Thomas Shelton Boggess,
Winemaker, socialite, historian & scientist
An Article Requested
for Publication in the
January 2001 issue of
By D. A. Sharpe
Thomas Shelton Boggess,
Winemaker, socialite, historian & scientist
By D. A. Sharpe, Aurora, Texas
Thomas Shelton Boggess, Jr., known to most folks as "T. S.," or "Tom," is a significant component in the citizenry of Noxubee County, Mississippi, and its county seat, Macon. Born March 30, 1912, the year of the Titanic, he approaches a vigorous age 89 as this article is written. Our interest in him for this publication grows from the participation he has given in the Boggess Family Association over most of its years of existence, including hosting its National Boggess Reunion Conference at his farm just north of Macon in July of 1999.
His roots there go back on the Boggess side of the family to his Great Grandmother, Eliza Levina Wellborn Boggess. She was a Wilkes County, Georgia born lady whose 1830 marriage to Bennett Boggess was in Huntsville, Madison County, Alabama, where they gave issue to seven children. Her Grandfather, Isaac Wellborn, was an American Revolutionary pensioned soldier and a member of the original Legislature of Alabama in 1819, when he served representing Madison County. The Wellborn line in America goes back to Englishman John Wellborn and family whose post shipwreck landing took place at Jamestown, Virginia on May 25, 1610.
Widowed in 1842, Eliza and most of her family moved to Macon in 1856 when she was age 50. She purchased land in Noxubee County with money borrowed from her two brothers, who'd relocated there from Georgia about 1833. She made a name for herself at Noxubee's County Fair. T. S. possess her prize cup passed on to him by his father, with the engraving "Premium Noxubee Fair, 1859." The prize probably was for domestic skill, as opposed to agricultural activity, but exactly what accomplishment is now lost to unrecorded history.
The Boggess line in American goes back to the entrance about 1644 of Englishman Robert Boggess in Northumberland County, Virginia. Another family line is represented with Frances Ann Levina Barton, T. S.'s Grandmother, whose Noxubee County roots are in the Barton and De Jarnette families. The farmland on which T. S. resides presently dates back in that family and with the Boggesses to 1842.
T. S. was the only child of Thomas Shelton Boggess, Sr. and Mary Belle Hicks Taylor. He was born in Texarkana, Texas where Mary had gone to be with her family for the delivery. Her father was dentist Dr. John T. Taylor, and her mother was Ida Capatolia Hicks. They were living in Texarkana in 1912. Ida's mother was a Nelson of Philadelphia, descended from one of the Declaration of Independence signers, Thomas Nelson, Jr. of Virginia.
A bastion of properness, Mary kept a strong hand on little Tom in his growing up years. She was shaping and molding him into the gentleman and the scholar he would become. The family owned several farms over the years, and built the home in 1925 in which T. S. resides today. That location is about five miles north from the Town Square in Macon, on Magnolia Road.
Tom Boggess, his father, was the first person baptized in the current Macon First Baptist Church building, which was in 1910. T. S. made a Christian commitment in his early teens, and joined that church. Clara Virginia Boggess (Aunt Jenny) was a key in T. S.'s growth in that church.
The Noxubee County Fairs, which began in the 1850's, had a close connection to T. S.'s family. Five generations of Boggesses grace the annals of the Fair. Besides his Great Grandmother Eliza being a prizewinner at the Fair of 1859, his grandfather, Captain Tom Boggess first appeared on the Fair scene in 1884 to promote it and to participate in the showing of farm animals. T. S.'s father, likewise, participated and gave leadership to the Fairs over the years. Then, in 1923, T. S. first appeared as the 11 year-old youth winning the $5.00 First Prize in the Pony Race! His two children appear as well in 1953. Suzanne Boggess had the 4-H Senior Champion Jersey Cow and Grand Champion Dairy Animal. She showed Tennessee walking horses owned by her grandfather. T. S.'s son, Tommy Boggess, III, won a prize for an entry in the swine competition. The Fairs went by the way side after 1960, and have been no more. T. S. authored "History of Four Fairgrounds in Noxubee County, Mississippi," which was published serially in 1988-89 by the Noxubee County Historical Society in its quarterly Journal.
