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Shankstown

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(Webmaster's note: This article is in two parts.)


Jefferson County Tidbit # 21 (Shankstown)


  This TIDBIT is taken from a manuscript that I found in the WPA records of an interview with Mrs. Hays .. neither the person who did the interview or the date it was done is given.  Charlotte Polxena Farley Hays is the person who was interviewed.  She was born on the 4th of January 1844 and died on the 27th of September 1936.  The first paragraph sets the stage .. so here goes:


   "The Hays home on the outskirts of Lorman, MS is a picturesque old house surrounded by wide lawns and sheltered by tall cedars dripping with wisteria vines.  Mrs. Hays herself, a tiny white haired old lady, met me at the door and very graciously bade me enter.  She gave me a chair in the high ceiling hall and seated herself beneath an oil painting of a stern faced pioneer, she began to tell me of her youth in Shankstown eighty years ago."
   This is where the interview began .....


   "My folks were among the first to settle around here.  I've lived here
myself for ninety three years. My grandfather, Robert Farley .. that's his picture up there [... came out here from Virginia in the Indian times.  I
don't know what year... He married a Miss Watts.  She was an only daughter and inherited all of her father's property. He had taken out Spanish grants to something like two thousand acres of land.  They lived two miles south of here. My father, George Porterfield Farley, was the only son of that marriage. The daughters had all moved away .. some to Ohio .. and my father inherited all of the land.  He used to be a hatter  and made hats for a living but became a farmer.  He lived at Shankstown on the old Indian trail right over there in the woods , south of Lorman. It was a good sized town over there then.  There were some stores, a blacksmith shop, a place for stabling horses. An old German by the name of Getzendanner kept a tavern and his wife had a millinery shop.  There was a doctor there, I don't recall his name, but his grave is there in the cemetery at Shankstown.  It was the only trading place between Port Gibson and Greenville.  The settlers came here to trade and to
the smithy.  Folks couldn't get around except in wagons and buggies then. They would go to Natchez for what they couldn't get locally and bring it home on pack horses."


   "There were plenty of robbers in this part of the country then.  They
caught one that had robbed and murdered lots of folks and hung him on one of the oaks in front of the College at Washington.  I don't recall his name but it wasn't Harp."


   "When this country was first opened up to the settlers, they built a fort
to protect themselves from the Indians.  It stood there in Lorman on the hill across the way from the Methodist parsonage, right where Mrs. Regan's house is now.  They built it of logs and cut holes in the walls to put their rifles through.  Oh yes, they had plenty of fights with the Indians back then. The hill top is a veritable graveyard.  They shot them down and buried them where they dropped."


   "That was before my time but the logs of the old fort were still there
for years.  We used to see them when we went by to go to school.  The school was at Cane Ridge Church.  No, there wasn't a settlement there back then .. just the log schoolhouse and church.  A man by the name of Houston taught school.  I went there until I was nine years old and then my father sent me to school at Nazareth, Kentucky."


   "Things had changed a lot when I came home and got married.  That was after the Civil War.  Dr. Archer Hays came down from Baltimore, Maryland.  He had just finished college and had come out here to practice medicine.  He first went to the house of his cousin, James Archer, at Church Hill, but there was no trade down there for a doctor so he came here.  There wasn't any doctor in Shankstown so he settled there and he was here when I came home from school."


   "My father owned and had cleared all of his land and he gave me this
tract.  We built this house in 1870, the first house anywhere around here.  I planted those cedar myself.  The next house that was built in Lorman was put up by Julius Weiss who came here from Rodney.  He built the house that was later used as a hotel.  His store was right beside it but that later burned. They stopped using the old Indian trail and most every one moved away from Shankstown and it was finally abandoned."


   "No, Coon-Box was not an outskirt or suburb of Shankstown.  They were several miles apart.  Coon-Box was on the Trace southwest of here.  Some folks say that Jackson's men came through Shankstown, but they didn't.  Jackson's men marched down the road by Coon-Box and through Greenville.  They got things wrong lots of times.  Do you know that someone wrote a history of Lorman and said that Lorman was built in a cane brake?  There weren't any cane brakes then.  This is the first house built here and the rest were built in an old cotton field.  I ought to know for I was living right here then."


    "I remember the Battle of Port Gibson.  The soldiers were all through
here.  We were all afraid for our stock and property but they never took a thing.  My father was away from home and the soldiers came and camped in front of the house.  Two officers were at the house when he came in.  He was riding a fine saddle horse and he had it carried to the stable and fed.  Then he invited the officers in and gave them a good dinner. ... They didn't touch a thing."


   This is where the interview with Mrs. Hays ended.  However, the article
goes on and will be continued in the next Tidbits!!!!


Anebec's Notes:  In the Jefferson County marriage records:
23 Sep 1829     Robert Farley married Polly Watts    
29 Dec 1863     Charlotte P. Farley married Dr. Archer Hays
12 Feb 1863     Christine Farley married Abram J. Melton
27 Mar 1866     Miss George Farley  married Lawrence J. Slay


Robert Farley gave Charlotte a plantation just south of the Hays Plantation.
It is now known as Melton.


Trust you found this interesting  ...  Ann Brown


Jefferson County # 23  Shankstown - continued


   This is a continuation of the article written which was in the WPA
records. Do not know who the person was doing the interview.  She/He  writes:


   Shankstown is now but a dim memory. The old Indian trail is a grass grown ditch and only scattered clumps of china trees and old bricks here and there about the pastureland where the little village stood.  I turned off the Lorman-Red Lick road onto a narrow pasture path.  A few yards and I came to a cleared spot where a group of tall cedars, several clumps of crepe myrtles and the traces of an old driveway indicated where a house had once stood.  At a negro cabin close by which had survived the master's house, a man told me that Shankstown was a half mile down the pasture path.  I drove on.  The way was deep cut in places the banks were eight and ten feet high.  This had been an old settlement road for pioneers going to the mill or the blacksmith shop or for a glass of liquor at the tavern.  In a little settlement of negro cabins, a woman told me that I was at the site of the town.  Pastures rolled away on every side, gnarled chinas and a few scattered cedars told of an earlier habitation.  
   The woman called her husband from the field to show me the old cemetery. The narrow road wound on through the woods to the southward and I was forced to abandon the car and walk.
   The old Indian trail was pointed out to me by my guide.  It was just a
grassy hollow that crossed the path that we were following.  He said that it went on to the Coon-Box and then on down to old Greenville.,  We left the narrow road and pushed through the under brush down a wooded ridge. There was the graveyard.
   My guide told me that his father was raised in Shankstown and at that
time it was a real town.  It had four or five stores and plenty of folk's
houses.  At one time there were lots of graves at this place on the ridge. He said that when he was a little boy there were gravestones all over the place. He didn't know what had happened to them.
   He showed me the remaining stone, a thin plate of marble lying flat on the ground at the foot of a huge oak.  It was broken across in several places and almost buried in the leaves and mold.  I could read the single line ... L. M. Murphy.  There was no date, no explanatory phrase, no epitaph.  The man who lay beneath the marble plate was as completely erased as the town in which he lived  .. a name and nothing more.  There were other graves about marked only by slight depressions in the leaves but I could find no more stones.  
This is the end of the WPA article about Shankstown


    Rowland writes that Shankstown was never regularly platted but had a large number of business houses, a few stores and a number of shops.


Ann Brown
 


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