The First Greenville, Mississippi Site
Contributed by Walley Morse

Yes, we all know old Greenville was just south of the present city, but there was another Greenville long before the old Greenville. The next time you're going south down US Highway 61, on the way to Natchez (or beyond), when you get to Port Gibson, MS, take the exit to the Natchez Trace South. There is very little difference in driving down 61, and it’s a beautiful drive on the Trace between Port Gibson and Natchez. As you are traveling south you’ll come to an intersection of 553 and the Trace. Slow down and turn right onto 553, and go over Coles Creek.

Coles Creek went right through the original town of Greenville, Mississippi. Traveling down 533 toward Fayette, there is a large stone marker on the right side of the road, with a reference to the original Greenville, and further down the road on the left, at the intersection of 533 and Mable Aldridge Road, there is a Mississippi Department of Archives and History marker signifying "Old Greenville." There are no structures there now, but let me tell you the tale of ORIGINAL GREENVILLE.

On April 7, 1798 the United States created the Mississippi Territory. Mississippi Governor, Winthrop Sargent, organized the Natchez District into two counties, Adams and Pickering. Pickering County included the area which later became Claiborne and Jefferson County. The name of Pickering County was changed to Jefferson County on 11 January, 1802 in honor of President Thomas Jefferson and 16 days later was split. The northern portion became Claiborne County and the southern portion Jefferson County.

The Natchez Trace, used by Native Americans for years, became the choice of travelers who came down the Mississippi River and used the Trace to travel back to Tennessee. Small settlements sprang up about 6 miles apart (a day’s walk) along the trail and were call stands. This provided shelter and security for those travelers along the Trace, for it was a very rough country back then—the noted robbers Murrell and Mason and their gangs frequently holding up, robbing and even murdering those unwary travelers. In Dunbar Rowland’s book “Encyclopedia of Mississippi History Vol. 2” he recants the tale of Mason’s death. Governor Clairborne offered a large reward for the capture of Mason, the leader of the band that infested the road. Mason’s family then resided in this county, not far from old Shankstown. His wife was generally respected by all her neighbors and one of her sons as an honest and virtuous woman and a worthy citizen of Warren County.

The reward tempted two of the band to kill Mason, or someone they said was Mason, and bring his head to Greenville for recognition. Many fully identified it by certain marks thereon, except his wife, who positively denied it. The Governor had sent his carriage for her expressly to come down and testify. However some parties had recognized among the claimants, two men, who along with Mason, had robbed them but a short time before, whereupon they were arrested, tried and hung, thus getting their reward, but not exactly in the way they sought.”

The stands from Natchez were; starting with Washington, then Selsertown, Uniontown, then Greenville, Coon Box Stand, then Port Gibson. Washington was the territory capital. In Uniontown, there was a tanyard and shoe factory. Six miles further was Cable’s Tavern and Hunt’s Store, called Huntley, Odoms Orchardville until by act of February 21, 1805, the town was named Greenville, the first county seat, its courthouse, jail, etc.

By act of January 27, 1802 , William Erwin, Thomas Green (Springfield Plantation), William Moss, Jacob Stampley and David Greenleaf, as commissioners, were appointed to contract for and receive titles to two acres of ground from executors of David Odom, or other proprietors of land near Hunt’s store, on middle fork of Coles Creek, for use of Jefferson County, on which to erect courthouse, jail, pillory and stocks, and said place is fixed upon for such purpose.

As early as 1799 the Rev. Tobias Gibson, a Methodist missionary, was sent to the Territory and formed societies at Washington, Greenville, and the Bayou Pierre. The first Baptist missionary in Jefferson County was Dr. David Cooper, who settled in Greenville, and married the widow of Gen. F. L. Claiborne, afterwards removing to Soldier’s Retreat, near Washington, where he died. Dr. Cloud, the first Episcopal minister in the county, also resided at Greenville for many years, and is buried somewhere in the hills near the old settlement. Cato West, David Holmes, Cowles Mead, and General Thomas Hinds, all lived within two miles of old Greenville, and the remains of Col. Cato West, Territorial Secretary, and at one time acting Governor, lived, died and was buried on his plantation, Sunshine, on Coles Creek.

Thomas Hinds, a native of Tennessee, owned a plantation, Home Hill, 1½ miles south of Greenville on the Stampley Town Road, where he was quietly leading the life of a farmer, until the massacre of Major Beasley and his company from Jefferson County at Fort Mims, on the Tombigbee River, roused all that martial spirit, which afterwards made him famous. In the war of 1812, Hinds formed the Jefferson Dragoons, who held Jackson’s left flank at the Battle of New Orleans. Another company from Jefferson County, known as the Mississippi Foot Soldiers, commanded by Col. Ely K. Ross, a native from South Carolina (but a resident of Red Lick) participated in the Battle of New Orleans, behind the breastworks and cotton bales and are justly entitled to share in the glories of that triumph of American arms. These two companies (which were nearly regiments) were disbanded on the Courthouse square in old Greenville at a grand barbecue on Jackson’s return up the Trace on his march back to Nashville.

