A History of Belhaven Heights – Part 2

The Railroad and a Ghost

Railroads have always had an element of romance as they snaked across America beginning in 1827. They brought with them cheap travel, commerce, new lands, pioneer families, train robbers and the ever-present element of excitement. Steel rails linked our oceans, joined the great lakes with the Gulf and over time reached out to help unite our people into a great nation.

Formerly the Gulf, Mobile & Northern (GM&N) Railroad, the Gulf, Mobile and Ohio (GM&O) began its journey in Mobile about 1940 and traveled northward to Jackson, TN. Old maps show a corollary loop of track that began in New Orleans, ran through Jackson, MS and joined the main line at Meridian. The passenger train that passed through Jackson was named the ‘Rebel’ which may still be remembered by older Jacksonians as the sleek red and silver locomotive which daily pulled into the passenger depot under the old Pearl Street Bridge.  The freight depot was located in the structure which houses Hal and Mal’s Restaurant today. Both were built by the GM&N in 1927.

The GM&O and its rolling stock was an early exponent of the modern age. It had the distinction of having one of the first diesel locomotives in the country and I can still remember its whistle and roar from my open bedroom window on Manship Street when I was a boy.

There was a reason that musicians like Jimmie Rodgers and Arlo Guthrie sang of the dynamism of the rails, why Mark Twain and Thomas Wolfe wrote of them, Rob Harkins and Norman Rockwell painted them and Americans for more than 190 years have ridden them to their destiny wherever that might be.

All cities had their trains and Belhaven Heights had its railroad in the GM&O which until recent times formed the eastern border of this neighborhood. The rails are gone now, given way to progress and its bed is destined to become a bike and walking trail. Yet a landmark remains and if you will climb aboard with me, I’ll tell you about it.

There was a beanery in Belhaven Heights. It was the only early industry in the neighborhood and over a lifespan of 80 plus years hosted wayfarers, roustabouts, a Rebel….and a ghost.

The term ‘beanery’ dates from the year 1887 in England and was loosely thought of as an inn for travelers. It had nothing to do with coffee or tea or a vegetable. In America, a beanery became the name of a hotel for railroad men; a place to rest, to eat, to sport or reflect on their way to further destinations.  The term beanery came to mean “let’s go eat” and breakfast, the primary meal for freshly awakened sojourners, was served by “beanery queens” – waitresses, some left over from the night before.

Our beanery stands at the curved intersection of Madison and Spengler Streets. Built in 1927 as a two story craftsman residence, it resembles a fugitive image from the old west with a downstairs porch and upper balcony that could have welcomed the likes of Jesse James or Doc Holladay.

Miller’s Place

According to former owner Jackson photographer Steve Colston, the structure was purchased from Mrs. Louise Middleton by J.W. Miller in 1930 and was called Miller’s Café, with Humphries Barber Shop on the eastern corner. It was subsequently named Miller’s Place and remained so for a number of years. According to Colston, back in the day you could get an upstairs bed for thirty-five cents a night and for an additional dime, access to a shower. Plate lunches were available downstairs where the special was a large bowl of soup for a quarter.

Over the years the building passed through several hands. Mrs. Louis Miller ran the restaurant in the 1940’s, while J.W. took care of upstairs. From Herbert Stair’s restaurant in 1950, it became the GM&O Beanery restaurant in 1954, Hugh Tullos’ restaurant a year later and the Spengler Street Café in the early 1960’s. It was vacant for several years before housing the Central Systems Company in1973. It was bought by Colston in 1976 where it served as his photography studio for 35 years.

My own familiarity with the beanery was as a teenager in the 1950’s. Several neighbor children along Madison and Harding streets would visit the establishment for soft drinks and to take in the atmosphere. There was a bar and a jukebox and railroad men who played and bet on pinball. We weren’t allowed to share in this entertainment, much less a beer, and if we had bothered to sneak upstairs would doubtless have grown up far quicker than we could imagine.

No old haunt worth its copper plumbing would be complete without a ghost. Of course our beanery had one and not only that – it’s been documented.

In a feature article in the Times-Picayune’s Dixie Magazine dated October 28, 1978, Maybelle Gorringe interviewed owner Steve Colston who confirmed the existence of the specter. In the article Steve tells of his grandmother hearing footsteps, of curtains moving, of doorknobs turning, voices in the night, tinkling bells, light fixtures falling from the ceiling and a blowing wind along the stairs.

Neighbors told of two men who met mysterious deaths; one stomped to death in an upstairs bedroom, the other fatally shot on the stairs. Colston said railroaders told him stories of police raids and chases. One said he saw police back a paddywagon up to the door and load it full of people arrested for gambling. On another occasion police chased a man from one of the upstairs rooms to the nearby rail yard and shot up three train cars getting him out and into custody.

Other strange events have taken place in the old structure over the years. The 1979 flood covered the first floor and when workmen replaced it they discovered human bones and a boot. Could this have been the unfortunate soul killed on the stairs? Could all the strange happenings been his ghost?

Was there a ghost?  Could it be that Colston, being a professional photographer has  a specter silhouetted on a lost negative in a forgotten drawer? Were there footsteps in the hallway? Did the bells ring? Did the doorknob turn and voices mumble in the night? Or was it just the wind?

The beanery today

After 90 years, our beanery stands today as a modern duplex, renovated and modernized and chic in its new design. Yet if you look closely at the upstairs window on the east side of the balcony, you might imagine Maybelle’s ghost, watching and listening for the thunder and rumble of the Rebel, the clash of switching boxcars and the mournful whistle of an early diesel heading north to the river trestle that still stands behind Laurel Street Park, pulling behind it a time forever gone but being replaced by an innovative neighborhood reinventing itself.

What happened to the ghost? It most likely left on the same train on which it came to join the workers and vagrants and ladies from the second floor streaming to the thousand destinations of their lives to begin again the process of creating the folklore of America.

And speaking of ghosts, our next installment will be on Greenwood Cemetery.

The source of this segment is from the article A beanery in Belhaven by Bill and Nan Harvey, 2012; 2015. Copyright Bill and Nan Harvey, April, 2018

A History of Belhaven Heights : Part 1

The Setting

Today’s Belhaven Heights Historical District is one of Jackson’s most architecturally unique neighborhoods.  Situated on one of Jackson’s highest hills, it is known for its diverse architecture, terraced lawns and tree canopied avenues.

Map 3

Through the 1940’s and 50’s, the Belhaven Heights neighborhood grew eastward to its logical boundaries (Map 3). These boundaries have changed somewhat over the years but today are generally considered to be Fortification Street on the north, the old GM&O Railroad bed near Greymont Ave. on the east, Spengler Street on the south and North Street on the west. The actual neighborhood parameters are Fortification to High Street and State Street to I-55.

