Mrs. Adeline Becker, who is the only surviving child of S.E. Moreton, and, by the way, is the only surviving grand child of Captain A.E. Moreton, told me that she was born there at 706 South Jackson in 1911. The house was remodeled extensively about 1913 and at that time it was made a full two storeys. The large columns were added, as it looks now. The present summer house, in the front yard, was actually part of the front porch of the original house. It was removed during the renovation and fashioned into a summer house. Other buildings on the property included a one and one half storey carriage barn that was later remodeled into a garage. In the early 1950's this building burned and the present three car garage was built in its stead. There is a quaint cottage located on the northwest corner of the property which was the servants house. After being the home and the gathering place and being loved by several generations of the family, the title to this property passed out of the family in 1995. That's really all I know to say about that.
Ledet: Do you remember visiting the house?
Crawford: Oh, yes. I've been there many times, to many parties and gatherings. When they had the last one they called it a Levee, that's a Victorian term for a gathering, l-e-v-e-e. In 1991 an invitation went out that they were having a levee hosted by the children of S.E. Moreton, the grandchildren, and the great-grandchildren on the occasion of his birthday. Of course, he'd been at peace for many years. It was a very nice, happy gathering. Mrs. Becker was there as the only surviving child of the family. There was a daughter-in-law from the coast, Ann Moreton. Her husband, Fred, had been dead for some years. I've been there a number of times.
Ledet: Can you remember the basic floor layout? Was there a center hall, a double parlor?
Crawford: It has a double parlor. You enter the front door into one of the parlors, the one on the north. Then, on the south there's another parlor. Sometime about 1960 the stair was changed. The stair used to come down into the front parlor on the north, but Mrs. S.E. Moreton, Jr. had it changed. The main part of the stair follows the wall where it was, but instead of coming down into the parlor it turns at the landing into an inside hall. They walled that off. It probably made it easier for her to arrange furniture in that room. Then, adjacent to that room on the north side was a sitting room, an everyday sitting room that you might call a library or family room. There is an entrance from the carport that goes into that room. Beyond that was a rather large dining room. During the time the Moreton's owned it, the woodwork in that room was dark and showed the grain-- it was beautiful; heavily beamed ceiling and a beautiful large leaded and beveled glass window. I think you might call it a picture window that looks out on the side garden. There were two bedrooms downstairs and two baths. A back hall, a back porch that later was enclosed and became a den. In the early days it was a latticed porch. Off of that was two service rooms of some sort, I don't know if they used them as pantries or storage rooms or what. They could have been used as bed rooms, if they needed them. Upstairs was all bedrooms, with a large hall and bathroom.
Ledet: At this time, was the kitchen incorporated into the house?
Crawford: Yes. The kitchen was in the house. In all the houses built subsequent to Captain Moreton's own house the kitchens were in houses, as was the plumbing. They all had electricity. When Captain Moreton's house was built, they did not have electricity until 1898. The last time I was in the house, there was still a fixture that had been electrified. It used to be in the foyer. There were chains to pull it down to light it. It was beautiful.
Ledet: Another question that popped into my mind was the location of the stairways. I know in your house the stairway is in a side hall. In this house you said they moved the stair and put it in the back hall instead of the main parlor. Is that a-- in a number of the Natchez houses they are that way. Do you have any thoughts on that?
Crawford: I have an idea it was done to arrange furniture more easily in the parlor. It was also a little more private-- you could go up and down the stair without being exposed to whatever was going on in the parlor. However, that house has a front and back stair. I don't know what part that would play in it. The house caught fire one time, I don't know when, it wasn't in my memory, but I've heard my grandmother speak of it. It seems it caught fire above the second story. I remember being over there in later years when S.E. Moreton, Jr. was showing me the house. He opened a closet on the second floor which had a latter built into the side, a scuttle hole to go into the attic. He shined a light up there and said, "Do you see the charred timbers? One time we had a fire." I don't know what year that was.
Ledet: It would have been after it was remodeled.
Crawford: Yes. Subsequent to 1913. Back then, using fireplaces, a spark could have caught the shingles on fire. In those days the shingles were wood. The roof shingles are slate now.
Ledet: Do you know when they were changed?
Ledet: Which was the next house?
