Spotlighted on our street is the manger scene that Sue and Sam Gressett display each December.

It’s still my favorite expression of Christmas. On Friday morning, the trees surrounding it were covered in snow, which made it even more beautiful.

I recently saw the lights of the big city, the glitz and glamor of Manhattan where every tree is wrapped in tiny white lights. I saw the flashing lights of Times Square and the huge live tree at Rockefeller Center–it is all spectacular.  With my granddaughters and daughter-in-law, I road the elevator 67 floors up to the Top of the Rock to look out at the city–a mass of lights all around.

I loved seeing New York at Christmas time, but as we wove our way through the crowded streets, I began to wonder, “Does anyone here know what Christmas is really about?”

And then, we went to Radio City Music Hall to see the Rockettes. I’ve never seen anything like that show; it embodies the very best of talent in the music, the lights, the spectacular sets, the gifted musicians and dancers—it is magical. I found Baby Jesus there, where the real Christmas story was portrayed with Mary and Joseph, the shepherds, the Wise Men, and live camels and sheep. Yes, some people in that big city know the reason for the season.

We also found Jesus in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

In the Medieval art section, there are scores of sculptures and paintings depicting the life of the Savior. 

     We took the subway to Ground Zero, where we saw the Little Chapel that survived Nine Eleven. Just steps away from where the Towers collapsed is the historic Saint Paul’s Chapel. It is said that George Washington once prayed there. The little church served as a refuge, a soulful abode for rescue workers during the aftermath of the tragedy.

Guideposts Magazine reported that: “Saint Paul’s Church survived without a scratch when the world around it crumbled.”

Just steps away from death and destruction, there were no broken windows, and even the steeple remained intact. Among the trees in the church-yard, only one fell—a nearly 100-year-old sycamore. This tree served as a protection for the church. According to the Associated Press, it was this tree that prevented a huge steel beam from smashing the 235-year-old church. The Daily News reported that Saint Paul’s Chapel had also survived the Great Fire of 1776.

When I researched the story of the Little Chapel,

tears stung my eyes as I realized that Jesus had been there all along. He is wherever His Name is honored. We read in the Bible that “Jesus wept,” and I’m sure He was weeping on that horrible day. Prior to the Nine-Eleven attack, in the midst of all our unearned freedom, in the hub of our power to choose, we Americans had taken our freedom for granted and had almost forgotten about the Creator. His “still, small voice” speaks to us now from that little church.

In Central Park, the carriage driver wrapped us with red furry blankets and drove us through the park while telling us stories of New York and its famous people. Every day, we looked up and stood gawking at the tall buildings that towered over us. We were jostled by crowds of people as we headed toward Broadway to see the shows, smelling the food-smells of the restaurants, and hearing the beeping of taxis.

Christmas in New York was an unforgettable gift,

and now I am home, looking out my bedroom window at the manger scene across the street. That’s the real thing—the reason for the season.

by Virginia Dawkins


From the mighty river to the Gulf of Mexico,

Mississippi’s landscape spreads into hills, farmland, sandy beaches and the great piney woods and features a multitude of National and State landmarks and manmade destinations for families around the world to enjoy.  So why leave Mississippi for family summer vacation when these destinations are just around the corner from your house? Here are some favorite Mississippi destinations this summer:


With festivals, historical reenactments, musical tributes, parades, powwows, music and arts, and events with Tricentennial themes, there will be something for all ages. Discover Southern belles, cotton barons, Civil War soldiers, and Civil Rights pioneers while exploring antebellum homes and historical landmarks for a glimpse of the past. Visit museums for history on the Natchez Indians or daily life in antebellum Natchez. Enjoy bird watching, tour an ornate historic cemetery, or watch the sunset over the Mississippi River.



The Natchez Trace

Connecting Natchez to Nashville, Tennessee, the 444-mile long Natchez Trace Parkway penetrates incredible scenery and over 10,000 years of history.  The Old Trace was the path through early Choctaw and Chickasaw lands used by American Indians, “Kaintucks,” settlers, and future presidents. This path became a vital, though rugged, roadway for General Andrew Jackson and his troops during the Creek War. The seven mound groups along Natchez Trace parkway in Mississippi display rich American Indian culture and legacy. Today along the Natchez Trace, families can hike, bike, horseback ride, and camp in this resilient, almost untouched territory.  The Natchez Trace Corridor Birding Trail features six state parks and one natural area perfect for bird viewing.

The Mississippi River Trail

From its headwaters in Itasca, Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi River Trail offers approximately 3,000 miles of on-road bikeways, pedestrian and bicycle pathways for the recreational enjoyment, health, conservation and tourism development of river communities, river states, and the nation. As a part of the Southern Trail, Great River Road State Park provides a breathtaking natural landscape ideal for picnics and a 75-foot high overlook tower for panoramic views of the Mississippi River. Along this trail, Leroy Percy State Park, the oldest of Mississippi’s state parks, has artesian springs, cypress trees and ancient oaks dripping with Spanish moss and is the only state park with a wildlife preserve. Natchez State Park is located approximately 10 miles north historic Natchez, the oldest settlement on the Mississippi River. 

Mississippi Children’s Museum (MCM)

This 40,000 square foot museum houses five galleries of educational, interactive exhibits and enriching weekly programs that focus on literacy; health and nutrition; the cultural arts; science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM); and Mississippi heritage.  The Literacy Garden encourages early language and reading skills development. MCM has been recognized for excellence by the Association of Children’s Museums, Trip Advisor, Parents & Kids Magazine, and Mississippi Magazine. Exhibits include the World at Work Gallery, Exploring Mississippi Gallery, Healthy Fun Gallery, Express Yourself Gallery, Wild About Reading Gallery, and Wild About Reading Gallery.



Mississippi Museum of Natural Science

Located in Jackson, Mississippi, this 73,000-square foot complex introduces you to a world of exciting exhibits, nature trails and an open-air amphitheater. Here you enjoy a series of life-size displays like the Monsters of the Deep exhibit as well as a 1,700-square foot gigantic greenhouse aptly called The Swamp. Children enjoy their interactive aquarium where they handle live marine creatures and learn more about how to conserve the environment.




Old Capitol Museum

Built in 1839 and restored to its original grandeur, the Old Capital reopened as a free museum focusing on the history of the building and the events that took place there. Interactive multimedia exhibits explore the roles of the legislature, governor, and high court, as well as the importance of historic preservation to the state, the activities that took place in the building after the New Capitol was constructed in 1903, and much more. A National Historic Landmark, The Old Capitol is one of the country’s premier examples of Greek Revival public architecture with a limestone exterior, copper dome, and massive interior spaces. Enjoy a guided tour that covers the construction of the building as the statehouse, its architect and caretakers, and the ways the Old Capitol has been used.

Smith Robertson Museum

Located near the State Capitol in Jackson, this museum houses art, artifacts, and photography, the work, lifestyle, and artistic contributions of African Americans to not only celebrate their heritage, but evoke a greater understanding of the African-American experience in the deep south. Exhibits such as From Slavery to America, 1670-1864 and in the Hall of Fame, which includes personalities from the state who are pioneers in their respective positions highlight the contributions of black Mississippians through struggle and achievement. In addition, the museum houses the Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition Services organized exhibition, Field to Factory: The Afro-American Migration, 1915-1940, which explores and interprets the great migration of African-Americans from the rural South to the urban North. 

Mississippi Petrified Forest

The Mississippi Petrified Fhttps://www.mspetrifiedforest.comorest lies within hills and ravines hollowed out by nature during the past century. According to the size of the petrified logs, as living trees, these stones were over one hundred feet tall and could be over a thousand years old. According to history, a thunderous, flood-swollen river snatched everything in its path as it roared southward, ripping into ancient trees, leaving behind only remnants to settle deep into the watery ooze. More floods from the North sent more sand and silt, burying the old trees even deeper and petrifying the living trees into stone logs. The perfect spot for history and science discussions while having fun, families enjoy a Nature Trail where nature continues to thrive alongside the huge stone logs that are close enough to touch. There is also a museum, campground, gem mining flume.

