Issaquena Genealogy and History Project: A History of Sharkey County

History of Sharkey County

Source:  Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Mississippi,  Chicago:  The Goodspeed Publishing Company, 1891.

Volume I, pp. 204-05

Note: This Sharkey County History is presented because Sharkey County was organized during the 1870s from a large portion of Issaquena County, including a small portion of Washington and Warren counties. Much of the history presented here is a history of old Issaquena County also, because prior to 1876 much of Sharkey County was, in fact, Issaquena County.

      Sharkey county is bounded on the north by Washington, east by Yazoo, south by Issaquena and west by Louisana (note: this is incorrect as Sharkey is bounded on the west by Issaquena, one of its parent counties). The county lies entirely in the Mississippi bottom and the surface is level.  The county is drained by the Sunflower river and by Deer creek, which flow through the entire length from north to south, nearly parallel, and at Rolling fork Deer creek divides, the largest prong making an abrupt turn forming almost a right angle with Deer creek, and flows nearly east for about five miles, emptying into the Sunflower river. This is  known as Rolling Fork, and was named by Thomas Y. Chaney on his first visit here in 1826, on account of the swiftness of the current immediately preceding its emptying into the Sunflower.

     The soil of Sharkey county is of a black loam, deep and inexhaustible in every portion of the county, and bids fair to be the richest agricultural county in the state. Unimproved land can be bought for $10 per acre, and the best improved farms from $40 to $50 per acre. The products are corn, cotton, oats, potatoes and sorghum. Pasturage is very extensive and good.

     The mound builders were active in this section, there being probably one hundred mounds in all of Sharkey county, the largest being one on Murphy’s bayou, in the north part of the county. This one towers above the treetops. Just south of Rolling Fork there is a group of five, the largest of which is about fifty feet high, almost round and very regular in form. This group is on a crescent ridge about half a mile in length. Nearly all of them in this county are found in groups and many of them are very prominent and regular in form.

     The act creating Sharkey county was approved March 29,1876, and it was formed from the counties of Issaquena, Washington and Warren. Rolling Fork is the county seat.

     The following were the first officers: Hon. Leigh Clark, representative; Henry Picard, chancery and circuit clerk; J.H. Robertson, sheriff; T.C. Watson, treasurer; J.G. Davis, assessor. Col. W.T. Barnard is president of the board of supervisors, the other members being J.A.C. Shrader, Eugene Clark, A.P. Ferguson, D. Hunt.

     The first settler in the county was Thomas Y. Chaney, who in 1828, settled at the head of Rolling Fork. The second was Benjamin F. Bookout, in 1829, on what is now known as the Helena plantation; and about three years later Mr. Bookout sold to Redding B. Heron. About the same time came Daniel Portman and John and Elish Sulsor, all of whom died of cholera in 1831. Their settlement was about half a mile below Rolling Fork. Richard Armstrong came about the same time and soon after Col. William Rushing, who purchased Mr. Armstrong’s place. John Murphy settled on Rolling fork and Thomas Beasley, an old bachelor, near the mouth of Rolling Fork, where he lived a hermit life. Calvin Belcher came from New York in 1831, a young man, and was the first settler on the Sunflower river. He was a very illiterate and very eccentric man and a great hunter, and was known as the David Crockett of Mississipi. Judge S.S. Prentiss, who frequently hunted with him, once said of him that he was the smartest man he ever knew for an uneducated one.

     There are thirty-three school districts in the county – ten white and twenty-three colored. The first newspaper was the Deer Creek Advance, established in the early part of 1881 by Charles Murphy, and edited and published by him till he was killed in the summer of the same year. In the following fall the Deer Creek Review was started by Charles N. Jones. This continued till some time in 1883 when it suspended and on September 6, 1884, appeared the first issue of the Deer Creek Pilot by S.W. Langford, which has since continued publication.

     In 1883 the Louisville, New Orleans & Texas railroad was built through the county and the first train reached Rolling Fork October 27, 1883. The town of Rolling Fork was incorporated with John Harsh, as the first mayor. The charter was sometime afterward surrendered for about two years, but was again revived, and the present mayor is J.E. Butler.

     The postoffice was established in 1848, with Thomas Redwood as first postmaster, who was also the first merchant in the county. The postoffice was named Rolling Fork, for the name of the first plantation in the county, on which it was located. This was the plantation of Thomas Y. Chaney, the first settler of the county.

     The population of Sharkey county in 1880 was sixty-three hundred and six; in 1890 eighty-three hundred and eighty-two. The colored population is seventy-one hundred and thirty-nine.


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