Though there are no National reserves in the county, (1936) The American Legion Post, of Charleston, Tallahatchie County, made an effort to establish a hunting reserve with a large portion of it lying in Tallahatchie and almost three of four thousand acres in Quitman. They failed to obtain a title from the state, thereby being forbidden any custody. However, interested persons keep a careful watch so as to prevent the slaying of game ruthlessly by hunters who come here from far and near to “bag” big game–principally deer and bear.1
A privately owned bird reserve of three hundred acres or more is situated in the east-central part of the county. Lespedeza is grown here as food for hundreds of quail, each year.
Forest Trees and Forest Types
Growing here are oaks–red, white, water, post, and overcup; ash, white and green; locust–black and honey; also sweet gum, black gum, Tupelo gum, elm, maple, hickory, dogwood, cottonwood, walnut, pecan, and persimmon.
Fruit and nut-bearing trees are: pear, fig, plum, quince, peach, apple, cherry, persimmon, pawpaw, pecan, walnut, hickory, and red haw, which bears a berry useful for home purposes.
Early one-half of the land in the county is woodland. According to the latest available figures (1930 census), the woodland amounted to about 121,169 acres. The important regions are: Approximately 12,000 acres adjoining the state farm in the south [south of Lambert]; 7,040 acres five miles south of Crowder; 8,000 acres eight miles northwest of Marks; and 24, 960 acres one mile north of Crowder, two miles east of Marks. The remainder of the woodland is scattered back of the different farms.
Economic Value of Forests
Trees improve and build up the soil. Certain kinds, moreover, like the locust and acacias, build up poor soil through the nitrogen-gathering bacteria in the root nodules; leaves, small twigs, and other tree litter decompose and form a layer of dark-colored vegetable mold which enriches the soil and stores up soil moisture.
By means of the layer of mold, the binding of the soil by the roots of the trees, and the resistance of the trunks to the rapid flow of water, the woods prevent floods from gullying or destroying the land by erosion, particularly on the steep slopes.
In their relation to climate, the forests may be considered great natural reservoirs, which accumulate the rainfall in the thick covering of decaying humus beneath the trees, while the heavy foliage, shutting out the sun, prevents rapid evaporation. Not only does the forest preserve the earth’s moisture; it also moderates the winds.
We have an area of about fifty thousand acres of woodland in the county where the timber is cut and shipped principally to the Mississippi Valley Lumber Company in Clarksdale, Welch Lumber Company in Memphis, and Shannon Brothers in Memphis. This area is called “Bobo Woods,” and is owned by the state. Livestock is excluded because invariably they cause damage to the trees by nipping off the branches and peeling the bark.
Most of the industries buy their supplies largely in the log; persimmon, ash, and hickory–most important hardwoods grown here. Three million feet of hardwood have been shipped out of the county this season, yet there is a remainder of about 15,000,000 feet.
The Caledonian Plantation, managed to G. O. Denton, of Belen, has a private forest, with an estimate of about 860 acres, which consists largely of maple and oak; an offer of $10,000 was made recently for this property. G. D. Whitaker, also of Belen, owns a private forest of 110 acres of oak and hickory.
Eight or ten “ground hog” sawmills are in the county, usually at some central locality on different plantations. Rough lumber, used for improvement on the farms, is sawed at these mills.
There is an eight-acre cypress brake on the sixteenth section school land that is valued at over a thousand dollars.
Forest trees on a farm increase the income and the value of the farm in the following ways: By making wastelands yield a profit by growing timber on them; furnish employment for men and teams during spare time; utilizing timber for better advantages; and marketing the higher grades of wood products to consumers at fair prices. It is estimated that 300,000 board feet of logs, ten carloads of piling and two carloads of posts are shipped annually to markets.
Cutting and Handling Timber on the Farms
The amount of timber cut and handled on the farms is negligible. When there is found a place around the farm where fences are to be built, the hands on the place cut the trees down with axes and haul them to the nearby mill to be sawed into rough lumber; posts are also “split” by farm help; sometimes the lumber is used to construct outhouses, chicken runs, etc., and repair run-down cabins; cotton platforms, also, are built of this lumber.
