Pontotoc, the county seat, was incorporated in 1837, and now, 1888, has a population of 2,018. Thomas C. McMackin and his wife Lucinda donated the ground upon which the town is located, the date of the transaction was May 4, 1836. The United States Land Office and the Chickasaw Land Bank were formerly located here. The United States Court was held here for a number of years. (1)
There was considerable rivalry in locating the town between Judge Pinson at Old Pontotoc, where two or three trading sites were located in remote times, and Benjamin Anderson, who had a thriving settlement at Victoria, on our northwest limits, and Thomas C. McMackin, the proprietor of a tavern in the present town. A combination of interests however was affected by the two latter gentlemen, in which Victoria was abandoned, and Pontotoc agreed upon for the site of the town. John Bell, surveyor general for the Chickasaw lands, made the survey, and the entire section four which was entered on the land office books by Lowacha, an Indian, on January 25, 1836, was sold to Thomas McMackin for $1,000. The first month after the purchase McMackin realized $80,000 from lots. He built a log hotel in the town capable of accommodating four hundred guests and stables for one hundred horses. In three months there were forty retail stores and thirty grocery stores located in the new town. Property changed hands to the amount of $30,000 per day for four years. McMackin facetiously remarked once that such a place was "never seen before by the eyes of man and would never be seen again."(2)
The hills around the town were covered with wagons filled with gold and silver, kegs of silver were used as seats in the storehouses, and strange to say, not a robbery was committed during those times. (3)
The government of the town was administered by a justice of the peace, a board of selectmen, and a town constable. It is on record that Dove Mitchell, selectman, served as mayor, October 26, 1859.
The first term of court for the county of Pontotoc was held in Dagget's store the second Monday after the fourth Monday in the year of our Lord 1836. (4)
The public square on which the courthouse was built was donated by Thomas McMackin and his wife, Lucinda. Colonel Joel Pinson was given the contract for the building and Benjamin Anderson had the contract for clearing the land and laying off the streets.
Photograph, "Rauch House" "McMackin Hotel"
The first seat of justice was erected in the center of "the square" which is now used as a park. The building was finished in 1839 and Federal Court was held there until the War Between The States. (5) It is said that the courthouse was not burned because two wings of the building were built by the federal government.
Before Pontotoc was laid out however, in the spring of 1836, there were habitations fringing the town. On the east, where the home of W. T. Potter now stands was the home of W. Y. Gholson, a noted Whig politician of the early days. (See Boxwood Place, Chapter 6, Antebellum days.) He became obsessed of the idea that there would be an uprising of the slaves, so he sold his property, including slaves, and moved to Ohio. He was later elected to the Supreme Bench in that state claiming in his canvass that he freed his negroes before leaving here. It is of record that he sold them for all he could get and pocketed the proceeds.(6)
On the corner of this lot, 19, next to the square, was also located a "grocery" operated by Horace Daggett, where the first courthouse stood until the building was erected in the square that served the county so long. On the west side of the street where the courthouse now stands, Mr. Anderson was "mine host" to judge Samuel Gholson, Alexander Keith McClung, of the Federal Court, and other noted men of the period.
Memories will long cluster around these Saturns , but the handsome and heroic figure of Colonel McClung whose fame as a duelist scared sleep from his pillow so he would not retire at night, but pace his room through the long hours and catch brief snatches of sleep, fully dressed or reclining on a chair or a sofa. He was a drinking man and when he came here to serve the United States court as marshal or on some matter connected with his official duties Mr. Anderson had Caesar, a negro slave, to look after and serve the morose desperate guest.
The hotel was located on the east corner of this block and two or three lawyer's offices were built in the same block to the west, facing court square, one of which was occupied by Jacob Thompson. Frame structures predominated for a long time in the building of Pontotoc. The east side first began to build with brick. In late years these have been torn down or remodeled, and there are very few of the original brick buildings still standing.
The building in which the Sentinel is now housed, the old Bolton Drug Store next door, the little brick office of the New York and Mississippi Land Company, to the rear, and the Duke Building across the street, to the west, are perhaps nearer the original structure than any houses in the business district. Most of the merchandise used prior to and during reconstruction days was obtained from merchants in Holly Springs. It was brought in wagons drawn by oxen.
(1) Goodspeed's Memoirs of Mississippi, Vol. I, p. 261 - 262
(2) Col. James Gordon, Pontotoc Home Journal, Sept. 14, 1888
(4) minutes of the board of selectmen, 1836.
(5) County records, Chancery Clerk's Office, Pontotoc, Miss.