by Joyce Nicholson
This is the earliest known picture of the old Boler Inn that is undergoing restoration in Union, Mississippi. The restoration is focused on the image of the old stagecoach relay station during early settlement of Newton County in the 1830s through the turn of the century.
Wesley Boler received the Land Patent on December 10, 1834 for the property on which Bolers Inn is situated. In fact, much of the town of Union lies within the boundary of the property that was patented to Wesley Boler. Numerous live streams flow through the area. They are the headwaters of Chunky Creek that flows into the Chunky River. The Choctaw Indians had called this place Chanki.
The Choctaw Indians were removed to Oklahoma in the 1830s in a very sad chapter of American history known as The Trail of Tears. Evidence that Indians inhabited the land was found underneath the rear portion of the Inn that was removed for restoration. Talahalla Quartzite flakes were found at the lowest levels of the archeological test digs.
The former Indian lands were surveyed in 1832 1833. The old wagon road that eventually became known as the Montgomery to Jackson Road was evident in the surveys of the land. Boler Inn is situated alongside this old roadway. It would become a Post Road and a major road west during those early days of Americas westward movement. It has been reported that Jefferson Davis and Stonewall Jackson traveled this road and were guests at Boler Inn. General William T. Shermans overnight stay there is Boler Inns most notable contribution to U. S. history.
The county of Neshoba was formed in 1833 with its county seat located just a short distance to the east of Wesley Bolers land. Three years later Neshoba County was split in two and the lower half became Newton County. The upper half remained Neshoba County with the county seat in Philadelphia. Decatur became the county seat of Newton County.
Rev. Gene Horton, first President of the Foundation for the Restoration and Preservation of Bolers Inn, made a comment once that compared the Old Jackson Road to Interstate 20 of today. It was a major east-west route over which many people traveled to many destinations west. Settlers from the east were moving west and some decided to stay and settle in this area. It is believed that Wesley Boler built the house as a relay station for the stage and post road.
The Inn is described as an I-House. This was a style in which local building materials and construction techniques were utilized. The I-House had two stories with two rooms wide and one room deep. English settlers brought this popular house style to America and Americans added the porches.
A compilation of the W. P. A. manuscripts by Jean Strickland and Patricia Nicholson Edwards states that that the Boler station was erected in 1842 for H. C. Boler, son of the wealthy landowner, Wesley Boler. This statement may be in error. H. C. Boler was born about 1843 according to one genealogical workup for a branch of the Boler family. Also, the 1860 census shows 12-year-old Henry Boler in the Wesley Bolers household. This census record would make Henry Clay Bolers birth date about 1848. Would Wesley Boler have built a house for a son who was not yet born? (Webmaster's Note: Henry Clay Boler's tombstone indicates that he was born January 1, 1845.)
Norfleet Staton was married to Wesley Bolers daughter, Elizabeth. Norfleet wrote a letter dated August 10, 1856 to his father in North Carolina in which he describes a house he is building for his father-in-law. The dimensions he gives fit exactly with the Boler Inn dimensions. It would appear reasonable that Norfleet Staton was describing the Boler Inn. Sherman burned the Decatur courthouse on his 1864 march to Meridian and few land records survived. There is no solid proof that the house was built in 1856. However, it seems reasonable to conclude that the house Norfleet Staton describes is the Boler Inn.
There is a Staton family genealogical report that also contains an interesting story as follows:
General Sherman spent the night in this home while Norfleet was in the Confederate Army; and would not permit it to be burned because he thought Norfleet was in the Northern Army, and had named the town Union in honor of the USA, but it was Union County (where he was born).
General Sherman did spend the night of February 24, 1864 in Union in Bolers Inn and local legends abound that he did not burn Union because of the towns name. In Shermans Forgotten Campaign by Margie Riddle Bearss, General Veatch referred to Unions one house, and that was Bolers Inn. Shermans army had marched 21 miles on that day. The next morning they were up at sunrise to continue their journey toward Canton.
After the Civil War, Steven D. Daniels bought and operated the stagecoach inn and tavern. It is unclear that the Inn was used as a tavern prior to Steven Daniels ownership. The W. P. A. Manuscripts relate how Steve Daniels life was cut short when he and John Mobley exchanged gunfire underneath a post oak tree in Old Union. Later, after a hearty meal, Mobley walked outside and fell dead near the site where he had shot and killed Steve Daniels. Steve Daniels is buried at Mt. Zion Cemetery, just south of Union. His tombstone shows he died February 6, 1888. This is the same S. D. Daniels who had owned a store in Pinckney at one time. The Boler Inn was later sold to a man named Wells.
