History of Chickasaw Co, MS
The following information is based on excerpts from the "History of Chickasaw Co, Vol I" published by the Chickasaw Co Historical and Genealogical Society, Copyright 1985. Reprints of this book and Vol II may still be available. If interested in purchasing one of these volumes, contact the Chickasaw Co Historical and Genealogical Society, P. O. Box 42, Houston, MS 38851.
This history of Chickasaw Co was written by Harley Hill Floyd and submitted for publication in Vol I of the History of Chickasaw Co.
Chickasaw County is located in the northeast area of the state. The boundaries of five counties link with Chickasaw Co. These counties
are: Pontotoc, Lee, Montgomery, Clay, Webster, and Calhoun. Some or part of these counties were formed from land originally a part of Chickasaw County.
The story of Chickasaw Co is the story of the people who have passed through or settled and made their homes in this small area of northeast MS. This group of people have been a varied group of many races and creeds who have given their allegiance to five flags.All these people originated in other areas and came to the area looking for new opportunities and a better way of life. All have played their part in the existence of Chickasaw Co.
Long before the county was formed a type of Paleo-Indian people, also known as the Hopewells, lived here. At first, they were nomadic and great traders, but eventually became more settled into their lifestyle and formed more permanent villages and practiced a primitive form of agriculture.Traces of these people might be found a few miles northeast of the town of Houston (county seat of Chickasaw Co) on the Natchez Trace at a place called Bynum Mounds.
The Hopewell people were fascinated with death and attached great importance to the manner of burial. Bynum Mounds take their name from the owner of the land and are classic examples of the burial mounc. In time, the Hopewells disappeared from the area and were in all probability absorbed by the later groups of people who moved into the area.
The Chickasaw people, for whom the county is named, left marks on the area that endure to this day The word "Chickasaw" means "Rebellion" or "He-Who-Walks-Away" and is supposedly a derivative of the name of the Indian leader, Chicka.
Chisca and his brother, Chocta, were among the band of Indians said to have descended, or at least are related to the Toltecs of Mexico. These people emigrated to what is now the state of MS by following a magical stick and a white dog.
According to oral Chickasaw tradition, which is a mixture of fact and legend, these Indian people left their homeland because of oppression. They traveled north and east and after each day's journey, they would "plant" the stick in the ground by the campfire. Upon
arising the next morning, they would travel in the direction that the stick was leaning. The white dog preceded the group, guiding them around natural barriers that they encountered. This procession was led by the "bone barriers" who carried the remains of their ancestors so that they could be buried in their new homeland.
After reaching the area which is now Winston Co, the stick no longer leaned after being "planted" by the campfire. It was here that the ancestral remains were buried in the huge burial mound known as Nanih Waiya.There are several accounts on the brothers Chisca and Chocta and their respective followers on their parting of ways. One is that they had a disagreement. Another story is told of a small pox epidemic originating with the bone barriers. Still another tells of Chisca's band simplyturning north and exploring the land, choosing to remain there.
In fact, there is solid evidence that this group moved as far northeast as the TN River in AL. Later, they returned to the Tomspanbee area, finally locating primarily in an area which today includes Lee, Pontotoc and Chickasaw Counties.
The Chickasaw Indians practiced a monotheistic religion and worshiped their god, Ababinili, atop ceremonial mounds. Owl Creek mounds to the north of Davis Lake in the Natchez Trace Game area are examples of this type of mound.
The Chickasaw Indians became known as one of the Five Civilized Tribes. They describe themselves as the "undefeated". Historians of the period tell that the original Chickasaw Indians were tall, well built people with reddish brown skin, raven black hair, large
dark eyes and moved with a superior and independent air.
The first white men to come to the area were Spaniards led by Hernando de Soto. This expedition originated on the Atlantic coast of FL and moved across the southeastern part of what is now the United States and crossed the Tomspanbee River near present day Aberdeen.
Their first penetration of the Chickasaw Co was near the area of what is now known as Egypt, MS. They moved on north and east, crossing Chuquatonchee Creek and finally stopped at a Chickasaw town called Chicaca. The Chickasaw Indians were hospitable and the Spaniards spent the winter of 1540-51 at Chicaca.
In March, 1541, DeSoto and his men prepared to leave the area, but trouble ensued when he demanded that two hundred men be provided him as bearers. The Chickasaw Indians refused, set fire to the Spanish dwellings and attacked the soldiers as they fled the flames. At
least twelve Spaniards were killed and large numbers of livestock and supplies were destroyed.
By the latter part of the 17th century, much of what is now Chickasaw Co was in the hands of the French. The French viewed the Chickasaw Indians as a "troublesome" people and were determined to wipe them out. However, their efforts failed and resulted
in three decisive defeats at the hands of the Indians. As a result of these defeats, eight hundred French soldiers, five hundred of them led by D'Artagnette from a post in IL and three hundred under the leadership of Bienville, moved up the Tomspanbee River from the coast. They proposed to meet and end the Chickasaw "problem" forever.
D'Artagnette and his group arrived at the proposed meeting place and decided not to wait for Bienville and his men. His army was defeated and D'Artagnette was burned at the stake. Beinville was defeated at the Battle of Akia, fought on the site of present day
North MS Medical Center.
Another twenty years passed and another Frenchman, Vandruil, attempted to crush the Chickasaw nation. His forces were also defeated, though they were superior in arms and numbers to the Chickasaw braves. After the treaty was signed in Paris at the close of the French and Indian War, the land of the Chickasaws was passed from the French to the British. Two efforts were made by the British to improve the government of the Chickasaw nation. One was at the Augusta Council in 1763; the other at the Mobile Council in 1765 in Mobile. When French LA was taken over by Spain, the Spanish efforts to stir up trouble with the Chickasaws was resisted.
