USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘South’
Legends
Narrative
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Hell’s Half Acre

Title: Hell’s Half Acre

Category: Legend

Informant: Julianna K. Keller

Nationality: American, caucasian

Age: 20

Occupation: Student

Residence: 325 West Adams Blvd./ Los Angeles, CA 90007

Date of Collection: 4/09/18

Description:

Back when the Southern cattle drive was still active in the Central/Northern region of Texas, the end of the Chisholm Trail could be found at the end of town in Forth Worth Texas known as Hell’s Half Acre. The reason for the name is due to the activity that took place on this strip of land.

After a long and difficult cattle drive, cowboys used to bring their lives stock back into town right down the middle of Hells’ Half Acre. Exhausted from their journey but craving the company of women, these cowboys would hire prostitutes along the strip and eat, drink, gamble, and whore their way through town until they ran out of money.

Upon loosing the money that they’ve just earned, these cowboys would then be forced into going on the cattle drive again from where the train lets off. The land was nick named Hell’s Half Acre after all the misfortunes men had had on that very spot.

Context/Significance:

As the importance of Fort Worth as a crossroads and cowtown grew, so did Hell’s Half Acre. It was originally limited to the lower end of Rusk Street (renamed Commerce Street in 1917) but spread out in all directions until by 1881 the Fort Worth Democrat was complaining that it covered 2½ acres.

More than any other factor, urban growth began to improve the image of the Acre, as new businesses and homes moved into the south end of town.

Personal Thoughts:

At this point in time, Hell’s Half Acre is more full of hipster bars and coffee shops than cock fighting or bawdy halls. Tailored boutiques and tourist shops line a well kept and preserved cobblestone street, littered with the tattered remains of history. The cartel drive is still somewhat active and every morning and afternoon, specific time is set aside for when the cattle cross pastures through the street.

For a town once built by livestock, it’s not surprising that much of the area’s pride comes from it’s seedy past in the cattle drive industry. The town conspires together to maintain its fame and even labels it’s self as “Cow Town USA.” Whether it’s entirely true or not, the county sells and maintains its tourist industry under that marketable phrase.

Customs
Festival
Game
Gestures
Holidays
Material
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Homecoming Mums

Title: Homecoming Mums

Category: Clothing/Object

Informant: Rebecca Reinehr

Nationality: American, caucasian

Age: 21

Occupation: Student— Food Service Industry, Medical Group Volunteer, etc.

Residence: Austin, TX

Date of Collection: 4/14/18

Description:

Homecoming mums are worn by high school students and differ from person to person based on status, gender, relationship, etc. The practice is most common in Southern high schools- Texas in particular.

Homecoming mums are meant to be received as a gift from someone significant to the person wearing the object. An individual might receive a mum from the following persons: A friend, an organization, a parent/relative, a significant other (boy friend/girl friend), homecoming date, etc. A person is not limited by the number of mums they can give or receive and some people (women in particular) will often even make them for themselves if they want to be sure to have one for the day.

Typically, the age of the recipient and grade level will determine the size of their mum. Women’s mums are always larger, but Seniors mums are also usually larger than underclassman mums. Seniors mums are also sometimes made will all white ribbons, decorations, and flowers.

Mums are ornamental fake flowers that are usually around 6-8” in diameter and are attached to a back that has ribbons surrounding the flower on top, and dangling ribbons with  decorations and letters. High schools in the area will have custom ribbons made with the high school logo or mascot as well. These ribbons and materials can be bought at craft stores in the region and even larger nation-wide craft stores will seasonally carry these items in their fall season. An example of stress that sell these items include, but are not limited to: Hobby Lobby, Michaels, Grocery Stores, etc.

