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: http://www.deasonhome.org/
photo courtesy of The Deason House