Formation of Lamar County MS WPA History

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        The Demarcation Line, an old landmark of Lamar County, surveyed by engineers, representing the United States Government and Spain in 1798, along the 31st parallel of north latitude, marked the boundary of the territory ceded by Spain to the United States, Spain retaining all the territory south of this line, and the United States taking that part north, which the state of Georgia had asserted its claims for. Most of that part of the territory now called Lamar County lies north of the Demarcation Line.

        A portion of the territory belonging to Georgia was set aside as the Mississippi Territory and Winthrop Sargeant was appointed governor. Under his governorship three counties were established - first, Adams and Pickering, April 2, 1799 and then Washington, June 4, 1800. From these, other counties have been formed.

        Wilkinson was created from a part of Adams, January 30, 1802, Amite, from Wilkinson, February 24, 1809, and Wayne from Washington, December 21, 1809, at the same time another part of Adams was made into Franklin. From these three- Wayne, Franklin, and Amite- Greene and Marion were created December 9, 1811. Marion County was divided into two judicial districts by an act of the legislature, approved March 6, 1888. On February 19, 1904, Lamar was created from the Second Judicial District- the eastern half of Marion- including a small part of northern Pearl River County that had originally been a part of Hancock County, and which was a small section of the territory below the Demarcation Line that was obtained by the treaty of Ghent at the close of the war with England in which Spain was involved, 1812-1815.


        The county, which was named for the illustrious L. Q. C. Lamar, was instituted and began to function April 1, 1904, following the proclamation of governor James K. Vardaman on March 30, at which time the governor appointed officers for the new county as follows: G. W. Holliman, sheriff and tax collector; C. V. Hathorne, clerk of the chancery court and circuit court; T. W. Davis, superintendent of education; J. T. Carley, county treasurer; J. W. Holliman, coroner and ranger; E. McD. Nichols, surveyor; and J. W. Treen (president), D. C. Camp, Willie Powell, T. I. Cameron, and P. M. Bynum, board of supervisors. J. R. Cowart, A. S. Hinton and E. C. Thompson were appointed election comissioners by the State Board of Election Comissioners, and the county was divided into five districts by these comissioners. This appointment stood until the election was held the following May.


        Lamar County is almost a perfect rectangle, except for the northeast corner and slight irregularities on the southern boundary. The county contains 498 square miles, or 316,800 acres. The boundaries are as follows: On the north by Jefferson Davis, Covington, and Forrest Counties; on the east by Forrest and Pearl River Counties; on the south by Pearl River County and on the west by Pearl River and Marion Counties.


        PURVIS, the county seat, with a population of 1000 (1936) is located seventeen miles south of Hattiesburg on U. S. Highway 11. In 1883, where Purvis now stands, there was a huge forest of pine trees with very few inhabitants, but plenty of wild game-deer, turkey, and squirrel. No towns existed in this section until the construction of the New Orleans and Northeastern Railroad, about the year 1883, when villages began to spring up. Among these was Purvis, named by railroad officials after Thomas Melville Purvis, who left Greene County in 1871 and homesteaded 160 acres of land on which the town is now located.

        The legislature of 1888 incorporated Purvis as a municipality, and the same legislature provided for an election on the first Monday in May, 1888, to determine whether Lumberton or Purvis would be the county seat of the Second Judicial District of Marion County. The election resulted in favor of Purvis.

        John H. Purvis, son of Thomas Melville Purvis, was the town's first Mayor and W. H. Polk the first marshall.

        The first meeting of the Board of Supervisors of Marion County, Second Judicial District, was held in the courthouse in this new municipality, June 30, 1890. Those present were: Mr. Hartfield, J. A. McNease, N. A. Silverstein, H. B. Lewis, and J. N. Rankin, president of the board; and M. J. Cowart, sheriff, L. C. Magee, deputy sheriff, A. G. Webb, clerk, and C. C. Mayson, deputy clerk were also there.

        In September, 1892, the position of health officer was created and Dr. J. J. Dearman was appointed.

        In August, 1892, an insurance policy was written on the frame courthouse for $2000, and in September a contract was awarded the Manley Manufacturing Company of Dalton, Georgia, to build a jail for the sum of $2,945. J. T. Carley and W. H. Magee were appointed as comissioners to examine and inspect the new jail. In 1893, J. D. Cain was paid $30 for planting thirty shade trees on the courthouse yard.

