December 31, 2012

Newman Avenue through the Years

Like every other community, the village known as Sicily Island has seen its share of changes in the landscape, buildings, and businesses throughout the years.  Newman Avenue has been known for some time now as the "main street" of the tiny village and it is here where most of the dramatic changes have occurred. 

The photographs below are posted in an attempt to preserve a portion of the history of this tiny village.  Most people refer to this village as Sicily Island or by its former name, Florence.  

Newman Avenue, 1927 (LtoR):  Yancey Brothers (later C. S. Montgomery), Drug Store with Dr. Gordon's office on back, Variety store (originally the T. J. Chisum store), J. W. "Wes" Ogden Grocery (originally the I.A. Steele Store; later, O. G. Wynn Grocery, then Gordon's Grocery), O. G. Wynn Grocery (later, Blacksmith Shop, then Pool Hall), and Woodman Hall. 

Of the stores listed above, the only buildings still standing are the old Variety Store, the I. A. Steele Grocery and the Pool Hall. 

Newman Avenue, 1927 (Stores on Right in older photo - Foreground to Background):  Saltzman General Merchandise (later, Friley Guice Merchandise), Old Post Office, Richard Iverson "I-Bo" Harris Hardware and Pool Hall, and Buck Smith Grocery.  As the recent photograph on the right shows, none of the previous buildings remain today.

Newman Avenue, 1960s - Stores on Left in older photo - Foreground to Background:  C. S. Montgomery Store, Drug Store, Bumpers, O. G. Wynn Grocery, Pool Hall, Jack McNair's Saloon. Stores on Right in older photo - Foreground to Background:  Crawford's Barber Shop, Saltzman Merchandise.

Newman Avenue, 1970s - The Sicily Island branch of the Catahoula Parish Library and a small Insurance business are the only structures still standing on the north side of Newman Avenue.

Newman Avenue, circa 1938-39 - Originally this grocery store was built and operated by Isham Alfonso "I. A. or Al" Steele around 1917-1918.  His son-in-law, J. W. "Wes" Ogden, later owned and operated the store and was the proprietor at the time of this photograph.  One of Wes and Lucille Steele Ogden's daughters, Virginia, is seated on the far left.  Also in the photograph are Catherine "Kitty" McNair Nolen (2nd from left) and Barbara Jane Peck Gilbert (center).

Mr. and Mrs. O. G. Wynn, Sr. as well as Gordon Higgins and Mary Nell Benge Higgins have been previous owners of this same building and business.

Newman Avenue, 1960s - Photograph of a patron of Jack McNair's Saloon.  Today, the building houses a small barbeque cafe.

Newman Avenue, 1960 - Vernie Robertson and wife standing beside a cafe (later known as Langston's Cafe) that is now the location of a mini-storage building.

Newman Avenue, late 1960s - The Sicily Island First United Methodist Church building (pictured on the left) was constructed in 1910.  There were seventy members at that time.  Classrooms were added along the back in 1945.  In 1965 a new sanctuary was built and the previous sanctuary was used as the "Sunday School Building" for about 10 years until it was torn down to build the new educational building (pictured on the right) in 1975.

Perhaps the most difficult change for me was the destruction of the old sanctuary.  Some of my fondest childhood memories include the time spent in the little white church building with my family and friends.  Whether it was time spent attending church as a family on Sundays, M.Y.F. with friends on Wednesdays, Vacation Bible School in the Summers, getting all "foo-foo'd" up for Easter Services, or the always reverent Christmas Eve Candlelight Services, all continue to hold a special place in my heart.

Below is a photograph taken of the painting that once hung behind the pulpit of the Sicily Island United Methodist Church that was built in 1910.  This painting is now on display in the Educational Building constructed in 1975.

December 30, 2012

William Otto Stringer Family

Josiah Milton Stringer was born circa 1840 in Lawrence County, Mississippi.  He married Catharine King who was born on October 10, 1840 in Mississippi.  Per descendant, J. Case, Josiah died during the Civil War in Oxford, Mississippi before 1865.  Catharine is listed has head of household on the 1870 Census and then later as "widowed" on the 1880 Census.  The location of Josiah Stringer's burial is unknown at this time.  Catharine died on June 4, 1907 and is buried in the Crystal Springs Cemetery in Walthall County, Mississippi.  (Editor's note:  tombstone photograph is courtesy of Bill Sullivan at

William Otto Stringer was born to the marriage of Josiah and Catharine King Stringer on October 16, 1866.  He married Nancy "Nannie" Jane Albritton who was born in Lincoln County, Mississippi in 1866.  William and Nannie made their home in Bogue Chitto, Lincoln County, Mississippi until at least 1910.  The 1920 Census shows them and some of their children as living in Sicily Island. 

