By Milton McMullan
The history of the Tanglewood plantation, and its many different owners, is a long and complicated one.
In 1841, John F. Scott left Virginia and traveled to Mississippi. He obtained land patents from presidents John Tyler and Franklin Pierce for a total of 7,000 acres in the southwestern corner of Newton County.
Scott selected a plateau near the center of his acreage where he would make his home. He called it Tanglewood.
The bulk of the land he had obtained was prairie, extremely fertile, well-known for its quality of retaining moisture even in dry weather, and more than suitable for growing corn and cotton.
Corn would be planted and harvested for meal to make bread, and for use as feed for mules, cattle and hogs. Cotton would be the cash crop.
The first job was to clear the land, a long and laborious task. There were no saws; the axe was the only tool with which to attack the hundreds of trees.
With the dozen slaves Scott had brought with him from Virginia, Scott began felling trees. They would roll the logs into piles and burn them. There might have been a market for the sale of good virgin-timber logs in Lake, a small town a few miles north of Tanglewood, but there were no wagons big enough to haul the logs and the roads were only muddy trails.
After a few months of back-breaking work, about a hundred acres of stump-studded land was ready to plant. There would be bread. Meat was no problem, for the woods were filled with white-tailed deer. Nearby Tallahally Creek offered fine fishing.
During buying trips to Lake, Scott purchased mules, oxen, and plow tools to begin the farming operation. Meanwhile, when there were a few hours to spare from agricultural work, the construction of a dwelling house was begun.
It would take a long time to build the big two-story house that Scott envisioned. While the land was being cleared, the best trees were saved for the house. These trees had long, straight trunks and few limbs.
The logs were hand-hewn into massive beams 12 inches square and in lengths of from 10 to 20 feet, depending on the size of the rooms which each would be used to build.
The beams were so precisely hewn that when stacked, a perfectly smooth wall resulted. The wall was a foot thick, a veritable fortress. Three-foot boards for the roof were rived from pine trees.
Tanglewood Plantation House, constructed in 1846
Picture courtesy of Melvin and Betty Tingle.
John Scott had little success in growing cotton. The weather was either too wet or too dry; the price paid to growers for cotton was too low; farming was a constant struggle.
He had finally paid for his mules, wagons and farm tools, and had built barns for his livestock and living quarters for his slaves, but he paid nothing to the Farmers Bank of Virginia which lent him the money for his Mississippi venture.
Finally in 1854, the bank foreclosed and sold the plantation to W. B. Gaddis, a native of the nearby Scott County. Gaddis almost immediately sold his friend John Parnell an interest in the plantation.
Both men were wealthy and Tanglewood became virtually a partnership. The two men went to the slave auction in New Orleans and returned with nearly a hundred slaves.
Within a few years, the slaves had cleared nearly 2,000 acres of land, and the operation was producing several hundred bales of cotton each year. The partners built their own cotton gin.
Living quarters for the slaves was needed, and with other building projects—such as the gin—underway or in the planning stage, Gaddis and Parnell decided to built a sawmill.
The prosperity of Tanglewood Plantation was assured by the decisions Gaddis and Parnell made. They were not really farmers, but businessmen who had invested in a farming operation. The two also had shipping interests in Vicksburg and New Orleans.
Eventually the two decided to sell Tanglewood. Allen Glover bought the plantation in 1859 and then sold the property to A. B. Watts.
When Lincoln freed the slaves, there were more than a hundred of them living and working at Tanglewood. As was often the case with the “freed” slaves all across the South, they continued to live on and work the plantation even after the Emancipation Proclamation.
Watts and A. A. Cox owned Tanglewood until 1867. Allen Glover, who had bought Tanglewood in 1859 and then sold it, loved the plantation and bought it a second time in 1869, by which time it was the largest plantation in the Lake area.
Nance Hill Plantation, southeast of Lake, was owned by the Staffords2; Sherman Hill, south of Lake, was owned by he Blalocks and Icoms; Bald Hill was owned by the McFarlands, Denhams and Donalds, and the Brier Patch between Lake and Lawrence was owned by the Beales, the Rileys, the Evans, and the Grays.
Each of these plantations had more than 1,000 acres in cultivation. Cotton from all the plantations was transported to the Lake cotton market, from whence it was shipped to Vicksburg over the A & V Railroad. From there the cotton was sent down the Mississippi River in boats to New Orleans and thence across the Atlantic to the cotton mills in Liverpool, England.
All the plantations had grist mills for grinding corn for use as food and as feed for the livestock. But only Tanglewood had its own cotton gin and lumber mill.
Glover kept the property one year and once again sold it for more than he paid for it, this time to Lucy V. Temple Ames who then sold it to J. O. Payne in 1873.
Payne sold Tanglewood to S. B. Fairchild, bought it back, then in 1881 sold it to R. N. Sanders.
From 1881 to 1889 the plantation passed through the hands of W. A. Payne, F. T. Flanagin, John A. Street, and W. A. Wilson. In 1891 the “Merchant Prince”, M. A. Richardson, came into the possession of Tanglewood Plantation.
The Richardson family retained ownership until 1919, when they sold it to Aaron Waller and Margaret McCormick.
From 1926 to 1940 the Ohio Valley Trust Company held title to Tanglewood. The Illinois Lumber and Manufacturing Company owned and operated a huge sawmill on the property in 1946, and Joe Ed Skelton, W. A. Skelton, Jr., and Floy H. Skelton lived at Tanglewood for the next 20 years.
The Skeltons did little farming, and sold the plantation to Gordon R. Brent. The Skeltons moved to north central Mississippi. Milton McMullan, Pat McMullan, Jr., and Paul McMullan bought Tanglewood from Brent.
In the late summer of 1997, Tanglewood Plantation was sold to a person who, for no apparent reason, proceeded to immediately demolish the stately old home. The home, in all its beauty and dignity, had stood on the site for more than 150 years. It was kept in perfect condition during that century and a half, loved and cherished by most of its occupants during that time. One of the few remaining antebellum structures in Newton County is lost forever.
1. This timely article by the late Milton McMullan appeared previously in Keith L. Justice, Friends and Neighbors, Eseff Press, Union, Mississippi, 1998.
2. As per original and in error. Nance Hill (AKA Bermuda Hill) was originally owned by Bird Saffold.