As is the case with many old homes there are tales of hidden treasure. Similar stories are told about Shermans payroll and another about suspected members of the Murrell gang of robbers. Both stories relate to an injured, dying man who somehow manages to go out after dark and hide the treasure. Later he returned and died before telling anyone where the treasure was put. Many people have tried to locate the treasures but none has ever been reported found. That is not to say it was never found.
Sidney Stribling rented the Boler Inn in 1910. His sons O. A. Stribling and N. I. Stribling started publishing The Union Appeal from the Inn on August 18, 1910. Sidney Stribling became the Union Appeals Editor. This was a risky venture since Thomas Keith and later Barney Johnson had each previously tried a newspaper in Union with no success.
It is fortunate for Union that the Striblings were successful. Numerous descriptive news items were printed in which the Boler Inn and Unions history is documented such as:
- Dates when Union public works were installed such as electricity, public water system, paved streets and sidewalks.
- New construction was always treated with special flair.
- The various fires that destroyed buildings in town were described in detail.
- Special Editions with biographical sketches of the businessmen of the town.
- When the newspaper was moved out of the Boler Inn.
- Special edition at Unions 100th birthday in 1935.
- Good Roads campaign to help to bring better roads to the area.
- Source to W. P. A. researchers in the 1930s.
- Endless colorful descriptions of everyday life in Union.
Through the years, the Union Appeal, now owned by Jack R. Tannehill, has become a vital source of information about the Bolers Inn and the Town of Union.
In addition to running the newspaper, Mr. Stribling bought fur pelts that he sold to Sears Roebuck. It has been said that these pelts were often seen drying on the 2nd floor porch of the house. The west room of the lower floor was the newspaper office where men often came to talk and kill time. Many dipped snuff and spat into the fireplace and hearth. To say the least, the place must have been messy and likely had a bad smell.
This does not conjure up a pleasant picture of a lovely antebellum home as described in some of the Boler family genealogical workups. One must remember that the house was considered a very nice house when built in the 1850s. By the early 1900s the house was becoming old and probably in great need of repairs.
In 1914 the newspaper was moved into the business section of the town and the F. C. Bradley family moved into the Boler Inn as its new tenant. This son of an evangelist, F. C. Bradley came to the bustling town Union in 1912 as a jeweler. He built radios and patented the system that required only one dial to tune in to a radio station. This was a great improvement over the earlier three dial systems. He obtained numerous other patents including a zigzag attachment for a sewing machine and soft nose pads for eyeglasses. He was the third person in Mississippi to receive an Optometrist license. He was the first car owner in Union and his little red Maxwell created quite a stir when his wife drove through town with her five girls. His daughter, Helen, told of holding the lantern for him inside the dogtrot of the old Boler Inn while he took the car apart and put it together again just to find out how everything worked. After all, there were no automobile mechanics and he needed to learn how to do his own repairs.
Later, the Stribling family purchased the Inn and remodeled it. An article by the W. P.A. states that the old cook room that was attached by an ell to the back of the Boler Inn had been removed, that the staircase was changed in 1936, and that a portion of the porch had been screened as a sleeping porch.
The last resident of Bolers Inn was Mrs. J. K. Blalock. After her death, Mr. Mark Herrington purchased the house from the Blalock family. Prior to March 6,1995 several interested citizens expressed a desire to preserve the old house. Mr. Herrington challenged the group by offering to donate the house to a non-profit organization if and when they had raised $25,000 for restoration.
A steering committee was formed that consisted of J. M. Cole, Billie Freeman, Rex Gordon, Jr., Mark Herrington, Ruth Mills, and Jim Ogletree. Kate Thomas, of the Union Chamber of Commerce, and Rev. Gene Horton, of the Union United Methodist Church, were avid members of this group whose work in organizing and researching the project cannot be overstated. By September 1995, a proposed strategy for the development of a foundation was presented to the Department of Archives and History. In February 1996, The Foundation for the Restoration and Preservation of Bolers Inn was formally organized with Rev. Gene Horton as President of the 12-member Board. Robert Carleton, III succeeded Rev. Horton and today Nancy Moore serves as President.
The State of Mississippi has taken on the project of restoration of the Boler Inn. The $200,000 project is completely under the States administration and is not yet completed. Upon completion, the property will be turned back to the Foundation for the Restoration and Preservation of Bolers Inn.
Anyone interested in more information may contract the Union Chamber of Commerce, phone (601) 774-9586.