The Jones-Rather House, better known as the “Yellow Fever House” and before that the “Land Office”, is the oldest brick building in Holly Springs. The house was built in 1836 as the first Chickasaw Cession land grant office in Marshall County. Officials in this office would have sold many of the surrounding city plots in the first several years of the town’s existence.
In 1842, the office was sold to the American Land Company, which sent one of their contract surveyors, Hugh Craft (1799-1867), to open a surveying office in this building. Craft and his family would long be associated with this corner of Holly Springs: Craft would soon open his own surveying office across the street from this office, now known as the Hugh Craft and Son Office (1846), and built his own home, Hugh Craft House (1851), on the other side of the street. Eventually, the land office was used by Harvey Walter as the first office for the Mississippi Central Railroad. In 1872, attorney John C. Atkinson had his law office in the old land office.
By the mid 1870s, the land office was being used as “bachelor’s quarters” for various unmarried men around town. The most famous of these bachelors was William Holland (1843-1878), a veteran of the Civil War who became the editor of the local newspaper after the war. Holland was a crucial player in one of the most devastating and tragic episodes in Holly Springs history: the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1878.
Yellow Fever began in early summer of 1878 in the city of New Orleans, but quickly spread north along the Mississippi River. Yellow Fever was spread by the bite of mosquitos, though no one knew this at the time. In July of 1878, William Holland, along with Will Wooten, visited Grenada and experienced firsthand the horrible suffering that town was going through. Arriving back in Holly Springs, Holland and Wooten recommend a quarantine of Holly Springs to prevent the same fate in this town.
The officials of Holly Springs failed to enact a quarantine, and welcomed several Yellow Fever refugees from Grenada and Memphis. Though Holland had objected to the arrival of the refugees, he graciously gave up his bachelor quarters to two refugees from Grenada. On August 25th, both victims died of Yellow Fever in this house, and their bodies were removed from a window of the house and quickly buried in Hill Crest Cemetery. On August 31st, former Mayor A. W. Goodrich became the first Holly Springs native to die of Yellow Fever. During the next three months, over 300 citizens would die from Yellow Fever. William Holland became the chairperson of the Yellow Fever Relief Committee and courageously stayed in town throughout the Epidemic. Sadly, Holland became one of the last victims of the Fever, dying on October 25th.
In the 1880s, the “Yellow Fever House” passed unto private ownership and wasn’t used as a residence. After a succession of owners in the late 19th century, Charles A. Jones (1875-1935) purchased the home in 1910. The Jones family lived in the home until 1925, when it was purchased by L. A. Rather Sr. (1889-1944). The Rather family owned the house for fifty years. In the late 20th century the building was used as the Holly Springs Tourism Office. As of 2017, the Yellow Fever House is owned by Scott Rhines.
The Yellow Fever House was originally built as rectangular brick “shotgun” house, with the main entrance facing west towards Memphis Street and the Presbyterian Church (see 1892 Sanborn Map above). Sometime after the turn of the 20th century, an addition was added to the north side of the house and the entrance was switched from the west side of the house to the south side, with a new porch above the main entrance (see 1902 Sanborn Map above).
Since the early 20th century, the Yellow Fever House has been a one-story flanking gable three-bay brick building with dentiled rick window cornices above the south windows.