Nominations are currently being sought for the 2011 class of the Mississippi Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame honors women and men who made noteworthy contributions to the state. Consideration for the Hall of Fame takes place only once every five years and any Mississippian—native or adopted—deceased at least five years may be nominated. The deadline for nominations is October 1, and elections will be held at a special meeting of the MDAH board of trustees in December. Click here for complete nomination guidelines.
This series recognizes members of the Hall of Fame, whose portraits hang in the Old Capitol Museum. Special thanks to Anna Todd, University of Southern Mississippi student and MDAH summer intern, for researching this post.
Nellie Nugent Somerville (1863-1952) was the first woman to be elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives in 1923. She was born on a Mississippi plantation in 1863. Her father was a Confederate soldier and her mother died shortly after her birth, so the young girl was raised mostly by her grandmother. She attended Whitworth College in Brookhaven as an adolescent and went on to graduate from Martha Washington College in Virginia in 1880. She was married to Robert Somerville in 1885 and the couple had four children.
During her life, Somerville was a pioneer in Mississippi politics and a leader in the movement for women’s voting rights. In 1894 she became corresponding secretary for the Mississippi Women’s Christian Temperance Union, and she organized and directed the Mississippi Women’s Suffrage Association in 1897. She also served as vice president of the National American Women Suffrage Association beginning in 1915. While in the Mississippi House of Representatives, she served as Chair of the Committee on Ellemosynary (charitable) Institutions and supported several pieces of legislation relating to child labor laws and the improvement of conditions for the blind, deaf, and mentally ill. Her daughter Lucy S. Howorth also served in the state legislature from 1932 to 1936. Following her husband’s death, Somerville moved from Greenville to Cleveland and she died in Ruleville in 1952. She was inducted into the Mississippi Hall of Fame in 1981.
Andrew Marschalk (1767-1838) was the editor and publisher of the Mississippi Herald, one of the first newspapers published in the Mississippi Territory. While in the U.S. Army, he was assigned to Natchez to print the laws of the territory and went on to become a newspaper publisher and public printer. Marschalk brought a small mahogany printing press from England to the United States in 1790 and then brought it to Mississippi in July 1802.1
In addition to printing, Marschalk served in the municipal government of Natchez and clashed with several others in the community, particularly George Poindexter who held various posts in the territorial government and went on to become governor. One encounter between the two was described in the Journal of Mississippi History:
Marschalk accused Poindexter of partisanship, indifference, and incompetence while in office. The feud reached its climax when Poindexter stormed into Marschalk’s little newspaper office at Washington on a March day in 1815 and gave him a severe beating with a walking cane. The next month Poindexter attacked again by suing Marschalk for “scandalous, malicious, libelous, unlawfully wicked” editorials. The outspoken journalist was found guilty and sentenced to “a fine of $896.66 or three months in prison until the fine be paid”…None [of the other city printers], however, mixed the job of city printing with politics in the fiery manner of the colorful Marschalk.2
The Mississippi Herald was one of several newspapers published by Marschalk, many of which are on file at MDAH. The portrait of Marschalk pictured above is exhibited with other portraits in the Mississippi Hall of Fame at the Old Capitol Museum.
1 Madel J. Morgan, “Notes and Documents: Andrew Marschalk’s Account of Mississippi’s First Press,” Journal of Mississippi History 8, no. 1 (1946): 146-48.
2 D. Clayton James, “Municipal Government in Territorial Natchez,” Journal of Mississippi History 27, no. 2 (1965): 153.
This series explores the life of Dunbar Rowland (1864-1937), first director of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. He served from 1902 to 1937. This post will be the last of the series.
We close this series with an entry by guest writer William F. Winter, governor of Mississippi 1980-84 and the former president of the MDAH board of trustees, who met Dunbar Rowland.
Among the pleasant memories of my boyhood was a meeting in November 1935 with Dr. Dunbar Rowland, who was then the Director of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. I was visiting my father who was a member of the State Senate.
My father was a long-time friend of Dr. Rowland and thought that I should meet him. His office was located on the first floor of the New Capitol. The entire department consisted of only three people.
