Greene County History
By: Dr. Byron E. Green, Jr.
The following are excerpts from, Glimpses of the Green Family of Greene County, MS., that appeared in the Greene County Herald, Leakesville, Ms., and used by permission of Dr. Byron E. Green. Dr. Green is a Medical Doctor practicing in Mobile, Alabama. His ancestors were early leaders and land owners in Greene County, Ms.
I. THE GREENE COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI AREA FROM, "EARLY ON"
This is what it was like, "way back - a long time ago". Of course the Indians were here first, then came the white man.
In the early years of the "New World", explorers and European nations established forts and settlements along the Gulf of Mexico and they searched for territorial wealth and the Mississippi River. Armies and navies of France, England and Spain vied for conquest and control of the Southwest and they all had to deal with and sometimes fight with the native "American Indians"; the Seminoles of Florida, the Choctaws along the Gulf Coast area and the Creeks, Chickasaws and Cherokees further inland from the Coast. Some even married into the Indian Tribes.
Settlements and commerce developed along the creeks and rivers flowing to the Gulf Coast. Land travel was difficult through the wilderness of huge virgin pine forests and dense thickets. Travelers on horseback and in ox drawn carts followed the ridges and high ground, going around the swamps and bogs and fording the streams at shallows. These woods trails were secondary to the waterways as a mode for travel, trade and communications. In time, they became crude roads at best.
Mobile (Mauvilla), Alabama was the settlement, port and central commercial focus for the area to later become Greene County, Mississippi. The first pioneers of the region dealt in furs (animal pelts) and timber. They built their log homes, hunted and raised basic foods in small gardens. Most had horses. Later came chickens, pigs, cows, sheep, etc. Many farming techniques were learned from the Indians - Choctaw mostly, who had existed for ages on hunting, fishing, foraging, and crude agriculture.
As the region developed and as the forests were cleared of timber, large farm plots developed. Cattle raising became a major source of income. There were no fences and great herds of cattle grazed on the abundance of the "open range" of the Coastal region. Strangely enough, most of the beef was exported to the West Indies!
As would be expected, some pigs would escape their pens from time to time and move to the woods and swamps to survive. Thus, as time passed, the "wild hog" population became significant and remains so to this day.
In the woods other than wild pigs and herds of cows, there were deer, turkey, rabbits, squirrels, opossum, raccoon, fox, bear, wildcats, and panther.
Besides the fish, crab, oysters, and shrimp in the salt water of the Gulf, there was an abundance of fish, turtles, mussels, "gators", snakes and other fresh water creatures in the rivers, creeks, and lakes of the region.
Also then, as now, there were mosquitoes, ticks, redbugs (chiggers), ants, spiders, roaches and other insects to challenge the pioneer's comfort and existence - not to mention unscrupulous human beings who preyed on their fellow man.
There are two main rivers northeast of Mobile. The Chickasawhay, meaning "muddy water", named by the Indians that lived along its banks, and the Leaf. These two rivers flow southward to merge and form the Pascagoula. The Escatawpa River near Mobile flows across south Alabama into the Pascagoula near the Gulf.
Of course there are many creeks and branches in the region. One is Big Creek, so named because it is the largest creek that flows between the Leaf and the Chickasawhay to join the latter.
Buck Creek, farther north near present day Neely, is of interest because of a story of how it got its name. One of the first settlers in the area, Dr. J. Holder, was walking in the swamp along the creek one day. He saw a buck (male deer) feeding among some trees and bushes. Deciding to try to take a ride, he slipped up behind the buck and jumped astride him and rode him across the swamp twice.
There are numerous other creeks, some of which have interesting tales about them. For the most part, they are named for families who were settled on their banks and some named for animals, (Bear, Buck, Turkey, Wolf).
II. THE GREEN FAMILY OF GREENE COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI
The patriarch of the Greens of Greene, County was James Matthew Green from Ireland, born in October, 1819. At age 22 he spoke nine languages, had received training as a medical doctor and had skills as a tinsmith. One of his sons, Francis James Green, had the first general store in Leakesville and his family was second to the McInnis' to settle in the new town.
From Halifax, England the elder Green shipped out for America, earning his way as a butcher on a British Navy Ship. His brother Franklin Green and two sisters (names unknown) also made the trip. The Greens came ashore in Charleston, South Carolina and made their way to New York. The next several years were marked by one misfortune after another: death, accident, murder, theft, fire, scourge, and war.
After arriving in New York, one of the sisters died of a "heart attack" in a department store. They then moved to Louisville, Kentucky, where Franklin and his wife Amy made their home. He became a prosperous contractor and they lived in a large, beautiful home. They had no children with whom to share their good fortune, so they adopted a young boy.
