Where was Colonel Falkner Shot?

 Where was Colonel Falkner Shot?

by Jack D. Elliott, Jr. - February 2012

 For decades the site of the shooting of Colonel W C Falkner by R J Thurmond in Ripley has been pointed out as
being in front of Renfrow's Cafe,  believed to be the site of Thurmonds office, at the northwest corner of the square.
 A re-examination of the evidence indicates that this is not correct. The actual site is somewhat more than
 100 feet to the south, where R J Thurmond's office was really located.

            William C. Falkner

 In 1974, as part of the first Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha Conference, I participated in a field trip to the town of Ripley, Mississippi, once the home of Colonel W C Falkner, Confederate officer, railroad developer, novelist, politician, and local legend. The “old Colonel” became the inspiration for his great-grandson William Faulkner's character Colonel John Sartoris, whose memory haunted  his mythical Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi, beginning with the first sentence of his first Yoknapatawpha novel, Sartoris: “As usual, old man Falls had brought John Sartoris into the room with him,...fetching, like an odor, like the clean dusty smell of his faded overalls, the spirit of the dead man into that room where the dead man's son sat and where the two of them, pauper and banker, would sit for a half an hour in the company of him who had passed beyond death and then returned.”

On the evening of November 5, 1889, Falkner was shot by his former business associate R J Thurmond on the square in Ripley. He died the following evening, and passed beyond death into history and legend. The shooting would have its parallel in the Yoknapatawpha stories with the shooting of Colonel Sartoris by his former business associate, who was referred to as B J Redmond in the novel, The Unvanquished.

 Over the decades since my visit two memories of Ripley remained with me, both connected with the death of the old Colonel. One was of the monument that was erected beside his grave in the Ripley cemetery, a larger than life marble statue standing on top of a tall granite base. In the novel Sartoris, a similar effigy of Colonel Sartoris stood  “on a stone pedestal, in his frock coat and bareheaded....his carven eyes gazing out across the valley where his railroad ran.”

  Falkner Monument

The Falkner Monument, Ripley Cemetery

My other memory was of the purported site where Colonel Falkner was shot by Thurmond outside the latter's office.  On the 1974 field trip, we were told that Thurmond's office had stood on the site of what was then Renfrow's Cafe on the northwest corner of the square.[1]   This identification continued to be made for decades until evidence began to arise suggesting that it was not in fact the correct site.

 Renfrow's Cafe

  Renfrow's Cafe, 1937-2011

While researching the historical layout of Ripley I discovered that the Thurmond office that had stood on the Renfrow's Cafe site had not been owned by R J Thurmond, but by his son, attorney Charles Miller Thurmond.[2] I initially assumed that, whatever the circumstances,  R J Thurmond had used the building along with his son as his office. Over a period of time though, it gradually dawned on me that it was very improbable that R J T would have shared such a small office with his son and his son's law partners. My suspicions were confirmed when I was eventually able to identify the site of R J Thurmond's office on that fatal day in November 1889 and it was not at the Renfrow site. It now appears that the two offices had been confused in part because of the same surname association and  because C M Thurmond's office was the better known of the two; it continued to be known as the “Thurmond office,” or “Thurmond house,” decades after his death.[3] The R J Thurmond office, on the other hand, was used only briefly by R J T and was subsequently forgotten.

 Renfrow's Cafe

C.M. Thurmond's office, 1881-1937
 Used by C M Thurmond for a law office, 1882-1900. Misidentified in recent years as the office of his father, R J Thurmond.

