History of Kosciusko and Attala County
By J. H. Wallace, 1917
Transcribed by Eddie Mikell
The boundary of Attala was organized December 23, 1833, out of territory previously acquired from the Choctaw Indians by the treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek in 1828. It was surveyed in 1834 by Mr. Shirky, a United States Surveyor. Immediately, the Governor, Hiram G. Runnels, appointed the proper officials to organize the county; select and locate the county site, and hold an election for the several county offices. I regret that I cannot give the names of but two of the commissioners thus appointed – John Irving and B.G. Wallace (father of this writer).
One of the first duties of the commissioners was to select a county site and raise means to build a courthouse. For the purpose of a county site, what is known as the “Ross place,two miles northwest of Kosciusko was looked upon with a great deal of favor by the Board, the ground being almost perfectly level and high and dry, but it was feared the water supply would be difficult to obtain, and therefore it was rejected. Had the Board believed that a plentiful supply of good water could have been obtained on the Ross place, the present town of Kosciusko would undoubtedly be located there.
The present site of the town was known then as the “Red Bird Springs”. Mr. Chapin Smith who owned the land offered to donate to the county 40 acres upon which these springs were situated, for a county site, which was accepted. At that time there were on the North, South and West sides of the public square, five springs of pure, cool water bursting out of the white sand at the foot of the hills, which it was believed would furnish the town with an abundance of pure water for all time. But alas! for human calculations – time has leveled the hills, the valleys between have been filled and all those fine springs are now buried from 15 to 20 feet below the surface.
The Board of Commissioners having accepted Mr. Smith’s donation proceeded to lay off the 40 acres into streets and town lots. Mr. John Irving, one of the commissioners, and also one experienced surveyor, was engaged for this duty. The street North of the courthouse square was called Washington, on the East, Jackson; on the South Jefferson, and on the West Madison. The street running east and west in front of the county jail was named Adam. As the Natchez Trace was already established that portion of it which was through the town was called Natchez Street. As the town grew, other streets were opened and named as needed.
The selection of a name for the new town was next in order, as was also the name of the new county. About this time, a popular Indian story of love and romance was having its run with the reading public. It was written by Hon. J. F. H. Claiborne, a pioneer in the early Settlement of Mississippi and a prominent actor in its territorial history, and also after it had become one of the States of the Union. The tradition informs us that that section of the county lying between Florida and the Mississippi River was occupied by Indians under the dominion of the French.
There lived among the Indians a native chief who was the father of a beautiful daughter who was call in the native language of her people “Attala”. Her father was the chief of a large tribe of Pascagoula Indians, who hunted the wild game and had their villages in the forests between the present cities of Meridian and Mobile. A French soldier, wandering one day from the nearby garrison at which he was stationed, met the timid maiden, Attala, and fell in love with her at “first sight”. He was completely enraptured with her charms, and wooed her with all the passionate candor for which the French are noted, and Attala returned his love with equal intensity. So infatuated was the Soldier with this beautiful maiden of the forest that on one occasion he deserted his post of duty as a soldier for the pleasure of her company for which he was tried, court-martialed, convicted and sentenced to by shot. On the day previous to the time set for his execution, Attala was permitted to enter his cell and remain alone with her love for a short time. She came out with bowed head and covered face, and was sent beyond the lines of the garrison. When an officer entered the cell of the doomed man next morning to lead him out to be shot, he found not the man, but the heroic Attala who had exchanged her garb for that of her lover and sent him forth to freedom while she remained to received whatever fate might in store for her. At first, the officers were inclined to treat her roughly, but manly sentiment prevailed and she was set free in the forest to seek her lover whose live she had saved. And so in commemoration of the Indian girl’s heroism, the county received its name. At the suggestion of Gordon D. Boyd, a favorite citizen at that time, the town was called Kosciusko after Polish patriot of that name who fought for freedom under General Washington in the Revolution.
The Board now proceeded to build a courthouse and jail. The first courthouse was a rude structure built of unknown logs on a lot north of the public square. The jail was a simple two story wooden building located on the lot now occupied by the Kosciusko Hotel on Depot Street. In 1835 the contract for building a two-story brick courthouse was let to Mr. Green. This building was a very cheap concern as compared with buildings of this day, for there were but few settlers to pay taxes for county purposes. This first courthouse was about 40 by 60 feet and was arranged with the different offices above and the courtroom below, the floor of which was brick. A rostrum and bar were arranged in the West End of the building, and inside the bar were a few rough benches for the use of jurors and members of the bar. The balance of the courtroom was entirely bare of seats or any other furniture. This courtroom was entirely destroyed by an incendiary fire in July 1887, and the Sheriff’s office robbed of several thousand dollars, which he had collected from the taxpayers of the county.
After the location of the town, all the lots into which the 40 acres donated had been surveyed and marked with proper metes, bounds, and numbers, were sold to the highest bidder at public auction, nearly all being purchased by her few citizens, and some of the owners began to build and over all around the square were here and there located rude log houses as stores, grocers, and offices. These different houses were occupied by Peuder and Nash, general merchandise; Col. O.M. Simpson, Charles Friller, Joel and Lewis Harvey, Joe P. Smith, Richard Henry, dealers in groceries and Evans and Hight, Druggists. In 1835, Richard Ross built a large and substantial hotel on the south side of the public square. This old building was removed a few years ago to make room for a more modern building and is now doing service as a storage house for one of our leading merchants. In 1842, James McAdony and Silas H. Clark came to Kosciusko and established a store opposite the southwest corner of Court Square. This was a strong firm, processing abundance of means and unlimited credit. This firm was a great convenience to all, especially the farmers, who at that time transacted nearly all their business through the merchants of Yazoo City, that being the nearest market for their products. Mr. Clark soon sold out his interest in the business to Mr. McAdony who continued it until his death in 1862.
Kosciusko made very slow progress until 1847, where it was incorporated. This was the turning point in its welfare, for from that time up to the present its records has been one of steady even progress if we may accept the years of the civil war from 1861 to 1865. Five large conflagrations have at different times destroyed the business houses of the town, but Phoenix-like, it has each time risen from its ashes brighter and better than before.