Dr. Rowland greeted my father and me most graciously and spent a generous amount of time discussing his work in the Department of which he had served as Director since its founding some thirty years before.
As we got up to leave, Dr. Rowland took from a shelf behind his desk a rather large book entitled Andrew Jackson’s Campagin Against the British written by Dr. Rowland’s wife, Eron Rowland.
He handed it to me but not before writing on its title page these words:
“To William F. Winter, with the best
wishes of his friend, Dunbar Rowland”.
I was just twelve years old, and to have Dr. Rowland refer to me as “his friend” impressed me very much.
That book has been a prized possession ever since. The meeting with Dr. Rowland did much to inspire my life-long interest in history.
This series explores the life of Dunbar Rowland (1864-1937), first director of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. He served from 1902 to 1937. Rowland married Eron Moore Gregory on December 20, 1906.
Eron Opha Moore (1861/2-1951)2 was the daughter of Major Benjamin B. Bratton (c. 1815- unknown) and Ruth Stovall Rowland Moore (c. 1832-1889),3 who was the sister of Dunbar Rowland’s father. Eron, who went by the childhood nickname “Dixie,” was first married to Andrew E. Gregory (1849-1900) in 1885 in Monroe County. Gregory died in 1900 and according to one online source, was treated during his terminal illness by Dr. Peter Whitman Rowland (Eron’s cousin and Dunbar Rowland’s brother).4
The widowed Eron was employed as an assistant at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History on October 6, 1902. In his second annual report, Rowland said, “Mrs. Gregory has given faithful and efficient service for the past year, and I feel it my duty to say that her services are worth more than the amount paid her.” Her salary was $480, and in the report, Rowland asked the board to increase it to $700.5
Dunbar Rowland married Eron on December 20, 1906, at the Flora home of his brother Dr. Robert Walter Rowland. The marriage was performed by Bishop Theodore DuBose Bratton, who later became a member of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History board of trustees. Of her marriage to Rowland it was said, “Their beautiful devotion to each other and steadfastness of purpose in their work have been a subject of comment among their friends and acquaintances.”6
Eron was educated in part by her father, who had been a professor of Latin and Greek.7 In her youth she contributed poems, stories, and sketches to area newspapers, foreshadowing her productive writing career later in life. After her marriage to Rowland she continued to write and assist him at MDAH.
Mrs. Rowland was extremely active in the community and many of her endeavors were related to the patriotic societies of which she was a part: the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), the Colonial Dames, and United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC). Her work with the UDC helped save the Old Capitol from being torn down in the 1910s. She wrote a history of the Natchez Trace and assisted the DAR in marking the roadway. She also chaired the committee that put the “grand central stairway” in the Governor’s Mansion in 1908 and supplied soldiers with books during World War I.8 In 1933, Eron received the honorary Doctor of Letters degree from the University of the South at Sewanee, Tennessee.
One writer said of her:
Personally, she is a woman of great charm. Of a happy temperament, with a winsome grace of manner and person, she is absorbed in her work, taking pleasure in her home and flowers.9
After Dunbar Rowland’s death on November 1, 1937, Eron served as acting director of the department until January 1, 1938, when Dr. William D. McCain (1907-1993) became director.10 She then retired to her home at 429 Mississippi Street and gathered their accumulated books and papers to start the “Rowland Historical Library,” where scholars were invited to conduct their research. At the time of her death in 1951 she was working on “The Story of Jackson,” a history of the city. Dr. McCain finished the project, using parts of Eron’s work. Her unfinished manuscript has been preserved in the MDAH holdings.11
Eron died on January 6, 1951.
Mrs. Rowland’s publications included:
Andrew Jackson’s Campaign Against the British, or The Mississippi Territory in the War of 1812. New York, NY: The Macmillan Co., 1926. MDAH call number 976.2/R79aa/1926.
History of Hinds County, Mississippi, 1821-1922. Jackson, Mississippi: Jones Printing, Co., 1922. MDAH call number 976.251/R79h.
