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.

Beth Ferguson


The Dismal Decade For Raymond, 1866-1876

    The period of reconstruction after the War Between the States was a time of struggle for the people of Raymond. The peaceful community in the heart of Hinds County had thrived for approximately forty years, since Raymond had become the county seat in 1827.
     Men were returning to Raymond who had joined the Southern army in the struggle for what had been their way of life. Some of these soldiers suffered from loss of arms and legs, and some never returned. By the Act of 1867, some of the disabled veterans received a pension for the loss of a limb from their body.2
     Before the war, several large cotton plantations were located in the Raymond area. One was Burleigh, located between Raymond and Dry Grove, which had 4,000 acres of land with a labor force of about 500 slaves.3 Mr. John Shelton, a Raymond attorney, was an intimate friend of the owner, Thomas Dabney. Dabney was forced during these troublesome years to put the beloved plantation up for auction, but with the help of his friend, Mr. Shelton, he retained the privilege of buying the plantation back in a certain time. Many honorable men in the South were forced to claim the benefits of the bankrupt law, but Dabney refused to listen to such a proposal offered by his friends.4 Dabney was determined to keep his daughters from having to do hard work. Out of devotion to his family he did everything physically possible to pay his debt. At seventy years of age he had never performed manual labor, but Dabney learned to use a hoe as a means of supplying his family with vegetables. Three years before his death in 1885, the last of the debt on Burleigh was paid.5
     The planter with his large plantation had suffered severely from the destruction of the war, but the small farmers also bore heavy burdens.6 Fences were down, fields were infested with weeds, farm tools and work animals were scarce, and there was no available labor force.7 Soon landowners began to bargain with the unskilled freedmen who had no means of livelihood. Sharecropping began! The landowners furnished the land, work stock, and equipment. Cash expenses and receipts were shared on a fifty-fifty basis after the harvest. Along with the land ostensibly came cabins, enclosures for cows, hogs, and hens, and a patch for the vegetable garden for the Negro family. Gentlemen farmers still felt that Negroes had to be cared for, and this they did in return for labor.8
     "The basest fraud on earth" declared the Hinds County Gazette, "is agriculture. No wonder Cain killed his brother. He was a tiller of the ground. Agriculture would demoralize a saint." 9 This appears to be an accurate picture of agriculture around Raymond after the war.
     The war also had devastating results on the publication of newspapers in Mississippi. By the close of the war the number of papers was reduced from fifty to fourteen in publication. In Raymond the press of the Hinds County Gazette was destroyed and its type dumped into a well during the Vicksburg Campaign in May, 1863.10 The office equipment of the Hinds County Gazette, and records which had been accumulated for twenty-five years were destroyed.11
     By October, 1865, publication of the Hinds County Gazette in Raymond had resumed by Major Harper who returned to Raymond after serving in the Confederate Army. Harper has been referred to as the "dean of Mississippi editors."12 His home which is now owned by the E. E. Jacksons, was used as a hospital after the Battle of Raymond. Major Harper was a respected citizen of the village of Raymond having served as mayor of the town before the war. He was an active member of the Methodist Church, a Mason, and an Odd Fellow. In 1875, he was elected to the Mississippi Legislature.13
     Although General Grant did not burn the town of Raymond when he passed through, his troops did threaten to burn many of the homes, buildings, crops and railroad. Perhaps the reason they did not burn any buildings was because 331 wounded Union soldiers were hospitalized in the Raymond Courthouse, The Episcopal Church, The Oak Tree Hotel and in homes in Raymond.14
     For many, the winter of 1867-1868 was the worst of the series of difficult seasons to come. Society was leveled to a state of destitution by the economic catastrophe of the time.15 As throughout the South, property in the Raymond area declined to its lowest level since the settlement of the state and good land was practically given away (usually at the rate of twenty-three to twenty-five cents an acre) to satisfy claims.16
     The first railroad in Hinds County was the eight mile track of wooden rail connecting Raymond and Bolton. (The railroad cut ran between the Gillespie and Peyton property at the North end of town.) It had been used chiefly to transport agricultural supplies before the war. At the close of the war many railroads had been destroyed and the Raymond Railroad Company was not used anymore.17 The fact that the South was not in a position to keep her railroads in good repair and runnin gorder was one factor in the South's defeat.18 An amusing story is told of one of the early engineers on the Raymond line. A Negro was walking the track toward Bolton. The engineer asked him if he wished a ride. "Naw Sir Boss," was the reply. "I'se in a hurry to get to Bolton."19
    The first church building constructed in Raymond consisted of two very large rooms-one upper story, which was used as a lodge by the different clubs of Raymond, and the lower story was used as a place of worship for all denominations in Raymond. This church, built in 1837 on land given by Francis Devine, was called the "Raymond Church" and was located at the present site of the Methodist Church. Various programs and concerts were given here, sometimes with as many as 100 children taking part.20
     The Raymond Methodist Church had been founded in 1837, but did not have a separate place of worship. The Methodists purchased the lower portion of the "Raymond Church" in 1844 and organized the Methodist Sunday School and Church. The trustees' names in the deed were Arthur Isham, Thomas I. Hunter, George W. Osburn, Samuel King, Thomas Mount, Thomas Downing, and Cornelius Vanderpoole. Thomas I. Hunter proved to be a strong leader in the church by serving as Sunday School superintendent and song leader.21
