WESTERN UNION JACKSON TN.

Mr. John Long Jr.

1924-2020 

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Mr. John and I had such wonderful conversations about the history of Jackson , the Pythian building and other events in Jackson.

 Before I talk about the local Western Union Office that was once located on the first floor of 206 E. Main I will give you a brief history of Western Union.

Western Union

The New York and Mississippi Valley Printing Telegraph Company, now Western Union, began as a financial services and communications company in 1851. The firm expanded by buying out a number of competitive companies. In 1856, the company changed its name to Western Union Telegraph Company in anticipation of its ability to send telegraphs from the east coast to the west coast. The company completed its first transcontinental telegraph line in 1861, then went on to offer a variety of money- and time-related services to the public. In 1884, the company was one of the first 11 to list on the Dow Jones Transportation Average in the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). The Western Union company merged with the First Data Corporation in 1995, but the firm still uses the name Western Union for its financial assistance services. Recently it got involved with satellite communications and for a short time, cellular phones.

Western Union Telegraph KeyIn the beginning

With the 1937 Samuel F.B. Morse invention of the telegraph already delivered to the world, a new company was on its way to transforming the world of communications forever.

When the new The New York and Mississippi Valley Printing Telegraph Company began operation, it was one of 50 that crisscrossed the northeastern states. There was no interconnection of lines. Messages were transferred by hand from one company to another, and rates were as high as $20 for a telegram (big money in those days).

The New York and Mississippi Valley Printing Telegraph Company set out to establish a unified, efficient service and carry it nationwide. During its first five years, the company acquired 11 other lines operating in five states north of the Ohio River and joined its eastern network with a telegraph line running as far west as St. Joseph, Missouri.

On April 8, 1856, the name of the company was changed to The Western Union Telegraph Company, signifying the union of “western” lines into onesystem. Western Union Pod BikeSpanning coast to coast

With the outbreak of the Civil War, swift communication with the far West became essential. The only rapid communication beyond the Missouri River was by the Pony Express, which took 10 days to carry telegrams and mail from St. Joseph to Sacramento, California. Although a telegraph line was needed, it seemed impossible to string a 2,000-mile line across the plains and over the rugged Rockies. Other telegraph companies refused to join in the undertaking, and even President Abraham Lincoln told Hiram Siley, Western Union’s president, “I think it is a wild scheme. It will be next to impossible to get your poles and materials distributed on the plains, and as fast as you complete the line, the Indians will cut it down.”

The first poles were set up on July 4, 1861, and day after day, following heavy supply wagons and herds of cattle, each team of builders stretched the line 10 or 12 miles farther across the nation.

The strands of iron wire, uniting the nation in rapid communication for the first time, were joined at Salt Lake City on October 24, 1861, only 112 days after the project was begun. Two days later, the U.S. government stopped using the Pony Express service and turned to the “lightning lines” to speed messages across the continent.

Western Union Telegraph coverGradually, Western Union absorbed more than 500 telegraph companies throughout the nation, growing so much by 1884 that it was included in the original 11 stocks tracked in the first Dow-Jones Average. As the company expanded, it developed ingenious new services to keep pace with the changing needs of the American public.*

https://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h1801.html

In 1900 the Western Union Office was located on E. Baltimore. Then it moved to the ground floor of the Phythian (206 E. Main) where it was until the late 1960’s.

Mr. John worked for Western Union from 1940 -1943 until he went into the service. When he came back (1945) he went back to work as a messenger. At that time Mrs Ricketts was the manager of the office her sister Mrs. Black was the bookkeeper and unlike before the war all the Operators were women. The ladies were in charge of sending and receiving messages. Some of the other services offered were time keeping and call boxes.At 11AM everyday the clocks were checked automatically to make sure the were set to Greenwich Mean Time. The call boxes were in the individual businesses. When a Telegraph was ready to be sent they turned a knob on the call box to signal for a messenger to come pick it up. Mr. Truelove was in charge of the clocks, call boxes and the Telegraph lines.

Each day Mr. John would ride his Schwinn  bike to the office( it was an unwritten rule  all messengers had Schwinn bikes). When a messenger had to deliver a death telegraph the Mrs. Ricketts would find a neighbor or relative  to accompany the messenger so the recipient would not be alone..

