Friday, September 11, 2009

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.

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