     The Raymond Presbyterian Church was organized in 1842 under the leadership of Reverend Silas H. Hazard of the Clinton Presbytery. In the autumn of 1868, a lot was bought, and a church building was constructed. The present auditorium stands exactly the size as when it was erected. Originally, the floor was level and the rostrum was made of one by twelve planks. In later years the church was remodeled, and an inclined floor and pulpit rails were installed.22
      Raymond's first Baptist Church building was constructed in 1844. It was located at the site of the present Baptist Church. The original building burned in the early twentieth century and a new building was constructed.23
      The Immaculate Conception Catholic Church was established as a Parish in 1870 by a priest from Greenville. The present building was constructed in 1885.24 St. Mark's Episcopal Church which was organized in 1837 and the building erected in 1854, stands today along with the Raymond Courthouse as one of the town's most historic buildings.25
      The Methodist Church erected a balcony for Negro slaves. Some slaves continued to worship in the white churches in Raymond during the War Between the States; and after the war some former slaves were still permitted to be a part of the churches. Eveline Shearer, a slave of the Shearer family, kept her membership in the Raymond Methodist Church until the 1960's26 In 1843, Roda Saulsbury, a colored servant of Dr. J. R. Daughtery, became a member of the Raymond Presbyterian Church.27
       On May 12, 1868, the children of Raymond celebrated the thirty-fourth anniversary of the Raymond Sunday School, at the Methodist Church. An interesting event took place at this celebration. At 6 o'clock in the morning the children and teachers assembled at the beautiful residence of Major Harper, on the south side of town. At evening the children formed a procession and carried banners through every street of the village. They were cheered by all the citizens of the community-black and white. The procession ended at the Female Institution at the North end of the village where they were served supper by the ladies of Raymond.
     Raymond had several private schools for white students. (Public schools were not established in Raymond until after 1876) .The Methodist Female Seminary was located on the adjoining Biggs and Gillespie property. The establishment consisted of several buildings, and accommodated some boarding students.26 A new school for male and female students was organized during the years of reconstruction. This school was called the Spring Ridge Male and Female Academy, and was located between Raymond and Byram.29
     William Thomas Ratliff, an outstanding military leader during the Civil War opened a male military school in his home, that is now owned by the E. E. Thrash family. Large windows in the front of the house were made into doors, and the downstairs rooms were used as classrooms. The young boys loved attending school under Colonel Ratliff.30 Colonel Ratliff was a leading citizen of Raymond. He held the offices of probate clerk, chancery clerk, sheriff, and county administrator. After the war he became chairman of the Hinds County Democratic League, a group which helped overthrow the carpetbag regime in Hinds County.31
      New homes were being built in Raymond despite the dismal economic, social, and political conditions of the time. An example is the Gillespie home on Oak Street. It was built by Chalmers Williamson and later bought by Cade Gillespie, Sr., a Confederate veteran and lawyer of the village. Across the street from the Courthouse, a hotel was built in much the same architectural style as the Gillespie home.
      After the war the South was divided into five districts. Mississippi and Arkansas made up the fourth military district, under the command of Major General E. C. Ord, who was stationed at Vicksburg. General Ord had almost unlimited power. When it pleased his fancy, he set aside state laws and court decisions. White men who were accused of crime were often refused trial by jury and were court-martialed, or tried in army style. Only a small number of white citizens were permitted to vote.32 The voting citizens were required to take an oath that stated that they never supported The Confederate States of America. When the citizens of Raymond registered to vote only 366 persons did so. Out of the 366, there were no white voters.33
       During Ord's administration, a convention was called to decide on the necessary steps before the state could be taken back into the Union. An election was held in Raymond to elect representatives to attend the convention. The election was conducted by four white scalawags, all of whom except McCloy (of the federal army who had resided in Raymond since the surrender) were strangers to the people of the community. The election was a Negro arrangement exclusively, not a white man approached the polls. The Negroes simply carried out the orders of the white thieves.34 To the great distress of the few white representatives who were allowed to take part, the convention was run almost entirely by uneducated Negroes.35
     In the Hinds County election of 1867, a Negro was elected as coroner, as sheriff, and two as state representatives. These were all residents of Raymond.36 Finally on February 23, 1870, Grant approved the bill readmitting Mississippi into full fellowship in the Union.37
     The Ku Klux Klan made its appearance in Raymond and in other parts of Mississippi. This shadowy organization threatened the uneasy political equilibrium in the state and signified the determination of many whites to carry the election by any means possible, albeit short of racial war or military repression.38 The Klan was basically concerned about the illiterate Negroes that were becoming active in the political affairs of the state. Patriotic white citizens felt that they could not stand by and watch as the Scalawags gained the confidence of the freed Negroes.39
     The freedmen were different from the slaves that the people of Raymond had known. The freed slaves were described in the Hinds County Gazette in 1866, "Negroes drink mean whiskey, frollick with carpetbaggers, chew cheap tobacco, and kiss the scallawags."40
     The Democrats were ready to do away with Republican control. The Democratic Campaign Committee immediately went to work to decide on a plan of sure victory for the democrats. W. Calvin Wells of Raymond, secretary of the Democratic Campaign committee of Hinds County in 1875, outlined the policies to be followed in the campaign. In summary form they were:41

