Yellow rose passed down for 250 years

Thursday, November 4, 2004
Evelyn Lackey adds special rose bush to the newly landscaped entry at Christopher Homes. Pictured with Lackey is Mark Prince, area manager of Christopher Homes. (Town Crier photo/Revis Blaylock)

Heirlooms are passed down from one generation to another. An heirloom is usually a material item and only one person in the family can possess it at any given time. The family of 89-year old Evelyn Lackey of Monette has an interesting piece of family history, the Yellow Rose of Tennessee. The rose has been passed down for over 250 years and all members of the family can take a cutting home and share in the family heritage.

Mrs. Lackey, the oldest resident at Christopher Homes in Monette, is sharing the rose with her friends and neighbors to enjoy. The rose bush has been transplanted in the newly landscaped entry way of Christopher Homes.

Mrs. Lackey said that everyone at Christopher Homes had been so good to her that she wanted to do something for them. She and her children decided to make a donation for landscaping around the Christopher Home sign and front entry.

Christopher Homes, apartments for senior citizens, opened in Monette in 1993. Mrs. Lackey moved into her apartment in 1997.

David Thompson of Jonesboro designed and constructed the landscaping project. Mark Prince, manager of Christopher Homes, transplanted the rose bush for Mrs. Lackey.

"We feel honored that she considers us family and this rose will be a lasting memory for her," Prince said.

Prince has been with Christopher Homes for 10 years. He managed the apartments in Monette for 10 years and in August he became area manager of Christopher Homes at three locations, Monette, Jonesboro and Paragould. Each have 20 apartments.

Mrs. Lackey, her sisters, children, nieces, and other family members have worked together to keep the Yellow Rose of Tennessee alive and made sure that any family member or friend that wants a cutting has one.

The rose has a beautiful history. It has been in the James Byrnn family over 250 years. Byrnn and his wife, Mary Margeret, lived in Ripley, Tenn. When the family decided to move to Arkansas, they packed up the old wagon, hitched a team of mules to the wagon, loaded their furniture and kids (including Mrs. Lackey's mother, Hattie, who was the baby) and the Yellow Rose of Tennessee, her great-grandmother's pride and joy.

Mrs. Lackey said she had heard the stories of how they guarded the rose on their wagon ride to Arkansas as they crossed the Mississippi River with the mules swimming across. The family bought a small farm just east of Macey schoolhouse.

"Grandmother Mary Margaret only lived two years after they moved to the farm," Mrs. Lackey said. "They had seven girls and three boys. It was told to us that when my grandmother knew that she could not get well, she told the family to take care of Hattie, the baby, and keep the yellow rose in the family. Today, after 250 years, the rose is still in the family."

Mrs. Lackey is the oldest child of Hattie and Tommy Stephens. She has six sisters and two brothers.

All of the sisters have helped her keep the rose tradition going in the family by passing down the roses to their children and grandchildren.

"There is no telling how many roses are out there from that one rose bush that was brought across the Mississippi River," Mrs. Lackey said.

Mrs. Lackey has four children, Obine Lackey, Virginia Watkins, Jerie Stacy, and Tommy Lackey. She has eight grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren and four great-great-grandchildren.

Mrs. Lackey said her children are very supportive of her.

Her husband, Ponder Lackey, died in 1974. The couple farmed and Mrs. Lackey has chopped and picked cotton and helped where she was needed and never neglected her yellow roses. When she moved from the farm to Christopher Homes, she brought part of her roses but left some.

"We didn't move many times, but I always wanted to leave a part of the yellow rose when we did," Mrs. Lackey said. "When it blooms, it is beautiful and reminds me my family members.

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