Map 1

Belhaven Heights Historic District was initially listed on the National Register of Historic Places on November 28, 1983. A revision and amendment was put in place in 1998. The historic district is located near the downtown core of Mississippi’s capital city. The neighborhood’s first historic district (1983) is shown on Map 1. This diagram shows residences along and on both sides of Morningside and North Jefferson Streets and Bellevue Place with Madison Street and Terrace Court also included in the district.

Map 2

The 1998 amended district, shown in Map 2, is generally bounded by Fortification Street on the north, southward along Quinn, and west to Monroe where it drops south to Harding and along the western edge of Belhaven Heights Park. The boundary line continues to just south of Spengler and west to Jefferson, then north and west to North Street, then back to Fortification.

In 1899, the Jackson Daily News described Belhaven College and its surroundings as “remarkably picturesque and attractive…located thus in the most beautiful spot in the city, surrounded by elegant residences, within easy reach of every important point in Jackson, yet enjoying the seclusion of a suburban position.”

Belhaven College c. 1900

Belhaven Heights consisted of scattered parcels prior to the 20th century but the first subdivision (part 1) was platted March 29, 1905, by the Belhaven Heights Company, (A.J. Hackett, president). This was largely the area south of Fortification with a small part extending north of Fortification to Persimmon Street and covering the area east of Monroe and west of Greymont Ave.

Few structures remained in Jackson following the burning of the city during the Civil War. One of these is the Oaks, located at 823 N. Jefferson Street (part of Belhaven Heights),  a Greek revival cottage built in 1853 by former Jackson Mayor James H. Boyd (1809-77). Today it is a museum and the property of the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in Mississippi. Boyd, a Kentucky native, came to Jackson in the 1830’s, was mayor of Jackson for four terms and served at least six terms as alderman including the years when the American Civil War raged through the city.

Much of the land area that is now Belhaven Heights was part of the vast Edwin Moody Estate. The family land and residence was located in the area bounded by Morningside, Madison, Boyd and N. Jefferson Streets. In 1875, there was only one other residence in the Heights area.  This entire block of property was sold to Col. James Hamilton for his residence  he named Belhaven for his Scottish ancestral home. Col. Hamilton sold his home to Dr. Louis Fitzhugh in 1894 for the establishment of the first Belhaven College which is described in detail in the history of Belhaven. Other early land owners and developers in Belhaven Heights were J.B. Harris, J.C. Smith, W.J. Brown, Miller & Greaves, A.J. Hackett, Gilbert Hemmingway and Edward W. Crane.

As Jackson grew and new streets added, some of the thoroughfares in Belhaven Heights acquired new names. According to the 1925 Sanborn Fire Insurance Company map, the 900 block east of Boyd Street became Bellevue (for the college). It achieved notoriety later as Judges Hill. Oldham Street became Harding, Rhodes Street became Rio, Greymont Avenue south of Fortification was known as East Street and the 1100 block of Riverview was Cherokee Street. George Street, named for U.S Senator James Zachariah George, was formerly known as Penitentiary Street as it ran to the north of the state penitentiary which occupied the land where Mississippi’s New Capital Building stands today after its construction in 1903.

Throughout the years Belhaven Heights has remained a largely residential area with its only early commercial establishment being the old Gulf, Mobile & Ohio Railroad beanery at the intersection of Spengler and Madison streets. More on this structure, its colorful history and the railroad itself will be discussed in a later section.

(Information in this section is taken primarily from Living Places by the Gombach Group, Morrisville, PA (1997-2014) and the application for inclusion on the National Park Service Historical Register of Historic Places (2011).Thanks go to Jim Woodrick at the MDAH for assistance with the maps and narrative information from the Belhaven Heights application for listing on the Historical Register.)

The Residences

Homes in Belhaven Heights grew eastward from North State Street where early prominent Jackson citizens built their residences after the Civil War. Sadly, far too many have succumbed to the wrecking ball of progress. In the early 20th century young professionals built several blocks east of State on North Street and names in city directories of the time will be familiar to students of Jackson history. Home construction was sporadic and lots were large with few houses situated on a given block. These blocks filled in later as the neighborhood population increased.

The Oaks (photo by Cecile Wardlaw)

The Oaks at 823 N. Jefferson Street, former home of Jackson Mayor James H. Boyd, is the oldest residence in Belhaven Heights (1853) and one of the few structures that survived the Civil War. It is also the best known for several historic reasons one of which we will soon see. There was another nearby area that is renowned as well. This is the 900 block of Bellevue Place known throughout its lifetime as Judges Hill. The 800 block of N. Jefferson is also considered by some as part of this nomenclature.

Judges Hill was the home of six judges and one attorney in the early 1900’s. Most of these houses still exist. The primary “hill” peaks at the intersection of Bellevue and Madison streets where the observer looking eastward can see well into Rankin County. You can stand a few feet higher by walking up the incline of Terrace Court just to the west of Madison Street.

Lyell House

Bellevue Place judges, their street address and year their homes were built were: Fifth District Court Judge Garland Lyell, 935, (1910); State Supreme Court justice  E.O. Sykes, 942, (1912); State High Court Judge Clayton D. Potter, 943 (1916); and  Judge J.B. Holder, 948 (?). Jefferson Street judges were Circuit Judge Wylie Potter, 804 (1924);

Sykes House

and State Supreme Court Justice Sydney Smith, 855 (1923-24). Attorney J.A. Gordon resided at 857 N. Jefferson.  All structures are still standing except at 948 Bellevue and 857 N. Jefferson. These are now apartment complexes.

Lewis-Mack House

Other homes of interest in the district are the Lewis-Mack house at 901 N. Jefferson (ca. 1923-24) and the one story cottage at 909 Jefferson (ca. 1912),  which is listed in the 1985 Field Guide to American Houses (p. 457) as a prime example of an American Craftsman home. Persons interested in following the trail of property owners in the Heights from 1833 to 1905 are encouraged to consult the Abstract of Title to Belhaven Heights on file in the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

Chyrl Grubbs, former resident of the Sykes House was interviewed by Jack Bertham for his newspaper article. “You can ride up and down these small streets and know that important decisions were made in these houses,” she told the reporter. While not as large or distinct as the Belhaven area to the north, “the district is significant for the homeowners’ determination to remain close to downtown and their concentrated effort to stand against encroaching commercialization.” Grubbs points out that the Sykes residence was once literally fit for a queen to be. “In 1943, Princess Juliana of the Netherlands stayed at the house while visiting the city to inspect the Royal Netherlands Military Flying School stationed at the Jackson Army Air Base.”

