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of Newton County
By [Capt.] A. J. Brown
From Publications The
Mississippi Historical Society, Vol. VI,
Edited by Franklin L.
Published Oxford, Mississippi
Public Domain Material
May not be reproduced
for commercial purposes.
Online coding/layout Copyright
2001 Ellen Pack - All Rights Reserved
The writer is
greatly indebted to Mr. H. S. Halbert for many valuable facts contained
in this paper.
Capt. A. J. Brown was
born in Jasper county, Miss., in the year 1834. At the time of his
birth his parents were living in what was then a frontier country in the
midst of the Choctaw Indians. From childhood he has been interested in
the natives among whom he was born and reared. He speaks their language
to some extent. A large portion of his life has been devoted to mercantile
pursuits, though he has found some time to engage in literary work. His
interesting History of Newton County, containing 472 pages, was published
in 1894. He also has a manuscript history of his family, which he has written
for the use of his children.—Editor
in undertaking to prepare a paper on the subject assigned to him at the
Archaeological Conference held at Meridian in April, 1901, is aware that
the points or objects of antiquarian interest in Newton county are not
so varied or numerous as are those of many other counties in the State.
But cherishing a warm attachment to this county, he will give such facts
concerning its antiquities as may be considered worthy of preservation.
The first historic
glimpse we have of Newton county is in the latter half of the eighteenth
century. As Adair, Romans and other travellers and writers of that era
confined their travels more to the regions immediately bordering on the
Tombigbee, we have, in consequence, but slight records pertaining to the
region now embraced in the modern county of Newton. These writers
have left us more or less minute descriptions of the settlements, manners,
and customs of the natives of the eastern part of Mississippi. As
similar conditions prevailed among the natives immediately to the west,
it would not be difficult to reconstruct aboriginal life as it existed
in Newton county in the eighteenth century.
of Newton county lived in rude cabins, which stood in what may be termed
straggling towns, with fields of Indian corn and patches of vegetables
intervening. These so-called towns were connected by trails, which ran
in as straight lines as the nature of the country would permit. These
aborigines were not altogether a hunting people. They lived in fixed
abodes and acquired much of their food by the cultivation of the soil.
A people who subsisted entirely upon hunting could not have built the earthworks
which are so numerous in the different parts of Mississippi, and of which
not a few are to be found in Newton county.
The most ancient
extant record of Newton county is Bernard
Romans’ map of 1772. The writer will use in this connection the spelling
of the manuscript list of Choctaw towns in the possession of Mr. H. S.
Halbert, sent to him by Dr. A. S. Gatschet. The list on the reduced
copy of Romans’ map in Dr. Riley’s School History of Mississippi, page
16, contains some typographical slips.
Romans has misplaced
the Choctaw towns in what is now the southern part of Neshoba, Newton and
Jasper counties. Towns that are really in Newton county, by the county
lines drawn by Dr. Gatschet in the copy of Romans’ map lying before the
writer, are placed in Neshoba county. A similar statement can be made relative
to some of the Jasper county towns, which, by Dr. Catschet’s lines, are
placed in Newton county. In truth, Romans has the portions of country
now embraced in the southern part of Neshoba and all of Newton and Jasper
counties so badly confused that the student must reconstruct the chorography
of this part of his map.
the name of the first Choctaw town, “Bishapa” (number 41), which Romans
gives in what is now Newton county, Dr. Gatschet has written the words
“illegible almost.’ This leaves the form of the name in some doubt. As
town is placed to the south of West Mokalusa Town in Neshoba county and
to the east of Chunky creek, it is almost certain that this town, the name
of which is illegible almost, is the Choctaw town of Bissasha. Is it not
reasonable to suppose that Dr. Gatschet in copying the manuscript, mistook
the old fashioned long “s” followed by the short “s” for the letter “p”?