Crawford: The second house he built was for his daughter Fannie Mills. That was at 539 South Jackson, built in 1903 for his daughter Fannie and her husband Harry C. Mills. The floor plan of this house is remarkably similar to the A.E. Moreton house. My grandmother had told me that Fannie, her sister-in-law, had said when her house was designed that she wanted it to be as nearly like the home she grew up in as it could be. It's not as large downstairs as the A.E. Moreton house, but the arrangement of the rooms and the outline is quite similar, even to the porch. But it is a full two storey house.
Crawford: That's the way the porch looked at 425 South Jackson Street before they glassed it in and took the wrought iron off of it.
Ledet: That was the original front.
Crawford: Yes. It has the irregular bays, but it is a full two stories.
Ledet: It was built as a full two story.
Crawford: It was built as a full two story. It was not known if Captain Moreton acted as the architect or if he hired the services of another, but I think, perhaps, it was Barber because of the use of Tuscan columns was so much similar to the others, the use of dormers, the Queen Anne and all that-- its almost too similar to be coincidental. The use of moldings is similar, even the turnings on the balusters are similar. I just have an idea that was designed by George F. Barber, but I have no proof of that.
Ledet: The house is pink now. Do you remember....
Crawford: It was grey. Is dove grey a light grey?
Ledet: Let's just say it was light grey.
Crawford: It was a light grey and it was trimmed in white. The corner moldings and so on were white but the body of the house was light gray. What amuses me in your asking this, there is a story about it. As you know, it has shutters all over it. The shutters were gray, the same shade as the walls. The reason for that was Aunt Fannie, for whom the house was built, told me that she asked her father why the house couldn't be white with green shutters. He said that in his opinion, and this goes to his sense of proportion, that the house being a full two stories in a neighborhood by itself, that a white house with all those green shutters would look like a target. He painted it gray with gray shutters to minimize its size. She kept it just that color for all of her ninety-four years. It was not changed until recently. [end of side 3]
Ledet: Were the other two houses we've already discussed always white?
Crawford: Yes. That's right. But this one was always a light grey.
Ledet: As a two story house, were all the bedrooms upstairs?
Crawford: No, there were two bedrooms downstairs; one off the porch as it was at the home place,(6) and the one in back of that one. Mrs. Mills developed tuberculosis in the early 1920's and the porch was screened, that's a wrap-around porch that goes way back on the south side. It was screened and canvas shades put out there because part of the treatment for tuberculosis was fresh air and sleeping outdoors. Often they would build separate rooms out in the yards that were screened all around. Even in the wintertime they would sleep out there. That was the reason that part of the porch was screened, to make an outside room for Aunt Fannie to sleep in. They didn't have penicillin and things like that to treat tuberculosis as they do today. She was an artist, although it was for her own enjoyment. The library honored her posthumously in 1970 with an art show here. Did you know that?
Ledet: No, I didn't.
Crawford: Her medium was porcelain plates as well as oils and watercolors. She studied art at Whitworth College. She didn't paint a picture for almost 50 years, then when in her eighties she wanted to see if she could still paint and she did a lovely still life. I'll bet there were thirty or more paintings at the art show. They had a tea on a Sunday afternoon and two of her nieces, the only two who were still living, poured. They had the Vernon silver service(7) there. It was well attended. The show was entitled "The Art of Fannie Moreton Mills." The write-up has some photographs of her paintings, and a little card. Would you like to see it?
Ledet: Yes, very much.
Crawford: Would you like to copy it?
Ledet: Of course, Yes.
Crawford: She had quite a talent. All the while she was painting for her own enjoyment. I think it would have led to something more had she been in a different background. Ladies did handwork and they painted or whatever..... All the bedrooms are upstairs, except two. When she died, the house was very much as it was when she went there. The Moreton families, the different families have taken meticulous care of these houses.
Ledet: It shows.
Crawford: They would spend money, many times, on their houses when they wouldn't spend money on any thing else. They appreciated the houses.
Ledet: That's part of the reason why they have had such an influence on how Brookhaven looks. Do you want to go on to the third house now?
