"Raymond Years Ago"

By George W. Harper

Journalist - Editor - Owner Of Hinds County Gazette 1845-1883

A Series Published in the Hinds County Gazette, 1878-1879

From the Gillespie Collections edited by Pattie Adams Snowball and Rebecca Blackwell Drake


History Home Page

"Raymond Years Ago"

Home Page

Part I

Harper Arrives in Mississippi

Vicksburg & Meridian RR

Businesses in 1844

The Raymond Bar

Early Merchants

Part II

1844 Businesses

Seat of Justice

Cotton Industry

Early Churches

Part III

Establishment of Schools

John B. Peyton

Raymond Area Homes

Medicinal Resorts & Spas

Part IV

The Mexican War

Early Churches

Early Schools

Raymond Female Institute

Raymond Military Institute

McNutt-Foote Debate

Part V

1844 Presidential Election

Local Elections of 1845

Literary Raymond

Raymond Fires

Old Log Jail

Part VI

Death of Jos. Stewart

Murder of Benj. Sims

Duel Ends in Death

Part VII

Raymond & Bolton RR

Harper Elected Mayor

Chaos at Oak Tree Hotel


Great Fire of 1858

Early Area Settlements

  • Amsterdam

  • Yeizer's Store

  • Newtown

  • Meridian Springs

  • Sturgiss Store

  • Dry Grove

  • County Line

Part IX

Rev. Fisk's Biology Class

Fisk Charged with Fraud

Part X

Fleetwood Tragedy

Local Racetracks

Dignitaries Visit Raymond

Winning the Lottery

Fire Company No. 1

Part XI

"Devoted & Valued Friend"

Tribute to Amos Johnson

Part XII

Yellow Fever Strikes Raymond

Doctors Treating Victims

Cooper's Well

Mississippi Springs


Newspaper Entrepreneurs

Yankees Sack Gazette Office

Fate of Editorial Giants

Part XIV

Henry Clay Defeated in 1844

Stray Cats in Raymond

"A Remarkable Occurrence"

Blow That Punky Bell to Hell"

Isom Bldgs Destroyed

Part XV

1851 Gubernatorial Election

Union Ticket Sweeps State

Part XVI

New Raymond Courthouse

Gibbs Building Rebuilt

Hinds Co. Poor House

Schools Struggle

Murder of Addie Owens


War comes to Raymond

The Battle of Raymond

Willie Foote Captured

Make-shift Hospitals

Yankees Occupy Raymond


Raymond Lodge No. 21

Odd-Fellows' Graveyard

Bolls Incarceration

Crimes Blamed on Whisky

Peyton's Willow Tree Prank

Part XIX

Politics in Raymond

Presidential Election 1860

Hinds Co. for Succession

Raymond Fencibles Organized

Churches Reorganize

Part XX

The Clinton Riot of 1875

Why the Great Uneasiness?

Deaths of Sivley & Thomson

"Kill the Raymond Men"

Part XXI

Harrison Election

Political Gatherings

Event at Dupree's Grove

Presidential Election 1876


Governor Ames Impeached

Great Wrongs Investigated

Fight the Devil with Fire


Reconstruction Era

Harper Ends with Poetic Vision

Part VI


The Death of Jos. W. Stewart

One of the saddest and most deeply lamented accidents that every occurred in Raymond, happened in 1846. It was then the custom of the young men of the town, (and in some instances the old men, too,) to meet in the afternoon about where the steam gin now stands and make up horse races for amusement from the stock of the town and neighborhood, the track being the public road from the point designated to Snake creek bridge. Large numbers of the citizens would collect at this point every afternoon - and especially on the afternoon of Saturday - when races would be made up in which great interest was sometimes exhibited. John Gallman lived in the town at that time, and happened to get hold of a common looking horse, which, however, succeeded in beating every other horse in the town and neighborhood.

Jos. W. Stewart, who was then probate clerk, and one of the most beloved men of the county, had had his favorite saddle horse beaten by Gallman’s imported animal, and determined to introduce a new horse, but before doing so concluded to try his speed on the track with another horse, owned by W. S. Belcher. And, for this purpose, Mr. Stewart and Mr. Belcher, very early one pleasant morning, repaired to Snake creek bridge, and from there started, each on his horse. Soon after starting Mr. Stewart’s horse broke from his control, and rushing wildly off to the left hand, among the buses and trees, dashed Mr. Stewart’s head against a tree. He fell from his horse dead - his neck was broken. We never knew a better man than Jos. W. Stewart, and in his death the entire community deeply sympathized. He was followed to the grave by the Masons and Odd-Fellows, and a very large concourse of people and heartfelt were the lamentations throughout the county. And, this sad and most melancholy occurrence closed the racing on the track described.