 In determining the actual location of the R J Thurmond office and of the shooting, I will first review the pertinent information from the newspaper accounts of the event. These accounts referred to two locations. One appeared in the newspaper, the Memphis Avalanche, on or about November 6, 1889.[4]    It was signed by “J. Brown,” evidently Joseph Brown of Ripley, a long time resident and merchant whose aunt was married to R J Thurmond. Brown was often involved in journalism in part through  his brothers-in-law, Walter and Pink Smith, who owned and published the Ripley newspaper, the Southern Sentinel. Brown knew Ripley and its people, so the facts of his account are fairly reliable. Brown wrote that the shooting “occurred in front of [R J] Thurmond's office.” The other account appeared in the newspaper, the Ripley Advertiser. Although unsigned, it was almost certainly by the editor, R F Ford. Like Brown, Ford had lived in Ripley for decades, so he too is a reliable witness. Ford wrote that “on the west side of the public square … Col. Falkner was standing on the pavement in front of or near Alexander & Co.'s store, when Mr. Thurmond met up with him, and pointing his pistol at Col. Falkner's head, fired....”[5]

The assertion that the shooting was “in front of or near Alexander & Co.'s store” might initially appear to contradict the claim that the shooting occurred in front of R J Thurmond's office. However if the Alexander & Co. store proved to be adjacent to Thurmond's office, then there would be no contradiction; they would in effect corroborate each other, as was indeed the case. However, the problem of identifying the site of the shooting came down to actually identifying the sites of the two buildings, and by 2011, no one seemed to know where they had been located. All that can be asserted from the accounts are that the shooting was on the west side of the square, as Ford noted.

After perusing and abstracting all of the nineteenth century deeds and newspapers for Ripley, I am now able to demonstrate where the two buildings were located. The argument as presented is strengthened by the fact that I wasn't attempting to merely document the two buildings of concern, but was actually trying to document all the buildings on the square. Through this means I was able to not only identify the two of concern, but was able to eliminate alternative possibilities. I will first identify the building in which the firm Alexander & Co. was located in November 1889.


Alexander & Co.

The primary partner in the firm of Alexander & Co. was Dr. Eli Marion Alexander,[6] who had been in business in Ripley as early as 1856, initially in the drug store partnership of Cox & Alexander. He left that partnership in 1858 [7] while continuing to practice medicine. After the Civil War he was again in the drug business. About 1870 along with Dr. John Y. Murry, he was in the drug store partnership of Murry & Alexander, [8] while somewhat later he was in the partnership of Alexander & Hunt along with his brother-in-law, Dr. EN Hunt.[9]  About 1874 Alexander left the drug business and joined the partnership Bell, Alexander & Co. which was variously listed as a dry goods store and a general store.[10]

By 1879 Alexander's business was listed as Alexander & Co. and under this name it operated until July 1895,[11]  when he was stricken with paralysis[12]  and retired from business, selling out to J.A. Norriss & Co which carried an advertisement in September announcing that they hadpurchased the stock of Alexander & Co., on West Side [of the square].”[13]

& Co. move into the brick Wm. R. Cole store building

Throughout the 1880s and 1890s Alexander & Co. were located on the west side of the square. However, the firm never owned a lot there, indicating that they rented the buildings used. During the early 1880s the location on the west side is unknown although the process of elimination suggests that it was on Lot 4 Block 17.[14]


Plat of Square

Plat of part of Ripley around the square.  Lots are 49.5 x 99 feet.

In September 1883, the firm gained access to a more desirable store house, also located on the west side of the square. The Ripley Advertiser reported thatAlexander & Co have moved into the brick house on the west side of the public square formerly occupied by Elliott & Co.,” a building that was owned as rental property by R J Thurmond.[15]  Note that the building was identified as being made of brick. There was only one brick store house in existence in Ripley during the 1880s, a building formerly owned and occupied by the merchant Wm. R. Cole. The following year, a newspaper item indicated that Alexander and Co. were located inthe old Cole building, west side of square.”[16]  One month before the shooting of Colonel Falkner, Alexander & Co. were still advertising that they were located inthe Cole old stand, west side of the square.”[17]  There is no indication that the firm ever moved before they sold out to J A Norriss & Co. in 1895.

William R. Cole Store Building

Having identified that Alexander & Co. were located at the time of the shooting in the old Cole store building, the origin and location of the building will be examined. William R. Cole [18]  was one of the most successful of Ripley's merchants during the mid-19th century. He was in business there as early as 1849. After the Civil War his business became known as Wm. R. Cole & Son, which included his son William Douglas Cole.[19]  His antebellum home on Jackson Street in Ripley still stands, where it is better known for its association with later owner and occupant R J Thurmond.

