Old Lamar

Railroad, fire highlighted old & new Lamar history
By Edwina Carpenter
The South Reporter, April 29, 1982

The town of Lamar has not always been located where it is today. However, only the epitaphs on the tombstones in the cemetery reveal the existence of the pioneers who settled the first community.

The historic old town of Lamar was located about two miles west of the present town in an area of Marshall County which was added to Benton County in 1870. Old Lamar marked a midway point between Holly Springs and LaGrange, Tenn. The Old LaGrange Road was a heavily traveled route between north and south during pioneer days.

State Highway 7 North today basically follows the route of the old road. Like most of Marshall County, the area around old Lamar was settled by well-heeled planters from North Carolina and Virginia, who bought large tracts of land and built splendid plantations.

They did not live in Lamar, but were intimately connected with the life of the town because it was a stage stop on the LaGrange Road.

According to Floyd Smith, postmaster at Lamar for the past 32 years, the first Lamar post office was established on November 1, 1837 in old Lamar. That post office was actually located in Marshall County and was established only two years after the Holly Springs post office, W. G. Irvine was the first postmaster and Will Jones was the first rural mail carrier for the Lamar post office. He first delivered the mail in a horse and buggy.

The Rev. Don Wilson, pastor of the Lamar Union Church, obtained information about the early church in Lamar from "North Mississippi Presbytery, A History" by Rev. Fred R. Graves. The book has documented that a church was enrolled in Lamar on September 30, 1847, reported as organized by Rev. J. Weatherby with 24 members.

It was dissolved on September 14, 1886; reorganized in 1872 and dissolved October 1, 1887. It was reorganized in 1907 in present day Lamar.

Mrs. Joe (Gracie) Bass, a lifetime resident of Lamar and a descendant of the Leak family, has relayed some information about the Union Church in Lamar. Rev. Don Wilson has recorded her information.

In 1902, when Mrs. Bass' parents moved to Lamar and opened a general merchantile, there wasn't a church building on the same grounds as the present building.

The land was used by the Methodists although Mrs. Bass understood that the grounds for the church were given with the stipulation that they must be available to any denomination, or they were to revert to the estate of the donor - a Dr. Smith.

The trustees of the building and grounds were: Mr. Lounge Treadwell (a great uncle of Mrs. Nina Treadwell Leak), Mr. E. Q. Withers, and Dr. William A. Brewer. All three were Episcopalians. Mrs. Bass recalls the church building was not new at that time.

In 1907, Presbyterians organized a congregation in Lamar and used the church building. Mrs. Bass' mother, Mrs. Walter P. Leak, helped to secure a pastor for the church.

C. B. Berryhill, a young Presbyterian preacher in Holly Springs, volunteered to organize the church in Lamar. In the early summer of 1907, Mr. Berryhill, along with Charles Ames, Eagleton Smith and Mr. Featherstone, who were elders at Holly Springs, organized the church.

Several Presbyterians in the community joined the church as well as other citizens who were of Baptist or Methodist belief. Therefore, the church remained in its non-denominational status as was requested by Dr. Smith, who donated the land.

Elders at the time of the organization of the church in 1907 were William V. Smith, Harry Maxwell, and John Maxwell. Walter P. Leak was elected as a deacon.

A Mr. Sligh was the pastor at Lamar after Mr. Berryhill left. He was from the Delta and was a court stenographer. He usually spent the weekend in Lamar and stayed with Mr. and Mrs. Joe Bass.

The church building burned in the early 1920s and several years later the present building, excluding the Sunday School rooms, was built.

"Riley's Extinct Towns and Villages of Mississippi" reports that Col. Timmons L. Treadwell was the leading merchant and planter living in old Lamar and that he accumulated a great deal of wealth. He also mentions other landowners like Captain William Coopwood and Captain Thomas Mull.