        Before the creation of Lamar, while this territory was the Second Judicial District of Marion, the following officers served at the new county sear during the term mentioned: 1896 - 1900 - B. B. Lewis (president), N. L. Ball, W. T. Morris, J. W. Rankin, W. M. Hartfield, supervisors, C. C. Mayson, clerk, W. H. Magee, deputy clerk, and M. C. McLelland, sheriff; 1900 - 1904 - N. L. Ball, president, J. L. Dobson, W. T. Morris, D. N. Milling, C. E. Pigatt, supervisors, J. A. Ball, sheriff, G. W. Holliman, deputy sheriff, and L. C. Wellborn, clerk, and C. V. Hathorne, deputy clerk; 1904 until the appointment of officers for the new county of Lamar-- J. B. Dale (president), J. L. Dobson, W. N. Forbes, J. J. Herring, J. W. Treen, supervisors, I. O. Magee, sheriff, G. W. Holliman, deputy sheriff, L. C. Wellborn, clerk, and C. V. Hathorne, deputy clerk

        Following the appointment of officers, an election was held May 1904, and the board of supervisors were elected as follows; J. W. Treen (president), D. C. Camp, D. D. Stanford, John Whiddon, Sr., and T. W. Lott. A special meeting of this board was held in January, 1905, for the purpose of letting a contract for a new courthouse to be built in Purvis for the sum of $43,516 to P. H. Weathers, architect, Jackson, Mississippi. Before the year was over a beautiful two-story courthouse of brick and stone was completed, and during the same year the mayor and board of alderman declared the town to be a separate municipal school district and in 1906 issued to erect a large two-story brick school building.

        On April 24, 1908, the town of Purvis was practically destroyed by a cyclone. A citizen relates her experience in the storm and thereby gives a clear idea of the damage it did in the county seat:

Click here.

        After the school building was rebuilt, the town remained a separate school district until 1931, when special consolidated school districts were established. Today one school is especially consolidated and constitutes forty one percent of the county enrollment; the other is a large school accommodating all students up to the eighth grade, thus making educational facilities excellent in Purvis.

        In the professional realm there are seven lawyers, two doctors, and one dentist. The business enterprises which constitute the present town (1936) are: several home-owned mercantile stores, two drug stores, three meat markets, two hotels, three barbershops, and two modern gins that run their full capacity during the ginning season. There are six public buildings - four churches and two schools. The town affairs are now in the hands of the following officers; J. T. Carraway, Mayor; Forrest Phillips, marshall and tax collector; Miss Betty Cook, clerk; E. F. Filer, C. E. Wilson, Leon Howard, Burton Barrett, Robert Slay, alderman; Miss Katie Thomas, treasurer. Purvis has a lower tax rate than any other town in the county with no bonded indebtedness and is still in the process of formation, developing into a prosperous little city. The county affairs are in charge of the following officers; Cazzie Entrekin, sheriff and tax collector; S. E. Watts, chancery clerk; Lacy Lott, circuit clerk; H. C. Broadus, tax assessor; Z. A. Foshee, superintendent of education; and E. W. Clinton, representative.


        Before the white settlers came, the Choctaw Indians roamed through the heavy pine timber that grew in abundance over the county. There was an ancient Indian settlement in the extreme northwest end of the county, and there was an Indian Village about ten miles from Sumrall on Black Creek, where the Russell Bridge now spans the creek.

        About the time the battle of New Orleans was fought and won by Andrew Jackson a large tide of immigration poured into the southern section of the present county, principally from the Carolinas. New people were attracted by low-priced lands that could be homesteaded, by the mild climate, the luxurious range for stock, and the cheap living afforded by an abundance of wild game- such as turkey, ducks, geese, and deer, and the corn that could be grown there. Sheep and cattle raising was their main industry. They settled at vantage points, always having an eye for market facilities.

        At this time it was the privilege of any who cleared and cultivated a piece of the earth proved his rights to ownership by constant improvement and living on it sufficiently long to make the title good.

