History of Walnut
Memories of Walnut, MS

Thomas Neutry McCoy's Service Station
Main Street,  Walnut, MS - mid 1930's

History of Walnut
Education in Walnut
Sorghum Making -featuring a picture of the Alsup family
Old Pictures of Downtown Walnut
Mr. Butler's Class at Walnut -1913
Walnut High School Graduates - 1949
Wright School
Growing Up in North Tippah
My memories of Walnut and the Wilbanks family


New Project: 
During the late 1920's or early 1930's, Mitchell Cemetery, the only graveyard located within the town limits was destroyed and built over.   The stones were simply moved and the house was built on top of the graves.  The cemetery was located on Fredrick Road north of Commerce Street east of Walnut near where the old high school was located before it burned.  If you have relatives that were buried in that cemetery, please contact me.  It's important to try to recover the stones that are thought to be still on the property, possibly in an old gully behind the house, and restore the cemetery. Some of the stones were used in the constuction of the house.  Please join me in an effort to restore this part of Walnut's history. 

Here is a partial list of graves located in the destroyed cemetery. 

CARTWRIGHT, W. C. "Dick" (Obit. SENTINEL Feb. 11, 1904) died last Wednesday, age 54 years / leaves wife and children / buried at Mitchell Cemetery.
HARRIS, J.T (080818) died Monday/ buried in Mitchell Cemetery/ leaves wife and 8 children
TRANTHAM, MRS. (072821) died yesterday/ buried at Mitchell/ mother-in-law of Walter Adair.
WILLIAMS, W.A. (042424) died Tues./ buried at Mitchell/ b. March 23, 1858/ married Aug. 15, 1875/ children are Mrs. Claude Bryant of Texas, Mrs. Foster Carmichiel.
ADAIR,WALTER (052026) died Tuesday, age 46 / buried in Mitchell Cemetery / leaves his  mother and the following siblings: Dexter Adair, Luther Adair (Bethany), Mrs. C.H. Davis, Mrs. Will Norton, Mrs. Edd Yancey. 
HOPKINS, Silas Travis, b. January 21, 1818 d.  1899
HOPKINS, Jane Salinas Buchanan, b. 2/14/1817  d. July 19, 1896
HOPKINS, Mary Hopkins,  d. of S.T. and JSB Hopkins  b. 1/3/1842  d. 6/5/1844
MITCHELL, Theressa Mariah Hopkins b. 12/14/1844 d. 6/8/1965  (she married Robert Buris Mitchell Jan 1, 1865)

History of Walnut, Mississippi

    Located in North Tippah, 3 miles south of  the Tennessee line near the intersection of Hwy 15 and Hwy 72,  Walnut continues to be a thriving town. The town was established on November 6, 1872, on land purchased by Henry Hopkins from the Chicakasaw Indian Cession in 1836. Originally the town was called Hopkins and changed to Walnut in 1876. Walnut originated as a stopping point for the railroad that ran from Middleton to Pontotoc.  The train needed both wood and water to run and would stop near Walnut for water on it's trips between the towns.  The name changed after a barrel of whiskey was accidently dropped at Hopkins, instead of Hopkinsville another village about a mile to the south.  The conductor had to back the train up one mile to Hopkinsville to deliver the Whiskey barrel to the store owned by Silas and John Hopkins.  After arriving back in Hopkins and hearing the complaint Mr. Bob Shannon suggested that Hopkins be called Walnut after a grove of Walnut trees located near the town to stop any confusion.  This was agreed upon and from that day forward the town was called Walnut.  A charter for the town was recorded in the office of the Secretary of State and State Library on July 10, 1936. 

    Although Walnut has changed over the years and moved a little it still remains a thriving town with over 700 residents.  Currently, the town has all the modern conveniences; a bank, a library, city hall, a school k-12, a grocery store, a video store and tanning salon, a drug store, a hardware store, a public swimming pool, a park, a few restaurants, a couple dollar stores and an antique store. The furniture and elevator manufacturing industry provides jobs for it's residents and some even commute to Memphis to work.  The newly four-laned Hwy. 72, one of the few in the county, continues to add to it's growth.

