Thursday, February 11, 2010

PICH Meeting, February 23, 6:30 PM, ICDC, Fulton

Meeting May Determine the Fate of THE CEDARS

The Cedars (Cates-Gaither House) Project Meeting

The attempt to save, move, and restore the landmark house, The Cedars, on Main Street, Fulton, is at a crossroads. The community preservation group, Preserving Itawamba County's Heritage (PICH), has received a firm estimate from the mover. Although the preservation group has raised almost $10,000 for the project, it is still a few thousand dollars short of having enough to save the circa 1860s house.

A most important meeting of PICH is scheduled for Tuesday, February 23, 2010, 6:30 PM, at the Itawamba County Development Council's Building at 107 West Wiygul Street, Fulton.

Please make plans to attend this vital meeting of PICH to insure that The Cedars, part of our hill country heritage, is preserved for future generations. Invite your friends and neighbors --- help us spread the word about how the fate of The Cedars depends on raising just a little more money.Bring your checkbooks and ideas for making the project a reality.

Limited edition signed prints of the watercolor, The Cedars, are available for $100 donation each. Prints will be available at this meeting --- and are also obtainable by writing Margaret Bain, Vice President, PICH, at 77 Dogwood Estates Drive, Fulton, MS 38843. Donation inquires may also be directed to Joel Ewing, President, PICH, by telephone at 662-610-5867. Online donations may be made to the Gaither House Special Project Fund at Create Foundation (

The Cedars, home of the Cates and Gaither families of Fulton, was built as a four-room open dogtrot house in the 1860s. Mr. Cates had the gin next door (near today's site of the Fulton Methodist Church). Over time, the estate was remodeled with new facade, rooms, wings, and porches and the house took on the appearance seen today. The Fulton Methodist Church, current owner of the house, has offered it to the community along with a lot on Main Street upon which to relocate the house. PICH was formed in 2009 and adopted The Cedars (Cates-Gaither House) as its first preservation project.

PICH needs your help if The Cedars is to be saved and preserved as a prime example of "high" Hill Country living from more than one hundred years ago. Your presence and support at this meeting on February 23rd is vital.

Submitted by Terry Thornton, Treasurer, Preserving Itawamba County's Heritage, Fulton, MS, 38843

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A PLACE CALLED HOME: Itawamba County, Mississippi

A Review by Terry Thornton

Itawamba County native, author, photographer, and historian Bob Franks has written and published A PLACE CALLED HOME: Itawamba County, Mississippi. This photographic account of the north Mississippi county he understands and respects is Franks' loving tribute to the hills of home. The reader who has never wandered the hills of Itawamba receives an accurate impression of their beauty; the reader who is familiar with them is delighted to see what he already knows presented in a novel and enlightening format.

Franks' love of subject is evident through the numerous photographs of places and objects from "Tombeckbee" Hill Country. His choices are varied and, at times, surprising. Franks' photographs show both the unfamiliar and the comfortable. They capture myriad details that usually escape the casual observer.

Franks' pictures and comments about the hill country reflect his knowledge of his native land, his reverence for his heritage, and his willingness to share his vision of this unique area of the world. This book makes the reader yearn for a place called home such as Itawamba County.

If you are looking for a Mississippi Hill Country book to read or to give as a gift, Bob Franks' A PLACE CALLED HOME should be at the top of your list. His coffee-table book will take you on a journey to and through Itawamba County.

A PLACE CALLED HOME is available at Blurb Bookstore online (click link to view). The book may be previewed at Blurb as well as ordered. On a personal note, I ordered A PLACE CALLED HOME for a Christmas present. It was my first experience with Blurb and was a most pleasing one. Blurb Bookstore not only confirmed my order within minutes and stated when they would ship my order, but they also delivered the book as promised.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Some considerations why The Cedars (Cates-Gaither House) should be preserved

An Opinion
Terry Thornton
Treasurer, Preserving Itawamba County's Heritage
The Cedars, Cates-Gaither House, at 211 Main Street, Fulton, Mississippi, should be saved if for no other reason than some of the timbers from which it was constructed circa 1860 may have been growing as seedlings as early as 1410 A.D. Without doubt, many of the boards from which it is built are from trees which sprouted in the middle 1500s to middle 1600s. The forests of the Hill Country and the products from those forests are as much a part of our heritage as our ancestors --- and The Cedars is an excellent surviving example of one small portion of that heritage.

