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Ellen Pack
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Page 4

Dividing Yazoo Into Smaller Counties

     In 1827 a portion of Yazoo, now in the area of Issaquena and a part of Warren county, were organized as Washington county. In the same year the present county of Madison was detached from Yazoo. Its first county seat was Madisonville, about eight miles southeast of Canton, which has long been extinct as a town.4 It forms a part of the plantation once owned and cultivated by Colonel Walker. Prom Madisonville the county seat of Madison county was removed to Canton. 

     In 1828 commissioners were appointed by the Legislature to locate a new county seat for Yazoo county and the present site of Benton was chosen in 1829. W. P. Gadberry, who emigrated from South Carolina in 1828, had entered this land and erected on it an unhewn log cabin and outhouses. The first court at Benton was held in his house, and the first and for a long time the only postoffice in the present area of Yazoo was also in this house, and Mr. Gadberry was the first postmaster. Richardson Bowman entered a large body of land near Beattys Bluff on the table lands of Big Black in 1825, about seven miles south of Benton.

     Holmes county was by Act of the Legislature of February 19, 1833, carved from the territory of Yazoo county, and Lexington became its county seat. The codes of 1880 and 1892, as well as some other authorities, put the date of the formation of Holmes county at 1823, but this is evidently a typographical error. In December, 1844, Issaquena was established as a separate county from the area of Yazoo, leaving this county with its present limits. In 1831 the name of the town of Manchester was changed to that of Yazoo City.

     In November, 1849, by an election for that purpose, the county seat was changed from Benton to Yazoo City. A fine, large brick courthouse and jail were completed in 1851 when the records were moved from Benton. That date Benton began to decline. This courthouse was burned by the Federals during the war but all the records had been probably removed to a distant place of security.

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Early Prominent Individuals

     Yazoo City is the birthplace of James Clark, the present Senator from Arkansas. The house where he was born, a very humble cottage, was torn down only a few years ago and a very fine two-story residence erected in its stead. When very young James Clark was a printer boy in the office of the Yazoo City Whig and Banner office. After the war he became foreman of the office and part owner with J. C. Prewitt. This partnership was dissolved and he became the originator or founder of the Yazoo City Herald, which he sold to Messrs. Campbell and McCallum. He then studied law and moved to Arkansas, where he became Attorney General, Governor and then United States Senator. 

     The first Democratic newspaper published in Yazoo was established in 1844 by Major Ethel Barksdale. It was called the Yazoo Democrat, and that was the beginning of his newspaper experience. Afterwards he became editor of The Mississippian and The Clarion-Ledger, and was a member of the Confederate and the United States Congresses. 

     The first newspaper published in Yazoo City was established in 1829 under the name of the Political Progress, James A. Stephens being editor and proprietor. About 1831 it was changed to the Manchester Whig and when the name of the town was changed the paper became the Yazoo City Whig, which name it retained until the Know Nothing party came into existence in 1855 when it was changed to the Yazoo Banner.

     Barnett Gibbs, recently deceased, at one time Lieutenant Governor of Texas, was a native of Yazoo City.

     Dr. Henry Lewis, the author of Swamp Doctor and other humorous literary productions, came to Yazoo as an orphan boy from Kentucky and lived as a laborer on a farm near Manchester. His sprightly intellect attracted the attention of Dr. Dorsey, the leading physician of Manchester, under whom he studied medicine. After graduating he settled in Louisiana, where he died at an early age.

    Early in the [18]40s there lived in the lower part of Yazoo county, near Satartia, a racy, sprightly, facetious and satirical writer named William Hall, who left this county and lived in New Orleans. He wrote for the True Delta, a newspaper then published in New Orleans, humorous and exaggerated burlesques and caricatures of some prominent citizens of this part of the county, men who were exemplary members of the church. He put into their mouths, Munchausen stories of bear hunts, deer drives and fishing and fishes as of other wonderful exploits. These articles were read generally with great zest and in Yazoo with great wonder, astonishment and amusement, as the characters, heroes and heroines, were well known. Immediately on the close of the war, in 1865, Hall returned to the neighborhood in which he had once lived, and, riding on horseback, one day he met Mr. Hr, an old gentleman, a strict member of the Methodist church, who had figured prominently in these sketches. Hall was glad to meet the old man, but had to make himself known. As soon as Hall announced who he was, Mr. Hr leaped from his horse, told Hall to dismount, saying he had vowed that if ever he met him to give him a fight on account of what he had written about him. Hall replied:

Mr. Hr, I have rheumatism very badly. I am weak and feeble and I dont want to fight you. I want you to forgive me, but if you will not, you can whip me to your liking, but if you do, what I have written about you is nothing to what I will write, and if we part in peace I will write nothing more about you.
     So, they parted and there was no fight. Both died shortly after.

     D. Walker, who succeeded Major Ethel Barksdale as editor of the Yazoo City Democrat, was appointed by Franklin Pierce as Consul to Genoa. He published some literary articles, as did also Judge R. B. Mayes. Among the writings of the latter was a work on baptism. 

     Besides these, a good many poems have been written and published by the writers of Yazoo county. Dr. Henry Lewis wrote a poem on the Yazoo river, called the Dark Yazoo. It was beautiful, and much admired at the time, but now out of print and almost forgotten. Mrs. R. S. Wheeler and Miss Evelyn Purvis have each written recently a volume of poems which abound in beautiful thoughts, clothed in choice and elegant language.

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