Marketing Farm Timber
There is no cooperative marketing in the timber business for dealers in Quitman County. Each man handles his own shipment from the woods to the buyer. Men are sometimes hired at from $1.50 to $2.00 a day to cut the trees down with axes or with saws, and the logs are then loaded by men and derricks on trucks and carried to Clarksdale, to the Mississippi Valley Lumber Company; or the logs may be taken to the nearest railroad shipping point, then sent to Memphis and sold to the following firms: Welch Lumber Company, Shannon Brothers, and Memphis Veneering Plant.
It is estimated that fifteen carloads of timber leave Quitman County daily during the dry season or summer months. Number one persimmon brings $60.00 per thousand, usually; but one man, according to Paul Claxon, county engineer, received $65.00 per thousand for 8,000 of this in 1935; varieties bringing lowest prices are: Tupelo gum, sweet gum, and elm. Cottonwood, ranges from $12.00 to $9.00 per thousand feet. However, the average prices, aside from these, range from $10.00 to $20.00 per thousand feet.2
Protecting the Woods
There is no organized effort at present to protect our woods. A forty-acre tract of land owned by Miss Alice Gibson, near Belen is fenced closely and posted against trespassers of any kind. There is no waste of timber here, and game is allowed to increase without being disturbed by huntsmen. Lately, there was found a white squirrel in this woodland. No particular efforts are made in this county for forest improvement and reproduction.
Street and Highway Trees
As a result of the Works Progress Administration Beautification Project and the efforts of the Garden Club of Marks, there have been planted along the highways an abundance of crepe myrtle, red bud, weeping willows, and water oak. Pink crepe myrtle has been rather extensively used on the town streets and is watered, mulched, trimmed, and generally cared for by the garden club members.3
“I think that I shall never see
A poem as lovely as a tree.”
In the Partee lot at Belen, and among the oldest sides in the county, stands a pin oak tree with a rugged bark that measures seventeen feet in circumference, the bole extends six feet above the ground and then divides into two branches, forming a large crown. One of the branches is nine feet at the base, while the other is ten feet. The small leaves are tough and slender.
In the southwest corner of the yard of the G. O. Denton residence at Belen, stands a proud old water oak with a circumference of twelve and one-half feet. According to Mrs. Denton’s estimation, it is over one hundred years old. Some time ago the branches became so huge and spreading that it was necessary to have them trimmed to protect the house.
The colorful history of a tree is related as follows: In 1889 William Wallace Steadman migrated to Quitman County from Natchez and settled in what is now known as the Birdie community. Along with his personal possessions, Steadman wanted to bring something that might act as a reminder of the years he had spent in South Mississippi, therefore he packed two small trees, one a cedar, the other a pear, in a little box of southern soil. They were planted on the premises of his new home and as time went on, the trees, adapted themselves to a new climate, reaching full maturity. In the meanwhile their owner and keeper had acquired a large family of children and grandchildren. Today, long after Mr. Steadman has passed away, the property is in the hands of a son; the cedar has grown to the circumference of five feet while the pear is almost a half century old, it still bears fruit of a quality that can be preserved.4
Near the entrance to the old home site of Mrs. W. P. Porter, of Sledge, stands a magnificent red oak more than a hundred years old and with a circumference of seventeen feet and five inches. Its numerous spreading branches with dense pear shaped foliage, afford ideal shade and speak a voiceless language of the past. This living monument of the years grows slowly, with a surface of medium rugged bark which is sometimes used for a medicinal astringent. Also flourishing on the expansive lawn of the Porter home are several other interesting trees. A flowering catalpa, fifty years of age, is of rapid growth with a purple-tinted white blossom and a grayish coarse bark. Its circumference is seven feet and eight inches, and its irregular spreading branches have a very broad sheltering foliage.
Two graceful Austrian pines, though twenty-seven years of age, have only a circumference of five inches each; this slow growth being attributable to the unsuitable climate. Their limbs grow straight, forming needles and have an extremely rough bark, secreting a solid inflammable substance known as resin, often used commercially. A hawthorne tree twenty-seven years old, with a circumference of thirty-five inches, is also among this group. Low in statue, it has small white blossoms with a pungent odor. In the fall of the year it bears red berries and is believed to be the most beautifully flowered and berried tree of the South.5
Located at the J. H. Jennings home, two miles south of Walnut, stands a huge old red oak tree with circumference of sixteen feet. Though it is short and sturdy, branches are long and closely set, making an ideal shade when in full foliage. The bark is rugged and very dark. Though the commercial value is very high, it is prized by the Jennings family principally for its shade and beauty. Another red oak nearly a hundred years old is located in the southeast corner just outside the yard of the late C. W. Partee residence; has a circumference of eleven feet.6
A magnificent old red oak with a circumference of fourteen feet stands at the front entrance of the Methodist church in Belen.
