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Interviewed by Henry Ware Hobbs, Jr.
November 15, 1990
Transcribed Henry J. Ledet July 5, 1994
[A July 8, 1993 memorandum from Henry Hobbs to Henry Ledet. Henry, what you are about to hear is the soundtrack of a video tape I made of Jack Seavey on, about November 15, 1990. Now, this is the material I want to include in the piece we ultimately do on both Eben Bee and Jack Seavey and the Seavey, Storm and Bee families. Here we go.]
Hobbs: Tell me what you remember about Ms. McVoy and the artist series at the Lampton Auditorium.
Seavey: Well, as I remember it, I was quite young at the time. During her stay at Whitworth college, there was a time when the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra, I believe that's the correct name of the orchestra, came to Brookhaven to have a performance at Whitworth College, Lampton Auditorium. And they didn't have sufficient rooms, apparently, prepared for the musicians that would be on the train coming in so they had to put the car aside on the siding...
Hobbs: The railroad car...
Seavey: The pullman car...
Hobbs: At the depot...
Seavey: The depot. They spent quite a bit of their time there. They were also entertained, I believe, at the Butterfield home. There are different versions of that tale, I can't say for sure.
Hobbs: Were the Butterfields living there then?
Seavey: Yes. The Butterfields were there and they entertained them. They entertained quite a few of the musicians.
Hobbs: Do you remember any of the other artists who came? Ada Case? Schuman-Heink? I'm going to get to give me what she knows about, she'll remember most of that. Do you remember Ms. McVoy at all? She was the promoter who got them all here.
Seavey: Only by name, not as a person.
Hobbs: Jack, tell me the story about the cotton that the Yankees confiscated after the Civil War.
Seavey: It seems that as the times were back then, when the cotton had been baled and after it was sold to the cotton merchants here in Brookhaven the bales were brought in to Brookhaven but there was no particular storage for them at that time. So, they were stacked along side of the railroad, just south of where the, just opposite McGrath's store, just to the west of McGrath's store. As far as my uncle, Willard Seavey, knew, all the bales that were parked there were family, with the A C S on them, A.C. Seavey and Sons cotton. They would eventually ship them, put them on flat cars and take them to New Orleans, after they were sold to cotton buyers down there. But, apparently, the government felt that was misnomered, that A.C.S. stood for Army of the Confederate States. Since the States had lost the war, the cotton belonged to the U.S. government. I believe it was , I believe the two of them took off to Washington to contest that legally.
Hobbs: They seized the cotton, in other words.
Seavey: They seized the cotton when the cotton actually belonged to local merchants here in Brookhaven. They spent, I think, a week or two up there, trying to convince them that lost out.
Hobbs: In other words, that it was not Army of the Confederate States but A.C. Seavey. That was terrible. Let me change tapes and we'll continue.
Hobbs: ...what the local precautions were with the yellow fever epidemic?
Seavey: As I remember, the things that Dad told me, it was after he had married my mother. Apparently about that time there was some trouble, some concerns about people returning from the Panama Canal, landing in New Orleans, and at the same time there seemed to be an epidemic of Yellow Fever in the South, in this area particularly. Our neighborhood, it wasn't here, the story was that it was there in New Orleans and so the workmen, in Panama, apparently, just took their rides on freight trains as best they could, apparently they were not paid off, apparently they didn't have enough money to come by coach. They traveled by freight car. In those days, I forget the exact, they label it as being migrants going from here to there and most any place. But Yellow Fever seemed to be very rampant. In order to stop it, those that were riding on the boxcars, and coal cars, from New Orleans north, some began to drop off at the crossings on the way up. When Brookhaven heard about it, the men got together and took charge of guarding each crossing where the roads crossed the railroad track. If there were any who dropped off the trains, there would be someone there to seize them and, in some manner, arrest them, and get them on their way again. I remember Dad telling me about staying on the crossing just north of where the school was, which faced the railroad. He would stay there and my mother would bring him his meals. Then, of course, someone else took his place. The same thing had to happen at all of places that crossed the railroad track. Others that lived there crossed the track north of the city.
Hobbs: Do you have any idea what year this was?
Seavey: It was apparently before 1905.
Hobbs: When were you born?
Hobbs: 1905 was your beginning.
Seavey: I don't believe in any tales that Dad told that he ever mentioned .
Hobbs: Jack, tell about the old Seavey Brick Plant. I didn't realize there was a brick plant here, a brick manufacturing endeavor before the Brookhaven Pressed Brick. That was a modern thing compared to the old A.C. Seavey Brick.
Seavey: I don't remember too much about it, except it was in the place where the modern place was. It was all a part of Seavey's.
Hobbs: You mean where Brookhaven Pressed Brick later was located? because of those clay deposits, I suppose.
Seavey: It was actually building individual kilns on the property and the bricks were placed into these kilns, placed in there after they had been formed. They were placed on cypress boards. The boards were about a yard long and about 16 inches wide. They were put there and at times they were put in the sun, which had some effect on drying the brick. Then they used kilns, they put them in there, they would actually fire those up. It would get really hot. The kiln would have a hole in it where the smoke would come out. Eventually when the fire died down, they let the brick cool off.
Hobbs: This was when? After you were born? Do you remember some of this?
Seavey: I remember seeing part of the old kiln.
Hobbs: Because Brookhaven Pressed Brick was organized back in the early part of the century.
Seavey: I know that we used to get the cypress boards and bring them down to the store, bring them down to the house . . . . Apparently the process changed a whole lot . . . . The cypress boards made good kites!
Hobbs: I'll bet they did. Tell me this: when you were a child, I remember your father's house, the John and Willard Seavey houses, and of course Magnolia Manor is still there, they were all your family's houses. What other residences were there, if any, on that side of--the stylish place to live when they were built was on the railroad, wasn't it?