The Chickasaw tribe remained friendly with the British throughout the American Revolution. The British directed a Mr. Stuart, superintendent of Indian affairs south of the Ohio River, to "rally the Chickasaws and other tribes to take arms against His Majesty's
enemies". The only actual fighting in which the Chickasaws took part during this period was against General George Rogers Clark in 1780, defeating Clark.
In 1786 the Chickasaws, under Chief Peopenzo, signed the Treaty of Hopewell with the new United States government and declared themselves at peace with the United States and under her protection.
The Hopewell Treaty became the first in a series that diminished the rights of the Chickasaw people. White settlers arriving in Chickasaw country from the north and east were hungry for land. As more and more white settlers arrived, the struggle
for land intensified. This struggle was peaceful, but not pretty.
Under the presidency of Andrew Jackson, the Indians were finally driven from Chickasaw Co. Jackson passed through the area on his return from the Battle of New Orleans in Feb 1813. According to local tradition, he camped near the present day
Webster/Chickasaw Co line and continued north through Chickasaw Co on the Natchez Trace.
Local Indians were friendly. Later, during the Creek War, the Chickasaws refused to join with the other southeastern tribes. Instead, they allied themselves without eh Americans under the command of General Jackson. Ironically, the Trail of Tears was their ultimate reward.
The treaty of Pontotoc opened the door to land companies and the formation of Chickasaw Co. Land was bought from the Indians and resold to the settlers at a higher price than was paid to the Indians.
Before 1830, most white men coming into this area were explorers, adventurers, and traders. Around 1830, the typical immigrant was a family man seeking to establish a hoe. Most were of Anglo-Saxon stock from the eastern seaboard states of VA, the Carolinas,
GA, or from the westerns states of TN and KY.
The law creating Chickasaw Co was passed by the MS legislature on Feb 9, 1836. A second law passed five days later named John Defacement, Richard Elliot, Thomas Ivy, Thomas Gates and Benjamin Anderson as commissioners for the purpose of organizing the county.
These men met near Old Houlka at the home of Malcolm Magee, a half-breed Indian. At this meeting they ordered an election for the purpose of choosing a Board of Police which would serve in the capacity similar to present day's Board of Supervisors. Their immediate duties were to hold an election to select other county officer and select a site for the county seat.
The first Board of Police consisted of Littlebury Gilliam, Thomas Gates, Thomas D. Wooldridge, Benjamin Bugg and Asa H. Braddock who were selected in an election held Apr 23, 1836.
Other county officers were selected on May 6 & 7, 1836. Those selected in this election were: Richard L. Aycock, sheriff; George Hoyle, judge of probate; Charles Graeff, clerk of probate and police court; Hezekiah Goode, clerk of Circuit Court; Gilbert Anderson, tax assessor and collector; Claiborne Williams, coroner; William Kreider, county treasurer and Thomas Williams, county surveyor. Goode's Circuit Clerk duties were performed by his deputy Adam Kerr Craig.
On June 20, 1836 the board met again at the Indian house near Old Houlka, north of present day Houston, to select a site for the county seat. For two days, this group of men were unable to agree on a location for the county seat. Finally a site offered by Joel
Pinson, a private spectator, was agreed upon and on July 8, 1836, the Chickasaw Co Board of Police ordered that the county seat be located on "Sections 4 and 5 in Township 14, Range 3 East. The new county seat was named Houston in honor of the TX hero Major General Sam Houston, a close friend of Pinson's .
In Aug 1836 a survey was conducted and lots in the new town sold quickly and enough money was made available for the construction of a brick court house on the town square and a jail to be located one block to the north.
Houston was incorporated on May 9, 1837 and its first post office was established Dec 5, 1837 and the Postmaster
was Henry R. Carter.
Rev. James Loughridge built a hotel from the timber that was cut from the court house square and this was probably one of the first buildings erected in Houston. the first mercantile firm was founded by W. L. Dogan; but he moved the business to
Pontotoc soon afterward.
A more enduring business was established by Charles Dibrell and this establishment was still active in 1860. Simon Myers and James Simonton also had an early mercantile firm.
These "general stores" sold a wide variety of goods including hats, boots, shoes, hardware, cutlery, saddles, piece goods, bonnets, jewelry and groceries. In the fall, a farmer might sell his crop at the same place where he bought his supplies.
Houston also had several drug stores. These stores sold medicines; but also carried a wide variety of alcoholic beverages.
Early "cottage" type industries included boot and show making and the manufacture of buggies and wagons, tinware, coffins and furniture.
Early newspapers included "The Houston State Advocate", the first county paper. It was owned and run by a Mr. Lancaster who later sold it to Thomas N. Martin. Martin renamed the paper "The Southern
Patriot" and in 1854, the paper's name was changed again to " The Southern Argus" by its new owner, Jehu A. Orr.
Another newspaper, "The Houston Petrel" was established by B. F. Owen in 1857. All of these newspapers were strong Democrat party supporters. The "Chickasaw Banner" a Whig paper was published by D. H. Lindsay and F. L. Denison. "The Chickasaw Republican"
was edited by D. C. Greenwood. However, both of these newspapers were short-lived.
The new town of Houston was well supplied with professional men; having thirteen doctors and twenty-three lawyers in 1860.
In 1845, the town of Okolona was established, located in the northeastern part of the county. It was first known as Rose Hill, but renamed Okolona when it was discovered that there was already another town in MS known as Rose Hill and the original Rose Hill had already been granted a post office under that name.