The brick store was not the first store building that later had owned and used in Ripley. He first purchased a store building in 1849 on the south half of Lot 5 Block 17.[20]    For the most part this is the same property that his brick store was later located on, except for the fact that the brick store extended a few feet onto the adjacent Lot 8, property that Cole did not own until 1856.  The store that he purchased in 1849 was probably the two-story frame store that had been constructed for the partnership of Ayres, Edgerton & Co. in about 1839.[21] This store probably burned on 5 February 1856 in a conflagration that destroyed several stores and offices.[22]

Shortly after the 1856
fire, Cole purchased the northern portion of the adjacent Lot 8 Block 17 where Orlando Davis's  law office had been located before the fire.[23]   Cole then presumably built another store, which was also apparently burned during the Civil War along with all the businesses on the square in conflagrations set by Union troops on 23 March 1863 and on 8/9 July 1864.[24]  Soon after the end of the war, he presumably built the brick store under discussion, that is in about late 1865 --1866. Because Cole owned both the south half of Lot 5 and the adjacent northern portion of Lot 8, he was able to construct the brick building straddling the line between the two lots.

Cole sold his store and lot in 1874 to R J Thurmond and may have moved to Colorado at this time.[25]   However, his business in Ripley continued to be listed in the credit reference books through 1880. If he continued in business this late before going to Colorado, then he was certainly having to rent which would seem improbable for an established merchant used to owning his own business house.

Regardless, by 1880 Cole had moved to Colorado and his brick store was being rented by late 1880 to L H Elliott & Co. After this firm vacated, the building was occupied by Alexander & Co. in September 1883 as established above.

Subsequent deed records during the early twentieth century continued to describe this property as thebrick building known as the Bill Cole storeand variants.[26]  At an undetermined timeprobably between the world warsthe old facade was removed and a new one was constructed of pressed brick with striated surfaces. However, today it is very easy to see where the new facade joins to the older, hand made bricks that constitute the side walls of the building. After surveying all the evidence, both archival (deeds and maps) and extant architectural remains, it is now clear that the brick walls of the Cole store building, used by Alexander & Co. in 1889, still stands and are part of the present business, Creative Awning and Sign.  Except for the facade, which is a twentieth century replacement, the brick walls  are the oldest components of commercial architecture on the Ripley public square. By my measurement the facade is about 21 feet wide (north-south). While most (18 feet) of this is on the southern half of Lot 5 Block 17, it does extend three feet over onto the northern edge of the adjacent Lot 8 B17.[27]  This building--the only brick store on the square in 1889--still stands and is the only commercial building remaining there from the time of Colonel Falkner. It is the building that editor R F Ford referred to as being at or near the site of the shooting.

figure 6

Figure 7 Figure 8

 (on left) Creative Awning and Sign, located in the brick Cole building that was used by Alexander & Co., 1883-1895.
 The door to its right is Smith's Barber Shop. 

(center and right) Details of the south wall of Creative Awning and Sign. Note that
the more recent brick facade on the left side of each photo has been added onto the earlier masonry on the
right with a distinctive seam between the two masonry units.


 R J Thurmond's Office

 By the early 1880s there were two commercial buildings on Lot 5 Block 17 on the west side of the public square. On the south side was the brick store rented by Alexander & Co. and formerly owned by Wm. R. Cole. On the north side was a frame store building, and in between the two was a vacant space about 15 feet wide, too narrow in which to erect a store building. The office that was used by R J Thurmond in November 1889 would be built in this vacant space.