Here are my reasons why we should consider the forests which once covered the Hill Country in any discussion to save The Cedars.

Old-growth timber covered the hills of Itawamba County, Mississippi, prior to the formation of the county in 1836. Many of those old-growth forests of mixed hardwood and softwood typical of hill country forests were not cleared until after 1900 --- and some not until the 1920s.

Certainly the timbers cut for the open dog-trot house Pleasant Cates was building in the edge of the new town of Fulton were from old-growth trees. Felled by hand, the logs were not transported great distances. Often a portable, steam-powered reciprocating saw would be set up at a proposed house location and the timbers and boards cut on-site. Cut into rough thick boards, the heart-wood of pine trees was often nailed into place almost as soon as it came from the saw. The boards and timbers forming the frame of the house were not run through a plane --- and sometimes those timbers were smoothed to "fit" through the use of an axe.

Some of the timbers beneath The Cedars show the handiwork of a man and an axe.

But what kind of trees and how old were these trees from which The Cedars was constructed?

Old growth forests of Itawamba County consisted primarily of pine, oak, and chestnut trees. The American chestnut trees all but disappeared from Hill Country due to a blight that destroyed them 1904-30s --- I remember from the early 1940s that huge skeletons of these dead trees could be found in almost any location of the Hill Country as it took decades for some of these huge majestic dead trees to completely decay.

But at one time, chestnut trees were the trees of choice for builders. Tall, straight growing trees bearing chestnuts often were more than 100 feet tall. Some were reported to be close to 150 feet in height with a diameter of 10 feet. Most of the old-growth chestnuts were, on average, 5 feet in diameter and 90 to 100 feet tall. Some of the timbers within the original part of The Cedars are probably chestnut wood, the wood of choice of carpenters and home-builders prior to the loss of this tree as an source of building materials. The original roof on Pleasant Cate's new house was most likely wooden shakes made by hand from chestnut trees.

Many estimate that old-growth pine of the sort milled for houses and other buildings were from trees 300 or more years old. It is not unusual in old-growth stands of pine to occasionally find individual trees as old as 450 years.

So I think it safe to estimate that the huge pine timber cut from the hills and hollows around Fulton were probably trees that stood about 120 feet in height, and were, on average 200 to 300 years old.

But it is that occasional 450 year-old tree that might be a part of The Cedars which is most awe-inspiring to me.

If the original four-room dog-trot house which evolved into The Cedars was built in 1860 it is most likely that the majority of its boards and timbers are from trees which started their time here on earth about 1660, that some of those boards are from trees which sprouted about 1560, and that a few of those timbers may have come from plants which began to grow in the Hill Country as early at 1410.

Here are some dates to consider:

1410 - Pine tree seed sprouts in the Hill Country (starting a growing process that would last 450 years until tree is cut for Pleasant Cates' new house in Fulton, Mississippi)
1492 - Columbus arrives in the New World
1520 - Cortez conquers Mexico; Magellan sails around the world
1541 - De Soto discovers the Mississippi River
1560 - Tree seeds sprout in the Hill Country (starting a growing process that would last 300 years until needed for materials in Pleasant Cates' new house in Fulton, Mississippi)
1565 - St. Augustine founded
1607 - Jamestown Colony founded
1620 - Pilgrims landed aboard the Mayflower
1660 - Tree seeds sprout in the Hill Country (starting a growing process that would last 200 years until trees felled for use in Pleasant Cates' new house in Fulton, Mississippi)
1733 - Georgia settled by Oglethorpe
1773 - Boston Tea Party
1775 - Daniel Boone in Kentucky
1776, July 4 - Declaration of Independence
1796 - Tennessee admitted to the union of states
1805 - Lewis and Clark expedition begins
1815 - Battle of New Orleans
1816 - Mississippi admitted to the union of states
1841 - Howe invented the sewing machine
1846 - Gold discovered in California
1860 - 450 year-old trees, 300 year-old trees, and 200 year-old trees cut in the Hill Country and sawed into timbers and boards used to frame Pleasant Cates' house, The Cedars.
2009 - Pleasant Cates' house, The Cedars, is available to the community as a generous gift from its current owner. Wood, some perhaps as old as 599 years, may be within the house. All we must do is relocate it a few yards, restore it, and preserve it as a continuing part of our Hill Country heritage. Won't you help in this preservation effort?