1. Organize a solidly Democrat front.
2. Intimidate Negroes if persuasion fails.
3. Stuff the ballot box with Democrat tickets.
4. Destroy Republican tickets.
5. Substitute Democratic for Republican tickets for illiterate Negroes.
6. If these plans do not work. then count out the Republicans and count the Democrats in.

One of the most horrible events of this dismal decade was the Clinton Riot which involved several citizens of Raymond. The riot erupted from a Republican meeting held just outside of Clinton. Attending the meeting were about 1,000 Negro Republicans and about 100 white Democrats. Judge Amos R. Johnston opened the meeting for the Democrats. Suddenly there was a small uprising and a single shot sounded. When the shot was heard there was a mad rush of Negroes and three or four of them were killed. Some of the whites were wounded while seeking escape from the scene of the riot. Frank Thompson, a lawyer from Raymond, was wounded and lost so much blood in the escape that he fell from his horse. When he was found later, he was dead. After the shooting in the valley, the whites retreated and were met by a party of armed Negroes who knocked down Martin Sivly, another citizen of Raymond. Sivly reached an open field near the Raymond Depot before he was overtaken by the Negroes who beat him with fence posts. This beating cost Sivly his life.42
     The Clinton Riot Of September 4, 1875, certainly convinced the white Democrats of Raymond and the rest of Mississippi of the need for political unity in the state. The Clinton Riot, as it became known throughout the state, was the focal point for Democratic orators during the weeks before the election of 1876. Democrats claimed an impending race war could be avoided only by the complete restoration of Democratic control of the state government.43
     Following the Clinton Riot there was a sharp decline in Republican strength throughout the state and in the Raymond area. This decline was attributed to several factors. Among them were methods of intimidation borrowed from the First Mississippi Plan of 1875, some Negro and white Republicans switched to the Democratic Party, and finally, many Negroes were disfranchised because of the complex election law passed by the Democratic legislature of 1876, which required Negro voters to know the section, township, and range in which they lived.44
     The bold Southern people who had sacrificed so much in the Civil War were, at last, victorious in the election of 1876. The Democrats experienced a sweeping win, and during the following years, the men who dominated the political, economic, and social scene in Mississippi were a colorful group.45 Most of these men were Veterans of the Civil War.46
     Dismal as the decade was for Raymond, the town did have one advantage over many Southern towns. Raymond was not burned. This helped the town recover from the ravages of war. Business and farming slowly recovered in the 1870's. Raymond, however, never reached its pre-war conditions until the twentieth century. Recovery was slow and conditions were very hard for those living in the dismal decade of 1866-1876.

Part III

2003, Beth Ferguson Fike, all rights reserved