Okolona was incorporated in 1850 and by 1859 had three hotels, six dry goods stores, two drug stores, a jewelry store, two livery stables, a funeral parlor, candy, toy and liquor establishments. There were six lawyers and six doctors in the town. Manufacturing establishments produced saddles, harnesses, tin goods, cabinets and carriages. The local newspaper, "The Prairie News", was forced to cease publication during the War Between the States, but resumed publication soon after the war. The newspaper was strongly Democrat.
Houlka, originally an Indian village, is Chickasaw Co's oldest town. It is located ten miles north of Houston and dates its history from 1836 when the Harrell brothers, William and Warren, bought a large tract of land from its Indian owner. Several stores and a post office were built and the little town thrived. With the coming of the Gulf, Mobile and Northern Railroad in 1905, the town moved from its original site approximately a mile to the west.
Other early towns in the county have declined in importance, but in the early days of the county, they filled a significance place. Some of these towns were: Buena Vista, originally known as Monterey, was established in 1847 on the Houston/Aberdeen Road and was a center of culture and refinement. Egypt was located on the Mobile and Ohio Railroad, south of Okolona, but was an important trade center in the 1850s.
Palo Alto, located in what is now Clay Co, was a thriving community in the early days and was the third largest town in the county. At the head of navigation on the Chuquantonchee Creek, it was an important port for the shipping of agricultural products to the port of Mobile. Palo Alto declined following the War Between the States. Much of its trade had been taken over by West Point and its male
population was decimated by the war.
Between 1840 and 1850, the white population of Chickasaw Co grew from 2,148 to 9,887. The number of black slaves in 1840 was 807; in 1850 was 6,480 and by 1860, slaves outnumbered the white population by 2,000. A very large percentage of the white population were slave
owners. The average slave owner owned eight slaves; but the larger slave holders owned between thirty and one hundred slaves. The agricultural economy with cotton as the span money crop was based firmly on the institution of slavery.
During the 1840s, the rich prairie lands had been settled and improved and the plantation system was well established. Cotton was the main crop; but corn was grown as food for both man and beast. Other train crops and various legumes were also grown. Hogs were
raised and was a primary source of meat.
Cattle, mostly a tough breed known as Opelousas, were unsuitable for been and were used primarily
for dairy purposes. Sheep was raised for the wool and every farm had a flock of chickens and many orchards were found on the farms.
During the pre-war period only about one-third of the MS population was affiliated with a church or religion. Nevertheless, Chickasaw Co had a number of churches. The county's first church was a Baptist church built in 1835 in the southwestern part of the county by the
Rev. James Martin. Rev. Martin later built another church about three miles of Houston.
Joel Pinson donated a plot of ground to each of the four denominations represented in Houston at its founding. Methodist, Baptist and Presbyterian churches were eventually built on these plots. Denominations represented in Okolona during this period were Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Cumberland Presbyterian and Roman Catholic.
Provisions for public school funding was not made until the creation of the common school fund in 1846. Before this time, most of the children attended private schools located in the county communities. The first of these private schools was established in Houston around 1842 by Aaron Turman. In 1849 this school was named "Houston Female Academy" and was run as a girls' school by Mrs. D. E. Turman. The "Houston Male Academy" was established in 1844. T. Z. Carothers, a graduate of Princeton, C. P. Ray and A. J. Jamison were closely identified with this school.
"Okolona Male Academy" was founded in 1852 by William f. Tucker. The "Okolona Female Academy" was established in 1854 by Jonathon B. T. Smith, an Episcopal clergyman. Later this school was taken over by the Grace Episcopal Church and renamed "Rose Gate
A co-educational academy was established about 1850 by Dr. Hugh Quinn at Palo Alto. the Concord Academy was founded by G. S. Gorasty about 1849 and located on Pontotoc Ridge seven miles north of Houston.
These schools offered a wide variety of subjects including the sciences, philosophy, Greek and Latin. Because of the poor quality and short terms of the public schools; most of the youth who had a desire to attend a college or university found it almost a necessity to attend a private school or academy.
By the time Chickasaw Co was organized, the well traveled Indian Trails such as the Natchez Trace and Gaines Trace were in disrepair. One of the first roads constructed in the new county was between Houston and Hopewell; Hopewell now being an extinct town located in
what is now Calhoun Co. Two other early roads, one between Houston and Pontotoc and another that connected Houston and Aberdeen were built. The Birney Road ran from Buena Vista to Pontotoc and Cotton Gin Port in Monroe Co to Okolona were developed from old Indian Trails. Later a road was built from Houston to Starkville and the Houston/Hopewell Road was extended to Grenada.
Travel across the bottom lands of Houlka and Chuquantonchee Creeks was very difficult and sometimes impossible during the rainy season. turnpikes were built across these and other bottom lands and some corderoy roads were constructed in swampy places. Turnpikes and
corderoy roads were financed by the tolls they charged, from ten cents a head for stock to one dollar for a four to six horse or ox wagon.
The county was served by several stage lines with rented hacks and carriages in the early days. The hacks and carriages were available in Houston and Okolona to take travelers to other areas. Soon the stage coaches replaced the horse and rider as the carrier of the
In 1859, the Mobile and Ohio Railroad came through the county passing through Okolona and Egypt. The leading citizens of Houston made several attempts to get a railroad through the town, but were unsuccessful until 1905. Okolona soon became an important
shipping center for the cotton growers and outstripped Houston as a center of commerce.
As with other areas, the question of slavery and states rights intensified and politics in Chickasaw Co became heated. Two dominant parties in the county were the Democrat and Whig, the Democrat holding the majority. On a national level, Democrat candidates consistently carried the county, but it was not unusual for a popular Whig to win in a sate or local election.
