By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal
This past spring, a producer for the “Abandoned” series on the National Geographic Channel made a call to the Itawamba County Development Council. He wanted to know if there were any places of interest in the area that might be right for his show.
“Abandoned” is a series about three guys who make a living scouring the nation for abandoned buildings that may hold unexpected gems of history that can be refurbished and resold for profit.
“They told me what they were looking for and I immediately thought of the Owens place because I knew it was basically intact inside and out,” said Bob Franks, the publications editor and film liaison at ICDC. “The Owens place is one of the oldest homesteads in Itawamba County.”
The producer bit, and a few days later he arrived. Franks took him to the homestead and they spent about five hours looking around.
“He went back to New York and within two days they had signed a contract with the family,” he said. “A couple of days later, the crew arrived. The whole thing happened within a week.”
The family is Alfredo and Barbara Giacometti of Tupelo. Alfredo’s mother, Myrtle Catherine Owens, her sister, Dovie, and their two brothers grew up in one of the houses on the property outside of Fulton.
“We came into the property in 1993,” Barbara said. “Alfredo’s aunt, Dovie, who was the last one living here, never married. She had no children, so she left everything to Alfredo.”
The house sat unoccupied for years, still stuffed with furniture, books, letters, magazines, appliances and family memorabilia.
“I’d come out here occasionally and bird hunt, so I kept the land cut for that, but that was it,” said Alfredo, a real estate agent. “Then we started noticing stuff missing – bed linens, small pieces of furniture – anything thieves could take and sell.”
What the scavengers left, however, were things of real value and precisely the kinds of items the “Abandoned” crew were looking for – primitive furniture, a wood-burning stove, a Windsor icebox with all its working parts, war memorabilia, an Edison Amberola phonograph, a spinning wheel and antique school desks.
“Upstairs the crew found hidden a B-52 bomber manual,” Barbara said. “It was marked ‘classified info.’ What that was doing here is bizarre.”
Alfredo had an answer for that.
“My mother worked for the American Embassy for years and she worked for the CIA,” he said. “When we found the book, we figured her brothers did, too. My aunt never threw anything away. Today she would be what you call a hoarder.”
The Owens Homestead has three major buildings left standing on it: A dog-trot house built around 1900, an old barn, and the white cottage – where the “Abandoned” crew found much of its treasure – built in 1939.
The land was originally settled by Peter Ingle who built a log house on it in 1839, said Franks, who served as president of the Itawamba County Historical Society for 14 years.
“The log house was torn down about 1970,” Franks said. “It was next to the white house. I visited Miss Dovie when she lived there. Her house was quite full of stuff. She was a very intelligent lady.”
To see which of the Owens family treasures went to the “Abandoned” crew, tune into a rebroadcast of the “Mississippi Homestead” episode Wednesday morning at 10 on the National Geographic Channel. The original show aired in early September and it was supposed to be rebroadcast tonight at 8 p.m. Double-check the date and time, which is subject to change, at http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/channel/abandoned/episodes/mississippi-homestead1/.