One of my favorite Mr. John stories was when he was asked to deliver a Telegraph to a lady who worked for Miss Ollie. He knocked on the door and Miss Ollie answered the door. After a discussion he convince Miss Ollie he had to deliver the Telegraph to the receiving lady and no one else. He waited on the porch and this beautiful lady came out assuring him she was the recipient. She read the Telegraph out loud. “ honey in jailstop send money stop” what she said I can not repeat . She asked for a pad and wrote a reply “ busy in bed stop sick stop no money for you stop” she paid for the return reply and tipped me a quarter. He told me he never forgot that day. He also on more than one occasion had to go get a fellow messenger out of the movie theater to finish his route or come get another messenger to deliver. “Of course never me” he just laughed..

There were many stories Mr. John shared with me about working at Western Union not only about the people who worked there but the thousand of  messages they delivered . Can you just imagine the tears of joy or sorrow, the laughter and the many other emotions that resulted from that single sheet of paper  delivered by a messenger in Jackson ,Tn .

BRIDGES—Question

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I am attempting to locate the oldest bridge in Madison Co. This is the oldest I have found so far. HELP  do you know of and older one? I do know some private land owner constructed the earliest bridges in 1890’s maybe earlier but they have been replaced by County and State bridges.. I also know the railroad companies constructed bridges in 1850’s for their use. What I am looking for is the first County and State bridges used by private travel— wagons, cars, trucks and buses. 

On the bridge question I know that most bridge construction across Tennessee stop durning WWI because of lack of steel. 

 Began again after the war but when in Madison Co.

Wanted to review a citizen of Jackson Tn. That made a difference in the roads and bridges in Madison County and across the country. Of historical interest during this early Good Roads period is Sam Lancaster of Jackson. Born in Mississippi, his family moved to Jackson when he was a child. There he studied engineering at Union University until his father’s death ended his formal education. He then went to work for the Illinois Central Railroad as a construction engineer. In 1888, the Illinois Central Railroad had provided Jackson leaders, and others, a free trip on its rail line to view improved road and sewer systems in other cities. As noted elsewhere, railroads were a leading component of the Good Roads movement and viewed good local roads and local prosperity as a means to bolster their own economic stability. Following this, in 1889, the city of Jackson hired Lancaster as the city engineer. Lancaster installed sewer, water and light systems, paved streets, and parks. However, the most far-reaching project was to replace muddy roads with a half-million-dollar model system of hard-surfaced roads in and around Jackson, which he implemented in 1903. The following year, Lancaster wrote an article about this project that was published in the Department of Agriculture’s Yearbook, then the national department in charge of roads. This article enhanced Lancaster’s career, pushing him onto the national stage. Tennessee’s loss was the nation’s gain: the Secretary of Agriculture James Wilson soon appointed him a consulting engineer with his office and sent him on a nationwide tour extolling the virtues of good roads. Lancaster soon left to work in the northwest, where he was the engineer for the Columbia River Highway, an extraordinary road system that was considered one of the greatest engineering feats of that era and now designated as a National Historic Landmark. For that project, Lancaster functioned as not only the engineer but also as a landscape architect, carefully developing a road system compatible with the existing idyllic setting. As one historian has noted, “Lancaster’s single most important lifetime accomplishment — his master lifework

While searching bridges  I came across this and thought it was interesting.

What’s in a name? TDOT….

In 1915, the state legislature established a state highway department and the Tennessee Highway Commission, a three member non-paid commission. The state agency was called the Tennessee Department of Highways until 1923, although during this time, the name Tennessee State Highway Department appeared in many official documents. Under Governor Austin Peay, in 1923, the state restructured many departments, and the highway department became the Tennessee Department of Highways and Public Works. In 1972, the title was changed to its current name, the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT

Ok ,that the end of today’s history lesson.

441 EAST CHESTER JACKSON TN.

history and ghosts

441 East Chester

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441 East Chester is now the home ofDCA/DCPR but let’s go back in time and see what was at this location.

According to the City Directory 1890 this location was the main house  of the Brown Estate. Then in the late 1890’s the house had been turned into a boarding house for the facility of Memphis Conference Female College . Until  around 1918 some workers from downtown called the location home. 

