A Kaleidoscope of History
The Raymond Courthouse
Because of Raymond's position as the county seat the town continued to prosper and gain prominence. During the 1840's Amsterdam, Clinton and Raymond were the three leading centers in Hinds County. In 1903 S.S. Prentiss, a reporter for the Daily Clarion-Ledger, wrote an article for the paper describing the importance of these three towns during the 1840's and 1850's... "Amsterdam was the seat of commerce, Clinton was the seat of learning, and Raymond was the seat of Justice. " Raymond retained this distinction until 1859 when the county was divided into two Judicial Districts with Jackson as the county seat of the 1st district and Raymond the county seat of the 2nd district.
With the growth and expansion of Raymond during these early years came the need for a new and larger courthouse. The old courthouse that stood in the middle of the town square (present site of water tower) had outgrown itself. In 1855 George Harper, editor of the Gazette, wrote an editorial in his paper urging his fellow Raymondites to support the construction of a new courthouse so as to finally end the debate over moving the county seat to Jackson. (Hinds County Gazette, Dec. 26, 1855). Obviously the citizens of Raymond felt that if a new courthouse was built - one that would represent Hinds County as well as reflect the architectural elegance of the deep south - it would prevent the moving of the county seat to Jackson.
The Courthouse was designed and constructed by two Scotch-Irish immigrant brothers, George and Tom Weldon. Actually, some historical records show that another brother, William, was also a part of the construction. With the idea that Raymond's role in county government would be signified by a grand and glorious courthouse the town of Raymond sought the best architects that could be found. The Weldon brothers, noted throughout the state for their architectural skills, were the chosen ones. They trained 100 slaves in construction techniques and built many courthouses and residences throughout the state including the old Warren County Courthouse in Vicksburg. The actual building of the courthouse began in 1857. George Harper wrote an article in the March 25, 1857 issue of the Hinds County Gazette that announced the foundation work of the courthouse was completed and all the brick needed for the project was ready. He also added.... "the structure will be an ornament to the village, and a monument of the good taste, public spirit and liberality of the people of Hinds County." The work was completed two years later in 1859.
The courthouse, Greek Revival architectural style, was constructed of brick covered with scored stucco. Innovative ideas were included by the Weldon brothers in the original plans such as central air conditioning and heating - but due to excessive cost were not installed. The plans also called for the installation of a fire extinguisher - layers of sand between the first and second floor that would extinguish any fire that broke out on the first floor - but even now after 130 years of use the extinguisher has never been put to the test. The beautiful columns, located on all four sides, were made of curved brick that was molded on the site by the slaves. These columns seemed to add the finishing touch to the courthouse and made it "in vogue" with the southern architectural style popular at the time. The fence, as well as the monument to Confederate soldiers, was added later.
The beauty of the courthouse - only four years old - was temporarily marred with the blood of Confederate soldiers. By 1863 it had become a hospital for wounded soldiers as well as a courthouse.
In 1969 a very interesting incident occurred in Memphis. A former Raymond resident, Dr. McIntosh, was practicing medicine in Memphis and on the wall of his waiting room was a painting of the Raymond Courthouse. He was very proud of Raymond and often talked about "his town" to his patients. One of the patients, Miss Martin, was antique hunting in Memphis and while shopping noticed an old mirror being removed from a dresser. During the process some old papers fell from behind the mirror. After looking the papers over she found the name RAYMOND mentioned - and - with Dr. McIntosh in mind asked for possession of the papers. Miss Martin then took the papers to Dr. McIntosh. That is how - after 110 years - the original plans for the construction of the Raymond Courthouse were found. Dr. McIntosh then contacted the Mayor of Raymond, James Hermon Adams, and consequentlythe plans were placed in the Mississippi Archives of History.
The National Archives of History has listed the Raymond Courthouse to be one of the ten most perfect constructed buildings in the United States.
Through the years many cameras have focused their attention on this beautiful courthouse not only the exterior but also the interior! The spacious rooms and halls, reminiscent of "days gone by" contain valuable records that go back as far as the year 1830. One of the proudest moments in the history of the courthouse would have been in 1904 or 1905 when the monument to the Confederate soldiers was dedicated. Veterans came to celebrate the event. The monument bears the inscription: "WE OF THE SOUTH REMEMBER; WE OF THE SOUTH REVERE."
Historical notes from Mississippi Archives of History and History of Raymond, Beth Ferguson. Photos courtesy of Mrs. James Hermon (Mary) Adams.
© 1998-2005, all rights reserved