The Murder of Benj. G. Sims

One of the most thrilling scenes that we ever witnessed in a court of justice, took place in the old courthouse in Raymond. In 1846, and exposed the perpetrators of one of the most brutal murders in the annals of crime in this county. Benj. G. Sims was a highly intelligent and substantial planter, living on the place three miles from town, now owned by H. D. Austin. He opened up that place in 1839 and ’40 - built the residence gin, &c, and off to the south of the residence put up a steam saw mill.

In 1846 he had an overseer named Fontaine Silas, and a manager at the mill named Keithler, a Canadian. Silas was a very weak and illiterate man, but Keithler was strong-minded, some what educated, and a scoundrel. As the running of the mill and its business was pretty much confided to Keithler, Sims agreed to give him a part of the profits as a remuneration, and thus he became a sort of a partner with Sims in the mill business; and from the day that arrangement was made Keithler commenced plotting for the murder of Sims, as afterwards appeared, he supposing that on the death of Sims the mill property would become his. About this time Sims discharged Silas from his employ, who, however merely removed from his quarters on the plantation to the mill, sharing bed and board with Keithler. Soon afterwards, about sunset one evening, as Sims was riding from a field where he had been giving orders to his hands, and a quarter of a mile from his residence, Silas, who was secreted behind a fence, fired upon Sims, and failing to kill him on the first fire, jumped over the fence, and either shot him again or beat him over the head with a club, and then ran to the woods, leaving him for dead. A daughter of Mr. Sims, then 11 or 12 years old, (and now Mrs. Geo. W. Harper of Raymond) walking out from home towards the field for the purpose of meeting her father, witnessed at a distance the whole transaction, and instantly gave the alarm. Sims was taken home and died within a day or two.

On the representations of the daughter of the murdered man, Silas was tracked to the mill, where he was arrested and brought to town by Ganes Bankston, who then lived near the Sims place, and who now lives in Carroll county. An examining court was at once organized for investigating the case, composed of Magistrates W. G. Jennings, and Geo. W. Harper. Gen. H. S. Foote promptly appeared as prosecutor, (he being a brother-in-law of Sims,) and J. J. Davenport appeared for the defence [sic]. The daughter was the only witness called, and proceeded to give the details of the murder in the most simple and child-like manner, under the tender questioning of Gen. Foote, when Silas, who up to that moment had manifested much carelessness and indifference, broke entirely down, and crying aloud in the most heart-broken manner, confessed to the whole transaction, charging that he had been urged to the crime by Keithler, who had promised him, (Silas) a half share in the mill. The court, the lawyers, and the large crowd of citizens assembled, were profoundly impressed at the confession and its manner, and for five minutes or more Silas continued his lamentations that he had permitted himself to be led to the commission of the crime, crying aloud most piteously for mercy from God and man.

Henry S. Foote, Prosecutor

Gen. Foote at once called for the papers necessary for the arrest of Keithler. Officers were immediately dispatched for him. He was found at the mill, and engaged in writing. He was brought at once into court and face to face with Silas, who then vehemently, and honestly, repeated all he had before said. Keithler cowered before the imprecations hurled upon his head by the illiterate Silas, but satisfied himself merely by saying it was “all a lie.” The bystanders, however, were satisfied of the truth of Silas’ confession. Gen. Foote, although elected in the meantime to the U. S. Senate, followed up the case most industriously. Silas had his final trial at Port Gibson, was found guilty of murder, and was hung at that place. Keithler, we believe, was also tried, and found guilty as an accessory but died in the old stone jail before he was sentenced. The case caused much feeling at t the time, and at the outset there was a strong disposition to hang Keithler without a trial - but the law, happily, was allowed to take its course.

Duel Ends in Death of Hill and Chase

We have witnessed many fisticuffs and many more serious affrays, in Raymond, since 1844, but the most serious affair of the sort occurred in 1861. Dr. Chase had been a resident of the town about a year; and had the reputation of being a good dentist and an intelligent gentleman. A man by the name of Hill was in the employ of A. J. Johnston, at his liver stable. A difficulty of some sort arose between Chase and Hill, and they met one evening about sunset, in the street near the building where A. L. Roux now resides. Both parties, after the exchange of some words while at a distance from one another, commenced advancing and firing. Both exhibited wonderful courage and determination. In a good cause it would have been worthy of universal commendation. As it was, it was likened only to madmen rushing to destruction. In the encounter, a bystander, Col. W. A. Robinson, was seriously wounded in the leg; Hill fell dead on the field; and Chase, after lingering a week or two, died from the effects of wounds received. The history of the town presents no other encounter equally desperate, or perhaps of less necessity.

Historic note: The young daughter who witnessed the murder of her father was Anna Sims who later married George Harper, owner and editor of the Hinds County Gazette.

All photographs and illustrations were edited into the series by Pattie Snowball and Rebecca Drake.

Copyright © 2008  PattieAdams Snowball, James and Rebecca Drake