Join us for the Behind the Big House Tour

Delve behind the hoop-skirts and mint juleps to the hard life behind the big house.

The south has a rich and varied history. The storybook life seen on the silver screen is often just one side of our past. Behind the grand mansions, beyond the freshly pressed linens, laid small and intimate slave dwellings where work, toil, and history also happened.

Many historic figures began their lives in these small dwellings such as Civil Rights icon and journalist Ida B. Wells-Barnett who was born in Holly Springs a slave and freed four years later. She strove to give rights to women as well as end lynching and was eventually driven from the south to Chicago. During the Holly Springs Pilgrimage of Homes, April 11th-13th, visitors will learn much more about this human rights pioneer as well as our unique past in the Behind the Big House Tour.

In addition to touring five of the towns historic mansions included on this year’s Pilgrimage, guests will be allowed a rare look into the lives of Holly Springs’ slave population during the “Behind the Big House Tour.” Another side of antebellum life will be seen through these surviving structures with a historic interpretation by Joseph McGill, a field agent with the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Thanks to grant assistance from the Mississippi Humanities Council and Mississippi Development Authority/Tourism Division and sponsored by Preserve Marshall County & Holly Springs, Inc.: McGill will spend a few nights in Holly Springs’ slave cabins and then bring their story to life during the weekend long event.  “For so long folks have been visiting the plantation and going into the big house, and without those structures, the big house could not have existed,” says McGill.

On Tour: Burton Place, Hugh Craft and Magnolias Slave Quarters

*All quarters will be available to tour unmanned during the entire Pilgrimage but see schedule below to meet Joe. For more information on Joe’s project go to

Wednesday, 9th April
9 am- 4 pm – School Group Tours

Thursday, 10th April
9 am- 11:30 am – School Groups
1 pm- 2:15 pm – Oxford Lecture

Friday, 11th April
9:30 am – 12 pm – Joe McGill at Magnolia Place slaves’ quarters.
1 pm- 2:15 pm- Rust College Lecture

2:30 pm – 4 pm – Joe McGill at Burton Place slaves’ quarters
*Lunch Break from 12-1

Saturday, 12th April
9:30 am – 12 pm- Joe McGill at Magnolia Place slaves’ quarters.
1 pm- 2:15 pm- Ida B. Wells Museum for Lecture
2:30 pm- 4 pm- Joe McGill at Hugh Craft House
*Lunch Break from 12-1

Sunday, 13th April
9:30 am- 4 pm- All sites open for tours

Sponsored by Preserve Marshall County & Holly Springs, Inc., the Mississippi Humanities Council and Mississippi Development Authority/Tourism Division.

We hope to continue this project and begin open conversations about this shared history little hear about. If you wish to help, please email us at

*Historic photos courtesy of The Collection of Chesley Thorne Smith.

Help Preserve Marshall County and Holly Springs

Become a sustaining member of Preserve Marshall County and Holly Springs:
$5,000- Founder & Lifetime Member
$500- Benefactor
$250- Patron
$100- Sustainer
$___- Friend

Join Us in Preserving Our Treasures!

Tickets Now Available for the Christmas Home Tour!

December 7th & 8th, 2013

Purchase Tickets Today: Advance Online Tickets $15

*Tickets are $20 after December 5th and can be purchased at the Marshall County Historical Museum at 220 East College Avenue. Call 662-252-3669  or go to for group rates or additional information.
All proceeds go to benefit the Marshall County Historical Museum. If you’re not able to attend or would like to help. Please donate today!

 Click here to view information of the homes and sites on tour.


Thistledome- 1840


Fitch Farms Galena Plantation- 1842


Polk Place- 1836


Magnolias- 1852


Hugh Craft- 1851


Herndon- 1845


Chalmers Institute- 1837


Gwydir- 1886


Burton- 1842


Yellow Fever Martyr Church- 1841


Marshall County Historical Museum- 1903

Finley Place

Finley Place- 1859


Come to The Wrecking Ball- Sept. 21, 2013

If you got time for one more dance…. meet me at the Wrecking Ball!!

An Event to Preserve Chalmers Institute, Mississippi’s Oldest Chartered University

September 21st, 2013    6 pm – 10 pm

The grounds of Chalmers will come alive with a host of artists, authors, musicians and historians who have donated their appearances for the evening. The Ball will not only highlight regional cultural treasures, but also provide dinner and beverages and a silent auction featuring regional art!



shannonShannon McNally

Shannon McNally got her first guitar and JJ Cale album at the age of 12 and never looked back. Combined with the classic rock she grew up listening to – The Allman Brothers, Dr. John and Hendrix – it’s the musical center of gravity she brought to her 2002 Capitol Records debut Jukebox Sparrow gaining notice from Rolling Stone, The New York Times, Leno and Letterman. This decidedly rare approach for a woman drew the same accolades for indie-based Geronimo, helmed by Charlie Sexton. Now, Shannon, along with New Orleans musical legend Mac “Dr. John” Rebennack have made a new LP to try and shine a spotlight on the work of Bobby Charles. Charles wrote such instantly recognizable hits as “See You Later Alligator,” “Walking to New Orleans” and “But I Do,” but the reclusive singer/songwriter, who passed away in 2010, is relatively unknown for his own recordings. Small Town Talk is an album of songs by the great but under-appreciated American songwriter, which features guest performances by Derek Trucks, Will Sexton, Luther Dickinson, and Vince Gill.


