A house full of memories: "The Gathering Place"
From a very young age I was introduced to antiques and old houses by my grandpa Doug Hayden. One of my earliest memories was riding on Highway 16 just east of Amite and seeing a white house on a hill under oak trees. I’d always ask him or my Grandma Betty, “Who lives there?” The reply would be Mr. Leander and Mrs. Forace. As the years went by, the house fell into disrepair and then one day it was gone from the hill. I learned later it had been bought by Ira and Carol Ann Cleveland and moved a little further East, just off of Highway 445. Carol Ann states, “We wanted to create a place for people to gather, visit and make memories; which is why we named it “The Gathering Place.” Thanks to Carol Ann Cleveland, I had the opportunity to visit with Yvonne Hayden Vining and Marybell Hayden Brumfield. They are the daughters of Leander and Forace Hayden. We were able to talk in one of the rooms they occupied as children.
The house was built around 1875 by Jesse Hayden and his wife Arabelle Ballard Hayden. Together, they raised nine children. Leander Hayden was the youngest of the nine children. According to Marybell, Jesse passed away on Leander’s wedding day. Arabelle lived with Leander and Forace until she passed away three years later. Leander and his bride Forace Chambers Hayden moved into the house shortly after their wedding and 11 months later, their first child, a boy, Ellis was born. Leander and Forace would have five more children Marybell, Horace, Yvonne, Gussie and Alfred, all born in the house. Marybell remembered vividly when their youngest brother was born in the front bedroom. She said they had been sent to their grandparents in Sweetwater and when they arrived back home, they had a baby brother. In 1952, Yvonne married John Vining in the front room and cut her wedding cake in the dining room. Donnie and Judy, daughters of Marybell shared their memories of the house and their grandparents. They remembered each Thanksgiving meal was shared around the table, and Christmas included all six children, their spouses and all the grandchildren gathering and opening presents. Judy stated, “The best thing about the house was the way it always smelled. Grandma was always cooking, always had something to eat and plenty of people there gathering to eat it.” Donnie said her favorite memories were climbing the oak tree with her cousins and pretending it was a boat.
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