JEFFERSON -- Ancestors of many who assembled at the activities center of Liberty Baptist Church April 21 for the Lott Reunion arrived together by wagon train to this area in the early 1830s, not long after the Choctaws ceded lands to the federal government.
Thanks to Beat 1 Supervisor James Armstrong "Jim" Neill, Jr., himself a Lott descendant, the crowd gathered near a sparkling new sign announcing the location, Jefferson, circa 1835. Neill installed the sign Friday, a tribute to the settlement's history and homecoming.
Jim McCaulla of Winona, a genealogist and history buff with his own varied and deep roots in this region, admired the sign. Another member of the reunion, Ross Bankston, said he is among those now lobbying Neill for several more signs -- these to be put in various locales and hailing "Little Texas," a wider range that in its heyday claimed Jefferson as its capital.
Bro. Gary Tanner, pastor of Liberty Baptist, invoked a blessing. All were welcome, he said, because if it hadn't been for many of their ancestors, his current congregation and brick church house wouldn't exist.
Originally, Liberty's house of worship was a few miles east on County Road 93 along with a graveyard now owned by the Old Liberty Cemetery Association. That land was deeded in 1854 to Liberty by the patriarch and matriarch of these Lotts, "Old Aaron" and "Old Martha," these first names often being handed down generation by generation. In the earlier years, a little school house was nearby on land donated by one of the other Lotts, the late Jesse Lott.
U. S. Senator (R-retired) Trent Lott, accompanied by his wife, Tricia Thompson Lott, was one of the speakers, as was another "Jefferson celebrity,” Lou Ann Heath Woodward, current chief of the University of Mississippi Medical Center, who was there with husband Jon. They were introduced by Michael "Mike" Lott, supervisor of District 1 in Grenada County. Woodward joked about the hard work on her father's farm having convinced her rather early to go into a different field. Bruce Heath was among those enjoying his and wife the late Bobbie Heath's sparkling conversation prior to lining up for the typical reunion buffet.
A decade or so after leaving the Senate, Lott, who currently works as an attorney in his native state as well as continuing as a lobbyist in Washington, D.C., chatted with relatives and with several genealogists who brought along bits of family trees and old photos.
He joked about a sign that used to be at Duck Hill and in pristine condition, proclaiming it "The home of Trent Lott" -- he lived there for a time as a child, where his mother, the late Iona Watson Lott, was a school teacher. He comes from a distinguished line of of public servants, he recalled: his paternal grandfather, Aaron "Eli" Lott, was a county supervisor, and his maternal grandfather, Ed Watson, was a justice of the peace, he said. Arnie Watson, his mother's brother, was a well-known state senator and elected county official. (Ed Watson also served as keeper of the Rocky Ford at the Petticocowa Creek near where the Watsons then lived.)
After hobnobbing with various branches of the Lott family, the retired senator was greeted by a first cousin on the Watson side, Cynthia Smith Vlasic, who rushed into the activities center for a good hug. Prior to leaving for Jackson and the airport, Lott said he intended to visit the old dog trot Watson dwelling that he has been working on for some time now.
J. T. Lott, one of the Texas branch, had arrived early in a camper with his wife, Erline Lott. He was counting contributions tossed into glass jars by reunion members for continued support and for Liberty Baptist facilities. Comfortable in overalls, J. T. smilingly nixed an idea that next time, the Texans would host the gathering. "Nope; this is home," he said.
The next Lott Reunion is tentatively scheduled for year after next.