Friday, September 18, 2009

A Landmark in the Hill Country: The House of the Byrd/Stanford Families at Splunge

by Terry Thornton
with photographs courtesy of Glenda McWhirter Todd, Tullahoma, Tennessee

Byrd-Stanford House, Splunge, Mississippi. Circa 1980s

When I was a child traveling east on the old Amory-Detroit Road, I knew I was nearly outside the easternmost limits of Monroe County when we drove past the home place of my parents' good friend, Tidie Stanford Thompson, wife of Harmon Thompson of Splunge. There, in a shady curve of the road sat a large two-story house with porches and lots of interesting outbuilding. The house faced the then-graveled road and I always looked to see if any of the residents were on the porch or in the yard or gardens. Usually there was sign of activity around the house and we would all wave to those outside.

I grew up knowing the house as the Stanford House, home of the George Stanford family of Splunge. Actually the house was located just inside the state line --- so outer Splunge might be more appropriate for the name of the community. Directly south of the house were large flat bottom-lands of the Sipsey River. Today the house does not face the road --- the new paved roadway was located behind the house in the late 1950s leaving the house and buildings to be viewed from the back and from a distance. Here are two maps which show the location of the Byrd-Stanford House. Click images for a larger view.

But the house has a much larger and older history than from when the Stanford family bought it about 1905/1906. The house was home to another family of the Hill Country, the John Kirk Byrd family.

Family historian and author Glenda McWhirter Todd of Tullahoma, Tennessee, sent photographs taken before the house was pulled apart when the two-story log cabin was removed from the middle of it. The photographs are undated but are thought to have been made in the 1980s --- they show the house just prior to its being gutted for the cabin.

According to Glenda, John Kirk Byrd was the husband of Elvira Caroline Moore Byrd. Elvira was the daughter of William Moore who gave the property to John and Elvira "for love and affection." It is not known when the Byrds moved into the house --- they are listed on the 1880 Federal Census of Lamar County, Alabama, at Millville (now known as Detroit).

On that census, the household consisted of the following:
John K. Byrd, head, 53, born Mississippi
Elvira C. Byrd, wife, 49, born Mississippi
Martha J. Byrd, daughter, 15, born Alabama
Columbus Byrd, son, 13, born Alabama
Jennie A. Byrd, daughter, 11, born Alabama
Edna E. Byrd, daughter, 9, born Alabama
Lula E. Byrd, daughter, 7, born Alabama
John C. Byrd, son, 5, born Alabama
At some point between 1880 and 1900, the family relocated to Splunge, Monroe County, Mississippi. According to Glenda Todd, John Kirk Byrd was the owner who built the large frame house surrounding the four-room, two-story log cabin.

John Kirk Byrd was killed in a run-away team and wagon accident in Sulligent, Alabama, on February 7, 1891. His widow, Elvira Carolina Moore Byrd is shown on the 1900 Federal Census of Monroe County, William's Store Precinct.

The 1900 census showing Elvira C. Byrd lists her as head of household, age 69, born Mississippi. Living in the house with her was son John Byrd, age 25. It is interesting to note that on the 1900 census living just a few houses away is the George W. Stanford family who acquired the property shortly after Elvira Byrd's dead in 1905.

John Kirk Byrd and Elvira Caroline Moore Byrd are both buried at Shiloh Cemetery, just a short distance from the Byrd-Stanford House. [Not to be confused with the Thompson/Stanford Cemetery which is located on property next to the house --- but in an all-but forgotten cemetery in the edge of Section 17 on the second map above.] Both John Kirk Byrd and Elvira Byrd grave markers were photographed at Shiloh Cemetery on March 20, 2009.

The owners of the house during my childhood, George W. Stanford (1872 - 1961) and his wife Anna Stanford (1873 - 1942) are buried almost within sight of the house at the Thompson-Stanford Cemetery. Their daughter, Tidie Sanford Thompson mentioned above is buried besides Harmon Thompson at Riggins Chapel Cemetery just a few miles east of the house location.

George W. Stanford and wife Anna, daughters Tidy and Elzy, and sons Curby and Howard, are on the 1900 Monroe County Mississippi census listed in the William's Store (now called Splunge) precinct. By the 1910 census, George and Anna's household had grown to include Tidy 16, Elzy 14, Kirbie 11, Howard 9, and daughter Romie 7.

More information will be published later about the Moore, Byrd, and Stanford families of the Hill Country. The photographs of the Byrd-Stanford House are presented below. They show the house prior to the log cabin forming the two-story core of the house was removed. The ruins of this landmark dwelling are visible on the north side of Hatley-Detroit Road near the Mississippi-Alabama state line.

xx1Byrd-Stanford House 1980s; owners Mr. and Mrs. Knight of Splunge and
John Allmon, family historian of Florida.

Detail of wall on front porch. Note timbers of which the log cabin portion
of the original house was constructed.

Note notches for the stacked timbers forming an exterior corner
of the original two-story cabin.

Fireplace and wall, upstairs room of the original log cabin.

View of the house circa 1980s from the back yard.

Thanks to Glenda McWhirter Todd of Tennessee for sharing her photographs of the Byrd House/Stanford House.


Census information about the Byrd and Stanford Families, 1880 Lamar County Alabama; 1900, 1910, and 1920 Monroe County Mississippi Federal Census Reports. Information transcribed from the census images available at Heritage Quest Online through the Lee-Itawamba County Library. Accessed September 17, 2009.

Byrd and Moore Family Information provided by Glenda McWhirter Todd, Tullahoma, Tennessee, in a series of emails to Terry Thornton, September 2009.

Map snippets modified (1) from the Mississippi Department of Transportation Official Highway Map of Monroe County and (2) from the online Google Map of eastern Monroe County. Both maps are available online at and at

Photographs of the Byrd House, circa 1980s, courtesy of photographer Glenda McWhirter Todd, Tullahoma, Tennessee. Photographs used by permission of Glenda Todd. All Rights Reserved.

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