William Otto Stringer died on September 7, 1942 and Nancy "Nannie" Jane Albritton Stringer died in 1954.  Both are buried in the Old Pine Hill Cemetery in Sicily Island.

December 28, 2012

Richard Harris Cloy Family

Richard Harris Cloy was born on June 20, 1876 in Franklin County, Mississippi.  In 1908, he married Pinkie Paralee Bowman who was born on April 19, 1887 in Franklin County, Mississippi.

From Our Island Heritage, Vol. 3, 1978, compiled by Sophie Haley and Mickie Smith:
When Richard and Pinkie married, they moved into the house built by Richard's father before he went off to serve in the Confederate Army during the Civil War.  He was already farming the land but as his family grew, he found it impossible to make a living for them in the poor soil on the hills of Mississippi with only a couple of teams of mules and some hand plows.  In those days there were few odd jobs with which a farmer could supplement his income.
With the assistance of Pinkie's father, Frank Bowman, and her brother, Barney Bowman, some land was rented for the Cloys from Levi Wray "Lee" Furr who had earlier migrated to Louisiana from Mississippi.  So, in December of 1923, Richard, Pinkie and seven children moved "West" to the "rich and fertile" lands of Louisiana.  Three more children were born after they moved to Louisiana. 

December 26, 2012

Joel M. Cooper Family

Lawrence Martin Cooper was born on January 22, 1832 in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana.  He moved to Mississippi and in 1866, he married Emily Wooly who was born in 1841 in Mississippi.

Photograph courtesy of member, donnahporter
Lawrence Martin Cooper died on February 25, 1928 and Emily Wooly Cooper died in 1923.  Both are buried in the Society Hill Cemetery in Prentiss, Jefferson Davis, Mississippi.  (Editor's note:  tombstone photographs are courtesy of Natalie Maynor at

December 24, 2012

Roger Price Wilkinson Family

Roger Price Wilkinson, Sr. was born on July 3, 1891 near Jonesville in Catahoula Parish, Louisiana.  On June 16, 1915 he married Bernice Lipsey who was born on April 12, 1897 in Ouachita Parish.  

From Our Island Heritage, Vol. 3, 1978, compiled by Sophie Haley and Mickie Smith:

Roger and Bernice met when Bernice came to Harrisonburg to make her home with an uncle, Jim Williams.
They first lived in Parhams, south of Jonesville, where they farmed and raised cattle.  The high water of 1922 forced them to move to Sicily Island where they continued to pursue farming as their main means of livelihood.  Roger worked for the Louisiana Department of Highways and was elected in 1932 to serve on the Catahoula Parish School Board.  He served on the board until 1944.

Bernice was a Star Route mail carrier from Sicily Island to Harrisonburg for many years.  

For several years prior to her death, she worked diligently to maintain Norris Springs as a park area by working with the authorities to get the area lighted and to have trash barrels and garbage pickup for the area.

Both were active members in the Pine Hill Baptist Church where Roger was the church treasurer for over 40 years.  He loved to entertain his many friends and his pals of long standing who enjoyed their domino games.  Pictured in the photograph below are (LtoR) Winstead Knight, Mary Sumners, Price Wilkinson, Lucille Steele Ogden, and Doc McKay.

Roger Price Wilkinson, Sr. died on November 6, 1990 and Bernice Lipsey Wilkinson died on January 11, 1977.  Both are buried in the New Pine Hill Cemetery.  (Editor's note:  tombstone photograph is courtesy of Karen Klemm Pinckard at

John D. Boyette Family

John D. Boyette was born on February 10, 1873 in Lincoln County, Mississippi.  In 1893, he married Lucy Douglas who was also born in Lincoln County on February 19, 1876.

