Piece of Monroe County history goes on the auction block

By Ray Van Dusen/Monroe Journal

HAMILTON – A couple of decades before Aberdeen’s antebellum age was in full bloom to the north, the building blocks were in place for a plantation that has barely been touched by modern life.

“It started with a brick kitchen with a couple of bedrooms in 1829 and by 1852, it expanded into an 815-acre plantation with a huge house and several log cabins. Little has been done throughout the years and it’s truly a living museum of life in the 1800s,” said Aberdeen’s Dwight Stevens, who will host an auction Saturday of Cedarwycke and its antiques.

The original owner of the home was a merchant and a farmer who went from owning a tavern just outside of Columbus on the Tombigbee River to Hamilton’s postmaster in 1844. Unfortunately, he died six months before construction of the house was complete.

Several families lived in the Greek Revival mansion throughout the years as the property saw changes such as apartment renovations through World War II and downsizing to 195 acres. The Mattox family purchased the home in 1940 and it has remained in the family ever since.

Other than the original family who lived in the home, the Crawfords have owned it the longest.

Helen Mattox Crawford acquired Cedarwycke in 1984 and her restorations had been under way until her death in 1990 with more restoration continuing throughout the years. The house is eligible for nomination on the Mississippi Department of Archives’ National Register, but the final papers haven’t been completed and submitted.

“Preserving history has always been important to my family and that value was instilled in us growing up. We spent so much time in antique stores as children and realizing how important this part of the country close to the river was,” said Connie Long.

Long and his sisters, Susie Wright and Carol Crawford and brother, Sam Crawford, remember fond summers sipping Coke in rocking chairs on the back porch and cuddled up in the bedroom in the winter reading stories like “The Secret Garden.”

“We’ve all established our own homes with our own families and it’s hard to find the time and energy for the upkeep. Our family has hogged this house for 65 years so it’s somebody else’s time now to love it,” Wright said.

While she was alive, Helen Crawford stockpiled pieces of older homes to be used for Cedarwycke in the event of broken windows or any other unforeseen mishaps. It is one of the last working plantations in the South.

Several facts and legends are tied to the house including how the house wasn’t burned down during the Civil War because Union soldiers could use the view from the third floor to scout for Confederate soldiers from its spanning views to the north and south.

The third floor also doubled as a schoolhouse and ballroom for former owners.

Features such as a log cabin with sleeping quarters upstairs, a smokehouse that could hold 500 hams with a potato house on the other side of the wall, a barn and gardens still remain on the property.

“I remember losing the pecan grove to straight-line winds in the ’80s. As children, we would go pick up pecans while the Thanksgiving meal was being cooked,” Crawford said.

“Cedarwycke is definitely a part of Monroe County history and in addition to local people, people from nine states have inquired about purchasing the property,” Stevens said.

Those interested have different ideas as to what to do with the antebellum home in the event they have the high bid. From another home in a collection of antebellum homes from Louisiana to South Carolina for one to a future home to antiques to a place to host weddings and receptions, the future possibilities of the home are limitless.

The home and its current acres are listed for $375,000 but the final bid is unpredictable.

“Even though a lot of people wouldn’t have the house since it doesn’t have any modern conveniences, several others would love it because it’s stood still throughout time. It’s like a good antique that’s been kept in pristine condition.

“When the state had to close Florewood State Park in Greenwood because of budget cuts, we commissioned the auction, but it didn’t come close to Cedarwycke,” Stevens said.

An open house preview will be held Friday from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. The actual auction of 800 items begins at 9 a.m. Saturday around the back of the house before it moves to the front at noon for bidding on the house.

In addition to the antiques of Cedarwycke, selected pieces from estates from Huntsville and Montgomery, Ala., will be on the auction block as well.