In 1926, T. S. became the first Eagle Scout in Noxubee County. His honor later was to be extended by the fact that his son and his grandson also became Eagle Scouts. Perhaps his three Boggess great grandsons as they approach their eligible years will aspire to this accomplishment.
T. S. was a dashing young man, handsome and bright. His logical mind had the beginnings of quality and sharpness, which would take him through a high caliber scientific pursuit of study. It stopped just short of a Ph D, due to the Depression Yeas of the 1930's.
He initially registered at Mississippi State University. Shortly thereafter, he received a scholarship to Louisiana State University, from which he acquired both a bachelor's and a master's degree. He was a member of the Kappa Alpha fraternity. He worked at LSU Medical School toward a Ph D in biochemistry.
The love of his life was Alice Loraine McElroy, born January 4, 1914. Born and raised in Ottumwa, Iowa, she entered college at Stephens College in Missouri. The following year, fortune smiled as she registered at LSU. She and T. S. met on a blind date in romantic New Orleans. She was a gorgeous young lady, petite, and full of talent and creativity. Over the years she excelled particularly in paintings, many, many of which grace the walls of family, friends and loved ones.
They married September 4, 1935 at the First Presbyterian Church of Ottumwa. Her only sibling, Margaret, was her maid of honor. Alice's parents were Ralph McElroy and Maude Heald, a hearty Midwestern family of Scottish descent. Ralph's career was to own and operate an insurance agency. He, too, was a dashing and handsome man, short in statue, but mighty in accomplishments. T. S. and Alice resided in New Orleans where he pursued his graduate work at LSU. The apartments, in which they lived on Carrollton Avenue, right on the streetcar line still stand today.
The years were difficult in the mid 1930's and staying in graduate school gave way to taking a position with the University of Georgia's Chemistry Department's Experiment Station in Griffin as a researcher in 1937. Their two children were born in Griffin, first Suzanne Margaret Boggess in 1938 and next Thomas Shelton Boggess, III in 1941. While there, T. S. was a charter member of the Kiwanis Club of Griffin.
The U. S. Department of Agriculture, Animal Science Division, transferred the family to Tifton, Georgia in 1942, a site where future President of the United States, Jimmy Carter trained in peanut farming in the late 1950's. Jimmy was too late to learn from T. S., and, no doubt, such faculty tutoring would have greatly enhanced even more the education for the future President.
During the World War II years, he volunteered for the Navy. However, the government valued his service more as a scientist and provided the incentive for him to remain at his work. He did join and did serve faithfully in the Georgia State Guard, receiving periodic training for military preparedness.
In 1947, the call and beckoning of the family farming enterprises in Noxubee County brought the family back to Mississippi. During those years, T. S. pursued farming, later the feed store business, taught animal science at East Mississippi Junior College, then turned his winsome personality and scientific knowledge to good use as a travelling marketer of clay pipe, with most of the customer base being municipalities.
The family was active in the Macon First Baptist Church. Daughter Suzanne struck a musical reputation of singing, playing instruments, and was drum major for the high school band. Son Tommy was an industrious fellow, raising pigs, throwing a newspaper route from a motor scooter, and being an active athlete, especially in football. T. S. was a member of the Frith Lake Club, a local private social organization, which his father, Tom Boggess, started about 1920. It was in the secluded woods south of Macon, where the families gathered to have camp-outs and social events, such as picnics and even dancing! Alice made her place in Macon society and church work as a lady and a mother, pursued her painting, and nurturing their children to become the assets to society they did become. She was a charter member of the Dancing Rabbit Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
The call of academic inquiry again beckoned T. S. in 1958, and he resumed research at the University of Georgia Experiment Station in Griffin. Over the years, he published many articles in various publications of food service industry and academics.