From Our Island Heritage, Vol. 3, 1978, compiled by Sophie Haley and Mickie Smith:
John Boyette was a farmer and syrup maker at his Mississippi home.  In 1919, John moved his family to Louisiana because of better farming land than the rocky hills of Mississippi provided.  They first lived for one year near Waterproof and then the next year moved to Sicily Island and farmed as sharecroppers on Cicero Jacob Meyers' place.  After a year there, the family moved to the Cane Road and farmed a place for Henry Krause for several years.  They later farmed the Gordon Place north of the Village of Sicily Island.  After John Boyette's death in 1930, Lucy Boyette and their children continued to farm the land for two years.  The Boyette children began to leave to establish their own homes so Lucy sold her farm equipment and made her home with her son, Enon, who at that time was living in the Leland community.
The Boyette family were faithful attendants at Pine Hill Baptist Church for many years.  John was a Deacon, a dedicated worker, and leader in the activities of the church.  Every member of the family at one time held membership in Pine Hill Baptist Church.  From this church, their son Enon was called to the ministry.
John Boyette raised coon dogs in which he took much pleasure.  He also liked to fish and many times would load his large family in the wagon and go for all day (and sometimes overnight) fishing trips to Lake Louie, originally known as Lake Lovelace.  He was also a school wagon operator for three years and on Sundays and for revivals he would drive the wagon to Pine Hill Church, filling it with people along the way who wanted a ride to church.
John D. Boyette died on June 25, 1930 and Lucy Douglas Boyette died on July 7, 1945.  Both are buried in the Old Pine Hill Cemetery in Sicily Island.

December 23, 2012

The John Griffin Cooper Family

John Griffin Cooper was born on January 22, 1867 in south Louisiana to Lawrence Martin and Emily Wooly Cooper.  He moved to Marion County, Mississippi where he met and married Mary Eliza Parnell on December 20, 1887.  Mary was born on May 20, 1866 and died on February 12, 1905, two years after the birth of their eighth child.  She is buried in the Cedar Grove Cemetery in Fortenberry, Marion County, Mississippi.  (Editor's note:  tombstone photograph is courtesy of Arthur Fortenberry at

In early 1906, John married widow Louise Delilia "Lila" Cameron Gill.  Lila was born on March 7, 1882 in Mississippi and had one daughter, Vernon (abt 1902), from her previous marriage.

From Our Island Heritage, Vol. 3, 1978, compiled by Sophie Haley and Mickie Smith:

John Cooper continued to live in Mississippi until he moved his family to Sicily Island in December of 1917.  A friend and former neighbor, I. E. Bass, had moved to Sicily Island around 1914 and it was he who encouraged the Coopers to move here along with the Williamsons and the Newsomes.  The three families moved at the same time, some members driving through with wagons and others coming by train.  Mollie Cooper Salter recalled that when they checked in at the Eola Hotel in Natchez for the night, they were told by the management that no pets were allowed.  Seymour Williamson had his pet dog which he was not about to give up.  Seymour waited until the right moment to sneak his dog up the stairs to their room where he put him in bed and crawled in with him.  The management was none the wiser.
I. E. Bass had secured farmland for the three families and so the Cooper family settled down to farm for T. J. Peniston.  They lived in a house near where the Town Hall is located today.  Over the years, John Cooper farmed at various locations on the Island until age brought him to retirement.  After retiring, John and Lila moved into Sicily Island where they first rented and then decided to build their own home.  They started building but in 1938, before the home was completed, Lila Cooper died.
John Cooper lived a long and useful life.  He was an active member of the Masonic Lodge and of the Baptist Church.  Lila was a member of the Eastern Star and the Baptist Church. 

December 22, 2012

Sicily Island Descendants of Reuben Posey

Reuben Posey was born in 1854 in Lincoln County, Mississippi.  He was eight years old when the Civil War broke out.  He would often tell his children about their experiences during those years.  He could hear the cannons firing to the north around Vicksburg and to the south toward Baton Rouge.  The Yankees came through and ate up all their corn and killed six of their hogs.

He married Aby Jane Felder who was born on July 25, 1856 in Pike County, Mississippi to David F. Felder and Lucinda Martin Felder.  Aby was especially fond of ice cream.  Her children remembered how one year, although these treats were very hard to come by, they surprised her on her birthday with ice cream and a "bought" cake.

