Town of

Franklin County, Mississippi

HAMBURG, "an incorporated post-town in the northwestern part of Franklin County on the Yazoo and Mississippi Valley R.R., 25 miles directly east of Natchez.   It has a telegraph and express office, and publishes a newspaper, the Gusher, a Democratic weekly established in 1901, O. Q. Griffing, editor and publisher.   Population in 1900, 222."  From Mississippi Vol. 1 A-K by Dunbar Rowland, 1907, page 833.

The Story Of Hamburg, Mississippi


Ninety-six years ago, on March 1, 1878 my parents, the A. R. Rowlands started their home at "Sunny Side" plantation in Franklin County located near the very small village of Hamburg, later respectfully called "Old Hamburg."  My parents bought the home and surrounding land from Dr. M. C. Johnson, M. D. and his wife Mrs. Sophia Johnson.  Dr. and Mrs. Johnson resided at their large plantation home also in Franklin County, and approximately half the distance between Hamburg and Natchez.   Natchez was twenty-five (25) miles from Hamburg by the public road.

Four (4) years later in 1882 in December my father and mother signed the necessary document conveying to the Yazoo and Mississippi Railroad Company the right-of-way to proceed through their property free of any monetary consideration.  I would think that other owners gave the right-of-way also; however, I do not know the implications there.

The construction of the railroad was unstable.  The work was done through that section by convict labor.  Adequate camps were set up at this point.  Some of the personnel boarded at our house, while all necessary temporary units for cooking, lodging and storage were taken care of at camp.  The chief cook, a trusty whose name was "Solly" was always on the look out for fresh vegetables and other foods produced on the farms.  They would exchange groceries from their stock or pay cash.   This was well accepted by the people of this fine community.  I do not think there was but one general store at "Old Hamburg" and it served the people as best it could.

I believe this little village was in the vicinity of Bethlehem Church and School, a few miles south west of the new town of Hamburg.  The name of the people that I have heard associated with "Old Hamburg" was Ambrose, a family of German descent.

On August 10, 1884 the first passenger train passed over the Yazoo and Mississippi Valley Railroad in Franklin County and Hamburg.  The Depot may have already been constructed and corporate limits of the town established.  Sunny Side Home was said to be one-half mile North from the Depot.  I believe Mr. George Parr was the first Depot agent.  His wife was Jennie Dromgoole.  I believe Mr. Tom Kirby was the first Section Foreman.  His wife was Ella Guice.  The railroad required a most constantly close observation.  There were frequent derailments and some resulting in tragic wrecks.  Near the Depot on the south was a deep-cut through the yellow banks.   Rain would wash the dirt over the track.  North of the Depot there was a fill of cinders and it was said that occasionally the cinders would burn up to the surface and destroy a cross tie or two--a situation I could never understand.

With the railroad came tramps of almost all nationalities.  My mother would have them fed when they were polite.  We had a secure yard and yard dogs that acted when spoken to by any of the family.

The brick for the construction of "Sunny Side" was burned in kilns on the site before the Civil War.  I believe some of the fine finish such as picture molding in scroll design of Plaster of Paris was interrupted by the outbreak as in some rooms it was missing.  The overall finish was beautiful smooth white plaster.

My mother would describe the house briefly thus:  It was 8-20' x 20' rooms, 2 wide Halls, 4 large galleries, French windows, shutters and a large unfurnished bathroom on the end of back gallery upstairs.  A large butler's pantry on the same end of the gallery downstairs.  A 2-room cellar with neat cellar Hut over the steps.  The cellar remained almost the same temperature the year round.  The kitchen was detached about thrity (30) feet from the house.  There were large sliding doors between the first and second parlors downstairs.  They were finished in Golden Brown.  My mother was frail, but usually had helpers.  There was a covered passage to the dining room of the main building.

The ceilings were high, the roof of metal, guttered all around and down to masonry that conducted the water to two (2) large underground cisterns.  My mother was always careful to let the roof wash off before turning the gutters into the conductors and only caught the winter rains.  The water was clear and cool and at that time considered pure, but of course we now know that it was not 100% H2O.  There was never ever any finishing pool atop any house in Franklin County and only a small couple on top of "Sunny Side."

There were beautiful and rare flower garden and orchard that produced both luscious "June apples" and good smelling "Winter apples" and fruits in between.   A stile that was built around one of the fine cedars for the convenience of the ladies to mount and dismount their horses.  I do not recall one single small built-in convenience on the place.  There was a large closet in two (2) of the upstairs rooms.   Shelves and hooks were provided.

