Two award winning papers on a period in history of Raymond, Mississippi, a small Southern town, County Seat of the Second Judicial District of Hinds County, Mississippi.
The Heart of Hinds County
On February 12, 1821, the legislature
of the State of Mississippi passed an act declaring that a portion of
the tract of land ceded to the United States by the Choctaw Nation on
October 18, 1820, be called and known by the name of Hinds County.1
The name was in honor of General Thomas Hinds, one of the Commissioners
appointed to negotiate with the Choctaw Nation to obtain 5,500,000 acres
of land for the United States.2
town of Raymond soon began to grow around this structure. Little and
Callahan erected a number of the early buildings in Raymond. Raymond's
first jail was built of logs and located next to the site of the present
Methodist Church. (This jail was later replaced by a stone jail near the
town square, and was used by the entire county.) In the year 1829, with
a courthouse and jail in operation, Raymond was designated by the
Mississippi Legislature as the permanent county seat.8
The beautiful and historic Waverly was built by John B. Peyton for his family's home at the edge of the town limits. John B. Peyton was one of the commissioners who founded Raymond. This home is now being restored by a descendant, Mr. Erwin Peyton. George W. Harper, editor of the Raymond Gazette, built his home in Raymond before the Civil War. The Old Beale Home, a two story structure, was one of the town's oldest homes. Many eminent visitors to Raymond were entertained here, including President Andrew Jackson. (This home is no longer in existence.)
The Methodist Church, built in 1834, was the first church building in Raymond. Other churches in the early years of Raymond's history included the Baptist Church built in 1845 on the same site as the present building, St. Mark's Episcopal erected in 1852, The Immaculate Conception Catholic Church built in 1885, and the Presbyterian Church built in 1870. (The original Episcopal and Catholic Church buildings are still being used.)
At an early time the people of Raymond realized the need of formal education for their children. In 1844, a Female Academy was established and was used as a school, gospel house, and dwelling.15 The original schoolhouse for males was a small brick building that stood where the present black Methodist Church stands. It. was built in 1845 and used until 1862, when General Grant's army entered Raymond.
There were two famous health resorts near Raymond which were noted during the 1840's. Mississippi Springs was a place of interest which included an amusement hall, cottages, and a library. Cooper's Wells, another romantic spot, has an interesting story of its origin. Reverend Preston Cooper dreamed over and over that an angel told him to "dig, Cooper, dig," which he did until he reached the health giving waters. Cooper's Wells became a fashionable summer resort in the 1880's and 1890's. Many of the visitors to Cooper's Wells stayed in the Oak Tree Hotel located in the courthouse square area.
Raymond was at one time the home of General H. S. Foote, who later served as Governor of Mississippi. While in Raymond he wrote a two volume book entitled Texas and the Texans.
In 1846, a military company called the Raymond Fencibles was formed. Young men and boys from the best families of Raymond and the area made up the regiment. The Raymond Fencibles fought gallantly defending the Union in the Mexican War. Jefferson Davis, who later served as President of the Confederacy, served as their Colonel in the Mexican War. This group became part of the First Mississippi Regiment after Mississippi seceded from the Union in 1861.17
With the growth of Raymond and Hinds County in the 1840's the need for a larger courthouse was once again felt. The Weldon brothers, George, William and Tom were Scotch-Irish immigrants who became known as gentlemen builders in this area. Using 100 slaves, who they taught the mechanic pursuits they had built many homes and courthouses.18 From 1853-1857 they directed their skilled slave labor in building the Hinds County Courthouse.19 Rare ideas for modern installations, such as central heating and air conditioning, were included in the plans, but were considered unnecessary expenses and were never installed. However, fire extinguishers were installed. (The fire extinguishers are still there and have never been used.) Layers of sand between the first and second stories would extinguish any fire that broke out below and also proved to be useful in soundproofing the courtroom. The walls of the Courthouse were made of brick covered with white plaster. Columns on the front, back and sides added the finishing touch to the outer appearance of the building. The columns were made of curved brick that was molded by the workers at the site of the building.20 (The Hinds County Courthouse in Raymond is listed in the National Archives as one of the 10 most perfectly constructed buildings in the United States. See picture on cover.)