Near the Burleyson home site is a stately old cottonwood measuring thirteen feet in circumference; due to its hundred years of growth, this tree is of an enormous size. Being rather closely situated to Cassidy Bayou, it thrives in the moist soil; the blossoms shedding, transplant themselves, and the leaves are very large. The bark of the cottonwood is scaley and light in color.
Forty yards east of Whitehead Bridge, which is two and one-half miles northeast of Darling, on the banks of the Coldwater River, stands another cottonwood tree with a circumference of four feet, and it is fifty feet to the first limb.
A magnificent old hackberry, passing the century mark in age, stands on the south side of the yard, near the street at the home of Mrs. J. L. Ikerd, of Belen; an ivy vine completely covers the entire bole of the tree. The wood of the hackberry is brittle, and is impregnable to disease.7
One of the oldest trees in the county, a very large water oak, stands in the yard of the Shine Turner old home, six miles southeast of Lambert on Coldwater River, and measures thirteen feet and ten inches in circumference. The bark is very rugged and the branches grow low, affording an ideally shady spot. The historic importance of the tree lies in the fact that during the flood of 1882 one of its huge limbs served as a place of refuge for Mr. Turner.
Having been warned of the rising waters, Turner persuaded his family to go to the hills for shelter and security, while he remained at home to protect the property and livestock. When he realized the inundation was upon him, he climbed to the attic of the house for safety, where he crouched for several hours. From here he watched, only to see roofs and walls of houses, lifeless bodies of farm animals, household goods, bridges and barrels hurtling past in the swift current or floating more slowly on the calmer waters near at hand, so he gathered up his bedding and dragged it through the single attic window onto the limb of the oak tree, which was several feet higher than the house. Here, he remained two or three days and nights, until rescued by friends.8
At the S. E. Jones home, four miles west of Belen, is an enormous old white oak tree. The land where the house is located is very high, but it slopes gently where the tree stands, and erosion has worn away the soil from around the tree until its roots resemble gigantic talons. The magnificent bole, thirteen feet and two inches in circumference, supports a top which, when in the full foliage of summer, shades the house and yard like a gigantic green umbrella. This type of tree is inclined to grow slowly; its smooth bark is light in color; the scalloped leaves are very large, and the timber is valuable. It is stated that this tree, much over a half century old, still stands staunch, magnificent and unchanged.9
One mile east of Marks is an elm tree which marks the site of the old Jamison Ferry Landing and the Jamison old home–one of the oldest in the county. Because of the moist and fertile soil, this elm has grown to be of an enormous height and with a circumference of fifteen feet. The large spreading crown, symmetrical and graceful proves to be of great advantage as a shade. The elm is the first tree to bud in the spring; its wood is close-grained and very hard.10
On the banks of the Coldwater River, four and three-fourths miles east of Crowder, stands a black oak tree measuring four feet in circumference and which has in its body, three feet above the ground, a hole made by a cannon ball fired from General Grant’s boat as he traveled down the Coldwater to the Yazoo, thence to Vicksburg. Lieutenant General E. H. McGinty, father of Mrs. F. W. Garrett, of Crowder, was on the boat at the time. Black oak wood is filled with knots, causing the timber to be of little value.11
According to L. G. Newsom, one of the interested settlers in Quitman County, the pin oak, located west of the railroad on 4th and West Main streets, in Marks, is one of the oldest trees here. It stands on property bought by A. P. Brown in 1908. In 1922, the Mississippi Power and Light Company offered to buy the tree because of their franchise to put lines in streets and alleys; Brown finally agreed that the tree might be trimmed, for which he received $250. With a short, stubby trunk, and a circumference of seven feet, its spangled leaves are small and slender; the bark is rather rugged and has a silvery appearance.12
In 1934, the house on this lot burned and part of the tree was destroyed, but it lives on.
