Protecting traditional ways

Published 12:40 pm Thursday, December 10, 2015

THIS OLD HOUSE: Billy Frank Brown walks up the steps to his home. His home was grandfather's home, and it's where his mother was born. His was among the first families to settle in the area.  Photo by Jesse Wright

THIS OLD HOUSE: Billy Frank Brown walks up the steps to his home. His home was grandfather’s home, and it’s where his mother was born. His was among the first families to settle in the area.
Photo by Jesse Wright

Billy Frank Brown’s family has been in the Silver Run area since before there was a Silver Run.
“Carlos Ladner moved in (the area) in 1811,” he said. Brown said Ladner then went off to fight with Andrew Jackson in the Battle of New Orleans.
His family goes back to the first European settlers to the area. Brown said one of his ancestors, Jean Baptiste Boudreaux, got off the boat with D’Iberville in 1699, and he said Pass Christian is named for another ancestor.
“Pass Christian was named for Christian Ladner, who was Carlos’ great-great grandpa,” Brown said.
Silver Run, a tiny community in the northeast part of Pearl River County, once had a two-story school, a post office, a country store and hundreds of residents. Brown’s family was one of the families that established the town.
“Silver Run was named for Silver Run Creek, because the water looked silvery,” he said.
The town was established by “Green Brown, Albert Ladner, my great grandpa and Louis Bond, they were the three main settlers in the Silver Run area and they lived about five miles apart. People back then, they didn’t live on top of each other. And that was in 1887 when they named the Silver Run community.”
Brown said in the early decades of the 20th century, the town numbered roughly 300 people. They made their living off the rolling hills, harvesting lumber and running their cows and sheep on the public lands.
But, by the mid-20th century the public lands were sold into private hands and the open range dried up.
“The open range closed in 1956, so it was against the law to have cattle and sheep in the woods and that’s when they brought them out of the woods,” Brown said. “And very few people could keep them then.”
In other words, with no private grazing land of their own, families suddenly had to sell some of their most valuable products—their livestock.
Over the years, folks moved out of the community. The post office closed. Then the school, too, it closed.
“I don’t know how long it run, well, until they consolidated the schools in about 1960, when they consolidated the Pearl River Schools,” Brown said.
But Brown and his family are still around, and they’re still raising pineywoods cattle, a breed Brown says can be traced back to stock Boudreaux brought over.
“There are so few of them, they’re heritage cattle,” he said. “They almost went extinct, but we’ve kept them going the last 30 years.”
He’s also raising a heritage sheep breed, the same breed of sheep that used to wander the hills through the pines.
“There’s no market for wool now so we just shear it and throw it away,” he said.
Brown believes there’s a connection to the place and to the animals that his family shares and he’s reluctant to give it up.
“Well, it’s family,” he said. “It’s family heritage. And the sheep are, too. … And the pineywoods cattle, and the horses. The horses, the DNA is the same as the Choctaw horses that went to Oklahoma. My grandpa kept the same stock. We have the only Mississippi Choctaw horses in the world. The rest are in Oklahoma.”
The cattle aren’t the only things still around. Brown lives in his grandfather’s home and he’s still using a barn out back that was built in 1840.
Out in front of the barn, a little blond horse is tied up under a bare tree. It’s a Choctaw horse.
Despite the years, and despite some damage from Katrina, the barn’s still standing. And it’s still servicing the same breeds it always has.

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