Vicksburg Military National Park

Vicksburg National Military Park offers historical, cultural, and natural resources through options tailored to the visitor’s interest and timeframe. Included is the U.S.S. Cairo, one of seven ironclad gunboats named in honor of towns along the upper Mississippi and Ohio rivers. These powerful ironclads were formidable vessels, each mounting thirteen big guns (cannon).  The Heritage Garden is based on the typical Victorian-era kitchen garden, flower beds, and traditional commodities grown on 19th-century southern farms. Visitors also discover the 116-acre Vicksburg National Cemetery that holds the remains of 17,000 Civil War Union soldiers, more than any other national cemetery. “Soldiers’ Rest,” the plot in Cedar Hill Cemetery, is the final resting place for an estimated 5,000 Confederate soldiers. The African American Monument memorializes over 178,000 black soldiers who served in the Union army and the almost 18,000 African-Americans who joined the Union navy. Service figures for the Confederate States remain unknown. Licensed Park Guides make history come alive at Vicksburg National Military Park through their knowledge of civilian life and military operations of the campaign, siege, and defense of Vicksburg in the spring and summer of 1863.  Visitors may also use the self-guided driving tour

Chotard Landing Resort

Located 20 miles north of Vicksburg, off of Highway 61 North, 24 miles on Highway 465, Chotard Landing Resort sets on the banks of Chotard Lake, a Mississippi River Oxbow.  Chotard Landing Resort offers a place of tranquility for the Fisherman and Outdoors Person. A large common area with grills and tables under the tavern accommodate family cookouts, reunions and all kinds of outdoor get-togethers. Fish and hunt on the Mississippi River oxbow lakes and over 100,000 acres of public land. Bait and fishing supplies are available, as well as a boat ramp. Guided fishing tours available.

Clarkco State Park

Located just south of Meridian near the Mississippi-Alabama state line, Clarkco State Park has been a favorite Mississippi recreation spot since 1938. Situated on 815 acres of gently rolling woodlands, Clarkco State Park offers camping, cabin rentals, and water sports in a convenient, unspoiled location for an afternoon or weekend getaway. There are 43 camping sites, 7 primitive tent camping sites, 20 vacation cabins, and 1 vacation cottage plus laundry facilities, picnic sites, pavilions, playgrounds, playing fields, nature trails, tennis courts, disc golf. Clarkco lake offers a boat launch, fishing and water skiing, plus a zero depth splash pad. 

Dunn’s Falls

The 65-foot waterfall in Lauderdale County, just outside of Meridian, was once used as a power source for a gristmill and the manufacture of Stetson hats. The park is a natural wildlife refuge with a picnic area with barbecue grills, a gristmill pond, hiking and swimming areas. The 1857 grist mill was moved from Cave Springs, Georgia in 1987 and reconstructed on the site of Dunn’s original mill, as well as the rustic homestead fascinate history buffs. Stocked with catfish and complete with ducks, the mill pond and picnic area are a great spot for a family outing. Here you can fish, canoe and swim or enjoy the nature trails weaving through the woods where wild turkey, deer, squirrels and other wildlife run free. Historic Carroll-Richardson Gristmill is also open for tours.  Also available are primitive camping sites.

Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) 

Over 150,000 visitors annually participate in activities including fishing, hunting, hiking, wildlife photography, wildlife observation, environmental education, and research at Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge. Photographers capture photos of alligators, waterfowl, warblers and other species living in the refuge. The 42,500-acre refuge serves as an outdoor classroom for Mississippi State University and other local educational institutions and was designed by the National Audubon Society as an Important Bird Area (IBA), one of five of global importance in Mississippi. Four green-tree reservoirs (GTRs), two major lakes (Bluff Lake – 900 acres and Loakfoma Lake – 400 acres), 16 small impoundments, and assorted wetland areas provide important habitat for the wood stork, American alligator, bald eagle, and wintering waterfowl. Here, fishing programs promote understanding and appreciation of natural resources and their management on all lands and waters in the refuge system. The refuge visitor center exhibit hall features a timeline describing how the land was formed, what it is now and how it is managed, and the creatures inhabiting it. Guided walks and talks by volunteers provide opportunities for visitors to connect to wildlife.  Enjoy great views of alligators and look for any of the seven species of common wading birds.  Boardwalks and overlooks provide great vantage points as well, so bring your binoculars and camera.

Elvis Presley Birthplace

Mississippi legend Elvis Presley returned to his hometown Tupelo on September 27, 1957 to perform a benefit concert for a new Youth Center and park in Tupelo. The proceeds helped purchase his birthplace and as well as build a park for the neighborhood children. Within the Elvis Presley Birthplace Park visitors find the Birthplace, Museum, Chapel, Gift Shop, “Elvis at 13” statue, Fountain of Life, Walk of Life, “Memphis Bound” car feature and Story Wall.



The B. B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center

Located on Highway 82 between Greenwood and Greenville, in the Mississippi Delta, close to the Crossroads at Clarksdale, The B. B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center honors the life and music of B. B. King. Museum exhibits and educational programs build bridges between the community and the world and preserve the Mississippi Delta’s rich cultural and musical heritage. Exhibits explore King’s 60-plus year career through Mr. King’s personal papers, materials, and objects from his life and work, and multi-media and film.

Delta Blues Museum

The Delta Blues Museum, Mississippi’s oldest music museum, is housed in the historic Clarksdale freight depot, which was built in 1918 for the Yazoo and Mississippi Valley Railroad. The Museum preserves, interprets, and encourages interest in the blues and its story. The museum’s hometown, Clarksdale, situated where Highways 61 and 49 connect, has been a center for blues culture since the 1920s. Numerous music legends have been born and raised in this Delta area, such as Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Son House, Ike Turner, Jackie Brenston, Sam Cooke, Junior Parker, and W. C. Handy. Today, visitors flock to Clarksdale where the blues culture has been preserved and the Delta blues tradition continues. The museum offers many current exhibits.

Tanglefoot Trail®

In advance of National Trails Day in 2015, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis designated 10 local and state trails as national recreation trails, adding more than 150 miles to the National Trails System. Tanglefoot Trail® was included. Mississippi’s longest Rails to Trails, preserves the abandoned 43.6-mile railroad corridor passing through the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in the Mississippi Hills National Heritage. These rails were assembled in part for the Gulf and Ship Island Railroad by Col. William Clark Falkner, beginning in 1871.  Replacing the rails with a trail, the Tanglefoot Trail® offers outdoor opportunities to families, groups and visitors of every age. The Tanglefoot Trail® towns include Houston, New Houlka, Algoma, Pontotoc, Ecru, Ingomar, and New Albany.

African American Military History Museum

Opened in 1942, in the segregated army of World War II, the USO Club served as a home away from home for African American soldiers stationed at Camp Shelby and is the only remaining USO constructed especially for African American soldiers in public use in the United States. It is now listed on the National Registry of Historic Places and is a Mississippi Landmark. Hundreds of artifacts, photos and unique displays, including one of the most complete sets of authentic Spanish-American War medals, fill the restored main hall. Each item tells a story of pioneers such as Hattiesburg’s own Jesse L. Brown, America’s first black naval aviator, and lesser-known heroes such as Ruth Bailey Earl, also of Hattiesburg, whose image and actions represented the more than 500 black nurses who served during World War II. Docent-guided and self-guided tour, available Wednesday-Saturday, last approximately 45 minutes to an hour. 