Crawford: The third house is 613 South Jackson. It was built at the behest of Captain A.E. Moreton for his son R.D. Moreton in 1904. Captain J. N. Tedford was the contractor who constructed the house from plans executed by George F. Barber, nationally known architect of Knoxville, TN. If I get too wordy on this tell me-- I know more about this one. The style of the architecture is Queen Anne Free Classic. The facade is dominated by its moderately steeply pitched irregular roof line and wrap aroundporch. The porch supports are wooden Tuscan columns. Four corbeled toped chimneys pierce the roof. Interior fittings are almost entirely original, including the colonial revival mantels. The ceilings are 12 feet in height and the walls and ceiling are of plaster work. There have been minimal alterations to the house. When the R.D. Moreton family moved into the house in February of 1905, it was completely furnished, including the food supply. To the rear of the house the original one and one half storey frame carriage barn survives with the ground floor alteration for the use as a two car garage. The house has been owned and occupied continuously by members of the Moreton family. Of the original five Moreton houses on South Jackson Street, this property is the only one that remains in the Moreton family. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places by the United States Department of the Interior. Appearing in the Brookhaven Semi-Weekly Leader, January 11, 1905, "R.D. Moreton's commodious and handsome cottage, just south of Claude Bowen's home will be ornament to that part of town, and a credit to the contractor." Is that enough?
Ledet: That's wonderful. I want to say that my wife has remarked on the absolute good taste your house exhibits, that it is a perfect example of restraint and ornament.
Crawford: I thank you, I'm glad she enjoyed it.
Ledet: Of course I agree with her completely. The house was built in 1904. Was the landscape similar to what it is now to your knowledge? I know you just moved many camellias--
Crawford: Yes and no. I have a picture, did I show you the picture of my mother standing on the steps, she was about 3 or 4 years old? She was born in 1904, that would have been about 1907. They had the extensive use of southern smilax, all around the front on trellises in the flower beds. It almost obscured the front. I don't know if that was meant to shade it. It had a picket fence around it. In this picture you can see a corner of the picket fence. Then, on down by the dining room you can see a picket fence, it comes out from the house and goes on back. I think they would have used nandina, and southern smilax and roses. We had a rosebush-- it lived-- oh, my wife and I had been married for some years, but my grandmother told me that my grandfather and his mother planted that down at 425 South Jackson. When he was a child, he and his mother planted that rose bush. When he married and moved to his own house,(8) his mother sent that rose bush and had it planted there. It lived until the 1950's. It never had insects like roses do now, but termites got into the root of it and killed it. I'd never heard of termites attacking a rose bush. It was a purplish shade and it must have been 85 years old when it died. It always interested us that it didn't have all these blights and insects that you have to spray, you just let it alone.
Ledet: Wayne Smith the tree surgeon told me that one of the reasons that South Jackson Street doesn't have the big trees was because the street was widened and when they paved it they hurt the roots so badly.
Crawford: I don't know of it being widened. It was always a very wide street and the right-of-way specifies sixty feet.
Ledet: So, as far as you know its always been the same width as it is now.
Crawford: As far as I know. You can see the city limit marker embedded in the neutral ground. That was the original city limit. It went a half mile in all directions from the depot.
Ledet: Maybe he meant the sidewalks?
Crawford: Maybe so. So much pavement, I'm sure, took its toll on them. They were not live oaks. That was a mistake. My grandfather, Captain Moreton, was instrumental in a lot of the plantings. We used to have trees that lapped over [the street] there were so many. We've lost a lot of them. Some of them have been replaced with live oaks, but not of a size like that. Would you like a quotation?
Crawford: Oscar Hartman did a genealogy of the Hartman family. It is one of the most interesting genealogies I've ever seen in that it doesn't just stick to the-- you know how some of them will number the generations and they'll say 1-B? It has other things in there that make it interesting. Somewhere in the 1870's he quoted a news item from the local paper. It said the trees had been planted on South Jackson Street, and the comment was they would never grow big enough to make shade. Would you be interested in seeing that?
Ledet: It would be great.
Crawford: I want the reference myself, so I'll look that up and get it to you. I thought that was really funny.
Ledet: Is there anything else on your house?
Crawford: I can't think of anything.
Ledet: Now we're to the last.