        Prominent among those early settlers were the Dearmans, Landrums, Bounds, Slades, Rouses, Baxters, Stanfords, Hickmans, Fillingames, Fords, Boones, McCloskeys, all coming the later part of 1700 or in the early part of 1800.

        First to come was Felix Ford and his family from North Carolina. He was a wealthy stock raiser and brought his stock with him to the wide ranges and plentiful water supply that South Mississippi afforded at that time. Then came Hezekiah Slade, who was also a stock raiser from North Carolina. Following him were the Stanfords and Baxters from Ireland, who too, were stock raisers looking for good range. These first settlers went through many hardships, building their homes of logs, clearing the land, and seeing after their stock, as at that time wolves and bears roamed the woods and devoured lambs and calves. The nearest trading post to that section was Mobile, Alabama, where beef cattle and wild game were carried once a year on wagons and sold. Trips were made about once a month for supplies, while lonely housewives would make the most of the clothing at home, spinning the thread, then weaving it into cloth by hand on a home-made, very crude spinning wheel, this taking days and days of toil and patience to make enough cloth for even one pair of pants. These folks had courage and labored on and soon gained a livelihood. They began to think of schools and located their first one near Baxterville, naming it the Hugh's school.

        About fifty years after these people came the northern part of Lamar County was settled. Among the first pioneers to settle there were: Lucky Broome, 1860; Watts Lott, Bear Hartin, Zeb Pace, and Bill Pace in 1865; and Billy King, Rayford Russell, Dan Sumrall and Acy Carter in 1866. These old settlers are not known to have been the first to settle the northern part of the county, but they are the oldest ones known by the present inhabitants. It is not known where they originally came from, but most of them moved to Lamar from nearby counties. They all farmed, and each farm or plantation was equipped in such a way that only two or three trips a year had to be made to a trading post. Most of them traded at Pass Christian, Mississippi, a distance of about ninety miles. The trips wee made in ox-wagons and required about eleven days in good weather. There were no trading posts or settlements within the county until about 1870. The oldest houses remaining that were a part of these early settlements are only about fifty-five years old.

        LUMBERTON, formerly an Indian Village, is the oldest settlement in Lamar County of which any knowledge is available. It was settled by a Mr. Proctor, who is said to have been the first white man to locate in this section. He caught and marked wild cattle that roamed the forest. Soon after him came Mr. O'Bannion, then Eli Dearman, who built a log cabin just west of the present site of the railroad station. The city's present location - that is, on the 31st parallel of north latitude, embracing parts of sections one and two, township one south, range 5 west-, parts of sections 30 and 31, township one north, range 14; sections 25 and 36, township one north range 15 west- was embraced within the boundaries of Pearl River County, established February 22, 1890. The boundaries of Marion county were later extended south to the 31st parallel, thus embracing the above sections 30, 31 and 15, and 36, leaving a part of the town in Pearl River County.

        After Lumberton was incorporated as a village in 1895 the division by the demarcation line occasioned some trouble among the county's political division. Election day gives an illustration of their interest in politics. At the Dearman precinct, six votes were cast, and after the polls were closed the ballot box was entrusted to a man who rode on horseback to Columbia, the county seat of Marion, forty miles away- prior to the formation of Lamar. He was instructed to stay until he could secure election returns from the entire county, which required several days. The voters would celebrate the report with a shooting match, using their ancient flintlocks. There had always been a rivalry between Lumberton and Poplarville in Pearl River County, even after a part of Lumberton was embraced by Marion County. During the fall of 1903, when there was an epidemic of smallpox, Lumberton's authorities quarantined the town and employed guards at an expense of $200 or $300 dollars, but later, when Pearl River County was requested to reimburse the town on authority of the board of supervisors to pay the bill they declined to do so. This refusal so disgruntled the Lumberton people that they asked to be permitted to become a part of the recently created county of Lamar; thereupon an amended bill was introduced in the legislature, known as Senate Bill No. 291 and in this bill the Lumberton territory became part of Lamar County. However, not until May 5, 1927 was Lumberton located and organized as a city.

        SUMRALL, or the present town site of Sumrall was located one hundred years ago by Watts Lott, who never entered claim for the land. He reared a large family, and when he died his sons settled and cleared the land. His oldest son, Arthur Lott, built and maintained a water mill and grist mill, which was located on a road now called Highway 42. He later sold this mill to Daniel Sumrall, who built a gin. Two years later a post office was built; this was in 1890. It was named "Sumrall" for Dan Sumrall.