Landrum’s Homestead & Village

The beautifully landscaped Landrum’s Homestead & Village is located off Highway 15 in Laurel. With exhibits, wagon rides, gem mining, nature trails, a Confederate soldier encampment, an Old West Shooting Gallery, and a Native American Village, every visitor steps back into the late 1800s. In addition, through a partnership with the USDA Forest Service and the Mississippi Forestry Commission, the Landrum’s created an educational display on the Civilian Conservation Corps and South Mississippi’s reforestation history to show the importance of preservation and conservation. Biscuits are cooked on an old wood stove and there is a nature trail and a small lake with a pier where people can feed the catfish.  You can also play horseshoes and basketball.

Ship Island

Ship Island played an important role in the history and settlement of the Gulf Coast. In 1699, French explorers named Ship Island, which soon became an important port for French Louisiana. Here, many colonists took their first steps on American soil and Ship Island became known as the “Plymouth Rock” of the Gulf Coast. Once a single island, 1969’s Hurricane Camille split the land mass in two. Ship Island with its tranquil stretches of National Park beaches offers an affordable family vacation to explore, swim and relax for a fun-filled day.  Experience the pristine gulf waters, explore the beaches and tour historic Fort Massachusetts, all part of Gulf Islands National Seashore. Mississippi’s finest beaches are located on Ship Island approximately 11 miles south of Gulfport and Biloxi and are accessible by Ship Island Excursions’ ferry boats, located in the Gulfport Small Craft Harbor. During the 50- minute ferry boat ride, watch for Bottlenose dolphins. Ship Island MS


The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies

Located in Gulfport, Mississippi, the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies (IMMS) is an educational outlet with programs for conservation, education and research of marine mammals and their environment.  The facility also houses an educational museum, a 200 seat auditorium for media presentations and lectures, classrooms, a state-of-the-art veterinary hospital, and more. Visitors of all ages engage in hands-on learning experiences to help them understand and appreciate the species that make Mississippi Gulf Coast waters unique. Explore the interactive museum, and encounter sea creatures such as stingrays, sharks, horseshoe crabs, fish, blue crabs, sea stars, and sea urchins in the new Discovery Room touch pools. There is a fossil dig and a dock to meet dolphins face-to-face.


The Deason House

Built in 1845, the Deason home in Jones County, Mississippi stands as a Greek revival architectural gem from the antebellum era. As the oldest home in Ellisville, it was also the first painted home in the area and its detailed semi-octagonal vestibule is the only one of its kind known to exist in Mississippi, according to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

“It’s one of the oldest structures completely made of longleaf pines in the world because longleaf is only indigenous to the Southeast United States,” said Frances Murphy, Regent of the Tallahala Chapter of the Daughters of the Revolution (DAR). “Studies have shown that the wood was likely cut in the 1830s and the [longleaf pines] are estimated to have been growing in the late 1300s.”

The first owners, Amos and Eleanor Deason, built the home as a farmhouse.

In 1890, Isaac Anderson, Jr. and wife Sarah Rebecca “Sallie” Pool purchased the home and lived there until 1939 when it went into the Anderson estate. In 1965, Mrs. Frances Anderson Smith, a descendant of both Amos Deason and Isaac Anderson, Jr., bought the home and in 1991 presented it to the Tallahala Chapter.

“Actually a lot of the Chapter members are family or descendants of the Anderson family, so I guess you could say it’s still owned by the same family,” said Frances.

Oh, and by the way…it’s haunted.

“The claim to fame the home is most notoriously known for is that Major Amos McLemore, Confederate Army officer was shot and killed in the home during the Civil War by Newton Knight,” said Frances.

Newton Knight had deserted the Confederate Army because of the 20-slave law, which stated that a man owning 20 slaves or more didn’t have to fight. Knight, who had never owned a slave, felt the Civil War had become a “rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight.” Jones County, being mostly wooded country, wasn’t a good place to raise cotton and therefore very few slaves lived there as compared to the rest of the state, Frances explained. Other soldiers with the same sentiments deserted the Confederacy along with Knight. Major Amos McLemore, who was from the area, headed up the troops sent to round up these deserters.

“Newton and his men could have stormed the house and killed everybody, but Newton specifically targeted McLemore,” said Frances. Everyone accepts that Newton Knight killed Amos McLemore even though there was no eye witness to the crime and Newton was never charged. “From this event, the house got the reputation of being haunted.”

Every year, the Saturday before Halloween, the Deason Home hosts a reenactment of the McLemore shooting, with the assistance of the Rosin Heel Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

“They are dressed in Civil War Army uniforms and they sit around the campfire outside,” said Frances, adding that the ladies are dressed in the period costumes. When guests touring the home enter the bedroom where Major McLemore was shot, McLemore is waiting for them. “As he talks to the guests. the door flies open and Newton Knight rushes in. So guests get a little taste of what it was like when the shooting took place.”

The reenactment event, which has been going on for 20 years, is family friendly, said Frances, although it may be a little startling when the gun goes off.

“But nothing gory.”

Frances encourages parents to make the tour a family event because children experience what life was like during the war while learning about the oldest home in Jones County.

“It’s not your traditional Halloween spook house by any stretch of the imagination.”

The house will also be open Halloween night, but rather than a reenactment, the night will be a Ghost Tour with past residents of the house telling their stories.

After all, some stories never die…and some characters refuse to.


For information on special events, tours, cost, and space rental, visit the website:

photo courtesy of  The Deason House

Saint Nicholas

“The roots of Santa Claus are not found in the snows of the North Pole,”

writes Ace Collins in his book Men of Faith, “but were planted by third-century acts of charity in a region we now know as Turkey.” Ancient Christian writings indicate that Nicholas of Myra, born around 270 AD, was a man with a God-given call upon his life.

As a teenager, Nicholas had great compassion for the needy people he encountered. Although his native city of Myra appeared to be an ideal place, a busy financial center with great sophistication, there was a dark side. Hidden in the shadows were brothels where young girls from poor families were sold into sexual slavery.

Nicholas learned of one young girl who was in danger of being forced into prostitution.

Previously, her father’s business failed, causing him to lose everything. Eventually, the family no longer had food and the children were suffering. The father then began to negotiate with local brothel owners to sell his oldest daughter, so that his younger children would not starve.

The night before the girl was to be sold, Nicholas went to the family’s home after dark and tossed a bag of gold through an open window. Months later, Nicholas returned with another bag of gold, delivering it once again secretly. When the father discovered the identity of the donor, he asked Nicholas why he had not given the gifts openly. Nicholas answered, “Because it’s good to give and have only God know about it.”  

After Nicholas’ wealthy parents died, he no longer had gold to give to the needy.

His troubles increased when he entered the priesthood, during the rule of Roman emperors. During this time when Christians were experiencing great persecution, Nicholas was incarcerated because of his faith. Even in prison, he encouraged other prisoners in the faith.

Later, after his release from prison, he began feeding the poor, establishing shelters for the homeless, and finding homes for orphans. When Nicholas became Bishop of Myra, the church coffers were filled with Roman coins. Although some church leaders used the money to provide themselves with lavish lifestyles, Nicholas gave money away. As he traveled through his district, he often dropped coins into the windows of the poor. When he walked about the city, he carried small toys and candy to give to children, and, as he did, he told them stories about Jesus.

As a cardinal in the church, Nicholas of Myra, like Santa, would have been seen in flowing red robes, and early Christian art does reveal that late in his life Nicholas probably had a balding head and a white beard. When he walked the streets, he always had children clinging to his robes and following in his footsteps.

     “Saint Nicholas didn’t become Santa Clause by chance,” writes Ace Collins. “Those who first provided the holidays with a magical elf dressed in red did so as a tribute to the giving spirit of this extraordinary man.”   

by Virginia Dawkins

Image courtesy of “Christmas And New Year Concept” by graphixchon t


Smartphone Holiday Memories

More families travel during the holidays than any other time of year.

