The Fortenberry-Parkman Farmstead
The Fortenberry-Parkman Farmstead is significant because it is a fully intact Mississippi farm representative of the typical farmer from 1860 to 1960. All of the original buildings, with the exception of the chicken house, were preserved intact and restored to their 1920s appearance when it was relocated to the Ag Museum from its original location in Jefferson Davis County in 1981. Tremendous attention was paid to accuracy and detail during the relocation and restoration process. It was the authenticity resulting from such accuracy that convinced the Department of Archives and History that the site deserved designation as a Mississippi Landmark in 1988, even though the farm did not qualify for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, due to its having been moved.
The farm was started by Jesse Fortenberry in the late 1850s or early 1860s. Jesse received a land grant from the U.S. Government in 1861. Jesse went to fight in the Civil War in 1862, leaving his wife Amelia Wiggins Fortenberry and his only child, Melvina Christiann, to run the farm. He would not return to the farm, and was buried in Fredericksburg, VA in 1863. Jesse’s widow Amelia married Jasper Parkman in 1865. The Parkman Family raised four more children. One child, Eliza Cornelia, married the son of John Gazzie Fortenberry (Jesse Fortenberry’s brother.) Story Littleton Parkman, the only son of Amelia and Jasper Parkman, spent his entire life on the farm. After he died in 1960 the farm ceased its operations.
The farm was donated to the Ag Museum in 1979 by Duthiel W. Fortenberry. In 1981 the farm buildings were recorded using photography, survey instruments and labeling. The farm was dismantled and moved to its present site at the Museum. Each building is in its original position in relation to the other farm structures. The road which runs through the farm is representative of the county road which passed through the original site.
The Doctor’s Office
Constructed in 1905 and originally located in Camden, Mississippi, this building served as Dr. John Whitworth Melvin’s office and later as a drug store. Doctors’ offices were frequently set on the second story or in the back of a drug store. Because of the limitations of medical technology, most small town doctors were equipped only to perform deliveries and minor surgery. A vast array of medicines were available in most drug stores due to the efforts of pharmaceutical salesmen.
Most Mississippi physicians who practiced in the 1920s received general education within the state, but they went out of state to regional universities for medical training. Internships were spent at both regional and state hospitals. Many returned to hometown areas to establish practices. Father and son practices were common.
The General Store
The most numerous of all businesses were the general merchandise stores, whose shelves carried every conceivable product needed from cradle to grave. These stores were the center of activity for the town, and everything of importance either happened at the store or was reported there immediately.
General stores varied in size and material. In Mississippi, local sawmills provided adequate framing material, and larger operations milled lumber. Due to the arrangements of merchandise along the walls from floor to ceiling, stores tended to be greater in length than width. As the use of fertilizer and agricultural chemicals became more prominent, it was necessary for the stores to construct an addition for storage and merchandising.
The School House
The 1920s was a period of change and progress in education throughout the State. Interest in better schools and broadened curriculum was not confined to any particular county, community, or class of people. It was everywhere from the largest cities to the most remote rural sections of Mississippi. During the early days, schools relied on mule or horse drawn wagons. As the roads improved, Ford trucks with homemade bodies replaced the wagons. By the thirties, factory-built covered trucks and cars were widely used. But, in many areas children still walked to school, sometimes as many as three to four miles each way.
The one and two-teacher school was still a familiar landmark during the twenties, particularly in the rural sections and small towns that dotted the Mississippi countryside. Usually, the building was a wooden frame structure with one or two rooms heated by wood-burning stoves. Many of these schools lacked running water and electricity. Lighting was furnished by kerosene lamps when available and drinking water came from a nearby spring or well. Some had hand pumps to make the task of filling old oak buckets with drinking water a bit easier.
Furnishings varied from county to county depending on the funds available. In many schools, single and double patent desks were used. Since several grades were taught in the same room, the desks were all different sizes. In some of the older schoolhouses, homemade desks were installed around the walls with benches pulled up to them. Rows of homemade desks were also common. And in every classroom there were recitation benches. Children were called up front by the teacher to recite their lessons. Meanwhile, the other students were supposedly busy studying a lesson assigned to them. Much of the school work was done at the blackboard.
Small Town School is a composite of the hundreds of schools throughout the state and the many facets of education they supplied during the 1920s. The artifacts lend authenticity to the reconstruction. Wherever possible, items from the period have been secured and reproduced by artisans familiar with the history and crafts of the early 1900s. Small Town School is a place to recall a bygone era in education.