Kenny Brown
Kenny Brown is an American blues slide guitarist, skilled in the North Mississippi Hill Country blues style popularized by his mentor R. L. Burnside. Brown began his career by apprenticing with Mississippi Joe Callicott, Johnny Woods, and Mississippi Fred McDowell. He has cites Muddy Waters, George “Mojo” Buford, Jessie Mae Hemphill, Junior Kimbrough, Johnny Winter, and Johnny Shines as influencesIn 1971, Brown began performing with R. L. Burnside, who claimed Brown as his “adopted son.” and affectionately called him “white boy on guitar” and “my white son.” Both Brown and Burnside have noted the singularity of Brown’s being a white musician playing in the previously predominantly African American genre of North Mississippi Hill Country blues. Brown’s guitar work was featured in the 2006 film Black Snake Moan, where he provided backing for star Samuel L. Jackson’s vocals. He can also be seen in the film’s climax as a guitarist in a blues band, playing alongside Burnside’s grandson Cedric. He has also performed with rock bands Widespread Panic and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion.


Willy Bearden
Willy Bearden is from Rolling Fork, Mississippi, in the Deep Delta. He is a writer and filmmaker who has written a couple of books including “Cotton, From Southern Fields to the Memphis Market,” “Memphis Blues, Birthplace of a Music Tradition,” and “Overton Park.” Bearden as also written and produced documentaries for public television, done films for the Elvis Presley Birthplace Museum, the Cotton Museum, The Memphis Wonders Series, and the Tunica River Park as well as writing a producing his first feature film “One Came Home” which was released in the summer of 2012. He is a founding member of the Delta Symposium at the University of Memphis and plays in two bands, the Earnestine & Hazel’s Band and the Grayhounds.

Click here to purchase tickets!

See Faulkner’s Inspiration in the Behind the Big House Tour- April 12th- 14th

Are you a Faulkner fan? Come by and see the property that sparked many of his writings in the Behind the Big House Tour, April 12th-14th. McCarroll Place once held the infamous “Ludie’s Window” (now safely displayed at the Marshall County Historical Museum) and has a very interesting slave history. The slave quarters on the property will be part of this year’s tour.
11faulkner_CA0-popup“I think it’s one of the most sensational literary discoveries of recent decades,” said John Lowe, an English professor at Louisiana State University who is writing a book on Faulkner. He was one of a handful of experts who met Dr. Francisco at the hand-hewn log house in Holly Springs last month. There they saw the windowpane where a cousin, Ludie Baugh, etched the letters L-U-D-I-E into the glass while watching Confederate soldiers march by — a scene that appears in several Faulkner works. [Taken from NY Times article here.]

Click here for the Behind the Big House Tour Schedule.

Behind the Big House Tour Schedule Announced!

Join us April 12th- 14th!

Hugh Craft House is the starting point for the Behind the Big House Tour and is open daily from 9:30 am–4 pm

*All quarters highlighted in RED will be available to tour during the entire Pilgrimage led by either Joseph McGill or a Preserve Marshall County volunteer with relevant flat panel exhibits at each site. Please note the Plantation Office and Davis House will only be available to tour Friday & Saturday from 10 am-2 pm.

Friday, 13 April
10 am – 1 pm – Joseph McGill at Burton Place slaves’ quarters
(Lunch Break from 1-2)
2 pm- 3 pm – Joseph McGill & Justin Rogers, present on Religion and Slavery, musical performance by Alex Mercedes at Christ Church
3 pm – 5 pm – Joseph McGill at McCarroll Place Quarters

Saturday, 14 April
10 am – 12 pm- Joseph McGill at Magnolia Place slaves’ quarters
(Lunch Break from 12-1)
2 pm – 4 pm – Joseph McGill at Craft slaves’  quarters



Tips for Weatherizing While Preserving Your Historic Property

With the majority of homeowners making their homes in existing construction and many of us having the honor of living in a historic home it’s vital to develop an active property maintenance plan. And now with the heat of summer fading and the cool breezes of autumn knocking at our door we thought it would be the perfect time to share with you some tips for getting your property ready for the dip in mercury (or is it just ticks on a digital thermometer now)?

Windows: Remember your old wood windows are often made of quality old growth (denser and stronger) local climate appropriate wood and were often custom fitted for your opening. Over time all materials must be maintained and adjusted remember to keep a good seal (caulk and weather stripping is your friend) to minimize air loss. Wood windows unlike their vinyl counterparts are made to last and can be repaired when a part fails, so see if you need a replacement part are reglazing to help them perform their best. And finally remember an interior storm window might be the best and most energy efficient investment you can make.

Insulation: Remember when picking insulating materials for older properties, make sure it not only has good thermal properties but also allows moisture to evaporate. Spray foam is not recommended as it is not reversible and hinders needed evaporation. It’s best to pick more sustainable or natural materials, such as wood, plant fiber, or wool.

Mechanical Systems: While most of us are now very familiar with energy efficient ratings on our appliances and heating and air conditioning systems we often forget the traditional low impact heating and cooling systems older homes provide.  Our homes were sited with our local climate in mind—finding that balance of warmth from the sun during the winter months and cool breezes at summertime. Caring for and remembering the value vegetation provides is also vital to maintaining a house’s optimal functionality. Porches and operable shudders are not only beautiful design elements but afford excellent circulation and heat retention and movement depending, which is needed. Also, remember the interior of your home, insulating and cleaning all internal ducks and pipes will help save money and ultimately make your property run more efficiently.

Happy house maintenance!