In early 1881, Ripley postmaster E W Simpson maintained the post office in the frame store building on the north side of Lot 5.[28]   However, on March 4, 1881, James A. Garfield was inaugurated as president. As postmaster-ships were given out to political supporters as part of the spoils system, Simpson was removed from office, and a new postmaster installed.[29]   Political changes eventually brought Simpson back into office. On March 4, 1885, Grover Cleveland was inaugurated as president, and a few months later Simpson was reappointed as postmaster.[30]  Soon after it was reported thatMr. E W Simpson is building a new post office between the walls of the old post office and the house of Alexander & Co on the west side of the public square. The workmen are now giving it the finishing touches.”[31]  This was a small building that fit into the small vacant space already referred to; it was the office that would eventually be occupied by R J Thurmond. A week later it was reported thatMr. E W Simpson has taken charge of the post office and will occupy the new office one door south of the old post office or one door north of the house of Alexander & Co.... It is a small office, but we reckon it can be found.”[32]

Four years later with the installment of a new President, Simpson was removed from office again, and the postmaster-ship went to George W. Autry, a Ripley merchant engaged in the sale of confections and beer.[33]  Autry's place of business was apparently on the north half of Lot 8 Block 17, which is to say, on the south side of Alexander & Co.'s store, and there he presumably located the post office, so it could be run in conjunction with his business.

This left E W Simpson's small post office building vacant. On October 10, 1889, the Southern Sentinel carried an item which provided the final evidence for when and where R J Thurmond established his office: “Mr. R J Thurmond has opened an office in the old post office. He has a neat, cozy, little office.With this the stage was set: Alexander & Co. in the brick building and on its north side, R J Thurmond in the small  frame office building. Twenty-five days after the newspaper item was published, R J Thurmond shot Colonel Falkner in front of this office.

 Southern Sentinel Article

Item from the Southern Sentinel, 10 October 1889.

 diagram of locations

 (click on image to enlarge)
The west side of the square in Ripley from the 1925 Sanborn Insurance Map, with key locations relevant to the shooting.
Several buildings were still surviving in 1925 from the 1880s, including all the frame buildings and all three of the buildings that are labeled. Yellow coloring indicates frame construction, and red indicates brick construction. Note that the R J Thurmond office has both red and yellow coloring, although the building was constructed as a frame building. However, in 1905 while the office was being used as a barber shop, a brick annex
was added for a bath house, making it both a frame and brick building. (Southern Sentinel
, 30 March 1905)

It appears that Thurmond's use of the office building was short lived. After he shot Falkner, he was imprisoned in the county jail until he was allowed to post bail in February 1890. He was acquitted on a charge of manslaughter in February 1891. The circumstances behind the acquittal are unknown, because the records of the case have disappeared.  Whether or not Thurmond used the office after the shooting is not known. If he did, he did not use it for long because by October of 1890, it was apparently converted into a barbershop, a function that it would serve for years after.[34]  In 1903 we find thatMr. CW Young has purchased of Mr. R J Thurmond, the building lately occupied by Messrs. J A Norriss & Co. [and previously by Alexander & Co.], and also barber shop adjoining.”[35]

Within a few years the office/barbershop and the frame store building on its north side came into the possession of the McAlister family, who opened a store in the larger building. In 1929 W A McAlister had the two demolished and replaced with the brick building that is currently standing. It was divided into two units, a narrow one on the south side that was usually used as a barbershop, much as the frame office that preceded it had been and on the north side a wider unit, usually used as a store.[36]   The narrow unit in the McAlister building was last used by Smith's Barber Shop although it is now abandoned. Today this the site of R J Thurmond's office is still identified by the painted sign for the barber shop.

 Smith's Barbershop

Smith's Barber Shop in the southern portion of the McAlister building--
the site of R.J. Thurmond's office in November 1889

 In the years following the shooting R J Thurmond's association with the little office building was for the most part forgotten because his use of it was so short. When asked about “Thurmond's office,” most recalled only the building used by CM Thurmond. However, during the 20th century, there were a few who knew where the site had truly been located. One was Andrew Brown, geologist for the US geological survey, historian of Tippah County, great-nephew by marriage of R J Thurmond, and son of  Joseph Brown who had written the newspaper account of the shooting.  Andrew wrote in his history of Tippah County that Thurmond's office was at the site of the McAlister store building.[37] 

