Newton County in the 1838 Blue Book

as published in
"The Second Time Around
The Union Appeal, Wednesday, October 1, 2003
by Ovid Vickers

Recently Rodney Bounds, the Newton County Circuit Clerk, and Fred Kirkland who lives in Philadelphia stopped by my office. I have known both these men since they were students in my classes at East Central, and they know of my interest in the history of Mississippi and especially the East Central area of the state.

Fred had been going through the family papers of his late wife's family and had come across two books which he thought I would enjoy reading. One was a history or gazeteer of the State of Georgia published in 1829. The other was an early version of the Mississippi Blue Book published in 1838.

The Treaty of Dancing Rabbit which was signed between the United States Government and the Choctaw Indians cleared the way for the legal settlement of East Central Mississippi by those white settlers wishing to locate in the region. By 1833 the County of Neshoba was formed from parts of Jones, Madison, Rankin and Wayne Counties.

Three years later on February 25, 1836, Neshoba County was almost equally divided, and the Choctaw Indians cleared the way for the legal settlement of East Central Mississippi by those white settlers wishing to locate in the region. By 1833 the County of Neshoba was formed from parts of Jones, Madison, Rankin and Wayne Counties.

Three years later on February 25, 1836, Neshoba County was almost equally divided, and the county of Newton was formed from the southern half. Newton County is described as having a white population in 1838 of 1,506 and a black population of 426. The Indian population is not given, although the statement is made that the county has within its borders a great many Indian families.

Acres of land in cultivation in the county numbered 2,706. There were only 76 bales of cotton produced, but corn, peas, beans, and sugar cane were also grown. Cattle were also owned by those who farmed, but it seems that there was not a great demand for hay as the animals were given open range.

The Blue Book states, "The county seat, Decatur, is situated almost in the center of the county, and there are roads leading into the county seat from all parts of the county. The land where the county seat is located is high and dry and is surrounded by flowing streams not far from the center of the town. Many areas of the county are heavy with timber which is beautiful to observe. The land is generally good for farming, especially in the lower half of the county."

It is interesting to note that along with the usual county officials the office of County Ranger is listed and was held by Dudley H. Thompson. The County Board of Police consisted of Thomas J. Runnels, Freeman Jones, Benjamin Bright, Roling Williams, and Joshua Tatum. One wonders what the duties of the County Ranger and the County Board of Police were.

A list of post offices in the state is given, and the names of the postmasters are indicated. There were three post offices in Newton County in 1838. The post office locations and postmasters were: Decatur - S. H. Thomas; Nanahoma - H. T. Hopkins; Pinkney - G. W. Parris.

The counties of Jasper, Scott, Newton and Smith shared a senator in the person of 33-year-old O. C. Dease, who resided at Paulding and was a farmer. The county was represented in the House by James Ellis, a 43-year-old planter from Decatur. Ellis had moved to Mississippi from North Carolina.

The official publication of State Blue Book also contains an almanac very similar to what we today know as Greer's Almanac. The moon's phases are given along with the rise and set of the sun and moon for each day of the year. Weather predictions are stated for each day of each month. For example, on December 18 and 19 residents of the county could expect bright days and a brilliant sunset.

Facts relative to the United states government are also given. The president who was Martin Van Buren was paid a salary of $25,000 a year. All members of the cabinet and department heads were paid $6,000.

The Mississippi constitution of 1832 is included and contains a section relative to the ownership, sale and treatment of slaves. It is interesting that the purchase of slaves in the state was prohibited after the first of May 1933. But slaves bought in other states could be brought into Mississippi by their owners.

Apparently the state did not have the money to publish this Blue Book and solicited advertisements from businesses across the state. It is apparent that Jackson and Natchez are the business centers of the state because most of the advertisements are from those two towns.

For a good picture of what life was like in Mississippi in 1838, there is probably no better source than this official state publication.

NCHGS would like to thank Jack Rhea Tannehill and "The Union Appeal" for their permission to transcribe Mr. Vicker's article.

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