Then in the  1920’s the property was sold to Mr. Griffin who had the property cleared. It was said many in Jackson were elated since the house and the out buildings (servant quarters and old kitchen) were the most haunted buildings  in downtown. ( ghost story to follow)

In the early days the Umphlett and Griffin undertaking business was downtown there was a furniture store downstairs ,a workshop where they would build the coffins and Funeral Parlor upstairs. Mr Griffin bought Mr Umphlett out of the Funeral Parlor and move the business to Church and E. Chester

Mr. Griffin contracted to build one of the first buildings that was  just a Funeral Home. In the south most of the Funeral Homes were in converted homes with the embalming parlor in the basement or “back room”. Mr Griffin drew the plans where the business would be on the main floor. On the main floor  were viewing rooms, family room ,chapel and offices.The upstairs were the family quarters. Out back was the a large garage to hold of the companies vehicles and an attached state of the art embalming parlor. Construction was completed in 1930 and opened for business.

Later the Griffin family sold their businesses to  a group of investors that included Mickey Granger. The upstairs was living quarters for some of the employees.

 Then it sold in 1990 to SCI. In 2000 Seth Chandler was looking to relocate to downtown so he purchased the building for his business.

Ghosts of 441 East Chester

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The original home , servant quarters, stables, and out door kitchen were built in the 1830’s. The Brown family started with a 8 room home and by 1890 the house had been expanded to 15 rooms including 10 bedrooms and a indoor kitchen.

The sightings of unusual events were reported as early as 1861.

The stories were pasted down through the years of odd sounds and spooky lights. 

The first story was of the beautiful little 6 year old , the pride and joy of her father, who had died while riding her new pony.

He had felt so much sorrow because it was his fault he had spooked the pony and the girl went flying hitting the ground .

The doctor was called but the little girl died. For weeks after the funeral  he sat in her room so sad. He had his brother give the pony away to another child it was not the pony’s fault.

Soon the servants reported at the back of property where the little girl rode they could hear her laughter and the sound of the pony running. 

The next sad event that happened in this home was the death of the grandmother. Who was found at the bottom of the grand staircase dead. Some said it was an accident others said she was pushed by  her daughter in law. There had been no love lost between them. Well the grandmother loved the house so she was not ready to leave. It was said she went out of her way to move objects ,cause lights to flicker and weird sounds to be heard. Things that just terrified the family especial the daughter in law who was said to have gone mad because of them.

The family moved out and the house was turned into a boarding house in late 1890’s . The haunting did not stop  the boarders would see  images in the mirror in the parlor. Doors would slam upstairs when no one was there, singing could be heard at night. Some of the boarders moved out others just made the best of the situation.

When the boarding house closed and before Mr. Griffin purchase the house the ghosts and spirits had control of the property. The stories were wild and many a person would go by at night to spot a light or hear a sound.

Mr. Griffin was said to have told people

 he tore down the house and outbuildings to build his Funeral Home and get the spirits to move on.

Soon after the Funeral opened he found that was not going to happen. The spirits of the past just got company. Some said in the embalming parlor they would be hear whispers or the sound of horses. One said they could smell cooking where the embalming parlor sat used to be the outdoor kitchen and behind that the stables. 

Inside as more families would have services for their loved ones reports increased of odd sightings and sounds. Some said the reason Mr. Griffin had a  massive train set up in the family quarters was because the spirit told him to do it. Seems there was a train engineer who once lived in the boarding house and had a train set in his room. Who knows ?

Wonder if the current occupants have experienced any odd sighting or sounds?

GHOST STORIES OF HAYWOOD COUNTY TENNESSEE

THE LITTLE GIRL AT THE RAILROAD DEPOT

BROWNSVILLE, TN

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In 1856 the railroad tracks reached Brownsville. The first Memphis and Ohio train arrived carrying freight, mail and passengers. The train came from Memphis to Brownsville then did a turn a round and headed back to Memphis. It was said the train left Brownsville and arrived in Memphis six hours later.The reason was because of the many stops loading and unloading freight ,mail and passengers.It wasn’t until 1906 when the first train station was completed that the sightings began. In 1905 a young girl got on the train with her mother to go to Memphis the mother fell asleep. When the train arrived in Memphis the mother woke up and her daughter was no where to be found. Panic ensued they search the train from one end to the other.Then someone reported they had seen the girl get off in Stanton. Family members searched but no luck . Then when the train station opened in 1906 the sightings started .After the Memphis train left the station people said they would see a little girl sitting on the steps of the station crying and then she wasn’t there.It was not until a year later they found the body of a little girl in an abandoned house in Stanton. They identified her by the doll that was with her. The young girl had been kidnapped by a lady known to have lost her little girl in 1905. The lady had admitted the deed in a note when she killed herself. They think the little girl had escaped and was walkings down the tracks to Brownsville. She had taken shelter in the house and died. The reason she appeared at the train station she was waiting on her mother because that was the last time they had been together. When the station was torn down in 1971 everyone thought that would be the end of the sightings. Not so I have been told on a full moon night you can see a faded set of steps and there she sits holding her doll and crying..This story was told me by my great Aunt Vera when I was a child. I think it was to scare me not to “take up with strangers” .It worked and I never forgot ..