In fact, for some families, the holiday season is the only time of tyear they gather together to break bread with loved ones. However, in this day and age smartphones too often pull us away from conversations and family moments, even during the holidays.

But wait…don’t put those smartphones away yet. Use them to create Holiday memories that remain with you and your family forever.  Here are a few ideas:

  1. Memory Books! Having everybody together provides perfect opportunities for recording holiday moments through photos. Thanks to smartphones, just about everyone can and should take pictures because you never know who will catch that unforgettable moment. That said, it’s probably best to have at least one family member looking for and recording moments that tell heartwarming and humorous stories without words. Then, before everyone heads home, have each member handwrite their favorite holiday moment. The person’s actual handwriting makes the memory more personal, especially years later, when the kids have grown and some family members have passed away. Using high-quality stationery to record memories is a nice touch for handcrafted scrapbooks and smash books. (Pinterest has great ideas for smash books) Of course, you can scan handwritten notes into JPGs and use places like Shutterfly, Snapfish, Montage, and Mixbook to produce a professionally developed memory book.

  2. Memory Audios! Smartphones have built-in recorders that can be plugged into the computer and uploaded to WAV or MP3 files. Reminiscing is for everyone, especially the kids, who get to tell stories, but also hear stories about Dad and Mom and Uncle Lewis and even grandparents. Setting aside times to record the memories of individuals, couples and families means you’re also preserving family histories in the storytellers’ voices. Memory audios can be downloaded as MP3s to play whenever you like, just like audiobooks.

  3. Memory Videos! Using simple video programs, you can create private family Youtube videos from the photos and audios, allowing only a specific audience to view them. Now, how cool is that? In addition, smartphones are capable of producing some really good videos. The challenge is keeping a steady hand. There’s nothing more aggravating than a shaky video. Invest in a tripod or prop your phone on a secure place, like a counter or tabletop. If the flat surfaces are not quite high enough, stack some books on top of the surface. You can record game board moments, karaoke moments, football game moments, and even the kids playing outside. Videos can be downloaded as well, but be sure to back them up onto a flash drive, an external hard drive or Windows Cloud. You don’t want to lose precious memories.

To help assure spontaneity, the photographer/recorder/videographer should be as inconspicuous as possible. Still, family members playing to the camera with funny faces and poses and overacting won’t matter. Even the cutups and the hams will be a delight to view in years to come.  

This year, share your “thanks” for family by “giving” future generations holiday memories that last a lifetime. They don’t call them smartphones for nothing!

Shutterfly –

Snapfish –

Montage –

Mixbooks –


by Richelle Putnam

Southern Food Furniture; The Sugar Chest (Part III)

Alternative Forms

As already indicated, the sugar chest was not limited to one design. While most all were constructed around a single bin or series of such bins, the presentation took many unique characteristics. The most common and best known is the divided box set upon a frame, the earliest of which transitioned from the blanket chest, followed by a more sophisticated variance of the cellaret, both forms being carried westward from Virginia and the Carolinas into Kentucky and Tennessee where both styles would persist. The Federal slant front desk, so popular throughout the Shenandoah Valley, would be redesigned in Kentucky’s inner Bluegrass as a sugar desk by the time of the next war with Englandxxii. Such a form served multiple uses, as it could function as a working desk, while beneath the writing surface was located the bin for storage of sugar. Drawers below allowed for the keeping of sugar nippers, spices, and perhaps even linens for the dining room. This extra storage was especially possible in the lesser seen sugar bureau and sugar press. These oddities mimicked larger pieces of furniture by adding extra storage capacity and utility to the basic sugar chest. Less formal were the sugar tables, which provided a work surface in the kitchen with storage capability for sugar. A close relation, but more refined, was the sugar chest modeled after the better known Southern hunt board. These had a combination of drawers and bins with false drawer fronts, accessed by lifting a hinged section of the top board. These may also have served as mixing tables for drinks. Another scarce form of sugar chest is the smallest of practical sizes. While true miniatures and children’s toy sizes (likely cabinet makers’ samples) are known, the least studied are the portable sugar boxes. More plentiful in East Tennessee, these are found as well in Central Kentucky. Just as the cellaret came in a modified traveling size, the sugar chest was also shrunk down to a portable box, compact enough to be kept on the sideboard to lock away cut sugar within easy access of the dining table. As sugar came in large cones, it was convenient to cut the sugar ahead of time and lock away the coin silver sugar bowl in addition to the cones themselvesxxiii.

Whatever the style or state of origin, the sugar chest is a distinctly American and uniquely Southern form that today symbolizes for many an entire culture swept away by a war that shapes our nation to this day. Our current fascination with the sugar chest and similar regional relics was best explained by one of the South’s most beloved advocates many decades ago. To quote Kentucky historian Dr. Thomas D. Clark as he wrote for the 1947

Kentucky issue of “The Magazine Antiques,”

“In this worship of the traditional, relics and mementoes have been preserved, but few families have been vitally concerned with keeping an important manuscript record of the past. Things, rather than records,… have always been marks of distinction….Thus a complex mixture of environmental and sectional influences have shaped the lives and culture of the Kentucky people. They have preserved the main frontier characteristic of individualism, and their provincial natures have enabled them to cling steadfastly to the old ways in many of their customs. In the popular mind the old days were the best. It is impossible for the modern individual to recapture the full spirit of those earlier days so that it may be intermingled with a modern and even more complex society, but it is possible to cling tenaciously to the symbols of the earlier period. History has been important to Kentuckians. Few places in the country have given more time to the study of local history, or made it the basis for a greater local pride. The individual Kentuckian has concerned himself not too much with the full social and contemporary implications of history, but rather with its sweet and nostalgic overtones. To him its mixtures of tradition and obscurity have been sources of personal dignity.”

xxii Scott County, KY Will Books A-B, John Stites Estate February 24th, 1812 references the sale of his “sugar desk” to R. M. Gano for $5.75.

xxiii Author’s collection- a walnut sugar box on four turned legs, Fayette County, Ky origin measuring not quite 17” in height

Gary Dean Gardner is an independent scholar of Southern history & material culture.  A native 10th generation Kentuckian, his maternal roots stretch to Fort Harrod, the first permanent American settlement in the state, where nearby his family established the first congregation of Methodists in 1783, while his father’s family, Tidewater descendants of Pocahontas, includes Virginia’s first native-born historian, Robert Beverley.  Gardner was immersed in history from childhood, early developing an hereditary passion for silver shared by his 8th great grandfather, legendary Virginia planter and Colonial America’s first silver collector, William Fitzhugh.  This genetic collecting desire led to a 30-year study and scholarship in the field of early Southern silver and silversmiths, which soon extended itself to an interest in early Southern cabinetry, stoneware, portraiture, and other affiliated regional decorative arts.  Mr. Gardner is dedicated as well to the study of antebellum African-American arts, history and culture having identified and explored the careers of many enslaved artisans.  Busy helping raise a next generation of family collectors, Gardner continues to explore, write, and speak regionally on Southern antiques and their makers.  

Southern Food Furniture; the Sugar Chest (Part II

PART II (Read Part I)

Earliest American Origins

It is not surprising that a region which still prefers sugar in it vegetables would inspire a furniture form specifically for the storage of that sweet commodity. Perhaps because it is so symbolic of the Southern antebellum home, there has arisen controversy over the true origins of the sugar chest. Early attributions were to both Kentucky and Tennessee, alone and in combination, but further research would indicate an origin in Virginia and the Carolinas. It has been hypothesized that the sugar chest emerged as a metamorphosis of the cellaret or bottle case on stand just as sugar production came to the forefront in Louisiana about 1805. That might be so if referencing only this “classic” sugar chest form we most commonly think of, but this isn’t quite true for the chest altogether, for the earliest types of sugar chests documented seem to have been crafted just inland from coastal Virginia and North Carolinaiii ca. 1750, with references to their use in Virginia dating back to at least that periodiv. In essence, the sugar chest did emerge about the same time sugar came to Louisiana, just much earlier than scholars had once assumed. Sadly, very few sugar chests have retained their full and accurate provenance to such an early period in these two states. Estate inventories, however, prove the continued use of the form for many generations well into the 19th century, primarily in Virginia.

