Tag Archives: South

South of the Mason-Dixon

Background:

The Mason-Dixon Line is a demarcation line along on the East Coast that separates four states: Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, and Maryland.

Context:

I’ve been hearing this phrase used since I was kid, and adopted it into my own vernacular early on.

Main Piece:

The speaker will make a statement, usually in reference to the superiority or inferiority of a person, place, or thing, and then end by saying “… south of the Mason-Dixon.”

Examples:

“She’s the prettiest girl south of the Mason-Dixon.

“My grandma makes the best pork chops south of the Mason-Dixon.”

“He’s gotta be the biggest dude south of the Mason-Dixon.”

Thoughts:

As a born and raised Virginian, I heard this phrase flung around time after time. The understanding of this phrase is confined to communities living around the Mason-Dixon line itself, as most people not from that region of the United States are unaware of what the Mason-Dixon line is. The phrase is hyperbolic, used to exaggerate and emphasize the statement one is trying to make. Viewing the phrase from an emic perspective, I can say that it is often employed in a comedic manner, often to make disparaging remarks about someone, such as “That has to be the ugliest shirt south of the Mason-Dixon.” The phrase’s meaning and hyperbolic nature is known to all in these regions, so one’s opinion or joke can easily be inserted into the phrase to augment their meaning. Much of the South also has a spiritual connection to the land. Their identities are tethered to the physical nature and landmarks of their home. This may be due to residual sentimentality over the Civil War and the lives lost on the battlefields in the South. Nevertheless, there are a multitude of phrases and bits of lingo in the South that pertain to landmarks and the features of the land that Southerners inhabit. While the Mason-Dixon itself isn’t necessarily in the South, the use of this phrase intrinsically identifies one as belonging to the South.

Dumb southerners

Main piece: A common stereotype is that people from the Southeast are fat, uneducated, racist rednecks.

Context: The informant (S) is originally from Marietta, Georgia, and their lineage traces back to Germany on both sides of their family. They are a high school student about to graduate and head off to Boston for college. They were raised Christian and consider themselves spiritual, but they do not align themselves with any organized religion. Our conversation took place over FaceTime while S cleaned their room and played Tame Impala in the background. S has heard this stereotype of Southerners their entire life, both from Georgians and non-Georgians alike. Interestingly, S even jokes about this stereotype having some truth to it: “When you go to school in the suburbs of Georgia and see people with confederate flag stickers on their cars, it’s hard not to label those around you as uneducated racists!” In all seriousness, S knows many people (including themself) who actively work hard to not become or buy into this stereotype. They want to prove people wrong and change the overall social climate of Georgia.

Personal thoughts: S and I will both maintain that this stereotype has tidbits of truth to it, but even more so than our personal experiences as Georgians, this conception of Southerners has solid historical basis – a quality that not every stereotype bears. To be obvious… the Civil War, in which the South was fighting to keep slavery alive and well. Some people may vaguely argue that the war was about “states’ rights,” but consider what rights Southern states were fighting to maintain – the right to own slaves. It would be naive to think that those age-old mentalities have simply disappeared, especially when almost every Georgian either knows somebody who owns a Confederate flag or owns one themself. One hundred years after slavery came the tumultuous yet impactful Civil Rights Movement, proving that racism never ended with slavery. Even today, lynchings and hate crimes occur way too often in the Southeast. So, while it is increasingly important for Southerners to educate ourselves on social/political issues, advocate for others and fight back against hate groups that give us a bad name, it is also equally important to recognize that these somewhat hurtful stereotypes derive from truth. Instead of getting defensive about them, we must acknowledge the South’s history of racism and subjugation, and prove with our actions that we are working to remedy that painful history.

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.

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.

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.