I have viewed some of the materials the original portion of The Cedars is made from --- wide, unplaned boards, unfinished heart-pine floor boards bleached white from probably more than 100 years of being washed with lye water before they were covered with carpet and linoleum --- the interior walls, floors, and ceilings all show evidence of old-growth wood. And beneath the house the timbers supporting it are massive.

No claim is made here as to the types of wood within The Cedars --- it would take a more trained eye than mine to determine species from wooden boards cut more than 140 years ago. But I've no doubt that chestnut, oak, and pine form the "bones" of this grand old house, The Cedars, and that the source of those woods were from the old-growth forests which once blanketed Itawamba County.

So if anyone asks why we should save an old house such as The Cedars, please tell them of the antiquity of the timbers forming the backbone and the skeleton of this old house. That the landmark house has been standing along Main Street since about 1860 serving the families of the Cates and the Gaithers is sufficient reason to consider its preservation --- that it contains timbers that may date to 1410 is even more reason to preserve it as a portion of our Hill Country heritage.

Note: Most of the research about Hill Country old-growth forests was done in 2007 for my article, Requiem for a house: A Hill Country Landmark in Monroe County, May 24 2007, Hill Country of Monroe County Mississippi. Unfortunately bulldozers came in 2008 and pushed down the remains of that grand old structure built in 1857 of old-growth timbers cut from the property and sawed on-site by a steam powered saw.

Join Preserving Itawamba County's Heritage in its attempts to relocate, restore, and preserve The Cedars. There may be some 600 year-old wood at stake.

Photographs of Cates-Gaither House, September 2009

The Cedars, Cates-Gaither House, Fulton, Mississippi, is the first preservation project of the newly formed group, Preserving Itawamba County's Heritage. You are invited to join in this effort to relocated and restore one of Fulton's oldest surviving houses.

Left click images for a larger view.

Photographs Copyright © 2009. Preserving Itawamba County's Heritage, Fulton, Mississippi. All Rights Reserved.

The Cedars: Limited and numbered prints now available

One-hundred signed and numbered prints of the watercolor of The Cedars (Cates-Gaither House) of Fulton, Mississippi, are now available. This limited-edition offering of The Cedars is to benefit local efforts to preserve, relocate, and renovate Fulton's second oldest surviving residence.

Artist Teb Thornton of Fulton hand-signed, numbered,
and titled each of the 100 copies on October 10, 2009.

Thornton donated his watercolor of The Cedars to Preserving Itawamba County's Heritage, a local action group whose first project is to save The Cedars (Cates-Gaither House).

Copies of The Cedars limited-edition print lined up for the ink
to dry from the signing and numbering.

All of the proceeds from the sale of the prints will go towards the preservation, relocation, and renovation of The Cedars, a landmark Fulton residence built by the Cates family and most recently occupied by the Gaither family.

The cost is $100 per print --- make your tax-deductible check payable to:
Create--Gaither House Project Fund and indicate on the check that it is for a limited edition print.
See the left-side bar on this page for ordering information. Order today to insure that you acquire one of the limited signed and numbered prints. Only 100 copies are being offered.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Mississippi Hill Country Heritage Day in Fulton: SUNDAY


Mississippi Hill Country Heritage Day
A benefit for the preservation of The Cedars
(Cates-Gaither House)

Sunday, October 18, 2009, 2 - 5 PM
211 Main Street
Fulton, Mississippi

An affiliate of Create Foundation and the first preservation project of
Preserving Itawamba County's Heritage

Tour the house and grounds.

Music: Appalachian dulcimers, reed organ, bluegrass banjo and fiddle and guitar, vocalist/composer Eddie Moore, music legend Kay Bain, and the Stricklands

Food: Chicken and dumplings, greens, corn-on-the cob, soup, cornbread, bread pudding, sweet tea and lemonade

Activities: Whittling, churning butter, washing clothes, shucking and shelling corn, spinning yarn, tatting, spool knitting, crocheting, basket making, leather working

Games: pitching washers and horseshoes, sack races, domino and checkers, shooting marbles

Antique cars: Scheduled: Early Ford and a 1933 Cadillac Fleetwood.
. . . and more!

Tickets may be purchased at the front entrance of The Cedars
Adults: $15
Students: $ 10
Under five years of age: free

All tax-deductive donations are appreciated and welcomed to help preserved The Cedars (Cates-Gaither House), Fulton's second oldest surviving residence. Make your checks payable to
Create-Gaither House Project Fund

Help save part of Fulton's heritage --- join Preserving Itawamba County's Heritage, a community-action group pledged to the preservation, relocation, and renovation of The Cedars.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Photo-advertisement courtesy of Bob Franks, ICDC, Fulton, MS.