Mums worn by women typically have ribbons extending to a yard in length and are worn via safety pin over the heart. Men’s mums are approximately half a yard in length and are worn on their arm attached to a ribbon garter. These objects will often include materials that make them distracting and challenging to wear all day. Attached items may include: bells, whistles, mini-LED lights, trinkets, stickers, etc. Sometimes a person may receive more than one mum and will either attempt to pin them all to their shirt, switch them out during the course of the day, or pin them to their backpacks.

Homecoming mums are worn on the day of homecoming to class and then later to the game. These flowers are also usually worn to a pep-rally that day before the homecoming game. Each mum is expected to be personalized with inside jokes, hobbies, or resemble the receiver’s/giver’s personality.

Mums may also be given by a parent’s club of an activity or sold in smaller forms by a student organization. Examples of smaller mums are: Finger mums, hair mums, children’s mums, etc.

Mums are usually kept and hung on bedroom walls by high school students. Women will often compare mums in class and use it as an almost competition to see who can get the most.

Mums can add up in expense quickly. While all of the items individually are fairly cheap— the main flower only costing around a dollar or two. But as is the slogan for Texas, “Everything’s bigger…” the more trinkets, ribbons, and bells that can be fit on are better and considered more impressive. Small, simple mums usually cost around $40 where larger and more intense mums can range in the $100-$200 range.

Context/Significance:

Mums are a very specific tradition, popular only in Texas (and parts of Oklahoma) and are huge, ginormous corsages. The NCAA recognizes the University of Missouri as the official place of birth of homecoming. In 1911, Mizzou athletic director Chester Brewer encouraged alumni to attend the game, and he gave them incentive to attend by having a huge celebration around the game that included parades and rallies.

At some point not too long after this first homecoming celebration in Missouri, the tradition of a boy giving a chrysanthemum to his homecoming date as a corsage was born in Texas. For decades, mums were simple, comprised of just a small flower with perhaps a few ribbons.

In the 1970s, homecoming mums became more elaborate and have continued to grow to the mammoth size they are today. Now they include a huge flower (albeit a silk flower has replaced the real chrysanthemum as the centerpiece), tons of large ribbons, charms, bows, bells, cowbells, stuffed animals, perhaps the high school mascot, and even LED lights in some cases! Even guys have their own version of the mum, called the garter – an elastic band worn around the upper arm that has the same features as the mum only on a much smaller scale.

Personal Thoughts:

Mums are also not only worn for homecoming. Mums are sometimes given as decorations for the home. Before coming to USC, I made a USC themed mum to hang on our common room door in my dorm room. Expecting mothers may also receive baby shower mums that will hang on the door of the delivery room. These are often themed for either a girl or boy and have baby trinkets and ribbons attached (sometimes even baby toys or pacifiers).

My cheerleading team sold mums the week of homecoming and provided a service for gentleman to order mums from our organization to be delivered the week of homecoming. At the game, each cheerleader also received a mum to wear on their leg for the game as athletes are not allowed to wear mums on the field. The football team will often wear a small carnation pinned to their uniform. The presented homecoming court will also remove their mums during the half-time ceremony.

Personally, I also just love them. Upon graduating high school, I tallied up a total of around 12 large mums and a few other smaller mums that I pinned to a bulletin board. They’re a fun way to remember that year’s homecoming celebration, friendships, and interests over the past four years.

Image:

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Annotation:

For additional history behind homecoming mums, see:

https://www.themumshop.com/history-of-mums/

MLA Citation:

“HISTORY OF MUMS.” The Mum Shop, www.themumshop.com/history-of-mums/.

Festival
Legends
Narrative
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The University of Mississippi, Football Game Attire

Title: The University of Mississippi, Football Game Attire

Category: Legend

Informant: Evan A. Lewis

Nationality: American, caucasian

Age: Upper 80s

Occupation: Retired— Radio Broadcaster, Laundry Mat Owner, Koren War Vet, etc.

