Belle Oakes - Antebellum Mansion
Macon, Mississippi - Noxubee County

The most imposing mansion in Macon is Belle Oakes, constructed in 1844 for Judge Hampton Lee Jarnigan. The house, built on a grand scale with 14 foot ceilings, twenty foot square rooms and an unusual stairway that dominates the entrance hall, according to “Historic Architecture in Mississippi”. The flying-wing stairway is modified by a supplementary stairway that leads to the rear of the second floor hall while the main stairway leads to the front hall.

Belle Oakes’s owners and residents included W. C. Jarnigan, son of the builder. He was taught in a private school in Macon, Mississippi where Master Hubbard, a famous Vermont teacher, was the principal. Trained as a medical doctor in Mississippi, Virginia, and New York, became president of the Atlanta, Georgia Board of Health where he served for three years. The property was subsequently deeded to Mary J. and W. H. Bogle. It was deeded to Mrs. Ida L. Scales in 1889 where it remained until sold by her heirs to Zach Brooks in 1944. Mr. Brooks, a successful oil and cattleman, discovered the Citronelle Oil Field that grew to be the largest in Alabama. He launched into the drilling business in 1944 with a single rig. He also became one of the largest landowners in Noxubee County accumulating over 15,000 acres including what is now the Macon Airport and the Zach Brooks Golf Course. Mr. Brooks later built a sister mansion in El Dorado, Arkansas with many similarities to Belle Oakes including an identical great room on the back of the house.

Belle Oakes was sold to the Julius Klaus family in 1953. The Klaus family were prominent merchants and theatre owners in Macon. Gene Penick, the current owner remembers the home from the 1940’s. At that time Mr. R. W. Penick, his grandfather and a master carpenter, made extensive renovations for Mr. Brooks. The beautiful crown moulding, door facings and column repairs are lasting examples of his work. Mr. Brooks also commissioned Mr. Penick to renovate the columns used in building his home in El Dorado, Arkansas.

Belle Oakes has recently become known locally as the Santa Claus house. A life sized Santa graces the balcony each holiday season as he waves to children of all ages.