Whitworth homestead history told

Published 7:26 pm Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Buried in the earth and sealed by a concrete slab, the trappings of one of Brookhaven’s most prominent pioneers remain hidden in the same spot for more than 160 years.

The 1848 plantation home of Milton G. Whitworth, an influential landowner who helped grow the city and found the college that bore his name, burned to the ground in the 1930s, but its basement remains on the old home site on Dale Trail, just east of Highway 51near the Highway 84 intersection. The site was on the historicalWatershed Road, which is known today as Dale Trail.

Local historian and genealogist Glenn Shows gave the history of Whitworth and his plantation Tuesday night in a presentation to theLincoln County Historical and Genealogical Society, revealing that his father, the late R.C. Shows, covered the basement’s remains with concrete when building his own home on the site in 1958.

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“While grading the land, he hit the top of the old basement and scattered bricks all over the yard,” Shows said. “He just covered it up with concrete. A lot of people believe there are some interesting things still in the old basement.”

The red brick house R.C. Shows built still stands and is occupied,so the site is not eligible for public excavation. Shows said a number of local history buffs are itching to break through the concrete and see what Whitworth left behind.

Historical society members speculated on the basement’s contentsTuesday night – papers and documents, furniture, bottles, etc. Such items would have been insignificant to Whitworth, but would be great artifacts showing the history of Lincoln County.

“Bill Hickman and others were ready to dig that basement up,” he said. “I think it contains old things the Whitworth family did not want, old things that today we would love to have.”

Shows said his family continued to use the plantation’s original well, built by the unknown number of slaves that worked the Whitworth estate, into the 1970s.

“It had a huge hole, and you could see all the slave bricks all the way down,” he said. “You don’t find many slave bricks scattered around anymore, and they usually show the age of a place.”

According to Shows’ records, the Whitworth family arrived inMississippi from Germany in the 1818, moving to Brookhaven in the1830s.

Milton Whitworth quickly became a prominent and wealthy citizen,owning huge swaths of land stretching from Brookhaven toward Bogue Chitto. Milton used his influence to talk railroad owner George Hazlehurst to bring the rail lines into Brookhaven, Shows said.

“In doing so, Milton planted the town of Brookhaven,” he said.

In 1843, Whitworth became a member of the board of trustees to the first Methodist church in Lincoln County. He became the Brookhaven postmaster in 1847, and was ordained a Methodist deacon with the power to marry, baptize and bury in 1866.

Whitworth passed away sometime in the 1890s.