Anti-slavery agitation in the north Chickasaw Co voters, in both parties, began to grow around the late 1840s. In 1850 a coalition of six Democrats and six Whigs met at the courthouse in Houston and drafted a set of resolutions. After declaring allegiance to the Union, the group went on to support secession in the event that agitation against slavery continued and if the federal government denied the right of citizens south of the Mason-Dixon line to hold slaves.
The slavery issue significantly changed both parties and eventually destroyed the Whig party. Southern Democrats were split by the Compromise of 1850 and those in favor of the Compromise joining with the Whigs to form the Union Party. Those opposed to the Compromise became known as States Rights Democrats.
In the beginning, the Chickasaw Co voters chose to preserve the Union. They elected J. T Griffin and T. S. Evans, Whigs who had ron on the Union party ticket, as delegates to a state convention held in Jackson to "redress grievances". When Jefferson Davis
resigned from the U. S. Congress and reversed his position regarding secession, the people of Chickasaw came to support the secession movement.
In 1853, the Democrats split in earnest at their state convention. Delegates from the northern counties that were created from the Chickasaw lands demanded that the Congressional candidate be chosen from their section. In 1856 when the newly formed Republican
party came on strongly with an anti-slavery plank, state Democrats forgot their differences.
Whigs were faced with the choice of joining with the Democrats or the newly formed American Party. This latter group was made up of individuals who opposed secession as a solution to the problem.
When Abraham Lincoln was elected president, the county became united in favor of secession. Jehu Orr, a States Right Democrat, and Cyrus B. Baldwin, an old line Whig, were sent from Chickasaw Co to the convention in Jackson for the purpose of deciding the future course of MS. These two men were of one mind, casting their votes in favor of
On Jan 5, 1861, MS became the second state to secede from the Union and the stars and bars became the fifth flag to fly over Chickasaw Co. A new and tragic chapter in the history of Chickasaw Co began.
In April 1861, Confederate guns opened fire on Ft. Sumpter, SC and the War Between the States began.
In Chickasaw Co, patriotism
quickly reached a high pitch. Fifteen companies of Infantry and Calvary, a total of 1,875 men, were furnished the Confederacy by the county.
Communities of the county often raised their own units, such as the Buena Vista Rifles and the Spartan Band, and these small units were assigned as needed throughout the Confederate Army to become part of larger forces such as the Army of the TN and the Army of
Northern VA. Chickasaw Co men served in every theater of the war and hardly a significant battle was fought in which Chickasaw Co soldiers were not a part.
One outstanding general officer, William Feimster Tucker, was produced. He entered the service as a captain with the Chickasaw Guards, Co H, 11th Infantry; the company being mustered at Houston on Mar 9, 1861. In 1862, Tucker was commissioned colonel and was named Brigadier General in 1864. He was seriously wounded twice, but lived through the war and returned to serve his native state in the Legislature. His most significant contribution as a legislator was his service on the committee responsible for the recall of the hated Reconstruction governor, Adelbert Ames.
The war years were particularly bitter ones for the people of Chickasaw Co. Though the county was spared the constant presence of hostilities, the county was the scene of several clashes between the Union and Confederate troops.
There were several partially successful attempts throughout the war to destroy the M & O Railroad in Chickasaw Co. The first attempt in Dec 1862 was largely unopposed. Coming from Tupelo under the command of Major Coon to a point south of Okolona,
the Union forces inflicted little permanent damage. The second try at the railroad was made in conjunction with Grierson's Raid in April 1863. This invasion was a part of the campaign against Vicksburg. Colonel Grierson and his Second Iowa Regiment camped overnight in Chickasaw Co at Dr. Benjamin Kilgore's plantation.
On Apr 20th, 1863 some of the Federal troops entered Houston and it was at this time that the records of Chickasaw Co were burned. Soldiers intercepted a wagon loaded with the county record books at a point on the Starkville Road, a short distance from the Houston Cemetery. The troops seized and burned the books on the spot. Two volumes that were overlooked when the records were loaded from the
court house are all that remain.
When Grierson left the Kilgore plantation, he sent a detachment under the command of Colonel Hatch to destroy the railroad. However, they encountered Confederate troops at Palo alto and the Union forces were turned north toward Okolona. In Okolona, the Federal
soldiers burned the depot and Rose Gate College, which was being used by the Confederate government as a military hospital.
In Feb 1864, the most damaging raid in the county took place. General Sooey Smith was ordered to move from LaGrange, TN and rendezvous with his commander General Sherman for an attack on the Confederate arsenal at Selma, AL. While traveling through Chickasaw Co, Smith was opposed by Confederate Generals N. B. Forrest and Chalmers. General Chalmers stopped Smith at the Houlka bottom north of Houston
and caused him to move east to Okolona. The brother of General N. B. Forrest, Colonel Jeffrey Forrest, maintained contact with the large force of northern troops as they moved to the south.
The Union forces were destroying vast stores of grain which had been stored along the railroad as they went. West of the town of West Point, General N. B. Forrest's troops fired on some scouts from Smith's command. Assuming that he was facing a much larger
force, Smith retreated toward Okolona where he made a stand. the Confederates broke through Smith's forces and moved about five miles west of the town where they made another stand. Again Smith's troops broke and the Federal troops retreated to TN.
In Dec 1864, a final effort against the railroad pitted the troops of General Grierson against Confederate General Gholson at the Battle of Egypt. Gholson's troops were captured almost to a man. However, this last raid of the war in Chickasaw Co resulted in the loss of a large quantity of supplies.
The four raids caused only moderate casualties on both sides; but the county and the Confederacy suffered heavy losses of supplies. Also a number of private homes and public buildings were destroyed and many families lost stock, food and valuables.