Monday, October 12, 2009

WTVA-TV news coverage of The Cedars, 9-22-09

With permission of WTVA-TV, Tupelo, Mississippi, a kinescope of a news report by David Iversen about The Cedars (and of the efforts to preserve by it) is presented below. Click the start button to view. The footage originally aired on WTVA-TV 10 o'clock News, September 22, 2009.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Left click image for a larger view

Stockton Reed Organ at Mississippi Hill Country Heritage Day

The Stockton Portable Reed Organ, a "god box" from the 1890s Stockton Family of Weaver's Creek near Parham, Monroe County, Mississippi, will be displayed and will be used to provide some of the music on October 18, 2009, at Mississippi Hill Country Heritage Day. The benefit for the preservation of The Cedars, Fulton's second oldest surviving house, will be at 211 Main Street, Fulton, 2 - 5 PM.

An article and photographs about the Stockton Reed Organ have been published at (click link to read).
Left click image for a larger view

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Left click image for a larger view

Major work accomplished Saturday at The Cedars thanks to dozens of volunteers

Some photographs from the community volunteer day at The Cedars and a short discussion of why the work was done --- Left click images for a larger view

The Cates-Gaither House on Main Street, Fulton, was the site of a major volunteer effort Saturday, September 26, 2009. The house known locally as The Cedars is the second oldest surviving dwelling in Fulton. A preservation group, Preserving Itawamba County's Heritage (PICH), is attempting to raise the funds necessary to relocate and restore the original part of the circa 1860 dog-trot house.

Saturday between 75 and 100 volunteers devoted part of their morning to cleaning the grounds and the interior of the house. Debris was removed from the lawn and the grass mowed and trimmed. Inside the house all of the recent carpet and padding and several of the newer items were removed and the interior cleaned.

PICH has scheduled a fundraiser at The Cedars for Sunday afternoon, 2 to 5 PM October 18, 2009, and Saturday's workday was preparation for that event called Mississippi Hill Country Heritage Day.

The Create Foundation of Tupelo has approved the Gaither House Project Fund as a special Create Fund --- and donations may be made to the preservation effort online at Please specify that your donation is for the Create Gaither House Project Fund.

Volunteers at Saturday's cleanup consisted of interested citizens from Fulton and the surrounding area, members of the Junior United Methodist Youth group of Fulton United Method Church, and members of the PICH preservation group.

More information about the work of Preserving Itawamba County's Heritage can be found here at this blog. The left sidebar has several links to previous articles. You are invited to join this community effort. Contact PICH President Joel Ewing at or PICH Treasurer Terry Thornton at for more information.

Left click image for a larger view

Art work to benefit the preservation effort of THE CEDARS

Fulton artist and art educator Teb Thornton recently completed two works which he has donated to Preserving Itawamba County's Heritage (PICH). The art work will be used as a means of raising funds for the relocation and renovation of the Cates-Gaither House, known locally as the landmark dwelling, "The Cedars" and documenting The Cedars as Fulton's second oldest surviving residence.
Artist Teb Thornton presents his watercolor of
The Cedars to Preserving Itawamba County's Heritage.
Accepting for PICH is Jim Fisher, Senior Pastor of Fulton United Methodist Church.

Thornton prepared a watercolor of The Cedars as it exists today --- and a limited edition of 100 prints signed by the artist are available to benefit the Create Gaither House Project Fund (an affiliate of the Create Foundation of Tupelo). All proceeds will be used in the preservation effort to relocate and to restore The Cedars. You may reserve your copy of this limited edition print by contacting the PICH at its blog-site Preserving Itawamba County's Heritage at Additional donations to the Create Gaither House Project Fund may be made online at Please specify that the amount is for the Gaither House Project.

The second artwork that Thornton provided was an ink line drawing of how the original house built circa 1860 by Pleasant Cates may have appeared. Local lore states that the house was a four-room Hill Country open dog-trot with a porch. That line drawing will be used by PICH in its documentation and presentation of the history of the house which has undergone several major renovations over the past century and a half.
Thornton presents his ink drawing of the probable appearance of
The Cedars circa 1860s to PICH. Accepting the artwork for PICH is Rev. Fisher.

Plans are to have the print of the watercolor available at the Mississippi Hill Country Heritage Day, a fund-raising event scheduled for Sunday afternoon, October 18, 2009, from 2 til 5 PM at The Cedars on Main Street in Fulton.