Seavey: They were right across on the east side of the railroad.
Hobbs: Was there anything south of there? Were there residences south of there?
Seavey: There was Grandma Seavey's, Amende Seavey's--
Hobbs: That's Magnolia Manor, yes.
Seavey: There was the place . . . she had quite a large garden and a rose garden there. There was another house just beyond that, another family. I can't recall them, maybe Eben Bee could.
Hobbs: That's about all there was on the east side of the railroad.
Seavey: Except there was the beginnings of the power plant.
Hobbs: I see, the power plant. On the west side, I remember the Batchelder house took up a whole block.
Seavey: South of the Batchelder house, Perkins lived there.
Hobbs: Do you have any idea when those houses were built?
Seavey: They were built before I was born, because I can remember they were build before I had any recollection.
Hobbs: Do you remember when Colonel Hoskins' house was south of there?
Seavey: That was just south of the Perkins home.
Hobbs: That was Hoskins, Colonel Hoskins. They say that was a beautiful place.
Seavey: It was a beautiful place. I can't be sure about this, but I believe that that was originally a Seavey home and they swapped with the Hoskins.
Hobbs: Is that so? I was told by somebody in your family, I believe it was John Willard that the swap was what is now Magnolia Manor was built by Whitworth.
Seavey: By somebody, I don't know who it was.
Hobbs: It was considered rather far out in the country at the time and Mr. Seavey's house was there across the street from where the library now is on the Whitworth College Campus and they swapped those houses so Mr. Whitworth could be close to Whitworth College. Could you give any credence to that story?
Seavey: That's reasonable, because he said he was born in one of those houses on Jackson Street across from Whitworth College.
Hobbs: Your father?
Seavey: No, John Willard.
Hobbs: John Willard. That's the story John told.
Seavey: I remember him telling that.
Hobbs: I think, I got the impression that the house was where the filling station is now, that was the site of the house.
Seavey: The Seavey's originally had a house there, but that was before.
Hobbs: That was the one they swapped with Whitworth, for Magnolia Manor.
Seavey: I think so.
Hobbs: Next to it, you remember the John R. Perkins' house? That was still there, Ms. Nettie Walker and Ms. Monette Monger had an apartment there when I was a child. A commercial building is there now. All of that was residential, come to think of it, up and down that street. Over on the railroad, was there anything south of the Whitworth, I mean of the Hoskins' house until you got to the Abshagen's? I guess the Abshagen's were next.
Seavey: The Abshagen's were there on the corner, they were there from the time I can remember. I remember going there for donuts and canned goods.
Hobbs: I was just thinking about it, where was the Wilson house? You remember Ms. May Wilson and Mr. Ben Wilson? They lived in about the middle of the block, south of the Abshagens, it was a big one story house with a big gallery on it.
Seavey: They were Jewish.
Hobbs: They were a Jewish family.
Seavey: They were a Jewish family, the second house. The house on the corner. Ms. , her house was on the corner.
Hobbs: I remember that. What was her name? That's where Roy Malta built his shopping center. I can't remember it either. . . . Ms. Eunice Anding, that's who it was. Ms. Eunice Anding. I don't know whose house it originally was, she had bought it. Tell me: A.C. Seavey was really one of the biggest furnishing companies in this part of the country for many years, was it not?
Seavey: Yes, and McGrath's was, too.
Hobbs: They were big competitors, I guess.
Seavey: Tom did not stay as competitive as the Seavey's and McGraths did on cotton. The way things were bartered back then was strange too.
Hobbs: You mean the furnishing houses financed the customers from year to year and took things in . . . .
Seavey: . . .So they could buy a mule and all that. Then the cotton went to whoever they were indebted, to McGrath, they sold it, I guess, to Mr. Claude Bowling, Eben Bee's father and Willard Seavey did the cotton buying at Seavey's store.
Hobbs: What got Seavey? Was it the depression? I seem to remember in my childhood there was still a Seavey's Emporium or a Seavey's Department Store where Jap Becker, where you had your office up on the second floor.
Seavey: That was built, I remember, I remember Dad, there was one there before the building was built, one had his store . . .
Hobbs: That was Hyman, not Sam.
Seavey: Also in there they had a jeweler.
Hobbs: Charles B. Smith? or Staffler?
Seavey: Smith was there and Staffler was right where he is today.
Seavey: There was an alley there and west of that was an addition that was built during my memory, Dad built it. He felt like cotton was a going to be a thing of the past so he tried to reduce the size of the large store by building this smaller store. They moved all of their goods for sale into where, now, would be...
Hobbs: Right next to where Woolworth's was.
Hobbs: Where Jap Becker had Benoits for years and years.
Hobbs: Where was the original store? Somewhere I missed that. The original big store?
Seavey: The original big store, that would be there where the jewelry store is.
Hobbs: You mean it fronted on Cherokee Street?
Hobbs: I see.
Seavey: And that was Seavey's. And then there was a grocery store. I don't know what was next.
Hobbs: That was all west of the Cohn Building, on the corner there, the Storm Building. Storm was your great grandfather, too, wasn't he? Grandfather or great grandfather, John Storm?
Seavey: He was a great grandfather. I guess he was, I don't know.
Hobbs: He built that building on the corner which maintains its architectural integrity right now if you just remove all that aluminum. I noticed there's a plaque up there that says built by Moreton and Swan, Contractors, 1867, you've noticed that up there? What happened to Seavey's? Was it the depression, the Great Depression?
Seavey: I think the depression got it.
Hobbs: And cotton, of course, ceased to be the major agricultural product. I guess lumber, timber and cotton were the two big, underlying...
Seavey: And brick.
Hobbs: I see, building material. I sure do thank you, Jack.
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Brookhaven, MS 39601