to be added to with more stories of the spirits of Haywood Co Tennessee

The spirits  of the Tree

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Photo credit Dr. Danny Winbush

I woke up this morning after dreaming about  Pop. He was a gentleman very opinionated while selective about when ,where and to whom he voiced his opinion. He always made sure I had a horse to ride so we could ride almost everyday. As we rode he would tell stories about his life. Now my Pop, grandfather English’s great grandmother was from Mississippi

a member of the Choctaw tribe.  He told great stories once telling me he  learned a lot of them when visiting relatives when he was a child. I don’t know about you but when you are 7 years old imagining your grandfather a kid was hard.

My dream centered around one such ride and the story he told.

We were riding at the back of the farm this time on a mission Grandmother had told us to pick blackberries for her to make a cobbler. As we picked blackberries Pop told me to look to the left. What I saw was a big oak tree with knots all over it. He then told me to close my eyes. I did so then he started the story.

The trees have stories to tell they have grown while watching their world change. For example when your grandmother purchased this farm all this area was forest. When we were deciding to clear this land I insisted this be the tree line and this tree would stay. 

Open your eyes and I will tell you why. This tree has a spirit as do many other old trees. As you look in the center you can see the imagine  of a wolf , look further up and you see the imagine of a wise owl.  The tree is telling you a story of what was here .

Now the Indians that roamed this land were Chickasaw as this was their hunting ground. So if you are real still and look at the tree you can see more imagines and hear sounds of the past.

You see each tree has a different story to tell.  

Can you imagine what the old trees on the square could tell. They saw the pioneers coming to area after the Indians left, they saw the conflict soldiers,  the parades as our soldiers went to war. the sadness of the families when their sons or daughters  did not come back from the  wars, the many changes that followed now they provide shade for the old men as they play checkers.. Next time we go downtown see what stories the spirits of the trees tell you. 

I woke up from my dream happy I had a visit from Pop and a memory to share.

Next time you go for a walk or enjoying backyard or porch sitting focus on your favorite tree. Now close your eyes take a deep breath and let your mind wander. What stories can you imagine the spirits of your tree could tell?

RIVERSIDE CEMETERY GHOST

 Did I really see that?

Several years ago before I retired I had my Private Investigations office at the Pythian Building. On this fall night I had left a file I needed in my office so I had no choice but to drive downtown and retrieve it. Now I don’t know how many have driven down Riverside at night but it can be rather dark and with no moon spooky.

On this night in late October there was a haze in the bottoms a good night for the deer to roam. Since I am not known for driving fast I was slowly approaching my turn off Riverside to Sycamore that ran along the Cemetery . (This had always been my shortcut to downtown) That was when I saw it a big black dog larger than a Lab but smaller than a Great Dane.

The dog crossed the Street right in front of me at top speed then it looked like went through the wall to the Riverside Cemetery.

Now mind you I had just finished a mystery  on Navajo skin walkers. Out of curiosity I had researched realizing  not only the Navajo had stories of skin walkers but the Chickasaw and other southern tribes also included them in their history. So Skin walker was the first thing that I thought. 

History lesson :America is a hodgepodge of cultures, traditions, folklore tales, and nasty critters of the deep. The Navajo are part of a larger culture area that also includes the Pueblo people, Apache, Hopi, Ute, and other groups that also have their own versions of the Skinwalker, but each includes a malevolent witch capable of transforming itself into an animal.

Ok back to my story 

I was parked and watching the dog walk up the hill where he faded. where he was  now stood a man. He turned and looked my way and walked on up the path then he faded away.

Needless to say I left and went to the office. When I got there I called a friend and told him what happened. Since we had experienced other sightings in the Riverside he was not surprised.

Not long before this happened to me we had been down at the cemetery. I had been recording information off some of the tombstones.  We had looked up and saw a man walking toward the back of the  cemetery toward the graves that were said to have been  of the unknown soldiers. At that time we had seen him fade away. When we told another friend he told us when they were doing the re-enactments at Riverside sightings  happened a lot.

