Old Town

The story of Ellisville’s early days

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Ellisville:  The water of the Tallahala ran deep and clear and animals enjoyed the freedom and fragrance of the verdant forests which guarded the winding banks of the creek when the firs white settlers came to the area now known as Ellisville.  The year was 1795.  The name of that settler is lost to history, but when he arrived with his family and constructed a log dwelling on the banks of the creek he established the beginning of a small community of hard-working people who came this way to seek a home and better life. This pioneer citizen subsequently built a ferry on the road leading to Paulding and Mobile.

Located in the long leaf pine region of the state, Jones County in finely timbered.  On the rivers and creeks are found oaks, hickory, elm, beech, ash, bay, gum and magnolia.  The soil in generally thin and sandy on the uplands, fertile in the creek and river bottoms.  It produces cotton, corn, oats, potatoes, sugar-cane, sorghum, field peas, peanuts, and most of the vegetables and fruits.  The scuppernong grape thrives in the region and pecan nuts are grown in abundance.  Pasturage for stock is good and sheep husbandry and the raising of livestock are rapidly growing industries.

Jones County, Mississippi was established January 24, 1826 and carved from the existing counties of Covington and Wayne.  The boundaries were declared to be “all that part of Covington County lying west of the center of range fourteen, and all that part of Wayne County lying west of range nine.”  The northern boundary is formed by the Old Choctaw line established by the treaty of Mt. Dexter, Nov. 16, 1805, which divides it from Jasper County, and its southern boundary is formed by the line between townships five and six which divides it from Perry County.  It has a land surface of 674 square miles and was named in honor of Commodore John Paul Jones, the founder of the American Navy.  The county is well watered by the Leaf River, which flows through the western part and by the Tallahala, Tallahoma and Bogue Homa Creeks, together with their numerous tributaries.

Ellisville was declared the county seat and when it was first established {Today referred to as Old Town or Old Ellisville} it was on the high banks of Tallahala Creek about a mile north of the present site of the town.  Ellisville was founded in the early 1800s.  Some historians give 1817 as the date while others give 1826 or 1827 as the correct date.  However the official charter date is accepted as 1826.  This was fifty years after the birth of the United States in 1776 and nine years after Mississippi statehood in 1817.  Old Ellisville in 1841 was described as a court house and a mere cluster of houses–some four or five.  One of these houses was said to have been an Inn.  However it eventually grew into a little town that initially boasted a courthouse, jail, hotel, cotton gin, a half-dozen stores and about fifteen homes.  Today little but lore marks the tenure where Old Ellisville had its beginnings.

The town was named for Powahatan Ellis, a member of the Supreme Court and United States Senator, said to be a descendent of Pocahontas, Ellis, a native of Virginia, moved to Mississippi and began his political career in 1818.  Now after all those accolades, the rest of the story.   He was said to have rendered a strange decision in a case of Bradley vs. the State.  He held to the old feudal doctrine that “a husband might chastise an obstreperous wife, provided he used a rod no larger than the thumb.”  Obstreperous translated means noisy, boisterous or unruly especially resisting or opposing.  In essence, he advocated spouse spanking to keep the lady of the house in line.  Powhatan Ellis never married.  Another event that Ellis can lay claim to fame is being remembered as “The Man Who Lost His Underdrawers.”  The story goes that one day while Ellis, a chubby little man, was traveling he came upon Tallahala Creek that was swollen from recent rain.  In attempting to ford the creek, he stepped into a deep part and went under water.  As he was struggling to prevent sure drowning, he turned loose of his travel bag and it drifted away.  A few days later he posted an advertisement in the newspaper for return of his bag and included all its contents, even his under drawers.  Oh well we all can’t be perfect – We still like the name Ellisville.

The population of Ellisville and Jones County grew rapidly for several years until the Choctaw lands of North Mississippi were opened for settlement.  An emigration at that time began which almost depopulated the county.

Ten years later in 1836 the county had a population of only 1017 whites and 108 slaves and until the advent of railroads around 1882-1884 it remained one of the most sparsely settled and unproductive counties in the state.  The advent of the railroad was a milestone in the history of both Ellisville and Jones County.

The Ellisville News   Newspaper Industrial Edition, Apr 18, 1902.

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