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Collection Title: Dabney (Thomas Gregory) Collection

Collection Number: M7

Dates: 1892, 1910, 1914, 1915, 1920, 1926, 1937, 1938, 1965

Volume: .25 cu. ft.

Provenance: Donated by Mrs. O.E. Saxon and the estate of Madge and John Tackett Burney, 1962. Separated from the Madge Burney Papers M4.

Copyright: This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code).

Biographical/Historical Sketch:

Thomas Gregory Dabney was born on December 15, 1844, in Raymond, Mississippi (Hinds County). His parents, Augustine Lee and Elizabeth Osborne (Smith) Dabney, moved from Virginia to Mississippi in the 1830's, where Augustine L. Dabney was a lawyer in Raymond, the county seat. Thomas G. Dabney was the seventh of ten children. His brothers and sisters were Frederick Yeamans, Augustine Lee (who died in infancy), Ann Robinson, Elizabeth Osborne, Martha Camberlayne (who died during surgery of a tumor in the 1880's), Mary Smith, Marye, John Davis and Letitia Dabney.

Elizabeth (Lizzy) Dabney, Thomas's sister, had a part in his early education; he then went to a boys' school and then at age 13 Thomas and his brother Marye were sent to board at Oak Grove, the plantation home of John Curtis Williams, so they could attend school at Burleigh, the plantation home of their uncle, Colonel Thomas Smith Dabney.

In August 1858, Thomas had his first experience with engineering as a "stake marker" with his brother Fred, who was in charge of the preliminary railroad survey for the Gulf and Ship Island Railroad.

Thomas Gregory Dabney, at age 16, enlisted in Company A, 12th Mississippi Infantry, the "Raymond Fencibles," in 1861. Wounded in 1862, Thomas recuperated at Manassas in Virginia, and by November 1862, he was a member of Company F, 1st Mississippi Light Artillery, and was considered an expert gunner. During the later years of the war Major Dabney fought in the Battle of Port Hudson and Ship Island and was a prisoner of war at Ship Island.

At the close of the war Major Dabney resumed his engineering work by becoming involved with the Louisiana levee systems, the Gulf and Ship Island Railroad, and the Vicksburg, Shreveport and Pacific Railroad, where he gained much experience. After the flood of 1884, when the entire Mississippi Delta was inundated, the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta Levee District was established. Thomas G. Dabney was chosen as Chief Engineer in April 1884, where he was to develop a levee system to protect the Delta from floods. From 1884 to 1920, Dabney remained the Chief Engineer where, with the expenditure of $15 million, he successfully achieved his goal of Delta flood protection. In June of 1920, he resigned his position because of age and physical means, but he was retained as consulting engineer until his death on March 5, 1929, at age 85. Throughout the country Dabney was consulted for his views, experience, and opinions relating to flood control; he was known as the "Dean of Levee Engineers."

Thomas Gregory Dabney was married to Frances Bowmar; they were the parents of six children: Augustine, Lee J. Bowmar, Thomas G., Fred M., J.C., Elizabeth, and Frances Mays Dabney. After Major Thomas Gregory Dabney's death a monument was dedicated to his memory. The address on that occasion was delivered by Oscar Johnston on May 3, 1938, in Walls, Mississippi, at the foot of the Tennessee hills near Lakeview.

Scope and Content:

This collection consists of five photographs of the Thomas Gregory Dabney family; an autobiography by Thomas Gregory Dabney; recollections of his sister, Letitia Dabney Miller; memoirs written by J.H.D. Bowmar, possibly his brother-in-law; various articles about Thomas Gregory Dabney and his levee involvements; and letters pertaining to the Thomas Gregory Dabney monument and the address given by Oscar Johnston in 1938.

The photographs are of Thomas Gregory Dabney (circa 1915), Mrs. Thomas Gregory Dabney and her granddaughter (unidentified, circa 1910), Mrs. Lucy Bryson Dabney (circa 1920), and J.B. Dabney (circa 1892). Also included is a photograph of Oak Grove (circa 1965), the plantation home of John Curtis Williams.


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Revised: November 4, 2004