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History of Merrehope

“circa 1859”

In 1859 Richard McLemore, one of the first settlers of Meridian, deeded 160 of his 700 acres to his daughter, Juriah, as a wedding gift. In that same year, she and her husband, William H. Jackson built a Greek Revival cottage. That cottage is the original part of Merrehope.

During the war between the States, the house was acquired in 1863 by General Joseph E. Johnston, who was placed in command of the Department of the West, also known as the Trans-Mississippi District. He used the Merrehope cottage as his headquarters. In December of that year, General Leonidas Polk moved into the cottage with his family and used it as his Confederate headquarters. Formerly an Episcopal Bishop of Louisiana, he was referred to as the “fighting bishop.” Polk commanded troops charged with defending east Mississippi.

On February 14, 1864, Union General William Tecumseh Sherman entered Meridian with approximately 10,000 troops and forced Polk and his troops to evacuate the city. Sherman took control and burned almost all of Meridian. He destroyed the railroad lines for ten miles in each direction, leaving behind rails bent around trees called “Sherman Neckties.” Polk and his troops had already destroyed many of the rails in order to keep Sherman and his army from using them. Despite the surrounding destruction, the Merrehope cottage remained standing. 

General Polk and some of his troops had evacuated about 16 miles east near Alamucha, Mississippi. Some of the troops and most of Polk’s equipment, as well as the railroad “rolling stock,” were sent by rail to Mobile, Alabama, about 130 miles south. The last train car pulled out of Meridian as Sherman was marching in.

In 1868 Merrehope changed hands again. Between 1868 and 1881, it was owned by John Gary, a cotton broker, who remodeled the home, adding the double parlor, the library, four rooms upstairs and the ruby-etched glass around the front door. These changes were made in the Italianate architectural style.

Between 1881 and 1899, J. C. Lloyd lived in the home with his wife and thirteen children. He had lost an arm during the War. Mr. Lloyd owned a jewelry store and helped start the first school system in Lauderdale County.  He was also the City Clerk for the city of Meridian and served on the city council.

The house changed hands three more times between 1899 and 1903. Then, from 1903 to 1915, Sam Floyd, a wealthy cotton broker from Shubuta, Mississippi, owned the home and made even more significant additions. His remodeling included adding the exterior front columns, the suspended balcony, five bathrooms, the dining and morning rooms, two upstairs bedrooms and the beautiful hand-carved walnut staircase. Mr. Floyd also added electricity to the home. Through his renovations, the architectural style of the home was transformed to Neoclassical.

From 1915 until 1945, the house was converted to rental property and became a boarding house. Otto Tibbetts purchased it in 1945 and divided it into eight apartments.

In 1968, five women were traveling to a Federated Women’s Club meeting in Enterprise, Mississippi. One woman said, “We really need a place in Meridian for all of our clubs to meet.” They all agreed, and another woman added, “I know just the place. That home over on 31st Avenue is about to be destroyed, and it is too beautiful to lose.” With that thought, a vision, and lots of determination, The Meridian Restorations Foundation, Inc. was formed by the members of the nine Federated Women’s Clubs of Meridian. They purchased the home with the help of Meridianite Jack Stack and called it Merrehope – MER for Meridian, RE for Restoration and HOPE for Hope for the future. The lengthy restoration process started, and their dream became a reality!

Today, the home is a house museum and tourist attraction, as well as a popular venue for club meetings, showers, parties, receptions and weddings. Checkout the “Tours” tab on this website for Merrehope’s days and hours of operation.

Frank W. Williams Home

“circa 1886”

This Queen Anne Victorian-style home was built in 1886 by Frank W. Williams, and originally was located at 3128 Eighth Street in Meridian, Mississippi. Mr. Williams presented the home to his bride, Mamie, as a wedding present. They lived in this home throughout their entire married life. It was one of the stately homes among other beautiful dwellings that lined the then fashionable Eighth Street.

Born in 1861, Frank Williams founded the F. W. Williams Insurance Agency and the U.S.F.&G. Insurance Company. He was a pioneer in the insurance industry and served on the U.S.F.&G. Insurance Company Board until his death in 1949. Mamie Williams’ sister, “Miss Daisy,” came from Virginia to live with the Williams family. She was an integral part of the insurance business and has the distinctions of being the first woman in the state of Mississippi to receive an insurance license, and as well as to be a partner in an insurance company. 

Mr. Williams deeded the house to his wife, Mamie, but she preceded him in death. After her death, he moved from the home and gave it to his sister-in-law, Daisy, as it was considered improper during those times for an unmarried man and woman to live together. Daisy lived in the home until her death. The two-story home remained in the Williams family with Daisy leaving it to her niece Hazel.

It was Daisy’s wish for the home to be given to The Meridian Restorations Foundation, Inc., since she and her sister Mamie had been members of the Fortnightly Club, one of the Federated Women’s Clubs that founded The Meridian Restorations Foundation. Through the generosity of Mrs. Hazel Williams Wright, F. W. Williams’s granddaughter, it was donated to the Meridian Restorations Foundation. It was moved to its present site in November 1979.

Prior to moving the house to its current location, preparations were made, trees were removed, and the move path graded. The sleeping porch and chimneys were removed. Bricks from the chimneys were used to build the foundation for its new site. It had a cedar shake roof – very much the style in the Victorian period – most of which was eventually replaced by asphalt shingles. The house has an elevator, or “lift” as they were called in those days. The bathrooms are original to the house. The fireplaces were coal-burning. Steam radiators were added later.

The F.W. Williams Home is not open for tours at this time. It has suffered storm damage, particularly from Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and subsequent storms and age. The house has had some repairs, and the Meridian Restorations Foundation is working to stabilize it. The interior is still beautiful and reflects its opulent past. It is the hope of the Foundation to raise funds to apply to its restoration. Concentration is currently on repairing Merrehope.

Stained glass windows in the F. W. Williams House
Ms. Daisy’s Room decorated for Trees of Christmas.
Gentlemen’s Parlor decorated for Trees of Christmas.

 Use your skills and talents as a volunteer. Honor these special homes with your donations. Join the momentum, and let’s give these treasures the love and care they deserve so they can be enjoyed today and by future generations!



Join us in celebrating and preserving Meridian’s most historic and beautiful landmarks. Friends of Merrehope play a significant role in the day-to-day operations of Merrehope and the F. W. Williams Home.

Click the link below and join today!

Friends of Merrehope Application

The Meridian Restorations Foundation has launched the “Raise the Roof” Capital Campaign, our comprehensive plan to save and operate Merrehope and the F.W. Williams Home.
A new roof is needed at Merrehope as well as immediate repairs to both houses. Under the Board’s leadership, Merrehope has been awarded a grant from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History for a new roof and repairs to the damage and deterioration caused by leaking rainwater. This work (Phase 1) will start Summer of 2024! The roof is critical but only part of the vision. The Meridian Restorations Foundation is determined to restore Meridian’s oldest homes to their past grandeur.  Partner with us in this endeavor to preserve, restore and maintain these treasures.

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