Circa 1820, 1842
Wilkesburg, Mississippi (Jefferson Davis County)
The Wilkes House is an architectural treasure, as it is a remarkably intact, rare surviving example of a vernacular house dating from the earliest decades of the 1800s. Located approximately five miles south of Bassfield, the house was constructed in two distinct phases and probably achieved its present form about 1842. The original portion is a one-and-one-half story, hall-and-parlor plan, log house, with the upper half-story accessed from a stair opening onto the rear gallery. A very early 19th century construction date is indicated by the 12-inch wide, beaded, hand-planed boards that finish the walls and ceiling, the exposed beaded ceiling joists, batten shutters, and six-panel doors.
Stephen H. Wilkes is believed to have enlarged the house into its present form around 1842, when he purchased the property and established a cotton plantation, mill, and mercantile store, which became the center of a rapidly growing community named Wilkesburg. The house is distinguished by its outstanding degree of architectural integrity, and having almost no changes since it was enlarged in 1842, apparently even retaining some of its original paint. Since 1842 the house has remained in the Wilkes family and in 1960 the descendants moved into a new house built next to the original Wilkes House which was then relegated to storage and has received little care since.
Recently the Wilkes Home was purchased by the city of Bassfield from the Wilkes family. Plans are to move the house to Bassfield and restore it for use as a visitor center as part of the Longleaf Trace. However, the City does not have the money to move and restore the house so it will sit in its current location continuing to deteriorate at its present rate if the money can not be found to save this important and very intact early Mississippi house.
2017 Update – No Progress
The Wilkes Home was designated a Mississippi Landmark in 2006. The 2015 update suggested that Bassfield City officials wished to move the house from its isolated rural location to Bassfield for use as a visitor center on the Longleaf Trace. This did not happen. Unfortunately for the Wilkes House, the City of Bassfield gave it back to the family. Sadly the owner and champion of the Wilkes House, Charlotte Speights Holmes died 2106 leaving the house without a patron. Dr. Amy Young who did archeological work around the house with the University of Southern Mississippi has retired and could not be reached.