November 4, 2013 § 6 Comments
Shortly after the Chickasaws sold their lands in north Mississippi in 1832 and moved west, settlers populated the area, established villages and towns, and set up local government.
In the northeast corner of the state, the County of Tishomingo was founded, comprised of what are now Prentiss, Alcorn, and Tishomingo Counties, and covering nearly 1,000 square miles.
The town of Jacinto was established in 1836 as the County Seat at the center of the large county, and it quickly became the commercial and governmental hub of the area. Named for the site of Sam Houston’s decisive victory in the Texas Revolution, the little town’s population grew, and it soon had boarding houses, a newspaper, taverns, inns, smithies, mercantile shops, and all of the other amenities one would expect in a prospering frontier town. At the height of its growth, the town had more than 6,600 residents. Its future appeared bright.
In keeping with its ambition to greatness, the county in 1859 constructed a fine courthouse in the federal style in the center of the town to replace the original log building.
Only a few years later, however, the Civil War raged through the area. Corinth, 15 miles north, was devastated by two major, bloody battles over its vital railroad junction, and Shiloh, only a few miles north of Corinth, was the site of two of the deadliest days of the entire conflict.
In 1870, the original Tishomingo County was split into its three present-day counties. Since Jacinto was not conveniently located, it was no longer suitable for a county seat.
The town’s once-promising future became doubtful when it lost the government business that came to the county seat, as well as the trade and traffic that came with it. To compound the problem, the town fathers had made a crucial strategic error when they voted not to allow the noisy, smoky, intrusive railroad to come through the town. Jacinto was further isolated when the telegraph companies refused to run lines into the town after local farmers kept chopping down the poles, blaming the telegraph for a disastrous drought.
The population dwindled until the thriving town was no more than a forgotten rural wayside, albeit a rural wayside with a lovely courthouse.
Through the years the grand old former courthouse served as a Methodist school and church. In the 1960’s the building was sold for salvage for $600. Local citizens became involved and persuaded the salvage company to sell it to them for $2,000. A doctor wrote the check, a foundation was set up, the group raised funds, and preservation of the courthouse was assured. The foundation saw to it that the building was restored faithfully to its original condition. Today, the Jacinto Courthouse is regarded as one of the finest examples of federal style architecture in the nation, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 1972, the movie Tomorrow, starring Robert Duvall and Olga Bellin, was filmed in the area. Courtroom and courthouse scenes were filmed in Jacinto.
The courthouse is open to visitors. A caretaker will usher you through and tell you the stories of the town and the old courthouse. There is a rustic museum and there are some reconstructed outbuildings of interest.
Jacinto (the locals pronounce it JAY-sinna) is the site of a massive July 4 celebration each year that is renowned for its political speaking. Thousands of folks congregate for the holiday celebration, and the event is considered second only to the Neshoba County Fair in its attraction for statewide politicians.
The court room, on the second floor, on the left side of the building in the photo above. Jurors sat on the semi-circular bench …
First-floor lobby. The floor is unglazed bricks set in sand. When the building was restored, the bricks were worn, so, in order to keep the original bricks, they were simply turned over in place. The tax collector’s office is the door to the right …
Judge’s chambers on the first floor …