Artist Thornton is the art instructor at Saltillo High School. He is represented by the Attic Gallery in Vicksburg.
Left click image for a larger view

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Cedars/Fulton Mississippi Video Tour Part 5

To view video, click the start button above

This video concludes the five-part look at The Cedars and Fulton, Mississippi, where an attempt is being made to preserve the original 1860s dog-trot portion of the Cates-Gaither House and to relocate it just west of its present site. The landmark house is known locally as The Cedars.

Part 5 is another "Through the Windshield Video" and begins on west Main Street. Traveling east past the college and landmark businesses such as Riley Building Supplies, up the river bluff hill and past Senter Drug Store, the drive proceeds east on Main Street past The Cedars to the Fulton United Methodist Church.

The current owner of The Cedars, Fulton United Methodist Church, has offered the house and a small lot upon which to place it to any group who will undertake the preservation, relocation, renovation, and conversion of the property to community purposes. The leadership of the church recognized the historical importance of The Cedars in offering such gifts as these to the community.

A community preservation group, Preserving Itawamba County's Heritage, was organized the the summer of 2009. The group has been accepted as a special project through the Create Foundation of Tupelo, Mississippi. Donations to the preservation efforts of The Cedars/Cates-Gaither House made be made to

Create Gaither House Project Fund
P.O. Box 1053
Tupelo, Mississippi 38802

Indicate on your check that the donation is for the Create Gaither House Project Fund. Your tax-deductible donations are most needed in saving this dwelling, a part of Itawamba County's heritage.

To view Part 1 of this video series, click here.
To view Part 2, click here.
To view Part 3, click here.
To view Part 4, click here.

Interior video of the original portion of the house will be posted soon.

Video Copyright © 2009. Preserving Itawamba County's Heritage, Fulton, Mississippi. All Rights Reserved.

The Cedars/Fulton Mississippi Video Tour Part 4

Click start button above to view the video. Sounds are from the engine of my automobile and from a music CD playing in the car.

Part 4 of this five-part video tour is another "Through the Windshield Video." This drive starts at the west corner of the Itawamba County Courthouse Square. On the right look for the old Senter Drug Store with its wonderful painted advertisement on the side wall. The drive continues west on Main Street down the old river bluff.

Senter Drug Store, when I was enrolled at the college in the 1950s, had a super soda fountain. For just a small amount of change, one could walk a date to the drug store, buy her a cherry-coke, and be thought a "big spender."

Back in those days girls at the college were not allowed to ride in cars. I remember walking various co-eds to town up and down the sidewalks of river bluff hill. If one had a "walking date" for the movies (two nights a weeks were girls permitted to go out) and it was raining, it was consider acceptable for the guy to drive slowly along the street in his car (if he had one) talking through a lowered window to his date as she sloshed about in the rain, sleet or snow.

Just west of the spot where the Mississippi Railroad tracks crossed main street, the tour turns north onto the campus of Itawamba Community College. The primary building shown is the Student Center built approximately on the site of the original Itawamba County Agricultural High School, a boarding school, from which the college has evolved.

Very little of the campus is shown in this video --- one must drive throughout the campus and walk among the building to appreciate the growth of this educational institution over the past few decades.

This video is part of a series attempting to identify the context into which The Cedars (Cates-Gaither House) is found in 2009. Attempts are being made to preserve the original house as it was setup when built circa 1860 and to relocate the house in Fulton.

Your help in Preserving Itawamba County's Heritage is needed!

To view Part 1, click here.
To view Part 2, click here.
To view Part 3, click here.
Part 5 will be posted soon.

Video Copyright © 2009. Preserving Itawamba County's Heritage, Fulton, Mississippi. All Rights Reserved.

The Cedars/Fulton Mississippi Video Tour Part 3

Click the start button above to view

The third part of the video series, The Cedars/Fulton Mississippi, shows The Cedars (Cates-Gaither House) in its present location and gives a view of the lot directly to the right of the house where the original dog-trot portion of the house will be relocated.

To view Part 1, click here.
To view Part 2, click here.
Parts 4 and 5 will be posted soon.

Video Copyright © 2009. Preserving Itawamba County's Heritage, Fulton, Mississippi. All Rights Reserved.

The Cedars/Fulton Mississippi Video Tour Part 2


Click the start button above to view. The background noise is street traffic on Main Street, Fulton, Mississippi.