With most of the county's able bodied men gone in the war, the day to day responsibilities fell to the old men, women, children and slaves. The slaves on the smaller farms, who were likely to have worked with the master and his sons, remained faithful to their
owners. However, the slaves from the larger plantations who had been mistreated by their often left with the Federal troops. Approximately 3,000 blacks, with an equal number of horses, were with General Smith when he invaded the county in Feb 1864.
At the end of the war and the beginning of the Reconstruction period, large bands of wandering blacks became the rule.
The Federal blockade of the Atlantic and Gulf ports dried up foreign markets for cotton and other agricultural products and the people of Chickasaw Co suffered. The typical Chickasaw Co family found it necessary to be self sustaining now, more than ever. If an item could not be produced on the farm, it simply was not had.
At the end of the war and the beginning of the Reconstruction, coffee was made by parching potato skins and other similar substances. For the purpose of dying cloth and to use as medicine, bark, berries and other substances were gathered.
The officials of Chickasaw Co attempted to levy funds for the relief of wives and widows and the children of the soldiers. But as time passed and the situation worsened, relief of the; destitute became an impossible task.
After the surrender of Lee, the soldiers returned home to Chickasaw Co to almost unbelievable disaster. Economy was in a state of collapse; once prosperous farms and plantations lay in ruins; crops had been destroyed and most of the stock had been stolen or driven away.
Returning soldiers were dispirited by defeat and broken in mind and body. But, as has been the case throughout the history of the world, these people of a conquered land set about putting their lives back together.
Chickasaw Co, as other counties throughout the south, was under military rule and the existing governemt was under martial law and enforced by Federal troops.
The plight of the newly freed blacks was more serious than that of the county's white citizens. They were unaccustomed to assuming responsibility for their simplest needs and was faced with the same basic problem as his former owner; a lack of life's
necessities. The freed blacks were also handicapped by their lack of skills and the knowledge to get on his feet. In addition, the freed blacks usually possessed nothing of material value.
With the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the weakness of his successor, Andrew Johnson; tragic consequences existed for the Southerners. Radicals led by Secretary of War Edwin Stanton and Thaddeus Stevens gained control of the Republican party and the
Congress. It was their purpose to punish the South.
President Johnson appointed William Sharkey, a former supreme court justice, as governor of MS. Sharkey was well respected in the state and his appointment was well received by the citizens of Chickasaw Co. Gov. Sharkey ordered a constitutional convention
called and Chickasaw Co proceeded to elect officials.
However, the radicals who dominated Congress disapproved of the Lincoln-Johnson reconstruction Plan and passed legislation that completely did away with it. All officials that had been elected under the Johnson plan were removed and the county returned to military
rule. Gen. Ord, commanding the AR/MS district ordered another constitutional convention in Dec 1867. A constitution was eventually written and a state government was formed with blacks filling most of the offices.
Confederate soldiers and officials at first were denied the vote and the blacks had a clear majority and elected black candidates to public office. These officials were ill equipped to fill their positions.
In Chickasaw Co, political parties were operating through clubs. Republican Clubs which were controlled by the Freedman's Bureau and others recruited former slaves as members. Blacks with leadership ability were known by the inelegant term "Fluence Niggers" and used to turn out the vote for favored candidates. The Democrat Clubs were made up of native white Southerners and clashes between the two groups were frequently violent, especially at election
Before their voting rights could be restored, men who had served in the Confederate army or had held any official position in the government of the Confederacy were required to take an oath of loyalty to the United States. Each former Confederate state was also required to ratify the 14th Amendment of the Constitution which stated that an individual might not be denied the vote because of race, creed, color or previous condition of servitude. Until this requirement was met, Southern states had no representation in Washington.
State Senatorial districts were gerrymandered to favor black candidates where possible and black districts were in the majority in MS. Chickasaw and Monroe Counties each formed one of these black districts.
Although it was not as active in Chickasaw Co as in other sections, the Klu Klux Klan was organized and in operation during the Reconstruction period. The Klan was originally begun as a means of restoring order, but soon evolved into a political tool...terrorizing blacks in an attempt to prevent their votes.
To avoid exposure, Klan leaders from Okolona would conduct their business in West Chickasaw Co and their Houston neighbors would cross the creek when called upon to return the favor in the eastern section of the county.
Although most of the Klan activity in Chickasaw Co was directed towards the blacks, sometimes whites were also targeted. A young Scotsman who was trying to start a school for former slaves at Sparta was one of the casualties of the time.
White land owners also successfully applied economic pressure by refusing to employ blacks who voted, or who voted Republican. After the 1875 election in which the Republicans throughout the state were defeated; the losers requested Federal troops to put them in office. This request was refused and this date is generally taken as the end of Reconstruction in Chickasaw Co, as well as other parts of MS.
Reconstruction left scars on the blacks and whites alike. In Chickasaw Co the economic picture was drastically changed. As a whole, the plantation system in the county was gone. Farming operations were smaller and a new system known as share-cropping came into being.
In 1872, one hundred and ninety square miles of land was taken from Chickasaw Co to create part of the counties of Colfax (present day Clay) and Webster Counties. These re-drawn boundaries are those of present day Chickasaw Co.
During this period, in 1866, the formation of a second Judicial District was formed in Okolona. As one of the few practical actions of the Reconstruction period, this move established Chickasaw Co as one of the few counties in the nation with two county
As late as the 1880s, blacks were serving in the state legislature; but passage of laws favoring white supremacy, along with economic pressure, eroded their participation in the electoral process. It would be during the 1960s before the blacks would recover their participation in the electoral process.