While upkeep of residences over 100 years old is a challenge there is much restoration taking place and a prime example of this will be discussed in a future installment of this history.

The Boyd Home (Oaks) is more than just a historic dwelling and museum. It has the distinction of hosting the nation’s first Memorial Day concept in April of 1865. An accounting of this event was published in neighbor Jesse Yancy’s blog Mississippi Sideboard on April 23, 2015 and features an article authored by Greenwood Cemetery Association President Cecile Wardlaw based on research by local historian  Peter Miazza. It is presented here in its entirety.

The First Real Memorial Day

“Widely acknowledged as the precursor of Memorial Day, widespread observance of a Declaration Day began shortly after the hostilities in the Civil War, when citizens began decorating the graves of fallen soldiers.

“Many cities claim to be the home of this observance, including Waterloo, NY, Boalsburg, PA, Carbondale, IL, Columbus, GA, and much closer to home, Columbus, Mississippi. In their 2014 book, the Genesis of the Memorial Day Holiday, Dr. Richard Gardiner and Daniel Bellware state that according to the Veteran’s Administration, at least 25 cities across America claimed to have originated the Memorial Day holiday. While numerous historians feel that the true history may never be known, this book rejects that claim and explores the factual history of the holiday and shows that most of the better-known stories are mere myths and local legends; that being said, Jackson, Mississippi can lay verifiable proof that the first Declaration Day was held on April 26, 1865 in the historic Greenwood Cemetery in downtown Jackson..

“As the story goes, citizens of the Confederacy were well aware of the strategic importance of Appomattox; those in Jackson, Mississippi were already shaken by the fall of Richmond on April 4, 1865, and the news of Grant’s victory reached Governor Charles Clark some days later. In her diary his daughter recalled the telegram being passed around: ‘yes, it was all over. Lee had surrendered at Appomattox! Like a thunderbolt it fell on all of us. We were stunned. I remember feeling astonishment that we were not all dead’.

“Many if not most were already resigned to defeat and were shocked by the assassination of Lincoln less than a week later, so it was a somber group that assembled on Tuesday evening, April 25 at the Oaks, home of former Jackson Mayor James Boyd on North Jefferson Street. Just before midnight two couriers arrived with the news that Confederate Lieutenant General Richard Taylor and Union Major General E.R.S. Canby had agreed to a truce in Meridian, darkening the mood. Among them was Sue Langdon Adams, a Missouri native and niece of Mississippi’s Senator Robert Adams. A nurse, Sue had infiltrated Union lines bringing medical supplies back to Confederate forces and informing Confederate authorities of Union troop deployments.

“When the news of the truce came, Sue was reading Plutarch’s Lives., where it’s mentioned that the graves of fallen soldiers are adorned with wreathes of laurel. Fearing that the reoccupation of Jackson was imminent, she tore out a blank page and penned an appeal to the women of Jackson to gather the next day at the city cemetery at two in the afternoon and adorn the graves of fallen soldier with flowers. One of the young couriers took the note and raced to the office of the newspaper, Mississippians, just in time for it to be printed in the next morning’s edition.

“The next day, a large group of citizens gathered in the cemetery and soon nearly every soldier’s grave was covered with floral designs of every kind. Troops led by Colonel McFarland marched through the cemetery as the band played Handel’s ‘Dead March’ from Saul. As Adams moved through the rows of graves, she saw that some were unadorned and asked why there were no flowers on them. Told they were graves of Union soldiers, she replied, ‘I will garland them with my pink roses for the mothers and sisters who sobbed over them as they marched away. Maybe they fell in the riven flags in the battle of West Jackson’.

“Adams moved to California and married a Judge Vaughan. She died in Arlington, Virginia in 1911 and is buried in the Mount Olivet United Methodist Cemetery there. Her memorial efforts were acknowledged in an inscription on the monument which was unveiled on the Jackson Capital Green in 1891:

‘It reeks not where their bodies lie,
By bloody hillside, plain or river,
Their names are bright on Fame’s proud sky,
Their deeds of valor live forever.’”

Now you know the rest of the story and the story began in Belhaven Heights.

Before leaving our visit with Peter Miazza we should take a look at one of the prominent family names of old Belhaven Heights. These were the Spengler’s who lived along the east side of the 600 block of N. Jefferson. Only one house remains, 646, the former home of Hubert Spengler, Sr.

Hubert Spengler was Peter’s paternal great-grandfather. He operated several businesses but was best known for the office complex still standing at the northwest corner of State and Capitol Streets known as “Spengler’s Corner”. A plaque on the building reads, “Spengler’s Corner: Oldest Jackson building in continuous commercial use, this was the cornerstone of the group of structures along Capitol and State Streets now known collectively as Spengler’s Corner Historic District. A commercial and entertainment center in the 19th century, it was the site of Spengler’s Hotel, a favorite meeting place of state legislators. Erected c. 1842, the building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.”  According to Peter Miazza, the hotel burned about 1906.

There was only one commercial development in Belhaven Heights through its early years and that was the area which abutted the GM&O Railroad on the eastern boundary.  This was no ordinary string of warehouses and outbuildings. It had a roundhouse,  rail shops and a hotel with a ghost who we will meet in the next segment.

(Sources for this material are Justice Comes to Judges Hill, Jack Bertram, Clarion-Ledger, September 7, 2001, pp 1E, 3E (Judges Hill); Declaration Day from Voices Heard from the Grave (publication pending), Peter Miazza, local author and historian and Greenwood Cemetery Board President Cecile Wardlaw.)

(Copyright Bill and Nan Harvey, March 2018)

Fannye’s Pigeons

The Mississippi Museum of Natural Science is a center for study and research, a treasure trove of information. The original museum was established in 1932, originating out of its founder Fannye Cook’s passion for studying Mississippi’s natural world. Cook was the force behind the creation of the Mississippi agency known as the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, and its educational and research arm, the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science. She was the first person to collect and catalog Mississippi wildlife and led the effort to protect and restore the state’s natural environment.

Fannye Addine Cook was born in Crystal Springs, Mississippi on July 19, 1889. By that time, Mississippi like most of the South was catastrophically being stripped of the great virgin forests that stretched from east Texas to tidewater Virginia. In A Turn in the South, V.S. Naipaul spoke with a woman in Jackson who said, “When I was a little girl—say in 1915—they were still clearing (the forests). They would go and chop around these mighty oaks and they would then die and they would cut them. When they were going to clear out a field they would kill the trees. I never paid any attention to it. It was what they did.” As James Cummins notes in his Preface, “the blackland prairie of eastern Mississippi had been cultivated to less than one percent of its former size, “White-tailed deer, Louisiana black bear, American alligator, wood duck, and other species were nearly eliminated by lawless exploitation. Streams and rivers were choked with eroding soil. The idea of caring for the land and its community of inhabitants, what writer and ecologist Aldo Leopold called a ‘land ethic,’ had not taken hold in Mississippi.”

