Like our last two HABS sites, the Col. Moore House in Winona and the old Grist Mill near Macon, this week’s Messinger (or Messenger) House starts out as a bit of a mystery but gets a little clearer as we look for other sources. The HABS records gives its location as “Near Edwards, Warren County, Mississippi,” while the MDAH Historic Resources Database says “Bovina vicinity, Warren County,” which may be a discrepancy without a difference since Edwards is in Hinds County and Bovina is across the line in Warren County. HABS says the builder was William Bacon, which is helpful since Delta State University has the Bacon-Messenger Family Papers, which introduces the family and describes their plantation in more detail:
The Bacon family settled on the banks of the Big Black River near Bovina in Warren County, in the early 19th century, prior to 1817. William Bacon died in 1849 and his widow married George Messenger, who was much younger than she. After her death, he married Emily L. Fox. Upon George Messenger’s death she married Dr. George Wilberforce Howard.
The plantation, Baconhame, originally covered 4500 acres and was built directly on the Banks of the Big Black River. The River at that time was a navigable stream and steamboats plied their routes there, taking on passengers and cotton and bringing supplies to the farm. The family maintained the property until around 1900.
Scope and Content
The collection contains documents from the Bacon Messenger and Moore families. These include maps, tax receipts, bills of sale for slaves, account books, and farm records. 1811 – 1888. One 1938 newspaper clipping.
Given this description, I would guess the house was somewhere off of old Highway 80 that runs between Edwards and Bovina, maybe even near the Battle of Big Black River Bridge marker on this Google map.
By the time HABS photographer, James Butters, came around in 1936, the house was looking a bit ramshackle. Mr. Butters only took two photos, and they are intriguing to say the least (I mean, really, I hate to complain, Mr. Butters, but couldn’t you have just stepped up on the porch and taken a shot through the breezeway there and maybe even gotten one of the rooms inside?) The portico is nicely finished, and the “rear” elevation, which may have faced the river, boasts fine pedimented window and door surrounds–all of which combine for a very Greek Revival appearance, which would make it later than the c.1800 that the HABS records give as a construction date and also than the 1817 date of the DSU text. But that broken slope on the roof and the open breezeway or dogtrot may indicate an earlier building that got fancied up in the Greek Revival period.
You know what would help us in our analysis, Mr. Butters? A few interior shots. Ok, I’ll stop picking on Mr. Butters. It was August in Mississippi, after all, and I imagine he was sweating profusely while he composed these photos. I suppose all of us have been beaten by the August heat at one time or another.
Notice also the man standing on the back porch in light pants (maybe seersuckers?), white shirt, and what may be a straw hat.
I don’t know anything about the fate of the Bacon-Messinger House, except that it no longer exists. Does anyone out there have any light to shed on this piece of lost Mississippi?
HABS website: http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/ms0174/