Ups and Downs of Madison Parish Recalled By Mrs. Jennie Witherow
From September 4, 1936 Madison Journal
(Scanned and edited in November 2013 by Richard P. Sevier)
Seventy-eight years in the progress of Madison parish! That is the record of Mrs. Jennie Witherow, who in December will complete her 78th year in Madison parish, 56 of which were spent at Milliken's Bend and 22 in Tallulah.
Born at the Bend in 1854, Mrs. Witherow remained there until she reached the age of 10, when she went to Memphis, Tenn., to further her academic studies. This was preceded by a year Grant's futile attempt to change the course of the Mississippi river. She returned to the Bend after five years and later attended Hillman College, at Clinton, Miss.
Mr. Witherow immigrated to America from Ireland with his mother and father at an early age and settled at the Bend. He fought with the Confederate forces in the Civil War and in the fighting at Richmond he received a leg wound from which he never recovered. After the War he went into the mercantile business with Mrs. Witherow's mother, Mrs. Leopold Bauer.
Until about 1887 the Bend was in its most prosperous stage. The main street of the town boasted around 15 stores—two butcher shops, one baker shop, six bars, and the others sold general merchandise. A "male and female academy," established in 1844 and taught by Mrs. Charles Coltharp, furnished educational opportunities. The upper story of the academy was a lodge, the Knights of Pythias, of which Mr. Witherow was secretary for a number of years.
Feasts, where everything that is considered a delicacy or merely good to eat could be found on the long and plentiful table; balls, where the tradition of Southern belles and Southern chivalry truly flourished; games, which men and boys came from all the surrounding country to participate in—these formed the social life of the Bend.
There were two churches at the Bend after the Civil War, Catholic and Presbyterian—but in 1876, when the levee was built through the town, the Catholic Church was moved out. Fearing that religious life would dwindle, Honoré Morancy, a very devout man, allowed his house to be used for worship services until he died. He requested that after his death the Witherows should take care of his home as long as services could be held in it, and that they should live in it after these services were discontinued. The rooms that Mrs. Jennie Witherow and Miss Etta Witherow occupy in Tallulah today are constructed with the same wood that was in the Morancy residence.
During this time the Witherows prospered with the Bend. The store that was jointly owned by the husband and mother of Mrs. Witherow proved more than mere sustainers for the family, which consisted now of the mother and father, two sons and one daughter. And in their prosperity the Witherows did not forget those who were less fortunate than they, giving liberally and gladly to those in need.
But now the Mississippi decided to change its course to the west which led to the destruction of the Bend. The store that had brought more than the mere necessities of life to the family, with the removal of many of the inhabitants of the Bend, lost much of its business, and there followed a struggle for existence.
But the final blow to the family came later when one of the two sons, at the age of 21, died of some sort of food poisoning. After this it was Mrs. Witherow's wish to leave the Bend and steps were made to that end. It was not until several years later that they were able to leave. By this time nearly all the other inhabitants had moved out, most of whom came to Tallulah.
Arrived 22 Years Ago
When the Witherows established residences in Tallulah, 22 years ago this September, the only approach to Tallulah was a small dirt road, so dense with growth that the mail carrier was afraid to come here because of robbers and canes. In the intervening years much has happened to the family. The other son moved to Lake Providence, married, and died there. Etta Witherow has grown up and now lives with her mother in the rooms made from the lumber of Honoré Morancy’s home.
Mrs. Witherow has grown old physically, but mentally she is as young and alert as she was at the Bend. Today she takes a great interest in what is going on around her. Newspapers are her favorite form of reading matter for they aid her in keeping up with what is going on, but she also enjoys other types of printed matter. Soon she will have completed 78 years in Madison parish-—78 years of which she can be justly proud, for during that time she has lived and grown with the parish.