Architects of Mississippi: William Stanton

Maybe you remember the post “From Charleston to Vicksburg With Love” from a while back about the connection between Vicksburg and Charleston, SC, namely the architect of Vicksburg’s Episcopal Church of the Holy Trinity started his career in Charleston, with a number of high-quality churches and other commissions there. In that post, I mentioned the builder who became an architect while building Holy Trinity, William Stanton. Stanton started his life and his career in Natchez, where his father apparently was engaged in the building trades. He spent most of his life in Vicksburg, though, and his son, William A. Stanton, carried on his firm well into the twentieth century.

A Civil War veteran, Stanton was one of those transitional figures spanning the 19th and 20th centuries whose career began in the trades, proceeded into supervising large building projects of the kind that were becoming possible in  the middle of the 19th century, and ended on the design side as an architect.

I’ve never found a picture of him, but there’s got to be one out there given his lifespan. After finding this great obituary from January 1908, I tracked down his grave marker in Jackson’s Greenwood Cemetery, where two infant children from his brief stay in Jackson in the early 1870s tied him and his wife to this place far from their home. It’s interesting that his grave marker mentions only his war service, nothing else, not even his birth and death dates. The importance of the Civil War in his life, and the physical scars he apparently bore the rest of his life, is underscored by the headline in his obituary. Mrs. Stanton’s marker is even more minimal, titled simply “Mother”–these are solid, non-ostentatious people, given to boiling things down to their essence.

I don’t know about you, but I think it’s pretty great to have a life remembered as “useful, busy and well-spent,” a marriage described as “a long story of devotion and love,” and the character of “an upright, efficient Christian gentleman.”

The obituary also casts an interesting light on Holy Trinity, noting that Stanton took the most pride in it (rightfully so) and also that he “revised the original plans.” Hmmmm . . . sounds like some further study of that project is needed.

WILLIAM STANTON’S USEFUL CAREER ENDS

Prominent Citizen and Architect Died This Morning–He Served Through War–Funeral in Jackson

Shortly before 5 o’clock this morning, Mr. William Stanton, one of Vicksburg’s most honored and respected citizens, closed his eyes in final sleep and the Death Angel ended a long and useful career. Mr. Stanton had been acutely ill since November 10th. His ill health had its beginning in an attack of la grippe in 1891, since which time he never regained his health and vigor.

Mr. Stanton suffered little during his last sickness. He received every care and attention. Until almost the end he was conscious and gave directions about his burial.

The funeral will be held Sunsday at 11:45 o’clock at Holy Trinity Episcopal church, Rev. J.C. Johnes officiating. The remains are to be carried to Jackson where interment will take place. The funeral will be under the direction of the Masonic lodge and many of the Masons will accompany the body to Jackson.

Mr. Stanton was preceded to the grave only a short time by his beloved wife, who died June 23d of last year. Mrs. Stanton and two little children of the couple, who died in the early ’70s were buried in Jackson.

Mr. Stanton leaves two children, Mrs. K.S. Enochs and Mr. W.A. Stanton, of this city, and a sister Mrs. Mary Stanton Farrell, of Natchez, all of whom were with Mr. Stanton during his last illness and tenderly ministered to his every need. Mr. Stanton leaves two other sisters and a brother: Mrs. Kate Peaker, of Cincinnati, Miss Julia Stanton, of Natchez, and Mr. John Stanton, of Natchez.

Mr. Stanton was married in Kentucky in 1869 to Miss Susanna Parnell Tooley, who was born in Devonshire, England. Their wedded life was a long story of devotion and love.

The deceased was a member of W. Stevens Lodge No. 121, F. & A.M. He was also a Knight Templar and was affiliated with the Knights of Pythias and the Knights of Honor.

Mr. Stanton was born in Natchez, Miss., Oct. 1st 1840. Attended school at Natchez Institute, and Dolbears Commercial College, winning a Life Scholarship in the latter institution. Studied Architecture and Building under his father in Natchez and later under an old English Architect in St. Louis, until called to take charge of his father’s family at the age of sixteen or seventeen. Was opposed to secession but when Mississippi seceded, he enlisted in Company B. 10th Miss. Col. R. A. Smith. His first active service was at Shiloh where his company was deployed as skirmishers. About sundown the first day he was thrice wounded, one ball passing through his face tearing away his teeth, the roof of his mouth, and breaking his jawbones. He refused ambulance service and even in this desperately wounded condition aided the ambulance corps in serving other wounded soldiers.

Returned to the Army after the wounds were healed and was appointed to finish building a bridge over Tennessee River by General Bragg, and after the rapid successful completion of this work he was offered a captain’s commission by the General, but declined it. Was after detailed for the special work of bridge building and put in charge of a varying number of men.

After the war he returned to Natchez, resumed his former business, and began to restore his broken fortune.

In 1866 just after the fire, he moved to Vicksburg and at once took important part in the building business. One of the most important works, and that in which he took most pride, was Holy Trinity Church. He revised the original plans, producing the structure as it now is.

In 1883 he began devoting his entire attention to the practice of Architecture and has been actively engaged therein until a few weeks prior to his death.

