The Man Behind the Maps

By Dr. Harold Graham

In the office of the Chancery Clerk, Newton County, Mississippi, one will find a series of maps of several Newton County towns, all drawn in the early 1900’s and bearing the signature of Thomas H.  Harrod. These maps are particularly invaluable in understanding what the towns first looked like since Harrod used historical references along with a traditional land survey in drawing the maps.

Who was Harrod and what possessed him to draw these maps?

In the most unlikely scenario, Thomas H. Harrod was a native of England, who after migrating to the United States as a civil engineer, and settling first in North Star, Gratiot County, Michigan, later moved south to the town of Hickory, Mississippi, where he was living in 1900. He and his wife Jane were still living in Hickory in 1910, along with a son and his family.

In the 1910 federal census Thomas indicated that he migrated to the United States in 1871 and that he was employed as a civil engineer and worked for both the railroad and county. No record is found for his family after 1910 and he may have returned to Michigan where he is thought to have had other family members.

The first map drawn by Harrod was for the town of Hickory, the second was for the town of Chunky, and the third was for the town of Newton. Maps were also drawn for Stratton, Union, and Duffee. No map was drawn for Decatur, likely because the original map had been destroyed in a courthouse fire.

With Hickory, Chunky, Newton, and Union, in particular, Harrod drew on historical references when conducting his survey and creating his maps.

With the Hickory map, we learn that the original survey of Hickory was conducted, likely ca. 1859, with streets being drawn off by a civil engineer named John A. Crocker, a copy of this survey likely given to the town of Hickory, along with individual land owners at the time. A copy may have also been filed with the county, but that map would have been lost in one of the courthouse fires after that date. By the year 1902, however, as Harrod prepared to conduct his survey, only the copy of one landowner, Mrs. Martha Smith Beard White, could be found. That map was used by Harrod, then faithfully returned to Mrs. White. A descendant of Mrs. White, Jo Gilmore Veestra, later gave this map to town officials where it remains “lost” today.

W. A. Gilmore, a former resident of Hickory, indicated in an interview for WPA workers in 1935 that he was the grandson of Major Marcus Beard and his wife Martha who were original settlers on the town. According to Gilmore, Beard hired Hall, a civil engineer, to survey and lay out a town and gave him a number of lots for payment. Deed records for 1859 indicate that the civil engineer was correctly John A. Crocker and that he received a payment of land from Marcus and Martha Beard in 1859, land that he later deeded back to Martha in 1866.

Newton County deed records indicate that Marcus Faust Beard and his wife Martha (Smith) Beard, bought land in 1842 from John & Jane L. Johnson (who have previously purchased the property from Lewis Bryant) that would later be part of the town of Hickory. Marcus and Martha also owned extensive property in Clarke County, Mississippi, where he died in 1859.

Martha inherited all properties but continued to live at Hickory with her children and in 1870 married (2) to Henry White. On April 30, 1860 Martha sold right-of-way property in the town to Southern Railroad Company, then on February 12, 1869, she sold the following property in Hickory to A. E. and Martha F. (Tucker) Gray:

    Blocks No. 1, 2, 5, and 6 and Lots No. 4, 5, 6, 11, 13, and 16, in Block No. 3, Lot No. 8, Block No. 8, Lots No. 1, 2, 6, 7, 8 & 9, Block No. 13, Lots No. 1 and 3, Block No. 14, Lots No. 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10 & 11, Block 15, lying and being in the Town of Hickory, County of Newton, and State of Miss., and NW of the SE   and the SE of NW and the SE   of the SW 1/4, being a part of Section 31, Township 6, Range 12, East, as shown by the Crocker Plat, on record in the Town of Decatur.1

In 1871 Martha and Henry set about to divide the remaining property among her heirs, namely Mary E. Lightsey and husband, Ransome I. Lightsey, Julia M. Abney and husband F. T. Abney, Isabella C. Gilmore and husband G. W. Gilmore, William P. Beard and Allice C. Beard, a minor.

With fires and misplaced records, it would have been easy for all records of early Hickory to have been destroyed. All is not lost however. Quite to the contrary. We have Thomas H. Harrod to thank for redrawing and saving Martha White’s map. We also have Ricky Harrison of NCHGS to thank for redrawing Harrod’s map in more compact form and providing it for today’s reader.

Notes

  1. Newton County, Mississippi, Warranty Deed Book 50, page 492.

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