The History of Airliewood
The notable Gothic mansion, known since 1938 as Airliewood, is this year one hundred and forty-eight years old. The house has known days of fabulous extravagance, war, plague, poverty, revival, economic depression.
It has been the scene of lavish entertainments, an historic Christmas dinner for General Ulysses Grant and his staff, the awkward accommodations of genteel poverty, and sparkling social occasions in the late twentieth century.
It has been the temporary residence of a future President of the United States and the setting of a late nineteenth century novel. In the next century, a couple in riding clothes came here to be married by the town mayor.
Since its construction as a town house for wealthy planter William Henry Coxe in 1858, the mansion has been called a variety of names--the Coxe place, the Topp place, the Coxe-Dean place, and finally Airliewood. I have known it well for almost sixty years, and it has been a pleasure to draw upon those years, to go back in memory to old clues and scraps of conversation in order to put together as fully as possible its history.
I could never have done that, however, without considerable research and the help of many people. First and foremost is Bobby Mitchell, who provided all the many deeds connected with the property, as well as shared his knowledge of the Civil War in the county. I have also drawn throughout on the second printing of his Cemteries of Marshall County , MS (2002).
Bruce Dixon Topp has been generous in providing detailed information on his family and their connection with the house over four decades. Other helpful descendants of owners are James Topp also for the Topp family, David Person for the Walker family, and Laura Wheeler for the Thompsons. Betty Ann Kennedy Mobley gave me information on her great-grandfather Franz Wilhelm Rittlemeyer, a Prussian craftsman brought to Holly Springs to work on the mansion, and Dr. Robert Emmon Tyson shared reminiscences of the early Dean years.
Many people have loved this house. May it long stand.
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