Crawford: That's 610 South Jackson Street. It was the last of the four houses that Captain Moreton had built for his children. It was constructed in 1905, for A.E. Moreton, Jr. from plans executed by George F. Barber, as mentioned in the information related to 613 South Jackson Street. It is similar to but not identical to the R.D. Moreton house. A.E. Moreton, Jr. was associated with his father in the Moreton Wentworth Company, a plantation supply store, and later served several terms as mayor of Brookhaven. The Brookhaven Semi-Weekly Leader, on December 6, 1905 reported, "Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Moreton have gone into housekeeping in their beautiful new residence, which is also newly and elegantly furnished." The title to this property passed from the Moreton family in the late 1940's and has had several owners since that time. It's been remodeled extensively. To the rear of the residence stands a one and one-half storey carriage barn which has been altered slightly to accommodate automobiles. I don't know much else to say. I don't remember ever having been in that house but once, I never did go in there when Uncle Alfred lived there, I don't know why. [break]
Ledet: You were saying he sold the house on South Jackson Street--
Crawford: In the latter forties and moved to Quentin, in Franklin County. Quentin was the site of the Central Lumber Company's saw mill. The mill burned about 1953 and they didn't rebuild it. One reason is they had almost cut out the timber there. Uncle Alfred built on some land the company deeded him. He lived the remaining years of his life there. He used to come here, he and his daughter, to see us on Christmas morning. He was in his eighties when on a particular visit and I asked him to tell me something that he remembered about home, at 425 South Jackson and about his father and he reminisced. He told me something nobody else had ever told me: that when his father went to the Confederate army he had a body servant, a Negro man, that went with him. And every Christmas this man would come by to wish him a Merry Christmas. He said that "Papa" and this fellow, he called his name but I do not remember, "Papa" would fix him a drink and they would sit on the back steps and reminisce about the war. He said "Papa" never reminisced with us about the war, but they had that in common. He said this body servant stayed with him all through the war. When they slept in the pastures or in the fields, he slept on the top part of the row to keep the wind off of his master. He said this old man told Mrs. Moreton, "I've known the Captain longer than you have, and I slept with him before you did." Uncle Alfred was laughing about that. I'd never heard any of them say anything about him having a body servant with him. When he left here, in 1861, to go to the war, slavery was still legal. I have papers where his wife, my great grandmother was given a slave when she was five years old. Her grandmother deeded a slave to her, a little black boy. I had his name but I've forgotten, I have copies of that. It wasn't uncommon.
Ledet: Were there many slaves in this area?
Crawford: I don't know. I read something not long ago, an article that said that most of the boys that went from the south, from this area, were farmers, 80% of them were farmers and most of them were not slave owners. They went and fought over something that was not that important to them, the slavery part of it.
Ledet: You said you didn't see this house very much, does it have the same level of detail as yours?
Crawford: No. I was impressed that the mantels were not as elaborate as those at 613 South Jackson, at least in my opinion. The kitchen was moved out-- I have a glass back porch and somewhere along the way someone moved the kitchen from where it was-- and my porch is in an ell, they took that ell part out, squared it off and put a kitchen there. Where the kitchen was originally was made a bedroom. It's been altered some.
Ledet: Just looking at the two houses, it seems more plain.
Crawford: One thing that's a drawback to that house is its elevation. It sits on a low lot. Not the perspective elevation, but the actual land elevation. I imagine that lot is six feet lower than mine. Mine almost has the effect of a raised cottage. That one doesn't. I think its because of the fall of the land. The back part of that house is high like the front of mine is.
Ledet: Was the second floor of your house finished when it was built?
Crawford: No. It was finished later because they didn't need those rooms at that time. It was finished except for the walls. The door facings, the doors, the floors, that part was done. But the walls weren't papered, they were later sheet rocked or plastered.
Ledet: They [A.E. Moreton, Jr. and subsequent owners] never found the need for those upstairs rooms.
Crawford: Had Aunt Jennie(9) lived, I imagine they would have.
Ledet: In between these houses other houses were built. Most of them were built after these houses. Certainly they were after the first, 425 South Jackson.
Crawford: The Cohn houses were built in the spring and summer of the same year as mine. Ours was occupied in 1905. They must have had a real building boom then. The Oscar Newton house, which is where Eddie Moak lives was built in 1905 also.
Ledet: The three houses you just mentioned were not Queen Anne style, but--
Crawford: They are what I would call Adam-esque, the two Cohn houses have a lot of the garlands, and finials and things in the style of Robert Adam-- Palladian window--
Ledet: I agree completely. The one where Eddie lives now is very colonial looking.
