EARLY HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY
OF YAZOO COUNTY (continued)
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 Beatty’s 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
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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 40’s 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. H—r, 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. H—r 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:
H—r, I have rheumatism very badly. I am weak and feeble and I don’t 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
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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