        In 1891 the J. J. Newman Lumber Company bought this water mill and gin and built a large sawmill. The Mississippi Central Railroad came through about that time and a small depot was constructed. The work of building a town, railroad and sawmill occupied the people. The town grew rapidly and soon had a population of 3000.

        Italians and Philippino Negroes were employed to build the dummy lines or branch lines, of the railroad that ran into the woods where the timber was cut. Most of the labor was done with picks and shovels.

        The first merchandise was brought in a box car and sold to the people from the doors of the car, where it was side tracked on the railroad.

        All the excitement of a big lumber camp was once in this peaceful little town. Wages were high and trains began running on a regular schedule; the mill began operation, employing two shifts a day and a night crew. The town grew rapidly and soon had a population of over 3000. The merchants, doctors and mill foremen formed the most select social groups of the town and set the standards of living.

        In 1932 when the timber was all cut, the mill closed. People began drifting away to find employment elsewhere, and the population decreased to about 1500. Now with its few business houses, post office, two gins, and several grist mills, this little town depends entirely upon agriculture. It is located in the extreme northern part of Lamar County and covers 100 square miles.

        TALOWAH is located six miles north of Lumberton on the New Orleans and Northern Railroad. It was settled by Jimmie Bounds,(it later says his first name was Gillum) who came from North Carolina to this section during the latter part of the 1700s. He settled his first home on the place now owned by Wilmer Griffen, called the Jimmie Bounds place, located on Black Creek between Purvis and Brooklyn. He was a farmer and stock raiser- the crops being corn, sweet potatoes, and rice, and the stock horses, cattle and sheep. He was noted for hunting wild game and fishing. When he killed wild deer, he would cure the meat, and dry the hides and sell them at the nearest trading post, Mobile, Alabama, making the trip in an ox wagon. About 1860 he moved to what is now Talowah and settled the place, locating where the cemetery is now located.

        In 1882 the railroad came through and made it a flagstop; in 1915 a group of Seventh Day Adventists came and still reside there, having their own school and church.

        OKOHOLA is a flagstop six miles north of Purvis on the New Orleans and Northeastern Railroad, settled by the Boones, about 1860. It is surrounded by farm homes, with a school as the center of the community. Near it a historical Indian Mound is located.

        OLOH is a village on the Northwestern part of Lamar County, settled about 1865 by the Collins family after the War Between The States. They have a church and school there.

        PURVIS, or the present town site of Purvis, though larger, but not as old as the four previously discussed, was homesteaded by Thomas Melvin Purvis in 1871. Mr. Purvis' family consisted on his wife, Abney, two sons, John B. and Oliver S., and two daughters, Susan, who married Plummer Ladner, and Katherine, who married W. Henry Fillingame. He and his family were, during the early period of settlement, progressive, substantial and leading citizens of the town and county.

        His pioneer home was a two room log cabin, with a large open fireplace in one room, which was used for cooking as well as for heating purposes. Later his family ran the first boarding house for fifty men working on the New Orleans and Northwestern Railroad.

        Long before the railroad was put through he owned a large portion of that section of the county and sold the land for the right-of-way to the railroad company. When the town sprang up it was named for him. In 1884 the railroad was completed and was known as the New Orleans and Northeastern Railroad, being changed later to the Southern. It was Mrs. Anna Bufkin's privilege to be a member of one of the first families to live in the section house, as her husband was one that helped grade and build this part of the railroad.

        There wasn't enough water to supply the section families so they got water from a common spring just across the railroad that had been used by Grandpa Purvis (Melvin Purvis). Other than the section houses the place was sparsely populated. Right behind the section houses were two small houses; Andrew Hartfield's family occupied one, and a Dr. Brial the other. Dr. B. N. Ainsworth lived out on the place now knows as the county farm. There wasn't a dwelling house from the section houses to where John Carley lived. His home was one of the first section houses built in Purvis after the railroad was put through in 1883. The lumber for the house was sawed and hauled from his old mill near Columbia, thirty five miles away.

