Jamie Nelson is getting back to his roots.
The longtime Baldwyn veterinarian is restoring a more than 150-year-old house just northwest of the city that has been in his family for more than a century.
Nelson and his wife, Holly, lived in the home in the mid 1970s. Jamie improved the home by having a new roof and new siding installed. Jamie and Holly eventually moved into another house next door, which was owned by Jamie’s parents, Jimmy and Doris Nelson.
Now, Nelson is looking to restore the building to once again provide shelter for families for years to come.
“I have many memories in this old house,” Jamie Nelson said. “The same wallpaper is here on my grandparents’ bedroom as was when I was born. I saved tin roofing from the house when we renovated it in the ‘70s and used it on the shed that is in the back.”
This old house
William Oliver “Bill” Nelson was born on April 28, 1889 in Baldwyn. His parents were James Nelson and Sarah R. “Sallie” Ball Nelson. The house, located on what is now County Road 6011, originally was built in the 1850s and owned by Elizabeth “Lizzie” McDonald. Lizzie raised her niece, Lela Mae McDonald who married William Oliver Nelson. Lela died in childbirth, along with her child. After Lela’s death, Lizzie moved away and left the house to William. William later married Alma Victoria Holley.
There was once a post office in front and to the left of the home, known as McDonald Post Office, and the area was called Pea Ridge. There was an old gravel road that cut through the property going southwest, which was later rerouted into what is now County Road 6011.
Sarah Elizabeth Nelson Villarreal is William’s sister who now lives in Texas. She was raised in the house in the upstairs bedroom facing south over the barn and other small houses. Sarah’s brother, William Oliver Nelson II, now deceased, earned a PhD from Mississippi State. He was the Director of the State’s Aging Program, including Meals on Wheels.
“I am 91 years old and have lovely memories of growing up in the old home place,” Villarreal said. “As soon as the renovations are completed, I will visit my sweet nephew and his family and see our beautiful home again.”
The old home place is surrounded by majestic live oaks which were small when Jamie was a child. The house consisted of a long narrow kitchen, one small bathroom, three bedrooms and several fireplaces. The entry way has a staircase leading to the bedrooms on the second floor. One of the double fireplaces had to be demolished due to the extent of deterioration it had experienced over the years. There are still two fireplaces, which are open to adjoining rooms on each side of the walls. The bricks used for the fireplace were used from the brickyard, which is still evident in the fenced pasture alongside the home. There are two large holes filled with the original bricks used in building the home. Jamie has also saved all the bricks from the fireplaces which had to be torn down.
The original walls were covered with feed and fertilizer sacks for insulation. The original wallpapers covered the sacks. There are many square nails throughout the interior and exterior walls as well as the roof.
The house once had a ramp from the kitchen to the hallway that led to a smokehouse. There was, at one time, a back porch with windows all around three sides.
Nelson is adding on to the house as part of his restoration. The new space will contain a new kitchen, a bathroom and a large den. Combining the old and new is a challenge for Jamie as he wants to preserve as much of the original aspects of the home as he can.
“This house has a lot of history,” Jamie said. “I probably could have torn it down and built a new home much cheaper than what it is costing to renovate, but I couldn’t bear the thought of losing the history and love this home has throughout those walls.”
Holly Nelson has saved many of the old fertilizer sacks taken from the walls of the home and plans to have a few framed and displayed.
“There is a lot of history in those old walls and Jamie wants to preserve as much as he can,” Holly said. “The renovation is an undertaking I would have believed to be almost impossible to accomplish, but Jamie’s heart is in it and I am looking forward to seeing it completed, which may take a year or two.”