That this biography of Fannye includes in its first few pages the following vivid documentation of passenger pigeons in Mississippi strikes a strong, graceful and resounding note against a lack of consideration for the natural world. The passenger pigeon was once the most abundant bird, perhaps even the most abundant vertebrate, on the planet. Audubon once watched a flock pass overhead for three days and estimated that at times more than 300 million pigeons flew by him each hour. But these birds were slaughtered unmercifully during the 19th century, and after a description of one massacre, Audubon wrote, “Persons unacquainted with these birds might naturally conclude that such dreadful havoc would soon put an end to the species. But I have satisfied myself, by long observation, that nothing but the gradual diminution of our forests can accomplish their decrease, as they not unfrequently quadruple their numbers yearly, and always at least double it.” From this perspective, these numbers seem incredulously inflated, yet as the slaughters continued and the forests fell–particularly the great beech woods of the Ohio Valley–the passenger pigeon declined in number with proportionate rapidity, and their extinction was sealed by the death of the last known member of the species, a female named Martha (after the first First Lady) that died on September 1, 1914 at the Cincinnati Zoo.

Libby Hartfield, former director of the Museum, said, “Cook’s passion for wildlife conservation continued to the end of her life. The day before she died in April 1964, at age 75, she led a group of young people on a bird-watching expedition.” Though many of Cook’s specimens at the old Jefferson Street museum were destroyed by water during the 1979 Jackson flood, her documents and other materials form the core of the 18,000-volume library in the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science. It was there I sought information about the last passenger pigeons in Mississippi. A long-time librarian at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science, Mary Stripling, provided me with this information concerning passenger pigeons in Mississippi. “Jesse,” Mary wrote, “You are grasping at straws looking for the last one sighted in Mississippi.” She then cited several primary resources for more information, and also gave me the last sight records in their collection, adding that they appear to be handwritten by Miss Cook herself.

Year:  1848; Observer:  T. J. Pierce; Place: Brookhaven – Bayou Pierre. “One fall the pigeons came one afternoon by the thousands. There were so many and they were so thick the sun could not be seen and they darkened the sky. They flew low, many of them only 10 or 12 feet, so low that they could be knocked down with brush. They settled in the trees just on edge of grandfather’s farm and weighted them down. Many men and boys went out and shot them to eat — meat dark about like guinea. Only this one time were they seen there.”

Year : 1878; Observer: G. M. Cook;  Place: Copiah County – Utica. “Still a good many pigeons in Pearl River swamp and on hills. Daddy killed several at one shot out of a flock of about 20 in the top of a big pine tree over 100 ft. high (short leaf pine). In 1858 very large flocks so large and so low that Daddy and other school kids would run thru them with arms spread. The birds moved out of their way just far enough to keep from getting caught by the children.”

Undoubtedly straggling bands of passenger pigeons survived in Mississippi for  perhaps a decade afterwards but were likely exterminated–or perhaps simply expired on their own out of sheer loneliness–well before the turn of the century. Yes, I was grasping at straws, but I knew where to look for the information I needed about the natural world in the state of Mississippi and thanks to Fannye Cook I found it. Whether you’re a hunter, a hiker or just someone loves Mississippi, buy this book, support local conservation groups and take care of your piece of the planet. Above all, remember Martha.

 

 

Dahomey

He was wealthy, born to wealth, with a wife and children in a mansion on St. Charles, land from Natchez to Memphis, a man of taste and discretion, well-schooled in the ways of the world.

She was famous, born to poverty, with a man who beat her and a red leather trunk containing everything she owned, a woman-child of the sort you find with a stage for a cradle, knowing nothing of the world beyond footlights.

But before the lights she shined, and oh, how she sang. One night as she did, moving the very air with her presence, the man with the mansion on St. Charles sitting in an upstairs box smiled knowing not only that his heart had been plucked from his chest and that she held it in her hand.

No, no, the story doesn’t end with her moving into the mansion or even with him setting her up in a nice walk-up on Ursuline. It ends with him keeping her for a dazzling week before the revue—now the musical comedy ‘In Dahomey’—swept her to the streets of Manhattan, London and other arms.

And the man? Ah, the next year he bought another lot of land in the Mississippi Delta, in Bolivar County, 24,000 acres, at a time he largest cotton plantation in the world, and he smiled when he signed the deed, naming it for her.

 

Leonard McCoy: Pan-Galactic Rebel

Leonard H. McCoy, MD, chief medical officer aboard the USS Enterprise, was born in Georgia, Earth, in 2227, and graduated from the University of Mississippi.

McCoy’s graduation date from med school at Ole Miss was never confirmed in a Star Trek production, but with four years of pre-med followed by four years of medical school, McCoy would normally have received his medical degree in 2253, assuming he started college at the age of eighteen in 2245. Kirk’s statement in 2270 that McCoy had been a doctor for twenty-five years seemed to support this. While in medical school, McCoy and his friends often played practical jokes on each other, substituting real drinking glasses with trick drinking glasses, causing the target to spill their drink on their shirt.

In 2245, an interplanetary gymnastics competition was hosted by the University of Mississippi and held at the Menlo T. Hodgkiss Memorial Gymnasium on the Oxford campus, where he met the Tr’i’ll Emony Dax, who was visiting Earth to judge the competition. According to Dax, McCoy “had the hands of a surgeon”. (While there isn’t a Hodgkiss Gym located at the present-day University of Mississippi campus, it is described in the series as “a relatively new” building, though on a 400-year-old campus, it’s impossible to speculate how old that might be, and currently the University of Mississippi’s School of Medicine is at the University Medical Center in Jackson, MS.)

McCoy met his future (ex) wife Pamela Branch at Ole Miss when she suffered brain-freeze from an ice cream cone. Branch wore white at the wedding ceremony and adopted the last name McCoy. She divorced him in 2255 because their professions kept them apart too often. In the divorce, she acquired their house on Mars, six cars and a valuable Vulcan painting. Leonard said that the divorce left him with nothing but bones (thus his nickname, “Bones”). Shortly afterwards McCoy enrolled in Starfleet Academy.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Did Jones County Secede?