Crawford: Yes. I think with the doorway-- I think those upstairs windows have a pocket by-pass, unless they've done something to them. You could push that lower sash up and it would go into a recess, a pocket so you could go out without ducking or stooping.
Ledet: They are different styles, but to me they seem to be strongly influenced by the look of the Moreton houses. Do you have any observations on that, how South Jackson Street grew from the style that the first Moreton house had?
Crawford: It set the tone. I'm not sure it was a complement, but the people who didn't live there would refer to that as the "silk-stocking street," have you ever heard it referred to as that?
Crawford: I can remember as a child, one lady in particular, who in my presence said something about that, although she wasn't talking to me I think it was for my benefit. Yes, I think it set the style. The earliest style setter, besides the 425 South Jackson house would be the Hardy house, which was built in 1877.
Ledet: It is very different from the other houses.
Crawford: It is Italianate in its form.
Ledet: It looks more like the commercial buildings downtown, to my eye.
Crawford: It has the corbeled chimneys, the bracketed eves which Italianate would have. It is beautiful inside. In the next few years there will be a dramatic change here. Jack Little is in his eighties and he's in very bad health. He is a stabilizing influence. It's a real treasure house.
Ledet: Not too long after these houses were built, the styles began to change in the rest of the country. Bungalows got popular. There are a lot of bungalows in Brookhaven, but I think only three on Jackson Street. Do you think that the taste of the people in that area didn't change--
Crawford: Didn't encourage that, perhaps. The house next door to me, where the Seaveys live, has been in that family through the Bowens since it was built in about 1894. Captain Moreton built that for Mrs. Whit Bowen, a widow and her son in about 1894.
Ledet: He built that house as well.
Crawford: Not for himself, for Mrs. Bowen. I have an idea, Frances Seavey Shows told me not long ago that she had found the bill of sale and the deed from Captain Moreton. I'm wondering if he financed that for Mrs. Bowen. She was a milliner, designed hats. She was a widow with a son, Claude. I have an idea it was a real struggle for her to get a home. Captain Moreton was somewhat of a philanthropist. The property down here, adjacent to, well, it's now, there's a newest part of First Presbyterian Church, on the north, next to Perkins Furniture Store, Captain Moreton gave that lot to the Presbyterians in 1916. The deed recites that it was for the "love and affection that I have for the Presbyterian congregation, I deed this certain described property." He was a Methodist, a trustee in the Methodist Church here. The Methodist Church here was built on the property where the Decell's house was, where he lived when he was a young man, where his wife's family [lived]. The post office is built on property that Captain Moreton sold to them, that had previously belonged to the Decells; their livery stable was there. They owned that whole block. Do you know where Miss Nutt lived? That was George Decell's house. That was Captain Moreton's brother in law. His name was George Moreton Decell. Apparently he was quite a bit younger. He might have been born while Captain Moreton rented a room from them. It wasn't unusual for them to name children for doctors, prominent friends, etc.--
Ledet: Do you know when that house was built? The Nutt house?
Crawford: The George Decell house? I don't. It would have been about 1910 perhaps.
Ledet: It would not have been there when Captain Moreton was staying in the Decell house.
Crawford: No. [end of tape two, side two]. The Decell house. I remember the house-- not there-- it was moved from North Jackson [Street] in the area where Carl Urban's development off of North Jackson, those streets... Is there an Urban Lane up there?
Ledet: Urban... Red Oak--
Crawford: That's right. There. That house belonged to a Decell. They sold the property to the Methodist Church, and moved the house. It was a house with a long front porch, single story. I've heard my mother say that before the house was moved, it was very close to the sidewalk, that you practically stepped off the sidewalk on the first step to go on the porch. To put that in perspective, you know where Eric Boyd has an office(10)-- how close to the sidewalk it is? That was a residence when I was a child. Dr. Harry Watts, a dentist, and his wife lived there. The older places downtown were close to the walk. They didn't have yards and flower gardens like we do now.
Ledet: Is that an older tradition?
Crawford: Must be.
Ledet: You think of Natchez. The older homes are close to the street.
Crawford: The ones downtown, the ones that were not plantation houses.
Ledet: Our town developed after that style [passed from favor]. The architecture that is here now is something from later, with large lawns.
