USM students explore historic Columbus home

COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) – For you, what makes a house a home? To Robert Thompson, it’s the rich history that lies within the streets.

Thompson came to Columbus from New Orleans and sitting on the front porch of the place he now calls home, Thompson and his wife saw potential in the house across the street.

“The structure has got so much history,” Thompson said. “The front part of it is from the 1870s, it’s better documented. The part were in at the moment, was sort of an add-on. This has little written history, but it has much to say about our cultural history.”

Students from the University of Southern Mississippi decided to see if they could uncover some of that history by studying the home’s building material.

It’s a scientific technique known as dendrochronology – the study of tree rings.

Dr. Clay Tucker said they will match the tree rings to the samples they have in the lab, and match those to living samples near Columbus.

“Many people understand that a tree ring is representative of one year of growth,” Tucker said. “The other thing that is representative of one year of growth. The other thing that is representative of is the environment the tree lived in. So the tree has a pattern of narrow and wide rings sort of like a fingerprint or a barcode and we can use that barcode to match say, a live tree outside, If we have the death date of the tree that was used in the building of this house, we can use it to date the house. That’s a couple of month process and we’ll have a date then.”

Tucker said one of the things that struck him about Columbus’s history, is the number of people that take pride in their homes. And that holds promise for coming back and dating other homes within the community.

“I’ve already met people across the street who also have homes that are pretty old so, dating one structure is cool, dating the community is even cooler,” Tucker said.

Thompson said there are very few details about the age of the house but many clues point to the time frame.

“We have to understand all the clues the building gives us to try to see its history over time to try to determine the age, and that should also tell us a lot about the history of the area,” Thompson said.

Eventually, when the house is renovated, Thompson said they may decide to rent or sell the house to someone who appreciates the rich history the structure holds.

Tucker said he hopes his students learn from the process and learn more about the house from the tree rings in the next few months

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