The Society’s 2015 annual meeting was held in Oxford, Mississippi, the weekend of October 30, 2015. This was the first time that the Society meets in Mississippi. Northern Mississippi is rich in Fontaine history with descendants of three children of Jaques Fontaine – Francis, Peter, and Mary Ann – settling in the area. Our weekend was organized by Society member, Dr. Hubert McAlexander, a renowned author and lecturer on Southern literature who is retired from the University of Georgia.
The weekend began with a business meeting on Friday night, October 30, that included reports from the Society’s officers and election of a new director. Judge Toby Winston, a direct descendant of Patrick Henry Fontaine, presented a fascinating history of the Fontaines of Mississippi, beginning with Patrick Henry Fontaine, the first grandchild of the Patriot Patrick Henry. Patrick Henry Fontaine studied law under the tutelage of his famous grandfather. He was sent to Pontotoc, Mississippi, in 1835 to open the Federal Land Office and administer the transfer of Chickisaw land, which amounted to millions of acres.
On Saturday morning, October 31, Society members visited the City Cemetery in Pontotoc that has an entire section filled with Fontaines including Patrick Henry Fontaine. Next Judge Toby Winston graciously hosted a visit to his home that included viewing paintings of early Fontaine family members. The last stop of our tour was at Lochinvar, a large old plantation house once owned by Fontaines. It is the only plantation house in the area to survive the Civil War. Research has shown that the owner of Lochinvar during the Civil War was Colonel James Gordon of the Confederate Cavalry. He had been in charge of transporting 1,100 Union prisoners to Confederate headquarters in Tennessee. He treated them with kindness and consideration and saw to it that they had adequate provisions. Union General Coburn, senior officer among the prisoners, presented his sword to Colonel Gordon along with a note of thanks. Gordon sent the sword and note to his wife, Virginia, at Lochinvar. Six weeks later when Union troops approached Lochinvar to raid and burn it, Virginia saw the Union troops approaching and rushed outside to show them the sword and note from General Coburn. Consequently Lochinvar was spared, the only Confederate plantation house not raided and burned in the area. We were shown the sword and the note that saved Lochinvar. In 2001 a tornado nearly leveled Lochinvar but it was renovated and today has been restored to its original glory. A steel beam in the spiral staircase in the center of the building, the only access to the upper levels, is credited with preventing the complete destruction of Lochinvar by the tornado.
Our final activity was a talk by Dr. Hubert McAlexander Saturday evening following dinner at the Ole Miss Inn about the Maurys of Mississippi.
Russell Hooper, editor of The Pathfinder Papers, has arranged a Sunday tour of theUSNS Maury, named for Matthew Fontaine Maury, an oceanographic survey ship under final construction. This tour has been on the website, and Hooper will be present at registration.