Education in Walnut
from Andrew Brown's History of Tippah County, Mississippi

    Walnut school, currently the largest school in North Tippah, is located in the town of Walnut, 3 miles south of the Tennessee line.  The school originated before 1885, but the original location is not known, as no deeds have been found.  In 1888, land was purchased from the Smith family west of the railroad, north of Commerce Street in an area behind the Flake house.  This original school was probably small and only service elementary aged students.  By 1900, that building was replaced with a larger 2-story building that serviced grades through eleven.  This building had four large rooms, two uptairs and two downstairs.  Large windows were located on the north and the south side, and a belfry and bell were located on the roof.  Two large outside restrooms were to the north and east of the building; one for the boys and one for the girls.   In 1923, after consolidating with the smaller schools of Sand Hill, Mt. Vernon, Wright, Mt. Moriah, and Marlow, Walnut replaced the wood building with a new modern brick building.  This building consisted of four rooms to the north and four rooms on the south with a large study hall between them that could double as a autitorium if needed.   Many entertainments were held in this room, and plays were given each year by the older students.  This building burned on the night of March 13, 1932.  (If anyone has a picture of this building please send it in)

Walnut School

Walnut's New School - 1930's
After the school burned seventeen acres of land was purchased from John N. Quinn and a new brick school was built  in 1933.  It contained 9 classrooms, library, studyhall, lunchroom, storage room, auditorium which seated 400, an office and toilets. This building is still in use, and over the years it has grown to include newer buildings for the elementary school, gym and cafeteria. Today, Walnut High School is a level 5 school with 290 students.

WHS ca. 1938
Found in the 1950 Yearbook, and written at the bottom Long, Long Ago.
 So I'm guessing late 1930's since the school opened then in the new location.
  If you have a clue or know anyone let me know. 

1954 Class Officers
1954 Class Officers Walnut High School
WHS late 1940's
Picture of Walnut High School from the 1950 Yearbook

Walnut Annual Staff 1954

1954 Annual Staff - Walnut High School

Wright School-1912

Wright School  -circa 1912
Identified in the Picture are:  Luva Wright, Leroy Luker, Bryan Wright, Vonce Thornton, Clyde Thorton, Mary Paseur, and Lee Thorton. Mary Pasuer and Lee Thorton are standing next to the gentleman teacher.   If you can identify any others please contact me.

Wright School was founded in the fall of 1889, when G. W. Wright deed two acres of land to the community to build a school and continued to operate at that location until 1923 when it consolidated with schools in Tiplersville and Walnut.  It was located about 3 miles southwest of Walnut between Walnut and Tiplersville.


An account written by Guy Manning Rowland, the son of Huey Isaac and Ida Jewel Garrett Rowland.