More recent corroboration comes from Ripley native Judge W.H. Anderson, one time owner and publisher of the Southern Sentinel and a longtime student of the life of Colonel Falkner. Judging by some of his comments, he maintained a critical stance toward his subject. During a 1971 interview, apparently held on the west side of the courthouse, Lourie Allen asked Anderson where Colonel Falkner was killed. Without hesitation he pointed across the street to a barber shop and said that it was there. He almost certainly indicated the Smith barber shop.[38]   


Two of the newspaper accounts of the shooting allude to its occurring onthe pavement.R F Ford described Falkner asstanding on the pavement in front of or near Alexander & Co.'s store [emphasis added].”[39]  The Memphis Appeal described Falkner's head as being  frightfully bruised from the fall on the pavementand afterward he wassitting on the pavement.”[40]  Today the Ripley square, like most modern urban spaces, is almost totally paved in either concrete or asphalt. However, during the 19th century pavement was a rare thing when streets were not even surfaced with gravel, and sidewalks, if there were any, were usually constructed of planks.

However, during the late 1880s efforts were made to provide brick sidewalks connecting the stores around the square so that customers could get about with relative ease. Initially this was not a corporate effort but usually conducted by individual merchants providing pavement in front of their respective stores. If enough contributed sections of pavements, the result would be a continuous pavement. On 23 May 1889, the Southern Sentinel reported thatMr. G M Bostwick has put in good condition the walk in front of his business house. Mr. Phyfer and Judge Worsham, say they will repair their pavements soon. When this is done Main Street will have a solid brick walk from one end to the other.In other words, by May 1889 practically all of the west side of Main Street on the square including in front of the Alexander & Co. store and Thurmond's office had been paved with brick. This corroborates the  accounts that refer to Falkner's being on the pavement and thereby close to the front of Thurmond's office.


The newspaper accounts of the shooting of Colonel Falkner appear to be reliable. The two places mentioned—R J Thurmond's office and Alexander & Co.'s store—by virtue of being adjacent to one another effectively corroborate one another in placing the crime outside of Thurmond's office on the brick sidewalk. The building used by Alexander & Co. still survives, although greatly modified, especially the facade. Thurmond's office, of frame construction, was torn down in 1929 and replaced with the present brick structure, part of the McAlister building that in recent years housed the Smith barber shop.


I would like to thank those who without fail were always happy to provide assistance: Tommy Covington, Melissa McCoy-Bell, Melinda Marsalis, Bruce Smith, and the staffs of the Ripley Public Library, the Southern Sentinel, and the Tippah County Chancery Clerk's Office.


End notes:

1. Renfrow's Cafe was a brick building  that was constructed in 1937 and burned on 12 October 2011. In legal terms, it stood on the north half of Lot 1 of Block 17 in the plat of Ripley.

2. The small frame building was constructed in late 1881-early 1882 and served as CM Thurmond's  law office until his death in 1900. For the construction of the law office see the following:

Southern Sentinel, 1 Dec 1881: “Mr. CM Thurmondhas bought the lot on the corner north of Murrays [sic] Drug Store where he intends to put up a law office.” 

On 18 Nov 1881, CM Thurmond purchased the north 20 feet of Lot 1 Block 17 from JE Rogers, see Tippah County Deed Book 6/618.

Ripley Advertiser, 17 Dec 1881: “Mr. CM Thurmond is building a new law office on the northwest corner of the square. The foundation is laid and a portion of the frame work is already erected.”

Southern Sentinel, 9 Feb 1882: “CM Thurmond, Esq., will also, soon be ready for occupancy. It is a handsome building and reflects credit upon the architect.”

