Greenville is the courthouse town of the county, as well as the capital of the levee district. Its population is six thousand six hundred and fifty-five. In 1880 it was twenty-five hundred. Old Greenville was burned during the war by the Federal naval authorities. A post office was established there September 10, 1803, with John Shaw as postmaster. The present town was laid off in 1865, though it was not incorporated until 1870. K. R. Wilson, a young man of New Jersey birth, who had come to Mississippi in 1858, and had served in company D of the Twenty-eighth Mississippi cavalry, returned from the war, and in May built a crude warehouse at Greenville, which was used for shipping and receiving purposes. This was on Blantonia plantation, and was the first thing in the way of a business house at Greenville. L. L. Alexander and M. Weiss built the first store, and were the first merchants. Following them were B. Cohn, Selig &Co., A. B. Finlay & Co., Cox & Everman. B. Hanway was an early merchant.
Such, in brief, is the early commercial history of this bright and attractive Mississippi city. In front of it the Father of Waters flows majestically, acting as the great regulator of freight rates by rail, and is of incalculable benefit to all classes doing business in this market. Of railways there are three; the Lake Washington and Bolivar loop lines of the Louis-ville, New Orleans & Texas railway, and the main line of the Georgia Pacific railway, and others will be built in the near future. That the Illinois Central will construct a line to Greenville during the next eighteen months is now an open secret; in fact, in order to protect its valuable carrying trade from and to the great delta region, that company sees and appreciates the necessity for paralleling the Georgia Pacific. Surveys have already been made and the favored route will doubtless be the one directly through that section, via Grenada. It will thus be noticed how complete and comprehensive Greenville’s transportation facilities are, and that it must always retain a commanding position as a distributing center. That Greenville, therefore, reasonably may aspire to become a city of the magnitude of Memphis is by no means extravagant, particularly as, in connection with all the natural advantages, its citizens are imbued with such enterprise, push and progress that they do their utmost to advance its interests upon all occasions.
The streets are wide, beautifully graded, well guttered and kept clean; consequently it is a healthy city, and free from all local diseases liable to become epidemic. The business streets present a fine and imposing appearance, the buildings being principally constructed of brick, having iron and plate-glass fronts, while some of their occupants transact fully $750,000 worth of business per annum. Good sidewalks have also been laid in every portion, and a good street car line furnishes excellent transit facilities between the business and residence quarters. At night the city is illuminated by means of electricity, the streets presenting a thoroughly metropolitan appearance. A system of waterworks is being constructed, calculated to supply a city of twenty-five thousand inhabitants, about the size Greenville fully, and with reason, expects to attain in less than a decade.
A fine telephone exchange is also another modern feature enjoyed by this modern ideal community. Large and costly business houses, residences and cottages are being constructed in all portions of the city, and improvements of a substantial character are being made in every direction, plainly indicating the prosperity and enterprise of the inhabitants who are widely known for their hospitality, kindness, culture and refinement. Very creditable educational facilities also existing have a tendency to draw to Greenville a very superior citizenship. The city is provided with a good opera-house and a large number of churches, while the different leading civic societies are well represented. Real estate is steadily advancing in value, and heavy deals are being made almost every day, often involving large sums. Some very fine additions to the original site have been laid out, and the city seems to be visibly growing and becoming more of a cosmopolitan metropolis every day. It boasts of four banks, with a combined capital of $600,000, and a line of deposits averaging $750,000. There are also two large and first-class compresses and two cottonseed-oil mills, representing a total investment of $495,000.
The cornerstone of the new Washington County courthouse was laid recently. N. Goldstein was master of ceremonies, and delivered an address in opening the proceedings. Rev. Stevenson Archer invoked God’s blessing. Mayor J. H. Winn delivered an address of welcome. Judge W. R. Trigg spoke as the orator of the occasion, in place of Capt. W. W. Stone, who could not possibly be present. Rev. William Cross directed the Masonic ceremonies. The following is the record of the contents of the stone: Holy Bible, laws of Free Masonry and constitution of the grand lodge, proceedings of the grand Commandery of 1891, names and officers of the grand lodge, names of acting officers of the grand lodge, order of procession, program of ceremonies, names of Washington county’ s officials, names of Greenville’s municipal officials, copies of the Greenville Times and Democrat, copies of daily and weekly Clarion-Ledger, history of Greenville, United States coins. The inscriptions upon the stone are as follows: Dedicated to justice, October ’20, 1891, A. L. 5891. John M. Ware, grand master. Laid by William Cross, D. D. G.
As yet, Greenville depends for its commerce almost wholly upon the cotton, of which staple it receives some one hundred thousand bales per annum, and the receipts are rapidly and very largely increasing each season, as new railroads are built and new plantations opened. An active cotton exchange aids very materially in making of this so important a cotton market and a Liverpool rate of sixty-five cents per hundred pounds has been secured.
