DeSoto County Early Settlements
Retyped by Tim Harrison, Genealogical Society of DeSoto County
The following account of some of the early settlements of DeSoto County was taken from Chapter 1 of the Works Projects Administration (W.P.A.) history of DeSoto County that was completed in 1936. A copy of this work is located in the First Regional Library, Hernando, MS.
The early settlements in DeSoto County were practically all-Indian trading posts, which gradually became towns and villages.
Jefferson, which became Hernando in 1836, originated as a trading post for barter with the Chickasaw Indians, but rapidly became the largest town in the county.
Mrs. Annie Lynn, old citizen of Hernando, lives out several miles southwest of the town at a beautiful old country home. Messacunnie Creek flows through her land, and the sit of the old Indian village, or camp, is located near her home. Mrs. Lynn spoke of her grandfather, General J.C. N. Robertson, who fought in the War of 1812. General Robertson was a descendant of a Presbyterian Preacher of Scotland, and was one of the early settlers of the town of Jefferson. At one time during the Reconstruction Period, Mrs. Lynn entertained in her kitchen, her grandfather's Negro carriage driver, Albert Handy, who had become a State Representative; Mr. Robertson was very active in the meetings held by Southerners at that time to help regain white supremacy. Simpson Tate, for whom Tate County was named, Mrs. Lynn said, was a nephew of her grandfather, J.C.N. Robertson. Simpson Tate was an abolitionist, and at one time went on the bond of Jeff Evans, Negro sheriff of DeSoto County.
Pleasant Hill was, originally, part of two sections of land granted by the United States government on January 25, 1836, to a Chickasaw Indian named Ta-To-Yes. Later, it came into the possession of B. D. Fields, who deeded the land to John M. Kean, March 30, 1838. The records show that George Anderson Robertson purchased this land November 22, 1849, and a settlement here was called Robertson's Cross Roads. A part of this land was given by Robertson to his son, Pleasant, and finally became known as Pleasant Hill.
Mrs. Maud Wesson gave us some interesting facts concerning the early settlement of what is now Olive Branch. Miss Wesson is a descendant of Milton Blocker, one of the first white settlers of the county, and told us that Blocker and wife, Mrs. Frankie Blocker, secured the land which now comprises the greater part of Olive Branch from a Chickasaw Indian in 1833. She said that she gained this information from an abstract which was in the possession of her family for years. In 1834, the Blocker home was built, and still stands as one of the familiar landmarks of Olive Branch, which was named by Mrs. Blocker and her daughter, Julia.
Frank Congor, Chancery Clerk, helped find this bit of information concerning the present site of Olive Branch: In the Chain of Title, Court House Record, Volume I, we find that Lush-pun-tubby is recorded as the original owner of Section 34, Township 1, Range 6. It is recorded here that Stephen Flinn bought this section from Lush-pun-tubby, and that Milton Blocker, in turn, bought it from Stephen Flinn. However, Congor said, it is possible that the courthouse records are not entirely accurate in their statements concerning these early transfers of property. Miss Wesson is positive that Milton Blocker owned the property as early as 1833.
In an interview at his home near Olive Branch, Dr. M. A. Stuart related some interesting facts about the early settlers of Olive Branch, and events took place near the town: Dr. Stuart said that his grandfather, Atabelopa Stuart, bought in 1837, from Alan Dupree, two sections of land, which included the present site of his home. The land cost only $4.00 per acre, and Dr. Stuart pointed out the spot just back of his home where his grandfather's log house stood; near the home of Dr. Stuart, and south of Mineral Wells, there was once an Indian camp; that the old Pigeon Roost Road, now Highway 78, was, before the war, a plank road, and that it was torn away by General Sherman's army as it marched toward Holly Springs. The road was named ‚Pigeon Roost‚ because it was along its course that droves of pigeons roosted each year on their way to and from the South.
The first church of Olive Branch, Dr. Stuart continued, was the old State Line Baptist Church, a few miles north of Olive Branch. He recalled that Dr. W.H. McCargo was the town's first doctor, and that Paine and Rowlett owned the first store. Among the earliest settlers mentioned were: Messrs. Dandridge, Alan Dupree, and Sam Watson, who consecutively owned the old place where T.H. Norvell's modern home now stands. Here, in the old log house, Sam Watson, ardent spiritualist, wrote several books on spiritualism.
