Basket maker left his treasures
Throughout Copiah County, people still have the beautiful crafts of Sanders Weathersby, a talented third generation African American basket maker born in 1914, who learned his art from his grandfather, Joe Weathersby when he was eight years old.
Keasie, Weathersby’s father, also made baskets, which he sold at Skinny Taylor’s store next to Grayson’s Feed & Seed, now the location of Big D’s restaurant. His son worked off and on for J.N. Mohon Trucking until the early 1970s, and devoted full time to making baskets until retiring.
Working several hours a day, Weathersby worked on a special order basis, and maintained a steady business advertised by word-of-mouth. All of his items were made from white oak – a light-colored wood which ages over time to a warm honey color -- cut from a tree and then into strips which he meticulously wove into 20 varieties of baskets into multiple shapes, some with tops, that sold from $5 to $30, and chair backs and seats.
Susan Thomas Ware, who owns some of Weatherby’s baskets, implored him to show her to make them when she saw him working at this art one day. “Naw, I don’t reckon so,” he responded. So his art does not live one with others who could have learned from him, but his baskets are the all the more special.
Weathersby married Ora Smith and had six children – Robert Lee Weathersby, Dorothy Lee White, Ora Lee Weathersby, Sanders, Jr., Johnny K and Mattie. He died in 1997 and a handmade marker is on his grave in Saint Paul Cemetery.
Those who own one of Weathersby’s baskets say they are as sturdy as the day they purchased them, and they are proud owners of one of his treasures.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Throughout the 2023 Copiah County Bicentennial year, Wesson News will feature sketches of past and present visual artists, musicians, authors and photographers who are natives of the county. They will be excerpted from Tricia Nelson’s reporting in A Shared History: Copiah County, Mississippi 1823-2023 edited and compiled by Paul C. Cartwright and available through Cartwright for $25 plus $5 for shipping at 3 Waverly Circle, Hattiesburg, MS 39402. Nelson is a Crystal Springs writer who contributes to the Copiah County Monitor.