On Darby Street, east of the railroad in the town of Lambert, is a mimosa tree. This flowering tree has blossoms resembling powder puffs, and color shading from a pink base to almost white at the tip end of the petals. Being a moderate grower, this tree is only one foot in circumference; one of the characteristics of the mimosa is that it grows crooked and the blossoms close at night; the bark is rather smooth, and the attractive leaves are very large.13
Located in Miss Annie V. Turner’s garden, in Marks, is another mimosa, and also a beautiful magnolia with a circumference of four feet.14
Standing in the front yard of Mrs. W. A. Cole’s home at Lambert is a tulip tree, six inches in circumference, and characteristically
smooth-barked; the first mild days of spring–March and April–seem to transform it into a giant bouquet of pink tulips. It always blooms before putting on its foliage, and then sheds the leaves, which are very large, late in the fall. The “Japanese magnolia, ” and “Tulip tree” refer to one and the same tree, this being a rare and expensive tree.15
Located on Second Street, in the front yard of Mary King, negro, of Marks, who has lived here since 1920, is a beautiful magnolia tree. It is stated that Pearl Dale lived in this house prior to 1910, and that the tree was there at that time. This type of tree grows very slowly and will not thrive in a cold climate. It unfolds its buds in early springtime, and they blossom into a white loveliness which lasts through the months of May and June, and sometimes a longer season, and flowers diffuse a delicious odor. However, it is not dependent entirely upon its flowers for value and appreciation, as the foliage presents a particularly rich and clean appearance all summer.16
A magnolia at Second Street, on Highway 3, and in front of Dr. A. C. Covington’s residence, is one foot in circumference, and located two miles south of Walnut, at the Jennings’ home, is one which measures four feet in circumference. They are both typical with large, thick leathery leaves and great white cup-shaped flowers which bloom throughout the months of May and June. The thick, fleshy roots decay easily if disturbed.
At Marks, on the corner of Coldwater and Walnut streets, near the bank of the Coldwater River, stands a pin oak tree whose protecting branches once served as the site of justice; here, lawbreakers were tried, this being before the old Hill residence was appropriated for the same purpose. This staunch old oak seems to bespeak the past to those who held closely the memories of the early form of government in Quitman County. Its circumference is ten feet, and it has a bark that is rough and silvery in appearance.16
Wild Life in Quitman County
Opossums are plentiful in the woodlands here and are hunted for their hides and for the table. Here, as elsewhere in the South, “possum and taters” is regarded as a wonderful dish.
Moles are small, burrowing animals, and not many of these are here; bears and wolves are almost extinct, but one woodsman now has a bear about three months old which was rescued after its mother was killed. He proudly exhibited the black cub in the streets of Marks in July, 1936.
Weasels, minks, and raccoons are common animals here; bob cats, the same as a bay lynx, are very common, and some panthers are left in the woods. They belong to the cat family; muskrats, rabbits, cotton patch, and can-cutter, black, red, and gray squirrels are rodents of this county.
The quail is a favorite game bird in Quitman County, and several varieties of ducks are valued for hunting and for food; mallards are very common; squealers have pretty plumage, but they are too small for cooking; blue wing and green wing teals are very uncommon and small; wood ducks have nice plumage and brilliantly colored eyes which have orange and blue rings around the pupil; Florida mallard, or black duck, is the biggest species here, but they are scarce; pin tails, which are smaller than mallards, are here, but not in quantity; canvas backs are large and there are numbers of them on the lakes and bayous, and there are a few turkeys in the southern part of the county. Canadian goose and brant are rare.
Mocking birds are plentiful here; robins, orioles, wild canary, and field larks are song birds, while birds of prey are sparrow hawks, sharp shank hawks, cooper hawks, screech owl, horned owl, and barn owl. Shrikes, or French mocking bird, and blue jays rob nests; crows are destructive here in the springtime.
Aquatic birds abound on the numerous lakes and bayous; they are herons, white and blue cranes, and bitterns. Other birds are the nut hatch, sapsucker, humming bird, cliff swallow, martins, black bird, blue bird, killdeer, cow martin, yellow hammer, snipe, sparrow, English and week, and the wood cock. The wood guard, or Indian flicker, is an interesting native bird. He is the sentinel of the woods, and gives alarm if anything is about to happen, such as hunters being near, or dangerous animals roving about.17
Wild flowers grow in abundance along the roadside, in the fields and vacant lots.
