Return to 
Newton County Page

Return to State Table of Contents


Do you have information
or a link you would like 
to contribute?

This page is 
copyright 2001
Ellen Pack
All Right Reserved

This site 
will always be free!

Antiquities of Newton County

By [Capt.] A. J. Brown

From Publications The Mississippi Historical Society, Vol. VI, 
Edited by Franklin L. Riley, Secretary
Published Oxford, Mississippi 1902

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

     The writer, 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. 

     The aborigines 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.

     Immediately after 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 that 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.

     Another town (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 [1902] many of the old Choctaws, in speaking of Union, invariably call it “Chunky,” “Chanki,” according to Choctaw spelling and pronunciation.

     Another town 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.