Franklin was working on his last building and planned to retire as soon as it was completed. But one day, while overseeing the structure, he slipped and fell four stories into a deep cellar. His injury was severe and ultimately fatal.
As their adopted son grew into manhood, he became aware of his foster mother's wealth, and he murdered her in her bedroom. He placed her in a rocking chair and set the house on fire. Her body was partially burned and he disappeared with all her money, jewels and silver he could find, never to be heard of again.
James Matthew Green settled his brother's estate and moved to Mobile, Alabama, where he had two stores and was doing well as a merchant. The Copeland Gang, notorious at the time robbed and burned many businesses, including James' store.
To make a living James called on his skills as a tinsmith. Then came the terrible yellow fever scourge. In hopes of avoiding the illness, and death, he loaded his wares on a wagon and set out northeast through the country selling and mending tin ware.
Reverend Moody gave him lodging during his itinerant tinsmithing and he became known as Tinner Green". The Moodys had a sweet and beautiful daughter named Priscilla. She and "Tinner" fell in love and were married. For a while the lived near Leaf River. Then they moved to nearby Washington, Mississippi (later renamed Neely). They had fourteen children; twelve lived to adulthood (one died at birth, the second as a small child).
When the Civil War broke out, Tinner and four of his sons joined the Confederate Army. Another son, Francis James, was too young to enlist being only 12 years old at the time. Occasionally for security from the Union Troops, he was sent to hide with two colored slaves in a remote cotton house near the swamp. They took horses, cows, chickens, and a few pieces of furniture with them to survive during their seclusion.
Tinner was in the siege of Vicksburg. He was in a trench shelter with four other soldiers. Existence was miserable. There were wounds, diseases, rats, cold, rain, insects, snakes, and bombardment by the Union Army to contend with. He related catching a jaybird and cooking it into a hoecake with sweepings from the commissary to have something to eat. The Confederate soldiers grew very weak, the Union grew stronger, and the South had to surrender. After the war, Tinner and three of his sons made it home to Greene County. William died during the conflict and was buried in Rasaca, Georgia.
The twelve children of Tinner and Priscilla Green were:
Mollie Green - married Dave Black of State Line, MS.
Samuel Isom Green - married Elizabeth Haverson and Katharine Fairley.
Thaddeus Green - married Martha Jenkin.
Lou Green - married Ken McInnis.
Ann Green - married Hill McInnis.
Maranda Green - married Pete Fairly.
Charles Green - married Clara Fairly.
Joe Green - married Candass McDouals.
Virginia Green - married Charles Hillman.
Francis James Green - married Isadora McClean. *
William Green - killed in Civil War.
Markus Green - married Lou Roberts.
III. FROM TERRITORY TO STATE TO THE PRESENT
Greene County was formed in the Mississippi Territory in 1811. It was named for General Nathaniel Greene of the Revolutionary War era. Mississippi became a state on December 10, 1817. There is evidence of land grants being issued in the Green County area and signed on May 25, 1825 by President John Q. Adams.
Most of the early settlers in this region were Scottish , Irish, or English. The first two settlements of note in Greene County were Salem (Leaf) and Scotland (Vernal). Salem was established in 1838. The first settlers were McKays, McLeods, Thomsons and Cowarts. Scotland was settled by descendents from Scotland, chiefly the McLeod family. Salem and Scotland prospered until around 1860 when the Civil War brought a stop to the growth and progress and changed many things forever.
Leakesville was incorporated in 1906 and named in honor of General McGregor Leake, a native of North Carolina and governor of Mississippi at that time. J. E. Alderman was appointed first mayor of the town, and Byron "Pat" Harrison was the Marshal. Harrison later taught high school before being elected to the U. S. Senate. He was a born orator and a charming man.
The first family to settle in Leakesville was the McInnis family. J. J. McInnis, familiarly known as "Jack" or "Uncle John" had originally come from Scotland. He lived 7 miles east of Red Hill place where he was the only white man in the vicinity for some time. Numerous Choctaws and other Indians occasionally paid him a visit. Mobile was the nearest town of any importance from which to purchase supplies that could not be grown or made at home.
The first post office was established in Leakesville in 1840, and John McInnis ran it. Mr. McInnis married four times. His third wife was Emma Alice McClean from Adamsville.