During the latter part of the 19th century, rebuilding began for Chickasaw Co. Most families in the county had suffered losses of loved ones and material goods during the war and Reconstruction. Some of the families left the area completely and others moved
to town to try their hand at occupations other than farming. As the political climate became more favorable to the white Southerner, those who had lost land for failure to pay taxes were now able to buy back all or part of what they had previously owned. Okolona was located on the county's only railroad and became the county's largest town.
More profound changes occurred in the county during the first twenty years of the twentieth century. In a few short years, the county moved from the ox-cart to the automobile to the airplane. Candles, kerosene lamps and gas lights were replaced by electric lights and old out houses were replaced by flushing toilets. Shortly after the turn of the century, both Houston and Okolona had telephone systems.
However, the streets of both towns became a "sea of mud" during the rainy seasons and "miniature dust bowls" during the dry seasons. County roads were still crude and inadequate. Still, Houston did not have a railroad.
Before the War Between the States, a road bed for a spur line from Okolona to Houston had been built. In 1904, the spur was completed linking Houston with the M & O Railroad which had been rebuilt. The line was extended to Calhoun City and operated into the
1930s; the last few years as a private venture.
In 1905 the Gulf, Mobile and Northern Railroad came to Houston. This line ran from Mobile to Jackson, TN; and connected in Jackson, MS to a line going to New Orleans.
Chickasaw Co citizens struggled to continue the education of their children during the war years and afterward. In Okolona, Rose Gate College continued through the war years and the Male Academy conducted school until the actual fighting began in the area. There
was a primary school for boys conducted in the basement of Okolona Presbyterian Church. In 1870, a brick building to house this school was built. In 1877 a private school for girls was opened. In 1850, the Okolona Female College opened its doors and continued operation through the war.
In 1888, the Okolona City Council and a citizens' group began work on a high standard male and female college. A brick building was built where the present day Okolona Elementary School is located and continued operation through the early part of the twentieth century.
Wallace A. Battle founded Okolona College, a black institution in 1902. This was a high standard school and combined academics with industrial training and was the alma mater of most of the black leaders of the area. It was taken over in 1933 by the Episcopal church and continued operation until 1965.
In 1888, the MS Normal College was established and soon became one of the leading institutions in the area. Professor Hosea B. Abernathy and his wife, Sallie Garrett Abernethy conducted the school. The school was originally founded as the MS Normal High
School at Troy, Pontotoc Co, in 1884. Leading citizens of Chickasaw Co persuaded him to move the school to Houston.
In Houston, the school was located on the northwest corner of Madison St. and Starkville Rd. Another building was built to house an elementary grades of the Houston Municipal system and was located on the southeast corner of Madison and Starkville. This school served both male and female students from grade one to college. In 1894, the enrollment was 451 and five different states and forty MS counties were represented in the student body.
Also in operation at the end of the nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth century was the Buena Vista Normal College, chartered in 1885.
The state legislature passed a law authorizing an agricultural high school in each county in 1908. Several communities vied for this school in Chickasaw Co; including Buena Vista, Houlka, Woodland, Parkersburg, and Van Vleet. Buena Vista was chosen and the
Chickasaw Co. Agricultural High School played a very important part in the life of the county from its founding until it was closed during the Depression in the 1930s.
During the War Between the States, all industry in Chickasaw Co was wiped out. Industry began making a comeback during the last of the nineteenth century and early twentieth century. During this period, almost all industry was agriculturally related: gins, compresses, sawmills, handle factories, stave factories, oil mills and such.
Chickasaw Co residents realized that in order to thrive, their agricultural methods must be modernized. Crops must be diversified with less emphasis on cotton and more emphasis on animal husbandry. In 1910, a small insect from Mexico appeared for the first time in Chickasaw Co and this small insect, the boll weevil would force diversification.
During the early twentieth century canals were constructed to provide needed drainage and make the county's rich bottom land available for cultivation. Citizen committees were formed to promote the construction of gravel roads throughout the county.
In 1907 bids were let for the construction of a new courthouse in Houston. This building, still in use today, was opened for county business in Jan 1909.
Superintendent of Houston High School, L. B. Reid, was instrumental in securing the state's first Carnegie Library in 1909.
Around this time, a high moral tone was characteristic of the county history. Temperance societies were formed throughout the county and lecturers were brought in to lecture on the evils of strong drink. Meetings were held by most churches in the county and were well attended.
Dr. Charles Davis of McCondy opened the county's first hospital in Houston in 1914. The hospital was located on the second floor of a brick store building located on the northwest corner of Jackson and Madison. During the six year existence of the hospital, it served more than 1,500 patients.
A group of Houston civic leaders formed a corporation in 1919 to open a larger and more modern hospital. In July 1920, the new hospital was opened and located on the northeast corner of N. Jackson and Depot Streets; the site of the old Jamison home. Dr. V. B. Philot was the surgeon in charge.
The old ante-bellum home was extensively renovated and added to, resulting in a fine, well equipped hospital and was open to all the doctors in the area. In 1943, this institution was sold to Dr. John D. Dyer and continued as a
locally owned hospital until 1980 when it was sold to Brookwood Hospital Management Corporation of Birmingham. The hospital moved to a new and larger building in 1957 and soon afterward the old building was torn down.
In 1915, the United States Congress passed the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote. Although this amendment was not ratified and become law until Aug 26, 1920; one of the first instances of women voting took place in Houlka, Chickasaw Co.
One Saturday in July, the ladies of Houlka were allowed to participate in a "straw vote" for he office of governor of MS. Other parts of the county were not so quick to approve female suffrage. Newspaper stories strongly opposed and the state of MS never
ratified the amendment.