Mrs. T.H. Norvell, Olive Branch, also spoke of Watson as being a scholarly person, and said that his books on spiritualism were written in a small brick study in the yard, which he used for a lodge or office. One of his books, ‚The Clock Struck One,‚ is said to be very impressive. It was based upon an occurrence at the death of one of Mr. Watson's daughters. The book emphasizes the fact that an old clock in the loft of the house, which had not run or struck for years, suddenly struck one shortly after the death of the girl downstairs.
Mrs. Anna Maples stated that, besides the Blockers, there were other families who settled at what is now the town of Olive Branch. These were the Paines, the Flynns, the Watsons, and the Rowletts. Rowlett Paine, former Mayor of Memphis, Tennessee, is a native son of Olive Branch. Mrs. Maples' present home is located on the land settled by the Rowlett family. She was of the opinion that the settlement, now Olive Branch, was originally called Cow Pen, and later, Watson, in honor of the Watson family, who were early settlers there. Among Mrs. Maples' valued possessions is an old scrapbook containing many newspaper clippings. Among these clippings was an eighty-one year old advertisement that originally appeared in the city directory of Memphis in 1855. It was an advertisement for the firm of Forrest and Maples, Slave Dealers. The Forrest of the firm was General N.B. Forrest, of the War between the States. Her scrapbook also contained a picture of what was believed to be the first automobile to enter DeSoto County - a Cadillac costing $1,600.
An interesting fact concerning Gen. Forrest, related by Mrs. Maples, was his having worked for Josiah Maples in his youth, on the old Evans place, a few miles from Pleasant Hill.
Center Hill was a community as early as 1850, as is shown by records of a land sale by Frances Blocker to the Worshipful Master, Senior and Junior Wardens of the Masonic Lodge of Center Hill.
Love: Dr. W.K. Love purchased land in 1851, which included the present site of this little village. His slaves helped to build the Mississippi and Tennessee Railroad, which is now part of the Illinois Central. The village, situated on this railroad, was first known as Love Station, in honor of Dr. Love. Bob Wheeler of Love, told us that Love first became a settlement when the Mississippi and Tennessee Railroad was constructed, about the year 1855. However, he added that the town only began to grow after the war. In 1873, Dr. W.K. Love, for whom the place is named, deeded to the trustees of the M.E. Church a lot, on which was constructed the first church. In 1874, according to Mr. Wheeler, he also deeded a site for a depot and a lot for a school. Mr. Wheeler said that he gained this information from the record book, Chain of Titles, Town Lots, in the courthouse at Hernando. At one time, Wheeler continued, Love was an incorporated town, having about six stores, two blacksmith shops, and other business houses. With the construction of good roads, business declined at Love, due in part to the proximity of Hernando.
Horn Lake was a settlement before the War between the States. In November, 1855, a tract of land for a depot there was deeded to the Mississippi and Tennessee Railroad by Samuel C. Murphy.
Mrs. W.H. Hurt of Horn Lake, gives the following: ‚By 1880, the population had grown to such an extent that the town was incorporated; it was given the name of Horn Lake, because of its proximity to the large lake of the same name, which was located about eight miles west of the town. There were, at that time, seven stores, one drug store, a livery stable, a church and a schoolhouse. Billie Bynum was the depot agent. Some of the early settlers were: Drs. Baskerville, Lundy, Bollard, and Bolton; Deputy Sheriff, Cal Halbert; Mrs. Welch, M.F. Taylor, and W.C. Elmore.
Nesbitt: The records concerning this site were stolen from the courthouse several years ago, however, it is well known that Colonel Tom Nesbitt deeded land to the public for a village, which was named after him.
Mrs. R.M. Lusher, wife of the present Mayor of Nesbitt, states that Nesbitt was incorporated during the Reconstruction Period, and says that Mr. Lusher recalls that the charter could not be secured unless two negroes were put on the Board of Aldermen.
Cockrum was named for W.F. Cockrum, a pioneer settler, and is one of the earliest settlements in the county, being, originally an Indian trading post. Its first name was Cockrum Cross Roads. An article on the life of Felix LaBauve, by R.L. Dabney, published in the October 10, 1935, issue of the ‚Times Promoter‚ avers that Felix LaBauve settled there and was a trader for several years before he came to Hernando in 1836. Before the War between the States, during the slave days, Cockrum was a thriving community, being the headquarters and trading center for landlords and slave owners of this part of the country. At one time this community had 27 mercantile stores and two hotels, which were meeting places for the society of the Old South. The oldest and last building to be torn away - the Masonic Hall - was established many years before the War between the States, and was one of the meeting places for the various Masonic Lodge members.
