Franklin county was organized on the 21st day December, 1809, which was about eight years before Mississippi was admitted into the Union as a State.
The county, at present, is bounded by beginning at the northwest corner of township seven, range one, east; then east? to a point one mile ?north of a orange line between ranges five and six, east; then south on the section line, one miles from said range? west to the township line between townships four and five; and hence west with said township line to the Homochitto river; thence down with the meandering of said river to the basis meridian line; thence north to the beginning. The area of the county is five hundred and fifty six square miles, and is about thirty seven miles from east to west, and eighteen miles from north to south.
In the early history of the county it was very sparsely settled. The population in 1812 was one thousand two hundred and sixty whites, seven hundred and thirty-five slaves and thirteen others, making a total population of two thousand and sixteen.
According to the census enumerations the population from 1820 to 1890 is as follows: In 1820, three thousand eight hundred and twenty-one; in 1830, four thousand six hundred and twenty-two; in 1840, four thousand seven hundred and seventy-five; in 1850, five thousand five hundred and four; in 1860, eight thousand two hundred and sixty-?four; in 1870, seven thousand four hundred and ninety-eight; in 1880, nine thousand seven hundred and twenty-nine; in 1890, ten thousand four hundred and twenty-four.
In the early settlement of the county cotton, corn and various other agricultural products grew in abundance without the application of fertilizers so commonly used at the present time. In those days wild animals were here in large numbers, such as deer, wild cats, wolves and foxes. There were also turkeys and other fowls in large numbers.
Wolves were a terror to the county. So numerous were these destructive animals people would devise some plan by which to capture them. Pens were constructed with trap doors and they were cleverly caught in this way. They were decoyed to the pen by having it baited with fresh meat. It was no common occurrence for one to go out only a short distance from the house and claim for his victim the wild buck which daily roved over the forest beneath the dense foliage, for then the country was not so dense populated. However, at present, these animals are almost entirely exterminated.
Society in those days was altogether different to what it is now. Churches were very few in number as also were all other society organizations.
Houses were mostly build of logs as it was very difficult to secure lumber. The saw Mills which are now so conveniently situated in the yellow pine region and the sound of the whistles we daily hear were not known then. The only possible means by which lumber could be secured was by the use of the old upright rip-saw like the father of Daniel Webster used when young Webster assisted him at the mill. Of course such facilities for manufacturing lumber were very inadequate. When one was fortunate enough to secure lumber it had to be dressed by the old common hand plane, as there were no planers then.
Among the first settlers of the county were John Porter, Willis Magee, grandfather of Judge Thomas A. Magee, whose sketch is contained within this volume, John Ford, father of Mr. Jessie Ford, who is one of the oldest ment in the county living, Joseph Porter. Willis Magee had eight sons, viz: Louis, Jonathan, Duncan, Joseph, Hugh, Owen H. and Phillip.
Joseph Scott, an old time settler, had four sons: Gabriel, Nehemiah, Joseph, Jr.; and Benjamin.
The county site was at first located at Franklin About two and a half miles west of Meadville, the present county site. Meadville was made the county site about eighty years ago. The land where the town is now located was donated for a county site by Judge William Proby, with the provision that if it should ever cease to be used for the purpose for which it was given then it should revert back to him or his legal representatives. The present courthouse was built in 1869 by a man named Stanford, from one of the northern states. In 1877 this commodious brick structure was destroyed by fire. It was afterwards rebuild by Mr. George Steward, of Summit, Miss. When the contract was let out by the Board of Supervisors there were several bidders, among the number were: Mr. W. M. Wentworth, Capt. A. E. Moreton and Mr. Stewart, to whom the contract was let for $5,850.00. Of course the contractor furnished all material and paid the workmen. The work was speedily done and the officers could now occupy their respective offices and the court of justice could be held at the same old stand.
Before the building of the Illinois Central railroad the people of Franklin county did their trading in Natchez; it being the nearest market. Those of East Franklin turned their trade to this road after its construction. After the building of the Louisville, New Orleans and Texas railroad, which runs through the western portion of the county from north to south, a great many who live in Central and West Franklin turned their trade to this road. A number of people of this locality still do considerable trading in Natchez. The railroad just mentioned was build through the county in 1884. It was after a few years purchased by the Illinois Central railroad company and its name changed to Yazoo and Mississippi Valley railroad.
There were a large number of slave owners in the county prior to the war; among the number were Dr. William P. Dodds, John Newman, Lee Calcote, Judge Thomas A. Magee, James Harrington, Benona Lee and Archie Buie. When the slaves were set free it was a heavy loss to them for their fortunes, for which they had toiled so hard consisted principally of this property and it was indeed a heavy loss to them. But by pluck and energy they or their descendents have replaced their lost fortunes.
While the war period lasted the women did the very best they could under the circumstances. When the conscript law was passed and all the men and boys were pressed into service, that could possibly be used, they faced the conflict bravely and heroically, doing all within their power to assist those who were off in the war fighting for the maintenance of the Confederacy by carrying on business at home, furnishing food and clothing and nursing the sick and wounded. Flour and coffee, owing to the blockade, could not be purchased at any price. Bolted meal was used as a substitute for flour. Meal brand, dried sweet potatoes, parched corn, okry seed and rough rice were used as substitutes for coffee. The manner in which they went through with the hardships and privations during the late civil war will long be cherished in loving remembrance by posterity. The old Confederate veterans who fought so bravely for what they thought to be the ???? ts will also be loved and honored.
The principal streams of Franklin county are the Homochitto river, McCall's creek, Middle Fork, Morgan's Fork, Well's creek, Porter's creek and Magee's creek. The watering facilities are excellent. Formerly the lands lying along those water courses were subject to frequent overflows, but this has not been the case within the last few years, owing to the fact that the banks have caved, which affords a wider channel for the water when it rises. The reason that we assign for the banks caving is that the land has been cleared up along the streams and of course after the roots decay the banks give away, when the water rises.
The land along the valley of the streams just referred to are real productive, though not so much as it used to be. We have always had good timber in this county, which has greatly enhanced the value of the land. Franklin county was named in honor of Benjamin Franklin, the great philosopher. The present county site, Meadville, was named in honor of Gen. Cowles Mead, who was Secretary of Mississippi territory in 1805. The town of Meadville has never attained any great notoriety commercially, yet before the war the place contained several stores that did good business. Even since the war some real lively business has been done there. The town now has every advantage of rising to commercial prominence, should there ever be a railroad to come through the place. The proposed Natchez and Gulf Port railroad, should it ever be built will almost center the town. The citizens of the county capitol subscribed liberally toward defraying the expenses of the survey in order to have the railroad go through the town. This was done the first day of the present year, (1898) and the survey was made through in a few days after the funds were subscribed. Capt. W. H. Hardy, of Meridian; is the promoter of the proposed railroad.
In the first settlement of the county there were a large number of Indian inhabitants. They delighted in hunting and trading, and were great experts in making baskets. There was a great animosity existing between the Indian and the Negro.
Cane breaks were numerous in those days, which afforded a fine range for stock.
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BY CAROLYN JEAN ADAMS SWITZER.
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