A media furor over the so-called “Free State of Jones” erupted in sync with the eponymous film starring Texan Matthew McConaughey in the summer of 2016, but the subject has been a bone of contention for a very long time indeed, as is evidenced by this essay by Alexander Lee Bondurant that appeared in Publications of the Mississippi Historical Society, vol. 1 (pp. 104-6), printed for the Society in Oxford, Mississippi in 1898. Other entries include “Mississippi as a Field for the Student of Literature”, by W.L. Weber, “Suffrage in Mississippi”, by R.H. Thompson and “Some Inaccuracies in Claiborne’s History in Regard to Tecumseh” by the aforementioned Riley (If you ask me–and I know you didn’t–Claiborne had a lot of slips, but he covered a lot of ground, and his errors often lead to discoveries.)

 Most alumni of the University of Mississippi will find Professor Bondurant’s name familiar if only for the classes they took in Bondurant Hall, though some of the most hard-core Ole Miss fans will remember him as the man who established the University of Mississippi football team and served as its coach during its first season in 1893. For the record, the Rebs had a 4-1 season, losing only to the Southern Athletic Club in New Orleans (0-24) on Nov. 30; they stayed in the city long enough to beat Tulane there two days later (12-4). Bondurant was also a classics scholar with degrees from the University of Virginia and Harvard.

I reproduce his essay “Did Jones County Secede?” refuting the existence of the Free State of Jones out of historical interest. I myself remain solidly convinced that the Free State of Jones was never a cohesive entity, much less one with noble objectives, most likely nothing more than a handful of outlaws protecting themselves and their families against the depredations of a moribund, corrupt regime.

It seems that many within and without the State would answer this query in the affirmative, and even their ordinance of succession is given by one writer on the subject as follows:

WHEREAS, The State of Mississippi, for reasons which appear justifiable, has seen fit to withdraw from the Federal Union; and,

 WHEREAS, We, the citizens of Jones County, claim the same right, thinking our grievances are sufficient by reason of an unjust law passed by the Confederate States of America forcing us to go into distant parts, etc., and therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That we sever the union heretofore existing between Jones County and The State of Mississippi, and proclaim our independence of the said State and of the Confederate States of America; and we solemnly call upon Almighty God to witness and bless this act.”

Such being the case, it has seemed to me in order to advert to a discussion in The Nation beginning March 24, 1892, which throws considerable light on the question. In the paper of this date Samuel Willard, of Chicago, writes that he had been a soldier in the army which invaded Mississippi, and that he had never during the war heard of such an occurrence. When, therefore, he saw the statement made in The New England Magazine for November, 1891, the author being professor Hart, he doubted its accuracy. It may be stated just here that Professor Hart, in a subsequent history of The Nation, gives as his authority Mr. Galloway, historian of the Sixth Army Corps, who published in The Magazine of American History for October, 1886, an article entitled “A Confederacy Within a Confederacy”; but upon what authority Mr. Galloway based his statements does not appear. He therefore wrote to the Governor of the State of Mississippi and to the clerk of Jones County, and elicited replies from both of these gentlemen, and Governor Stone enclosed a letter from his predecessor, Hon. Robert Lowry, who was sent to Jones County during the war in command of troops for the purpose of arresting deserters. The texts of the letters are too long to quote in full, so a few passages will have to suffice. Gov. Stone writes:

“It gives me great pleasure to inform you that the whole story is a fabrication, and there is scarcely any foundation for any part of it. To begin with, Jones County furnished perhaps as many soldiers to the army of the Confederacy as any other county of like population. * * * Many of them declined to go into the army in the beginning, but so far as formal withdrawal or resolution to that effect is concerned, no such thing ever occurred in Jones County. Hon. Robert Lowry was sent to Jones County during the war for the purpose of arresting and returning deserters to their commands, and there was some little fighting with these bands of deserters, or rather bush-whacking of his men by the deserters; and some of the deserters were arrested and executed, but only a few. The whole story is the veriest fabrication, and I presume few persons of intelligence will believe any of it.”

Ex-Governor Lowry writes: “The county furnished nearly and probably its entire quote of soldiers, many of whom did splendid service. No such effort as establishing a separate government was ever attempted. The story of withdrawal and establishing a separate government is a pure fabrication—not the shadow of foundation for it.”

Governor McLaurin, in a recent letter to me on this subject, writes: “I was a boy thirteen years old when the war commenced. I was ‘raised’ in Smith County, a county adjoining Jones. I was at home the first three years of the war, and, if there was any attempt by Jones County to secede and set up a separate government, I did not hear anything of it. I was in a brigade that intercepted a federal raid that started from Baton Rouge to Mobile in November or December, 1864, and we passed through or very near Jones County, and I never heard of any attempt to set up a separate government in the county. I think it it safe for you to negative the whole story.”

E.B. Sharp Esq., chancery clerk, writes: “The report is utterly false in every particularly.”

The authority of these well-known gentlemen is quite sufficient to dispose effectively of this canard reflecting upon the good name of a county which rendered brave and efficient service to the Confederacy.

The Whore of History

I was in the bar having a beer and sulking over my tilted world, thinking nothing worse could happen when Ricky slaps me upside my back and says, “You look like shit.”

Rubbing the bridge of your nose with three fingers and an extended pinky is not a gesture to use frequently, but it fit on this occasion, punctuated by an emphatic groan. “Don’t be mean to me, Ricky. Just buy me a beer and go away.”

“Oh, but Jesse, you realize if I buy you a beer, you buy my company!”

“Unfortunately, yes,” I said. “I was just hoping you’d picked up a sense of decency after going to that fund-raiser for the Belhaven Creek Preservation Society.”

“Oh, my GOD! You should have been there,” he said. “The buffet looked like a crime scene with croutons.”

“Go away, Ricky,” I said. “Just let me stew. Thanks for the beer.”

Then of course first thing Ricky did was run this acid blonde drinking a screwdriver off the stool next to me and sits down with a rude and sinuous motion. Once settled, he lit a cigarette, fiddled with his hair, took a sip, looked at me and said, “You can talk to me.”

I flashed back over a year of juggling one disappointment after another and looked at Ricky, at a face as open as a page. Yes, I could talk to Ricky; I could tell him things I could tell no one else because he wouldn’t care enough to remember. Ricky is one of those people who see others as catalysts for their own self-edification much as Truman Capote did, and Ricky reminded me a lot of Truman: wispy balding blond hair, tortoise shell specks and a wit like a whip, a good guy most of the time, but when he’d had too much scotch you had to dance around him because he got so feely-touchy.

“I know what it is anyway,” he said, leaning back and swiveling on his stool “It’s those damn landmark things.”

“There’s more to it than that… ,” I began.

“No there isn’t,” Ricky smiled as he cut me off. “They’re landmarks, those little pieces of earth that those who are paid to think they know more about history ordain are more valuable than other pieces.”