Life, Letters and Papers of William Dunbar of Elgin, Morayshire, Scotland and Natchez, Mississippi: Pioneer Scientist of the Southern United States. Jackson, Mississippi: Press of the Mississippi Historical Society, 1930. MDAH call number B/D91L.
Varina Howell, Wife of Jefferson Davis, 2 vols. New York, NY: The Macmillan Co., 1927-1931. MDAH call number B/D291ros.
1 Full image citation: William D. McCain, “Biographical sketches of the builders of the capital of Mississippi” in The Story of Jackson, vol. 2 (Jackson, Mississippi: J.F. Hyer Publishing Co., 1953), 678. MDAH call number 976.2511/St7.
2 There is inconsistency among sources on Eron Rowland’s date of birth. Biographical sketches in the MDAH subject files list it as June 16, 1861, but her tombstone lists June 1, 1862. In her youth, the age listed in the federal census supports 1861 or 1862, while in her later years, it supports a date between 1865-1867.
3 Benjamin and Ruth Rowland Moore buried in Chickasaw County, see Cemeteries in Chickasaw and Surrounding Counties, 2 vols. (Houston, Mississippi: Chickasaw County Historical and Genealogical Society, 1992), vol. I, page 30 and vol. II, page 179 (MDAH). Benjamin’s tombstone listed no dates, just his status as a Confederate veteran.
5 Dunbar Rowland, Second Annual Report of the Director of the Department of Archives and History of the State of Mississippi from October 1, 1902, to October 1, 1903 (Nashville, Tennessee: Press of Brandon Printing Company, 1904), 49.
This series explores the life of Dunbar Rowland (1864-1937), first director of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. He served from 1902 to 1937.
Rowland began work on March 24, 1902, in the two rooms designated for the department in the Old Capitol. Within six months he had sorted through five of fifty boxes of government records. He wrote, “The condition in which I found the official records of Mississippi is the most convincing argument in favor of the establishment of this Department”; describing their condition he said, “Official documents of all kinds from all departments were thrown together in hopeless confusion, and in this neglected condition they were generally regarded as old waste papers of no value.”1
Rowland also started on the task of locating the Confederate war records of Mississippi, one of the original mandates from the board of trustees. A contemporary newspaper article described the event, saying, “The story of these long lost records reads like a romance of danger and of war.” The story is indeed an interesting one:2
In 1863, realizing that Jackson would soon be occupied by Union forces, government officials hid the records at the Masonic Lodge archives in city hall for safekeeping until they returned to the city. After the war, it was deemed best to leave the records in their hiding place as a succession of “military, carpet-bagger and negro State administrations” came into power. By the time it was thought safe to retrieve them, the legislature was indifferent to the matter.
According to Rowland’s First Annual Report, when he began investigating their location in 1902, only one man alive knew where they were located: Colonel E. E. Baldwin (a veteran of Barksdale’s Brigade) of Norrell in Hinds County. Baldwin came to Jackson on July 24, 1902, and together, he, Rowland, and George Power and George Swan of the Masons went to the attic of city hall, where they found the records in three large boxes in the Masonic archives room.