Now I know Riverside Cemetery has an interesting history and is a wonderful place to visit . Many of the  residents there represent the history of Madison Co.  It may just be that not all of them have passed on ….who knows?

That night I returned home a different way…

MAJOR CHARLES SEVIER

Major  Charles Sevier , 1778 – 1855

 In the late 90’s I was working on a speech for a gentleman about the Huguenots of Virginia.  In doing the research I fell down a rabbit hole where I discovered the first Governor of Tennessee had roots in this group. I finished the assignment and went back to research the Sevier family. 

I discovered so much I thought I would focus on Major Charles Sevier who was an amazing gentleman of Madison Co.

Here is a bit of history

In October 1780, the battle of King’s Mountain was fought, and we find in history that John and Robert Sevier were officers in this bloody battle, and that Capt. Robert Sevier was slain. This Capt. Robert Sevier was the father of Major Charles Sevier

May 1912 

 John Sevier, brother of Capt. Robert Sevier, was chosen as the first governor of Tennessee. After the death of his brother, Robert, he took his son, Charles, away and put him to work with a hatter at Greenville. Young Charles did not like his job and went to live his mother’s brother, Charles Robertson, Jr., who was a farmer. About the year 1802, Mr. Charles Sevier married Miss Elizabeth Witt, and soon afterwards moved to Overton County. Charles Sevier and his wife had fourteen children .

 When West Tennessee was opened up, young Charles Sevier, with his wife, moved to Madison county and entered or bought a farm four or five miles southwest of the present city of Jackson. ( some say his land was a grant others said he purchased the land)

            During the war of 1812, Charles Sevier served in the West Tennessee regiment and was in the battle of New Orleans. General Jackson promoted him, with seven others, for gallant service in the battle. Major Charles Sevier was a very large man and of wonderful constitution. He was the political leader of the democratic party of Madison county as long as he resided in the county. His enthusiasm was so great for James K. Polk, for president that on the day of the election in 1844, he rode a white bull into Jackson striped with Polk berry juice from head to tail. Major Sevier, while he was an active partisan in politics, was never a candidate for office. He was a prosperous farmer and preferred farming to political office.

            Among the early settlers of West Tennessee, there was quite a spirit prevailing to be known as a “bully.” In those days no weapons were used and frequent fist fights occurred. While Major Sevier was not a quarrelsome man, when he was aroused, he was a perfect Hercules in strength, and his name was not only confined to Madison, and adjoining counties, for it is said that a “bully” from Kentucky who had heard of Major Sevier concluded he would visit Madison county and test the strength and nerve of Major Sevier. The party arrived in Jackson and was told that  Sevier lived a few miles south  of Jackson. The Kentucky fighter proceeded to the farm of Major Sevier and met him in the road as he was loading some wood. After telling Major Sevier what the object of his visit to Madison county was, Major Sevier told him to alight and hitch his horse. While the Kentuckian was hitching his horse, he looked around and saw Major Sevier lift the hind end of the loaded wagon and place it out of the road as if it was a toy wagon. No sooner than the “bully” from Kentucky saw him toss this wagon from the road  like a toy he jumped into his saddle, and with lashing and spurs, was soon out of sight, cutting air with the swiftness of lightning, and I dare say he didn’t stop until he got to his “Old Kentucky Home.” How true this story is I cannot say, but it is tradition that is handed down.

         Major Sevier in Madison County until 1854, when he decided to go to Texas. The long trip in private conveyance so told on his strength that he and his wife did not live long to enjoy their new home. They died within a few weeks of each other during the fall of 1855 at the residence of their son, Valentine Sevier, near Milford, Ellis County, Texas.

 (At lot of this information is  from an article based on  a biography  published in the Jackson Sun 1912 by Capt. T. M. Gates)

   In the late 90’s I was working on a speech for a gentleman about the Huguenots of Virginia.  In doing the research I fell down a rabbit hole where I discovered the first Governor of Tennessee had roots in this group. I finished the assignment and went back to research the Sevier family. 

I discovered so much I thought I would focus on Major Charles Sevier who was an amazing gentleman of Madison Co.