“That’s not it at all, Ricky, and you know it.” Now he’d gotten my dander up. “This is history! I mean, where do we draw the line? What do we keep? What do we lose?”

Ricky scooted his stool closer and patted me on the shoulder. “Jesse, what is history? What is it to you, I mean.”

“Very well,” I said, “History is a record of human events.”

“Ah,” he said, crossing one leg over the other and scowling at a fat women at a corner table, “Sure, history is a human construct, without us, history is only time, if that,” he said, waving at his sister Ralph. “And on a planet with so much water and vulcanism who’s to say today’s landmark might not be tomorrow’s tidal pool? And what about those “vast and trunkless legs of stone” in a desert stamped ‘My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings/Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!’?”. The eastern seaboard used to be eaten up with properties touting that ‘Washington Slept Here’ in hopes some ignorant patriot with a fat wallet might be in the market. Of course, you can say any sort of thing special applying any given set of values, but dates and personages tend to take precedent over architectural details, which if you ask me are more important.”

“No, no, no,” I said, putting my palms on my cheeks. “Ricky, history is important, it’s how we position ourselves in the great Scheme of things.”

“No, it isn’t,” he said, smiling. “It’s only as important as you think it is, otherwise it’s just somebody saying something about a house where somebody lived, or a tree somebody hid in or a place where somebody supposedly stepped ashore. These are just labels on things that history puts her price on. She’s a muse, you know, not beautiful at all, just a skinny old woman with gorgon hair who sits in that winter temple on a bluff with dull ignorance as her partner and repetitious greed as her pimp; she’ll sell you a sign, make out a certificate, roll over, get on her elbows, knees or up ass for enough money.”

“Ricky,” I said, “I really wish I hadn’t asked.”

“You’ll be okay,” he said. “Live well and love deeply.”

 

The Orchid in the Kitchen

In November 2015, Hershey’s announced that it would swap out the artificial ingredient “vanillin” for the real deal in its kisses and chocolate bars. Vanilla extract climbed to $150, $200, then $275 a gallon. This March cyclone Enawo devastated Madagascar, the world’s leading producer of vanilla, and given the three-  four-year life cycle of vanilla, extract spiked on March 7 to $700 a gallon.

How is it that vanilla, the most alluring essence in the world, lush and sensual, now is consigned as a byword for the bland and banal? Lagriffe wrote that vanilla “is not, strictly speaking, either a spice or a seasoning; it would seem more exact to call it a perfume,” which might go a long way in explaining its proverbial usage on country siren’s ears or ankles.

Vanilla—like chocolate—comes from Central America and is the only member of the orchid family—which some maintain is the largest plant family in the world—that is widely used as a foodstuff. The main species harvested for vanilla is Vanilla planifolia, a vine that can grow up to thirty feet long. The flowers are naturally pollinated by native bees or by hummingbirds, none of which—unlike the plant itself—have flourished outside of Mesoamerica, but in 1841 a simple and efficient artificial hand-pollination method using a beveled sliver of bamboo was developed by a 12-year-old slave named Edmond Albius on Réunion that is still used.

The fruit—a seed capsule—if left on the plant ripens and opens at the end (it’s here that I mention the root of ‘vanilla’ is ‘vagina’); as it dries, the fruits take on a diamond-dusted appearance, which the French—who have all these chic names for everything—call givre (hoarfrost). It then releases the distinctive vanilla smell. The fruit contains tiny black seeds, and in dishes prepared with whole natural vanilla, particularly ice cream, these seeds are recognizable as black specks, but both the pod and the seeds are used in cooking.

Mexican vanilla is still the most intense and robust, but closer to home, when buying vanilla extract in the store examine the label and don’t purchase any with ‘vanillin’ on the label. For many cooks—me included—vanilla is an important addition to almost any cake or cookie, and while you might be tempted to serve hot chocolate or cider with a cinnamon stick, try serving cups with a piece of vanilla bean.

Plate from Mark Catesby’s Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands (1731–1743).

A History of Belhaven–The Future

Gardeners know that in order to have an attractive green space it must first be prepared, then planted and maintained. Without maintenance regardless of the work to create something lasting for public consumption, unless it is watered, weeded and cared for on a regular basis, it will wither and die. So it is with neighborhoods that like gardens must prosper or perish depending on the care given to preserve them. A good horticultural example is the  green space on the northwest corner of Poplar and Peachtree, planted and maintained by a neighbor, it is a welcome sight daily to the many who travel our neighborhood.

There are three major organizations in Belhaven Proper responsible for its development and upkeep. These are the Greater Belhaven Foundation (GBF), the Belhaven Improvement Association (BIA) and the Greater Belhaven Security Association (GBSA). These organizations are supported and in many undertakings augmented by the neighborhood’s garden clubs and friends of its parks.

Both Belhaven Proper and Belhaven Heights are listed on the National register of Historic Places. Both are served, as well as their representative interests, by the three major originations shown above and two active garden clubs – the Belhaven Garden Club and the older Greater Belhaven House and Garden Club.  It is the Belhaven Garden Club which is active in Laurel Street Park projects and sponsors Belhaven Boo each Halloween on Belvoir Street for families who want to dress up and participate in a safe ‘trick or treat’ activity.

The GBF is the mother ship of our guardian associations. It was created and carefully nurtured to carry us into a successful future. It represents a diversity of people, architecture and interests which contributes to preserving neighborhood values.

The GBF was created in 1999 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization for the purpose of developing the arts and cultural potential of a historic neighborhood. A farsighted board of directors outlined its mission and hired former Clarion-Ledger reporter and columnist and later Jackson Public Schools public relations director Virgi Lindsay as its first executive director. This was a prophetic hire as Mrs. Lindsay not only gave the Foundation leadership for 17 productive years but through her hard work and administrative skills placed our neighborhood in the forefront of desirable places in America to live. Now city councilwoman Lindsay represents Belhaven and Jackson’s entire ward 7 on the Jackson City Council to which she was overwhelmingly elected in 2016.

The GBF was fortunate to have strong leadership in its formation.  Minutes from its initial meeting on November 11, 1999, list the following board members: Bryan Barksdale, Sam Begley, Danny Cupet, Katie Hester, Tom McCraney, Jim McCraw, Richard Moor, Alan Moore, Waddell Nejam, Henry Tyler, Leroy Walker, Sara Weisenberger, Cory Wilson, Robert Wise (representing BIA) and Jimmy Young.