Residence: 5031 Mead Drive/ Doylestown PA, 18902 (Suburban Home)

Date of Collection: 4/08/18

Description:

The tradition of dressing up for football games has been popularized by Southern institutions beginning with University of Mississippi (Ole Miss). While a majority of other schools (USC included) usually wear an abundance of sports gear iconic to the University that the fan is cheering for (ex: Football Jerseys, face/body paint, pom poms, College T-shirts, etc.), Ole Miss students attend games in their Sunday best. Clothing found at these games are often still in the colors of the school but often include items such as: Button down shirts with Kahkis, blazers, suits, ties/bow ties, heels, formal cowboy boots, dresses, pearls, etc. Students wake up early on game days and wear formal attire throughout all tail-gating activities and throughout the football game itself to show support for their team.

Context/Significance:

The tradition of wearing formal attire to football games is believed to stem from around the late 19th century after the end of the Civil War. At that time, almost the entire undergraduate population of the University was enrolled to fight for the Confederacy. When the Confederate army was called away to fight, the “greys” marched through town as the women and children dressed up in their “Sunday best” to show the men off into battle, knowing they weren’t likely to return.

By the conclusion of the Civil War, almost the entire undergraduate population of the University was eradicated. The university then had to close and restructure their system before being able to re-open. In solidarity for the lost men after the war, on the first football game of the next season, the entire town of Oxford and the student body dressed in their “Sunday best” as they once again sent their football team off into battle against their opponents.

The tradition has remained a part of the University since the late 19th century and the practice is obeyed by students, parents, fans, and even some visitors.

Personal Thoughts:

Growing up, I often participated in this tradition but never knew the story behind it until recently. Both my mother and older brother attended the University of Mississippi. My grandfather was actually “The Voice of the Rebels” on the radio before TV took over. Almost every year, since I was a child, my family would drive into Mississippi for a game and visit old relatives.

It wasn’t until this project that I asked my grandfather why it is that Ole Miss is known for dressing up for football games. Since a majority of Southern schools have since adopted the practice, I wasn’t entirely sure which school started this first. Being the super fans that my grandfather, mother, and brother are, they since informed me of the history and the significance behind the dress code.

The tradition is meant to pay homage to the lives of the soldiers lost during the war. Dressing up is seen as a sign of respect, solidarity, and class.

Folk Beliefs
Legends
Narrative

Carrollton Courthouse

Title: Carrollton Courthouse

Category: Legend, Ghost-Story

Informant: Evan A. Lewis

Nationality: American, caucasian

Age: Upper 80s

Occupation: Retired— Radio Broadcaster, Laundry Mat Owner, Koren War Vet, etc.

Residence: 5031 Mead Drive/ Doylestown PA, 18902 (Suburban Home)

Date of Collection: 4/08/18

Description:

Henry Wells was a former slave released from bonds immediately following the outcome of the Civil War. After the Pickens County Courthouse was burned down in 1856 after the raids on the town by Union forces, a new courthouse was build in its place. Almost immediately following the construction of the new courthouse, the building burned to the ground again due to mysterious circumstances.

The town believed that Henry Wells was to blame for the fire and the townspeople conspired together to bring him to justice. After a warrant was put out for his arrest, Wells fled from a gathering lynch mob by secretly hiding in the construction of the third courthouse for the county. As the mob gathered below, Wells made his way up into the attic to look down from the window directly above the action.

Much to his horror, a storm was rising, and lighting violently struck the window that Wells was looking down from. His expression was then imprinted via the lightning bolt on the pane of glass that Wells was looking down from.

Context/Significance:

The Pickens County Courthouse is located in Carrollton, Alabama, which is 35 miles west of Tuscaloosa. The historic building is being restored and a large arrow points to the window and the mysterious lightning portrait. An interpretive marker on the grounds tells the history of the courthouse and the story of the face in the window.

The conclusion of the story has disputed endings. Some say that Wells was able to safely hide from the mob, while others claim that he was found out shortly after and either shot or hung after admitting to his crimes.

