Old Capitol’s Mystery Architect Revealed! (somewhat)

Our friend Blake Wintory, he of the popular Tale of Two Domes series a few weeks ago, sent me an intriguing advertisement he came across while looking through The Chicot Press, the Lake Village, Arkansas newspaper. In the January 17, 1861 issue, he found this:

In case that’s hard to read, here’s the text:

A. J. Herod
Architect and Builder,
Lake Village
Arkansas
Solicits contracts for buildings of every
style.  He is also prepared to furnish Designs,
Estimates, and Perspective Drawings of all the
modern orders of architecture: build, measure,
superintend, and furnish workings plans for
buildings, at moderate prices.

Those who have read John Ray Skates book, Mississippi’s Old Capitol, Biography of a Building, might recall the barest of mentions of A.J. Herod on pages 87-88, where we find that Herod was appointed State Architect by Governor Benjamin G. Humphreys in 1865 and his primary job apparently was to inspect the State House and oversee repairs. Humphreys, of course, was a Confederate general and was our first unreconstructed governor, in office between 1865 and 1868 when the Feds got wise to his capers and put in their own governor. As you might expect, Humphreys’ choice for State Architect was also a Confederate veteran, as I found out through a friend who had access to Confederate records, where we find that Herod was a Captain in the C.S. Army.

But we really knew very little more about Herod, including his qualifications for being State Architect or even his first name.

Knowing from the above advertisement that Herod was in Chicot County in 1861, Blake did some more digging and found him in the 1860 census, where we find that the “A” in “A.J.” stands for “Andrew.” In 1860, Herod’s occupation is listed as “Mechanic,” a common way of referring to building contractors in that day. In that census we also find that Herod was a native of Mississippi and was 33 years of age, born about 1827. That’s a lot more information than we started this post with!

Blake also found Herod in the 1870 census, in Yazoo County now but living as a farmer, not a mechanic. If he was State Architect for any length of time under Humphreys, he surely was thrown out when Humphreys was. He also apparently lost his wife in the 1860s, as he is by himself with the children, the youngest of whom is three. His change in occupation isn’t unheard of, but might indicate the low level of building going on in that turbulent decade.

Herod apparently lived well into old age, as he is last heard of (so far) in Living Monuments: Confederate Soldiers Homes in the New South, where on page 104, we find he checked into Beauvoir in 1905 and was discharged in 1909. The fact that he lived out his life in Yazoo County makes for an interesting coincidence: the Old Capitol’s original architect, William Nichols, also spent his latter years on a farm in Yazoo County.

Thanks to Blake Wintory for grabbing onto this little snippet of information from a newspaper advertisement and using it to shed some light on one of our more mysterious State Architects!



Categories: Architectural Research

4 replies

  1. Lake Village on Lake Chicot became Chicot County’s seat in 1857 (replacing earlier seats along the Mississippi River); Since Herod’s 2 year old child was born in Arkansas, according to the 1860 Census, he had been there since at least 1858. He was most likely in the town to take advantage of new construction. The January 17, 1861 issue of the Chicot Press is the only extant issue from the antebellum era; as far as I know there aren’t any antebellum Washington County, Miss. papers.

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    • I am intrigued………my family (fraternal grandmother was a Herod) might be related.
      She was Loulia Herod (Drew County Arkansas) and oftern talked of a connection to the Mississippi State Capitol …….of the architect that her family was related to ? Could this be the same Herod ?

      Patricia McDermott Scavo
      Born in Chicot County

      Like

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