The Free State of Jones

The Jones County Home of William Harrison Mauldin: A Civil War Memory


Vikki Bynum

From October 1863 until the end of the Civil War, an inner civil war raged in Mississippi’s “Free State” of Jones County. According to Ed Mauldin, the log cabin of William Harrison Mauldin, built in 1850 near what is today highway 84, was likely the scene of a noted killing that occurred during that famous anti-Confederate uprising.

One of the many stories told about clashes between Jones County deserters and Confederate militia and vigilantes is that of Tapley Bynum, killed in January 1864 by Confederate forces as he visited his wife, Mary Elizabeth Mauldin, and their newborn daughter, Amanda. The story goes that Tapley, who was a member of Newt Knight’s band, was ambushed after sneaking home to visit his wife and daughter. Ed Mauldin speculates that the home he visited was the cabin, pictured below, in which Mary Elizabeth—the daughter of William Harrison Mauldin—grew-up.  It certainly makes sense that she would have lived in the home of her parents during the war, what with her husband on the run, and having recently given birth to the couple’s only child.

Wm Harrison Mauldin home, courtesy of Ed Mauldin

Wm Harrison Mauldin home, courtesy of Ed Mauldin

The story of Tapley Bynum’s short life helps to explain why I never heard of this distant relative until I first read of his death in the works of Tom Knight and Ethel Knight. With the help of other Bynum researchers, I soon learned that Tapley, born in 1836, was the child of my great, great, great grandfather’s (William Bynum, b. 1763) second marriage, making him the half-brother of my great-great grandfather, William II (b. 1795).

The elder William was already in his seventies at the time of Tapley’s birth, and left to raise to him alone after his wife died in childbirth a few years later. Consequently, one of old William’s grown sons, Benjamin Bynum, and Benjamin’s wife, Margaret “Peggy” Collins, raised Tapley alongside their own children, Dicey, Benjamin Jr., and Prentice Bynum.

Note that Peggy Bynum’s maiden name was Collins. This was important during the Civil War because the Collins family was Jones County’s most visibly pro-Union family. Three of Peggy’s brothers–Riley, Simeon, and Jasper–joined the Knight Band rather than fight for the Confederate cause.

In preparation for Mississippi’s 1861 secession convention, Jones County voted in favor of the anti-secessionist candidate, John H. Powell (Jasper Collins’s father-in-law) over the pro-secession candidate, John M. Baylis. Nonetheless, once secession was achieved by pro-Confederate southerners and war broke out, most of Jones County’s eligible men joined Confederate units in hopes of the war’s short duration.  Tapley and his younger nephew Ben Bynum Jr. joined together, but Ben died of disease following their participation in the Battle of Iuka. Like many men of the 7th Battalion who survived the battles of Iuka and Corinth, Tapley soon deserted the army and made his way home. With his other nephew, Prentice Bynum, Tapley joined Newt Knight’s guerrilla band in the woods.

Like Tapley Bynum, the men of the Knight Band visited their homes whenever safe to do so. Their wives and mothers are said to have warned them when Confederates were nearby by blowing on horns. Tapley, however, was particularly vulnerable to capture because the Confederacy knew of his daughter’s recent birth and correctly calculated that he would come in from the woods to see her.

My total ignorance of the tragic story of my own relative’s death until I decided to write a book about the Free State of Jones demonstrates how quickly and thoroughly one’s family history may be buried when it resides within a controversial episode of our nation’s history.

My thanks to Ed Mauldin for providing me a photo of his family’s ancestral cabin as well as pertinent details surrounding the death of Tapley Bynum.

10 replies »

  1. Thanks for publishing this story and picture of our Log Cabin, Vikki. My GGGranfather, William Harrison Mauldin, built that cabin in 1850 after moving from the Anderson, South Carolina area. His wife had died in 1848 while having their 7th child, Nancy (Francis Gandy-Walsh’s ancestor). So, he married Charity Welborn and moved with several others in Charity’s family to Jones County. He had 8 more children with Charity. So, that 2-room Log Cabin was home to 15 kids. His oldest son, William, was drafted by the Confederates, wounded in the Battle of Ft. Donelson in Feb 1862, captured by General Grant (as were 7,000 other Confederates), and given amnesty by Grant after signing a paper renouncing the Confederacy. William joined the Union Army in 1864 and died a few months later of typhoid. William’s wife was your cousin, Dicey Bynum. She received a Union Army Widow’s pension after William died. The third oldest child, Mary Elizabeth, married Tapley Bynum – Dicey’s brother. After Tapley was murdered by the Confederates – most likely in the yard of the cabin – his wife married George Sims who adopted and raised Tapley’s daughter, Amanda. My GGrandfather, Lemuel Harrison Mauldin, was 6th oldest and too young to fight in the war. I have his first name, Lemuel, which was also my Grandpa’s and my Dad’s first name.

