History of Meadville, MS

The city of Meadville was named for Cowles Meade, Virginia native, who was appointed Secretary of the Territory in 1805. He had also served as acting Governor and Speaker of the House. Meadville was the political hotbed of Franklin County. Most of the leading political figures of the county lived in Meadville, or in its’ environs. In 1860, it had telegraph service, three inns and taverns, two houses of private entertainment, a post office, cobblers, several school teachers, a group of lawyers, a number of mechanics, several blacksmiths, and a tailor.

A gentleman passing through Meadville in 1841, describe it as “Being in a state of dilapidation and decline. The palsying hand of time had shaken it to pieces.” Actually, the whole county was suffering from the lingering depression that is usually styled “the panic of 1837.” The traveler was undoubtedly sincere in his observation concerning the condition of Meadville. No one had enough money to buy a tavern license in the town that year, so he might have missed his mid-day “dram.” It might have appeared dilapidated, because the Whig Party had consistently led his Democratic Party during the past few years or because many people had left the county two jumps ahead of process servers, to escape paying their debts and had left their homes vacant and fields unattended. The county did not have a sheriff because William K. Ratcliff, the man elected sheriff, could not get any person or group of persons as sureties for his bond, and the old jail had nearly fallen down.

Conditions in the entire state were bad. Various laws were passed, restricting sheriffs who were busily selling debtors’ property. The sheriff received half of the property at auction, if there were no bidders, and some sheriff’s “forgot” to advertise the auctions. Early in 1841, a law was passed requiring the sheriff to post five notices, one being on the courthouse, advertising the auctions which could not be held without ten days’ notice on personal property, or thirty days’ notice on real estate. Later in the year, a law was passed to ban the sheriff from receiving half of the property where there were no bidders.

About six months after the traveler came through Meadville, William Proby, Oscar J.A. Stuart and John Johnson put glasses in all the windows, repaired the broken benches and steps, made a new door for the east side of the courthouse, and made other needed repairs upon the building. About that same time, Patrick Burd, a former overseer for Robert Anderson, began to build a new jail, because in 1839, Edmund Tucker, the sheriff, had carried prisoners to the Adams County Jail due to the insufficiency of the county jail. The new jail was to be 30 feet long and 25 feet wide from out to out and two stones high, with two dungeons – one on the ground floor and the other on the second. A sheriff’s office was to be on the lower story, and a debtor’s room on the second. The sheriff’s office and the debtor’s department each were to have a fireplace sealed to the building by iron or wooden timbers. Each story was to be nine feet in the clear and the windows of the upper and lower dungeons were to be lined with an iron plate, three-eighths of an inch in thickness and eleven inches wide, to extend six inches above and below. The windows were to be spiked well to the sheds and riveted through, with three bars in each window. The lower windows were to be bricked up half way from the bottom, half the thickness of the walls. Later, a rail fence with four gates was built around the public square. The posts were white oak and the fence extended 66 feet north.

In the years following the depression, life in Meadville returned to normal. Taverns and inns were again opened in the town. Before the panic, the taverns were operated by Reddin Byrd; the jailer, N.R. McKay; John D. Warschow; and Lewis Hollinger, who were predominantly of old established families. After the depression, taverns and inns were operated by persons, who had in many cases, recently arrived from abroad. Tavern keepers George Garvis and Henry N. McKenzie came from Great Britain. Ebenezer Eleeker, who ran a small store in Meadville, was a native of England. Jose Rodriquez, another merchant, came from Cuba. Lewis M. Hollinger, who had the largest tavern in town, Hiram Mann and Jacob Stern, tavern keepers, were born in Germany.

Men of foreign ancestry, comprised a large segment of the population of the town in 1860. Charles Brewerton, a local painter, was a native of England; Joseph Glick and Marcius Lilverburg, both tailors, were born in Germany; and Edward Moreau, a cobbler, was a recent immigrant from Russia. Thomas Ryan, a brick mason, hailed from the Emeral Isle, and Henry Hinelcamp, a mechanic, and Barnett Broadmitz, a clerk, were both born in Europe. Sigmund Mann, who operated a general store in Meadville, was of German origin, John and James Garvis, brothers of George Garvis, were originally from Great Britain.

In the various professions and crafts, there were many Native Americans, some of whom were born in Franklin County. George W. Imes and Rufus R. Ford were engineers. Dewitt G. Graham practiced law and was a competent surveyor. Thomas M. Pickett was a carpenter. F.C. Huff, John F. Hall, William D. Buckles, and Alexander McDonally were mechanics. William K. Brown was a shoemaker. Some of the doctors who resided in Meadville were John B. Holden, John J. Jones, James A. Lee, Orvin V. Shurtliff, and Jacob R. Sample. In addition to lawyer-surveyor D. C. Graham, other attorneys were David A. Herring, William S. Cassedy, and Judge Hiram Cassedy. John A. Sample was the town’s sole artist.

John M. Flowers and Joseph B. Wilkinson operated houses of private entertainment in Meadville in 1860. Wilkinson also had a grocery store and was in charge of mail delivery. Some sources state that he became postmaster in Meadville, in May, 1858, upon the death of John P. Stewart, who had been postmaster prior to that time. Wilkinson had eight men working for him, who distributed the mail throughout the county. Several new buildings were built in the decade prior to 1860. The Masons were not satisfied with the old Masonic Lodge. In 1857, they bought two lots from William O. Weathersby and John P. Stewart, and Stewart and John A. Hunter contracted to build a new lodge hall. The old building was sold to Richard Haley by O.V. Shurtliff, one of the commissioners for the Masonic finance committee.

The various transactions in land in Meadville indicate that Seaborn E. Jones bought several lots in Meadville, and on this land he probably built his tavern. In this period, other purchasers of Meadville land were: David Laurie; J.P. Stewart, a lawyer; William Calvit; William S. Cassedy, a lawyer; Jesse W. Cobb, a tavern keeper; Erwin Cleary, and John L. Bornmore. Pickett Reynolds had begun what was to be the largest saloon in Meadville in 1860. This tavern was a two story structure about one hundred feet long and sixty feet wide. Reynolds planned to convert the lower story into a tavern and the upper story into small rooms for sleeping accommodations.