Reuben and Aby, like so many other Mississippi hill cotton farmers, were attracted to the better farmlands to be had in the bottom lands of Louisiana.  In the Fall of 1916, they moved to Sicily Island where they first rented land from Dr. Henry Disch.  Later, they acquired a place of their own on the Island where they lived the remainder of their lives.  (From Our Island Heritage, Vol. 3, 1978, compiled by Sophie Haley and Mickie Smith)

Reuben Posey died on September 25, 1932 and Aby Felder Posey died on March 2, 1927.  Aby is buried in the Old Pine Hill Cemetery.  The location of Reuben's burial is unknown at this time.

Record of death for Aby Felder Posey:

The following tribute to Mrs. Aby Felder Posey appeared in the Semi-weekly Leader, Brookhaven, Mississippi on Wednesday, March 23, 1927.  (Courtesy of Danny Peavey)

Thomas Leonard Benge Family

The history of the Benge family began in the early 1900s when Thomas Leonard Benge and his wife, Mary Hazeltine Mayo, moved to Sicily Island from Lincoln County, Mississippi.  Thomas was born on May 30, 1855 near Brookhaven, Mississippi.  Mary was born on March 25, 1861 near Brookhaven, Mississippi. (Reference:  Our Island Heritage, Vol. 3, 1978, compiled by Sophie Haley and Mickie Smith)

Thomas Leonard Benge died on March 13, 1936 and Mary Hazeltine Mayo Benge died on November 23, 1935.  Both are buried in the Old Pine Hill Cemetery.  (Editor's note:  tombstone photograph is courtesy of Karen Klemm Pinckard at

December 21, 2012

Eldred Levi "Lee" Holloway Bird Family

Eldred Levi "Lee" Holloway Bird was born on August 24, 1868 in Lawrence County, Mississippi.  On November 25, 1891, he married Emma Frances Hennington who was born on July 26, 1870 in Lawrence County, Mississippi.

Lee attended law school at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, graduating with honors.  He was elected to the Mississippi Legislature as Representative from Lawrence County on November 3, 1903 and served three terms.  In 1919, he and his family moved to Sicily Island.  He did not pursue his law practice on Sicily Island.  He brought his logging teams from Mississippi and set up a sawmill a few miles south of Peck on the Hill Road where he had purchased acreage. In 1932, the Birds sold the sawmill and logging business to their son, Audley and moved back to Lawrence County Mississippi.  (From Our Island Heritage, Vol. 3, 1978, compiled by Sophie Haley and Mickie Smith)

Eldred Levi "Lee" Holloway Bird died on March 7, 1957 and Emma Frances Hennington Bird died on June 22, 1956.  Both are buried in the Bahala Chapel Cemetery in Tryus, Lawrence County, Mississippi.  (Editor's note:  tombstone photographs are courtesy of Natalie Maynor at

December 20, 2012

Sicily Island Descendants of Joel Harvey Furr

Joel Harvey Furr was born on December 23, 1825 in Lawrence County, Mississippi.  On February 1, 1844, he married Malona Malvina Newton who was born on September 15, 1826 in Mississippi.  

Joel Harvey Furr died on November 19, 1916 and Malona Malvina Newton Furr died on April 15, 1886.  Both are buried in the Little Bahala Church Cemetery in Woolworth, Lincoln County, Mississippi.  (Editor's note:  tombstone photographs are courtesy of Natalie Maynor at

Descendants of two of the children born to the marriage of Joel Harvey and Malona Newton Furr became residents of Sicily Island. 

December 19, 2012

Ford-Bourke Families

David Poole Ford was born on November 20, 1843 in the Aimwell community of Catahoula Parish.  On June 5, 1867, he married Mary Helen Oliphant who was born on August 5, 1849 near Yazoo, Mississippi.  David Ford was a blacksmith on Sicily Island for many years. 

