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Out On The Mudline

By W. P. Sissell

Long Ago

Just before the war of 1812 the great western migration began.  Many of these people had lived in North Carolina and began the trek westward, some through the Cumberland Gap and others just westward.  Several of these movers had some part in the beginning of Water Valley.  One, Benjamin Hawkins, the first full term senator from North Carolina, ran for re-election as a Whig, and lost the election.  Benjamin had been George Washington’s French interpreter during the revolution. The president appointed Benjamin as agent to all Indians from the Ohio River westward to the Mississippi. He was present at the land sales mentioned shortly and will be connected with Water Valley otherwise.  

Josiah Shipp IV had moved from Stokes County, North Carolina to Centerville, Hickman County, Tennessee in 1808 (Shipp’s Bend on the Duck River), new land.  In the early 1830’s Josiah 1V, after most of his children were old enough to be away from home, distributed his property in Hickman County, Tennessee to the older children.  One of the older sons, Josiah V sold his property in Hickman County to his brothers and went with the family to their new home in Mississippi.  One of the young men on that move was Felix Grundy, 9th child of Josiah IV and Ester Joyce.   Again the cry was for new land.

Felix Grundy next shows up, with his family contingent, in the Water Valley area in December 1833 where they stopped and built huts about where the town now stands. They left Hinds County, Mississippi for the Chickasaw Land Purchase.   Lucinda Higginbotham, first wife of Felix was on this journey.   They had been married in Clinton, Louisiana in April of 1833.  In 1834 Josiah Shipp IV, father of Felix Grundy, bought the first section of land sold in the Chickasaw nation lands. This was later sold to William Austin Carr.            All the foregoing has been a part of the genealogy of my wife, Nannette Shipp.  Dr. Felix Grundy Shipp was her great grand daddy Shipp.  

Now It’s My Time

In the time I taught at Northwest one of my students asked me about Benjamin Hawkins. I really didn’t know why but the question prompted me to call the Librarian to ask if she could find something about Benjamin.  Mrs. Rogers not only found information, she checked reserve books out in my name and brought them to me. Her primary question was WHY?  I had to laugh at her reaction when I told her that supposedly Benjamin was one of my great-great-great grandpa’s and I was not stuttering..  His daughter, Virginia Hawkins , was a onetime resident of Water Valley and my great-great Grandmother.  

How About That

I, long ago, heard the story of Benjamin being Washington’s aide—Lafayette wasn’t fluent in English (American) and Washington wasn’t fluent in French—they took Benjamin out of college because he was French fluent and Washington needed his help.

Another attachment:  How many of you know that a president of the USA spent the night in Water Valley?  President James Knox Polk, one of the more successful of our presidents, spent the night in Water Valley at the Carr home, the night Lucy Polk Carr was born. Mom and dad added the name Polk to her name. The Polks were visiting their farm on the Yalobusha River.  

I think that W. A. Carr is given the credit for naming our Water Valley. Nannette and I, when we were going together never discussed all these things—but who would have thought that my great-great grandfather would have bought land from here great-grandfather that became Water Valley.  In fact, the house where I was born might have been right in the middle of those huts that William Carr’s folks built.  If we had known it would have made little difference for at the time we were young folks—bent on taking over the world—our way.  I have pictures of most of the people I’ve talked about.  An exception is W. A. Carr.  I would appreciate a copy of one if anyone has one to share.  

Do have a good week—maybe I’ll see you sometime during the celebration.  I’ll probably be somewhere around the museum.  Thanks for the encouragements.  You can reach me  at 23541 Hwy. 6, Batesville, MS 38606, 662-563-9879 or

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