The Sims-Jones House (better known as “Box Hill” for most of the 20th and 21st centuries) is a Greek Revival cottage that has been altered and renovated over the last 180 years and whose origins have largely been lost to history. While some sources state that the house was built by John Hardin in about 1836, in reality the initial deeds to this lot and home are a convoluted and confusing mess. There are no less than three “origination deeds” to this Lot 286- A deed dated May 3rd, 1838 (mis-recorded as 1836 on the deed index) between Grantors Kyle and Mitchell and Grantee John Hardin, for $958 (though this also included lots 287 and 360) (Deed Book E, Page 394); a subsequent deed dated April 27th, 1840 between the Board of Police and John Hardin, for $235 (Deed Book H, Page 401); and a deed dated March 7th, 1838 between Kyle and Mitchell and two grantees- Richard Watkin and Joseph Caruthers, in the amount $2,522 (though this also included six other town lots) (Deed Book D, Page 345). It seems likely that the confusion in the deeds is due to duplicate Lot 286s in Section 4, and an examination of the Plat of Holly Springs confirms the existence of a second Lot 286 in the eastern part of the Section.
A detailed examination of the subsequent deeds would suggest that the “true” origination deed for this Lot is the March 7th, 1838 deed to Watkins and Caruthers. In 1839, Richard Watkin sold all of his interest in the property to Joseph Caruthers. In 1843, Caruthers sold this lot to J. Y. Cummings, who owned the lot for two years, before selling it to Thomas Falconer (1808-1878) in 1845. In 1848, the lot was sold to Rachel N. Gough, who owned the lot for a further two years, before selling it to James Sims in 1850. Historian Nettie Fant Thompson, writing for the Works Project Authority’s (WPA) Historical Records Survey Team in the late 1930s, originally suggested that the house was built in about 1838, but later revised her date of construction to 1850. The reported existence of “hewn logs” inside the modern home would strongly suggest an earlier date of construction, no later than 1840. It may never be possible to pinpoint the exact date of construction for Box Hill.
Regardless of the date the house was built, James Sims (1816-1903) would become the first notable individual to own the home. Sims was a prominent townsman, who, along with his brother Leroy, ran the L. Sims & Brothers stagecoach line in Holly Springs. This stagecoach line was a crucial business in town, and was the primary means of transport and communication between Holly Springs and the rest of the world before the coming of the railroad in the late 1850s. Sims also served on the Masonic Hall Building Committee in 1870, and was instrumental in the rebuilding of the grand three-story Masonic Hall, on the east side of the Holly Springs Square, after its original destruction during the Civil War.
The Sims family owned the house for 45 years, until the house was lost in foreclosure in 1894. In 1895, the house was purchased by Egbert Rufus Jones (1848-1917). Jones was born on his family’s plantation, “Prospect Hill” and received his early education at Chalmers Institute. After his father’s death in 1857, the Jones family moved into Holly Springs, where Jones’ mother built the house known as Finley Place (1859). After briefly working in his brother William’s hardware store in Holly Springs, Jones followed in his father’s footsteps and became one of the most prominent farmers in Marshall County in the late 19th century. In 1889, Egbert Jones married Elizabeth Howard Blanton Jones (1868-1949), a young Virginian who was descended from two very wealthy and renowned East Coast families.
Elizabeth Blanton Jones quickly settled into life in Holly Springs and became a prominent member of society, both in town and throughout the State of Mississippi. Elizabeth became well known for her intellectual, social and benevolent pursuits. Jones was one of the founders of the Mississippi chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and in 1908 she served a term as the national Vice President of the DAR. Jones was also a member of the Daughters of the Confederacy, the Mississippi Historical Association and the President of the Holly Springs Thursday Club. Elizabeth Jones’ most notable accomplishment was establishing the early framework for what would become the Natchez Trace. In 1907, Jones and the Holly Springs chapter of DAR donated the very first historic marker to what would become the Trace, and Jones suggested that many more markers be placed throughout the area of the Trace. Jones’ dreams of a fully-marked and signed Natchez Trace were finally realized, nearly a century later, when the Natchez Trace Parkway- from Natchez to Nashville, Tennessee- was completed in 2005.
In the 1920s, a devastating fire occurred at Box Hill. Though most of the house was saved, the entire front facade of the home was destroyed. While repairing and renovating the house after the fire, the Jones family determined to add Georgian Revival architectural elements to the house, including a new front porch and decorative balustrade across the front of the porch. A “porte cochere” (or early form of a carport) was also added at this time, just as the automobile was growing in popularity in Holly Springs. In many ways, the house is similar to the nearby Blake-Mullins-Callicutt House (The Terrace) (1842), which was another Greek Revival house that underwent a Georgian Revival renovation in the early 20th century.
According to Nettie Fant Thompson, the house was named “Box Hill” after an old plantation home of Elizabeth Blanton Jones, back in Virginia. It is more likely, however, that the house received its nickname from the ancient line of box woods that once lined the pathway to the front of the house (see picture above). These box woods were originally planted by James Sims, sometime after the Civil War, and survived until the mid to late 20th century. No trace of the box woods remain today, though perhaps a future owner of the house would consider reinstalling them.
After Elizabeth Blanton Jones’ death in 1949, the children of Egbert and Elizabeth sold the house to Egbert W. Jones (1925-1995), Egbert and Elizabeth’s grandson, who continued to live in the house with his wife Jane Condrey Jones (1927-2015) for several decades. Today, the fifth generation of Jones continues to own the house. As of 2020, the house was for sale, the first time in 125 years that the house has been offered for sale.
Box Hill is a one-and-a-half-story flanking gable frame Greek Revival cottage with a three-bay front gallery supported by Tuscan piers. On the west side of the facade, the gallery terminates in a porte cochere, while the gallery terminates in a flat roof ell. The entire front of the gallery contains a balustrade. The main entrance is framed by sidelights and an elliptical fanlight.
What is the address of Box Hill?