The following children were born to the marriage of David Poole Ford and Mary Helen Oliphant Ford:

Alonzo F., 1868-1954 (m. Laura Elizabeth Banks, 1870-1936); Both are buried in the Rough Creek Cemetery in Novice, Coleman, Texas.  (Editor's note:  tombstone photographs are courtesy of Sandra Brookshire Behne at

December 17, 2012

The Archie Scott Higgins Family

From Our Island Heritage, Vol. 3, 1978, compiled by Sophie Haley and Mickie Smith:

(Editor's note:  information has been updated for accuracy by Gayle Price Evans, a direct descendant of Archie Scott Higgins)

John Higgins, Sr., of Irish descent, was born about 1816 in New Jersey.  Family history states that he and a brother (unknown) traveled from New Jersey to Louisiana, where they arrived in New Orleans.  John ended up in Catahoula Parish.  He met Sarah Tovery who was born in 1828 in Mississippi.  They married in Sicily Island, Louisiana on May 23, 1848.  Their marriage ceremony was performed by John P. Heard and the witnesses were Samuel Whatley, W. W. Whatley and C. M. Riley.  

John and Sarah were prominent landowners, farming and raising cattle along the Leland/Hill road area.  John died April 2, 1871, leaving Sarah with five children: John, Jr., Thomas George, William (who died at about 2 yrs of age), Henry, Elizabeth (Bettie), and Walter.  

John Higgins, Sr. and Sarah Tovery Higgins are both buried in the Old Pine Hill Cemetery in Sicily Island.

John Higgins, Jr. was born on November 17, 1850 in Sicily Island.  On January 17, 1877, he married Mary Scott of Plaquemine, Iberville Parish, Louisiana.  They were married in Sicily Island at the residence of Dr. Henry Doniphan.  

Mary was born in Kentucky on January 2, 1855 to Archibald W. Scott (born in 1829 in Scotland) and Elvira Berry Taylor (born in 1835 in Kentucky). Archibald and Elvira had moved to Plaquemine, Louisiana in the 1850's.  

Mary, at the age of seventeen, came by riverboat from New Orleans, arriving in Harrisonburg, Louisiana.  Arrangements had been made for her to come to Sicily Island to work and reside in the Doniphan home.  

John and Mary were farmers and Mary served as post mistress for Florence, now known as Sicily Island.  

John Higgins, Jr. died on December 11, 1934 and Mary Scott Higgins died on December 4, 1931.  Both are buried in the Old Pine Hill Cemetery in Sicily Island.  (Editor's note:  tombstone photographs are courtesy of Gayle Price Evans through

One of the six children born to John Higgins, Jr. and Mary Scott Higgins was Archie Scott Higgins. 

December 16, 2012

Joseph Strahan Francis Family

Joseph R. Francis was born in Concordia Parish in 1829.  On January 2, 1851, he married Huldah Strahan Masters who was born in Mississippi in 1832.  Joseph died between 1860 and 1870.  The location of his burial is unknown at this time.  Huldah died on October 3, 1903 in Catahoula Parish.  She is buried in the Old Pine Hill Cemetery in Sicily Island.

Three children were born to the marriage of Joseph and Huldah:
Rose (m. Yancey Miles)
Sallie (m. Lanningham)
Joseph Strahan
Joseph Strahan Francis was born on September 7, 1857 near Jena, Louisiana.  On September 17, 1885, Joseph married Mary Etta Renfrow who was born in Mississippi on March 11, 1867. 

December 15, 2012

William Estus Evans Family

William Estus Evans was born near Wesson, Copiah County, Mississippi on April 17, 1878.  His parents were J. J. and Viney Thompson Evans.  On December 16, 1906, Estus married Lou Alpha Smith in Mississippi.  Alpha was born near Wesson on October 14, 1887 to Willie and Susie Scarborough Smith.

Along with the John Nix Conn family and the Samuel Cooke Crawford family, the Evans family moved to Louisiana in the Fall of 1915.  They settled in Franklin Parish for a short time then moved on to Sicily Island.  The family farmed for many years and Estus drove a school bus until his retirement.

Estus Evans was a man of jolly good humor, dedicated to his church, loyal to his responsibilities, and a friend to all.  Alpha was a devout Christian, a devoted mother and housewife, and provided immeasurable aid and assistance to those in need. (Reference:  Our Island Heritage, Vol. 3, 1978, compiled by Sophie Haley and Mickie Smith) 

John Nix Conn Family

John Nix Conn was born on June 18, 1878 near Wesson in Copiah County, Mississippi to James Madison and Melissa Adeline Nix Conn.  He married Elizabeth Mullins who was born in the same community on November 9, 1881.