The Virginia Prototype

Article Sugar Chest Williamson County TN8By the middle of the 18th century, the term “sugar chest” seems to have become part of the established vernacularv in Virginia, so it must be assumed that settlers pouring into Kentucky and Tennessee by the 1790svi were already well aware of the wordageviithus the continuation of the term’s use in estate settlement documents of the first years of the 19th century. These “alpha” prototypes of the 18th century followed closely the construction of blanket chests, though generally of a greater capacity and height. They were little more than enlarged blanket boxes with a divided interior to store white and brown sugar & molasses and perhaps coffee, with their sole decorative value derived from their beautifully grained walnut lumberviii from the old growth forests of Virginia. The best boasted simple but elegantly carved cabriole legs, then in vogue, but not with the elegant addition of ball and claw carvings.

These very earliest of sugar chests thus far discoveredix, rather surprisingly, display no real vestigial links to the equally famed Southern cellaret as might be expected. Though the cellaret seems to pre-date the sugar chest in its use in the South by a few decades, it was actually the pattern for the next, and most prolific, generation of the sugar chest that would appear with the dawn of the 19th century. It takes no stretch of the imagination to see that the cabinetmakers of the day would have made simple improvisational adaptations upon the cellaret, then becoming increasingly popular throughout Virginia in the Hepplewhite stylex This makes sense, for by the close of the 18th century, in that period of advancing Louisiana production, sugar was becoming more of a luxury commodity, just as wealth was increasing in the upper South. As such, those earliest utilitarian forms of sugar storage were being replaced by the classical, sophisticated lines borrowed from the Hepplewhite cellaret complete with inlay ornamentation worthy of display in the owner’s finest roomsxi. It was a natural progression to take the general layout of the divided interior meant for the storage of wine bottles and exaggerate it to establish a pattern for the form that would thence forth be utilized for sugar storage until the War Between the States throughout Kentucky and Tennessee, and forever afterwards symbolize that mythic era of antebellum culture for the region as a whole.

Sugar Chests here, there, everywhere?

Article Sugar Chest Miniature Kentucky Sideboard Form6One would be hard pressed to conclude that the Deep South was void of sugar chests, but since the need was never prevalent, the surviving examples fail to be abundant, at least not to an extent they can be easily identified and studied. Several Mississippi sugar chests are known to have Kentucky and Tennessee origins. Examples continue to surface in Alabamaxii, but sound provenance is seldom available to show these were actually made in that state and not simply transported there with the large scale migration to the “Black Belt” region from throughout Tennessee. To date, little reference to sugar chests has been documented from the northern most limits of Georgiaxiii or South Carolinaxiv, but surely some variation was utilized in the inland plantationsxv. While ships could provide sugar to the coastal cities at a cost far reduced from that paid in the Southern “Upcountry,” some form of the sugar chest must have been crafted at some point in the large-scale plantations of the state where they still required the bulk storage of sweets. A very crude sugar table consisting of a safe-like cupboard base with a round table top may solve that puzzle, as a few such examples of this form have surfaced with ties to the Palmetto State. A similar table-like sugar safe has been documented to southern Louisiana. In their simplicity, these Coastal sugar tables of the early 19th century were a throw-back to the very first basic sugar chests that applied function before form.

Going back to the basic question of attribution of origin and the misconception that all sugar chests are from Kentucky or Tennessee, one must understand the economics of the sugar trade to understand why the chest was so important in these two states in comparison to the rest of the South. With the advent of trade by the steamboats, improved roads, & the beginnings of rail travel, all combined with increased efficiency and output in Louisiana’s sugar industry, costs for the commodity droppedxvi throughout most of the South by the 2nd quarter of the nineteenth centuryxvii, then marking a rise again as the 1850s progressed. Commission, or venture, merchants like Jackson, Riddle, & Co. of Philadelphiaxviii contracted with both Louisiana and Mississippi sugar plantations and northern iron manufacturers during the 1830s to swap commodities for goods, and ship both to the remote settlements of the inland South. It was only in this still isolated interior of the region, in Kentucky, Tennessee, and the western portions of Virginia and N. Carolina (and perhaps north Alabama) that a need for the sugar chest did linger. While costs for sugar still necessitated the use of the chest throughout the 1820s, by the 1840s its use in Kentucky and Tennessee was more due to tradition than to need, but ingrained enough in the local society it was still considered an important household assetxix. Because the sugar chest became outdated along the coast so early on with decreased sugar costs, and lingered in the back country for so many decades, we tend to think today that it was a Kentucky or Tennessee innovation. It did, however, reach its peak popularity in those two states due mainly to its extended lifespan there. This may have partially been due as well to a spike in sugar costs, which reached an antebellum record in 1858xx. A survey of central Kentucky and Middle Tennessee estate inventories would verify the continued use of the sugar chest into the 1860s, likely due to that sharp rise in prices that would have affected this region of the upper South more than any other.

Besides migrating south, sugar chests were also carried north by 19th century farmers who retained the pioneer spirit of their ancestors and kept moving in search of cheaper land and better opportunities. Some Kentuckians and Tennesseans never moved, but speculated on lands in the Midwest and set up homes there, sometimes relocating agents or overseers. Either way, furniture from the upper South made its way early on to states like Ohio, Illinois or Indiana, causing many fine sugar chests to lose their true regional identities forever.xxi


Gary Dean Gardner is an independent scholar of Southern history & material culture.  A native 10th generation Kentuckian, his maternal roots stretch to Fort Harrod, the first permanent American settlement in the state, where nearby his family established the first congregation of Methodists in 1783, while his father’s family, Tidewater descendants of Pocahontas, includes Virginia’s first native-born historian, Robert Beverley.  Gardner was immersed in history from childhood, early developing an hereditary passion for silver shared by his 8th great grandfather, legendary Virginia planter and Colonial America’s first silver collector, William Fitzhugh.  This genetic collecting desire led to a 30-year study and scholarship in the field of early Southern silver and silversmiths, which soon extended itself to an interest in early Southern cabinetry, stoneware, portraiture, and other affiliated regional decorative arts.  Mr. Gardner is dedicated as well to the study of antebellum African-American arts, history and culture having identified and explored the careers of many enslaved artisans.  Busy helping raise a next generation of family collectors, Gardner continues to explore, write, and speak regionally on Southern antiques and their makers.  