        Houses were built before the timber was cut and cleared away, and the only wayfares were narrow foot-paths leading from house to house. As the people began to move in the need of religious contact was felt so church services were held in the open with logs for seats.

        A church was built in 1884 for the use of all denominations. It was also used for a school house with A. M. Carley from Columbia as teacher. In 1885 the Methodists built a small church and in 1886 the Baptists did likewise.

        John Portman's mill, located two miles northeast of Purvis, was the first in the county. However, about the year 1885 Ed and John Fairley established one in Purvis, locating it in the hollow below the place where Mr. Carraway now lives and operated it for several years. After the Fairleys discontinued operating their mill J. T. Carley established one that eventually James Hand took over, establishing a larger one in its stead on the railroad just north of the depot, which he and F. H. Jordan operated for a long time, helping the city's growth.

        PIATONIA is a flag stop, one mile north of Lumberton, supposed to be named for the Indians. It was settled by John B. Harris in 1883. In this same year a small depot was built by the New Orleans and Northeastern Railroad Company, who planned to build a large town here, but this plan did not materialize because the Camp and Hinton Brothers located a sawmill in Lumberton and defeated the hope of a town at Piatonia.

        OAK GROVE is a small settlement in Lamar County six miles west of Purvis. Elijah Ladner settled there in 1884 with a large herd of sheep and cattle. Later he sold his interest to a Mr. Mucklewrath, who was followed by other settlers. It is identified by a school, church and small store.

        RICHBURG is a flag station on the New Orleans and Northeastern Railroad, six miles south of Hattiesburg. It is named for Charlie Rich, who operated a sawmill here in 1888. He built a typical little sawmill town with a school, church, etc., but after the sawmill closed Richburg shrank back to its former state.

        BAXTERVILLE, a village in the western part of Lamar, was settled in 1890 by Thomas Baxter, a farmer and cattle raiser, who, originally from Ireland, emigrated to Virginia in 1648 and later came to Mississippi. He was soon followed by the Byrds. These men reared large families and soon built a school. When the sawmill industry was at its zenith, Baxterville became the center of one or two mills. After these closed, the town settled back into a quiet little village, with the descendants of the first settlers as its only citizens. They have a school, church, post office and one store.

        SENECA is a small flag stop four miles north of Lumberton on the New Orleans and Northeastern Railroad. In 1910 a band of German Catholics bought a large tract of land there near what used to be Slabtown and erected a church and school. This colony, although handicapped by poor land, has prospered by truck farming and dairying.

        DAVIS was a post office located in Pine Grove Community years ago, but is now extinct.


        HEZEKIAH SLADE came from North Carolina in the year of 1700, married Helena Victoria Taylor and settled a place on Black Creek. He was very illiterate but after a while a learned man came to board with them and taught Mr. Slade and his wife to read and write. In just a short time Mr. Slade was able to transact his own business affairs successfully. He and his wife are both buried in an old out-of-the-way-place known as Choctaw Fork.

        "GRANDFATHER" STANFORD came from Ireland in 1820 and settled a place on Clear Creek four miles west of Baxterville, that grew and became known as the Clear Creek Community. He reared a large family that became prominent citizens of Lamar County.

        DANIEL BOONE, originally from Kentucky, came to this part of the country from Tennessee during slavery time and settled a place, now belonging to Tatum Lumber Company, called the Boone Community or Boone Cemetery, located on Black Creek in the Okahola Community. Mr. Boone reared a large family, the oldest living descendant being a grandson, Daniel Boone, age 80, who lives with a daughter at Tatum Camp.

        ARTHUR STEWART, grandfather of R. A. Stewart, about one hundred years ago lived on what was "Stewart's Settlement", the place now occupied by Tom Cagle in the Pine Grove community. When he died on a return trip from Columbia, Mississippi, he was buried on Perkin's Creek, and around his grave a large cemetery, called Graham Cemetery, has grown.

        JOHN LOTT, according to deed records of Lamar County, entered a tract of land from the U. S. Government in 1840 that is now owned by Mrs. Frank Burkhalter located in the Rockybranch Community that was originally known as the Lott settlement. Mr. Lott is the grandfather of Ira John, and Alvin Lott of Rockybranch. During the time of his settlement, there was little land in that section that was not owned by the Federal Government.

