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Family hobby turns into one of area’s biggest tourist attractions

LAUREL — After “retirement,” Tom and Anne Landrum have built an entire village.

About 11 years ago the Landrums wanted to give their grandchildren a lesson in living history so they would understand how their ancestors lived. So the family built a log cabin, and furnished it with old things collected through the years.

“It was just a family fun thing,” says Ann Landrum. “Friends wanted to bring their children and grandchildren to see the living history museum. From there my husband, who was a history teacher earlier in his life, built a water wheel to run an antique grist mill, and put in a windmill to pump water. Then he added an old blacksmith shop and a barn with animals. After we completed that we started having groups of people come. We built a little pavilion. Then we added a general store and started bringing in old buildings and restoring them. My grandfather’s 1863 log cabin on the site has been restored.”

The result is Landrum’s Homestead and Village, which is now one of the top tourist attractions in Jones County. The homestead is located at the site of their furniture and gift store, Landrum’s Country, located about four miles south of Laurel on Mississippi 15. There are now more than 50 buildings and displays on the 10-acre site, including a one-room schoolhouse, an Indian village with a stream running through it, a barbershop, an early service station, a museum and gravity mystery house.

“Never in our wildest dreams did we anticipate this,” Landrum said. “Neither did we anticipate what would happen to the store.”

Landrum’s Country opened nearly 20 years ago after Tom Landrum retired from a job as an administrator for the court system in Jackson County. His hobby was woodworking, and he specialized in building pine furniture. After returning back home to the area south of Laurel that has so many kin folks that it is known as Landrum country, Tom and Anne opened a furniture store and gift shop.

“This is home where we are now,” Anne Landrum said. “The store was started as a sort of therapy. Tom had learned how to work with wood. He was building furniture and people wanted him to build for them. So we decided to build a little showroom so people could see his work. We started expanding in the spring of 1984. From then on I can’t count the number of times we have expanded. In a few years we started carrying a line of oak furniture from a builder in Tennessee. He is a small business like we are.

“We have furniture in every state in the country now. We major sell furniture. We have folks from all over the country who come here. We have brochures at the welcome center, and on the state travel planner, so we are a tourist attraction.”

The Landrums had no idea when they began that they would end up building an entire village.

“We are some kind of busy people,” Landrum said. “Three of our children are active in the business and the other two are big supporters. Tom and I were raised to work, and we raised them to work. So we still do that. We are a family business, and it has worked very well. We all get along. Each of us wears about 20 hats. It has been a good business for the family.”

Children involved in the business include their son Bruce Landrum and daughters Deborah Upton and Susan Sims. Anne Landrum is now 69, and her husband is 71. One grandson is helping in the business, with 13 more grandchildren possibilities for carrying on the family business in the future.

Retirement isn’t in the picture for the patriarch and matriarch of this clan.

“We never intend to retire,” she said. “We go on trips. When we are gone things run just as smoothly or maybe more so than when we are here. It has just been a good venture all around. We enjoy it, and we are continuing to add on. We are remodeling the store right now. We are adding to buildings at the homestead. As long as we are excited about it, that is what we want to do. We are not people who are satisfied to just sit around and do nothing when retired.”

The charge for touring the village is $8 for adults, $7.50 seniors and $7 for group rates. For an extra fee visitors can engage in panning for gold or other gems. Landrum’s is popular not just with tourists, but with school groups from the Coast to Jackson.

The Landrums have been so busy building that they haven’t spent a lot of time marketing the attraction. Now they plan to put more emphasis on promotion.

“We are trying to let more people know about it,” Landrum said. “Even people within a 10-mile radius say, ‘I have never heard of it.’ We are targeting right now from the Jackson area to the Coast. Then we intend to go into Louisiana and Alabama.”

Besides providing a living history lesson to all age groups, the Landrums have been able to save buildings that might have been lost otherwise. A case in point is a log house built in the 1890s that was going to be burned. Instead, the Landrums moved it log by log, and restored it.

“It is a gorgeous house,” Landrum said. “It is now in use for wedding receptions.”

The Landrum’s Homestead and Village has its largest event of the year in November on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The attraction is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. that day, and visitors are invited in by people dressed in Confederate-era clothing to sample possum stew or other delicacies. There is a Confederate soldier’s encampment on site, live musical entertainment, pony rides and candlelight tours from 5 to 9 p.m.

“It is a wonderful family atmosphere,” Landrum said. “That is a really fun time. Everybody looks forward to that.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at bgillette@bellsouth.net.

About Becky Gillette

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