Highway 19 stretches north to south across Mississippi, with occasional crossroads that lead to small towns along the way. Heading north on Highway 19, one of those crossroads is Glendale Road, where a sign indicates that a right turn will take you into downtown Turnerville.
The main street through Turnerville runs in front of courthouse square, where the old three story brick courthouse stands surrounded by massive one hundred year old oak trees with hanging moss. A drive across town in any direction takes only five minutes, even when encountering a red light at every traffic signal. As with many small towns in the south, lovely old homes can be seen along the streets throughout the downtown area.
Turnerville is historically an agricultural area, and on the outskirts of town are several magnificent estates that reflect the plantation era. Fields of sugarcane and cotton were once planted, harvested and transported to Natchez for shipment upriver to the North or downriver to New Orleans. The plantation estates are surrounded by hundreds of acres, and most of them are not obvious from the main roads, but have private lanes leading to them.
One mile south of Glendale Road, there is a blacktop road that runs to the east. The sign hanging from a post on the corner has lettering so worn and faded that J. Marten Road is barely visible.
Forty acres with a farmhouse is fronted by J. Marten Road, which winds and curves past what appear to be tracts of no longer used pastureland interspersed with heavily wooded acres.
When least expected, a white fence that seems to connect to the edge of the woods is seen stretching across the front of a large section of the property, ten acres to be exact, which was once cleared of undergrowth and pine trees, leaving stately oaks and other hardwoods. Flowering trees such as crape myrtle, magnolia, tulip poplar and dogwood, as well as azalea, bridal wreath and camellia bushes are scattered throughout.
It is spring and azaleas are popping out across the ten acres in varying shades of lavender, white, pink and deep red, staggered here and there among elegantly draping bridal wreath and flowering dogwoods. Spears of sunshine projecting through the canopy of trees seem to be offering a blessing over the ethereal landscape.
A gate strategically placed exactly in the middle of the expanse of fencing gives access to a driveway which meanders through the breathtaking topography until terminating near the porch of an old farmhouse.
On the east side of the ten acres, a pecan orchard extends all the way to Miller Creek, with rows of mature trees reaching out to one another with their gracefully sprawling branches. J. Marten Road dead ends near the creek and the fence stops there as well, with a continuation of wooded property on the other side of the creek.
Miller Creek runs north to south, trickling through and around several Mississippi towns before turning slightly to the west where it joins the Cane River. On its journey to meet up with the Cane, Miller Creek breaks through the east side of the property, emanating a steady rhythmic sound as water rises and falls over large rocks along the way.
Tom and Shirley Smith decided to renovate the old farmhouse after Tom's retirement from the Air Force.
Tom's dad invested in properties throughout Alabama and Mississippi, selling some of them when the time was right. This jewel he held on to, along with a few others. When he died, everything was left to Tom, his only child.
The property was absolutely magnificent and the farmhouse had good bones, but would need renovation. Tom had experience in construction. His dad owned Smith Construction Company in their hometown of Mobile. Tom worked for his dad while in high school and college, prior to joining the Air Force. He was confident that he could take on this project. For the time being, the Smiths would park their motor home a little ways back on the property and live in it until renovations were complete.
Tom and Shirley met in San Antonio, Texas. Shirley was teaching school there and Tom was stationed there. They dated for a year before they married. They never had children. During their thirty years of marriage, Tom was assigned to various posts in the United States, Germany and Japan.
Now they were about to move to a small town in a rural setting. It was going to be a challenge, but they both felt that they were ready to put down roots. One thing they never expected was the social life extraordinaire they were about to encounter.
Renovation began in March. A local hardware store had a large stock of building supplies; therefore, right away, the Smiths met Pete Allen, the owner.
From the first encounter, Pete showed a sincere interest in the Smiths, asking them, "Where are you from? Where do you live? Oh, that's the old Marten place. I spent a lot of time there when I was young. Joe Marten's son, Philip, and I went to school together. Philip lives in California now. I heard someone bought the place years ago, but when I drove out to have a look a few times, it appeared that no one was living there. It's good to have you in Turnerville, and I'm pleased that you are restoring that old farmhouse. It's on a beautiful piece of property."
"I'd like for you to meet my wife Denise. She'll want you to come for cocktails and dinner one night and we'll introduce you to a few other people."
That is how it all started and things took off from there.
On a Friday morning in late March, Shirley reminded Tom over breakfast, "Don't forget we've been invited to Pete and Denise Allen's for 6:30. I'm not sure how they dress here, but I'll wear my off-white linen dress with low-heeled pumps and an unpretentious necklace and earrings. What do you think?" Tom answered, "Shirley, you always look lovely and, in this small town, who is going to be dressed to the nines anyway." She agreed that he was probably right, but she still wanted to play it safe.
Shirley decided to start her day with a trip into town to pick up a few groceries, and Tom went over to the farmhouse to do some work.
The farmhouse was a very basic raised structure supported by concrete pillars two feet high, with a wide porch across the front covered by an extension of the roof.
The front door was located toward the left side and opened into the living room. The kitchen was situated directly behind the living room with an arched opening separating them. A doorway led from the right side of the living room into a hallway, which subsequently opened into two bedrooms at the far right side of the house. A bathroom was located at the end of the hall. A porch on the back of the house had been extended out several feet and enclosed sometime in the past, adding a large room across the back, which could be accessed from the kitchen. A second bathroom had been added back there as well.
Altogether, the house was a solid structure on solid ground, with the concrete pillars still standing firm underneath. It had the potential for updating. Tom had the ability to transform it structurally, and Shirley had great design ideas that could turn a sow's ear into a silk purse.
At noon Tom and Shirley met back at the motor home for lunch. Before Tom headed back to the farmhouse to continue working, Shirley said, "Please remember to quit a little earlier this afternoon so you'll have time to get dressed for tonight."
Tom and Shirley turned into the Allen's driveway at 6:30. It curved and turned through trees until out of nowhere there suddenly appeared a large pond surrounding a small island. Shirley's eyes went immediately to the lovely statue of a Grecian lady in the midst of exquisite foliage, who appeared to be pouring water from a vessel back into the pond. She said, "Tom, look at how peaceful and serene that little island is. It's lovely!"