    I was born in 1924,  and delivered by Dr. E. J. Green of Chalybeate, MS.  I was the 6th of seven children born of the marriage of Ida Jewel Garrett of Chalybeate, MS and Huey Isaac Rowland.  They were married on November 12, 1912. Both families were of pioneer stock and they were among the early settlers of Tippah County and North Central Mississippi.  At the time of their marriage my father was a prosperous young Rural mail Carrier and land owner, in the small town of Walnut.  Dad had a long courtship with my beautiful and popular mother, but by flamboyant and persistent courtship he finally won her over.
    His primary mode of transportation during the courtship was a beautiful matching pair of White Horses and a classy single seated buggy.
We lived in a modest L shaped clapboard house about 150 yards west of the Gulf Mobile and Northern Railroad on the Northwestern corner of the old Highway 15 and old Highway 72 junction, which was in the center of the business district of the town.
My earliest memories of our home place was its location in the very middle of everything that happened in Walnut.  There was always something going on just outside of our front door.  In those years all commercial activity consisted of the coming and going of loud trucks or two or four team wagons, loaded with cotton, fertilizer, logs or household effects.  It was quite exciting to sit or lay in our front yard and watch the activity, going about, on the two Highways in our front yard.          Add to this the goings on associated with the large family of children in the Rowland family and the many friends that filtered in and out of our house throughout the days, seasons and years.
    Let me digress at this point and explain.  In the second year of my life our lovely and popular mother died of blood poisoning shortly after the birth of my younger brother Jewel Rowland.  This, of course, greatly affected the routine and order in their large family.  Dad not only was faced with the problem of continuing to earn a living for this large family, but also had to provide for the orderly operation of his extended family in his absence.  One must not forget that he had an infant son without a mother to nourish him and love him as only a mother can do.
    Dad had a sister, Montie Rowland Frederick, who lived across the Rail Road track, that agreed to take the baby Jewel and nourish him and love him along with her own four children, the youngest of which was only two years old.  Dad eventually was prosperous enough that he was able to hire a succession of house mothers and cooks and maids to keep us going.
    Eventually Jewel grew enough that Aunt Montie was able to return him to our family, and with the help of those hired, the family and by the grace of God and oldest sister Ruth Rowland, we were able to hold the family together.
All this time Dad was trying to hold his family together, without a loving wife and mother, he had the good sense to think of the future without a wife.  He had previously dated a lovely young lady from nearby Middleton, TN, in his earlier years.  Dad finally took the "Bull by the Horns" and wrote to her asking if he could call on her again.  (Note this letter is in my possession)
    Apparently she accepted his offer and if she did not know of his dilemma previously, she was soon no doubt made aware of it.  Can you imagine an individual dating a former acquaintance with six children, the youngest of which was about three and one half, a man looking for a mother to raise this motley crew?
Well she apparently understood his situation and knowingly agreed to see him again.  What a salesman my father must have been.  He also must have been a little desperate.  We have no way of knowing what he promised Annie Laurie Wilson, but on-------- he and Annie were married by C. M. Wilbanks in Corinth Mississippi.  She came into this circus all the while realizing the older sons and daughters remembered and loved our real mother.  I cannot remember my real mother and Jewel's and my step mother Annie was the only mother we knew and loved.  She adopted us as we adopted her.  Our neighbors accepted her with open arms.  She was truly a Godsend to our family and to the town of Walnut.
    Can you imagine the relief when the town realized that the Rowland clan of unsupervised urchins were now under the supervision of a "real" mother, instead of housemothers and hired help.  What a relief to the town and to us, because it wasn't long before she had us all under control.
    My early memories relate, basically, to our home and the three acres of land on which it occupied.  The home place, including most of the land on which the main part of Walnut now occupies, was purchased from Dr. Marsh, with the understanding that Dad would allow his widow to live in her "Log Cabin" for the balance of her life.  This Dad agreed to, and I remember her living in that cabin which was located just South of our home.  It was located exactly where the Bank of Walnut was located across the street from our home.  It is now the City Hall.
    When old Highway 72 was built through Walnut, both our home and the Marsh log cabin were left on a high bank.  Dad had steps built up to our house but us youngsters had to help build the dirt steps up to the Marsh cabin.  (Note, old Highway 72 is the current road to Chalybeate)
At this time Mrs Marsh was gone and the hired help lived in the cabin.  Later, when Dad decided to develop this area, he moved the log cabin Southwest about 100 yards under a large Mulberry tree.
    This was the pasture area and was located about where the Arlie Doyle Warehouse is now located. The old cabin was then used as a hay and feed storage barn and later the back portion was used as a stable.  It was in this location that I milked the cows in bad weather as a teenager.
    Our home started out as a two room dog trot at its present location.  To this was added an "L" containing a dining room and kitchen with a tin roof porch on the back of the entire house.  Dad enclosed the dogtrot and made it the living room.
    He then added a small bedroom under part of this tin roofed back porch on the Eastern side.  I can remember sleeping with Dad in this small room before he remarried.  What a great place to sleep with the rain falling on the tin roof.  Later the tin roofed back porch and bedroom were removed and a large dining room, another back porch and two bedrooms were added.  Later a bathroom was also added to this addition on the new back porch.
Over the years our Dad built the following buildings to the rear of the house.

1. The well house- made of brick, this building housed our deep well and a 500 gallon water tank.  Initially we pumped the water manually using a hand pump.  Later a one cylinder gas powered pump did the chore for us.  About 1935 we got electricity and an electric motor pump was installed.

    Each day, we boys were assigned the duty of turning on the pump or starting the gas engine, etc., until sufficient water and pressure was available to last the day.  Dad did not like it when we failed to perform our duties which caused us to run out of water pressure and water.
    One or another of the above systems was used until H. E. Wilbanks watched helplessly as his planeing mill burned to the ground, because no water was available in quantity to fight the fire..  This happened in the early forties.  To keep this from happening again Mr. Wilbanks dug a deep well and purchased a water tower.  Eventually all the town residences were given access to this water supply.  This system was later sold to the Town of Walnut, expanded and improved.

