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Today is November 21, 2017

La-Pointe-Krebs House and Museum offer local history lesson

By Nancy Jo Maples

La-Pointe-Krebs House and Museum offer local history lesson

Mississippi’s oldest home, the LaPointe-Krebs house in Pascagoula is temporarily closed for an extensive restoration, but visitors can learn about the historic property at a museum on the site.

When it comes to being Mississippi’s oldest home, the LaPointe-Krebs house in Pascagoula captures the prize.

Dating to 1757, it is the oldest scientifically-confirmed standing structure not only in Mississippi, but in the Mississippi River Valley, which spans from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico and from the Rocky Mountains to the Appalachian Mountains. The “scientifically-confirmed” term qualifies the significance because some historians claim a structure in New Orleans is slightly older.

According to Marks Sokolosky-Wixon, executive director of the LaPointe-Krebs Foundation, old writings dated the one-story house to 1718, but those accountings have been determined historically inaccurate. “The date of this house’s origin had been debated for years until we got the dendrochronology report,” he said. Dendrochronology is the study of a timber’s rings to determine the year the tree was cut based on environmental events.

Built on a bluff overlooking Lake Catahoula (Krebs Lake), the house was erected by Hugo Krebs, who married the daughter of Joseph Simon de la Pointe. LaPointe had traveled with French Canadian explorer Jean-Baptiste de Bienville to the area in 1699, and had bought land rights from France. Krebs, a German, came here in about 1730 to manage LaPointe’s indigo and cotton plantation. He later married LaPointe’s daughter.

Descendants of the Krebs family lived in the house until 1930. It has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1971. The museum next to the house was built in 1984, but closed after Hurricane Katrina dumped three-and-a-half feet of water into the building. It reopened last year with exhibits offering written explanations of the various time periods of the area’s inhabitants, as well as hands-on activities for kinetic learning.

One of the museum exhibits displays a replica of a cotton gin. Krebs is credited with inventing the cotton gin 20 years prior to Eli Whitney, but he did not have his idea patented. Other exhibits show how the house was built with tabby, a concrete substance made from oyster shells, and with bousillage, chinking made of dried moss and clay.

Located on Fort Street just a few blocks north of U.S. Highway 90, the house was known for many years as the Old Spanish Fort. Research revealed that the structure is French Colonial and was a residence rather than a fort. According to Wixon, the 18-inch walls caused people to assume the structure was fortified. He said Spanish artifacts found on the property led to the belief that Spaniards had built it.

In addition to Spanish artifacts, French, British and Native American relics have been found onsite. “Archeology here is breathtaking,” Wixon said. “This land has remained virtually unchanged since Native Americans inhabited it. It is interesting what we have found in the ground, as well as amazing to think what’s in the ground that we haven’t found yet.”

A few feet from the house lies the Krebs Family Cemetery, the oldest active private family cemetery in the United States. Original tombstones date to 1820 with the marker of a 15-year-old girl written in French; however, burials are recorded for the cemetery as far back as the 1700s.

The three-and-a-half-acre grounds offer shaded tables for picnicking and plenty of room to roam among trees and War of 1812 cannons.

The house is closed to the public for safety reasons while renovation continues.

The museum is open Tuesday through Friday 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. Admission cost is $5 for adults, $4 for military and ages 65 and older, $3 for ages 5 to 15 years. The physical address is 4602 Fort St., Pascagoula.

More information can be found online at www.lapointekrebs.org or by calling 228-471-5126.

Award winning journalist Nancy Jo Maples lives in Lucedale and is the author of “Staying Power: The Story of South Mississippi Electric Power Association.” She can be reached at
nancyjomaples@aol.com.

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