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Today is September 21, 2017

McIntosh family celebrates 500-plus years of birthdays

By Nancy Jo Maples

McIntosh family celebrates 500-plus years of birthdays

From left are Bernice McIntosh, Nancy McIntosh, George McIntosh, Carolyn McIntosh Johnson and Frances McIntosh Forsyth.

If walls inside the McIntosh home could talk, 130 years of stories could be told. This Greene County house has been inhabited by members of the same family since the late 1800s.

The home, located in the Vernal community, recently was the site of a party celebrating 500-plus years of birthdays. Five siblings and a sister-in-law rejoiced in each being more than 80 years old, totaling more than 500 years of life experiences. More than 150 friends and relatives attended the February affair.

While today’s population has seen many people reach noteworthy birthdays, the glorified feat that makes this particular family unique is that all enjoy good health and are able to drive, attend church, care for themselves and care for younger loved ones.

The siblings’ grandparents, John and Alice (Myers) McIntosh, built the home sometime before 1886. They passed it to their son Alex McIntosh, who married Malzia Eubanks in 1930. Alex was not only born in the house but also died there. The home is still inhabited by two of Alex and Malzia’s daughters, Bernice and Nancy McIntosh, who never married.

The walls within this home have seen gales and thunderstorms and have protected the family through it all. The walls have heard prayers during years when toil and times were tough and praise when gratified with grace.

These walls have seen a number of births since the first one in 1886. All five children of Alex and Malzia were born in the house—the five honored at the 500-plus birthday party. The first, Frances Lenora McIntosh Forsyth, was born Nov. 5, 1930, and the last, Nancy Willene McIntosh, on Feb. 15, 1937. George Edward McIntosh was born Feb. 6, 1932. He married Mae Nell Howell, daughter of Rance and Pearl Howell from nearby George County. She was born Feb. 12, 1934, and was included in the siblings’ birthday celebration.

Rachel Carolyn McIntosh Johnson was born May 20, 1933, and Elenor Bernice McIntosh was born Oct. 28, 1934.

All were born in the same room. All received higher educations, and all excelled in their professions of law, education and engineering.

These walls have also seen deaths. Remarkably, none of those deaths were infants or young children, albeit pneumonia struck the McIntosh house in the late 1930s, claiming Alex’s life and leaving Malzia with five children ages 1 to 7 years.

“We buried him the same day he died because the doctor told our mother if she didn’t, she would end up burying Frances too,” Bernice recalled. “Frances also had pneumonia and was taken to a hospital in Hattiesburg, where she stayed six weeks before getting well enough to come home.”

The home’s original design featured four rooms, two on each side of an open hallway that was later enclosed. The front porch once included a small room for preachers visiting nearby Vernal Presbyterian Church.

Rockers on the front porch date to the 1930s, and artifacts throughout the house include a Fashion calendar clock that has been in the house since 1930. Bedroom furnishings date back generations, and one bedroom has a rope bed.

The house was electrified in 1946; a found receipt from Singing River Electric Power Association shows the $5 membership fee.

Frances recalled the house’s first electric appliance. “It was a Crosley refrigerator,” she said. “Prior to that we had an icebox and the ice man came around twice a week.”

Electricity allowed them to get indoor plumbing and electric lights. Before electric lights, they studied school lessons by the glow of an oil lamp.

The home’s exterior also showcases history. The front lawn sports a magnolia tree that Alex McIntosh planted before he left to serve in World War I. A running rose bush and jonquil patch planted by ancestors still thrive in the yard. And the road in front of the house is believed to have been the route Andrew Jackson took from Mobile, Ala., to the Battle of New Orleans. Across the road lies a private family cemetery dating to 1853 and includes several war veterans’ graves.

The Old Place, as family members call it, is not alone in the heritage it holds; a few families hold on to something similar. Yet, these old places are becoming uncommon, and the McIntosh family is to be commended for saving their heritage and the walls that have seen them through life’s events.

Writer Nancy Jo Maples can be reached at 188 Ernest Pipkins Road, Lucedale, MS 39452 or via email at nancyjomaples@aol.com.

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