Submitted by: Juaweice Eiland
When the Sandy Bayou neighborhood was wild and wooly, Mr. and Mrs. R. A. LaMastus came down the Sunflower River from Coahoma County to homestead 80 acres on the west bank of the river. He had previously married Miss Molly Penney.
In 1870 their son, the late Mr. Claude S. LaMastus was born. His father and mother are buried in the Homestead Cemetery.
Claude LaMastus married Miss Nancy Ella Slayton in 1896, March 4. She died in August of 1964. This couple started their married life on 40 acres adjoining the Adams place, east of the river. Later they moved to the original homestead after buying the other children's parts. The children, all born on the homestead place, were Mrs. Daisy Eiland, Mr. Claude T. LaMastus, Mr. Ed LaMastus, Mrs. Bessie Lusk, and Mrs. Ruby Gibson.
Public schools were scarce in those days. The children attended a private school in a log cabin on the homestead place. Later they attended Midway School located near the Dwiggins place. Each morning before starting to school in the buggy or surry, the hired help would heat bricks to keep their feet warm.
Mr. LaMastus seized every opportunity to make a success. In early days he owned a logging camp at Merigold, Mississippi where he hauled logs to Mr. Fred Grittman's Camp at Drew. He used oxen to pull the logs. As the years went by he acquired more land, buying these places: west of the river the upper Goff place, the Sherman place and the Jones places; and east of the river adding the Swan place, Webb place, and two of the Dr. Smith's places. At his death he owned 3,000 acres or more of land. He also owned a store and kept his own books. His farming might be called diversified for he raised a great deal of corn, cotton, many mules, horses and cattle.
His horse and mules, his pride and joy, were beautiful. They were as round as butter balls and shone like silk. When they were brought in from work or hauling, all mud had to be removed and each one was curried and rubbed down. The harnesses were the best that could be bought and were kept in perfect condition. Each bridle was decorated with colorful tassels and bells, the latter filling the air with cheerful tinkles as the teams pulled the wagons or did their work. The help took pride in driving or working these "dressed up" animals. The cattle that roamed far and near were branded.
Mr. LaMastus furnished his work hands and his men from his own table from extensive cattle and hog holdings. It was a time in the fall for butchering, salting, curing and stuffing sausage, and rendering lard. The smoke house fairly burst its seams. The cracklings, scraps of meat and discarded bones were used in making soap. It was indeed a time of "do it yourself." During these times the hired help would roast potatoes in the hot ashes and broil fresh meat over the coals.
Mr. LaMastus was a great talker and a good neighbor. He would sit on his horse at a neighbor’s gate and talk for an hour or more – always too busy, he said, to come in. His children recall that he would talk the entire time while they were eating. Everyone would be through while he had taken only a few bites. He did his eating when he had no one to talk to. He was always ready to help those short of cash. He loaned Mr. Fred Grittman money to buy his marriage license and took them to their new home—a camp tent—in his wagon.
He owned the first ferry on the river in the community. Later Mr. and Mrs. Jim Millen financed half of the construction of the Lombardy bridge spanning the river. Later a second bridge was built across the river on the Merigold road. All the children were baptized in the Sunflower River. He furnished a mule and a boat to Dr. Smith when he practiced in the Sandy Bayou Community so that he could cross the river and have a mule on the other side. Hearses were unknown in this area. Wagons were used to bear the remains to the cemetery. Mr. LaMastus did honors for many members of the community by the giving of his wagon and horses.
Mr. LaMastus leaves a heritage of hard work, successful adventures and a worthwhile place in his community.