Here is a bit of history

In October 1780, the battle of King’s Mountain was fought, and we find in history that John and Robert Sevier were officers in this bloody battle, and that Capt. Robert Sevier was slain. This Capt. Robert Sevier was the father of Major Charles Sevier

May 1912 

 John Sevier, brother of Capt. Robert Sevier, was chosen as the first governor of Tennessee. After the death of his brother, Robert, he took his son, Charles, away and put him to work with a hatter at Greenville. Young Charles did not like his job and went to live his mother’s brother, Charles Robertson, Jr., who was a farmer. About the year 1802, Mr. Charles Sevier married Miss Elizabeth Witt, and soon afterwards moved to Overton County. Charles Sevier and his wife had fourteen children .

 When West Tennessee was opened up, young Charles Sevier, with his wife, moved to Madison county and entered or bought a farm four or five miles southwest of the present city of Jackson. ( some say his land was a grant others said he purchased the land)

            During the war of 1812, Charles Sevier served in the West Tennessee regiment and was in the battle of New Orleans. General Jackson promoted him, with seven others, for gallant service in the battle. Major Charles Sevier was a very large man and of wonderful constitution. He was the political leader of the democratic party of Madison county as long as he resided in the county. His enthusiasm was so great for James K. Polk, for president that on the day of the election in 1844, he rode a white bull into Jackson striped with Polk berry juice from head to tail. Major Sevier, while he was an active partisan in politics, was never a candidate for office. He was a prosperous farmer and preferred farming to political office.

            Among the early settlers of West Tennessee, there was quite a spirit prevailing to be known as a “bully.” In those days no weapons were used and frequent fist fights occurred. While Major Sevier was not a quarrelsome man, when he was aroused, he was a perfect Hercules in strength, and his name was not only confined to Madison, and adjoining counties, for it is said that a “bully” from Kentucky who had heard of Major Sevier concluded he would visit Madison county and test the strength and nerve of Major Sevier. The party arrived in Jackson and was told that  Sevier lived a few miles south  of Jackson. The Kentucky fighter proceeded to the farm of Major Sevier and met him in the road as he was loading some wood. After telling Major Sevier what the object of his visit to Madison county was, Major Sevier told him to alight and hitch his horse. While the Kentuckian was hitching his horse, he looked around and saw Major Sevier lift the hind end of the loaded wagon and place it out of the road as if it was a toy wagon. No sooner than the “bully” from Kentucky saw him toss this wagon from the road  like a toy he jumped into his saddle, and with lashing and spurs, was soon out of sight, cutting air with the swiftness of lightning, and I dare say he didn’t stop until he got to his “Old Kentucky Home.” How true this story is I cannot say, but it is tradition that is handed down.

         Major Sevier in Madison County until 1854, when he decided to go to Texas. The long trip in private conveyance so told on his strength that he and his wife did not live long to enjoy their new home. They died within a few weeks of each other during the fall of 1855 at the residence of their son, Valentine Sevier, near Milford, Ellis County, Texas.

 (At lot of this information is  from an article based on  a biography  published in the Jackson Sun 1912 by Capt. T. M. Gates)

HORTON-BOND BUILDING


Photographer Dr. Danny Winbush


Horton-Bond Building

211 Baltimore

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When the Storm hit downtown Jackson May 4th 2003 many buildings were damaged or destroyed. 211 Baltimore was a mess but the owner, David Horton ,saw this as an opportunity to rebuild and improve his building.

David Horton  had met David Burke at a Cattleman’s Association meeting . Horton had heard from mutual friends that David Burke was ironwork artist. David H.had this vision of a balcony on his building like the ones in New Orleans. So the conversations began between the two Davids.

David Burke was from St. Rose, Louisiana,20 miles from New Orleans, he had learned welding in high school since he knew it would come in handy around the ranch. He enjoyed welding so much he sought out more classes in fabrication. With all the addition education he became certified in highly specialized welding and fabrication.

Burke’s talent was in demand for equipment repair, pipe repair all around the New Orleans area. That work paid the bills but his love was his ornamental iron work.  Soon  he found he was in demand for his ornamental iron designs and  work. He told me the ornamental work in New Orleans had to be historically correct and was hard but satisfying . His joy was his original designs seeing them going from a drawing to a finish product. As his work became  more in demand he could pick and choose.This also allowed to expand his Louisiana ranch spend more time riding horses and spending  more time with his daughter and two sons.

Burke designed the balcony and second story feature with historic New Orleans in mind. Through phone calls and faxes the Davids were able to narrow down the design, structure, materials and city regulations . When David Burke arrived in Jackson it took him a little over 2 weeks.  The structural steel was made in Jackson but he bought the ornamental steel with him since he had created it in his shop in St. Rose.