They quickly refreshed their place in that community and society. Alice directed the Day School at the Griffin First Baptist Church for many years, and continued her painting activities. T. S. resumed membership in the Kiwanis Club, ultimately becoming its president. He directed the Spaulding County Fair several years, carrying on the type of county fair leadership already exhibited for three generations before him among the Boggess family members. Tommy starred in football, and met his future bride in high school, Lindley Cheatham of the textile family producing the familiar label of Dundee Towels. Suzanne was entering her freshman year at Mississippi Southern University at Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
In 1969, the University of Georgia Chapter of the Agricultural Honor Society, Gamma Sigma Delta, granted him a certificate of service for his 15 years at the Experiment Station. He was a member of the Society of Sigma Xi, University of Georgia Chapter, which is dedicated to research and science.
The Boggess family made a significant impact on the Griffin community, and they developed many, many friends and loved ones. He was known through the area as a man of leadership and integrity. A wonderful send-off and recognition event was given upon the occasion of T. S.'s retirement in 1974.
By this time, Tommy had married Lindley, producing Frances Barton Boggess and Thomas Shelton Boggess, IV. Tommy acquired his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Georgia, and practices in Phoenix, Arizona. Lindley acquired her master's degree from the University of Georgia. Suzanne, during her first job after graduating from Mississippi Southern University as a medical technologist, met Dwight Albert (D. A.) Sharpe (this writer) in New Orleans. A Texas born fellow, D. A. was working in his first job after the University of Texas graduation. He was a sales representative for IBM Corporation. Their children were Taylor Marcus Sharpe, Tiffany Lenn Sharpe and Todd Wittman Sharpe. They lived in New Orleans, Saint Louis and Dallas, most of which time D. A. worked for various Christian organizations.
Retirement brought T. S. and Alice to reside at the Boggess family farm in Noxubee County, which T. S. had inherited in his father's estate in 1964. He took up the life of a gentleman farmer and socialite again. He raised registered cattle for a decade, and has always embellished the fields around the house with many nut bearing pecan trees and fruit trees bearing apples, peaches, plumbs, nectarines, etc. A hearty crop of vegetables often developed for their consumption and sharing with friends. He created a vineyard of Muscadine grapes, and his own winery, respecting the federal limits of production for private use.
He resumed membership and leadership in the Frith Lake Club. He revitalized it, much to the delight of many in Noxubee County. T. S. has the reputation of being one of the most graceful dancers on the Frith Lake dance floor, and he usually delights most of the ladies present with a round on the dance floor with the live band music.
They resumed membership in the Macon Baptist Church, though they took an ecumenical term being members of the Macon Presbyterian Church. However, they eventually returned to T. S.'s Baptist roots. He was later elected a Deacon. And, he honed his athletic skills as a serious golfer, playing with his many friends several times a week, where he is a member both of the Macon Country Club and the Macon Golf Club.
T. S. joined the Boggess Family Association around 1987, at the urging this writer, who had taken up the genealogy hobby about 1978. The Rotary Club of Macon in recent years has become a place for T. S. of community participation.
Alice was his stalwart partner and love for 58 married years. At all stages of her life, she reflected a beauty, which attracted the admiration of many. She was the element of success behind T. S., which made him the man that he was, loved and respected. She graduated and went to be with our Lord Jesus on Thanksgiving Day, 1994. She indeed was a special person in all of the lives of our family and for many, many friends and loved ones.
The pinnacle of his service for the Boggess Family Association was taking on the hosting role for its 1999 national reunion conference. He arranged tours in some local areas of genealogical and historical interest for the conference attendees. A marvelous fried catfish dinner for 75 was served under the beautifully shaded pecan trees in T. S.'s back yard. The group tasted his Muscadine wine that evening to the tune of 18 magnums! The following evening was a banquet at the Macon Country Club in full splendor. Ron Boggess and Bitsy Barr were the chairmen of this event, and oversaw a splendid program
And so, this concludes a brief sketch of the marvelous and constructive life of Thomas Shelton Boggess, Jr., gentleman farmer, winemaker, socialite, historian and scientist. A man beloved and respected by many people from a broad range of places and stations in life. This writer is privileged to claim a place in his family.