Part 2 of The Cedars/Fulton Mississippi Video Tour shows the location from curbside up the steps and to the front walk to the house. At the end of the walkway near the top of the steps, the camera is panned 360 degrees to show the house in its current location on the south side of Main Street, Fulton, Mississippi.

To view Part 1 of this five-part series, click here. Parts 3 - 5 will be posted soon.

Terry Thornton
Fulton, Mississippi

Video Copyright © 2009. Preserving Itawamba County's Heritage, Fulton, Mississippi. All Rights Reserved.

The Cedars/Fulton, Mississippi Video Tour Part 1

To view this "Through the Windshield Video" click on the start button above.

In an attempt to document The Cedars (Cates-Gaither House) and the preservation/relocation effort of it currently underway by the group Preserving Itawamba County's Heritage, a series of five short video tapes were made. Part 1 is of a drive west on Main Street, Fulton, past The Cedars, around the Court House, and back east to The Cedars.

The video was shot through the windshield of my car as it moved down the street --- and I call all such videos "Through the Windshield." The noise is from my car; the music is something that was playing on the car's sound system.

The video starts on Main Street just west of the Fulton United Methodist Church, current owner of The Cedars. The Cedars will show on the left (and I pan the camera in a brief glimpse of the house). The drive continues past the Fulton Post Office (left) and the Fulton Catholic Church (right, formerly the Methodist Church), with a left turn to start around court square. At the four-way stop, ahead are signs of construction on a new down-town park for Fulton. The journey loops around the Courthouse and then back east on Main Street (Old Highway 78) and stops at curbside at the steps leading up to The Cedars.

Enjoy this brief look at Fulton on a cloudy afternoon, September 16, 2009 --- and of The Cedars in context to its current setting. Parts 2 - 5 will continue this video-look at The Cedars and Fulton, Mississippi.

Terry Thornton
Fulton, Mississippi

Video Copyright © 2009. Preserving Itawamba County's Heritage, Fulton, Mississippi. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, September 14, 2009


When: Thursday, September 17, 2009, at 5:30 PM and at 6:00 PM (two functions)

Where: The Cedars, Cates-Gaither House, Main Street, Fulton, MS, at 5:30 PM for a brief walk-through of the house followed by a formal meeting at the Christian Life Center, Fulton United Methodist Church at 6:00 PM.

You are cordially invited to attend both these functions.

Watch for announcements about future meeting dates, times, and places here at the blog.

Special fund set up for Preserving Itawamba County's Heritage

Word was received via telephone on September 14, 2009, that the CREATE FOUNDATION of Tupelo has approved a special fund for the benefit of the Preserving Itawamba County's Heritage group's attempt to relocate The Cedars.

The special fund will receive tax-deductible donations to the Create Gaither House Project Fund. The preservation and relocation of The Cedars (Cates-Gaither House) is the first project of the Preserving Itawamba County's Heritage, a newly formed preservation group in Fulton.

You are encouraged to help save The Cedars, to restore the house to its original layout prior to several modern additions, and to relocate it to a new site. Your tax-deductible donations should be sent to
CREATE Gaither House Project Fund
P.O. Box 1053
Tupelo, MS 38802
Individual and corporate sponsors are welcomed. Indicate on your check that the donation is to Create Gaither House Project Fund.

For more information contact members of Preserving Itawamba County's Heritage or email Terry Thornton at or at

Your help in this important heritage preservation project is needed.

The public is invited to all of the meetings of Preserving Itawamba County's Heritage. The next scheduled meeting is at 5:30 PM, Thursday, September 17 at the Cates-Gaither House for a quick walk-through of the facility followed by a formal meeting at 6:00 PM at the Christian Life Center, Fulton Methodist Church.

Friday, September 11, 2009


Cates-Gaither House, August 2009. Click photo for a larger image.

Preserving Itawamba County's Heritage is a newly formed group in Fulton, Mississippi. Composed of local citizens dedicated to the preservation and study of Itawamba County's heritage, the group has formally organized into a committee. The group has identified its first project, the relocation and preservation of the Cates-Gaither House, a historic house on Main Street, Fulton.

