By Janice Fortenberry
Janice Brock of Tylertown recently received a prestigious award from the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, namely the Historic Preservation Recognition Award. The award is given to individuals who have done remarkable work at the community level to preserve history. This award recognizes achievements in all areas of historic preservation such as preserving buildings, landmarks, monuments, cemeteries, historic districts, statues, museum collections, manuscripts, documents or archival materials.
Janice was presented the award at the Feb. 13 meeting of the McComb Judith Robinson Chapter DAR by Regent Janice Fortenberry, who nominated Mrs. Brock for the award. Supporting nominating letters were also written by Dr. Cathy Chance Harvey, also of Tylertown, and Dr. Luke Lampton of Magnolia.
Janice was honored for her work in the restoration of the Historic Joseph May Cemetery in Sartinsville and for the restoration of Founders Cemetery in Tylertown. Janice serves as assistant chairman of the Judith Robinson Chapter’s Historic Preservation Committee. The committee is chaired by Sylvia Johnson, also of Tylertown.
Janice, who taught 4th grade at Tylertown Elementary for 25 years, says her interest in history and genealogy goes back to her youth. When her father bought the Jacob Owens farm on Airport Road in 1959, he found old documents in the old farmhouse and saved them for his daughter.
“Nobody else in the family wanted all these old papers, but I loved having them. I’ve always loved history and old documents,” Janice said.
Janice got her start in genealogical research and historic preservation in 2000 under the tutelage of research genealogists Irma and William Lampton, authors of The Tombstone Inscriptions of Walthall County (1976), Partial History of the Wiley Martin and Mary L. Quin Martin Family (1992), Partial Harvey Family History (1992) and Descendants of John Conerly and Cullen Conerly (1986). At this time Janice was beginning work on her book, Our Williamson Family History (Vol. 1), co-authored with Louis Edward Brodie, Judy Walker Weeks and her brother Joseph Morris Stinson. The book was published in 2010.
“Irma Lampton helped us research my (maternal) great-grandfather, Frances Marion Williamson. We didn’t know anything about him but knew he was known as the Doctor on Horseback who practiced during the Civil War. He was shot and killed one night coming home from seeing a patient.” Janice explained. Eventually, she said, Lampton helped her trace her mother’s family back two more generations to Shadrack Williamson, who fought in the Revolutionary War. Williamson served as a private and lieutenant in the South Carolina Militia in 1782 under General Francis Marion. Also known as the Swamp Fox, Marion used irregular warfare methods and was known as one of the fathers of guerilla warfare, using tactics he learned during the French and Indian War (1754-1763). Since that discovery, she has found she has three other ancestors who also fought in the Revolutionary War.
Janice has traced her family tree back to the Switzerland.
“My maternal grandmother’s last name was Coon, but in Switzerland, it’s spelled, “Kuhn”. My ancestors migrated from Switzerland to Germany and then to South Carolina,” she explained.
Janice was admitted to DAR in April 2011, and she quickly went to work applying her skills to two award-winning Historical Preservation Projects, namely the restoration of the Joseph May Cemetery and the restoration of Founders Cemetery. The Joseph May Cemetery Project was begun in 2016 and completed in 2017 at a cost of over $6,000. Funds for the project came from donations by ancestors, local businesses and from members of the Judith Robinson Chapter DAR as well as the Walthall County Historical Society and the Magnolia Chapter Colonial Dames XVII Century.
Janice conducted the research used to identify the graves and to order replacement headstones for those interred there. One of the graves is that of Revolutionary War Patriot Joseph May, her father’s ancestor. The cemetery is also the resting place of two veterans of the War of 1812 and one Confederate soldier. In 2016, the Joseph May Cemetery Restoration Project won first in the state of Mississippi in the DAR’s Historic Preservation Committee Project Contest and, in 2017, the project placed 2nd in the Southeastern District.
The restoration of Founders Cemetery in Tylertown was begun in 2018. The cemetery was established in 1835 and contains the graves of the pioneer families who settled the town of Tylertown, originally called Conerly. Because of vandalism back in the 1980’s, the cemetery was in a state of disrepair with most of the headstones broken and scattered. Others were darkened due to mildew and aging. Wooden markers had deteriorated.
Sylvia and Janice helped raise over $10,000 to have the monuments cleaned and repaired. Janice spent thousands of hours researching the 88 known graves in the cemetery. The work was tedious and exhausting, but Janice persevered, and now Founders Cemetery stands as an aesthetically pleasing monument to the founding families of Tylertown. The cemetery contains the grave of Revolutionary War Patriot William Thornhill and War of 1812 veterans Henry Magee and Claiborne Rushing. There are also six Civil War soldiers buried there. Janice applied for and received four markers from the Veterans Administration for veterans buried at Founders Cemetery. She also played a key role in applying for the historic marker from the Department of Archives and History which stands beside the cemetery.
Sally E. Patterson, National Vice Chair of the Historic Preservation Committee for NSDAR, was quick to commend Janice for her work in DAR.
“Mrs. Brock’s dedication to historic preservation efforts is truly inspiring. Your community is so blessed to have a dedicated volunteer such as Mrs. Brock,” Patterson said.
Janice is much more modest about her work. When asked about why she enjoyed pursuing the restoration of the two cemeteries and learning about those buried there, she was quick to say she hadn’t done the work alone.
“The community has been so supportive and so many have expressed appreciation to our DAR chapter for these projects. I discovered how meaningful restoration can be when I realized how many of my friends had ancestors buried there. It just seems important to mark everyone’s existence. Researching these graves and my family tree helps me realize what these people went through to get here and to start a life here,” she explained.
Genealogy and historic research have enriched her life, she added.
“I never thought the history of my family would be so interesting, but genealogy is like a puzzle. One discovery leads to another,” Janice said.
She said she thinks on-line resources are sparking interest in exploring family trees among younger people these days.
“We have resources now that make genealogic research so convenient, such as Ancestry.com. In years gone by, we did it the hard way and had to travel to courthouses and libraries to find resources. But now more and more information is online,” she said.
She also said genealogy is fun when you have friends who are also interested. That’s why, she explained, she’s enjoyed DAR.
“Genealogy has given me a sense of history I didn’t have before and I’m thankful my children are also showing an interest in it,” she added.