2. The smoke house- made of wide boards nailed up and down, with a dirt floor.  This is where our Dad cured his meat.  While I never remember him curing meats with fire and smoke, I know he cured the bacon and hams with salt, in the salt box.  With such a large family a smoke house was a necessity to keep meat edible over the months.  As a young boy I used this building to nail up my basketball goal which provided me and my friends with many good games.  I also used the building when it was time to kill the Thanksgiving turkey.  I simply tied its feet, hung it to a nail, held its head and chopped the head off with a hatchet.  While crude it was very effective.  Our Dad always used to order fresh Gulf Coast Oysters each year, because he love oyster dressing.

    Our Dad was constantly given Water Melons by many of his mail customers.  We literally had to store many of these as there were too many to eat at on time.  The mail route patrons were great to us as the graciously kept us supplied with fresh vegetables from their gardens and fresh or cured meat from their barnyards throughout the year.  What great neighbors they were.  Many of them were, I learned too late in life, relatives of ours, some close some distant.


3.  A two car garage- was constructed of tin.  It was built to hold two of Dad's several vehicles that he used to deliver the mail on his forty odd mile route.  In those years none of the route was done on a paved road, paved roads were reserved for cities or the state highways in rich counties.  Very few of the 40 miles was even graveled.  Most of it was sand, clay or a mixture of these.  In rainy weather and nearly all the winter, the road were all but impassable.

    Daddy used to keep at least two A Model Fords, a high wheel 1934 V8 (this was in the 40's).  In the 30's he had only two Model A's, plus an enclosed one horse surry, which he kept in a small stall (garage) across old Highway 15, east of the house.  He also kept his horse in this stall in bad weather.  Once we went to hitch up his horse to the Surry, so he could began his mail route, only to discover the horse was missing.  Things were not good for a while until he later discovered that Mr. Charlie Mohundro had borrowed the horse to go home on the night before.  Mr. Mohundro lived about three miles Southwest on Hurricane Creek (we pronounced it Hurikan).
    At that period of time people felt comfortable to helping themselves to other peoples property without permission, since real dishonesty was very rare.  The missing horse event was spoken of by the Elders of the community for many years.
    Now Daddy's garage was just about the perfect size for two Model A's but as the size of automobiles increased in size during the early 40's, the rear end of them constantly protruded from the garage.  It served its purpose however, which was basically to protect the windshield and the cooling system during freezing weather.
As I recall we often had to drain all of his automobiles during cold spells, as anti-freeze was not in common usage at that time.  Why, you may ask, did Daddy keep two Model A's?, and why did he make annual trips to Memphis to purchase good used ones?  The answer was of course that the mail had to be delivered rain or shine, and if he had a breakdown, not that uncommon back then, or if one vehicle was in the shop for repairs, or if he ran off the road into a ditch, easy to do back then also, then he always had a back up vehicle.  Usually if he became stuck in a ditch or bottom, he was able to get help from local families to pull him out or he was able to secure his three foot jack, tie a rope around a tree or fence post and lever or jack the car out.  If this was not possible that day he would walk or hitch a ride back to town, pick up his spare and complete the route.


