Becker landmark burns to ground

BECKER – The stately antebellum home that stood on Greenbrier Road just south of Becker since 1856 burned to the ground Dec. 2.

The yellow two-story farm house has long been a landmark that was visible from Highway 25.

The home was bought about six weeks ago by retired educator Jeffie Robinson who was in the process of renovating its interior with plans to move in soon.

But the house went up in flames, leaving nothing but a pile of charred rubble, a few front porch columns and front steps.

Robinson said she’s heartbroken to see the historic home gone. The only blessing is that no one was in the vacant structure when it caught fire, she said.

Robinson said she loved the beautiful rooms in the home. The house was the main reason why Robinson moved back home to Monroe County just over a year ago from Tremont.

Robinson realizes the history behind the home. “If that old house could talk,” she said.

The house was originally known as the old Flynt Home, built by the surgeon Dr. Samuel “Buck” Flynt, upon his return from the Civil War. He had begun construction of the home, but the project was interrupted by the war, then he came home and finished its construction, turning it from a one-story home to a two-story.

The house later was inherited by Flynt’s daughter and family, the Billy Nichols family, who lived there until the early 1900s when the boll weavils devastated their crops and he decided to move to Alabama to teach school.

Mr. A.H. Ritter purchased the property and Mr. Nichols convinced the Fowlkes family to move into the house.

It was 1919 when John Thomas Fowlkes, his wife, Maggie Lou Templeton Fowlkes and their 11 children and Mrs. Fowlkes’ mother moved in. One of those 11 children was Bill Fowlkes, who still has fond memories of his childhood home there. He was born the year they moved into the home which he refers to as the Nichols Home.

The Fowlkes family resided in this stately home for 20 years, with most of the family living downstairs and the five boys living upstairs in the North Room.

Mr. Fowlkes recalls that the home’s big front porch was a hub of activity for the family. It’s where his daddy who was a farmer would go to take his afternoon nap. It’s where plenty of politics was discussed by the grownups and it’s where everyone congregated during the hot summer days to cool off.

Fowlkes said he remembers as kids they played under the porch and heard the grownups talking politics. He also recalls noticing that the porch’s wooden timbers were hewn with a brood ax and adz and you could easily see where builders had hand-hewn the timbers for the porch.

Mr. Bill remembers that his mother, very protective of her brood, used to have the children take refuge in the downstairs closet beneath the stairs when she saw bad weather approaching.

The Fowlkes family farmed the land around the home. They had 80 acres of cotton, eight mules, two tenant farmers and a barn out back, that Mr. Bill said burned down “we suspect probably burned by an angry tenant.”

When a severe 89-day drought hit the region, Mr. Bill remembers that his family’s cotton crop that once brought in 20 cents a pound, yielded only 5 cents a pound that year. So his father, not wishing to sell the cotton at just 5 cents, stored the cotton under the barn. He remembers his daddy giving 2 bales away in exchange for 2 mattresses for them to sleep on.

He also remembers the home’s country kitchen, which he says was really a “living room” for the family. It had a wood stove and the home’s only hot water was in that room. “Everyone’s job was to keep that wooden bucket filled with water,” he recalls. And of course, the home had no indoor plumbing to speak of so there was an outhouse out back. “I really don’t know where they ended up putting the bathroom in that house,” he said, referring to renovations that occurred to the home in later years.

In 1938, Mr. Bill’s father John Thomas died and Mr. Bill and one of his brothers had to come back home to help run the family’s farm for a time.

After the Fowlkes family moved out of the home, there were a series of other renters at the house, until Red Moon bought the house in the 1950s from Billy Nichols and totally repaired and renovated it, making it livable once again.

When Red Moon died, the house and land was purchased by Dr. and Mrs. Richard Hollis of Amory who owned it until it was sold to the Youngs, Billie and Charlie, who lived in the home from 1978 to 1981. They later sold it to Billy and Glenda Pearson who lived there for a time.

Young said she loved the house. Even though it was an antebellum era house, she said it was not in that style of construction. “It was a farm house,” Young said.

The home’s upstairs had never been finished off, Young said. There were two bedrooms and one closet. She said the entire house only had two closets when they bought it, apparently based on the fact that a home’s taxes were computed on the number of closets it had.

Wood ceilings had been covered over, but Young said they re-exposed the wood and also did other renovations. “It was like living in a museum,” Young recalls. “Every week just about, someone would knock on the door and say they used to live there and ask if they could take a look around. I’d take them on a tour of the house. I felt like I was playing a part in history.”

Young said they named the house amp”Sunshine Mountainamp” because some people said it looked like it sat on a mountain and while there was no mountain in sight, she said it felt like being on a sunny mountain top. She said mountains and mountain-top experiences are mentioned in many places in the Bible so she thought the name was perfect for their yellow-sided house. The Youngs named their stores Sunshine Sports and later Sunshine on Main after this home. They were good memories of life in this historic home.

“It grieves me to see it burned down,” Young said.

After the Youngs, the Pearsons lived at Sunshine Mountain, then still later Art and Annette Gentry and their family took up residence at the home for several years. Gentry said his children were raised there and he and his band The Gents frequently practiced in a building behind the house. He remembers also replacing the columns out front that were one of the few things remaining after the fire. “It was in really rough shape when we got the place,” Gentry recalls. “But it was a neat place to live. My kids were really saddened to hear that it’s gone.”

Most recently the McCains and their children lived in the home until Jeffie Robinson purchased it.

While the old home is gone, many memories of the old Flynt Home, the Nichols Home and Sunshine Mountain, all one and the same place, will linger for years to come.

Chris Wilson/Monroe Journal