Sometime after the Civil War, Captain Joseph Franklin Townsend and Colonel Hemingway bought a plantation overlooking the Yazoo Pass which they named “Bonita.” Using convict labor, the men cultivated Bonita Egyptian cotton, which was popular near the end of the 19th Century. Townsend built a two story log home which later burned to the ground, he was cutting logs for a new one by noon.
In 1891, J.F. Townsend’s brother, William Thomas Townsend, Sr., moved onto the Yazoo Pass to live with his son, W.T. Townsend, Jr. In 1910, another father, the Rev. James William Harris, settled on the Yazoo Pass to live near his son, Dr. William Thomas Harris, and his daughter, Martha Louella Harris (Mrs. W.T. Townsend), known as “Birdie.”
In 1878 William T. Townsend Jr. settled in Coahoma County and went to work for his uncle, Capt. J.F. Townsend. But according to his wife, Birdie, Townsend was too independent to stay with his uncle, so he set out to seek his fortune. First he served as a deputy sheriff in Winona, Mississippi. Then he traded horses in Texas. Then he backtracked to Coahoma County and took a job as station agent for the Chicago and Mobile Railroad in Clarksdale. Where that railroad intersected the Yazoo Pass, Townsend and his uncle J.F. opened a general mercantile store in 1890. In 1893, Townsend married Birdie Harris, “an accomplished musician, a delightful and refined woman, not lacking, however in decision.”
Described as “of small stature, she had lovely hair of rich chestnut brown, large gray eyes, and a clear magnolia complexion.” Three months after the young couple married, their beautiful home burned to the ground. Everything was destroyed, save a piano and two small pieces of furniture. In 1896, William Townsend went into the farming business. He was said to be a tall, straight postured man “whose keen deep blue eyes revealed his native ability and integrity, and whose strong nose and chin bespoke his firmness of will.” A dancer, a hunter and a lover of animals, Townsend was a “stern, proud man of violent temper and at the same time deeply sympathetic. ” Townsend left seven children: Virginia, Pauline, W.T. Townsend III, Eleanor, Ivy, James Harris, and Elizabeth.
1900 U.S. Census. Coahoma County
Willie T. Townsend. 38. merchant. married in 1893. Other members of home: Birdie, Virginia, Pauline, Willie, Emma Hutson, and Tate Chesher
1910 U.S. Census Coahoma County
William T. Townsend. 48. merchant and planter. Other members of home: Birdie H., Virginia, Pauline, Will H., Elenor, Ivy, and James
1920 U.S. Census. Coahoma County
William T. Townsend. 57. farmer. Other members of home: Birdie, Virginia, Birdie P., William T., Eleanor, Ila, James H., and Elizabeth
1930 U.S. Census. Coahoma County
Will T. Townsend. 68. farmer. Home value is 10,000. Other members of home: Birdie, James, Elizabeth, Sue, Sue
1940 U.S. Census. Coahoma County
Birdie H. Townsend. 67. value of home is 8,000. She was living with Elizabeth Townsend. Evidently William T. Townsend jr. had passed.
Barbee Cemetery at Lula, Mississippi
Wiliam Thomas Townsend Jr. Born January 9, 1862. Died June 5, 1935
Martha Louella (Birdie) Townsend. Born April 9,1872. Died. January 24,1959