    Daddy also kept a "Sunday" car, the first nice one being a 1935 Dodge, which was the first car equipped with hydraulic brakes.  These new and improved brakes caused a wreck one day.  All of us children had begged and talked Daddy into letting us drive the Dodge to the 1938 Tippah County Fair in Ripley.  My older brother C. Grambrell Rowland was the designated driver.  Grambrell was the family strong man and daredevil.  All of us were in the Dodge and in great spirits headed South on the graveled Highway 15.
    Just South of Tipplersville a stalled flatbed truck suddenly appeared dead smack in the middle of the road ahead, as we rounded a curve on an up-grade.  Gambrell (one of my older brothers) slammed on the brakes, he was used to the old style mechanical brakes and he was very strong.  The brakes locked up tight and we of course slid directly into the flatbed.  Had Gambrell only been more used to the new brakes, he could have easily slowed enough to go around the truck on the left side.  As it was the car was damaged beyond repair, but surprisingly, and with the Grace of God, no one was hurt, except for a sore nose and Gambrell's pride.  This, I might add was a considerable time before seat belts.  Daddy then traded the wrecked 35 Dodge for a 1938 model.
    The last "Sunday" car purchased by Huey Isaac Rowland was a 1940 Lincoln Zephyr!!!  Wow, what a car.  We were the envy of every family in Walnut if not the whole of Tippah County.
4.  The Cooks house- was built of clapboard and painted white in keeping with the home place.  We had various domestic helpers, what with so many children in the household and because of the good and steady income our father was able to provide, for a long as I can remember.  The first Cook/housekeeper that I remember was Ossie.  She lived in the old Marsh log cabin across the road for many years.  The came Susie Lee Spight, who began working for our family as a young girl.  She worked in the household off and on until both Mama and Daddy passed away. (Note H. I. Rowland died in 1950) (The Spight name is an old Tippah County name.)
    Most of the time Susie Lee lived in the Cooks House, which was a large one room building with two closets in the rear.  This was before the addition of indoor toilets so everyone on the premises used the two holer in the rear of the home.  It was not until the late 1930's that the indoor bathroom was installed. Susie was an important part of the family and often kept us when our parents went to Church functions or visited with neighbors or relations.

The Family Churches

    The family went to church at Harmony until the mid to late 1930's when Mother and Dad became part of a splinter group that broke away and formed a new church located at the intersection of New Highway 15 and old Highway 72.  Harmony Baptist Church was about one and one half miles North of Town and many people felt that Walnut deserved a Church of its own.  Daddy donated the land to the new Walnut Baptist Church, and has a stained glass window for his devotion as a Deacon.
    Over the years we had a number of different cooks and we children loved them all, but Susie Lee was our favorite and when she died, we all attended her funeral at the Sand Hill Church.  (Note, Sand Hill was the name of the voting precinct in N. Tippah County untill being replaced by Walnut.)

5. The chicken house- was built of rough planking and contained both a storage room and a chicken roost and egg nests.  Mama was a great believer in keeping chickens.  We often accused her of treating her chicks better than her children.  She even baked cornbread for the chickens on occasion, to give them a change from their usual diet of scraps, corn and commercial mixes.  She apparently had a standing order with Sears, Roebuck & Co., to ship her at least 100 baby chicks every spring by mail.  Daddy usually delivered these to her with his usual "Here's you durn chicks!", brought on by the fact that at least 30 to 40 of his mail route patrons had received the same shipment over a few week period.  Dad had to personally drive up to each home on his route to deliver the live chicks in person.

The delivery of the Spring Chicks was a ritual along with the delivery of the heavy Sears Catalogs several times each year.  It is no wonder that Daddy built up such a "love hate" relationship with the mail order giants.  He didn't complain too much when this writer went to work for the Sears giant in 1951 and continued until they closed the catalogue business in the 1990's.

Daddy even purchased rebuilt engines, tires and other items from Sears during his mail carrier days.  In an attempt to make wash up easier the boys of the family built their own outdoor shower between the house and the tin garage.  We could use it only during the summer months because no hot water was available there.  This outdoor shower was installed before the installation of the indoor toilet.

According to Uncle Guy Manning Rowland, living North of the Rowland home, in the 1930's to 40's, were the following families;

1. Verna and Annie Lee Boyd Luna
2. Howard Luna and wife ? Davis.
3. Daniel Craig and wife.  He was the brother of Troy R. Craig
4. The lumber yard of Everette Wilbanks was next, where the old swimming pool was located.
5. The home of H. Everette Wilbanks
6. The Lee Smith family, bought land from H. E. Wilbanks.
7. The Hudson family, the Hudson's probably bought the home from the Smith's.
8. The Jack Wilbanks home.
9.  The Leroy and Ruth Rowland Hughes family.
10. The Elbert Wilbanks family, he was the 1st cousin of H. E. Wilbanks
11. The J. Neely Wilbanks family, he was the father of H. Everette Wilbanks.

My Memories of Walnut and the Wilbanks Family

by Ronald L. Hughes

    The only child of Henry Everett and Lassie Wilbanks was, Jack Wilbanks.  H. Everett Wilbanks, became a successful lumberman and cotton gin operator in Walnut.  Their son Jack Wilbanks, married Mildred Thompson, their son is Phillip Wilbanks. Mildred was the daughter of Walter and Effie Thompson of Middleton.  They managed and owned the Bus Station Cafe in Walnut.
    My father, Leroy Hughes married Ruth Rowland the eldest child of Huey Isaac Rowland.  He lived with the H. Everett and Lassie Wilbanks family, as a young man, and he became, as an older brother to Jack Wilbanks.
    My father, Leroy Hughes and my mother, Ruth Rowland Hughes, lived next door to Jack and Mildred Wilbanks, on the ridge line, north of the H. I. Rowland and H. E. Wilbanks homes, on old Highway 15, South of New Highway 72, and across the street from, and facing East toward the railroad.
    Henry Everett Wilbanks and Lassie Hobson Wilbanks (I grew up thanking of them as my grand father and grand mother, I called her Mother Lassie and, H. E. Wilbanks, I called Dad Everett), lived on property that had a large lumber yard just to the South. This also was the location of the city water supply and water tower, and, in the 1960's, the city swimming pool.  According to the book, "Tippah County Heritage, Vol I";  In 1938, Mr. and Mrs. H. E. Wilbanks had the first deep well dug and a water tank installed.  This tank was located where the swimming pool is now.  It had a capacity of 30,000 gallons.  This water system was for their own private use to serve as a prevention against fires in their businesses.  After some time other people wanted to use the water and were allowed to do son at a flat rate of $1.50 per month. Across the street, on the Railroad tracks, was the Cotton Gin, owned by H. E. Wilbanks, where I would play as a young child.  As South of the Gin was the stockyard.
    "Mother" Lassie (Hobson) Wilbanks, was at one time, a school teacher at the Brownfield School.  Other teachers at this school, that were probably related to the Rowland / Hobson families were; L. B. Hobson, Ruth Thomas Gatlin, Homer Gunn, Lloyd Hopkins, Sadie Thornton, Monroe Street, Robert L. Mohundro, Johnnie Luna Tomlinson, Joe Byrd, Mary Hopkins, and Valca Mitchell.
    "Dad" Everett and "Mother" Lassie Wilbanks, reportedly had the first telephone in the community.  According to Carol J. Smith's article, written about Walnut, in the "Heritage of Tippah County, Vol I", this telephone was...known as a "check station".  Phones were later installed with service from the Ripley exchange.  The Shannon family owned the telephone lines at one time.  Note, Huey I. Rowland's brother Charles Briggs Rowland, married Maude Shannon.
    The H. E. Wilbanks home was one of the finest homes, in the town of Walnut.  It was of brick construction and had two or three bedrooms up stairs, as well as three bedrooms down stairs.  It had a separate home for Myrtle, the family cook and maid.  Myrtle was the finest cook I have ever seen as well as one of the nicest people. She treated Phillip, and me, like her own.  She made the best fried okra and a form of "baked fat back" IE; Salt Pork, that you would kill for.  Her desserts were from heaven.  The house also had a large wash house and stable, as well as a large garage, which had a large power mower with tracks, like a tank and long control levers sticking out everywhere.  The home had a large flower garden area with a large gold fish pond.  The entire front of the home was surrounded by a sandstone fence.  A large Willow tree and a large "scaly bark", otherwise known as a Sycamore tree, dominated in the front yard.  These trees  provided Phillip and me, with many good days of play.
    When I was about 9 and Phillip about 16, we climbed the Old Water Tower, which sat on the old lumber yard, on the South side of the house, where the lumber yard once sat and where the swimming pool was later built.  Phillip Wilbanks climbed to the very top and sat on the Ball on top of the cone roof, I just made it to the edge of the roof. There was a hole in the side of the ball, in the hole was a birds nest.  The most dangerous part of the climb was the connection of the leg, by ladder, to the catwalk.  It is normal for catwalks of this type to have a hole cut in the floor. On a "normal" water tower the connecting ladder, from the legs to the catwalk, would enter the catwalk thru this hole, on the inside of the catwalk railing.  This was not the case however on the "old water tower".  In this case the ladder veered out from the legs to the outside railing of the catwalk.  This made anyone
(who was stupid enough to get on the catwalk, like us) have to climb out, away from the legs, with the hands a little overhead and outside the feet.  This was, looking back, very dangerous and not a lot of fun.
    Every one living in Walnut today can see the property on which "the big house" once sat, I think there is just a big vacant lot, the Walnut Swimming Pool was just South of the house.   The house, finally became rental property, when Mother Lassie, moved to Theodore, Al, and it burned to the ground a number of years ago. The property was totally razed. I have no idea what happened to all the old sandstone that was used to fence the yard.  The city took over the water system in the 1960's, I think.  Until then it was a private utility owned by Lassie Hobson Wilbanks.
    It is fair to say that, H. Everett Wilbanks, was one of the wealthiest men in the area, especially from 1935 to 1950.  He even printed his own script, which he paid to his employees, during the Great Depression.
    I remember visiting Mother Lassie one time when she decided to unearth her new crop of turnips.  It appears she had decided to plant a crop of turnips in an old horse paddock area.  This area, I assume was fertilized on a regular basis, for a number of years, by the horses, and had lain fallow, until the planting of the turnips.      My mother and mother Lassie and I, took a forked shovel, I know there is an name for this but cannnot recall it, and bagan to remove the turnips.  Wow!  Many of them were the size of footballs or soccer balls.  Everyone's eyes were big!
    My father, Leroy Hughes, who was a lumber yard overseer for H. E. Wilbanks, told me that, even during the worst days of the depression, H. E. Wilbanks paid his employees 50 cents per day, even though times were so hard, some men were willing to work for 25 cents a day.  (Note, a day, at that time, was sun up to sun down, six day a week.)