References to old Lamar in Holly Springs newspapers indicated that several stores were operated at one time in Lamar and according to tradition, there was a taver at one time, a tailor shop and grog shops, even a girl's college.

Personal references in old newspapers mention the names of Watkins, Harris, Allison and Carpenter.

Other names found on deeds and surveys were Hendersons, Rooks, Rineharst, Gormans, Dr. Cummings, Col. A. R. Govan, Dr. Hardaway, and John Dabney and William Hull.

Construction of the old Mississippi Railroad in 1856 spelled the doom of old Lamar. Businesses, homes, and most citizens packed up and moved to live near the railroad.

Located two miles east of old Lamar, the new town took the name of its predecessor and was incorporated.

The town in 1900 recorded a population of 70 with a good school and church. Tradition says that the town took its name from L.Q.C. Lamar, an attorney who lived in Holly Springs and later became a U.S. Supreme Court Judge.

The incorporated town of Lamar was the home of several stores whose proprietors were longtime residents of Lamar. Until about 1930, when a fire destroyed the town, business was booming and Lamar was the home of three or four doctors, two of whom were Dr. Benjamin Strong, who came from Starkville to practice medicine in the 1920s and a Dr. Brewer, who lived on the property where Joe Bass built his home.

Old Lamar Settled By Wealthy Planters
By R. B. Henderson
The South Reporter, November 25, 1965

The historical old town of Lamar was located about two miles west of the present town of the same name in the northwestern part of Benton County. During the years of the old town's existence it was in Marshall County. Benton County was not formed until 1870, about 15 years after the dissolution of Old Lamar.

Old Lamar was located on the Holly Springs and LaGrange Road at a point midway between the two towns. It was about four miles northeast of the village of Old Hudsonville, which was on the Old Pontotoc road at the intersection with the LaGrange Road. There was also a road that ran northwest from Old Lamar to the village located at the junction of the Pontotoc Road with the Memphis and Tuscumbia Road. This village, first known under the colloquial name of “Gourdneck” is now the present town of Slayden. The Holly Springs and LaGrange Road crossed the Memphis and Tuscumbia Road a mile or so north of Old Lamar. The old LaGrange Road, which was the route of north and south travel during pioneer days was a heavily traveled road. Present state Highway 7 follows the route of the old road, although years later the highway was constructed east of the old road, in some places a considerable distance.

Like most other sections of Marshall County, the area was settled by early immigrants. Many wealthy planters bought tracts of land in the community and brought their slaves and agricultural implements with them. Many of these planters lived some distance from the town but were so intimately connected with the life of the town that their activities were a part of its history. These great plantation owners, even though they lived some miles away, usually came into town every day. Old Lamar was a relay station and rest stop for the stage line. The stage carried mail which made each stop an event of importance and, unless something unavoidable happened everyone “met the stage.”

Today there are few records of Old Lamar that have been preserved. With exception of land records, we are largely dependent upon Riley's “Extinct Towns and Villages of Mississippi,” for historical information of Old Lamar.  This chapter was published about 1903 and Dr. Riley gives Judge A. M. Clayton as his source of information.

The article reads:

“The town of Lamar was located on the stage road midway between Holly Springs and LaGrange, Tennessee. At one time it had several stores. Col. Timmons L. Treadwell was the leading merchant and planter living at this place and he accumulated a great deal of wealth.

“The sons of Colonel Treadwell became large and influential commissioner wholesale merchants of Memphis.”

“This was a fine agricultural section of the county and was settled by a wealthy class of planters, such as Capt. William Coopwood, and Capt. Thomas Mull, who was a member of the legislature for several years. Judge A. M. Clayton lived on his plantation near this place after his retirement from the bench. The Henderson's, Charnisses and Rooks settled in this section, as also did the Rhienhardts, Gormans, Dr. Cummins, Col. Andrews, John Dabney, and William Hull.

Colonel Treadwell was the maternal grandfather of the late Ransom Aldrich of Michigan City, one of the organizers and later president of the Farm Bureau in Mississippi.

