Many stately, old beautiful homes abound in DeSoto County with stories and legends that have been passed down to folks living in the 21st century.
Whether it’s the Wesson House in Olive Branch, home of Olive Branch’s first mayor Ben Wesson, Mon Amour in Horn Lake, built in 1844, and one of only two antebellum octagonal homes left in Mississippi, or Rose Hill at Mussacuna Plantation, which dates to 1849, these monuments to history, war, famine and bloodshed have survived the ravages of time.
Most of our visitors to the DeSoto County Museum recall the grand old home of Colonel Thomas W. White, which stands on the spot where the Fred’s Dollar Store is located now, adjacent to the U.S. Post Office in Hernando.
That fine old home, designed in the Italianate architectural style, was built in 1860, on the eve of the War Between the States. Visitors included Confederate President Jefferson Davis, United States Supreme Court Justice L.Q.C. Lamar and many other notables. It was dismantled with plans by a Memphis developer to rebuild it, but those plans fell through.
There was a time, the old timers tell us, that the many fine homes along Commerce Street rivaled the Victorian and antebellum mansions of Holly Springs and Natchez.
Most of them have all been torn down now, with the exception of Magnolia Grove, the handsome two-story Victorian-era bed and breakfast owned by Tom and Ellen Mulligan.
Magnolia Grove was built in 1890 by Mr. C.D. Williams, Sr., who owned and operated a general mercantile store in the DeSoto County seat.
Originally on three acres, the home, which features 12-foot ceilings and crystal chandeliers, now occupies one-and-one half acres of the original lot.
The Williams’ couple had three children, Ladye E. Williams, C. D. Williams Jr. and Roy Williams. Ladye Williams was born in 1891 and owned the home until her death in 1981.
“We are the third owners of the home after the Williams,” Tom Mulligan said. “The home was opened as a bed and breakfast in May of 1998 and we have owned it since February of 2003.”
According to Mulligan, he and wife Ellen were impressed by the warmth and charm of the people and town.
“We had talked about and researched operating a small bed and breakfast for years,” Mulligan said. “We looked at several bed and breakfasts listed for sale on the internet in our general area including Magnolia Grove.
It was a chance to basically put out the welcome mat to the entire globe, according to Mulligan.
“We have enjoyed welcoming visitors from all over the world into our home and look forward to many more happy years of operation,” Mulligan said.
Mulligan said visitors include couples and individuals from such far-flung places as Australia and New Zealand.
When asked if the historic old house had any ghosts, Mulligan just laughed.
“Lord, no,” he said, but adding quickly: “If somebody wants ghosts, I can drag a chain across the floor.”
Tom’s wife Ellen is renowned for her four-course gourmet breakfasts. “I can’t cook water but Ellen is a great cook. We get a lot of repeat business.”
If it’s not the quiche and delectable fruit compote that will keep folks coming back for more, it’s also the stories that visitors can learn about this fascinating part of the world at the DeSoto County Museum, located just across the street.
Within the past several weeks, the museum has played host to visitors from Germany, Peru, South Dakota, Minnesota and other places across the nation and around the world.
They are simply amazed at the vast array of artifacts and displays that the museum offers.
The museum is looking forward to playing host in the coming weeks to folks a little closer to home, such as the Hernando Chamber of Commerce Better Business Breakfast on March 13 and students from Chickasaw Elementary School in Olive Branch who are planning a field trip in April.
One of the pleasures that the Time Traveler continues to enjoy are people who move to the area and just want to learn a little more about the community which they now call home. It’s a well-kept secret that most DeSoto Countians are increasingly proud to share.
Home sweet home … nothing like it.
ROBERT LEE LONG is Curator of the award-winning DeSoto County Museum.