Cotton Gin

The H. E. Wilbanks Cotton Gin

    The Gin was located right across the street from the Wilbanks home.  It was also a place to go, to explore and to play.  It was probably crazy to play in the Gin, because many men were probably killed and maimed in cotton gins over the years.
    The whole place was run by a big steam engine.  From this big boiler there came a huge piston that turned a large wheel.  The wheel was used to turn a large belt.  This belt was probably two or three feet wide, as I remember it.  This belt in turn was connected to other wheels, which were, in turn connected to other belts, etc. to power all the machinery in the Gin.  Some of the belts were connected different pieces of equipment sometimes 20-50 feet away.
    I used to watch the men operate the giant vacuum that pulled the raw cotton from the cotton trailers that were pulled under it by trucks or tractors.  This vacuum would suck the cotton out of the trailers into a dumper, which dropped the raw cotton, (note raw cotton means that the cotton seeds are still emeshed in the cotton) into a shredder or separator, with large wire teeth.  These teeth, stuck on the outside of a large metal rod, rotated while the raw cotton was forced over them.  The teeth removed the seeds from the cotton fiber.  The seeds and a lot of cotton were then dumped into a large pile, which was good for jumping into.
    The cotton was then sucked into or transported by conveyor belt to other ginning operations until in ended up at the "Compress".  The compress was a large steam operated contraption that turned 400-500 pounds of loose cotton fibre, into a dense rectangle of cotton measuring about three feet by five feet.
    The cotton gin, as you might imagine was a loud and dangerous place, with all the heavy moving equipment and belts going everywhere.  But nothing was a loud or as dangerous as the cotton press. The cotton was dumped a few pounds at a time into the press, the steam would build up and the heavy steel plate would come down and compress the cotton into the mold.  As it was compressed it would be held in place until more loose cotton was placed under the press and the process repeated.
    A completed bale was wrapped in mesh burlap, and kept under pressure by the use of large metal bands.  These bands, as I remember, usually two on the long end and three on the short side, kept the compressed cotton in its small size.  You must imagine that 400 pounds of raw or fluff cotton would probably fill a room, 20 feet long by eight feet high, maybe more.
    It was at the end of a press, that the real danger would take place.  This was when the gin compress operator would try to compress all of the remaining loose cotton into one very heavy bale instead of having one light bale.
    I assume, the one heavy bale, would save on the cost of compressing one small light weight bale.  This "last bale", was very dangerous, and I used to watch the men as they nervously watched the bale as the banding took place.  The extreme compression of the cotton made this bale very dangerous to band. If the bands broke men could loose arms or legs or die.  Missing fingers were a way of life in the Cotton Gin.

The Auction Barn and Corrals

    The Walnut livestock auction facility was also located across the street from the H. E. Wilbanks property.  I walked around the area often.  I remember all the cattle and horses that were brought in and the frantic auctioneer.  It was quite an exciting place.


©  2004-2008,  by Melissa McCoy-Bell.  All rights reserved.