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History of Perry County

Abstract of WPA Notes

In December, 1809 Wayne County, Mississippi Territory was formed from Choctaw Indian lands obtained through The Treaty of Mount Dexter in 1805. On December 9, 1811 Greene County was created out of Wayne county. Perry County was established February 3, 1820, and originally formed the western part of the large county of Greene primarily because the settlers didn't want to cross the river to get to the Courthouse!

History tells us that as more and more people arrived, they began to settle along the creeks and rivers in western Greene county. The pioneers once again began to complain about having to cross the river to conduct business at the courthouse. Thus, the movement began to create a separate county with a courthouse above the Leaf River instead of below. (Greene County's Courthouse was built on Leaf river at Boise (French for wood) Bluff which was the highest point on the river in Greene County and relatively safe from Indian attacks. Boise Bluff is located between Atkinson and Courthouse Creeks about 3/4 miler upriver from present day Highway 98 Bridge at McLain.)

This movement was led by the Gains family who owned 1,300 acres on both sides of the creek bearing their name (Gaines Creek). George S. Gains was the government's Indian factor (agent) at St. Stephens and knew most of the territorial officials personally. Gaines used his influence with those officials to get the federal land office moved from the Jackson County Courthouse to Augusta, the largest settlement in western Greene county. The people no longer had to travel to St. Stephens on the Tombigbee river to record their land deeds.

By 1819 the Augusta land office was in operation and a new county was ready to be formed, on February 3, 1820, Perry County was born and named for War of 1812 Naval Hero, Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry who died in 1819. Once Perry County was formed, the Greene County Courthouse on the western edge of Greene County and this led to its relocation to Leakesville, which was closer to the center of the county, around 1826.

Its civil officers during the first year of its existence were: Jacob H. MORRIS, Chief Justice of the Quorum and John JENKINS, John GREEN, Jacob CARTER, Craven P. MOFFITT, Associate Justices; Alex. McKENZIE, Eli MOFFITT, Benjamin H.G. HARFIELD, William HUDSON, John MOFFIT, Seth GRANBERRY, Lewis W. John McDONALD, Assessor and Collector; Geo. HARRISON, Ranger; Joel LEWIS, Surveyor; John BARLOW, Constable; Wm. TISDALE, Coroner, J.J.H. MORRIS, Notary PUBLIC, Martin CHADWICK, Sheriff. Some of the other county officers, 1821-1827, were Griffin HOLLOMON, J.J.H. MORRIS, John F. MAPP, Abner CARTER, Judges of Probate; Lewis RHODES, Sheriff; Anthony PITTS, Adam ULMER, Jonathan TAYLOR, Geo. B. DAMERON, Sterling BRINSON, John DEACE, Daniel MILEY, James SIMMONS, Sherod BYRD, Isham H. CLAYTON, James OVERSTREET, Uriah MILLSAPP, Justices of the Peace; Hugh McDONALD, Treasurer; Farr PROCTOR, Go. HARRISON, Lewis RHODES, Assessors and Collectors. (See all Early Settlers of Perry County).

Perry County was settled by a large number of hardy pioneers along its many waterways, and is located in the southeastern part of the State, in the long-leaf pine belt, and is bounded on the north by Jones and Wayne counties, on the east by Greene County, on the south by Harrison county and on the west by Lamar and Pearl River Counties, and has an area of twenty-six townships, or 936 square miles. The Leaf River was a main mode of transportation during the early years, being utilized by the many loggers of the County to transport the logs to the Mississippi Gulf Coast area. Many of the early settlers were Farmers, both food and livestock. The principal streams are the Leaf River, which flows through the center of the county from the northwest to the southeast with its numerous tributaries and Black Creek and its tributaries in the southern part. The prevailing timber is the long leaf pine, but on the rivers and creeks, oaks, hickory, poplar, magnolia, gums, cypress, etc., are found.

Its population has always been small in proportion to its acres. Within recent years its valuable timber resources have been partially exploited and it has taken on a new and permanent growth; from a total of 6,456 inhabitants in 1890, increased to 14,682 in 1900, a rate of increase considerably in excess of one hundred per cent.

The county seat, until 1906 was the old town of Augusta, near the center of the county on the east bank of the Leaf River. Old August remains a small village today.

New Augusta, two miles south of Old Augusta, on the Mobile, Jackson & Kansas City R.R., was made the county seat of Perry County. Hattiesburg which was formerly in the northwestern part of the county, and up until the early 1900s was one of the two county seats of Perry County, is a flourishing city which is now the "capital" of Forrest County.

Sources: Richard Roman, Birth of Perry County, The Richton Dispatch Vol 91 No. 18.; Rowland, Dunbar, LL.D, editor. MISSISSIPPI; COMPRISING SKETCHES OF COUNTIES, TOWNS, EVENTS, INSTITUTIONS, AND PERSONS, ARRANGED IN CYCLOPEDIC FORM , v. 2. c1907, Southern Historical Pub. Association, Atlanta.

Page last Modified: Sunday, 10-Jan-2010 09:06:47 EST