There is naturally a limit to the growth of any town or city wholly supported by its surrounding agricultural country, and knowing this, the people of Greenville believe in foster-ino’ and encouraging industrial enterprises, and local capitalists will cheerfully and liberally cooperate with the outside men of means and practical knowledge of manufacturing, and invite their attention to their city. Its present industries comprise two large cotton compresses, costing $165,000, two oilmills, costing $325,000, one of which is the largest and finest plant in the South, its cost having been $250,000. The electric light plant represents an investment of $65,000. There are two large saw and one planing mill, a sash, door and blind factory, an ice factory, one foundry, two cistern or tank factories, and a steam bottling works. One large brick works, conducted by a strong stock company, produces millions of first-class bricks for local use as well as export. Besides these, there are a number of smaller establishments of various kinds, every one being prosperous and busy, all of which shows plainly that manufacturing pays well in Greenville, if practically prosecuted. By means of Greenville’s splendid railway system, every important market and consuming center in the Union is made readily accessible by routes and at rates as low as are enjoyed by any other Southern city. The attention of practical manufacturers is therefore specially directed to Greenville as being in all respects a most favorable location for industries. A large cotton and woolen mill could not be located elsewhere to better advantage, this being King Cotton’s capital realm, the product of which is eagerly sought and well paid for in every cotton manufacturing center in the United States and Europe.
The press is creditably represented in Greenville by three first-class weekly newspapers, one of which runs its presses by an electric motor, having been the first and for some time the only office thus equipped in the state, or, as far as is known, in the South. The Democrat now in its thirteenth volume, is an eight-page paper, all home print, well edited, and the advertising columns are an index to the character of its constituents. Enterprise and prosperity are plainly visible on every page.
The Times was established as the Washington County Times in 1868, is ably edited and well supported by all classes throughout the city and country. In politics it is democratic. John W. Ward, its former publisher, sold the paper to J. S. McNeily, who gave it its present title.
The Spirit is a successful candidate for public favor, and was established February 18, 1889, by John W. Ward. It is a four-page folio, and its circulation is growing rapidly.
All these journals may be taken with profit by anyone intending to locate in the Delta, as they are full of information concerning that desirable country.
The Greenville Republican, H. T. Florey, proprietor, was published by John W. Ward during the administration of Governor Alcorn.
In 1880, James E. Negus and Henry T. Iries opened a private banking house. After some time Mr. Iries withdrew and Mr. Negus continued the business some time under the name of the Merchants’ bank. In 1887 it was merged into the First national bank. This institution has a capital of $100,000, and a surplus of $30,000. James E. Negus is its president, and Thomas Mount, cashier.
The Bank of Greenville was organized in 1869 by W. A. Pollock, and in 1887 was incorporated under the state laws. This, the first bank in the Delta, was a private bank operated by Mr. Pollock at first. At the time of incorporation the concern was capitalized at $250,-000, with Mr. Pollock as president and A. S. Olin as cashier. This bank is the pioneer in this part of Mississippi.
September 15, 1888, the Merchants and Planters’ bank was organized by James Robertshaw with a capital of $100,000. J. S. Walker was president, W. E. Hunt vice president and J. Robertshaw cashier. The present officers are J. S. Walker, president; W. E. Hunt, vice president; S. C. Lane, cashier, and George Wheatley, assistant cashier.
The Citizens’ bank of Greenville was organized December 1, 1888, with $50,000 capital. Its president was A. P. Keesecker and J. S. McDonald was cashier. Its present officers are J. A. Deaton, president; W. S. Hamilton, cashier. The capital is now 185,000.
In 1868 the Greenville Compress company was established with a capital of 1100,000; W. A. Pollock, president; T. J. Irwine, secretary and treasurer.
The Planters’ Compress company was incorporated in 1887 with 150,000 capital; James E. Negus, president; Joseph Uhl, secretary and treasurer.
The Greenville oil works is a branch of the great oil interest. The investment in its plant and realty is $150,000. Jos. Allison, of Memphis, is president, and King Dowarth, secretary and treasurer.
The Planters’ cottonseed crushing association has a home capital of $100,000. C. H. Smith is president, George Alexander superintendent.
Nearly all religious denominations are represented in Greenville, among them the Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist Episcopal, Protestant Episcopal, Catholic and Jewish. They all have substantial frame edifices and most of them have good membership and are in a prosperous condition.
The Young Men’s Christian association has its own building, a fine brick structure, erected in 1890, which with the lot and fixtures cost $12,000. It is well supported and is doing much good. It was organized in 1878, after the yellow fever epidemic, and incorporated a few years later.
The Greenville cemetery association was incorporated in 1887.
Greenville lodge No. 94, I. O. O. F.; Mississippi Valley lodge Knights of Honor No. 723, C. P. Huntington council No. 973 Legion of Honor, the Benevolent Protective order of Elks No. 50 and Hebrew union are among the societies that have good membership here.
Delta Commandery No. 16, Hillyer Royal Arch Chapter, No. 113 and Greenville lodge No. 206, represent the Masonic order at Greenville, and are all in a flourishing condition and have a good membership.
The Knights of Pythias have two strong lodges at Greenville Stonewall Jackson lodge No. 7, and W. A. Percy lodge No. 57. There are a number of social clubs in Greenville, having elegantly furnished rooms, equal to many found in large cities. The citizens are generally speaking, social in their habits, and take special delight in entertaining strangers. The Greenville Rifles is a splendid militia company, handsomely uniformed, well accoutered and perfect in the manual of arms.
Greenville’s leading industries and notable features may be thus summarized: two oil mills, two cotton compresses, a land and improvement company, an ice factory, an electric power and light company, the Greenville street railway company, the Greenville brick and improvement company, the Delta land and improvement company, thirteen miles of electric wire, and about seven miles of street railway.
Source: Biographical and Historical Memories of Mississippi, Goodspeed Publishing Company, 1891