    Harris Mauldin would have been an excellent architect or engineer. Look at the beautiful proportions, double-pitch roof, long front porch and two square interior rooms separated by a wide breezeway. Harris understood Bernoulli’s principle. The breezeway was designed to amplify the slightest wind, and with the Southern exposure, the Mauldin family could stay cool in summer and warm in winter, with the help of the two clay/straw fireplaces. The breezeway was wide enough to probably sleep all 17 of them in the summer, as they would be much cooler out there.

    The cabin was built with those beautiful, straight, long-needle pines that Jones County was famous for. The pine logs are now as hard as concrete. Harris obviously, carefully selected the logs as their fit is perfect, and then somehow, managed to split them right down the middle. This provided a beautiful flat inside wall. Cracks between the logs were covered with laths. The floor and ceiling were also wide, straight heartwood planks, so the cabin was just as beautiful inside as out.

    We used the cabin for Boy Scout Troop 53 Headquarters and for a hay barn. The house that I grew-up in was about 300 yards on the left (West) side, separated by a huge garden and small pasture for my two Jersey milk cows. Both our house and the Log Cabin are on US Highway 84 about a mile East of Buttermilk Crossing. I spent hundreds of wonderful hours in that cabin – many times just rocking away inside or outside on the porch while pondering what life must have been like for those 15 kids, especially during the war. I am sad that my own kids weren’t able to enjoy the many good times that I had growing-up on William Harrison Mauldin’s farm.


  2. Hopefully Hollywood Royalty will be as accurate as possible while they profit from Jones County’s history.

    Amazingly, God is always on both sides of every war, including the American Civil War which killed far more Americans than any war since. It would sure be worthwhile, if these stories had the same impact on racism as the Civil War had on slavery.

    It is now 2015 and way past time for all religions, nationalities, and races to quit hating each other.


  3. Thanks for posting, the picture reminds me of so many old homes, now long gone, I remember from my childhood. It also reminds me that I wish I had ask and documented the history of the Holifield family from my paternal grandfather and of the Mauldin family from my paternal grandmother, of course you only think of these things later in life when it is too late. There is very little Civil War information on my grandfather’s side but I’m still looking. Again, thanks for posting.


    • Glad you enjoyed the post, texxan. When Ed showed me his photo of the old Mauldin home, I immediately wanted to write a post and display it on Renegade South.

      Are you by chance descended from Bill Holifield? He was a member of the Knight band, was married to a Bynum, and migrated to Texas after the Civil War (about 1872), as did many members of the Simeon Collins family.



      • I am a descendant of Newton Knight . I want to thank you for your interest in writing this book !
        I am enjoying and learning about my great great grandfather and interestingly enough …I do not yet know if Serena or Rachel is my great great great grandmother .
        I was only recently sent a copy if my maternal ancestral from my cousin Karen Knight Franklin if Texas…my mothers name ways Dorothy Knight. .Texas …we mother ways Mary Knight wife of Marino Thomas Knight. ..I Rio was born in Texas…One story. ..when I was in my 9th month of pregnancy….out of the blue and over coffee she said ” Isn’t it something that a white woman could have a black child even when her husband is while ?? It could be something in their past. ”
        I remember clearly asking her what the heck she was telling me this for !!!??
        Please forgive the typos as I have broken my right arm and I’m right-handed course! Again I want to thank you it would be wonderful to hear from you!


  4. Do you know who currently owns the log cabin? It is still standing on Hwy. 84 W of Laurel. I have a pencil drawing of the log cabin home, though I do not know who originally did the drawing. I have never known who owns it or who lives in it, though I have known about it and seen it all of my life. There have been storage units located very close to it for several years now and a good deal of stuff appears to be stored in the log cabin itself. I have always felt that the home should be recognized and maintained for its historical significance. It is noted in the WPA Guide to Mississippi. My maternal grandmother was Moddie Rose Mauldin. She was the daughter of Timothy Columbus Mauldin (grandson of William H. Mauldin and Dicey Bynum) and Amy Bethany Sumrall (granddaughter of Harmon Levi Sumrall and Bethany Shotts). I grew up in Laurel. Most all of our Mauldin family still lives in Jones County I now live in Jackson. We have an annual reunion of the Amy and Tim Mauldin family and used to have reunions of the wider Mauldin family. I always appreciate the posts and history about our county and our heritage and am interested in any way to help preserve this ancestral home place. Thanks.

    Corey Hinshaw


  5. There was also another log home that my grandmother Addie Jane Mauldin may have been born and raised in. It was located behind the home of a Mauldin at Moss, MS near the Jones and Jasper County line. I visited with the Maudin’s living there 26 yrs ago, I can’t recall their names right now. Mrs. Mauldin showed me where the cabin stood. It burned a long time ago after being hit by lightning. My grandmother was a grand daughter of William Harrison Mauldin through his son Benjamin Franklin Mauldin.and Anis Ardell Dykes.


  6. HAY there ive been following my family tree got to Mary sims couldn’t go anymore she would be my 5 th generation grandma on my dads side if you. Can find out her mother and fathers name would be greatly appreciated


  7. Have you seen the Death Certificate Ms. #6567, Reg.#423, Dist. 2315, Sharon, Jones Co. Ms. for Mary E. Sims?


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