Some years after, the face of Henry Wells can still be seen in a ghostly outline from the streets below as the building has been saved and maintained as a historic landmark.

Personal Thoughts:

When I was younger, my family often took long road trips to Mississippi to visit family. Much of my family’s history can also trace its roots back to Alabama and farming. My mother and grandfather took me to visit old grave yards and historic landmarks such as this. My mother pointed out he face in the window and I’ve seen it for myself.

The truth behind the story is highly debatable as scientists continue to research the ability of lighting to capture photographic images on glass. Other accounts of this happening can be found from the same century and evidence was once collected from a Mrs. Norborne B. Powell.

Mrs. Powell was standing at the window of a home at Chennuggee Ridge, Alabama, when the glass was struck by a bolt of lightning. Her image appeared on the glass, right down to a hat and cameo pin she was wearing. The Chennuggee Ridge photograph wound up in the hands of Mrs. Powell’s grandson, Dr. Edward H. Cary who at one time served as president of the American Medical Association. Believing it to be a priceless artifact of Alabama history, he sent it to the Department of Archives in Montgomery in 1920. Someone there, however, dropped the photograph and it was shattered.

Image: 

6928231838_e788770a3d_c-700x1056

Folk Beliefs
Legends
Magic
Material

Bateman House

Title: Bateman House

Category: Legend, Ghost-Story

Informant: Evan A. Lewis

Nationality: American, caucasian

Age: Upper 80s

Occupation: Retired— Radio Broadcaster, Laundry Mat Owner, Koren War Vet, etc.

Residence: 5031 Mead Drive/ Doylestown PA, 18902 (Suburban Home)

Date of Collection: 4/08/18

Description:

In the mid 19th century just before the outbreak of the Civil War, Nellie Weaver (the daughter of the original homeowner) was betrothed to a Mr. Charles Tucker and both resided on the estate. The two had a daughter and Mrs. Weaver was overcome with joy. In her happiness, Mrs. Weaver carved her first name “Nellie” into the window pane of the south parlor at the front of the house.

Sometime after the outbreak of the war, her husband left and was never heard from again. In desperation of funds, Mrs. Weaver opened up the house as a nursery and school before the once great mansion slowly fell into disrepair. Mrs. Weaver continued living in the house until her later eighties and died as a result do to burns she received when her dress caught fire from sparks coming from the fireplace in the rear parlor.

At some point in the 1950s, after several decades of disrepair, a couple purchased the home and renovated it to its past historical being. During its renovation, a construction worker propped up a ladder against the salon window and accidentally broke the pane with Nellie’s name in it. The pane was cleared away and replaced with a new one.

Sometime after this, Mrs. Bateman (who purchased the mansion along with her husband) went to close the blinds in the south parlor after noticing how warm and sunny the room became. As she closed the blinds, she looked to the pane glass surrounding the front window and saw that the name “Nellie” had been re-carved into the glass in the same handwriting and font size as the earlier message. It had been carved from the inside of the home.

Context/Significance:

The Bateman House is located in Columbus Mississippi on the outskirts of town. Built around 153 years ago by a rich merchant, William B. Weaver, this top drawer 1848 Italianate mansion has “six soaring fluted columns, and delicate arches across the roof of the front verandah.” The inside is just as glorious. There are twin parlors that showcase dazzling chandeliers that reflect in room mirrors. The ceiling is decorated with lovely plaster medallions of acanthus leaves. Servant’s houses were also built on the property. When finished, it was considered one of the finest mansions in town.

Many think that the spirit of Nellie is letting the Batemans know how happy she is that they restored her beloved home. The Bateman house is now open for tours and the carving can be seen in the glass by all tourists/visitors to the site.

Personal Thoughts:

My mother grew up in Columbus Mississippi and knows of the homes origins from personal experience. When visiting family, my mother has taken me to the house and I’ve been granted the opportunity to see the etching for myself. It’s much smaller than I had perviously thought, and could conceivably have been done by the Batemans as a way of creating a tourist industry based on the collection of Southern ghost stories populating the region.

