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Monday, September 19, 2011

All the News That's Fit to Print, Newton County Style

Last week I was helping a patron look for genealogical material in one of our reference books, Newton County, Mississippi: Newspaper Items 1872-1875 and W.P.A. Manuscript. While she studiously scanned census rolls, I swallowed my snickers over some of the newsworthy items of the late 19th century. I shared a few with my patron and we chatted a bit about what an experience it must have been to live in a small, rural Mississippi town nearly 150 years ago. Everyone knew everyone else. Everything and anything was worth at least a mention or a remembrance in the local town paper. Resources like this can provide invaluable clues for genealogy research in addition to a fascinating glimpse at small town life. Here's a small sampling of my favorites:
(The comments in parenthesis are my own.)

Thursday, September 26, 1872

A grey eagle was captured near Brandon the 17th that was 7 ft. from wing tip to wing tip. It had been carrying off young pigs. (My mom once gave a kitten to our across-the-street neighbor. An eagle or hawk carried it away. It did not make the news.)

Thursday, January 2, 1873

The thermometer dropped to zero this week. (It's always a hot topic in Mississippi when the weather gets cooler.)

Thursday, March 13, 1873

Marine Watkins will place his horse in a quarter race against any other Miss. horse. Purse unlimited.

James Taylor had a bad fall while painting the residence of Marine Watkins. (After reading this, I decided that Marine needed to make some extra cash to help James with medical expenses. That could be completely false, but it makes for a nice story, right?)

Thursday, April 3, 1873

W.H. Wilcox, formerly of Newton Co., has swindled people in Rankin Co. and deserted his wife and children. (News! I'm surprised that the wife and children's names weren't listed.)

Thursday, May 15, 1873

Capt. Scanlan gave a party Friday night that lasted long past midnight. (I'm sure the town biddies were all aflutter about this shindig.)

Mrs. Judge Watts has the best arranged gardens in town.

Mrs. Thos. Thompson has beets as large as Mrs. Watts. (Oh, yes. Keeping up with the Watts.)

Thursday, June 5, 1873

R.K. Batt was bitten by a moccasin while hunting last Friday. He was in pain for several hours, but is now up again.

Jno. Bynum wounded Martin Warren of 7 miles NE of Decatur during a quarrel over some dogs. Warren is not expected to survive.

Thursday, June 12, 1873

We have more dogs and goats in town than any other town of the same size in MS.

Mr. Warren has died of the wounds inflicted by Bynum.

Thursday, July 10, 1873

Mr. Chas. Burns brought us a beautiful coffee pot. He has many others. (How many coffee pots do you suppose he owned? Two? Three? Thirty?)

Mrs. Eliza Eubanks of Newton, grandmother of J.K. Warner who was killed by Martin Bynum, offers a reward of $200 for the apprehension of Bynum described as being 25 years old, tall & slender, light complexion & hair, with blue eyes.

Thursday, July 17, 1873

The coat of Dr. T.S. West was stolen from his room. He will be confined to his room until a new coat can be made. (You do realize it was July? I suppose a proper Southern gentleman just wouldn't go out without the correct attire.)

Thursday, July 16, 1874

Dr. Watts has a cucumber 36 in. long that looks like a swamp moccasin. (Couldn't you say that all cucumbers look like moccasins?)

Thursday, April 29, 1875

D.L. Young age 16 of Winona is a mathematical prodigy.

Mr. L. Young showed us some turnips as large as coffee cups. (I'm surmising that the Youngs visited town that day with D.L. and turnips in tow. Poor turnips. Poor D.L.)

From the WPA Manuscript portion of this genealogical treasure trove of a book, I found this summary of the happenings between Bynum and Warren:
Martin Bynum killed John Warren on June 3, 1873. Warren had caught up Bynum's stray cows and was holding them for payment of damages the cattle did his property. Words passed between the two, and without promise of future settlement of their disagreement, they began fighting. Bynum killed Warren with a barlow knife. Another act of self-defense.
"Without promise of future settlement of their disagreement..." What a pretty way to say they were stubborn as mules and couldn't work things out without fighting!

I hope you've enjoyed this trip down Memory Lane to small town Mississippi. Don't forget: In addition to providing great ancestral clues, old newspapers can provide a fun and insightful look at life long ago.,_English_-_Indianapolis_Museum_of_Art_-_DSC00628.JPG#file
Strickland, Jean and Patricia Nicholson Edwards. Newton County, Mississippi: Newspaper Items 1872-1875 and W.P.A. Manuscript. Ben Strickland, 1998. Print.

1 comment:

  1. I love these kind of posts. It gives you such an insight into life in years gone by


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