When the War between the States, many young men rushed to the colors of the Southland; during the conflict many engagements were fought in and around Cockrum Cross Roads, that being a strategic point on the Holly Springs-Hernando overland route. General Forrest fought a severe engagement at one time at Cockrum, and was victorious. With the end of the war and the freedom of the slaves, Cockrum began to disintegrate as a trading center and became poverty-stricken. It was the local point of concentration of the Ku Klux Klan after it was organized in 1868. The Ku Klux Klan was used effectively during the carpet-bagger days for helping white supremacy and the down-trodden Southerners. Many political debates and meetings were held at Cockrum during the Reconstruction Period.
Among the early citizens of Cockrum were: Felix LaBauve, the Cockrums, the Langstons, the Bowens, the Thompsons, the Flowers, the Sages, the Elders, and the Duncans.
In the "People's Press," of February 15, 1866, which was the first issue of the paper after the War between the States, the following towns are listed as voting precincts: Senatobia, Coldwater, Horn Lake, Flewellyn's Cross Roads [now Independence], Cockrum, Pleasant Hill, Olive Branch, Arkabutla, Whitseld, Looxahoma, Center Hill, Dixie, DeSoto Front, Greenleaf.
Since this list was printed before the formation of Tate County, and before the boundary between DeSoto and Marshall became settled, several of the above listed towns are not in DeSoto County today.
G. Wallace, one of the older citizens of the county, moved to Eudora in 1882, and tells us that there was one saloon there then run by Doll Stone, with Caesar Council as his clerk. There was, also, one saloon at Dixie, but neither was in operation long after Mr. Wallace moved to the Community.
J.W. Nichols, born March 3, 1845, near Nesbitt, said his father, James Driver Nichols, was sheriff of DeSoto County in 1856, serving his term in the old courthouse, which was located about a quarter of a mile from the present location. After his term as sheriff, he served in the Mississippi Legislature; Nicholas moved, with his parents, when he was a small boy to Eudora, then known as Dixie, and was located at what is now Dixie Cross Roads, one mile from Eudora. The Nichols had a large old plantation home at this place.
Mr. Nichols told of his attending school at the Hernando Male College, and of his enlisting in the Confederate Army, August 3, 1861. He was a close friend of Bill Forrest, brother of General Forrest, and stated that Mrs. Forrest, mother of the General, married a Mr. Luxton after her first husband's death.
A few years before the war, the town was moved to the present site of Eudora. Mr. Lewis, living there at the time, had a daughter named Ella - the name of the settlement became Ellaville in her honor. Later, a Mr. Harrell moved from the Delta to the town, and changed the name of the town to Eudora - in honor of his daughter. Nichols was elected Magistrate at Eudora and served 50 years in this office - said by him to be the longest period of any man in Mississippi ever held an office without interruption.
Jimmie Tipton, Tax Assessor of DeSoto County, told us quite a different story of the naming of Eudora. Eudora was known as Ellaville until the Reconstruction Period, when, as tradition has it, the Yankee postmaster changed its name to Eudora. It is said that its name grew out of an occurrence on one of the muddy roads near the community. An old man's wagon got stuck in the mud, and, in his efforts to free his wagon, his repeated calls to his mule, "You, Dora," brought the name "Eudora" to the postmaster's mind.
Mrs. Annie Lynn, Hernando, Miss.
Miss Maud Wesson, Olive Branch, Miss.
Frank Congor, Hernando, Miss.
Dr. H.A. Stuart, Olive Branch, Miss.
Mrs. T.H. Norvell, Olive Branch, Miss.
Mrs. Anna Maples, Olive Branch, Miss.
Bob Wheeler, Love, Miss.
Mrs. W.H. Hurt, Horn Lake, Miss.
Mrs. R.M. Lusher, Nesbitt, Miss.
Times Promoter, October 10, 1935. Article by R.L. Dabney.
People's Press, February 15, 1866.
G. Wallace, Eudora, Miss.
J.W. Nichols, Eudora, Miss.
Jimmie Tipton, Hernando, Miss.
DeSoto County Coordinator: Tim Harrison
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