Details of this preservation effort will be presented here. You can help save the Cates-Gaither House by
  • joining the preservation committee (details of meetings will be announce here and in the local press --- see the Calendar Section on the left side-bar of this page)
  • attending the Heritage Day and Open House at the Cates-Gaither House in mid-October 2009 (details to be announced here and in the local press)
  • contributing stories and photographs of the Cates-Gaither House for publication here at this website (contact details will be announced here and in the local press)
  • contributing services and sweat-equity in the huge task of removing the Cates-Gaither House to its new location (work schedules will be announced here)
  • and MOST OF ALL, donating tax-deductible gifts to the CREATE GAITHER HOUSE PROJECT FUND (see details in the left side-bar)
You presence, encouragement, and support of this preservation effort is most appreciated.

Again, this site is under construction --- watch for important announcements to be posted soon.

Cates-Gaither House & Outbuildings: 1929 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map

Old maps and plat drawings of lots can often yield much information about landmark property. Such is the case with The Cedars in Fulton, Mississippi. This almost 150-year old property is shown on the Fulton 1929 Sanborn Fire Insurance map.

The map image below is courtesy of Itawamba County historian and writer Bob Franks of Mantachie. Franks sent the image and information used to produce the second image below to identify the structures at the Cates-Gaither House, The Cedars.

Click images for a larger view

The Cedars (Cates-Gaither House) is located facing Main Street in Block 140 (structures just to the right of "140" on the map above).

The 1929 configuration of the house and grounds are shown above. Enclosed structures are identified in solid lines; porches and covered areas are shown with dashed lines.

Thanks to Bob Franks for providing this most valuable piece of information about The Cedars.

Your help is needed in the preservation effort of the Cates-Gaither House. Join Preserving Itawamba County's Heritage in this undertaking.

Pleasant Cates and The Cedars: From The Settlers Magazine

The following article from
Itawamba Settlers, the quarterly journal of Itawamba County, Mississippi History and Genealogy, Fall 2006, is reprinted courtesy of the author Bob Franks and with the permission of the Itawamba Historical Society.

Pleasant Cates and The Cedars

Article and photographs by Bob Franks

Today, this old Fulton landmark is owned by the First United

Methodist Church in Fulton.

Pleasant Cates was born on September 9, 1811 in Tennessee. He spent some time working as a young man as a shipwright on the Tallahatchie River in northwestern Mississippi. Having married Hettie Anderson around 1840 and fathering two children (Robert Calvin and Mary J.) in Mississippi, he received a land grant in McNairy County, Tennessee on October 7, 1847. By the 1860 US Federal Census four other children were listed with the family (Elizabeth, George, William and Luke Lee). As George and William were never known by the family in later years, they probably died young.

Settling in the town of Purdy, McNairy County, Pleasant purchased and sold several parcels of property throughout the 1850s. Especially interesting are the deeds to which Pleasant bought and sold slaves in 1858. There is a very noticeable lack of business activity relating to Pleasant during the early 1860s, during which time the Civil War ravaged the southern economy. Pleasant, being too old to fight, ran the blockade at New Orleans and was captured three times but escaped each time.

Following the war Pleasant was extremely disturbed about the large number of Tories (men who refused to serve in the Confederate forces) and carpetbaggers (northern men who came south after the war the seek profit) in that area of Tennessee. Shortly after the war he moved his family to Fulton in Itawamba County.

Perhaps in preparation for his move to Mississippi or because of economic reversals due to the loss of his slave assets, Pleasant sold his household furniture to pay a debt made by his old firm of Cross and Cates. Then selling his town lot in Purdy on March 31, 1866, he moved his family to Fulton. Two and one-half months later he bought the north half of the southwest quarter of Section 18, and Lot 1, Block 5 (present-day Phil and Mary Morris House). Shortly thereafter Pleasant built a new home on Main Street. The new home became known as The Cedars because of the large number of cedars in the yard. He then sold his old home to his daughter and son-in-law, Elizabeth Cates and J.P. Baldridge on 15 May 1879. J.P. Baldridge, a Fulton merchant, had moved to Fulton with the Cates family and married Elizabeth soon after arriving in Fulton. Pleasant’s two older children had married back in McNairy County during the 1860s. Robert (Bob) married Elizabeth Huggins and lived in Corinth and Kossuth, where he owned a large farm and operated a general merchandise store. Mary J. married Shelton R. Stribling and by the 1870 census was living in Fulton.

During the 1870 Itawamba County Federal Census Pleasant was listed as a merchant. He owned a sizeable farm in the county and operated a cotton gin on his property (currently on the Fulton United Methodist Church property) in Fulton. His sons-in-laws were both listed as dry goods merchants. His younger son, Luke was married during 1878 to Sallie Betts, daughter of Captain Egbert Betts and Harriett C. Roberts. They were living with Pleasant at The Cedars during the 1880 census as were three black servants. State Senator David Johnson and family lived next door.