Crawford: That's right.
Ledet: Following more the example of the Garden District of New Orleans.
Crawford: That's right. The Decell house was there before the Civil War, about 1850. It predated having a lawn. Another house that does-- there's a charming cottage across from the Elementary School, where Miss Marie Hoffmann lives.(11) It doesn't have much front yard. I have seen a date-- I read an article about that house some years ago in the newspaper and the date of 1832 was on that. That greatly predated this town. That must have been a farmhouse.
Ledet: It does look like a farmhouse.
Crawford: It does. It looks really southern, doesn't it, like a Southern cottage.
Ledet: I agree. It is most attractive.
Crawford: There was a house that looked very much like that, not identical but on that style west of the Elementary School. Do you know where John Roberts bought that brick house?(12) Just this side of that there is a grove of pecan trees that's on the playground now. The house was in that grove of trees. It was very much on that order. It was so high off the ground it looked like a raised cottage.
Ledet: This is marvelous. I know you must be tired. It has been very, very helpful.
Crawford: Is it after noon?
Ledet: It is after noon. We will stop here. [break]
Crawford: When Captain and Mrs. Moreton would go to Baltimore to visit his family, his brother and sister who lived there, they would go to New Orleans and take a steamship, and go up the Atlantic coast to Baltimore. One reason for that, and I think the primary reason for that was as she got older it was very difficult for Mrs. Moreton to walk. She used crutches in the final days or she walked with a cane. Getting on and off of trains would have been difficult. With a steamship she could get on and stay until she got to Baltimore without changing. My mother kept a post card album. They used to send her picture post cards. They would write to her and tell her to keep her cards, put them in her album. It is interesting to look at those cards and read the messages of what they were doing in the early 1900's. You can track how many trips they made in what years from these. I have a picture, a post card, of the Maryland Institute that they sent home, it said, "this is where grandfather went to school." There are some pictures of the boats they went on. The Momus was one I remember. I have seen some pictures in my Aunt Laura's photograph album of ship captains-- she'd make pictures on ship board. It seemed like a rather elegant way to travel to me.
Ledet: That brings another point that I find very interesting about this community. It seems to me that at the turn of the century and before, the community looked more towards New Orleans for its culture.
Crawford: They did. I think one reason was train travel. The train schedule was better to go New Orleans. They would go to New Orleans and spend the day and come back easier than they could go to Jackson. Plus the fact that Jackson wasn't much more than a country town. Aunt Laura, the youngest of Captain Moreton's children, was a musician. She graduated from the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. She played piano. She would go to New Orleans once a week to take master class instruction from Miss Corinne Meyer (m-e-y-e-r). Her brother, Gus Meyer, owned a large clothing store on Canal Street. She was a master teacher. She could go down on the morning train, have a music lesson and be back before dark that evening. We had so many passenger trains. Part of the grant for station right-of-way was on condition that all passenger trains stop here. And of course, they all stop. You could go down on any one of two or three trains in the morning and come home late in the afternoon or evening. That triggered another memory I had of my mother. The reason my mother knew so much about her grandmother and grandfather was that she lived with them for two or three years and went to school in Brookhaven. Her mother and father had moved to Lucien (Franklin County) because the family owned a sawmill out there. My grandfather was superintendent of the mill so they built a house out there. My mother had already started to school here and they didn't want to take her out of school to take her out there. She lived with her grandmother and grandfather and went home on the weekends. They had trains out there on the Mississippi Central. My mother has told me that her grandfather would go to New Orleans on business and he would always bring home a little carton with a wire bale on it with goldfish in it. He had a fish pond in the yard, I've seen a picture of the Moretons around the fishpond. It had an elaborate iron enclosure around it, filigreed iron. The reason that it was there was to keep grandchildren from playing in it and falling in. That's the way he stocked his fish pond. When he'd go to New Orleans he'd get a little carton of goldfish and bring them up on the train. That's just an interesting aside. The college being here had so much to do with this being an affluent community, and apparently, it has always been so. In doing research on the Climber's Club, my wife has talked about how affluent they were for a little town of less than thirty five hundred people in 1905. And they were. They studied Shakespeare, did programs themselves, but it was always in a quest for something better.
c2003 Lincoln-Lawrence-Franklin Regional Library
Brookhaven, MS 39601