Burke was very complementary about the people he met in Jackson and the City itself.

Thanks to the vision and work of David Horton and David Burke we have a bit of New Orleans in Jackson. Now the building is for sale and will pass to another to appreciate and care for this lady on Baltimore.

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A Ghost Story

The Funeral 

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I was sitting in my office one night when the telephone rang. The voice on the telephone identified herself as Mattie Lou she went on to tell me she was over 80 and wanted to tell me a story.

She began by saying , “Now I am not sure of the year but I think it was 1932. I was a young bride my sweet Alfred and I had only been married a few years. It was our duty to represent the family to sit with the dead at the funeral home on Chester. The man that had died was my husband’s Uncle Ben and from what I had been told he was a rounder.  He had run around with a rough group of friends that hung out at the café in the bus station. Al’s uncle had departed this world under “ odd  circumstances” as my mother in law told me. Odd circumstances my foot he got shot for cheating at cards.” Mattie Lou said

“ Now honey I remember that night clear as all get out. It was 

8:00 when we got to the funeral home. We were taking  his sister and cousin place who had been there since 6:00. They had to get home to their  husbands and children. They lived in town so they did not have far to go.”she sighed 

She continued  by telling me they went into the parlor they spoke to the people that were viewing and making all the correct remarks. As everyone that was not family cleared out we settled in for the night. Sitting with the dead meant just that you sat there all night so your kin folk would not be alone on their last night.

I remember there were 6 other relatives in the room sharing memories, reading our Bible, or just sitting in reflection.

She laughed “ that meant they were napping.”

She went on to explain she looked up at the clock 1:16AM  and all of a sudden the lights went out  the room got real cold.  A gentleman got up and declared “the body is gone”People started praying out loud and doors were slamming. 

  “I was holding on to Al for dear life. I was scared later on  Al admitted he was scared also .” Miss Mattie took a deep breath and was quite for a few minutes.

“Now what happened next I swear to be true.” She said

She went on to tell me all of a sudden the door to the Viewing Room flew open and the lights came back on. At the doorway was the Bus Station night manager,Jim, he ran up to the casket.

Looking down he said “Ben  is still here!” The man who had declared the body gone joined him by the casket. “He is right he is here.” 

Then Jim  explained he had been sitting at a table having coffee in the station and he looked up and there was Ben setting across from him . I looked up at the clock it was 1:18  that was around the time Ben would come by most nights. But when I turned around Ben was gone. “So I ran down here to see if I was dreaming. I must have been cause Ben is here dead.”

He made his apology and left.

“The rest of the night Al and I went and sat in the car. Then later we headed home to get freshen up and pick up his parents to go back to the funeral. We did not speak about what happened.” She said

The funeral went off without a hitch until the pallbearers headed out to the hearse. Al and his cousins were the pallbearers I mean Ben was not known for his friends.In the hall the lights went out and they dropped the casket. “Al told me for some reason he looked at the clock 1:16. When they picked the casket up it was light like no one was in it. He said he looked at his cousin who had been at the funeral home last night they shook their heads and got to the hearse  real fast .

At the grave site the casket was still light. As far as I know none of the family has ever discussed this.” Miss Mattie said

The story around town that on certain nights Ben would be seen at the Bus Station even after it moved to Main Street.

As the years went on she and Al had a good life . They had been blessed with two daughters and two sons, six grandchildren.

But every once in a while Al would change he would get mean his personality would change he would be his Uncle Ben. “ Now I was lucky this only happened when the children were not around. His cousin saw this side of Al a few times it would not be good. Unfortunately Al had an accident on the job at the railroad he was only 55 the same age that his Uncle died.” She told me

The day of the funeral Miss Mattie said she had word with the funeral director. She asked him that when they got to the grave site she wanted the casket opened one last time. Her son overheard her  he did not understand  but he went along with because he loved his mother. At the grave site she walked up to the  open casket kissed her fingers then pressed them on Al’s  cheek laying a rose on his chest. They helped her back to her chair and closed the casket. Everyone was so touched by her jester.

I could not stand it I had to ask why. Over the telephone I heard a wicked little laugh. “ Honey, one I wanted to make sure Al was still in the casket and that the spirit of that mean Uncle Ben was really gone and my sweet Al was at peace.” Miss Mattie wished me well and said goodnight.

There were sightings of the man at the bus station even after it closed. Now I wonder if he will be seen at Doe’s the new occupant of the bus station?