While never seeking political preferment, Mr. Stanton served as a supervisor during the turbulent times following the close of the civil war. He was also an alderman of the town of Speeds for some years.

In his death the community lost an upright, efficient Christian gentleman. His life has been busy and well spent.

Vicksburg Evening Post, Jan. 17, 1908

For pictures of William Stanton: https://misspreservation.com/2012/06/13/architect-pics-william-stanton-1840-1908/

and William A. Stanton: https://misspreservation.com/2012/06/14/mississippi-architects-william-a-stanton-1870-1948/



Categories: Architectural Research, Vicksburg

16 replies

  1. Is there any chance that the “English architect” in St. Louis was George I Barnett? If so, no doubt he was well trained indeed for the times. As that firm continued on for a long, long time, it might be worthwhile to see if any record remains of Stanton having a connection with Barnett.

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    • Wow, great catch! I wasn’t familiar with Barnett, so I’ve spent a little time reading up on him. There’s a brief article on wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_I._Barnett and a more scholarly one (fewer pictures) at http://www.slu.edu/x29663.xml.

      The latter article notes “George I. Barnett’s legacy, however, is much larger than his own works or those created by members of his immediate family. In an era before study at MIT and l’École des Beaux Arts became fashionable, aspiring young architects gained most of their professional training in the office of established practitioners.”
      Stanton’s dates do seem to correspond well with Barnett’s so it’s a real possibility! Anybody got contacts in St. Louis?

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      • I don’t have any contacts. However, this might be a question posed in different ways and calling upon different forms of expertise to the St Louis genealogical society (that is, would any census or directory or newspaper articles point to Stanton working for Barnett or any “Englisharchitect”) at http://www.stlgs.org/, to the State Historical Society of Missouri Research Center (again, focusing on architect-based articles, directories, publications) at http://www.umsl.edu/~whmc/ , and, of course, of the St Louis and Missouri Historic Preservation organizations. http://stlcin.missouri.org/history/ and http://www.dnr.mo.gov/shpo/ . Those would be a start. I suspect you as the head of the blog might get a warmer reception than you suspect. One question to ask each such resource is where the Barnett firm papers might have finally lodged. Best of luck!

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      • Unfortunately the St. Louis Institute of architects did not start until 1870 (although Barnett was a founding and leading spirit of that organization). Something of the character of the man comes through in a near-contemporaneous publication, in one passage in particular:

        One of these octogenarians of 1895 put his impress upon the architecture
        of St. Louis. Visitors to the city in the years following the Civil war com-
        mented much upon the simplicity of the house fronts, business and private.
        George I. Barnett came to this country from Nottingham, England. He was
        the son of a Baptist minister. Although he was only 25 years old when he
        settled in St. Louis, he was thoroughly grounded in the beliefs of the Italian
        school. Being a very positive man, Mr. Barnett succeeded in impressing those
        ideas upon the architecture of St. Louis to a marked degree. There were other
        men in St. Louis who called themselves architects, but most of them were only
        builders. Mr. Barnett pushed his theories aggressively. After ten years of
        planning and building in accordance with his school, he went to Europe for
        further architectural education, and came back unchanged in views. He fur-
        nished the plans and superintended the erection of 2,50×3 buildings. Architects
        with less positiveness of views copied his general style. Young architects came
        out of his office. In time Mr. Barnett came to see a city, the architecture of
        which was very much after his heart, an architecture which he was wont to
        describe as “the truly legitimate.” But he outlived his success. He survived
        to see St. Louis countenance the colonial, the Queen Anne and every other
        school.

        That particular passage (there other references to Barnett in the book) is followed by one in which a Mr. Fagin’s erection of a a skyscraper building of eight stories was done according to Mr. Fagin’s plans; that resulted in a structure that departed very clearly from Mr. Barnett’s “school’; Mr. Barnett is said to have avoided the sight of it by walking a block out of his way on every ocassion.

        See http://www.archive.org/stream/stlouisfourthcit02stevrich/stlouisfourthcit02stevrich_djvu.txt

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      • William Stanton was my great grandfather. My mother, Sandra Stanton Toler has pictures of him if you would like a copy.

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  2. One wonders if he might have been related to the Stantons of Stanton Hall in some way? Also, the name Enochs popped out as the family who built the Tower Building and rebuilt the Edwards Hotel- possibly the same?

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    • The Enochs also had a large lumber business here in Jackson, so they were quite involved in the late 19th-century and early 20th century building scene here. I wonder too how William was related to Stanton Hall. Maybe someone in Natchez has done some geneological work that would help establish that?

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      • William Stanton was not related to the Stanton family of Stanton Hall. There has been a great deal of research done on this, and so far, no relationship can be established. William Stanton’s family was from Limerick, Ireland, and were Roman Catholic, while the Aaron Stanton line, (descendants built Stanton Hall) were Episcopalians, and were from Belfast, Ireland. Grover Stanton, now deceased, and a descendant of Aaron Stanton, traced his line back to Belfast, Ireland, and conferred with me through the years, and we found no relationship with the family of William Stanton.
        Dorothy O’Neill

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  3. A trip through Greenwood Cemetery might uncover many other interesting deceased persons if one had the time to research. Is this a city-owned burial place, and have other more recent burials taken place there, does anyone know?

