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Today is July 16, 2018

Mississippi Seen

Time for a road trip

Time for a road trip

The John Ford Home is owned by the Marion County Historical Society. You can Google it to get directions and find out when you can visit. Photo: Walt Grayson

After the holidays I try to start the New Year off with a road trip somewhere that’s a long way from my house. It’s a pleasant thought in the middle of December when everything is so hectic. Knowing that after all of it is over I can get some real “peace on earth” while I unwind on my way to somewhere interesting.

Since I live in the Jackson Metro area, there are all sorts of places that qualify as a long road trip from my house. In the past I have headed down to Wilkinson County in the southwest in the “chin” of Mississippi. January is a little cold for the Clark Creek Waterfalls down there.

But there is always a neat story around Woodville.

In the other direction, Tishomingo State Park up northeast is a fun place in the winter. Well, I like it in winter. There aren’t a lot of people there in the cold months. And there is nothing better on a winter night than a wood fire and an open hearth like in the cabins there.

But this year I am thinking I will head for Sandy Hook south of Columbia and do a story about the John Ford Home. It’s a couple of hours from where I live.

The house is an elevated pioneer-type home built about 1809. The beams are ax-hewed logs from the first timber cut from the virgin forest. All heart pine. The architecture alone makes the house significant. But there’s more to it than how it’s built. There’s also the fact that Andrew Jackson stayed there.

I was there several years ago. Myra Boone, who showed me around, told me that Andrew Jackson was there on his way to the Battle of New Orleans in 1814. But he had to get John Ford’s consent to stay because, as Myra put it, “He was an ugly-talking man and he drank.”

In exchange for getting to sleep inside, Jackson had to swear off swearing and promise not to drink. And, oh yeah, he had to go to prayer meeting.

The Marion County Historical Society, who owns the house, calls the room where Andrew Jackson stayed “The Presidential Suite,” although technically he wasn’t president yet when he stayed there.

The John Ford home is also pertinent to the recent Mississippi Bicentennial. Statehood was a complicated process. For starters they had to decide how big the state should be.

The Mississippi Territory encompassed all of what is now Mississippi and Alabama. Natchez, way over in the west, was the Territorial Capital. When statehood was first discussed, settlers in the east wanted to split the territory because they figured their interest couldn’t be served all the way over in Natchez. But the politicals in Natchez wanted to keep everything intact so they would have influence over the whole shebang.

As more people moved into the northern and eastern areas, however, the positions flip flopped. Now it was the pioneers who wanted to keep the territory as a whole state and the Natchez folks who wanted it divided, because the political clout had shifted away from the river and into the interior. (I think I got most of that right.)

Anyway, a statehood convention was held at the John Ford home. The Territorial Congressional Delegation had already been working on making a state (or states) from the territory. But the petition drafted at the John Ford home pushed the issue across the finish line.

Andrew Jackson’s room and statehood is reason enough to go there. Plus it’s a couple of hours from my house.

Walt Grayson is the host of “Mississippi Roads” on Mississippi Public Broadcasting television, and the author of two “Looking Around Mississippi” books and “Oh! That Reminds Me: More Mississippi Homegrown Stories.” Contact Grayson at walt@waltgrayson.com.

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