(A coincidental discovery of the original plans of the new courthouse occurred in 1969 in Memphis, Tennessee. Dr. McIntosh, who once lived in Raymond, proudly features a picture of the courthouse in his Memphis office. One of his patients, a Miss Martin, noticed the painting and the doctor told her about the building. When visiting an antique furniture store, Miss Martin noticed an aged document drop to the floor as a mirror was being removed from an antique dresser. Upon examining the papers, she noted it mentioned Raymond and remembered Dr. McIntosh's interest in the town. She secured the document for him which turned out to be the original plans for the courthouse. Dr. McIntosh in turn sent them to James H. Adams, Mayor of Raymond, who had this valuable document placed in the Mississippi Archives.) 21
The tranquility of the early years in Raymond was interrupted when the South was engaged in the bloody Civil War. Raymondites were leaving to join the other states in the army of the Confederate States of America. By 1863, the South was suffering the final defeats of this terrible war and Grant's army of 75,000 Yankee troops made its way toward Raymond. On May 12, 1863, General Gregg of the Confederacy held his troops at the intersecting Utica and Cayuga Roads. Here his small group of soldiers met the Yankees in a raging battle that lasted three hours. Gregg then had to retreat to Raymond because he was so greatly outnumbered.
The Confederate loss in the Battle of Raymond was 73 killed, 250 wounded, and 190 missing. Federal loss was 66 killed, 339 wounded and 37 captured.22 The dead were buried in a common grave in what was known as the Odd Fellows Cemetery. (Today there are 73 headstones placed in this area by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in memory of those who lost their lives in the Battle of Raymond.)
The beauty of the then new Courthouse was temporarily smeared by the blood of the Confederate soldiers when the building was used as a hospital for the wounded. The Oak Tree Hotel, Episcopal Church, Baptist Church and many of the homes in Raymond served as hospitals after the Battle of Raymond.
The Union troops occupied Raymond for only two weeks following the battle. General Grant made his headquarters in Waverly, the home of Major John B. Peyton. It was from this home of one of Raymond's first settlers that General Grant gave his orders on May 13, 1865. The reason Raymond was not burned when Grant passed through, as were many beautiful Southern towns, must have been because of the great number of wounded soldiers in the village.23
The Period of Reconstruction after the Civil War meant a time of struggle to the people of Raymond, as it did to other towns in the South. Although Grant did not burn the town when he passed through, his troops did scar many of the homes, crops, railroads and buildings in Raymond. The office equipment and accumulated records of 25 years of the Hinds County Gazette were destroyed.24
As early as July 27, 1863, General Sherman reported that leading citizens of Mississippi had "implored" him to take some action by which peace might be restored and the state readmitted to the Union.25 However, Mississippi was not readmitted to the United States of America until May 22, 1865, when all Confederate troops had surrendered.26
In politics many carpetbaggers, men who took advantage of the defeated South, and Negroes filled government offices. During this time Raymond had a Negro sheriff and other Negro and carpetbagger officials.27
At the close of the war the number of newspapers published in Mississippi had been reduced from 50 to 14, but by April, 1866, there were again 50 newspapers being published.28 The Hinds County Gazette was back in operation again in Raymond in 1865.
Raymond had been an agricultural town depending on cotton for most of the town's income. At this time, Confederate money was worthless. Since the economy of the entire South was ruined, there were many pains in paying off debts and re-establishing farms and homes, especially without the help of Negro slaves. Some plantation owners began hiring white immigrant workers to cultivate their land and pick their cotton. Many of the free slaves had gone to the North for work. The remorseless energy and thrift of the Northern planter , and the exact service he required did not appeal to the free Negro slaves, who were accustomed to the patience and forbearance of the Southern planter.29
Raymond, like the rest of the South, took years to recover from the Civil War and Reconstruction. In time, however, this community began to regain its place as one of the economic and agricultural centers of the state. Though the nature of its economy has changed over the years, Raymond, in the heart of Hinds County, remains a small, peaceful community, filled with the rich heritage of the 19th century days.
1. John K.
Bettersworth, Mississippi: A History, Austin: The Steck Company, 1959,
© 2003, Beth Ferguson Fike, all rights reserved