On May 28, 1889 the Memphis Daily Appeal published a story about the county seat of Coahoma County. This snapshot from history survives today but most people have never had a chance to read it. Hopefully you will enjoy this little story of Delta history.
Friars Point, Mississippi May 29, 1889
This prosperous little town is situated on the banks of the Mississippi River, about half way between Memphis and Greenville, in the rich Coahoma County. This writer reached the town by taking the daily mail back at Coahoma Station, from which the distance is about seven miles. This gave me an opportunity to traverse a small part of one of the richest sections of agricultural county on the globe. The many large plantations on both sides of the road are well improved and in a fine state of cultivation. Cotton and corn, in spite of want of rain, have a fairly good stand. Everywhere activity was displayed. The shady old trees on both sides along the road offered a welcome protection from the rays of the sun. After an hour’s drive we approached the town, which, when first visible in the distance, environed by shady groves, does not appear to be of great dimensions, but the nearer we came the larger and more attractive it grew, with its many fine and comfortable residences, its several church spires pointing heavenward, and diverse public buildings, broad streets, lined with shady trees, the levee running in front of the town, presenting its inhabitants a most delightful promenade, with a picturesque view of the Mississippi River winding itself gracefully around the point in its downward course. The town covers a large area, and the houses are, until you reach the center, quite scattered.
Friars Point is universally considered as one of the healthiest towns in the Delta, and the general health is as good as anywhere in the United States. This is greatly attributable to its peculiar location on the river, which always allows a fine breeze, no matter how the weather or season. Another cause is that the drainage is fine, the soil being sandy loam which drains rapidly and thoroughly. The town is about forty years old, has always been the county site, and society is remarkably good, while the people are noted for their courtesy and generosity and their hospitality to strangers, who always meet with a welcome here.
The number of inhabitants is about 800. In years past, it at one time was 1,500. The business done by the town was at one time enormous. For several years it dropped off some, but has recently taken a new impetus, due to different causes of which the principal one is that the Louisville, New Orleans & Texas Railroad, in a few weeks, will pass through here, continuing the Bolivar Loop from Rosedale on. After passing Friars Point the road will go to Coahoma, where it taps the main line. Several large contractors are already busily at work, both from Rosedale on to Friars Point and from Coahoma toward the same destination. The manner in which the work is progressing under so many favorable auspices insures it as a certainty that trains will be running in ninety days. This road will give Friars Point additional advantages of transportation which will enable it to get its freight as cheap as Greenville or Vicksburg. In order to induce the railroad to come here the town, not by taxation but by voluntary subscription of the enterprising citizens gave $20,000 to the railroad, besides depot grounds and ten miles of right of way.
The advent of the railroad has at once called forth a general spirit of stir and enterprise. A bank with a capital stock of $50,000 is almost a certainty; several proposals have been received for the erection of an oil mill to be ready for this year’s crop. Real estate has at once come into demand, some sales having already been made and others negotiated for, by both home people and outsiders.
The landing, with a good wharf boat and warehouse, is about 300 yards from the center town, while the site of the depot is in a distance of 450 yards. The town is well laid out, the streets wide and large, and as soon as the railroad comes the streets will at once be constructed with gravel or plank and also new plank sidewalks laid, the railroad having offered to deliver gravel at cost. A spacious shed for cotton and cotton seed will also immediately be built near the depot. Among the public buildings are a Catholic, Methodist and a Baptist church, a good schoolhouse, a very good and neat looking courthouse and a fine new brick jail recently built and with all the latest improvements, a splendidly furnished spacious Masonic Hall, which is also used by the Knight of Pythias Lodge. The Masonic Lodge has always been very strong and numerous here, and the Knights of Pythias who now have a membership of over sixty, are increasing in numbers. The city has an excellent government and no debt.
As stated before, Friars Point is the county site of Coahoma County, and always has been. At different periods attempts have been made by other localities to have the county site removed, but the attempts have never been successful. Two years ago it was put to a popular vote and Friars Point received a majority of votes over all competing points combined. Now that the railroad is a certainty, such a majority would become still stronger, but there is reason to suppose that such an attempt will never be made any more.
Unfortunately the above writer was wrong on so many things. In 1892 an act divided Coahoma County into judicial districts with two seats of justice. One was at Clarksdale and the other at Friars Point. By 1925 many people in Coahoma County wanted to have only one county seat of government. The courthouse in Friars Point was old and in need of repairs. It was soon to be condemned. The jail was also in poor condition and unsafe for prisoners. In 1930 Clarksdale became the lone county seat. By the mid 20th century Friars Point had lost its railroad. Although the above article bragged on the growth of Friars Point, the town never did become a magnet for people. Today Friars Point continues, but like much of the Delta is losing population quickly. Friars Point continues though.
Hope you enjoyed the above article. I did leave sections out and will cover those in the future.
“Clarion Ledger” Jackson, Mississippi. Thursday April 3, 1930 – Page 8
“The Memphis Daily Appeal” Memphis, Tennessee. Friday May 31, 1889 – Page 2
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