3. After CM Thurmond's death at the age of 41 in 1900, the office was used variously as a law office, dental office, and barber shop until it was demolished in 1937 to make way for the construction of the Renfrow's Cafe building.   Because of CM Thurmond's almost two decades of use of the building, the Thurmond name remained associated with it for decades after his death, being known variously as “the Thurmond office” and “the Thurmond House.” The following passages document the use of the office following his death. Also notice the retention of the Thurmond name:

Southern Sentinel, 17 Dec 1908: “City Barber Shop. JE Bryan, Prop’r. located in the 'old Thurmond' office, just vacated by Pegram & Street [attorneys].” CM Thurmond's heirs sold his office to Thomas E. Pegram on 8 Oct 1909, Tippah County Deed Book 19/261. Pegram then sold the property to Dr. JD Burns on 16 Oct 1909. Tippah County Deed Book 19/262.

Southern Sentinel,  17 June 1909: “Dr. JD Burns has bought the 'Thurmond office' now occupied by JE Bryan, barber, on northwest corner square. He will move into it in a few weeks and expects to put it in first-class condition for an up-to-date dental parlor.”

Southern Sentinel, 28 April 1921: Weekly advertisement, “J.D. Burns, Dentist/Office in Thurmond House/North West Corner square.” The same ad was still running in the Sentinel as late as 12 Aug 1926.

Southern Sentinel, 6 April 1933: “The City Barber Shop...has moved...to the building formerly occupied by Dr. JD Burns on the northwest cor[ner of the square.]”

Southern Sentinel, 10 June 1937:  “Pleas Renfrow expects to begin the construction of a building on the Street lot at an early date….”   Oscar F. Street purchased the Thurmond office, north ½ Lot 1, Block 17, on 19 Sept 1929. Tippah County Deed Book 36/172.

Southern Sentinel, 22 July 1937: “Renfrow's Cafe, which is owned and operated by Mr. and Mrs. Pleas Renfrow, is being moved into a new brick building on the northwest corner of the square, on the west side of main street. They have recently constructed a building on the lot there which they leased from OF Street.”

4. Copy of article reprinted in The New Albany Gazette, newspaper, New Albany MS, 5 Nov 1964.

 5. Ripley Advertiser, 6 November 1889, quoted in Donald Philip Duclos, Son of Sorrow: The Life, Works and Influence of Colonel William C. Falkner 1825-1889, International Scholars Publications, San Francisco, 1998, page 247. This work originally appeared as a ph.d. dissertation in 1961.

6. Born 1830 in MS, died 1906 in Ripley, buried Ripley Cemetery.

7. Ripley Advertiser, 16 May 1856: advertisement, “Drs. Moody & Laird. Office first door North of Drs Cox & Alexander’s Drug Store”; Ripley Advertiser, 3 Mar 1858: Item to the effect that Dr EM Alexander has sold his interest in drug store of Cox & Alexander. “Our books will be found with COX & FOSTER at the old Stand, who will continue the Drug business.”

8. Bradstreet credit reference book 1870.

9. Mercantile Agency/R G Dun & Co, credit reference books, 1873, 1874. Both men were married to Sperry sisters from Virginia. Hunt was a nephew of R J Thurmond and would later marry Lizzie Murry Burns, who was a daughter of Dr. J Y Murry and a great-aunt of William Faulkner.

10. Mercantile Agency/R G Dun & Co, credit reference books, 1874, 1875, 1877, 1878. In 1874 the store was listed as dry goods, while subsequent entries listed it as a general store.

11. Alexander & Co. is listed in the Mercantile Agency/R G Dun & Co, credit reference books as a grocery store in 1879, 1880, 1881, 1882, 1883, 1884, 1885, 1886, 1887, 1888, 1889. Bradstreet credit reference books for 1890, 1892, 1893, 1895 continue to list the business, identifying it as a general store in 1890-1893 and as a grocery and hardware store in 1895. 

12. Southern Sentinel, 25 July 1895: “Dr. E.M. Alexander was stricken with paralysis one day last week and now lies at his residence in a helpless condition….”

13. Southern Sentinel, 19 Sept 1895. Dr. Alexander subsequently recovered as indicated by the following: Southern Sentinel, 15 Oct 1896: “Our people are rejoiced that Dr. Alexander is again able to walk over town.”; Southern Sentinel, 23 Sept 1897: “…Dr. Alexander…is again able to attend to business. He may be found at his old stand, with J A Norriss & Co.”

