Lawrence County, Mississippi – Brief History

For a period of five years county courts were held at the house of Wright Mitchell, and then a rude log court house was built on the site of the present building: Harmon Runnels, Chief Justice of the Quorum; Stephen Noble, J. Q.; Benjamin Goodson, J. Q.; James Stigler, J. Q.; Harmon M. Runnels, Clerk, and Hardin, D. Runnels, Sheriff, constituted the first court as organized March 6, 1815. The civil officers of the county in 1818 were as follows: George W. King, Chief Justice of the Quorum, and John Reagan and Eli Garner, Justices of the Quorum; Samuel Alexander, Randolph Traylor, Fort Alfred, Warner, Francis Ross, Harper Garner, Alex. Hall, Jesse Maxwell, Wm. Smith, Sr., Samuel Pepper, Joseph Hart, Francis Tilman, Thomas Ship, Arthur Fox, John N. Field, Justices of the Peace; John Burney, Assessor and Collector; Harper Garner, County Surveyor; Wylie Bohahnon, County Treasurer; Jonathan Armstrong, Leonard Green, Wm. D. Hathorn, Thos. P. Honea, Thos. Matthews, Phillips, Parish Garner, Ezekiel Loften, William Mallet, Constables. The county was named in commemoration of James Lawrence, captain of the Chesapeake in the memorable battle with the British on Lake Erie. Its northern boundary is the old Choctaw boundary line of 1805, separating it from Copiah and Simpson counties on the north, Jefferson Davis County is on the east, Marion and Walthall counties on the south, and Lincoln County, named in the Reconstruction period, on the west. It is an old settled region in the south central part of the State, and its hardy and vigorous pioneers contributed largely to the early beginnings of Mississippi.

The earliest settler of the town and county was Harmon Runnels, who built the first house in Monticello, so named in honor of the residence of Thomas Jefferson. He reared a large family of sons and daughters. One of his sons, Hiram G. Runnels, was elected Governor of this State; and his grandson, of the same name, was subsequently elected Governor of Texas. Soon afterwards came Wright Mitchell, Joseph Cooper, Bartholomew Longino, Henry Maxwell, Jas. Buckley, the grandfather of the late Jas. Buckley, who was assistant Auditor of Public Accounts and former Clerk of the Circuit Court of Lincoln county, Elias Mullens, Jesse Maxwell, John Maxwell, Samuel Rnd Brewster Jayne, Aaron Hickman, Luke Butler, grandfather of Wm. Butler, who served several terms as sheriff of the county: Arthur Fox, Randall Pierce, Hamilton Jet, the families of Smith, Cole, King, Hall, Bridges, Lenoir, Otis, Parkman, Fortenberry, Cannon, Rogers, Hooker, Ward, Cohea, Gwin.

The little village of Monticello, with a population of 464 and situated on a high bluff on the western bank of the Pearl River, is the county seat; it was the home of Harmon Runnels, Hiram G., Harmon M. and Hardin D. Runnels, his sons. Harmon Runnels came to the State from Georgia, built the first house in Monticello and was a forceful representative in the constitutional convention of 1817. He reared a large family, which became influential in the annals of the State. Hiram G. Runnels, one of the sons, became Governor of the State in 1833.

There are no large settlements in Lawrence County, the more important ones being Monticello, the county seat, and the railroad towns of Grange, Hebron, Prentiss, Silvercreek and a number of other pleasant villages.

The county is well watered by the Pearl River which flows through the center, together with its numerous tributaries.

4 thoughts on “Lawrence County, Mississippi – Brief History”

  1. I have found three sites stating that Monticello was first settled in 1798. The Lawrence County Historical Society has the founding of Monticello in 1810. There is a difference between settled and founded. Do you know when Monticello was first settled.

    Thank you for your time and effort.

    1. Mississippi Genealogy

      Harmon Runnels bought the land in 1811 that became Monticello. Not certain who may have settled on the land before him, but it certainly wasn’t a town or community before he laid it out after his purchase.

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