Shannon Bardwell: Hometown heroes and houses

March 6, 2012 10:58:46 AM

Shannon Bardwell - [email protected]


Every jaw hit the ground, and I felt I had suddenly been zapped naked. I knew I had asked the unthinkable when I had pointed to the charming brick building north of the library and asked, "What building is that?"  


If there were ever people you would not want to ask that question of, it was Beth Hickel Imes, Keith Gaskin (the late Chebie Bateman's son-in-law), Jamie Davidson (a career librarian), and the homegrown Jo Shumake.  


After a millennium of awkward silence: "That ... is the S.D. Lee Home," followed by, "I can't believe you didn't know that." 


My flimsy excuse is that when I moved east to Lowndes County I only got as far as the Prairie, but obviously if I were to remain here I would need to know the hallowed halls of the city and its illustrious citizens.  


Back in the Prairie I googled S.D. Lee. Wikipedia describes Stephen Dill Lee as an America soldier, a planter, a Mississippi legislator, an author, and the first President of the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Mississippi, now Mississippi State University. 


The Columbus Pilgrimage brochure adds Lee was a Confederate States of America General. I would like to note that at birth my momma enrolled me in the C of C's (Children of the Confederacy), but somehow I missed the part about Stephen D. Lee.  


Of Lee's career, military historian Ezra Warner said, "Despite his youth and comparative lack of experience, Lee's prior close acquaintance with all three branches of service -- artillery, cavalry and infantry -- rendered him one of the most capable corps commanders in the army." 


S. D. Lee served in the military from 1854-1865 and was wounded at least twice. In 1865 Lee married Regina Harrison, of the Columbus Harrisons, and settled in her hometown, where they had one child, Blewett Harrison Lee.  


After serving his country, S.D. Lee served his state and community in a variety of civic capacities until he died in 1908 at the age of 74. He is buried in Columbus' Friendship Cemetery.  


My faux pas caused me to consider a "hometown vacation" during the upcoming Pilgrimage. Think of the gas and money I'll save. A brochure from the Tennessee Williams home describes picnics and parties, "Noon Tunes," book signings, craft shows, carriage rides, double-decker bus rides, and tours of the antebellum homes and churches. (There is a warning: No stiletto heels allowed into the homes. I have that same rule at my home.)  


The enchanting Tales from the Crypt tour changes every year and is only $4. The church tour is free. During Pilgrimage the Columbus-Lowndes Public Library is hosting a book sale starting March 29 for Friends of the Library, where anyone can be a "friend," by donating $12 for membership. Most books are $2 or less. The book sale will be opened to the general public March 30-31. And, by all means, acquaint yourself with the historic S.D. Lee Home located on the north side of the library.  


Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie. Her email is [email protected]

Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.