Wilkinson County, Mississippi
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History of Wilkinson County, Mississippi

Woodville is located on Highway 61 about halfway between Natchez and St. Francisville, La., a journey of about 130 miles from New Orleans. Woodville was first settled near the turn of the nineteenth century and was incorporated as a town in 1811. A short time later it was chosen as the county seat of Wilkinson County, which was formed in 1802 in the extreme southwest corner of Mississippi. Originally, the territory was known as the county of Bourbon, and later as Adams County. Interestingly, the 1990 census figures reveal that the population of the county is virtually the same as it was 160 years before, in 1830.

Wilkinson County contains some of the oldest towns in Mississippi. The County was named after a Commander-in-Chief of the United States Army, General James Wilkinson. The Woodville Historic District was entered on the National Register of Historic Places on May 20, 1982. It encompasses a sizeable portion of the present day town and most of the nineteenth century village within its limits. Within the district are approximately 140 buildings representing an architectural range from the Federal style through post World War II revivals, the majority of which date from 1820 to 1930. Still publishing once a week is Mississippi's oldest newspaper and business institution, The Woodville Republican, founded in 1824 by the state's pioneer printer, Andrew K. Marshall. Not far away stands the office building of the first standard-gauge railroad in America, the Woodville-West Feliciana Railroad. Used until recently as the local post office, the building, constructed in 1837, will soon house Woodville's new Museum of Southern Decorative Arts.

The Woodville business district, like that of so many old southern towns, is built around a square in the center of which stands the Courthouse, the third structure to be located there. Surrounding this imposing building are many stately live oak trees. Because of its size and age there stands among these, one tree in the southwest corner that has the distinction of being a member of the American Society of Live Oaks. It bears the name of "The Jefferson Davis Oak", and stands as a living memorial to the first and only president of the Confederacy whose boyhood home was at Rosemont plantation located a short distance from Woodville. "Rosemont" is a small but exquisite house which was the boyhood home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Built about 1810 by the Southern leader's parents, Samuel and Jane Davis, the house has been restored in recent years and contains many original Davis furnishings. In a shady corner of the garden is the family cemetery, where five generations of the Davis family are buried.

From slavery to civil rights, Wilkinson County African American community has contributed to the strong historical background of our country. The first African slaves were brought to Wilkinson County prior to 1790 and were settled in the western part of the county. Many slave from Wilkinson County fought for the Confederate Army during the Civil War. Following the Civil War the southern area lived through Reconstruction during which 16 African-Americans were elected to the U.S. Congress. Wilkinson County has contributed greatly to the nation in the area of the Arts, especially the African-American community. William Grant Still, born in Woodville in 1895, is the leader of African-American composers and is the first African-American to produce an opera on a major stage. Lester Young, a native of Woodville is a leader in the field of Jazz and has played with greats such as Nat King Cole and Oscar Peterson. Civil Rights leader and world famous author Anne Moody was born just outside Centreville and reared in Wilkinson County. Her novel, "Coming of Age in Mississippi", is used in many levels of study. Also included from Eudora Welty are many photographic images made during the Depression years.

Wilkinson County is proud of its rich heritage, southern culture, and traditions. It is with pleasure that we welcome visitors throughout the year.

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  • 525 Main Street
    P.O. Box 516
    Woodville, MS 39669
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