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  4. It is indeed city-owned, and although it’s not incredibly active in recent years due to be mostly filled, Eudora Welty was buried there in her family plot when she died in 2001. Francis Blair Hull is also buried there: https://misspreservation.com/2011/11/02/mississippi-builders-francis-blair-hull/

    If you know the approximate death date of the person you’re looking for, the city is pretty good about being able to give directions, but do far there’s not an online database that will help find people only by name and not by death date.

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  5. As to Barnett:
    there was an M.A. thesis, George I. Barnett, 1815-1898 /
    by Oelsen, Laure Anne, Published 1973, University of Missouri, Columbia; I note that the University of Illinois has a copy in its stacks. This thesis has been cited a number of times by the Missouri State Historic Preservation Office as to different structures. Amazingly, a T. P Barnett continued to practice architecture in the late 1970s in St. Louis and was used as a primary source by phone interviews as well. See on-line dnr.mo.gov/shpo/nps-nr/78001675.pdf That same pdf file records, through both a citation to the Oelsen thesis and a phone interview, that unfortunately by that time many Barnett records had been lost or misplaced; it may, of course, be true that some have been found since then.

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  6. The only other suggestion I have involves a seemingly close coincidence of dates. Stanton’s obituary speaks of him leaving St. Louis at age sixteen or seventeen. That would put his departure from there in 1856 or 1857, given that he was born in 1840. I do not doubt the filial piety mentioned in the obituary, namely that he left to rejoin his father’s business. However, in some sense that may have been making virtue out of necessity.

    The years 1856 and 1857 no doubt were Barnett’s nadir professionally. In 1852 Barnett had been selected as “supervising architect” over what was at the time to be the largest Federal building west of the Mississippi. Having recently returned from his ten-year sojourn abroad, Barnett had achieved a most lucerative coup. However, after his selection, his detailed plans were rejected and new ones imposed from Washington. The work proceeded slowly and amid complaints. (Too, one account I have read mentioned that even while the structure was being built, it was becoming clear it was already inadequate to the needs of St. Louis in terms of size.) In 1856, allegations regarding “improprieties and political intrigue” caused Barnett’s removal and his replacement by one of his chief professional rivals. http://stlcin.missouri.org/history/structdetail.cfm?Master_ID=1609

    This readily enough explains why, so to speak, Barnett let Stanton go or did not impede his leaving Barnett’s employ, if indeed Stanton had worked for Barnett. Still, that does not in and of itself explain Stanton forsaking what was at the time an exponentially growing city with a voracious demand for building and architects. However, given the times and the way business was conducted, I suspect someone researching the possible Barnett-Stanton connection might find in that 1856 morass more clues.

    If Stanton worked for Barnett, he might have figured, to his sorrow, unwittingly in the problems. In those days when telephones did not exist and locomotion was not swift nor often available, the fact that on ocassion matters of business might be attended to by “boys” was often alleged as data indicating slipshod business. Nothing would have been more natural, when Barnett was being removed, than to have alleged that change-orders were received and handled by a young clerk, that a boy inspected the bricks, that invoices were checked by a youth, that those going to Barnett’s offices in the city or at the works were to find only a child in charge. Of course, the offices of the day in effect “ran” on the labor of ill-paid young people; they are ubiquitious in history as they are in fiction as diverse as that of the Horatio Alger series to Dickens’. Still, they gave a cheap, nearly irrefutable means of alleging poor oversight and poorer business methods.

    If, as is likely, there were Federal investigations of the complaints and the work progress that in turn led to Barnett’s removal, if there were the usual charges and countercharges in the papers of the day, speeches made in the halls of Congress and on the stump, there may very likely be mention made of Stanton. If there was (or if, to take another tack, there is proof otherwise of Stanton working for Barnett and evidence that allegations were made about some unnamed boy or youth working for Barnett in a way that demonstrated poor business methods on Barnett’s part), that would explain Stanton leaving St. Louis: he would have a very hard time convincing architects or builders in St. Louis that his past connection to Barnett would not cause some concern on the part of some clients.

    I suspect the allegations against Barnett were wildly exagerrated. After all, he continued on in his professional life despite the debacle of 1856-57. Too, people were aware that in that era of one-term presidents and unfettered political spoilsmanship, the patronage fights were ferocious. Notwithstanding these reflections that come to us so easily now, Stanton, after a hesitant and initial few attempts to seek employment in St. Louis with others, might have decided he had no decent prospects in the city.

    All this is a long way ’round of saying that it might be of interest for someone to investigate the controversies around the “old Custom House and Post Office” to see if mention is made of a teenage boy named Stanton seemingly invested with too much authority.

    Anyway, my guess about Barnett has lead me to examine a few delightful things on the internet and, right or wrong, has provided amusement. Thanks to ELMalvaney, as always!

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  7. I have a great deal of information and a photo of William Stanton and his son. His descendants live in Jackson, MS, and are close family friends. William went to St. Louisfor a while, because his uncle, another William Stanton, lived there.
    Dorothy O’Neill

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