RAYMOND
A History... 1821-1876

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.

by
Beth Ferguson

 

PART I

The Heart of Hinds County
in the 19th Century

 

     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
     Seven years after Hinds County was established, Andrew Jackson appointed three commissioners, John B. Peyton, John A. Fairchild, and Levi Bankston,  to select a site near the center of the county for the county seat.3  Approximately 5 miles from the then flourishing town of Clinton which was serving as the temporary county seat, the center of the county was located. (This spot is marked today by a large stone enclosed by a chain link fence on the Clinton-Raymond Road.)
     Following the narrow dirt road for about two miles from this spot, the commission found that the elevation of the land began to rise gradually to a high point overlooking rich fertile fields, forests, and bottom lands. This lovely spot was owned by Raymond Roberts of Clinton, who agreed to give one square mile for the county seat on the condition that the new town be named for him. The commission decided to use the first name, Raymond.4
     Preparations were immediately made for the construction of a courthouse and jail in the new town. Among the early settlers in Raymond were William S. Little and James Callahan who formed a building company.5 The first courthouse in Raymond was erected by this company in the year 1827.6 The following description of the first courthouse was made by George W. Harper who was a publisher, mayor and leading citizen of Raymond and Hinds County during its formative years :

When I arrived in Raymond in 1844, one of the first things I saw was the old brick courthouse. It was a strangely constructed building with a spire running Heavenward, with a bright tin roof that sparkled in the sun and fairly dimmed the eyes of those beholding it.7

     The 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
     At first the only road linking Raymond with the outside world was the narrow dirt road from Clinton to near Utica which passed through the site of Raymond. A stage coach passed daily and the horses were changed at Raymond. The Natchez Trace ran about a mile and a half from the center of town. In such a desirable location, Raymond soon became a thriving community with roads leading in every direction.
     By 1837 the small courthouse could no longer contain all the records and the Circuit Clerk and Probate Offices were moved to a new brick building facing the courthouse square. Behind this building, facing the Clinton Road was the original Post Office. Next, was a long building with a wide porch which was known as Professional Row. This building housed the offices of the town's doctors, lawyers, and dentists.9
     In these early years there was a great demand for newspapers. Before there was even a house completed at the site of Raymond, S. J. King commenced to issue the Public Echo which in 1836 was succeeded by the Raymond Times. The best political sheet published in Raymond was the Snag Boat which was printed for only six months in 1840. The Comet, a Democratic paper, was also published in Raymond.10
     The Southwestern Farmer, an excellent journal resulting from the State Agricultural Society of 1840, was also published in Raymond.11 It was with this publication that George W. Harper found employment when he came south from Virginia in 1844. The journal suffered losses on collections due to the system of receiving subscriptions on credit, and was discontinued after only four years.
     In 1844, George W. Harper and S. T. King established the Raymond Gazette, which Mr. Harper continued editing for 40 years and was succeeded by his son. Constituting a famous triumvirate of early editors of Mississippi were J. S. Mason of the Port Gibson Reveille, Thomas Grafton of the Natchez Democrat, and George W. Harper of the Raymond Gazette.12
     The Raymond Gazette later became known as the Hinds County Gazette, and is published today in the building mentioned above in which the Circuit Clerk and Probate Offices were in 1837. (Editor's note: In 1990, The Probate Building was remolded into the home of Isla and Max Tullos. The Hinds County Gazette has moved to 110 Port Gibson Street and is published by Mary Ann Keith). The Hinds County Gazette is listed among the four oldest existing newspapers now published in Mississippi.13
     The following quotation from a letter describes many early homes in the Raymond area :

When the first families came and made their homes in Hinds County, which was then called the "New Purchase," they did not come exactly as the usual pioneer. They brought their servants, their carriages, and those things which make life comfortable, even in a new country. They built good homes, some of them exact replicas of the Old Virginia or South Carolina homes that they had left behind. They set up a standard of living and society which was second to none.14


     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.

FOOTNOTES

  1. John K. Bettersworth, Mississippi: A History, Austin: The Steck Company, 1959, p. 168.
  2. Ibid.. p. 168.
  3. Mrs. Hugh B. Gillespie, Sr., Hinds County Gazette, 1946.
  4. Rowland Dunbar, History of Mississippi, 2 Vols. Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1925, II, p. 738.
  5. Mrs. Jane Brent, A History of Raymond United Methodist Church and the Town of Raymond, Mississippi, 1937-1971, 1944.
  6. Office of the Chancery Clerk, Hinds County, Second Judicial District, Raymond. Mississippi, Deed Book 1, p. 265.
  7. Mrs. Jane Brent, A History of Raymond United Methodist Church and the Town of Raymond, Mississippi, 1937-1971, 1944.
  8. Rowland Dunbar, History of Mississippi, 2 Vols., Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1925, II p. 738.
  9. Mrs. Hugh B. Gillespie, Sr., Hinds County Gazette, 1946.
 10. Rowland Dunbar, History of Mississippi, 2 Vols., Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1925, II. p. 616.
 11. John K. Bettersworth, Mississippi: A History, Austin: The Steck Company, 1959, p. 237.
 12. John H. Moore, Journal of Mississippi History, April 1960.
  13. Rowland Dunbar, History of Mississippi, 2 Vols., Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1925, II p. 620.
  14. Mrs. Jane Brent, A History of Raymond United Methodist Church and the Town of Raymond, Mississippi, 1937-1971, 1944.
  15. Office of the Chancery Clerk, Hinds County, Second Judicial District, Raymond, Mississippi, Deed Book 22, p. 754,
  16. Mrs. Hugh B. Gillespie, Sr., Hinds County Gazette, 1946.
  17. Robert Lowry and William H. McCardle, A History of Mississippi, Jackson: R. H. Henry and Company. 1891, p. 311.
  18. John K. Bettersworth, Mississippi: A History, Austin: The Steck Company, 1959, p. 273.
  19. The Mississippi Commission of the War Between the States, Mississippi in the War Between the States, Jackson, 1960, p. 35.
  21. Carl Mclntire, Clarion-Ledger and Jackson Daily News, September 21, 1969.
  21. Mayor James H. Adams, Interview, (Raymond, February 1975).
  22. Rowland Dunbar, History of Mississippi, 2 Vols., Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1925, II, p. 868.
  23. Mrs. Hugh B. Gillespie, Sr., Hinds County Gazette, 1946.
  24. James Wilford Garner, Reconstruction In Mississippi, Gloucester: The Macmillan Company, 1901. p. 14.
  25. James Wilford Garner, Reconstruction In Mississippi, Gloucester: The Macmillan Company, 1901. p. 14.
  26. Ibid. p. 52.
  27. Ibid. p. 136-137.
  28. Ibid. p. 1127.
  29. Ibid. p. 126-136.

Part II
THE DISMAL DECADE FOR RAYMOND, 1866 - 1876

2003, Beth Ferguson Fike, all rights reserved