Dr. Riley did not include the Hamers, Matthews, Dickersons, Clements, and Allens among the pioneer settlers of the community; however, county land records show these families among the first to purchase land in the community. As previously stated many of these planters lived miles away from Lamar; however, the town was their trading center and they spent much of their time in the town.

At this late date it would, of course, be impossible to locate the sites of the early settlers of Lamar community. However, a brief check of county land records indicate that the estate of Capt. Coopwood lay west of Lamar in the vicinity of the present village of Mt. Pleasant, while the Hulls, Minors, Mulls and Crumps, all related families and Matthews families were located. The homes of these families were not far from the town of Salem, an inland town that existed concurrently with Lamar, and doubtless shared with Lamar the patronage of the planters.

Dr. Riley stated that Colonel Treadwell was “the leading merchant and planter.” Occasional references to Lamar in old Holly Springs newspapers, preserved in the files of the State Archives and History, indicated that stores were at one time operated in Lamar by W. S. Smith, and Robert Crawford. This about completes all that has been preserved of the business life of Old Lamar. However, according to tradition, there was a tavern at one time, which seems reasonable considering the heavy travel on the stage line. There are also memories of a tailor shop, and grog shops very likely that were operated in Lamar. Personal references in old newspapers mention the names of Watkins, Harris, Allison and Carpenter. Who these people were, or if they lived in Lamar, cannot be determined. There is also a tradition that a newspaper was once published at Old Lamar.

However, no copy can be found nor is there a record of publication in the State Archives. The Department states their files are incomplete.

There was, however, a newspaper published in the present village of Lamar for several years and copies are on file in the office of the Benton County Chancery Clerk at Ashland.

The earliest copy noted was issued in 1874.

Construction of the old Mississippi Central Railroad in 1856 spelled the doom of Old Lamar as it did with Old Waterford a few miles down the railroad. The business houses and most of the citizens packed up and moved to the railroad.

The site of the town is now a cleared field. Location of the brick buildings can be traced by old brick, shard and relics of the one-time habitation. The debris would indicate that the buildings were constructed in the north-south line facing the Holly Springs and LaGrange Road from the east. Route of the old road can be easily traced through the town by the steep banks that were cut down by the horses that provided travel and transportation of this bygone era.

There are now no homes in the immediate vicinity, the old cemetery that borders the course of the old roadway contains the remains of many of the community's early and most prominent citizens. It is a large cemetery and, at one time, was enclosed by a wrought iron fence. There are many monuments that are yet standing and many inscriptions are legible. For a long time the cemetery was well cared for but, in recent years, it has been badly neglected and many of the monuments have fallen or have become broken. The entire cemetery is now a jungle of briars and undergrowth. However, this historic old cemetery is not beyond being reclaimed.

Inscriptions on the monuments that remain are yet legible tell the life story of the pioneers who are buried there. Some of the epitaphs are:

Robert Allen, July 22, 1832, February 10, 1854. Amelia, wife of Reuben Treadwell, Born in North Carolina, 1764, Died at Lamar 1846. Col. Michael Rhienhardt, Born September 15, 1790, Died at Lamar October 24, 1852. Martha Harriett Smith, Daughter of Michael Rhinehardt, September 30, 1830 – January 3, 1850. Julia A. Wife of W. B. Smith, Born in Burlington, Vermont, December 5, 1825, Died June 6, 1900. Eliza Allison, Wife of T. L. Treadwell, Born in Rutherford County, North Carolina, October 2, 1804, Died at Lamar April 20, 1848. Beloved wife of T. L. Treadwell. James H. Clement, Born September 6, 1853, Died 1908. Robert Crawford Born in North Carolina in 1814. Ben Watkins Harris Born in Pillsberry, Virginia, 1807, Died at Lamar 1831.

Submitted by Martha Fant

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