All images in Part I and II courtesy of John Case Auctions, Knoxville, TN 


iii At least one sugar chest, in desk form and in a vernacular Chippendale styling, is known to the author. This walnut sugar desk of ca. 178-90 retains a long provenance to the Bluegrass of Kentucky back to the 1820s, but from a family who had migrated from the Carolinas. Its holly inlay use and yellow pine secondary wood indicate that this was a prized possession brought with the family through the Cumberland Gap into Kentucky from North Carolina. Such an example reinforces the conjecture that not only styles, but examples of cabinets which would later be copied, were carried westward into the far reaches of the “Back Country” South.

iv Likely one of the first period references to the term “sugar chest” is found in the ledgers of the “Partridge Store” which served planters in the Hanover and Louisa County, Virginia area throughout the 2nd quarter of the 18th century. Their surviving ledgers for 1756, in the account for William Hendrick (son of William Sr. of Amelia County who died ca. 1739) of that year, show among his 28 purchases that year ten hoes, 12 plates, a woman’s cloak, a fan, a sugar chest and lock, and a set of teaware.

v York County, Virginia May 16th, 1763, the inventory of estate of Samuel Tompkins includes a “sugar chest”. Colonial Williamsburg files

vi CWFL film M-1060.2 James Anderson Accounts, 1778-1799, Ledger c, p. 11 references the work of the Williamsburg, Virginia blacksmith in “mending sugar chest” for his neighbor Dr. Barraud.

vii Estate inventories from prior to1800 are scant anyway, but the use of the term “sugar chest” seems to occur on a regular basis in Kentucky and Tennessee sometime prior to 1810. Anne S. McPherson, in her article An Abode of Sweetness, the Sugar Chest and Sugar Box, cites an early reference to the use in the January 1805 inventory of Thomas Bedford, Rutherford County, TN Wills & Inventories, Book 2, page 2.

viii This early Virginia form would linger primarily in south central Kentucky well into the 1840s, while the inner Bluegrass Region as well as Middle Tennessee would transition to a form based upon the cellaret.

ix Sandra Crowther collection, Lynchburg Va.- lower Tidewater origin in the Queen Anne style ca. 1750-60

x Paul H. Burroughs in his classic 1931 reference Southern Antiques, references a cellaret of North Carolina origin which he dates to ca. 1690-1700, as well as Queen Anne versions from both North and South Carolina from the 1720’s on.

xi Inlaid sugar chests are virtually unknown outside of Tennessee and Kentucky, with considerable scarcity even from Tennessee. The lack of such sophisticated ornamentation cannot, however, be the sole determination of status or wealth of the original owners. Some of the finest plantation homes of Middle Tennessee, as surveyed in Williamson County, boasted very simple sugar chests in their dining rooms. Reference Rick Warwick’s Williamson County: More Than a Good Place to Live, 2005.

xii There has been documented a Chippendale variety from ca. 1780 sitting low to the ground with fine ogee feet which surfaced in Alabama with a Tennessee provenance though, as with many early Tennessee antiques, it likely was brought into the state from North Carolina.

xiii The historic “Bobo House” in Union County, South Carolina displays a sugar chest, but it retains a provenance of having been brought by the family to SC at the turn of the 18th century from Baltimore.

xiv Will Book- Oglethorpe County, Georgia July 24th, 1868, “I, Mary Ann Black, being of sound and disposing mind and memory do make, publish and declare this to be my last Will and Testament hereby revoking all other wills by me before made. Item 1st I give and bequest unto Charles Filmore Sanders son of William J. Sanders my bed that I now sleep on and the furniture with it and one small chest known as my sugar chest, and one small round trunk.”

xv An Upson County, GA sugar chest of poplar & yellow pine from ca. 1840-60 resided in the collection of William & Florence Griffin. See Neat Pieces- the Plain Style Furniture of 19th Century Georgia, #81.

xvi See California Digital Library “Sugar and Origins of Modern Philippine Society” for an interesting overview of “global” sugar economies as they impacted one small agrarian island nation

xvii Parrelling the dropping cost of sugar, the sugar chest in the estate inventories of the mid-19th century reflect a serious devaluation. Period auction prices referenced include the following: Bullitt Co. Ky Will Book D- Richard Brashear estate March 17th 1851, “A sugar chest was sold to “Old Lady”/Widow Sarah for .75 cents”; Garrard Co. Ky Order Book P. pgs 436-37 Emanual Higginbotham estate, to “Martha Baugh 1 sugar chest and little wheel $1.90”; Barren Co. Ky Inventory Book 6:355 John King estate Dec. 2nd, 1851, to “Thomas king, sugar chest $4.60”; Washington Co. Ky Will Book J-601 J T Jarboe estate December 4th 1856, to “Mahala Jarboe one sugar chest $1.00”

xvii For details on the trade practices of this firm, references their records in the following collections: Southard Papers, Princeton Library, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, and “Records of Ante-Bellum Southern Plantations” in the Southern Historical Collection, University of NC-Chapel Hill

xix Reference Scott County, Ky mortgage book pates 17-18, and indenture between James Moore and William Moore conveying in exchange for previously mortgaged debt by the Branch Bank of Kentucky a tract of “100 acres on Lane’s run and …the following Negro slaves to wit: Nancy, Jane, Tom, Lucinda, George, Harvey, John, Henry, also twelve head of horses, one cart & yoke of oxen, six head of cattle, sixteen head of stock hogs, six head of sheep, twenty barrels of corn, three beds, bedstands, and furniture, two bureaus, one sugar chest, and one clock & about 12 acres of hemp unbroken.” 2/25/1843

xx Louisiana State Museum, “A Medley of Cultures”, Hickman-Bryan Papers, the University of Missouri, Louisiana History Timeline, Louisiana Educational Television, John Gurley Papers, Louisiana State University (after the war, prices plunged to .25 cents a pound- Charles T. Daggs letter 2/11/1866)

xxi Clark County, Ohio Will Book- will of John Winn (of Springfield) to his wife Hosea Ballou Winn “ my carriage and harness, all my farming utensils, my brass clock, my silver plate, the whole of my household of kitchen furniture, including my secretary, bookcase of books, desk, beer can, sugar chest, beds of furniture” Per “A Lineage & Brief History of the Rawlings Family” Urbana Ohio 1931, “John Winn was a Virginian by birth, and that he emigrated to Fleming County, Kentucky about the year 1796. This account says that “He came to Kentucky from Virginia in an ox cart with no property save a Negro boy and his cattle.” When he came to Ohio, a free state, he freed all his slaves and gave his name as security for their good behaviour.” Purnell short was born 9/29/1779 in Scott County, Kentucky. He migrated to Greene County Illinois by ox team in the fall of 1833 and settled south of Carrollton, Illinois, dying 2/14/1851. From the Greene Co., Ill. Record Book C-346, “For a consideration of $37.00 on March 15, 1832, Purnell Short apparently took a chattel mortgage from James Self on one waton and gears, one bay mare and sorrel mare with one eye, one sorrel horse, two beds and bedding, a table and candlestand, one sugar chest, a cupboard and other household goods for 35 acres of land valued at $67.62.”











Southern Food Furniture; the Sugar Chest (Part I)

Part 1

From the earliest Colonial period,

Southern social activity has been linked to the preparation and sharing of food, with the climax of any important Southern occasion being based upon the enjoyment of good food and good company. Having such an emphasis on food in our lives, it comes as little surprise that our ancestors crafted special furniture just for the presentation and/or preservation of food.

Few forms in American furniture are truly unique.

Article Sugar Chest Kentucky3Even the Democratic stability of the young United States as was manifested in wood during the Federal period is based heavily upon the classicism in French styles of the late 18th century. The French in turn had borrowed from the Greeks and Romans long before. Americans of the early 19th century as a whole seemed to be struggling so in creating an identity that there was little originality in furniture function and form. In the American South, however, we find a long established agrarian culture with multi-generational webs of common ancestry that, while far from homogeneous, encouraged a comparable social structure within the majority of the 13 states which formed the region. This cultural basis bound these states together, allowing an early individualized sense of expression to develop in the decorative arts which directly influenced unique furniture adaptations. Function, not fashion alone, began to demand form, and as the planter culture started to set itself apart from its northern neighbors, a distinct separation can be noted in furniture production north to south.