14. Southern Sentinel, 6 Jan 1881: “NEW HARDWARE STORE! ALEXANDER & CO/West Side Public Square”; Southern Sentinel, 26 Oct 1882: “Alexander & Co, Staple and Fancy Groceries, Hardware, stoves, tinware, boots, shoes….West Side Public Square.”

15. Ripley Advertiser 15Sept1883; see also  Southern Sentinel, 13 Sept 1883, for a similar account.

16. Southern Sentinel, 4 Sept 1884.

17. Southern Sentinel, 3 Oct 1889.

18. William R. Cole was born ca 1813 in NC and died 7 Dec 1891 in Conway, Arkansas.

19. A reminiscence by editor RF Ford in the Ripley Advertiser 15 Jan 1881 indicates that Cole was already in business when Ford arrived in town in 1849; Cole is listed in the 1850, 1860, and 1870 censuses as a merchant in Ripley. In the 1880 census he and his son William D. were listed as grocers in Pueblo, Colorado.

20. Tippah County Deed Book I/22-23.

21. Tippah County Deed Book C/248.

22. Andrew Brown, History of Tippah County: The First Century, 1998, page 44.

23. Tippah County Deed Book Q/485.

24. Brown, History of Tippah County, pages 119, 140-141.

25. Tippah Co Deed Book 2/623.

26. Tippah County Deed Books  22/147;  22/165;  22/289;  26/250; 28/176;  28/394;  30/30;  31/23.

27. See deeds that refer to Cole owning 12.5 feet on the north side of Lot 8. Tippah County Deed Books  Q/485;  2/623.

28. Simpson purchased this property, i.e. the north half of Lot 5 Block 17 on 27 Jan 1879. Tippah County Deed Book 5/241.  This property is confirmed as being the post office by an advertisement for the firm L H Elliott & Co., then located in the Cole building, south half Lot 5 Block 17 which indicated that they were located “first door South of Post Office.” Southern Sentinel, 12 May 1881.

29. Southern Sentinel, 9 June 1881: “Mr. E F Jordan has been appointed Post Master at this place instead of Ed. Simpson removed. We know of no cause for Ed.’s removal except that his political opinions are not in accord with those of the appointing power.”

30. Ripley Advertiser, 19 Sept 1885: “Mr. Ed W. Simpson…was appointed postmaster at this place about a week ago under the new administration….”

31. Ripley Advertiser, 17 October 1885. At the time Simpson still owned the store building referred to as the old post office. Because this building was probably more space than he needed for a post office, his intention was probably to build a smaller structure that could accommodate the new post office while leaving the larger structure free for rental purposes.

32. Ripley Advertiser, 24 October 1885.

33. Southern Sentinel, 11 July 1889: “Mr. Geo. W. Autry assumed control of the post office on Monday last…. Mr. EW Simpson after four years…retires….”

34. Southern Sentinel, 16 October 1890: A new barber shop has been opened up on the west side.; Southern Sentinel, 8 October 1891: “The barbershop in the old post office [on the] west side, is now occupied by Tip Cole.

35. Southern Sentinel, 29 Jan 1903; for the deed see Tippah County Deed Book 17/434.

36. Southern Sentinel, 11 July 1929: “WA McAlister…for many years engaged in grocery business on west side of the square, has moved his stock of goods to the building just north of the Marsh clinic, and the old building which has been in service in Ripley for many, many years, is now being demolished to make a place for a new brick building. The new building will be 100 ft long by about 33 ft. wide and will be two stores. One will be occupied by Mr. McAlister while the other will be rented out. The McAlister building is the last of the old frame buildings on the west side except the office of Dr. JD Burns [former office of CM Thurmond] on northwest corner.”

Southern Sentinel, 19 Sept 1929: “Mr. WA McAlister…has moved into his new building on the west side of the square, on the site of the frame building he had occupied for a number of years…double-brick building.”

