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Old Pelahatchie Home and Ohleyer Building

By Linda Goff, July 3, 1979


In response to our request for information on the older homes in Rankin County, we have been given a small amount of history on a few of them so we will relate to you what has been told to us.

There are many old and interesting homes in Rankin County. One of these is the home of Mr. and Mrs. L.B. Martin of Pelahatchie. It is in the north end of town, facing College Street. It is Georgian-type architecture, with six tall white columns across the front, and sitting behind an enormous magnolia tree. The size of the tree, plus the wooden pegs and square nails used in its construction are indications of its age.

This house is said to have been built by Dr. F.L. Gipson, an outstanding citizen of Pelahatchie of a century ago. Tradition tells us he gave the land for the school and the Pelahatchie cemetery. All this land joined his house site. Now a street and local highway is cut between the school site and the cemetery. At least three school buildings were used before the school was moved across town to a new location. In 1925, Professor George Hurst, Psychology Professor of State Teachers College (now University of Southern Mississippi), recalled being the teacher in the log school building. At any rate, in the early 1900′s a two-story red brick building was erected and used until about 1924, at which time it was replaced by a spacious one-story building.

Dr. Gipson was born Jan. 19, 1850 and died March 5, 1892. He was married to Miss Estelle Spann, who was born Nov. 10, 1867 and died May 14, 1899. They had one child, Little Will Gipson. All three are buried in the Pelahatchie cemetery.

When Mrs. Gipson died in 1899 she left her estate to her sister, Mrs. Carrie Spann White, wife of Mr. G. Walter White. Mr. and Mrs. White were the parents of Mrs. Mary White Nelson, widow of Dr. D.M. Nelson, long time President of Mississippi College. Mrs. Nelson remembers the long porch across the front, shaded by the large magnolia tree, and her grandmother Spann sitting on the porch.

At the time of Dr. Gipson’s death, the Knights of Pythias Lodge passed “resolutions of respect” printed on silk and framed. Mrs. Gipson was the great-aunt of Mrs. Jim Buck Ross.

In November 1907, Mr. John Hayes Beckes bought the property from Mrs. Carrie Spann White and Mr. White who was then sheriff of Rankin County. Mr. and Mrs. Beckes, son Thomas P. (father of Mrs. Vernon Franklin) and daughter Nina, lived here for many years. By some it is still known as the Beckes House. Sometime after the death of both Mr. and Mrs. Beckes, the place was sold to Mr. Jim Buchanan. Then Mrs. Rosa Buchanan Shields and family lived there. In 1958 Mr. Charles Lipsey Ward bought the house and now his daughter and son-in-law live there. They have restored it and it is indeed a thing of beauty. We are indebted to Mrs. Inez Watts Summer for most of these facts.

Another interesting building of Rankin County is the old Ohleyer Building in Brandon. The man responsible for erecting this building is said to be Mr. John Ohleyer, born in France in 1820. His wife was also foreign born. It is said that she never learned to speak English. Just when this family came to Brandon is not known but it was before the Civil War that he was supposed to have built this building.

This two-storied building of hand-hewn rock was built at the tremendous cost of $6,000. The story goes that he discovered the local rock deposit, hauled rock into town, shaped each one and then put them in place – all by himself. The walls were made two feet thick of solid rock held together with cement. It is thought to be the first two-storied building in Brandon. One interesting feature was that it had its own built-in well!

Mr. Robert Morrow tells about having some clean-up work done in the basement which still had a dirt floor, and the workman struck something hard. While the workman yelled for Mr. Morrow, people gathered round. They dug up a cache of rifles. It was the opinion of the local citizens that the rifles had been buried by the Confederates when it appeared that Sherman would take over the town and for some reason whoever buried them was unable to return for them. Mr. Morrow said it was interesting how those rifles disappeared, one by one.

This incident proved very exciting, so the workman continued to dig, looking for more treasure. Suddenly everybody missed him and then they began hearing faint calls for help. Finally he was located. In his search for treasure he had stepped on the covering of an old well and as the boards were rotten, had fallen through. Fortunately he caught himself on some boards and wasn’t badly hurt, but very, very scared.

This old building, still standing, has gone through many tribulations but has managed to survive them all. The building has stood through Sherman as he laid waste to the city and through the disastrous fire of 1924. Time has ravaged it more than everything, but it still serves the citizens of Brandon. It is located on the north side of Government Street, west of Rankin County Bank. It now houses Morrows Insurance upstairs and the Ceramic Shop is downstairs. The native rock is quite visible from the west side of the building.


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