The city of Canton is situated almost in the center of Madison County, upon the main line of the Illinois Central railroad, at an altitude of three hundred and twenty feet above the Gulf. The site is a very desirable one, and Canton does not without good cause claim to be the prettiest city in the state.
The streets are wide and well graded and guttered, aggregating some twenty miles. The principal business center is the public square, around whose four sides the merchants have erected their establishments, many of which are large, ornamental and costly brick structures, while the immense stocks carried indicate that a very large and flourishing trade is enjoyed in every line. In the residence portion are found many large and ornate homes, indicative of wealth and a cultivated taste, while an air of solidity is everywhere observable that is both refreshing and confidence-inspiring to the stranger. One of the pleasing features of Canton is the large numbers of noble trees by which its streets and private grounds are shaded.
The county courthouse occupies the center of the public square, and is a beautiful and imposing brick, stone and iron structure, which was erected in 1852, but is in a splendid state of preservation. It stands in the center of a four-acre plat, surrounded by stately trees and the ground is covered with a thick carpet of grass. Both the brick and stone of which this building was constructed are products of Madison County.
The Illinois Central railroad runs through the corporation in the western portion, and Canton is conceded to be one of the greatest cotton and live stock shipping stations between Durant and New Orleans. Near the depot are seen a large cotton seed oil mill, several large cotton warehouses, icehouses, etc., which give the place an air of activity. The local manufacturing establishments are the oil mill, two steam gristmills and gins, two carriage and wagon shops, a planing mill and a number of minor shops, including a fruit and vegetable box factory. A large cotton factory was in operation some time ago.
Canton, being situated on an altitude of three hundred and twenty feet above the Gulf, on a rolling, well-drained site, which guarantees immunity against epidemics and infectious diseases generally, besides having a rich, well settled tributary country, which insures cheap living for employees, is certainly well adapted for the location of large factories, from these material and important standpoints. Being also located on a great trunk line railroad, its transportation facilities for reaching all the important markets and consuming centers of the country are most excellent, while the near future will doubtless witness the building of one or more competing lines, notably one from Canton to Vicksburg, to connect with the Missis-sippi river and the railroad systems centering at that point. Several miles of this road have already been graded, and there is no doubt of its ultimate completion.
Socially, Canton is a delightful place, and its people are widely known tor culture, intelligence and their many accomplishments. This is made apparent by the city’s educational facilities, both public and private, which are of the very highest order, placing the benefits of a thorough and practical education within the reach of all. Six church buildings, representing the leading denominations, are found, while the colored portion of the population worship in not less than five separate edifices. The civic societies, as Masons, Odd Fellows, Knights of Pythias, and others, are represented by strong and flourishing lodges. A large and well arranged hall serves for the reception of dramatic companies, who frequently con-tribute to the social pleasure of the citizens. The city government is vested in a mayor and six aldermen, city clerk, treasurer, marshal and tax collector. These offices are held by citizens of probity and integrity, who manage the city’s affairs wisely and well.
Real estate values have an upward tendency, although nothing resembling a boom has ever occurred to inflate them, the increase and advance being rather of a steady and substantial kind, which, after all, is the safest and best in the end. There are two substantial and amply capitalized banking houses in Canton, which, as yet, are all that its commerce demands. Some little jobbing business is transacted in a few lines, but the retail trade forms the principal industries among the merchants, who, as a general thing, are strong, solvent and rated high in commercial circles.
The press is well represented by one daily and two weekly publications, which evince more than the ordinary editorial ability of journals published in towns of this size. Out-side of Vicksburg, Natchez and Meridian, this city is the only one in the state that supports a daily paper, which speaks well for the enterprise and liberality of its citizens. The Picket, daily and weekly, is a progressive, live journal, ably conducted by a gentleman widely and favorably known among, as well as outside, of the profession, Capt. Emmett L. Ross. This journal, as well as the Citizen, may be taken with profit to themselves by Northern people who contemplate immigrating to Mississippi, as they always contain many items of interest concerning the city, county and state.
Canton’s population does not exceed twenty- five hundred souls, resident therein, but it is a nucleus around which will gradually gather new and fresh elements, which will eventually result in the upbuilding of a large, prosperous and wealthy commercial and industrial city, a distinction to which its geographical position, rich tributary country, excellent transportation facilities and the enterprise of its citizens clearly entitle it to aspire.
The Canton cotton warehouse was built during 1888 by a company organized for that purpose. Over $6,200 have been invested in a fine brick and iron building, 62×120 feet, fitted up with sliding doors, and all the features which go to make up a standard warehouse according to insurance rules. Its capacity is fifteen hundred bales. Platforms and office buildings have also been erected, and a large business has been developed.
A new bridge across Pearl River was built a few years ago at a cost of $4,000 by the county and private subscriptions combined. This serves to largely increase Canton’s trade territory from the counties lying east, whose people have heretofore gone to other markets.
Madison and Flora are prosperous railroad towns in Madison County of large and increasing business.
Source: Biographical and Historical Memories of Mississippi, Goodspeed Publishing Company, 1891