One of the next few families to settle in the little village of Leakesville was that of F. J. Green, who moved in some 14 miles from Washington (Neely). Francis James Green, son of James Matthew Green of old Washington, and Isadora Evelina McClean, daughter of Captain Jacob Fry McClean, were married on February 27, 1879, at the McClean home in Adamsville, around 12 miles north of Leakesville on the Chickasawhay River. The couple lived in Washington on Buck Creek where Mr. Green was a merchant and farmer. In three years they would moved from Washington to make their home in Leakesville.
IV. THE GREENS OF LEAKESVILLE
The first Greene County Court House was a little log building, which was destroyed by fire. A second log Court House was built, and this was later bought by F. J. Green to house his enlarging family. He moved from Buck Creek to Leakesville in 1882. This was eighteen years after the Civil War, and his second child, Daisy, was born soon after on March 20, 1882.
It is said that the first Court House was deliberately burned to destroy county records. Such was a common occurrence in the 1800s. It also explains why there are no real estate titles antedating 1875.
The third Court House was erected in 1899 and efforts were made for it to be more "fire proof". Apparently it was for it lasted until a very attractive brick Court House was built in 1939. This was followed by the present structure.
The old Court House that F. J. Green bought was a simple 50 x 50 foot room. He added on a kitchen and dining room, and then one one side he built his store for his stock of goods, wares and merchandise. This was the first general store in Leakesville - home, office and business were all housed in the same building. They were located on the same plots of land to the West across Main Street from the present Court House. Goods and produce for the store were obtained from Escatawpa and Mobile by regular wagon trips. These wagons traveled rough, primitive roads and crossed the deeper streams by floating on "flats" (flatboats or ferries.) Going was slow, even in good weather with a light load.
In early 1800s, all dwellings, barns, sheds, and shops were small, crude, simple structures made of logs....the typical one room cabin. Later in the 19th Century larger, more comfortable homes were built. All logs and lumber came from around the construction site and were moved by ox or mule teams. Most of it was hand planed from the rich long leaf pine timber, which a termite would not dare to attack. Oak, cypress, cedar and other available woods were also used. Such was the case of the McInnis and Green homes. The kitchen, customarily but not always, was placed a safe distance out back from the main dwelling because of the danger of fire. Water was either drawn from a well or carried from a spring. Several artesian wells in the vicinity.
Mrs. F. J. (Isadora) Green was better known as "Is" or "Iddie". She was born in Baltimore, Maryland on May 10, 1851. When she was three months old, her father ship captain Jacob Fry McClean (descendant of immigrants from the Scottish Isles) moved his family to New Orleans and ran his steamships on the Mississippi River. The McCleans lived in New Orleans throughout the Civil War and for two years during the reconstruction period. Iddie was only nine years old when the War broke out and recalled many sad events as a result of the conflict. One poignant event was that her father, Captain McClean, burned and scuttled two of his ships to keep them from falling into the hands of the Union Army as it approached New Orleans.
Despite the conditions brought about by the Civil War, Iddie was fortunate to have a well-to-do father who provided her with a good education: she spoke French, played the piano and frequently attended social galas.
Captain McClean's uncle, Dr. Bodo Otto Adams was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in March 1782. He was from a very affluent family. After medical and chemical education he practiced medicine in Mobile, Alabama. Before the Civil War he bought a great tract of land in Mississippi along the Chickasawhay River. There he built his home, and developed a medical practice and a plantation. Dr. Adams accumulated quite a fortune in real estate and virgin pine timber. Families settled in the area that was called Adamsville. It was about twelve miles north of Leakesville. Dr. Adams was also the community's postmaster. After the Civil War ended, the doctor's health began to fail as he grew old. He wrote Captain McClean, his nearest kinsman in New Orleans and asked him to move his family to Adamsville and become heir to his wealth. At first, Mary Elizabeth Knight McClean, Isadora's mother, was reluctant to move her family from the city to backwoods of Mississippi. Nevertheless, the McCleans moved to Adamsville in 1867 when Isadora was 16 years old. There were five McClean girls and one boy, the youngest of the siblings. The family didn't arrive in Mississippi too soon, for Dr. Adams died on December 30, 1867. The McClean family members were:
Dr. Bodo Otto Adams, Uncle of J. F. McClean *
Captain Jacob Frye McClean born August 7, 1824*
Mrs. Mary Elizabeth Knight McClean, born July 31, 1829*
Mary Elizabeth McClean, born October 8, 1849 - died October 23, 1854**
Isadora Evelina McClean born May 10, 1851
Emma Alice McClean born June 7, 1853
Mary Elizabeth McClean born August 25, 1855 - Died March 23, 1910*
Ella Gertrude McClean born May 30, 1857
Jacob Frye McClean, Jr. born April 17, 1860 - died April 19, 1882*
* Five members of the McClean family are buried in the family cemetery in Adamsville, which is maintained today by descendants of Jacob Francis Green, Sr., who was the eldest son of Isadora McClean Green.
