The following story was written by Linda Kay Pepper (Richardson) as an English paper when she in Junior High at the Benton Academy around 1975. She received a well-deserved A+.
There are a few details that may required more research, but the paper is very interesting and provides some insight into conditions before and during the Civil War.
The house was built by John Wesley Penney instead of John Pepper. Two Penney girls married two of Zedekiah Pepper’s sons. Jesse Horton Pepper married Elizabeth Penney after he returned from the war and they lived in the old house and raised twelve children.
The last family member to own the house was Bessie Jackson, daughter of Myrtle, the youngest daughter of Jesse Horton and Elizabeth Pepper. The house was accepted on the Mississippi Historical Register and will be restored and maintained by the new owner, who purchased the house and the remaining furniture in 1996.
THE OLD HOUSE
In 1835, John Pepper and his family moved from south Mississippi to Deasonville, just west of Vaughan, Mississippi. His slaves built a six-thousand dollar home on the three hundred and eighty-five acres that he bought. This was built before the Civil War.
The house has four, twenty foot square rooms, two rooms twenty by sixteen and a kitchen that is twelve by sixteen feet. There is a hall that extends the full length of the two rooms. The porch across the front reaches the full length of the two rooms. Two large bedrooms make up the second floor. The fourteen foot hall and the east porch are together sixty-six feet long. The windows in the two large front rooms have doors under them, so they may be opened, giving better ventilation. Long louvered shutters help shut extreme heat out in the summer. The rooms, hall, and even the ceiling of the long front porch are plastered with an exceptionally thick plaster. The greater part of this is still intact except in a small area on the front porch.
Cousin Ivy, whom I interviewed, said the most interesting feature of the house was the staircase comprising of twenty-one steps. The banister was made of solid walnut which was hand-hewn by the slaves and put together with pegs. The top of the rail has always been slick because that was the way the children came from the second floor.
There were one hundred and twenty different kinds of trees in the yard at that time, from which most of the furniture for the house was made.
My cousins, Agnes and Ivy Pepper, lived in the house most of their lives. Cousin Agnes died several years ago at the age of ninety-four. This was right after they had moved to a nursing home in Yazoo City, Mississippi. Their maid had died was the reason for their moving. She cooked and cleaned for them and when she died they could not do it alone. Cousin Ivy, who is still in the nursing home, is ninety-two years old. One of their other sisters, Rossa Brown, who lives in a Jackson nursing home, is one hundred and two. Cousin Ivy said she only wished that she were still living in their old house.
The house is still in good condition. One door has the original paint on it and the wide plank floors are still sturdy. They are more than one hundred and fifty years old. The huge sills upon which the house is built are put together with wood
pegs. To all appearances they are as solid as they were when they were put there more than one hundred and sixty years go.
When the house, the dining room and kitchen were all leading from the east porch, being connected by a few steps. In this section was a large fireplace containing pot hooks where huge vessels of food could be hung to cook. The family bought a cook to help them.
When I visited my cousins, they would always ring the bell for me. The bell was used to call the slaves. It was always on the mantel right beside the clock which chimed every hour. The name of it is Fashion Clock and it was made in 1875. There was a smaller clock that was won in a bicycle race. The winner had given it to their father. The bicycles were the type with the big front wheel and little back wheel.
In the house also is a two hundred year old wash pot. It has rusted very little. There is also a two hundred year old shaving stand which was hand made and a two hundred year old hand carved bed.
Many things in the house were made by the slaves, such as a wooden peg table. The first Louisiana regiment ate at this table on their way through there during the Civil War. Cousin Ivy has a dish from which they ate. There is a rolling pin made from a walnut tree and a rocking chair with a cowhide bottom made from hickory. Cousin Ivy has a sugar bucket in her room at the nursing home that was brought by some relatives. They traveled across the Mississippi River when it was frozen one winter in an ox wagon. That was the only way they could have gotten the goods
One spring during the Civil War, a Union troop came through Deasonville urning all the houses and taking all the food in that area. Instead of burning John Pepper's house, the commander made it his headquarters for the day the Union troops stayed there. The commander and his men did whatever they wanted to and ran the house. They ate all the food from the garden except one onion that had the top pulled off. That was the only reason it was left. The soldiers trampled the garden and grounds of the home making a mess where ever they went. They took all the meat from the smoke house with them and burned it. However, there was one young man who had not been in the army very long. He went secretly to Mrs. Pepper's room and told her he did not want to be there and he did not feel good about taking all their food. He then told her that he had put one side of a hog and one ham behind the meat box for them to eat. The Pepper's managed to save one of the boards where the meat stayed in the smoke house. That boad is now on the back porch of the house and you can still see the salt embedded in it.
One of John Pepper's daughters, who was twelve years old at that time, led the horses away. She took them to the swamp to keep the Yankees from getting them.
Mrs. Pepper was a member of the Eastern Star and when she heard that as soon as the Yankees left they were going to burn the house, she gave her distress signal. The Union officer in command was a Mason and he came to her aid. She asked him not to burn the house, and they did not.
When the Yankees were leaving that night, they tied a rope to the old cook and carried her off with them screaming. Later the family received a one thousand and five hundred dollar check for one trained cook. Cousin Ivy still has the receipt for the check.
When the Yankees had gone, Mrs. Pepper told an old slave to get the horses and saddle and bring them around front. She was going to help the people whose houses had been burned. Many of them stayed at the Pepper's house until they could provide for themselves. They always had a house full of company. They
welcomed anyone who wanted to come.
I have taken some pictures of the house. The first one is the front view of the house. The door does not show up very well but it has glass on the sides. There is glass across the top of the door too. Cousin Ivy tries to keep the house painted and
the porch in good condition.
The second picture is the side view of the house. On the porch, shelves made from wide planks, held flower pots. The family liked plants and the porch was always covered with beautiful ferns and a lot of blooming flowers.
I hope that someday somebody will be able to repair the house and give tours with a guide to tell the history of this house. It would be a great attraction to Vaughan.