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Jefferson County Mississippi

Selsertown43 In the early part of the nineteenth century George Selser erected an inn on the old Natchez Trace, six miles from Washington and just inside the limits of Jefferson County. This was the beginning of Selsertown. The Grifiing, the Coleman, and the Jones families settled close by. The Selser house finally passed into the hands of John McCollum. For many years afterwards the sign "Entertainment for Man and Baste," which swung between two china trees in front of the stables, told the nationality of the new proprietor. The house and stables were burnt soon after the War Between the States, and now the charred remains of the old china trees are the only relics of old Selsertown. Near the place is a large Indian mound, which was explored by a number of literary and scientific gentlemen from Natchez and vicinity, in May, 1838.44

Uniontown The next station above Selsertown on the Natchez Trace, was Uniontown, which was situated on the south side of Cole's creek. It was a place of some importance, being laid out into streets and extending over a large area. Here early in the century, Jackson Warren and Thomas Shackleford started a tan yard and a shoe shop. In writing of the business enterprises of old Uniontown the late Col. John A. Watkins, of New Orleans, Louisiana, says: "Farley made all the hats. We killed coons and took the skins to him, and in return got a hat. Jake Warner made shoes at Uniontown, Pintard was cabinetmaker, McMurchy made wagons, plows, etc., Greenleaf, about 1797, established a cotton-gin factory, and that, the first gin ever used in Mississippi, was made by a Negro."45 Only one house, "The Mound," belonging to Miss Pauline Chamberlain, now marks the site of old Uniontown.

Greenville The next station, Greenville, was by far the largest and most important town on this road. It was half way between Natchez and Port Gibson, being just twenty-four miles from each place. During its earlier history it was known by different names, Pinckneyville, Orchardsville, and Huntley. By an act of the General Assembly, passed on February 21, 1805, its name was changed to Greenville in honor of General Nathaniel Greene. We are told that it was a thriving town when the United States took possession of this territory in 1798. Upon the creation of Pickering (now Jefferson) county, Greenville became its first seat of justice. This town was incorporated in 1819. At one time it contained three hundred or more inhabitants, and the surrounding country was settled by families of wealth and refinement. Cato West, David Holmes, Cowles Meade, and General Thomas Hinds, all lived within two miles of old Greenville, and the remains of Col. Cato West and Gen. Hinds now rest in the soil of their respective plantations, close by. A little farther away, in the same neighborhood, lived Capt. Bullen, the Harrisons, the Harpers, the Hardens, the Hunts, and other historic families of Mississippi. Only a few miles to the southwest was the famous Maryland settlement, where lived the Woodes, the Donohues, the Paynes, and the Bakers.

At old Greenville the troops furnished by the Mississippi Territory in the War of 1812, the Dragoons, commanded by Gen. Hinds, and the infantry troops under Col. Ely Kershaw Ross, were given a big barbecue and disbanded after the battle of New Orleans. Here Jefferson Davis lived in the family of Sheriff Jordan and went to school in his early life.

It was to this place that May and Sutton, members of the notorious Murrill gang of robbers, brought their leader's head in order to get a reward that had been offered therefor. Some men whom May and Sutton had recently robbed and the owners of the horses which they rode into Greenville were there attending court when these robbers came for their reward. They were arrested, tried, and convicted. After their execution in the gallows field their heads were placed on poles, one a short distance to the north and the other a short distance to the west of Greenville, on the Natchez Trace.

On the first day of February, 1825, the General Assembly of Mississippi passed an act authorizing the election of five commissioners to select a permanent location for the seat of justice of Jefferson County. This commission was granted power to purchase at a price not exceeding twenty dollars an acre, or to receive by donation, not less than two nor more than fifty acres of land upon which a county site was to be laid off. The place chosen was to be called "Fayette," in honor of General Lafayette, who was at that time in the United States as the nation's guest. The commission had authority to select Greenville. The night before the election, however, a mob, which favored the removal of the seat of justice to a place nearer the center of the county, wrecked the court house, a frame structure, built of hand sawed poplar timber. This sealed the fate of Greenville and settled the question of removal in favor of the present town of Fayette, which is eight miles east of the first county seat. After the removal of the court house, Greenville rapidly declined. The houses decayed or were moved away to build new towns. The old Cable hotel was for many years the only building left to mark the site of this historic place. About five years ago this house was destroyed by fire and now only a blackened chimney in a cultivated field is all that is left to remind the visitor of the long departed glory of old Greenville.

Shankstown Six miles north of old Greenville was Shankstown, named for a gentleman, Mr. Shanks, who had a hotel at this place at an early date. This town was not laid off into blocks, though it contained a large number of houses, a store or two, a cabinetmaker's shop, a blacksmith's shop, etc. The place is now owned and occupied by colored people.

"Coonbox" This insignificant rival of Shankstown was located about two miles southwest of that place, at a point where the Union church and Rodney road crossed the Trace. The place derived its name from the following incident: During the War of 1812 an embargo was placed on Jamaica rum, the favorite beverage of that day. Although its sale was made illegal, it was still sold in egg shells, one egg for a "flip," two for a "bit," at the wayside houses throughout the country. The merchant prince, who had erected at the place mentioned above a log cabin store with a "California built shed-room" in the rear, was doing a thriving business, selling eggs. One night a crowd of gentlemen from Greenville, passing by this store, decided that they wanted something to drink. The store was closed, and as no houses were at that time opened after dark to callers unless they were well known, these men got no response to their repeated knocks on the front door. Finally one of them jovially said that he would "rouse the old coon out of his box behind by knocking on it." He did so and the members of the party supplied themselves with eggs before resuming their journey. From that time to the present the place has been known as "Coonbox." It once had a hotel and stables, but both of these have long since disappeared.

Extinct Towns| AHGP Mississippi

Footnotes:
43. The writer acknowledges with pleasure the many valuable facts on the extinct towns and villages of Jefferson County, which he received from Mr. E. R. Jones, of Harriston, Mississippi, and Judge F. A. Montgomery, of Rosedale, Mississippi.
44. See Publications of the Mississippi Historical Society, Volume II., pp. 203204.
45. Goodspeed's Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Mississippi, Volume I., page. 176.

Source: The Mississippi Historical Commission Publications, Volume V, Edited by Franklin L. Riley,
Secretary, 1902.

 

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