If such is the case, we should have “Bishassa” instead of “Bishapa.” This
word so closely resembles the word “Bissasha” that there is little doubt
that this was the Choctaw town of that name which stood on the west side
of Little Rock creek in Newton county, in section 23, township 8, range
12, east. This creek is not laid down on Romans’ map. Bissasha Town is
now embraced in the plantation of Mr. Jones Taylor. Judging from
the stone implements and other debris lying scattered over its site, the
town covered an area of about ten acres, making it a rather small town,
as Choctaw towns were generally built. This harmonizes with Romans’ map,
which represents “number 41” as a small place. The memory of Bissasha Town
is still preserved in Choctaw tradition. “Bissasha,” worn down from
“Bissa asha,” signifies Blackberries are there, or Blackberry Place.
Within the memory of living men there was a wellworn trail that ran from
Bissasha to a large artificial mound, situated about two miles distant
on the east bank of Chunky creek. Investigation may possibly show that
this was a burial mound and was made by the Bissasha people.
(number 42), represented on Romans’ map as being in what is now Neshoba
county, is spelled “Chanki.” It was situated on the headwaters of Chunky
creek, or “Chunka Bogue,” as written on the map. “Chanki” and “Chunka”
are the same name and survive in the modern “Chunky.” This town, as in
the case of Bissasha, must be assigned to its true location, not in Neshoba,
but in Newton county. The modern village of Union occupies much of the
ground embraced in this ancient Choctaw town. At the present day
 many of the old Choctaws, in speaking of Union, invariably call
it “Chunky,” “Chanki,” according to Choctaw spelling and pronunciation.
which is misplaced on Romans’ map, “Oka Kapassa,” must likewise be assigned
to Newton county. It was the name of the town environing the present Pinkney
Mill. It was called “Oka Kapassa,” meaning Cold water, from a fine
spring, which made the place a famous resort of the Indians. Pinkney Mill
is located in section 23, township 8, range 11 east.
A fourth town
on Romans’ map, “Oony” (number 44), was a village settlement south of Pinkney
Mill. The writer can give no farther information about it.
A fifth Indian
town (number 45) given by the same authority is unnamed on his map. But
its situation clearly shows that it was the well known Choctaw town, called
“Chunky,” which stood on the west bank of Chunky creek, about half a mile
below the confluence of that creek with Talasha creek. It seems to have
borne the name of “Chanki Chitto,” Big Chunky, to distinguish it from the
other town of the same name at Union. Pierre Juzan, a noted French Indian
countryman, lived in Chunky Town. It was the most southern Choctaw town
that Tecumseh visited in the fall of 1811
A sixth place
(number 46) given by Romans was “Coatraw.” The name of this town is evidently
very much mutilated or corrupted, as there is no “r” in the Choctaw language.
The writer can suggest no amendment or interpretation, but from its situation
on the map he is almost sure that Mount Moriah Presbyterian church, situated
four miles southwest of the town of Newton, in section 17, township 5,
range 11 east, occupies the site of this ancient Indian town. A personal
visit to this place, in company with Mr. H. S. Halbert, revealed some prehistoric
earth-works, showing that it was the site of an ancient village. This was
undoubtedly, therefore, the site of the ancient town of “Coatraw” as given
on Romans’ map. Upon the plateau on which Mount Moriah church stands, two
mounds were found, about one hundred yards apart. The mound nearest to
the church, now much abraded in consequence of a road which passes over
its western base, is about eighty feet in diameter, and was probably about
five feet high originally. The other mound, situated about seventy-five
yards southeast of the church, is in a much better state of preservation.
It is about eight feet in height, circular in form, has a flat summit,
and is over a hundred feet in diameter. Near it can be seen a deep excavation,
which was no doubt made by the builders in getting earth for its construction.
As the land around these mounds is very fertile, it was no doubt used by
the villagers for the purpose of farming or gardening. The area of land
forming this plateau lies between two small creeks, which in early days
were well stocked with fish, furnishing an abund. ant supplement to the
corn, peas, and other vegetables of the ancient villagers. In selecting
this place for a village site the aborigines had an eye-not only for the
picturesque, but for the practical, as is shown by the fact that it was
well watered and was a good hunting and fishing place, as well as a very
fertile body of land for cultivation. Judging by the breadth and flatness
of their summits, these mounds were intended either for burial purposes
or for sites of the elevated houses of the chiefs, or, possibly one at
least, for the council house of the village.