Rowland embarked on several other projects intended to foster public interest in the work of the department. First, he began gathering oil portraits of notable Mississippians for a Hall of Fame. At Rowland’s request, area newspapers had readers vote for their choices. Ten men were chosen, with Jefferson Davis heading the list with 14,452 votes. (See this brochure for a list of all Hall of Fame members.) Second, the department contributed biographical monographs to newspapers and Rowland was able to persuade a number of newspaper editors to donate copies of their papers to the department for permanent preservation.3
In October of 1903, Rowland moved the department offices to the new State Capitol. For sentimental reasons, he was the last government official to move out of the Old Capitol. He wrote, “The old building may be time-worn and weather-stained, old and out of date, yet it should be dearer to the hearts of the people of Mississippi than all other buildings in the Commonwealth.”4 His new offices in the capitol included the room pictured above, located on the east end of the first floor, under the Senate Chamber. Rowland designated it the “Hall of Fame” because it housed the growing portrait collection and, later the “relics and curios” of the department (artifacts that would comprise the future Museum of Mississippi History collection)5 This room is now known as the “Hall of History.” By 1905, the Hall of Fame housed forty-three portraits, hung on the walls and displayed on easels, as well as four glass cabinets displaying manuscripts and artifacts.6
Rowland later acquired the corresponding room on the west end of the first floor under the House of Representatives Chamber. He referred to it as the “Hall of History” because it housed the state archives and research area. The room was “fitted up with filing cases and specially prepared letter files” in 1903 and the next year he added tables, a paper press, and a “complete set of filing cases” to make the collections more accessible to researchers.7
After the move, Rowland compiled and published the first Official and Statistical Register in 1904, as directed by the act creating the department. The act provided that it be published after each general election and include information on all elected officials, state institutions, state and county population statistics, and related information. Rowland went further in the first edition and included a brief history of the state and the capitol buildings, and in the second edition (1908) he included his Military History of Mississippi, 1803-1898. In 1948, the Legislature amended the Code to provide that the Secretary of State would compile the Official and Statistical Register. The agency continues to publish the “Blue Book” today.9
Another of Rowland’s major projects was the compilation of Jefferson Davis’s letters and papers into one volume. Rowland officially began gathering Davis’s scattered papers in 1908. The bulk of the papers were donated by Davis’s widow to the Confederate Memorial Hall in New Orleans. Rowland visited in May 1908 to secure permission to make copies of the documents.10 He also solicited donations of copies of privately held letters and papers. The work was published in 1923 as Jefferson Davis, Constitutionalist: His Letters, Papers, and Speeches. Rowland’s wife, Eron wrote what could be considered the companion to this work in her book Varina Howell, Wife of Jefferson Davis, published in 1927.
In his quest to document the history of Mississippi, Rowland traveled extensively to visit other archives with holdings related to the state. He traveled to Washington, D.C., numerous times over the years, first to see about Confederate records held there and in later years to organize the transcription of European archives related to America. (The latter work was completed by 1912 and resulted in the publication of the Mississippi Provincial Archives series.) Rowland traveled to cities throughout America to attend the annual meetings of the American Historical Association (AHA).
Rowland also took several international trips for department business. He traveled to Europe in 1906 to survey the holdings related to territorial Mississippi in England, France, and Spain.11 He next visited Europe in the summer of 1910 to serve as one of the AHA delegates to the International Congress of Archivists, which was held in Brussels, Belgium. Along the way, Rowland stopped in London, France, Germany, and The Netherlands to study their archival methods.
While Rowland devoted much of his time to matters concerning the state and the South, he also was involved with causes of national importance, the first being the compilation and publication of all Civil War soldier rosters.12 Next, he joined a group that sought to change the governance of the AHA to a more democratic system in 1914-15. One of the most important national events of which Rowland was a part was the establishment of the National Archives in Washington, D.C., in 1934. He was interested in the issue of concentrating government records in one agency at least as early as 1910, when he presented a paper on the subject to the International Congress of Archivists in Belgium. He worked with United States Senator John Sharp Williams from Mississippi and Thomas Owen, director of the Alabama Department of Archives and History, in lobbying Congress on the issue. Rowland lived to see this project come to fruition: in 1913 President William Howard Taft authorized the planning of the building, in 1926 Congress approved the construction of an archives building, and in 1935 staff moved in to the building, although it wasn’t fully completed until 1938.13
At this time Rowland also unsuccessfully sought the position of Archivist of the United States (AOTUS) or head of the National Archives, failing perhaps because J. Franklin Jameson was influential in the appointment. It was Jameson whom Rowland had tried to oust from leadership in the AHA in 1915. Robert D. W. Connor, candidate of Jameson and the AHA, was appointed as the first AOTUS in 1934.