The original owner and builder of "Sunny Side" is unknown to me.  I have heard my parents say that it was build by Northern people.  I was never impressed very much and really did not try to designate between the owners and construction workers.  However, I have heard that Mundys was the name in this connection.

My parents lived there for thirty-five (35) years and sold to Mr. and Mrs. J. M. Fisher of Florida.  My parents bought Mrs. Josie Morres' home in Hamburg--a very small home with a nice rolling garden and grounds.  They were happy there for about ten years.  They loved their nearest neighbors, Jr. and Mrs. A. Herring, their two (2) children and their grandmother affectionately called "Aunt Jo" lived on the south side and a niece, Mr. Giles Halford on the north side.  In fact all of the people in the little town were good neighbors.  The Halfords bought the Byrd home and store.  They also had lovely children.  Mr. and Mrs. Byrd died of Yellow Fever.

I was so far away for so long that I might add so busy that I lost track of the old home.  I do not know who the Fishers sold "Sunny Side" to.  I understand years later that it had been reduced to a one-story house and later completely demolished.  I expect the owner could sell the beautifully salvaged items for more than the house intact.  I could be wrong.

I imagine all of the pine ridge land surround Hamburg was very much alike.  Some in cultivation and adequate uncleared land for pasture which was not too good.  My father's place had cane brakes where can grew very large and tall.  The switch cane was a dependable winter grazing for livestock.  There was only enough livestock to furnish milk and oxen for hauling.  There were a few pampered horses.  There were two (2) very large ponds in the north end of our place.  The Bedford pond was fairly good for fishing.  The other pond was almost covered with lily pads.   There were small ponds in the pastures and during a drought water was hauled from the large pond in barrels and emptied in to a trough in the barn lot.  The large pond never went dry after taking as many as they could to the large pond to drink.

The plague of ticks was always prevalent.  I would say that in 1905 or a little later there was a Dipping Vat (Creosote) installed in Hamburg and the people of the community were required to bring their livestock to be processed at certain intervals with the hope of eradicating ticks.  I do not know how long it took for the cows to bring them all in and washed down the drain so to speak, but I have heard that ticks have been eradicated--a very valuable service indeed.  All farmers had share-croppers who did well for themselves in addition to the acreage allotted them they could clear land and have the use of it for several free of toll.

As children in the 1890's we remember the Baptist and Methodist churches and the school house on the hill.  Two steam cotton gins--one gin was owned and operated by Mr. J. L. "Squire" Calcote and the other by Mr. R. A. Rawls.   These gins could turn out ten (10) bales a day which was an improvement.  By this time most farmers had acquired lighted weight--two mule wagon teams.

Mrs. E. O. Calcote-general merchandise; Mr. W. J. Strahan-general merchandise; Griffing Brothers-general merchandise and Post Office; Kent Brothers-general merchandise; A. Rawls-general merchandise; Kirby and Mitchell-general merchandise; Tillery's-Drug store; Magee's-Drug store and Doctor's office--the above were on the west side of the Railroad.

L. H. Byrd-general merchandise; Stampley and Dromgoole-general merchandise; B. McCaa-Blacksmith--the above three were on the east side of the Railroad.

The large Herring Hotel on the east side of the Railroad and the Guice Hotel on the West side.  I might have missed a place or two but the above will give some idea of the growth of the town of Hamburg.  Claude Guice, his wife Arlow Porter, her brother Ben Porter built the small house on the corner where I lived in 1904-1905.

We looked to frequent visits to WildWood Springs--a nice resort about three (3) miles south of Hamburg.  This was a ravel stop for visitors and a distance with a nice Hotel, fine meals and places of recreation.  The fine vegetables, fruit and meat were produced principally by Mr. and Mrs. Whitehead, the owners on their farm.  The last few yards of the public road leading into this beautiful valley was almost perpendicular--the horses were trained to hold the carriage back and it was frightening to my sister and me.  We would ask our daddy to let us get out and walk down the path by the roadside.  He would of course, but he liked to see the horses perform.  The Bath House was build around a very large boiling spring.  The appearance of boiling but the water was cold.  Steps down into the water and plenty of solid surface to play.  I do not think the Baptismal Pool was built around a Spring, but it was kept covered and filled with fresh running water when needed.  A little further down the path was the pretty little latticed structure that housed the refreshing drinking spring.   It was great to know Mr. and Mrs. Whitehead, the proprietors.