Goldenrods have a prolonged season of blooming, and when the bright yellow flower clusters fade, the seeds, tipped with fine feathery hairs, are wafted in every direction.
The dainty pink and white bell-shaped wild morning glory may be seen almost everywhere in summer, winding and twisting its way among the wayside shrubbery. Its round, leavy stem grows from three to ten feet in length; with the first peep of dawn, the morning glory opens its blossoms to the world, and blooms as late as September.
Springing from amid broad, hairy leaves, the delicately fragrant yellow blossoms of the primrose grow singly on long stems, blossoming during April and May, in colors ranging from bright yellow to the deepest purple.
Common blue violets are found in woodlands, on ditch banks and in marshes during April, May and June. Other species such as the round-leafed violet, the sweet white violet, and the Canada violet also grow wild.
Toward the last of August and through September and October, purple aster blooms and adds much to the charm of autumn; its star like flower-head varies from a half-inch to nearly two inches in diameter. They spangle every roadside and fence row, and grow in dry, exposed places.
The blue bell is a hardy plant with bell-shaped blossoms which droop on their slender stems, so that the petals form a roof to protect the pollen from the rains.
The first bright yellow blossoms of the dandelions seen in the early spring and throughout the summer, soon turn to white, fluffy balls, whose seeds are scattered by the wind, gaining for it the name of blowball.
The dogwood, which blooms in the early spring, has flowers of white pinkish hue that make the tree a gorgeous sight in the woods.
From May until August the clustered, pink-tinted buds of forget-me-nots, are sometimes found in the dry fields.
Common sunflower is a giant among composite flowers, having large, coarse heart-shaped leaves, and brown-centered golden blossoms, which often measure nearly a foot across.
The water lily, queen of the water, finds its home in the waters along the borders of lakes, in quiet shallow places, where the soil is rich. The thick stems make their way to the surface, adjusting themselves to the water’s depth and serving as anchors for the flowers which majestically float in their field of waxy-green leaves. The blossoms usually open and close at dawn and sunset, and their life is about three days. Some expand in the evening only; others close soon after noon; still other varieties remain open throughout the day. These flowers may be found from June until September.
Red-bud has conspicuous, bright, purplish red, pea-shaped flowers in numerous clusters along the twigs and small branches, and appear before, or with the leaves in early spring.
On the road along Coldwater River, south of Marks, is a beautiful hedge one-half mile long, of Osage orange which is a small tree about two or three feet high and has small, light-green flowers.18
1 Douglas Carr, Sr., Marks, Mississippi
2 Jim Blackmon, R. M. D’Orr and Mellard Jamison, all of Marks, Miss.
3 Mrs. Blanchard Ingram, Marks, Mississippi
4 R. Stedman, Sledge, Mississippi (RFD)
5 Mrs. W. P. Porter, Sledge, Mississippi (Rural Route)
6 Mrs. Willis Neil, Walnut, Mississippi
7 Mrs. J. L. Ikerd, Belen, Mississippi
8 Miss Annie V. Turner, Marks, Mississippi
9 Julius Jones, Lyon, Mississippi
10 Miss Alice Jamison, Marks, Mississippi
11 Mrs. F. W. Garrett, Crowder, Mississippi
12 L. G. Newsom, Marks, Mississippi
13 Mrs. J. P. Walker, Lambert, Mississippi
14 Miss Annie V. Turner, Marks, Mississippi
15 Mrs. W. A. Cole
16 Miss Margaret Rivers, Marks, Mississippi
17 Hal Denton, Huntsman, Forester, Jackson, Mississippi
18 Mrs. Emma Bailey, Marks, Mississippi
Book of Knowledge, Vols. 17 & 18–Wonder World
Chapter IV, Flora, pages 27-39, Flora, pages 27-39, Works Progress Administration for Mississippi, Source Material for Mississippi History, Quitman County, Vol. LX, Compiled by State-Wide Historical Research Project, Susie V. Powell, State Supervisor, Illustrated 1936-1938.
Photo of Japanese Magnolia By No machine-readable author provided. Danajohnhill~commonswiki assumed (based on copyright claims). [CC BY-SA 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons
Goat Traps Wildcat comes from The Quitman County Democrat.
All other photos were taken by Sharon Fortner Wright
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