Hazlehurst, the seat of justice of Copiah County, is favorably located a little east of the center of the county and has a population of one thousand five hundred and fifteen. It is â€¢A station on the Illinois Central railway, has much business activity and commands a good trade.
There is perhaps no point on the line of the Illinois Central railroad of more interest to the agricultural and farming communities than Wesson, Miss, (population two thousand), the point at which the celebrated Mississippi mills are located. This cotton and woolen manufactory employs a large number of hands, furnishing not only work for many men and women, but it necessarily creates a local demand for all kinds of farm produce which is felt in all that section of country. We quote from an address of Gen. A. M. West, of Holly Springs, delivered before the international exhibition at Philadelphia, Penn., July 10, 1878, the following concerning the great enterprise at Wesson: “In 1847 Col. J. M. Wesson, of Georgia, organized a company for manufacturing cotton and woolen goods, cornmeal and flour, and located in the same year in Mississippi, and commenced operations in 1848. This enterprise was eminently successful. It commenced with a capital of 150,000, and within a few years increased the same to $300,000. It was destroyed by the Federal army in 1864. Colonel Wesson, encouraged by previous success, located, after the war, in a vast pine forest in Copiah County, and named the place Wesson, and entered at once upon the erection .of suitable factory buildings, which he soon furnished with machinery and put into operation. These mills were destroyed by fire and were then rebuilt by Mr. E. Richardson.” The further history of this great industrial enterprise is given elsewhere in this volume. Quite a large town is growing up around the mills. There is a demand for all the goods they can make, and they are unable to keep up with orders for styles. Large sales are made in the Western states, in New York, and what is better they have a large local and home patronage; thus demonstrating that cotton can be more economically manufactured in the immediate vicinity of its production than elsewhere.
The town of Wesson has never had a saloon, deeds for the lots containing a clause which prohibits forever the sale of intoxicating liquors on them. There are three white churches, Methodist, Baptist and Presbyterian, all handsome structures, and one colored church, though the population is made up almost exclusively of white people, there being not more than a score of Negroes living within the corporate limits.
The town is well supplied with water for protection from fire through the public spirit of the mill company in placing fire plugs at convenient points, the supply coming through the company’s pumps at a creek and reservoir a mile distant. There are lodges of Masons, Odd Fellows, Knights of Honor and other like organizations. The banking business of the place is transacted through the Mississippi mills. The town raised 110,000 bonus and the site to secure the location of the state female college which, however, went to Columbus, not-withstanding Wesson was the home of one thousand four hundred young ladies, drawn thither from various counties by the prospect of employment in the mills. There is a large and successful free school in session the entire year, besides several private schools.
Wesson was visited on April 22, 1883, by a cyclone, the most destructive ever known in the state. Its track was one-fourth of a mile wide and thirty miles long, sweeping away in its course two towns, Beauregard and Georgetown Wesson, however, suffering severely. The storm cloud came from the southwest, at about three o’clock in the afternoon, and with a frightful roar carried away houses, trees, fences, human beings, and all manner of debris in indescribable confusion. There were one hundred and ninety persons wounded and seventy-six killed, while hundreds were left homeless and destitute. An associate society of Red Cross for Copiah County was formed at Wesson, and over five hundred and fifty destitute people received aid in this vicinity, exclusive of aid given by agents of the society along the track of the storm. The society received and disbursed $7,943, exclusive of large supplies of food and clothing.
Other towns in this county are Crystal Springs and Beauregard. Crystal Springs has a population of one thousand one hundred and twenty-five, and is a flourishing station on the Illinois Central railroad. It is a well built and handsome place, widely known for its extensive garden truck and fruit-growing interests. Beauregard, on the same railway line, has a population of six hundred and three. It was almost totally destroyed by a cyclone in 1883 and has been only partially rebuilt.
Hazlehurst lodge No. 25, A. F. & A. M., consolidated in 1870 with Gallatin lodge No. 25, has twenty-six members and D. B. Low is worshipful master.
Quitman lodge, A. F. & A. M., is located at Rockport post office, near Pearl River, and has twenty- nine members, its worshipful master being M. D. L. Crawford.
Charles Scott lodge No. 136, A. F. & A. M., is located east of Crystal Springs. J. M. Wesson lodge No. 317, of Wesson, has sixty-seven members, and Miles Cannon is worshipful master.
Copiah lodge No. 1422, Knights of Honor, was organized in 1879. Its first dictator was Judge T. E. Cooper. It now has about sixty-six members and Hon. Geo. L. Dodds is dictator.
Excelsior lodge No. 365, Knights and Ladies of Honor, of which Capt. J. L. Ard is protector, has about thirty-five members.
There is a Knights of Pythias lodge in the county known as Copiah lodge No. 60.
Signal Assembly No. 5739 Knights of Labor, has a goodly membership, and there is a lodge of A. L. of H.
The following lodges are located at Crystal Springs:
Knights of Pythias No. 21, established about 1880, which has about fifty-one members.
Knights of Honor No. 1420, established about 1879, and has about one hundred and five members.
At Wesson are Harmony lodge Knights of Honor No. 1851,
Knights and Ladies of Honor lodge,
I. O. O. F. lodge, and a Good Templars lodge.
West Point, the seat of justice of Clay County, on the Illinois Central & Mobile & Ohio railroads, has a population of twenty-two hundred, and is a trading point of growing importance. West Point has a fine brick public school building. Its churches areas follows: Missionary Baptist, Christian, Methodist, Cumberland Presbyterian, Old School Presbyterian and the Protestant Episcopal. The Baptists were the first to organize here.
Secret societies are represented thus:
Cannon lodge No. 159, A. F. & A. M., of which Moses Jordan was the first worshipful master, and J. H. Shipman is the present one, and which has surrendered its charter twice, and been twice revived;
Star lodge No. 84, I. O. O. F., established January 1869, with W. J. Howell as noble grand, and of which Tol. Hobbler is present noble grand;
West Point lodge No. 527, Knights of Honor, organized March, 1877, with nine members, J. H. Shipman first dictator, and now having one hundred and sixty-one members.
West Point lodge No. 224, Knights and Ladies of Honor, which was organized January, 1880, with thirty-four members, I. W. Foster first protector, and now has sixty-one members; Fred Daggett being protector.
Prairie lodge No. 42, Knights of Pythias, which was organized in June, 1885, with W. E. Motford as chancellor commander
Security lodge No. 254, Knights of the Golden Rule.
Tibbee, Palo Alto and Siloam are several small towns in this county.
Source: Biographical and Historical Memories of Mississippi, Goodspeed Publishing Company, 1891