** There were two daughters named Mary Elizabeth McClean , the first one was born in Baltimore, Maryland, died and was buried in New Orleans.
Isadora Green was a small spunky woman, less than five feet tall. F. J. Green, called Frank or "Si", was over six feet tall and an impressive moustache. They were participants and leaders in all community activities of Leakesville. She taught school for four months out of the year in a small one room log school until the larger school was built. She also was depended upon for midwife duty on a regular basis as she knew what she was doing and was good at it. He was the merchant, businessman, and civic leader.
There were nine children born into the F. J. Green Family and they were:
1. Mary Alice Gertrude (Mamie) Green - born January 12, 18809. Married Dr. Melvin L. Batson in Vernal, January 12, 1902, lived in Leakesville and Jackson. Mississippi.
2. Daisy Priscilla (Daisy) Green - born March 20, 1882, married Joel Lang Mills, June 20, 1906, lived in Moss Point and Jackson, Mississippi.
3. Jacob Francis (Jake) Green - born January 3, 1884, lived in Leakesville and killed by a moonshiner on the last day of his service as a Federal Marshal, April 1, 1921.
4. Samuel James (Sam) Green - born September 22, 1886, lived in Leakesville.
5. Hubert Lavender (Bert) Green - born December 24, 1888, lived in Leakesville.
6. Emma Isadora (Emma) Green - born October 18, 1890, lived in Mt. Olive and Purvis, Mississippi.
7. Byron Edison Green - born January 6, 1892 doctor of Veterinary Medicine in Hattiesburg, Mississippi & President of Forrest County Board of Supervisors in post Depression years.
8. Bertha Evelyn (Bertha) Green - born March 5, 1894, married Edward Clayton (E. C.) Williams, lived in Jackson, Mississippi.
9. Joseph Clarence (Clarence) Green - born April 10, 1897. lived in Jackson, Ms.
Many of the stories, too numerous to tell of the days from the time the Greens settled in Leakesville and raised all their children to adulthood.
In early 1921, Frank Green became severely ill with "double pneumonia". His condition became so grave that all his family came to his side. At age 80 hid daughter Daisy Green Mills recalled the "beautiful Christian death" of her father, He was delirious with very high fever and he "talked to loved ones who had gone on before. He talked to all of them", including his brother William, who died in the Civil War. "He must have been seeing them and talking to them in Heaven, and he would sing those good old time hymns", in his deep bass voice. "His fever was so high, it took four men to hold him on the bead. Then he would cling to us and calm down in exhaustion".
Shortly after midnight on February 11, 1921, Frank Green died. Funeral services were held at the Methodist Church. He was a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church for more than 35 years and was the last of the old original settlers to "go to his reward."
He was an upright citizen, respected and loved in the town and community where he spent most of his life. In his death, all felt that a good man was gone, one to be missed in the home, church and community. In his home life, he read and studied the Bible and died in the faith. He was a Christian gentleman, quiet, modest, unassuming, rather reserved, but sociable and all times friendly and courteous. A large gathering of family and friends mourned the passing of F. J. Green and a recognized the end of a chapter in the history of Leakesville and Greene County.
After his death, the estate of Frances James Green was settled. Property, money and possessions were distributed to Isadora and the families of all the Green children. Some then sold all or part of their inheritance to other family members or handed it down in their own household. Eventually, the original town site of the Green family was in the possession of one of Sam Green's daughters, Eunice (Jessie Lee) Green.
In the 1970's Jessie Lee was ill and needed to sell the old home (and store) site, but she wished to keep it in the family. She and her brother, Reed Green contacted the youngest grandson of F. J. Green, their cousin. Dr. Byron E. Green, Jr., a surgeon in Mobile, concerning the matter. Wishing to keep the property in the Green Family, Dr. Green purchased it from Jessie Lee and he is the owner of the home site today.
All buildings on lots A & B of the old survey have been gone for years. The last was Josey's Barber Shop.
Two years ago, Dr. Green approached the Mayor and Alderman of Leakesville to ask if they would be interested in establishing a park for the use and enjoyment of the citizens. They accepted the idea and reached a lease agreement. Then the town leaders, with civic-minded citizens and businesses developed an attractive park in the town center. They have graciously chosen to name it Green's Park; official dedication day, Arbor Day, March 3, 2000, at 2:00 P.M.