In the early 1900s, automobiles were a familiar site in the county. Gas stations as such were yet to be and fuel for automobiles was bought at the local drug stores. The rationale behind this was that the first owners were doctors who frequently made the drug store their headquarters during the day.
Red Harrell Reid, editor of the "Hummer" a county newspaper wrote in Nov 1915: "There is a strange looking object looming up on the agricultural horizon -- a sort of geared grasshopper, an aluminum, camel humped ... denuded motor equipped with one or more span
treadmill wheels that snuggles and snorts, puffs and waggles across the fields with multiple plows taggling on afterwards. This ladies and gentlemen, is caressingly termed -- a tractor." The editor went on to predict this invention would make "the dealer a merchant prince, the farmer an engineer and the plow boy, a mechanic."
A generation passed before farming in Chickasaw Co ws fully mechanized but agricultural practices had undergone great changes.
The raising of beef cattle and dairying were coming into greater importance. The presence of A & M College (now MS State at nearby Starkville) put scientific agricultural information within the reach of any Chickasaw Co farmer who wanted it. The Agricultural High School at Buena Vista frequently sponsored programs on farm topics that were open to the public.
In Nov 1915, Walter Chandler and J. L. Jogoe of Okolona; Barry Bays of Woodland; O. M. Harrell of Houlka and L. T. Fox and W. E. Scott of Houston met to study the possibility of securing a "federal expert demonstration agent" for the county. Within two years, an agent was sent to the county.
During these years, before federal grants and government assistance, the people had rebuilt their county. Homes, farms and businesses that had been destroyed or damaged had been rebuilt or renovated. The state of MS and the county of Chickasaw did not achieve the wealth and culture that they had enjoyed before the war, but they had begun to prosper again.
Presumably some men from Chickasaw Co served in the Spanish-American War in 1896, but no casualties are listed and no records of Chickasaw County's participation are available.
Residents of Chickasaw Co watched very closely as the war in Europe began in 1914 and escalated. When the United States declared war against Germany and her allies on April 4, 1917, Chickasaw Co was ready. The MS Exposition scheduled to celebrate the state's
100th anniversary were immediately canceled.
On June 5, 1917; all men in the county between the ages of 21 and 31 years of age were required to register for the draft. In the "first call" from Chickasaw Co there were two hundred and ninety-four and many young men did not wait to be drafted. The first contingent
leaving from Houston were all volunteers and was made up of individuals from all parts of the county.
D. D. Dendy of the board of Supervisors; R. S. Mitchell, County Agent and George D. Riley, County Superintendent of Education formed a committee and met
in Houston to select a Council of Defense to promote the war effort. Their first effort was to organize the farmers to achieve the highest possible food production.
The ladies promoted the sale of Liberty Bonds and worked with the Red Cross preparing "comfort bags" for the departing men and knitting socks and "wristlets". Knitting instructions were printed in the local newspapers.
Young men returning from World War I found a booming economy. In the 1920s, business was good. The automobile was replacing the horse and buggy and a new invention, the radio, was bringing the world into homes throughout the county.
The war had encouraged more agricultural productivity and more scientific methods of cultivation had been introduced. Around this time, oil was discovered in Chickasaw Co. Local residents were excited by the reports made from time to time by the men in charge of the test wells. Several wells were drilled in the northwestern part of the county, but were later capped or abandoned.
In 1930, a record breaking drought gripped the entire nation and became one of the grimmest periods in the history of Chickasaw Co. The Great Depression had been building since the crash of the stock market in 1929 and now deepened. In Sept 1930, the rains finally came but were too late. A shortage of cotton did not bring the price of cotton up; but prices dropped steadily, eventually dropping
to below nine cents a pound.
Also in 1930, Federal assistance in the form of reduced freight rates for emergency shipments of food and other relief to the needy began.
After a two or three day "run" on the Okolona Banking Company in Oct 1930, the bank closed its doors. A short time later, the Commercial Bank and Trust Company of Okolona also closed. Other county banks managed to hold firm.
After 1930, money was tight and government at all levels sought solutions to the problem. On the federal level the Congress established the Reconstruction Finance Corporation. The MS Senate passed a bill calling for a three percent sales tax and abolished ad
A petition was circulated in Chickasaw Co to re-establish the office of County Agent that had been abolished previously as an economic measure. This failed by eight votes.
Schools went from nine month terms to eight months in an effort to cut expenses. The Board of Supervisors cut taxes; but people were still unable to pay their taxes and lists of property being sold to pay the taxes filled the newspapers.
A county welfare program
was established to aid the unemployed and indigent, regardless of race, creed or color. Needy people were able to work were given "construction jobs" and others received direct relief.
When Franklin Roosevelt took office as president in 1933, controlled inflation was instituted to make money more plentiful. Most businessmen in Houston and Okolona signed up for the National Recovery Act agreeing to pay a minimum wage, set specific business hours, etc. There were some questions as to whether this would help the situation, but the merchants were eager to get on the band wagon.
A number of agricultural programs were created at the national level. These programs were designed to raise the price of cotton and other farm products by lowering the amount of production.
The Public Works Administration changed the face of Chickasaw Co. School buildings and other public buildings were improved. By the end of the decade, Houston and Okolona boasted of paved streets in the downtown areas and all main roads in the county
were paved, with the exception of Hwy. 8. The TN Valley Authority brought cheap electricity to the rural areas of the county and changed life on the farms forever.
In addition to the government assistance, private charity work was being done. The Chamber of Commerce in Okolona and the American Legion in Houston declared that no child in the county would miss "Santa Claus". Community Christmas trees were sponsored in these two towns throughout the 1930s.