Some of the noted Belhavenites, past and present, who have contributed to Greater Belhaven’s reputation for excellence are Patti Carr Black, celebrated author of children’s books and other works; Dr. Roger Parrott, president, Belhaven University;  attorneys Louisa Dixon, Rod Clement, Stratton Bull, Steve Funderburg and Robert Van Uden; architects Emmett J. Hull, Noah W. Overstreet, A Hays Town,  James T. Canizaro, Brett Cupples , Michael Barranco, Robert Canazaro and Bob Farr; artists Miriam Weems, Marie Hull and Cleta Ellington;  developer Lucius Mayes;  planners

Corinne Fox; former Ward 7 city councilwoman Margaret Barrett –Simon, and Virgi Lindsay. There were a number of others who helped launch our neighborhood foundation but these were the resident pioneers.

The Foundation’s major accomplishments through the years include the amendment of the original 1996 Belhaven Historic District to include the extant Belhaven Heights Historic District (1999). This was expanded in 2002 to encompass areas bounded by Riverside Drive and Peachtree Streets. In June 2003, the Foundation completed extended renovation of its current office at 954 Fortification Street made possible through the Fortification Street Historic Overlay District.

The redesign and reconstruction of Fortification Street was the Foundation’s first early accomplishment. Planning groups brought together engineers, architects, politicians, city representatives and the general public to help design and implement this corridor. While final completion took more than a decade to accomplish, there is little doubt that without the combined efforts of the Foundation and the adjacent neighborhoods, the project might never have been completed.

Other awards and recognitions taking place under the direction of the GBF are the Mississippi Main Street Designation in 2002, the Mississippi Heritage Trust (MHT) Trustee’s Award for Organizational Achievement for the Belhaven Market (best new development), the Foundation office (2004) and the Mississippi Main Street Association’s (MMSA) Award for design in the Adaptive Re-Use Project for the 954 Fortification Street renovation. Other recognitions include the MHT Award of Excellence in Presentation for the Belhaven Neighborhood Newsletter (2008),  the Jackson Historic Preservation Commission’s Preservation Award for Belhaven Park reclamation (2010) and the MMSA Award for the best Public-Private Project for this same facility (2011), the MMSA’s Spirit of Main Street Award for the partnership between the Foundation and Baptist Health Systems (2010), the Arbor Day Foundation’s “Faces of Urban Forestry” recognition (2012) and the Old House Magazine’s Best Old House Neighborhood recognition (2013).

The crowning achievement of the Foundation to date is the designation of Greater Belhaven as one of the nation’s ten Great Neighborhoods by the American Planning Association of Chicago. This designation, awarded on the basis of an extensive application process in 2014 ensured that our neighborhood is “on the map” throughout the United States as one of the country’s best places to live.

Thanks to the efforts of the GBF and a number of neighborhood sponsors family events are held throughout Greater Belhaven on an annual basis. These are known throughout our city and metro areas.

Thanks to the efforts of the GBF and a number of neighborhood sponsors family events are held throughout Greater Belhaven on an annual basis. These are known throughout our city and metro areas. Annual events include  the popular Bright Lights/Belhaven Nights, held each August in areas around Belhaven Park. More than 3,000 people attended the 2017 event and the crowds grow larger each year. Other events, which are held annually include Pumpkins in the Park for children and their families, Art in the Park, which includes youth from New Stage who present Shakespearean plays, outdoor movies and music concerts.

The Foundation recently sponsored the painting of a new mural (“Paint our Future”) on the rear wall of McDade’s parking lot. Led by Rachael Misenar and Elizabeth Fowler, a group of young people spent a week in the summer heat working with neighborhood children to create an artistic interpretation of Greater Belhaven.  The Foundation plans a “Community Peace Sing” in Belhaven Park in November and is active in the city’s development of the Museum to Market trail project tying Moody Street to Museum Drive with extensions planned for the future.

Belhaven Proper is the home of two outstanding public parks. For years the land at the foot of Kenwood Place and Poplar Blvd. was a tangled thicket of trees and kudzu. Through it flowed Moody Creek which no one could see for the undergrowth. Armed with a staff and dynamic board of directors, the Foundation raised $300,000 to enlarge and completely redesign Belhaven Park to create a hub for community gatherings, performances, festivals and exercises. Many throughout the neighborhood supported  this project which was dedicated in 2010. Neighbors donated money for benches, landscaping and decorative lighting. The City of Jackson contributed $50,000 but it was the founders who provided time and treasure that made the park a reality. These were and are Jim and Donna Barksdale, Baptist Health Systems, the Belhaven Improvement Association, the Funderburg Family, the John R. Lewis Family, Annie Laurie  McRee, Overton and Marilyn Moore, Nejam Properties, Pyron Insurance Group, Jim and Debbie Sones and Waste Management of Mississippi, Inc.

Laurel Street Park is the much older public recreational facility. Formerly known as Sylvendell Park as part of the late 1920’s subdivision by that name discussed earlier in this history, it  was little more than a grassy field until two neighborhood organizations with assistance of the BIA decided to develop it into a modern day children’s playground. Older residents will remember the “playground” as being a grass starved hard surface with a few pieces of city equipment including a jungle gym, dilapidated slide, iron merry-go-round and ancient swing set.

Late in the 20th century the Belhaven Garden Club and Friends of Laurel Street Park (FLSP) formed a committee through the GBF to raise funds for park development.   According to then Lyncrest Avenue resident Susan McNease, the committee, with support from the Belhaven Improvement Association, contacted residents and asked them to buy tickets for a picket fence around the north end of the facility. You could have your name on “your” picket, or your pet’s or whoever you wished. This process caught on and has been renewed several times through the years.

Complete renovation of the park began in 2001.  Emily Coakley is reported to have researched and contacted Learning Structures out of Somersworth, New Hampshire, who sent three men to supervise and participate in the build. The local planning group was provided designs of various pieces of playground equipment, items were selected and the company drew a schematic of where everything would be constructed. The dragon tire structure is the only original piece of equipment in the park today but updates and improvements continue on a regular basis.

Betty Smithson, former GBF employee, and her husband Lee shared their memories of the park in its early redevelopment days. “There was a core group of moms and kids who used the park. We all became friends through our regular meetings there. The city was removing old playground equipment which was deemed unsafe and injuries were all too common. Emily Coakley started the movement and led the rest of us who joined in the conception, planning and building of the new playground.  Jenny Mayher was a major player as was Vernon King and I. Vernon devised the fundraising plan with our first Art for the Park in the home of Mark and Nancy Seepe. More than $50,000 dollars was raised from various sources to begin work on the park.

“So many people helped build the park. The ones I remember are Dan and Rachael Dear, Tom and Annie Laurie McRee, Ranjan McBata, Louis Coleman, Hiram Creekmore, B.D. Steadman, Carole Fraiser, Kathy Waring, and Katherine Wiygul. A wonderful group of carpenters happened to drive by on the Friday of the build. They came back Saturday and built the pavilion.”

