by Katy Simpson Brougher

Though fully conscious that the introduction to any volume is rarely read as an integral part of the material in the pages which follow, I enthuse over the opportunity to try to weave into these pages allotted me some of the tremendously interesting things, events, and people connected with the formation of Quitman County and its subsequent development.

It is a long retrospect, this looking over the sixty years of the county’s life, yet, as I see her now even in “Swaddling clothes,” it seems but Yesterday. Vividly do I recall my father, Captain D.H. Simpson, and my mother lamenting the tragic death of Colonel [Wesley] Mellard, maternal grandfather of Dr. Alfred and Mellard Jamison, present day citizens. Colonel Mellard was a land-holder in the part of Panola territory from which the new county was formed and at that time had to go to Batesville to pay taxes. So it was, that, with a negro to paddle the canoe the necessary long, hard journey was made, but on the return trip the little craft was caught by a swift current in the stream and was capsized, throwing them into the cold, muddy water. They were able to catch limbs and pull up into a tree, but Colonel Mellard succumbed to the cold, getting so numb he could no longer hold on. The negro (younger than Colonel Mellard) almost frozen, fought valiantly to rescue his white friend but was unable to do so–only his pipe was saved and this was brought back to poor Mrs. Mellard.

This sad story illustrates the hardships and difficulties of travel in the early days. The old Jamison Ferry located at a point across Coldwater River near the Jamison Homestead (where Dr. Alfred Jamison and family still reside) was a landmark; it for years and years being the gate-way to the trail which led to Porter’s Ferry, thence to Batesville.

Think of having to make long business trips in a dugout in treacherous waters, surrounded by deep forests and water-bogged cane-brakes.

There were no dirt roads to speak of in this water-bogged cane-brake of sloughs, lakes, bayous, and rivers, but the rich fertile soil bewitched a substantial, hard-working and far-seeing populace who followed the trail to the seeming “End of the Rainbow.” To these brave pioneers Quitman County wafts a message of allegiance, and carries on toward the mark of their ambition.

Particular evidences of this are shown in transportation methods and that of health. Where once these trails, above referred to, could only be traversed on horse-back or in wagons drawn by oxen, now extend straight, wide concrete roads, making all points in the county easily accessible. Where there was once no thought of sanitary methods and self-care, except as was inspired by the dear old “Doctor of Saddle-Bag Days,” there are now the advantage of a part-time health department, clinics, and two modernly equipped hospitals. And speaking of old doctors, a story is told, and it is true, that one of these performed a surgical operation on a Mississippi notable with a log or fallen tree as the operating table. This was at a hunting camp and it was a case of emergency.

It has been the purpose of this history to include all authenticated facts available, especially those with an enriching savor, and particularly to give credit where credit is due, or to “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,” and we trust that the contents of the following pages will convey to its readers at least a faint picture of the county, as it has merged from its embryonic state to its present fully grown state, and that the spirit in which it is submitted will be provocative of good will and kindly understanding, as they are scanned.

Works Progress Administration for Mississippi, Source Material for Mississippi History, Quitman County, Vol. LX, Compiled by State-Wide Historical Research Project, Susie V. Powell, State Supervisor, Illustrated 1936-1938, pages iv-v.

Photo taken by Sharon Fortner Wright.

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