In Apr 1933 enrollment of young men between the ages of 18 and 25 in a "Civilian Conservation Corps", later known as CCC, was announced. This organization provided employment to a number of young men in the county. One of the projects constructed by the young
men of CCC was the Natchez Trace Game Area.
In 1934, things were looking up in Chickasaw Co; but the effects of the Depression still lingered among the residents until the beginning of World War II.
Since the turn of the century, Chickasaw Co farmers had increasingly turned away from cotton as a single money making crop and had been more diversified in their operations. This trend intensified during World War II when the county farmers responded to the
war effort by adopting a number of techniques to increase their production.
In the 1940s, dairying grew in importance. Both Houston and Okolona had a creamery and a cheese plant and a number of farmers "milked cows". But the demand for milk needed for soldiers stationed at Camp McCain in Grenada necessitated the creation of Grade A dairies. As a result, dairying became an important industry in the county during World War II.
The neighboring town of Vardaman in Calhoun Co. claims the title "Sweet Potato Capitol of the World", but the farmers of Chickasaw County's "Flatwoods" country found that the country was fit for growing a great deal more than timber and providing pastureland for
stock. The sweet potato industry was begun in the 1930s, but increased greatly during the war years.
1939 was a poor crop year and the county found itself deeply in debt. State Senator R. H. Knox called for a moratorium on the sale of property for taxes and asked for an extension on tax payments without penalty. Bonds floated to repay county indebtedness did not find buyers. It was then suggested that
taxes be raised.
Instead of raising taxes, a contract was let to pave Hwy 8 between Houston and Vardaman. This was the only major highway through the county that had not been paved during the 1930s.
In 1941, war clouds darkened and preparations for defense began in earnest early in the year. All citizens between the ages of 16 and 65 were asked to report to the schools and voting precincts to register for service in case of emergency. Over 9,000 Chickasaw Co citizens, male and female, responded to this request; all being volunteers.
Very few people
who lived through World War II are unable to remember where he or she was or what they were doing when word came on Sunday, Dec 7, 1941 that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor.
Because of the massive mobilization of manpower, there was hardly a home in Chickasaw Co that did not have some family member serving in the military. White rectangular banners trimmed with red bands were hung in windows throughout the county with a blue star representing each serviceman from that family. The blue star would be changed to a gold star when the husband, son, daughter or brother had made the
supreme sacrifice. Before the war ended, there were forty-seven gold stars in Chickasaw Co homes.
Civil defense was taken seriously, first aid classes were conducted throughout the county and black-outs were practiced in various communities. To conserve electricity, "brown-outs" were a regular practice. Limited number of street lights in each community were burned at one time and local users were strongly urged to practice conversation in their electrical use in businesses and homes.
Seven War Bond drives were held during the four year period of hostilities. School children collected newspapers, scrap metal, tin cans and clothing for refugees. Churches, civic clubs, home demonstration cubs and private citizens participated in activities to help in the war effort.
Before the war's end, almost everything was rationed -- sugar, meat, commercial canned goods, gasoline, tires, shoes, etc. Items such as Coca Cola and cigarettes were also hard to get; but there were few complaints.
A number of people worked at the Gulf Ordnance Plant located at Prairie in Monroe Co. The location of the plant was ideal to attract personnel from Okolona, Houston and other smaller communities in Chickasaw Co as well as Aberdeen, West Point and other nearby
communities. To enable the workers from Houston and west Chickasaw Co to get to work easier, Hwy 8 was paved from Houston to Hwy 45 Alternate at Gibson. Eventually the section from Gibson to Hwy 45 at Aberdeen was paved.
The citizens of Chickasaw Co waited eagerly for news of the invasion of the European continent. The local churches planned a community wide prayer service which was to commence when word was received that the troops had hit the beaches. The old Methodist Church bell
was to be rung as a signal for all the people to gather for the prayer service. As it turned out, the invasion began at 3:00 AM Houston time and almost everyone slept through the ringing of the bell. The prayer service was held later in the day at a more convenient time.
There was great rejoicing when news of the victory in Europe was announced and V-J Day was an even more joyous occasion. Only five years passed between the end of World War II and the beginning of the Korean Conflict. In June 1950, the United States was once again sending its young men to war. By Sept 1950, Houston's newly formed National Guard had been activated and was on its way to
Camp McCoy, WI for additional training before going overseas. Others soon joined them. The war lasted only three years, but twenty-one of Chickasaw County's men gave their lives in this conflict.
Ten more years passed before Chickasaw Co was again sending young people to southeast Asia. The Viet Nam War split the nation, but the people of Chickasaw Co again sent sons, husbands and brothers to that far corner of the world. The death toll for Chickasaw Co during
the Viet Nam War was nine.
Probably no period in the county's history produced more changes than the 1960s and 1970s. A cultural revolution was taking place across the entire nation. Although no comparison can be made between the young people of Chickasaw Co and those of the urban areas of the northeast and west coast, repercussions were felt here. Chickasaw Co experienced a drug problem among its young people. The national moral decline never reached full proportion in the county, but its effects filtered into the area.
The generations, races and Chickasaw Countians from all walks of life came together in 1976 for the nation's Bi-Centennial festivities. A highlight of the event was the presence and participation of Overton James, Governor of the Chickasaw nation, and his
family. Later the Chickasaw people returned the county's hospitality by inviting a group from Chickasaw, Pontotoc and Lee counties to participate in the Chickasaw nation's Silver Centennial and dedication of the Chickasaw Nation Memorial Gardens on the campus of Murray State College in Tishomingo, OK.
On Feb 9, 1986 Chickasaw Co celebrated her 159th anniversary. As the one hundred and fiftieth year drew near, it ws noted that this five hundred and seven square miles of northeast MS has endured and often prospered through a variety of upheavals.
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