It is always interesting what the dusty annals of yesterday can produce, especially diaries of long-ago pioneer settlers of DeSoto County, and these first-hand accounts often provide great insight into the history of the region.
Among the collections of the award-winning DeSoto County Museum is an excerpt from a diary belonging to Sallie Love Banks, who is descended from one of the older families in the DeSoto County seat.
Sallie Love Banks was born on Sept. 27, 1848 on a plantation located about one and one-half miles south of Hernando.
According to her account, the old plantation was originally owned by the Chickasaw, who had named it “Nip and Tuck Plantation.” Banks said the name of the plantation would be changed to Love Station in honor of her father, Dr. William King Love, a native of Elbert County, Georgia.
Love Station, which at one time had its own post office, was a popular place to have mail or a card made out to your sweetheart postmarked because of the “Love” connotation during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
It seems that “Doctor Love” began his practice in Trenton, Tenn., where he met and married the mother of Sallie Love Banks, Emily Bruce Jones, who her own daughter called “lovely and quiet,” but at other times “a forceful personality.”
Sounds like an apt description of any true parent to the Time Traveler.
As a young girl, Sallie Love Banks writes that she attended a private school near Hernando known as Mrs. Mosely’s School, since public schools in DeSoto County were not established until 1871. The Mississippi Constitution of 1869 had established the Mississippi Public School System.
Mrs. A.M. Mosely called her school the Hernando Select School, which began one year after the disastrous Civil War ended. She began school with 30 students. Subjects taught were French, Latin and music. Fundamentals were taught in lower grades. The school was closed from 1869 to 1882 during the Reconstruction Era. Sallie would also later attend the State College in Memphis where she would remain until Fort Donelson fell during the Civil War.
“The Federal’s entry into Memphis caused the closing of the school,” Banks writes in her “Sketch of My Life.”
“I then returned home and was sent to the Berryman College in Hernando, but soon afterward the advance of the Federals southward forced the school to close also,” she wrote. “Determined that I should have an education, my father decided to take me to Macon, Georgia to the Wesleyan College, the oldest chartered women’s college in the world in 1836. We had to leave our home in the middle of the night and travel by carriage for fear of being halted by the soldiers. We drove all night through the lonely river bottom and arrived in Senatobia just in time to catch the last train south: all trains from that section were forced to be discontinued during the war.”
It seems that Dr. Love prized an education for his young daughter and she quotes the elder Love on his desire that she be formally educated.
“I’ll give my daughter an education,” Dr. Love intoned. ”That is something neither fire nor flood can take away from her.”
The good doctor and his daughter, along with the family’s cook Silvia and her son Milton, accompanied them in a private boxcar because Sallie Love had been recovering from a recent bout with the mumps.
The railroad car had been furnished with a bed, chairs and a stove among other creature comforts.
Sallie Love would eventually make it to Wesleyan College where she was enrolled for about a year before Union General William Tecumseh Sherman’s “March to the Sea” threatened to close down that college. She would attempt to enroll at a college in Alabama but advancing Union forces threatened it, too.
Sallie would return closer to home, enrolling at Aberdeen Female College in Aberdeen near Columbus and Tupelo, graduating in 1865.
She would marry a lifelong friend, George Thomas Banks, who had served as a captain under General Bedford Forrest’s command.
“I had always admired him immensely, but never dared hope he would ever think of me seriously,” the smitten Sallie wrote of her husband-to-be.
George Banks would die in 1912 but the family would live on in the area for generations to come. She never forgot her war-time beau or their early days together. Neither would George, as family legend has it.
It was truly a case of “Love at first sight.”
ROBERT LEE LONG is Curator of the DeSoto County Museum.