The Conn family moved to Louisiana during the Fall of 1915, along with the Samuel Cooke Crawford family and the William Estus Evans family.    All three families first settled across Deer Creek from Sicily Island.  Both John and Elizabeth were devoted workers in Pine Hill Baptist Church throughout their lives.  John Conn taught the Men's Bible Class and directed many of the church's activities.  Elizabeth Conn was devoted to her home and family.  Both were hardworking, Christian people who were an asset to their community. (Reference:  Our Island Heritage, Vol. 3, 1978, compiled by Sophie Haley and Mickie Smith)

John Nix Conn died on January 15, 1941 and Elizabeth Mullins Conn died on May 4, 1960.  Both are buried in the Old Pine Hill Cemetery in Sicily Island.  (Editor's note: John Nix Conn tombstone photograph is courtesy of Miriam Malone at

The following children were born to the marriage of John Nix Conn and Elizabeth Mullins:

Samuel Cooke Crawford Family

Story from Our Island History, Vol. 3, 1978, compiled by Sophie Haley and Mickie Smith:

Samuel Cooke Crawford was born on December 14, 1869 near Wesson in Copiah County, Mississippi to William Martin and Melissa Graves Crawford.  On November 18, 1897, he married Rachel Victoria Seal  and they began their married life as farmers in the hill country of Copiah County.

Tales of good farmland to be found in the bottom lands of Franklin and Catahoula Parishes in Louisiana led the Crawfords and several of their neighbors (Evans and Conn families) to this area in the Fall of 1915.  Samuel rented farmland for three years in Franklin Parish just across the line from the Sicily Island community; then he bought a farm in Catahoula Parish near Sicily Island.  After six years, he sold this farm and moved his family to the Gillis Place where he farmed for many years for William Smith Peck, II.

By the standards of his day, when farming was done with horses, mules, and hand tools, Samuel Crawford was known as a very successful farmer.  He believed in and practiced diversification, and besides the regular crops of cotton and corn, he raised sugar cane from which he made his own syrup as well as for market.  He also raised watermelons for market.  He was quite a resourceful man, recognizing and grasping opportunities for making money for his growing family.  When the Conservation Department needed someone to rid Lake Louie of unwanted harmful fish, he became a commercial fisherman under their guidance; he operated a boat rental service on the lake also.  When the floods of 1927, 1933, and 1937 came, he built and operated a ferry which carried traffic from Sicily Island to near Foules.

Samuel Crawford never held a public office but was always vitally interested in local political matters.  He was an avid sportsman--loved both to hunt and to fish.  On January 26, 1935 he died in the woods doing what he liked best to do--deer hunting.

Victoria Crawford was a dedicated housewife and mother to their twelve children.  She was a devout Christian who for many years was a staunch supporter of the Methodist Church.  The Crawford home was always open and often served as a place for the visiting evangelists to stay.  Rachel died on November 21, 1969, at the age of ninety.

Samuel Cooke Crawford and Rachel Victoria Seal Crawford are both buried in the Old Pine Hill Cemetery in Sicily Island.

Record of death for Samuel Cooke Crawford:

The following children were born to the marriage of Samuel and Victoria Seal Crawford: 

December 14, 2012

The Family of Charles Samuel Seal

Anthony Seal was born on February 22, 1799 in South Carolina.  He married Winnie Mary Jones who was born in Georgia on April 25, 1805.  Prior to 1846, they moved to Hancock County, Mississippi.  Anthony Seal died on October 3, 1861 and Winnie Jones Seal died on March 13, 1883.  Both are buried in the Pine Grove Baptist Church Cemetery in Picayune, Pearl River County, Mississippi.  (Editor's note:  tombstone photographs are courtesy of Ron Thornton at

One of the children born to this marriage was Marcus Anthony Seal, who was born on December 20, 1846 in Hancock County, Mississippi.  In 1868, he married Mary Elizabeth Furr, who was born to Joel Harvey and Malona Malvina Newton Furr on April 3, 1848 in Mississippi.  Marcus Anthony Seal died on December 2, 1926 and Mary Elizabeth Furr Seal died on August 10, 1920.  Both are buried in the Little Bahala Baptist Church Cemetery in Woolworth, Lincoln County, Mississippi.  (Editor's note:  tombstone photographs are courtesy of Anita at

The following children were born to the marriage of Marcus Anthony and Mary Elizabeth Furr Seal: