March 22, 2014 § 1 Comment
On September 27, 1830, the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek was signed, putting into motion the first great removal of Native Americans under recently-enacted federal laws. The treaty ceded around 11 million acres of Choctaw lands in a wide swath across Mississippi from the Mississippi River, southeasterly across the Delta, and encompassing all of east-central Mississippi. In exchange, the tribe acquired lands in what is now Oklahoma, and the treaty granted US citizenship to any Choctaws who chose to remain peacefully in their former territory.
The treaty was made public some five months later, and white settlers began to move into the length and breadth of the area affected by the treaty.
In 1833, in the area of East Mississippi ceded by the Choctaws, Neshoba County was formed, consisting of what is now Neshoba and Newton Counties. The county seat was established near the center of the new county, a few miles east of what is now the town of Union. The Montgomery-to-Jackson Stagecoach Road, a major thoroughfare, passed through the settlement.
In 1834, Wesley Boler sold his land in Hinds County and purchased land on the stagecoach road in an area known as New Ireland. Boler’s property encompassed what eventually became the entire town of Union.
In 1836, Neshoba County was divided into its present arrangement: Neshoba County to the north, with its county seat in Philadelphia, and Newton County to the south, with its county seat at Decatur. The town of Union grew up near the old county seat at the Neshoba-Newton County line.
In 1856, Boler built a two-story dogtrot home on the stagecoach road at the edge of the village of Union. Here is how the property appeared in 1907, in its earliest known photograph:
Only a few years later the Civil War had engulfed the nation, and in another couple of years it reached Newton County. Grierson’s Raid in 1863 resulted in armed clashes near Philadelphia and at the railroad station at Newton (loosely depicted in the 1959 John Wayne movie The Horse Soldiers). Sherman in 1864 marched a force of 20,000 through Newton County en route to his destruction of Meridian, burning the Decatur courthouse and tearing up miles of railroad on his way. On his return from Meridian to Canton, Sherman took over and spent the night in Boler’s home on February 21, 1864.
There is a local legend that Sherman declined to burn Boler’s home because he mistakenly believed or was falsely led to believe that the name “Union” had come about because Wesley Boler was in the Union army. Boler was, however, enrolled in the Confederate army. There is nothing in Sherman’s journals of the Meridian campaign to support the local account, although he does use quotation marks with the name “Union.” Was that an ironic wink at the inaptly-named town? He did not offer us an explanation.
We know from Sherman’s records that he had tarried at Meridian awaiting reinforcements of 7,000 cavalry from Memphis that never arrived, and, having completed the razing of Meridian and the destruction of all railroad lines and facilities in the surrounding area, Sherman determined to return to the main body of Union forces to the west. The journal of one of Sherman’s officers indicates that the force had marched 21 miles west from the burning of Meridian in haste to get to Canton the following day, and was in need of rest when it found Boler’s place to be the only suitable one in the area, which probably explains why the invaders did not take the time for destruction.
It is unclear when Boler’s home made the transition from private residence to Stagecoach Inn. It is reasonable to surmise that Boler himself may have taken in boarders soon after the home was built, given the location of the home on the heavily-travelled road, the lack of rail transportation in the area until later, and the configuration of the home that would enable the family to live comfortably downstairs with guests upstairs. Boler sold the building after the Civil War to a gentleman who did operate it as an inn and tavern.
Some claim that both Jefferson Davis and Stonewall Jackson were among the lodgers at Boler’s. It is quite possible that Davis stayed there, since his route eastward from his plantation near Natchez would have taken him through the area. If Jackson was ever a guest, that would help establish that Boler’s was an inn before the Civil War, since Jackson did not survive the conflict.
The property fell into disrepair through the years until a foundation took on its restoration. Today, it is restored and houses a museum. It is located in sight of Union’s downtown, in an area with some grand, old homes.