Other neighborhood residents who are reported to have worked on the project include David and Katie Blount, Garrett Martin, Beverly Ray, Andy Hilton, Beth Graham, Treasure Tyson and Jim McIntyre. There were doubtless others and this history would welcome them coming forward with their names and story.

Beth Graham, president of the Belhaven House and Garden Club, gives the younger group (Belhaven Garden Club) credit for helping spearhead early park planning along with the Friends of Laurel Street Park. “This park serves as one of the most popular spots for neighborhood children and their parents. It features a playground, pavilion and large green space often used for soccer and pickup Frisbee. It is ideal for picnics and other outdoor events.”

Tisha Green, a former GBF employee, remembers her own reasons for developing an interest in the park. “We all loved Belhaven and wanted ‘our’ park to be as fantastic as the neighborhood itself. We wanted it for our kids to swing, climb and have birthday parties. We wanted a clean and safe place for families to gather, meet and get to know one another. We wanted to do something really special for our future. This park was truly a grass-roots effort.”

Laurel Street Park remains today a partnership with the City of Jackson, is supported by FLSP and the Belhaven garden clubs, receives ancillary help from the Belhaven Improvement Association and is visible testimony to what a neighborhood can do when it is organized and dedicated to a meaningful goal. The park is funded primarily by a biennial event at the Fairview Inn where Art in the Park raised more than $20,000 this past April. Other donations are encouraged and made available on the various websites supporting our neighborhood organizations.

The Belhaven Improvement Association (BIA) was founded in 1965 for the purpose of making Historic Belhaven a safer and more beautiful neighborhood for all to enjoy. BIA is a non-profit establishment governed by a 15 member volunteer board of directors and is devoted to bringing the best of environments to our residents and visitors.

Today’s BIA mission is addressed through marketing, promotion and beautification projects such as neighborhood welcome  banners, street signs, strategic landscaping, historical markers, entry columns  and security enhancements. The first historical marker was dedicated at the Fairview Inn on September 14, 2017. Eleven additional markers are planned commemorating landmarks in our neighborhood.  Decorative entry columns are currently under construction on Greymont and Peachtree Streets.

BIA, as part of its new Comprehensive Beautification and Security plan, is actively working to craft a long-term blueprint to make Laurel Street Park sustainable. The Association is working with the city of Jackson to maximize the park’s potential. Future plans include the restructure of the creek that runs along the east side of the property and addressing the creek’s adjacent erosion problem. Other projects will focus on additional landscaping, better security and lighting, creation of a stroller/bike friendly pathway, creating a better “border” for the park proper so that it can contain mulch, building up the area around the playground equipment and adding to equipment as funds allow. The July Party in the Park was a great success and the BIA planning committee is looking into a future concert series on the green.

BIA President and Beautification Committee chairman Reed Hogan, III, M.D. says, “The value of our green spaces cannot be overemphasized. This is such a critical piece of community and what creates the very essence of neighborhood. We are devoted to making sure that Belhaven’s public green spaces are improved and are of maximum value to each resident’s quality of life.”

The Greater Belhaven Security Association (GBSA) was formed in 1985 for the purpose of providing drive by protection for neighborhoods in Belhaven Proper and Belhaven Heights. Its mission, as a nonprofit organization, is to promote and preserve neighborhood safety and enhance quality of life in Greater Belhaven. According to its president John Lewis, “Our goal is to provide our residential and commercial neighbors peace of mind with the knowledge that GBSA will respond to their security concerns 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Members of GBSA receive upon request house checks, escorts to the door of their home and response to burglar and fire alarms. The Association works closely with city and county law enforcement to coordinate maximum response to home and business emergencies. Both members and non-members can call the officer on patrol (601- 720-6452) and report any suspicious activity.

Mr. Lewis encourages all residents of Greater Belhaven to become members of the GBSA. Its dues and conditions are described on the Association’s website.

Greater Belhaven residents and commercial establishments are encouraged to visit the website of all three neighborhood associations and stay current with neighborhood news and each other through the GBF electronic newsletter and the Nextdoor social network. Special recognition should go to Laurel Isbister and Bethany Gilbert for their work on the Foundation’s new website launch in 2017.  The Historic Belhaven logo, designed by neighbor Lou Frascogna, may be seen on signs and bumper stickers throughout the neighborhood.

Did Colonel Hamilton know what he started? Were the owners of the first two homes on North State aware in 1904 of where it would lead? Did the developers Carlisle, Moody, Harper, Magruder, Mayes, even the old captain, have the foresight to know what they were building? Did the individuals and families who settled throughout the various subdivisions realize they were a part of something special?  Somehow I feel they did so ask yourself, what is Belhaven’s greatest asset?

Take a moment to reflect on what makes our neighborhood as unique today as it was a hundred and twenty years ago. You can say its leadership. Certainly that’s a requirement. Without it all the best efforts and intentions are scattered needlessly to the winds of obscurity. You can say its money or sweat or the things we’ve purchased to donate. But these are just objects and pass with the occasion they provide for. You can say it’s the high tech networks which keep us up to date on everything from needing a repairman to watching over one another. You can say it’s the vision and dreams of the pioneers who built us and the inspiration they provided to do it well. It is all these ingredients blended together and cemented with time as one generation learns from its antecedent and one neighbor reaches out to another.

Whether you rent or own, whether you are a native or just passing through you are walking in the footsteps of the artisans, craftsmen, artists, musicians,  writers, teachers, architects and other professionals whose vision built our neighborhood. Throughout it’s more than a century of existence Belhaven’s catalyst has been its character.

Each step we take forward leaves behind a footprint of our past. Yesterday meets tomorrow along our roadways and under our oaks as families old and young walk along our sidewalks, in our parks and support our common interests.  Our older citizens look back upon their own experiences, seasoned enough to know they live in a special place.  Our younger residents, starting their families and futures here, will reflect often upon where they spent some of the best years of their lives.

Today, we keep up with one another through the convenience of modern technology and share our mutual concerns and stories so that we may remain informed and safe. We look after our pets and those of others as well.  We take pride in our appearance, keeping our property up expecting others to do the same. We ask that our neighbors behave and they ask us to set the example. We really, truly care for each other. Don’t we?

So when someone asks you “where do you live?” You can tell them, “I don’t live in Jackson, I live in Belhaven.” They may look at you a little askance but they will know from your smile what you know, that Belhaven is greater than a city street and more than just a name.   It contains on every street and byway, in every fresh mown lawn, in every trip to our neighborhood stores, in every rescued pet, our greatest asset. And that is you.

Bill & Nan Harvey
August – November 2017