An interesting description of Columbus and Lowndes County was published in the Columbus Democrat on November 25, 1837.
It was later expanded and reprinted in Besançon’s annual register of the state of Mississippi, for the year 1838. The dates of the articles correlates with the 1839 La Tourette Map of Columbus.
These articles and the map provide a fascinating view of Columbus 181 years ago. Some of the articles’ highlights include the following paragraphs:
“Lowndes County, Mississippi, is bounded north by Monroe County, east by the state of Alabama, south by Noxubee and west by Oktibbeha… The fertility of its soil; the little labor requisite to open plantations; its contiguity to a navigable stream, as well as to the flourishing city of Columbus, the county seat, and the salubrity and mildness of its clime, have induced many wealthy planters to leave their homes in other states, and remove to this pleasant region. Many gentlemen, who reside in town for the advantages of society and the education of their children, own fine estates upon the river. The eastern half of the county was settled first, and is the most populous. It is well watered; the surface rolling; soil near the streams very good, and in general above mediocrity.
The staple production is cotton. Corn, oats, tobacco, rice, the culinary vegetables, and melons of every name, grow luxuriantly. Apple, peach, pear, quince, cherry, and plum trees yield their fruits in abundance. The grape and all the various berries are not surpassed. Among its forest trees are the pine, oak, ash, hickory, black walnut, sycamore, birch, elm, beech, willow, black gum, locust, box, sassafras, cedar, and Gloria Mundi (a Latin phrase meaning, “Thus passes the glory of the world”).
The towns are Columbus in the centre; Caledonia in the east; Plymouth and Colbert on the west side of the Tombigbee above, and Nashville on the east side of the river below Columbus, and Westport opposite…
The Tombigbee is the principal river of the county, passing through it southeastwardly into Alabama… The largest tributaries in Lowndes on the east side, are the Buttahatchie and Luxapalila, both rising in Alabama, and flowing a southwestern course about seventy-five miles. The former, for several miles the northern boundary of the county, is a beautiful stream. The Luxapalila reaches the Tombigbee about three miles south of Columbus. The Oktibbeha, of nearly the same size, flows into the Tombigbee from the west. The two last two mentioned rivers may easily be rendered navigable a considerable distance in time of high Water. All these streams abound in fish. They have many tributary creeks, affording numerous sites for grist and saw mills.
In consequence of the sale of the Choctaw and Chickasaw lands in this county, it has increased rapidly in population and wealth within a few years… But little has as yet been done in the way of internal improvement, if we except the beautiful bridge thrown over the Luxapalila by Col. Blewett, at “an expense of six or eight thousand dollars…”
Some straggling settlements were made in Lowndes as early as 1817. The first court was held in Columbus in 1830…Few traces remain of its former possessors, except certain mounds in the southern part of the county. By whom, and for what purpose they were thrown up, is unknown…
Columbus, the seat of justice for Lowndes County, Mississippi, is pleasantly situated on the east bank of the Tombigbee… 150 miles northeast of Jackson. It is regularly laid out upon an elevated plain — the streets crossing each other at right angles, and is a beautiful and flourishing place. Within a few years, in consequence of sale of the adjacent Indian lands, and the great emigration to the surrounding country, it has advanced rapidly in population and wealth.
It contains about three thousand five hundred inhabitants, three incorporated banks, and several not incorporated, twenty dry goods stores, three drug stores, two jewelers’ shops, two hotels, a public bath house, a cotton-gin manufactory, two livery stables, two large ware-houses, a steam saw and grist mill, and several bakeries and provision stores. Columbus also has four public wells — no fire engine — a Market house, a Courthouse, Masonic hall, three Churches (buildings), belonging respectively to the Methodist, Presbyterian and Episcopalian denominations (Columnist’s note: Construction of the Baptist Church began in 1835 but it was not completed until 1839), a land office, two printing offices, from which issue two newspapers weekly, a large book-store and the banking house of the Planters’ bank.
The various mechanical trades and the learned professions are numerously and ably represented in Columbus, and two finely equipped military companies, with their excellent band of music, enliven the ‘dull and piping times of peace.’
The town being built upon the sixteenth section, the income arising from the lease of the lots, amounting to seven thousand dollars annually, is appropriated to the support of Franklin Male Academy and Franklin Female Academy. Two large and elegant buildings have been erected upon the Academy square for the accommodation of these institutions. The Male Academy numbers 150 students, Robert Bruce Willer, principal; Sewell Norris and S.V. Hubbard, assistants. The Female Academy numbers one hundred students, S.C. Swift, principal, Miss Burnet, assistant. A handsome apparatus is attached to these seminaries, and measures will speedily be taken to procure a valuable library. Tuition is free to all the children and youth of the township.
The Mississippi Female College is located in this town. It has about sixty students, and is justly regarded as an ornament to Columbus. The spacious and splendid college building occupies a secluded and romantic eminence. A large number of boarders can be accommodated at the college in the family of the president. Abram Maer president, Miss Dunning and Miss Lester, professors.
There are five religious denominations in Columbus; the Rev. Mr. Sawyer is pastor of the Methodist church; the Rev. Mr. Forbes of the Episcopal; the Rev. Mr. Reed of the Presbyterian; the Rev. Mr. Walthall of the Baptist; and the Rev. Mr. Shook of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. The various benevolent institutions of the day are sustained here. There are three Sabbath schools; three Ladies’ sewing societies, a Bible society, a Foreign Mission, and a Temperance society which meets monthly to hear addresses and receive members.
The Tombigbee is navigable to Columbus, and indeed much higher, for steamboats six months in the year; and during that period is the scene of active trade. Many boats are owned wholly, or in part, in this place. The Columbus is one of the most beautiful boats upon the southern waters. A company has been chartered to build a bridge over the Tombigbee at Columbus, and to construct a Rail Road to connect Columbus and Vicksburg.
The police of the place consist of a Mayor and Common Council. The healthiness of this situation is now established. Excellent water abounds. There are many beautiful building sites on the pine ridge north and east of town, of which its inhabitants are rapidly availing themselves…”
Thanks to Carolyn Kaye who provided me with a much easier to read transcript she had made of the articles.
Rufus Ward is a Columbus native a local historian. E-mail your questions about local history to Rufus at email@example.com.