Hamburg was sixteen (16) miles from Meadville, the county seat of Franklin County.   There were two (2) dangerously swift creeks to be forded on the public road to Meadville and people who had legal business to transact would try to select good weather to make the trip.  I have heard my father speak of Charlie Pritchard, Sheriff; Ernest Wentworth, Clerk; and Jim Halford, Assessor.  Of course there were other fine friends.

I wish I could remember the names of the creeks.  I think one was Moran's Fork and I believe the one nearest Meadville was the most dreaded.  The mentioning of these historic streams reminds me of a very sad happening in Hamburg when a little son of Dr. and Mrs. T. K. Magee, I believe their second son whose name was Beam, climbed to the wall plate of an outhouse in their year where he was attracted to a bottle and drank some of the contents which I remember was said to be either Extract of Yellow Jasmine or Oil of Yellow Jasmine--which was a poison and caused his death quickly.  It was in winter I believe, and the family chose to carry the body to McCall or some other place beyond Meadville.

Mrs. Magee was India Bean.  They may have forded the first creek safely but the second seemed too great a risk, so they turned and brought the little body home.  It was not clear to me if they waited for better weather conditions or had the funeral at Mr. Carmel near Hamburg.  Dr. and Mrs. Magee had two (2) other beautiful children.   Irby was the older son and Georgia was the daughter.  I do not remember what became of Dr. Magee.  His office adjoined Mr. T. H. Byrd's store on the back.   Annie Byrd married Dr. R. E. Gray and he occupied Dr. Magee's office while we were still in Hamburg.  Annie Byrd was mine and Effie's classmate too.  It was just the three of us.

My sister was born Dec. 3, 1882 and I was born Feb. 8, 1887.  Since my parents are responsible for the exact date and other approximate dates, I would like to tell you a little more about them.

My Father, Alexander R. Rowland was the son of Solomon Rowland and Sophia Compton of Franklin County in Mississippi.  My mother, Mattie Geoghegan was the daughter of Thomas Geoghegan and Elizabeth Johnson of Hardin County in Kentucky.  They were married February 28, 1878.

My mother was a widow with a seven year old son, Thomas Quircy Hill.  His father Samuel Hill was a confederate soldier and only lived twenty two months after he and my mother were married.  His son was an infant when he died of Spinal meningitis.   We loved our half-brother very much.  He was named for his grandfather, Thomas Geoghegan and my mother's oldest brother Quincy Geoghegan, who died of wounds received in the Battle of Gettysburg.

The small streams little sand bars and erosions cutting through the pine ridges surrounding the town of Hamburg were not all bad, as frequently they were setting for dogwood, redbird and wild plum patches which were beautiful.  Huckleberries, blackberries, and red haws cam and a little later cam muscadine, chingrupin, persimmons and opossum grapes.  There was an occasional hickory-nut tree and the bees could provide the Grand Prize of a "Honey Tree."  We loved it all.

The following is a list of our family's neighbors who lived in the country either adjoining or very near Hamburg:  Mr. Clem Williams, The Farrs, The Doves (Tom and Ben), The Buckles, The Martins (Doc and Lony), The Aldridges, The Compton's, The Calcotes, The Guices, The Allen's, The Stampleys, The Herrings, The Woodyears, The Frenches, The Dromgooles, The Harrigills, The Buffkins (Bufkins), The Whiteheads, The Freeman's, The McLemores, The Burkes, The Griffins (Ed and Leroy).

Many of the above names represent different families by the same name.

I do not remember accurately if there was a full-time minister serving either church, however there was always Sunday School at both churches each Sabbath morning and a church service at one or the other.  There were retire ministers and young men that the congregation was always happy to welcome.  Before we left Hamburg the Methodist congregation build a pastor's home on the east side of the Railroad and south of the Depot.  I believe the name of the first Minster was Rev. Thurmand.  He had a large family.  I am sure there was not a minister living in Hamburg at the time of the yellow-fever epidemic.  Out family attended both churches.  In 1909 we had a severe September gale that lasted for several days and blew both of the churches off of the pier foundation.  These churches were on the east side of the Railroad.  The colored people had a Methodist church on top of the hill on the West side of the Railroad.   I believe this was the "Equinoxual Storm."  It was responsible for the grade of cotton classed "Storm Cotton," as it was mostly picked up off the ground after it dried out.  It was not a total loss.  The two churches were replaced on piers.

....Written by Mattie Oza Rowland Kent
Contributed by Mark Freeman


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Carolyn Switzer


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