This is the same Thomas Hinds, who owned Plum Ridge Plantation on Rattlesnake Bayou in the new Greenville. His son, Cameron Howell Hinds, who ran the plantation, brought two slaves from Jefferson County—one of these slaves, Holt Collier, became quite famous as a bear hunter during the hunt with President Theodore Roosevelt in 1902. According the New York Times, May 21, 1868 Howell Hinds tried to break up a quarrel in the Campbell House yard between Maj. H.P. Byrne and Dr. T.G. Polk. In this, however, he was intercepted by Dr. O.M. Blanton who stabbed Hinds 3 times in the back with a 6” knife, killing Hinds. Dr. Blanton also stabbed Maj. H.P. Byrne killing him. Capt. Sims tried to hold him, and Blanton stabbed him in the hand and made his escape. General Hinds now rests in the soil of his plantation, Home Hill, and his son Cameron Howell Hinds was buried in the old Yellow Fever Cemetery and later moved to the Confederate section of the Greenville Cemetery.

In 1800, 1803 and 1804, Abijah Hunt purchased the land for Huntley Plantation in Jefferson County, 28 miles from Natchez on the Natchez Trace. This was probably when Hunt and Smith built their general store in Greenville on the Natchez Trace. Abijah’s nephew, David Hunt moved to the area to work for his uncle. It’s likely that David’s help was a big reason Abijah decided to purchase Huntley and opened the store at this time. The plantation was on Planter’s Fork of Coles Creek, beginning at John Terry’s corner in Jefferson County. The total size of the plantation at this time was 815 acres. Thomas Hinds, for whom Hinds County was named, briefly owned some of the land from David Odom’s estate before Abijah bought it for Huntley Plantation. Thomas built a public gin; the first one in Jefferson County, and Abijah obtained the gin in 1800, when he purchased the land. Gin receipts were used for currency at one time.

The name, Abijah Hunt, keeps reappearing in the history of Natchez. The Hunt family, originally in Hunterdon County, New Jersey, began building wealth as sutlers (merchants who follow an army to sell food and liquor to its soldiers) with the Revolutionary Armies. They moved to Cincinnati, where they bought goods in Pennsylvania and other towns in the East and used covered wagons to transport the goods to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where they were loaded on flatboats and sent down the Ohio River to Cincinnati. In Cincinnati they sold these supplies to farmers, extending credit to the farmers as well. They also provided supplies to Ft. Washington. David Hunt later had assets in Cincinnati which he held as a refuge for his children in case the anticipated Civil War made life in Jefferson County too difficult.

They also did business with John Wesley Hunt of Lexington Kentucky. John W. Hunt was a cousin of Abijah Hunt, and grandfather of Confederate General John Hunt Morgan. John Wesley Hunt became one of the first millionaires in Lexington through the mercantile business. Abijah Hunt had a partnership with John Wesley Hunt, whereby cattle and nails were sent to Cincinnati in exchange for bacon and liquor for Louisville. Hopemont, John Wesley Hunt’s home in Lexington and the nearby Civil War Museum are open to the public for tours. After traveling and settling in Natchez, Abijah became a partner in the Natchez firm of Hunt & Smith and probably started with one store in Natchez. Abijah started purchasing land and developing plantations, and with David Hunt’s marriages, inheritance, and purchases, ended up with 25 plantations. They were: Hole in the wall, Argyle, Huntley, Calvition, Woodlawn, Waverly, Southside, Brick Quarters, Flatlands, Black Creek, Buena Vista, Ashland, Servis Island, Oakwood, Georgiana, Lansdowne, Arcola, Homewood, Oakley Grove, Wilderness, Belle Ella, Oak Burn, Fairview, Fatherland and Givin Place. The family owned approximately 1,700 slaves in the area.

David Hunt bought land in Washington County and Issaquena County and developed plantations on those properties. One of his daughters, Catherine Hunt, married William S. Balfour, and as a gift David Hunt, built Homewood in Natchez. William S. Balfour’s father was William L. Balfour of Madison County, Mississippi, one of the richest Mississippi antebellum planters. He was the founder of Mississippi College at Clinton. James Buchanan had picked him as his vice-president in the 1857 presidential election; however, he died before the election. While “Homewood” was being built, which took 5 years, they lived on his Issaquena County Plantation. Homewood survived the Civil war only to burn in 1940. William S. Balfour owned Homestead in Madison County, Woodside Plantation in Yazoo County, Fall Back Plantation in Washington County. Fall Back was north of Greenville on Egypt ridge, next to the Asia Plantation, which was managed by his son’s Charles, William and James. David Hunt had purchased 11 tracts of land in 1835 and 1840 in Washington County, consisting of about 3,500 acres. Later that land became part of Issaquena County, when it was formed in 1844 which included land south of Mayersville and historic Wilderness Plantation. Hunt had 62 slaves in the 1860 census in Issaquena County. The 1840 purchase was on Deer Creek, and David gave this land to his son George who ran Georgiana Plantation.

Greenville remained the county seat until 1825, when the General Assembly changed the county seat of justice to Fayette, six miles east. Greenville rapidly declined after this, and the buildings decayed or were moved away. The last building left standing was the old Cable hotel, and this was burned many years ago. With the invention of the steamboat and paddle wheelers, travel on the Natchez Trace decreased rapidly at the same time. There is nothing now where Greenville once stood.