Jackson County

Twelve Oaks property has persevered through generations

Judy Steckler, executive director of the Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain, pauses in front of the historic home on the Twelve Oaks property in Ocean Springs on Friday, October 21, 2016.
Judy Steckler, executive director of the Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain, pauses in front of the historic home on the Twelve Oaks property in Ocean Springs on Friday, October 21, 2016. amccoy@sunherald.com

The Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain has owned the Twelve Oaks property — 30 acres between Fort Bayou and U.S. 90 — for more than a decade.

In general, though, area residents doesn’t seem to know it exists or at least that it exists as public property for walking, birding or just enjoying. There’s an old house on the property now used to house artists.

Twelve Oaks was the focus of a ceremony Friday celebrating the oaks becoming part of Hancock Bank’s Perseverance Oaks project, where acorns are gathered to propagate the Coast’s iconic Live oaks. The 12 are now among them.

The mayor spoke and mentioned how pretty and secluded the site is. She envisions a botanical garden or a kayak launch for the future.

Judy Steckler, executive director of the Land Trust, gave a tour of the home and a short version of the property’s history:

▪ A dentist from Vicksburg bought land that included the Twelve Oaks property from the U.S. government in 1854. He went to war and died, but not before deeding some of it to Johanna Blount, a former slave, for her “long and faithful service.”

▪ The story goes that Blount later took in the dentist’s widow after the latter became destitute.

▪ By the 1880s, Blount had helped establish a Methodist Episcopal Church on the property.

▪ Blount was believed to have sold off pieces of it to pay taxes. One landowner put it back together for a pecan orchard. The oaks, some of which registered, were not touched. They are believed to be more than 400 years old.

The property has gone through several generations. The city and state worked together to get funding to buy and preserve it.

The DMR owns the land through the Coastal Preservation Program and the Land Trust has a 3/4-acre lot with the house.

“We weren’t too anxious to get a house,” Steckler said. “but it has historical value.”

They use it to house an annual artist-in-residence and Steckler sees the possibilities for a retreat center as soon as they get the Wi-Fi issues resolved.

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