Southern Sentinel, 26 Sept 1929: “The Nu Way Shoe Store…will open its doors Saturday of this week….will be located in the McAlister building…. The beautiful new brick stands on the site of the old WA McAlister grocery and the Bill White barbershop. Mr. McAlister is occupying the northern division of the double building….”

37. Brown, History of Tippah County, page 227.

38. Lourie Strickland Allen, Colonel William C. Falkner: Writer of Romance and Realism, ph.d dissertation, Department of English, University of Alabama, 1972, page 199. Excerpt from interview:

QUESTION: Can you tell me where Colonel Falkner was shot?
ANSWER: Yes, step right here. Do you see that barber shop over there? Well, Thurmond stepped out of that building just after Colonel Falkner went down these courthouse steps, drew his gun, and fired with Colonel Falkner begging him not to kill him. That was the day Mr. Falkner had been elected to the Legislature.

39. Ripley Advertiser, 6 November 1889.

40. Memphis Appeal, 8 Nov 1889.



Buildings on the west side of Ripley's Public Square on 5 November 1889.

West Side of Ripley
          Square 2011 

Commercial buildings on the west side of the square, 2011

The following is a list of the nine buildings that fronted on the west side of the public square, that is on the east side of Block 17, on Tuesday November 5, 1889, the day that Colonel Falkner was shot. Of the nine, seven were relatively large “store buildings,” six frame and one brick, and two were relatively small frame “offices.” All nine are listed sequentially from north to south in the list below. Occupancy and land title were reconstructed from deed records and newspapers. I have also identified the site of each 1889 building with what is currently located there.

1. Northeast corner of the block, north 20 feet of Lot 1 Block 17. The small frame office building was used and owned by CM Thurmond, attorney-at-law. The site is currently a vacant lot.

2. Southern portion of Lot 1, Block 17. Two story frame store building. Lower story used by Murry & Son Drug Store, which was operated by Dr. John Y. Murry, Sr., and his son, Dr. CM Murry, Sr. The lot and the ground floor were owned by Dr. J Y Murry. The upper story was owned and used by the Ripley Masonic Lodge. The site is currently occupied by a two-story brick building that is not currently in use.

3. North half Lot 4, Block 17. Frame store building used by Jacob Sorger as a grocery store, while Lee Alvis had a butcher shop in the rear room, property owned by MS Phyfer. The site is currently occupied by a two-story brick building that is used by the Ripley Cable Company.

4. South half Lot 4, Block 17. Frame store building, user unknown, owned by J W T Falkner. The site is currently occupied a two-story brick building that is used by the Inn-on-the-Square.

5. North side Lot 5, Block 17. Frame store building, user unknown, property owned by E W Simpson. Presently occupied by the northern portion of the McAlister building and used by the House of Freedom (church).

6. Center of Lot 5, Block 17. Small frame office building used by R J Thurmond. The building seems to have straddled the boundary between R J Thurmond on the south side and E W Simpson on the north side. If this is the case then the building was jointly owned by Thurmond and Simpson.  Presently occupied by the southern portion of the McAlister building, it is now unoccupied but was last used by Smith's Barber Shop.

7. South side Lot 5, and about two feet off north edge Lot 8, Block 17. Brick store building, used by Alexander & Co., owned by R J Thurmond. This is the only commercial building on the square today that was extant in 1889. Presently occupied by Creative Awning and Sign.

8. North side Lot 8, Block 17. Frame store building used by George W. Autry, confectionery and grocery, owned by MS Phyfer and FM Johnson. The site is currently occupied by a one-story brick building that is used by the James W. Pannell Law Office.

9. South half Lot 8, Block 17. Frame store building used by the N G Carter Drug Store. Dr. Nathaniel Green Carter married Colonel Falkner's daughter, Willie Medora Falkner. Property owned by WC Falkner. The site is currently occupied by a two-story brick building that originally served as the First National Bank building, and later as the People's Bank, and is currently used by Professional Land Services.


Melissa McCoy-Bell
Tippah County MSGENWEB Coordinator

© 2012, by Jack D. Elliott, Jr. and Melissa McCoy-Bell.  All rights reserved.