The Newton County Historical Society
Is For You!
by Ovid Vickers
As published in the People section of The Newton Record, Wednesday, April 14, 2004
If you are interested in the history of east Central Mississippi and Newton County in particular, the Newton County Historical Society needs your support. If you are interested in pension records from the Confederate States of America, cemetery records, land records, marriage records, court documents, good conversation and friendly, helpful folks, then you need to pay a visit to the Society's offices and reading room located in what has been known for years as the Agriculture Building.
The Agriculture Building is located across the street on the east side of the Newton County Courthouse, and the building itself has a significant history. This building was constructed during the Roosevelt Administration by a federal agency known as the National Youth Administration which was created by the National Recovery Act to provide jobs for unemployed young people during the dark days of the Great Depression.
Over the years, the Building provided offices for the County Home demonstration Agent, the County Agent, and various other county and federal agencies. Most recently, the building housed the county sheriff's office. When the sheriff's department moved to the new law enforcement facility south of Decatur, the County Board of supervisors agreed to provide space for the Historical Society in the former offices occupied by the Sheriff's Department.
The driving force behind the Historical and Genealogical Society is Harold Graham, a congenial, soft spoken retired educator. Harold is well prepared to lead the organization. He grew up in the Conehatta community of Newton County and is a graduate of the old Conehatta High School. He entered East Central Community College and after graduating transferred to the University of Southern Mississippi to complete his Bachelor's Degree. While teaching in the Meridian School System, he earned the Doctorate from Mississippi state University. Harold Graham admits to being hooked on history and particularly the history of Newton County.
The membership of the NCHGS has continued to grow since the founding of the organization. The Society now has more than 140 members, and this speaks well for the leadership of the organization and is strong indication that the people of Newton County and this area of Mississippi are interested in preserving the history of the area from the days of settlement to the present. As an indication that there are those with Newton County roots scattered across America, the membership includes individuals from California, New Mexico, and North Carolina.
The year 2003 saw the NCHGS move into its new location in the Agriculture building which placed the Society's holdings in a central depository and made research more accessible to everyone in the county. The offices are open Monday through Friday from 9am until 11pm. The offices are also open the first and third Saturdays on this same schedule. If you need to consult the Society's records and these hours do not fit your schedule, additional hours can be arranged by prior agreement.
The officers of the Society for the year 2004 are: Harold Graham, President; Melvin Tingle, Vice-President; Bess Hollingsworth, Secretary; Joyce Nicholson, Treasurer' Bobby Caldwell, Chaplain; Ann Burkes, Archivist; and Ken Hollingsworth, Webmaster. These officers and others who volunteer each day at the Society's offices stand ready to give assistance to anyone who is sincerely interested in doing research in history or genealogy.
According to President Graham, great plans are ahead for the Society. Several years ago, the Mormon Church photographed almost every available genealogical record in Newton County. Copies of their work were left with the county but were not indexed. The NCHGS is now in the process of indexing these most valuable records.
A series of books is being prepared by the Society for use by researchers. The first book in the series (Newton County, Mississippi Land Records: 1883) has been compiled by Bess Hollingsworth and is now in print. Many of the county records are housed in the Agriculture Building and the society has access to theses documents. An effort is now being made to catalog and properly file this material for public use.
The Newton County Historical and Genealogical Society is always looking for family histories and documents related to the History of Newton County and East Central Mississippi. The Society welcomes donations of documents and monetary donations also. The material which fills the filing cabinets and book shelves of the Society are a guidepost to where we have been and perhaps where we are going. The work being done by the NCHGS is a record of how the foundation for the county was laid by the ancestors of many of those who call Newton County home in the 21st century.