Pleasant Cates and J.P. Baldridge were involved in a court battle during 1886. It appears that several out-of-state supply houses were about to foreclose on Baldridge, but Pleasant bought his dry goods store and allowed J.P. to continue to work for him for provisions and pay off what he owed. The injunction was finally dissolved and the bill dismissed during 1888 at a cost of $1.50 per day to the complainants. In the meantime death had come to Pleasant’s wife on November 21, 1886 and she was buried in the Fulton Cemetery just northeast of the Cates property. Describing himself in his testimony before the court case mentioned above, Pleasant said he was nearly entirely deaf. At the age of 82, he wrote a letter to a nephew, Thomas Jefferson Cates in Texas, where he wrote:

Fulton, Mississippi

July 24th, 1893

Mr. T.J. Cates

Ben Wheeler, Texas

My dear Nephew:

Your favor of the 17th inst. At hand and contents

noted. In reply I will say to you that I received a

letter from the marble dealers from Tyler, Texas

signed Coular & Coular requesting me to send

your father’s age to them as they were erecting

a monument over his grave. I sent them the day

and date he was born and I know they got my

letter as they replied to it soon after I wrote and

sent thanks.

Your father was born in December, the 9th day,

1814, in Tennessee, Bedford County, 18 miles

northeast of Shelville. The reason I hate to write you

boys I am so nervous I can’t write my name half

my time without holding my right hand with my

left hand to keep it from shaking. If I live to see the

9th day of September next I will be 82 years old, but

have worked very hard this summer and made

nothing as there has been no rain here in seven

weeks and crops are all burnt up.

I would like to see you boys if you don’t’ belong

to the third party gang. I am so disgusted with

it. I am one of the old Jeffersonian Democrats,

the man you was named for. I will give you the

history of my family. Robert C. Cates is still

living in Kosuth, Mississippi, nine miles north

from Corinth, selling goods and farming and

Luke Lee Cates is traveling for a clothing house

in Georgia at a salary of 35 hundred dollars a

year. He has been in Texas for the last three

months and will move there in the future.

Balwage, my son-in-law, was stricken with

paralyses last fall and has never been able to

walk since he was first paralyzed. S.R. Stribling

lives in Tupelo, Mississippi.

I was in Vernon in the Panhandle and liked it

very well but I am too old to be moving about. I

will close for the present. Hope to hear from you

soon and often. Give my love to all the

connections, a portion for yourself.

With Kindest Regards

Yours with Much Respect

P. Cates

J.P. Baldridge died during 1894 following almost two years of paralysis. So Pleasant sold his homeplace, The Cedars, to his younger son and he moved in with his widowed daughter where he lived until she sold her home during 1903. His older daughter, Mary, and Shelton Stribling, had moved to Tupelo during the early 1880s, and it was said that the two sisters had a feud over their father and never saw one another or corresponded during his last twenty-five years. But, as father would do “the old man rode horseback once a week, forty miles round trip, to Tupelo until he was past 90,” no doubt to visit Mary, according to Pleasant’s great grandson, Holmes Baldridge.

Luke Lee Cates kept the Cates home place only three years before selling it during 1901 to W.L. Gaither, in preparation for his family’s move to St. Louis. Previously during 1893 he had “traveled for a clothing house in Georgia.” He had been in Texas for a few months, and planned to move there but it is not known if he ever did.

The exact date is not known, but sometime during 1906 Pleasant Cates died at the age of 95 and was buried beside his wife. Also buried in his family plot that is enclosed with an ornate iron fence is Pleasant’s nephew and his wife, John C. Cates and Matilda Emeline (Mittie) Gaither, daughter of Gilbreath Burgess Gaither and Desdemonia Wiygle. John’s father, William Lee Cates, was Pleasant’s brother and he stayed in McNairy County, Tennessee. Another of their brothers Hiram Cates, migrated to Smith County, Texas.

Published in Itawamba Settlers, Volume 26, Number 3, 2006, pages 105 - 107. Copyright © 2006, Itawamba County History Society, Bob Franks Publication Editor, Church Street and Museum Drive, Post Office Box 7, Mantachie, Mississippi. All Rights Reserved.

Reprinted here by special arrangements and with the permission of Bob Franks and the Itawamba County History Society.