Of all these endeavors, Rowland said:
We have lent a helping hand to national and international historical movements, and in doing so have received the greatest possible good in return. In our co-operative work, while we have not lost sight of the local benefit to be derived from such methods, we have always kept in mind that our history is a part of our common country, and that in its preservation, as a part of a great national past, we were doing something in addition for the State besides building up merely local interests.14
After working for ten years Rowland completed the classification of the state archives–his first and most important task. Writing in 1913 for his Twelfth Annual Report, he reminisces about starting that project and the first meeting of the board of trustees in 1902. The board was “beaming with joy” on the establishment of the department while Rowland tried to put on a good front about the enormous task facing him:
I had actually been inhaling dirt and foul odors for six months in my efforts to make a display of the interesting manuscripts which had been rescued from the floors and corners of the attic [of the Old Capitol] … and in the midst of my enthusiastic comments on the rich store of records which lay hidden away in old goods boxes, General Lee remarked that it would be wise for me to increase the insurance on my life, as it was certainly being endangered by my daily occupation. But I have survived in spite of it, and am of the opinion that the archivist, at least, is a confirmation of the old colloquial proverb that every man must eat his peck of dirt.15
In addition to those already mentioned, Rowland published the following volumes during his tenure at MDAH:
Mississippi: Comprising Sketches of Counties, Towns, Events, Institutions, and Persons, Arranged in Cyclopedic Form. 4 vols. Atlanta, GA: Southern Historical Publishing Association, 1907.
History of Mississippi: The Heart of the South. 2 vols. Jackson, Miss.: S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1925.
Official letter books of W.C.C. Claiborne, 1801-1816. 6 vols. Jackson, Miss.: Mississippi Department of Archives and History, 1917.
1 Dunbar Rowland, First Annual Report of the Director of the Department of Archives and History of the State of Mississippi from March 14, 1902, to October 1st, 1902, 2nd ed. (Jackson, Miss: MDAH, 1911), 17 (MDAH).
2 Information on the discovery of the Confederate records from Rowland, First Annual Report, 64-65.
3 Rowland, First Annual Report, 81-88.
4 Dunbar Rowland, Second Annual Report of the Director of the Department of Archives and History of the State of Mississippi from October 1, 1902, to October 1, 1903 (Nashville, Tennessee: Press of Brandon Printing Company, 1904), 58 (MDAH).
5 John Ray Skates, Mississippi’s Old Capitol: Biography of a Building (Jackson, Mississippi: Mississippi Department of Archives and History, 1990), 141 and Rowland, Second Annual Report, 58.
6 Dunbar Rowland, Third Annual Report of the Director of the Department of Archives and History of the State of Mississippi from October 1, 1903, to October 1, 1904 (Nashville, Tennessee: Press of Brandon Printing Company, 1905), 21 (MDAH).
7 Rowland, Third Annual Report, 8, 22 and Dunbar Rowland, Fourth Annual Report of the Director of theDepartment of Archives and History of the State of Mississippi from October 1, 1904, to October 1, 1905, 2nd ed. (Nashville, Tennessee: Press of Brandon Printing Company, 1911), 32-33 (MDAH).
8 Dunbar Rowland, “Eighth Annual Report” in Seventh and Eighth Annual Reports of the Director of the Department of Archives and History of the State of Mississippi 1908-1909 (Nashville, Tennessee: Press of Brandon Printing Company, 1909), 14 (MDAH).
9 Elbert R. Hilliard, “Blue Book History” in Eric Clark, Secretary of State, Mississippi Official and Statistical Register 2004-2008, “Blue Book” (State of Mississippi, 2005), 42-43.
10 Rowland, “Eighth Annual Report,” 15.
11 Information for this section from Dunbar Rowland, “Ninth Annual Report: November 1, 1909, to October 31, 1910” in Ninth and Tenth Annual Reports of the Director of the Department of Archives and History of the State of Mississippi (Nashville, Tennessee: Press of Brandon Printing Company, 1912), 14-20 (MDAH).
12 For the story of this event, see Rowland, Second Annual Report, 8-11.
14 Dunbar Rowland, “Eleventh Annual Report from November 1, 1911, to October 31, 1912” in Eleventh and Twelfth Annual Reports of the Director of the Department of Archives and History of the State of Mississippi (Nashville, Tennessee: Brandau-Craig-Dickerson Company, 1914), 6.
15 Dunbar Rowland, “Twelfth Annual Report from November 1, 1912, to October 31, 1913,” in Eleventh and Twelfth Annual Reports, 25.