        WILLIAM LANDRUM came to Mississippi from the State of Alabama at the age of nineteen years. Having been reared in a farm, he settled in a place eight miles east of Lumberton, where Forest, Lamar, and Pearl River counties now join. He reared a large family of children, all having long passed away.

        JOHN A. MCLEOD, who now lives in Hattiesburg, was among the first settlers of Purvis. About the time construction of the railroad began, McLeod came and erected a small log store building and engaged in general mercantile business, which was profitable. He soon erected a large brick store building and organized a corporation, called McLeod and Company, which operated at Purvis until about 1914; although he had moved to Hattiesburg, where he also conducted a mercantile business.

        CHARLIE SLADE moved to Purvis during the time the railroad was being constructed, erected a boarding house, and opened a beer shop.

        J. T. CARLEY came to Purvis soon after the railroad was built and engaged in the mercantile business, and when Lamar County was established he was elected as the first treasurer and served until 1918. He took a prominent and leading part in the developments of the town and community.

        W. J. AND J. B. CALHOUN moved to Purvis with their families about the year 1888, and established a turpentine still and continued in business there until 1898.

        GEORGE NORTHOPE came to Purvis about the time the railroad was completed and engaged in the Mercantile business.

        H. V. WAITS, coming from Georgia in 1904, is a merchant and a farmer and Sumrall's oldest and best loved living citizen. His family also is outstanding in the little town of Sumrall, in Lamar County, and in the state of Mississippi.


        CHOCTAW FORK, a fork-shaped level between two reed-brakes, is located two miles northeast of Lumberton. It is said by old settlers that a band of Choctaw Indians camped here, thus giving its name.

        LOST JOHN was a flag stop on the Gulf and Ship Island railroad three miles west of Baxterville, so named for a Negro named John who became lost here and couldn't be found.

        COAL TOWN was a small community located four miles southwest of Purvis on Purvis and Oloh road. Years ago, older people say, every family in this community burned charcoal to sell, that they might buy food for their family, giving the community the name of "Coaltown".

        BURNT BRIDGE COMMUNITY is about ten miles northwest of Purvis. One night the bridge that spanned Black Creek, a creek that runs through that territory, burned, and thereafter the community was known by that name.

        SNUFF RIDGE is a small community ten miles west of Purvis. Years ago there were a lot of frolics given in this community when almost everyone dipped snuff.

        PEA RIDGE is a small community thirteen miles west of Purvis. Years ago, older people say, a man in this community planted more peas than any other farmer near him.

        BENNETT'S MEMORIAL PARK, located in the town of Purvis, near the depot, is named for R. L. Bennett, who was cashier of the Lamar County Bank for a number of years and is now deceased.

        MILITARY SCHOOL and MILITARY CHURCH, two miles south of Sumrall on Jackson's Military Road, get their names from the road that is named in honor of Andrew Jackson.

        YAWN SCHOOL, located five miles north of Lumberton, is named for Honorable H. G. Yawn, a public spirited man, a leader, and a statesman, who was instrumental in establishing the school.


        DEVIL'S BACKBONE is the name given to the ragged hills near Baxterville that has the appearance of a backbone.

        HUB HILL, located on the Purvis and Columbia Road, about three miles west of Baxterville, was named for the village of Hub.

        BLACK CREEK HILL is located on U. S. Highway 11, seven miles south of Purvis near Black Creek.

        SAND HILLS, obviously where sand is thick and soft, is located in Pine Grove Community. An old lady was hired once, long ago, to burn some of the sand from these hills to go on the railroad rails to keep the train from slipping in rainy weather.

        RED HILLS, located in the Pine Grove Community, were so named for their beauty. The dirt on the hill is very dark red.

        MOSS LAKE, located three miles west of Purvis, is called Moss Lake because all the trees around are covered with Moss

        LITTLE RIVER, a small stream that flows through the northwestern part of Lamar County, was named by the early settlers for its size.

        SAWED HORN SPRINGS is located several miles south of Purvis, named for Sawed Horn Sam Slade, who settled the place and discovered the Springs. He attained the name, himself, in the Battle of Shiloh, when he was shot through the nose, giving it the appearance of a horn that had been sawed from an ox.

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