As a fan of ghost stories myself, I can’t help but believe and cherish the story. My grandfather taught this story to my mother who then taught this story to me.

Folk Beliefs
Legends

Waverley Mansion

Title: Waverley Mansion

Category: Legend, Ghost-Story

Informant: Evan A. Lewis

Nationality: American, caucasian

Age: Upper 80s

Occupation: Retired— Radio Broadcaster, Laundry Mat Owner, Koren War Vet, etc.

Residence: 5031 Mead Drive/ Doylestown PA, 18902 (Suburban Home)

Date of Collection: 4/08/18

Description:

After purchasing the mansion for renovation around the early 1960s, Mrs. Snow began noticing strange and abnormal occurrences around the house. Sometimes when passing by the grand hall and lower ballroom, Mrs. Snow noticed the faint sounds of music and conversation coming from the empty chamber. On a different occasion, Mr. Snow was working in the back fields of the home when he noticed the figure of a confederate solider on horseback riding across his property.

The most striking tale of ghosts on the property stems from a story from Mrs.Snow and other visitors who’ve come to experience the estate. When Mrs. Snow was working on the second floor in the upper dining room, she heard a young girl’s voice calling for her mother. Believing the voice to belong to one of her own children, Mrs.Snow walked over to the column staircase to look down for the child. When she looked over the balcony, she saw no child but continued to hear the voice coming from the same location. On several other occasions, Mrs. Snow could hear the voice of the girl calling for her mother and once saw her looking down from the balcony down to her.

As history recalls, Waverley mansion once served as a make-shift hospital during the course of the Civil War. Mrs. Snow believes that the ghost of the little girl belongs to a child who might have passed away from illness during the war and her soul is trapped haunting the mansion in search of her late mother. Mrs. Snow and women seem to be the only people who ever encounter the voice of the little girl ghost. The central location of the girls activity stems from the second story bedroom just off of the central staircase.

Mrs. Snow believes that this must have been the bedroom that the girl was kept in and has since kept the bedroom vacant and the bed made. Patrons to the estate and The Snows themselves have both seen the impression of the little girl’s body made on the comforter. Mrs. Snow has walked up to the comforter and smoothed it out only to have the impression of the body re-appear hours later.

Context/Significance:

Waverley mansion is a Southern plantation home located in Columbus/West Point Mississippi directly 10 miles outside of West Point. The plantation is settled around acres of cotton and includes such artifacts as an abandoned house, family graveyard, a collection of exotic peacocks, gardens, orchards and livestock. The mansion was constructed in the mid 1850s and later bought in 1962 by the Snow family and has since been renovated to its original glory. The house fell into disrepair upon reaching the end of the Young family line in 1912 before being purchased by the Snows.

The mansion is claimed to be haunted by a collection of ragged spirits. While almost all of them are declared harmless and welcoming by the Snow family, more than one person has claimed a supernatural experience on the property. The house is now open for tours most days of the week save for holidays and religious celebrations.

Personal Thoughts:

As many of these Southern ghost stories seem to go, I grew up immersed in the experience. Since a young age, my family has been making road-trips and visits to the heartland of “Dixie” for the sole purpose of familial exploration and reconnecting. My mother and grandfather (both hailing lineage to the location) have made a point of visiting these historic landmarks of the region.

The main take away I got from visiting Waverley was how sad and lonely the property feels despite the visits it receives from locals and tourists on a daily basis. I haven’t visited since I was around the age of seven, but I remember the peacocks and tapestry filed rooms almost perfectly. While I never saw the ghost myself, perhaps I was too young and distracted to pay attention to such things, I do not doubt the ghosts existence. I live for the ghost stories of the South that developed during the turn of the 20th century, and feel that they hold a special place in my heart due to their historic and ageless appeal.

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