Dismissing fictionalized “Gone with the Wind” accounts of plantation life,

Article Sugar Chest Middle TN5we know that the planter class worked hard to tame their acres and cultivate their rich, overgrown lands as pioneers transformed themselves into landed gentry, modeling their American identities on the English system of class they initially wished to replicate. These early generations had little time for pretensioni, yet they demanded festive interaction and revelry with their peers, in social opposition to the Puritans of New England. Their homes were large, to accommodate big families both black and white, but just as the “plantation” houses were designed to be used, so their furnishings had to meet the same demands. With the exception of the coastal cities, imported and custom-made furniture (from England or the northeast) was a luxury during the colonial period and early 19th century prior to the establishment of large scale furniture factories in Philadelphia and later Cincinnati, which shipped heavily downriver with improvements in the steamboat and navigation of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. While beauty may have been desired by Southerners to imitate that of nature so abundant all around them, use was of most importance to the colonial Southern planter. In this light we can better understand the unique regional furniture forms that developed, inclusive of the slab or hunt board and biscuit rock, incorporating both utility and design. Cabinetry had to be strong for endurance, meeting the multiple needs of the plantation family, and yet reflecting some sense of the owner’s position and expanding wealth.

Sugar Comes to Dixie

The uniquely “Southern” furniture forms that emerged certainly met these criteria. Examples tended to develop in pockets, with close “cousins” throughout various sectors and along established inland trade routes. This is quite true of the sugar chest. For the novice, the sugar chest was specifically designed to store sugar in bulk. Unlike a meal chest, which might have been delegated to the meat house or kitchen and thus removed from the primary residence altogether, sugar was so valuable to the plantation household that it was kept under lock and key in the dining room. The high cost of sugar resulted from the fact that semi-tropical Louisiana was virtually the sole annual source for sugar and its distribution in the U.S. prior to the War Between the States, thanks in part to the Jesuit priests who had brought the sugar cane to that state in 1751. The first sugar mill was established later that same decade by Claude-Joseph Dubreuil de Villars. Creole planter/scientist Jean Etienne de Bore developed the process to granulate sugar around 1794, attaining success with a $12,000 sugar crop in 1795. By 1796, there were 10 sugar refineries in Louisiana. Shipped in hogsheads of about 1000 pounds each, of which only 5000 such barrels were produced in 1802ii, supply was greatly outweighed by demand. It wasn’t until the advent of improved production methods and the increased importation of slaves into Louisiana, as well as efficient commercial steamboats and the charting and clearing of navigable inland waterways, that sugar could make its way to the upper South at a more reasonable cost. Ironically, it was a free man of color, New Orleans native scientist and engineer Norbert Rillieux, who developed more efficient techniques in evaporating sugar cane juice by a vacuum pan method for the refining of sugar, and thus aided America’s most slave dependent industry.


Gary Dean Gardner, Independent Scholar of Southern History & Material Culture

Gary Dean Gardner is an independent scholar of Southern history & material culture.  A native 10th generation Kentuckian, his maternal roots stretch to Fort Harrod, the first permanent American settlement in the state, where nearby his family established the first congregation of Methodists in 1783, while his father’s family, Tidewater descendants of Pocahontas, includes Virginia’s first native-born historian, Robert Beverley.  Gardner was immersed in history from childhood, early developing an hereditary passion for silver shared by his 8th great grandfather, legendary Virginia planter and Colonial America’s first silver collector, William Fitzhugh.  This genetic collecting desire led to a 30-year study and scholarship in the field of early Southern silver and silversmiths, which soon extended itself to an interest in early Southern cabinetry, stoneware, portraiture, and other affiliated regional decorative arts.  Mr. Gardner is dedicated as well to the study of antebellum African-American arts, history and culture having identified and explored the careers of many enslaved artisans.  Busy helping raise a next generation of family collectors, Gardner continues to explore, write, and speak regionally on Southern antiques and their makers.

All images in Part I and II courtesy of John Case Auctions, Knoxville, TN.


i Wealth and leisure came early to the coastal South, primarily to Charleston and Tidewater Virginia. The author defers all respect to his Fitzhugh, Randolph, Bland and Byrd ancestors who were the exceptions to the rule for most Southern society.

ii One of the best works on agrarian economy in antebellum Louisiana, courtesy of the Louisiana State Museum, “A Medley of Cultures.”


Hwy 80 Songwriters Fest

Since the first Hwy 80 Songwriters fest in 2013,

which was made possible in part by an AT&T grant, the purpose and mission of the Hwy 80 Songwriters Fest were to expand the songwriter’s platform and territory, provide education in the songwriting craft for songwriters of all ages and levels of expertise, to build and support the creative economy in West Alabama and East Mississippi and to ignite the public’s understanding and appreciation for songwriters and their craft. Venues this year have included City Hall lawn, Demopolis, AL, Hal & Mal’s Restaurant and the Arts Center of Mississippi in Jackson. Now, the Montgomery Institute invites you to enjoy the Hwy 80 Songwriters Fest in Meridian from July 28-30, 2016.

The Fest, through The Montgomery Institute,

was awarded a $4,100.00 from the Mississippi Arts Commission (MAC). This grant is a portion of the $1.5 million in grants the commission will award in the 2016-2017 and will be used for the 2016 Hwy 80 Songwriters Fest. The grants are made possible by continued funding from the Mississippi State Legislature and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Organizations that support the arts play a pivotal role in growing Mississippi’s creative economy,” said Malcolm White, Executive Director of MAC. “The Mississippi Arts Commission is pleased to support their work, which reinforces the value of the arts for communities and for the economic development of our state.”

The Mississippi Arts Commission, a state agency,

serves the residents of the state by providing grants that support programs to enhance communities; assist artists and arts organizations; promote the arts in education and celebrate Mississippi’s cultural heritage. Established in 1968, the Mississippi Arts Commission is funded by the Mississippi Legislature, the national Endowment for the Arts, the Mississippi Endowment for the Arts at the Community foundation of Greater Jackson and other private sources.  The agency serves as an active supporter and promoter of arts in community life and in arts education.

The mission of The Montgomery Institute

is to “upbuild the people and places of the East Mississippi and West Alabama region guided by the leadership legacy of G. V. ‘Sonny’ Montgomery.”  To accomplish its mission, TMI has undertaken initiatives in leadership development, rural place building, educational enhancement, workforce development, research and information dissemination, regional cooperation, and innovation.

On July 28, Squealer’s Restaurant and News Restaurant

in North Meridian welcome local and regional songwriters and with rounds beginning at 6:30 pm. On July 29, in downtown Meridian at 7 pm, Weidmann’s Restaurant, The Brickhaus Brewtique and The Echo Downtown welcome nine Mississippi/Alabama songwriters from outside the region. No matter what venue you choose, before the night is over, audiences will hear every songwriter come through their venue.  See the Hwy 80 Songwriters Fest Facebook page for more details.

On July 30 at noon, the historical Soule Feed Steamworks

welcomes Tricia Walker, Grammy Award winning songwriter, Director of Delta Music Institute and a MAC Roster Artist, who will facilitate the pro songwriting workshop. At 2:30 pm Shawna P (Pierce), a finalist in The Voice, whose mentor was Shakira, will facilitate a vocal performance workshop for all ages interested in singing and performing. ShawnaP facilitates these vocal workshops all over Alabama, from Muscle Shoals to the FloraBama. At 4:45 pm, the Open-Mic session begins, which is open to all ages and levels. The Grand Finale begins at 7 pm with Tricia Walker, ShawnaP and MAC Roster Artist, three-time Blues Award Winner and eleven-time Blues nominee Eden Brent.

The Hwy 80 Songwriters Fest would not be possible without grant awards from The Meridian Council for the Arts, Community Foundation of East Mississippi, and the Mississippi Arts Commission. Financial sponsors include Mitchell Distributing, Structural Steel Services, Mississippi Main Street and Mississippi Writers Guild. In-kind support comes from Kabana Productions, Soule Steam Feed Works and Mississippi Public Broadcasting and Supertalk Meridian 103.3. Media support includes The Radio People, WMOX, WTOK, The Meridian Star, The Meridian Family of Stations, The Eagle. Other support includes the City Meridian, Lauderdale County, East Mississippi and West Alabama and the communities therein.

