The city of Brookhaven is located on the Illinois Central railroad one hundred and twenty-nine miles north of New Orleans, fifty-five miles south of Jackson, the state capital, and seven hundred and eighty-six miles south of Chicago. It is five hundred feet above tide-water and is the highest point on the Illinois Central railroad between New Orleans and Holly Springs, Miss. It is the county seat of Lincoln County, where all county business is transacted. The corporate limits embrace a square mile, of which the railroad depot is the center. The first settlement of the place was in the fall of 1856 and spring of 1857. John Storm, who closed a useful and well-spent life a few years ago, after having raised a large family who are now among Brookhaven’ s most active and respected citizens, and Mr. Jesse Warren, who also raised a large family and was long circuit clerk of the county, were among the first settlers. Messrs. Warren and Storm were also the first regular merchants of the town; what few shops existed before they opened business in the spring of 1857 having been of a very inferior and unpretentious order.
For a year or two the railroad extended no farther from New Orleans than Summit, which was its northern terminus and the distributing point for freights for all of the sur-rounding towns and counties. Finally, however, the road was completed to this point, and in May, 1857, the first train reached Brookhaven. It was freight, and Mr. A. O. Cox, ex-sheriff of the county, who was the first station agent of the railroad, stated that the tariff on the cargo for delivery at this place was $1,350.
For eight or ten months Brookhaven continued as the northern terminus of the railroad, and during this time its growth was very rapid and its business large. The first year it was a railroad town, the shipment of cotton amounted to eighteen thousand bales. But the railroad was soon completed to Beauregard, Hazlehurst and other points farther north, thus dividing the business, and from that time its growth was more gradual and business settled down to the permanent basis which it has since maintained. The population has increased steadily and is now fifteen hundred.
The business of Brookhaven is of a stable and promising character. The record will show that there have been fewer failures among her business men than in any other town of like size in the state. It is the market and trading point of a majority of the people of the county, as well as a very large proportion from Franklin, Jefferson and Lawrence counties. The building of the Meridian and Northeastern and the Mississippi Valley railroads has no perceptible effect toward drawing away trade, nor is it feared that it will, as this will only take off a few from the outskirts of Brookhaven’ s trade territory and will be more than offset by the constant development that is going on. The twenty-seven sawmills of the county, with their hundreds of employees and dependents, and the sturdy agricultural population will sustain and continually increase its commercial importance.
The city is under the direction of a board of mayor and aldermen and a marshal (who is also ex-officio tax collector, elected every two years.
Brookhaven has ever been noted for the beauty of her women and the gallantry of her men, and in point of intelligence, culture and animation her society circles will com-pare favorably with those of any other community. With schools the city is peculiarly favored. First and foremost among these is the now famous Whitworth Female College. In addition to this a male academy of high grade is conducted, and several competent and experienced teachers; each conducts a mixed school for small boys and girls. The public schools of the city are also run four months of each year.
The Presbyterians, Catholics, Methodists, Baptists and Episcopalians all have commodious and comfortable churches, and all except the latter have regular religious services and Sunday-schools.
Though owning no synagogue the Jewish citizens also maintain a religious organization and hold worship at stated periods. The colored population likewise displays a creditable interest in religious matters, and support one Baptist and two Methodist churches with very comfortable houses of worship.
Secret societies are represented by lodges of I. O. O. F. , Masons, Knights of Honor and Knights and Ladies of Honor, which meet in a large and commodious hall built and owned by the Masonic fraternity. Heuck’s hall, capable of seating six hundred persons and equipped with a well arranged stage and fine scenery, furnishes accommodation to various excellent traveling combinations during the winter months, and amusement to lovers of the drama.
Other towns in this county are. Bogue Chitto, Montgomery and Caseyville.
Bogue Chitto, about ten miles south of Brookhaven on the. Illinois Central railroad is situated on the Bogue Chitto River. It is one of the oldest towns along the road, having been in existence ever since the railroad was built. Owing to various causes, the growth of this town has been very slow. Its buildings being entirely wooden structures, it has been twice destroyed by fire and until within the past few years was had a hard struggle for existence. The population of Bogue Chitto is two hundred and twenty-five, nearly double what it was a few years past, and is increasing rapidly and steadily. Its volume of business has swelled until it is ten times greater. There are five dry goods and grocery stores.
Messrs. B. E. Brister & Co. own two large saw and planing mills, besides doing a flourishing mercantile business. J. M. Tyler also owns a fine watermill and gin about a half-mile from town. The lumber manufacturing interests of Bogue Chitto are equal to those of any and superior to those of a great many places of much greater pretensions. There are seven mills for manufacturing rough and dressed lumber in the vicinity of the place. The annual shipment of lumber is about $40,000 to $50,000. Messrs. Wesson & Money own one of the finest bodies of pine timber in the country, with a narrow gauge railroad and locomotive running through it to a distance of eight miles east, and there is a probability that the road will be extended to Pearl River.
The Natchez, Bogue Chitto & Ship Island railroad will possibly become a fixed fact in the near future, though it may take a different name, and in view of that fact the value of property in and around Bogue Chitto is increasing.
The corporate limits of the town include about a mile square. There are some very sightly residences and very fine sites for many more. The school facilities are fine. There are two churches, one white (Methodist) and one colored (Baptist); one Masonic and town hall.
Source: Biographical and Historical Memories of Mississippi, Goodspeed Publishing Company, 1891