Please check the Hwy 80 Songwriters Fest Facebook page for more details or call 601/880-1089




 Mac McAnally, The Williams Brothers, Sonny Landreth, And Muddy Magnolias To Perform March 5 at Bologna Performing Arts Center

CLEVELAND, MISS. (FEB. 27, 2016)  – Following the opening of GRAMMY Museum® Mississippi on Saturday, March 5, a benefit concert will be held that evening at Delta State University’s Bologna Performing Arts Center, headlined by eight-time CMA Musician of the Year recipient Mac McAnally and multiple GRAMMY® Award nominees The Williams Brothers. Also set to perform are Mississippi-born slide guitarist Sonny Landreth and friends, and rising female soul rock duo Muddy Magnolias. Titled “Back Where I Come From,” the concert will explore these artists’ Mississippi ties through a special evening of music and conversation.

“We couldn’t think of a better way to pay respect to the people who have brought us so much enjoyment through their music than to have them perform during this exciting weekend,” said Lucy Janoush, President of the Cleveland Music Foundation. “There will also be special guests in attendance who will be recognized for their lasting contributions to the music we all love.”

“As native Mississippians, we are truly honored to be a part of this grand opening,” said The Williams Brothers’ Doug Williams. “The heritage of gospel music has very deep roots here in Mississippi and many gospel greats came from this state. We would like to personally thank the GRAMMY Museum for recognizing the rich musical heritage of this state, and for opening only the second museum of this nature here on these grounds.

Doug Williams’ brother Melvin added, “There are artists that put a stamp on my heart and soul so deep ‘til this day, it still remains relevant after all these years, especially ones with Mississippi roots like Aretha Franklin, The Staple Singers, Bo Diddley, Sam Cooke, and my dad, Leon “Pop” Williams, and the legendary Jackson Southernaires. Me being a country boy born and raised in Mississippi singing gospel music from the cottons fields to being recognized as part of such an historic event as the GRAMMY Museum Mississippi grand opening is priceless. I feel like Mississippi has been honored with a Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award, and The Williams Brothers are part of the presenters.”

“Back Where I Come From” will take place on March 5 at 7:30 p.m. at Bologna Performing Arts Center on the campus of Delta State University, 1003 West Sunflower Road, Cleveland, Miss.  Tickets range in price from $50-$100 and can be purchased by the general public beginning Wednesday, March 2, by calling Bologna Performing Arts Center at 662-846-4626. For a full schedule of GRAMMY Museum Mississippi grand opening events, visit

Malcolm White, Executive Director of the Mississippi Arts Commission, said,

“The artists who will perform and be recognized represent the very best of Mississippi, our story and the goodness of our diverse and curious history. Mississippi’s rightful real estate in the American musical landscape is firmly anchored in gospel and country as well blues, rock, jazz and pop music. Every night is Mississippi Night in the wide, wide world of American Music.”

Mac McAnnally –

Chart-topping recording artist, accomplished producer, hit songwriter and studio owner Mac McAnally marked another note in history with a record-breaking eight consecutive wins as the Country Music Association’s Musician of the Year in 2015.  McAnally was first honored with the Musician of the Year award in 2008, and has won every year since.  Beyond being one of the most respected guitar players and vocalists in Nashville, he has also been nominated for a CMA Award as an artist.

A.K.A. Nobody is McAnally’s latest solo album, sung, performed and produced by the much beloved session ace.  All but one of its songs were written by McAnally, either on his own or with illustrious co-writers including Jimmy Buffett, Kenny Chesney, Zac Brown, Sonny Landreth, Chris Stapleton, Al Anderson, and others.  Working with an all-star assembly of friends and studio colleagues, McAnally achieves a rare blend of deep soul and polished technique on each track.  The ironic tile notwithstanding, the music of A.K.A. Nobody speaks to everybody.

McAnally’s depth and breadth as an artist are no secret with the recording community.  McAnally grew up in Belmont, Mississippi and was raised on church choirs and formal lessons, playing pro gigs at 13, tutored on the mysteries of session excellence at the historic Muscle Shoals Studios and relocated to Nashville, he was an essential ingredient on studio dates with Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton George Strait, Lee Ann Womack, Randy Travis, George Jones, Billy Joel and many other headliners.  And with a track record that includes writing No. 1 hits on his own for Kenny Chesney (“Down the Road”) and Alabama (“Old Flame”) as well as penning chart-toppers for Sawyer Brown (“All These Years”) and Shenandoah (“Two Dozen Roses”), it’s no wonder that he has been voted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Sonny Landreth –

Born in Canton, Mississippi, Sonny grew up in Lafayette, Louisiana. The melding of those two places gave him the name “King of Slydeco” from his inimitable slide guitar technique together with southwest Louisiana influences of zydeco. He has enjoyed a prolific career for decades as a solo artist, celebrated sideman and session player. Over the years he performed and recorded with artists that include British blues innovator John Mayall and toured as a member of Jimmy Buffett’s band as well.

Landreth’s latest album Bound by the Blues was released in 2015. Vintage Guitar magazine said, “Landreth is arguably the finest living slide-guitar player on the planet.” The instrumental “Firebird Blues” from that album was created for his hero and fellow guitar ace Johnny Winter, who also grew up in Mississippi.

As Landreth said, “It’s always been about getting out on the road and playing these songs anyway. For me, it’s a continuum of that, with the songwriting process, going in to record and taking that out on the road. That’s still a familiar format for me, although a lot of the other moving parts have changed. As long as it’s soulful and I can get the message out there, I’m in.”

Muddy Magnolias –

the soulful duo of Kallie North and Jessy Wilson, are fresh on the music scene after meeting in Nashville just three years ago. Within six months of individually landing in Music City, North and Wilson met, became songwriting partners and bandmates. Before releasing a single, Muddy Magnolias had earned rave reviews from national press.  Rolling Stone praised, “a sound that melds city grit and Delta dirt, exploding onstage not like two lead singers but more like parts of the same whole…performed as if Mick Jagger and Keith Richards inhabited the Indigo Girls.”  They also landed a coveted spot in Elle magazine’s 2015 Women in Music issue. Now, with new music produced by Butch Walker (Weezer, Pink, Panic! At The Disco, Fall Out Boy) the pair are poised for their real breakthrough.

About GRAMMY Museum Mississippi

Built and operated by the Cleveland Music Foundation —

a non-profit organization developed in 2011 — the 28,000-square-foot GRAMMY Museum Mississippi will be housed near the campus of Delta State University, home of the Delta Music Institute’s Entertainment Industry Studies program, which features the most unique audio recording facilities in the South. Similar to its sister Museum — the GRAMMY Museum at L.A. LIVE — GRAMMY Museum Mississippi will be dedicated to exploring the past, present and future of music, and the cultural context from which it emerges, while casting a focused spotlight on the deep musical roots of Mississippi. The Museum will feature a dynamic combination of public events, educational programming, engaging multimedia presentations, and interactive permanent and traveling exhibits, including a Mississippi-centric display that will introduce visitors to the impact of Mississippi’s songwriters, producers and musicians on the traditional and modern music landscape. The Mississippi Museum’s debut special exhibit will be Ladies and Gentlemen…The Beatles! Curated by the GRAMMY Museum at L.A. LIVE and Fab Four Exhibits, Ladies and Gentlemen…The Beatles! provides fresh new insight into how and why The Beatles impacted America in the 1960s — and beyond.

For more information on about GRAMMY Museum Mississippi, visit For breaking news and exclusive content, follow @GRAMMYMuseumMS on Twitter and Instagram, and like “GRAMMY Museum Mississippi” on Facebook.

Photos courtesy of the GRAMMY Museum® Mississippi