Quitman County was established in 1877, receiving the name of John A. Quitman, a great Mississippian, and hero of the Mexican War. Belen was given the county site in honor of the hero, as it was the Belen Gate of Mexico City which this Mississippian scaled to bring honor to himself and to the state from which he came.
This section of the state seemed to have received an early inflow of settlers. According to Judge M. E. Denton, county annalist, one of the first settlements was made on the west banks of Coldwater River just south of where Moore’s Bayou (Now Cassidy Bayou) enters Coldwater River in 1857. Mysterious mounds which dot the country indicate another civilization which flourished in prehistoric times.
The story of the first–or certainly among the first settlers, is interesting. His name was Thomas B. Hill. From whence he came the annalist have not learned. He was a man of wealth. He brought 100 slaves and used them to clear a great plantation in the heart of the Delta. His plantation lay along the banks of what was then called Moore’s Bayou. Even before the man named Hill arrived in this region, a man named Moore established a home upon the banks of Coldwater. Moore was a trapper and woodsman, locating here perhaps without legal title to the land. Mr. Hill ousted the old man, but the stream continued to be called Moore’s Bayou for many years. It was later renamed Cassidy for Wiley B. Cassidy, a lumberman.
The affluent pioneer, Thomas B. Hill, built with slave labor a palatial brick home, which was almost a fortress. The walls were made very thick to protect him against uprisings of his slaves in the wilderness and for protection from the wild and unruly inhabitants who lived on the banks of the Coldwater River in the heart of a jungle.
When Thomas B. Hill died his slaves buried him in an Indian mound, but the location is not known to anyone in Quitman County. He was a man of eccentricities and whims. However, he was a man of prominence. James L. Alcorn, who was not far away, was his friend and often visited him in his “Castle” on the bank of the Coldwater.
In 1887, when Quitman County was organized, the old brick house was still standing. It was the first courthouse of the county. It was called Belen, instead of Hill’s Landing. Before a courthouse and jail could be built, Hill died, leaving the property to minor heirs. Since legal title could not be given, Dr. Phipps, who owned land nine miles west of Belen, gave land for the location of the county cite. In 1881 the courthouse was moved to this new location and took the name of Belen with it. Thus, Hill’s Landing was called “Old Belen.” Later at the suggestion of the post office, it was changed to Riverside.
Another interesting character of the old town of Riverside was Leopold Marks. The story of hard work and success is an inspiration to all Mississippians. Marks came to this country as an immigrant and acquired vast holdings on the banks of the Coldwater River. He was instrumental in the formation of Quitman County and in selecting the name for the county and the county site. He leased the Hill property and helped to establish a post office which was called Marks, in honor of him. In 1892 Capt. Ford Rogers leased through Bowdry Bros. of Memphis the property occupied by Mr. Marks. Because of personal reason, Rogers had the name changed to Riverside. In 1895 Mr. Marks bought the Hill property. In 1900 when the Y. and M. V. R. R. was built Mr. Marks gave the property for the depot, and as was the custom the stop was named Marks in honor of the donor. To simplify things for the post office and shipping the town was named Marks, thus one name was used for all.
In 1910 Quitman County became dissatisfied with the location of the courthouse in an inland town and decided that it should be moved to the now thriving new town of Marks. In 1911 a palatial courthouse was established on the old site of Hill’s Landing, and the “Baby City of the Delta” was born. The earliest tradition of Quitman County ever over the beautiful courthouse of a young and prosperous county.
From: Notes by Mrs. M. Rex Malone and “Old Traditions in a New Land”–By Geo. Moreland*, Cemetery and Bible Records of Quitman County, Mississippi, 1945-1951, James Gilliam Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution
*George Moreland was a writer for The Commercial Appeal. “Quitman County: Old Traditions in a New Land” by George M. Moreland appeared in The Commercial Appeal.
Photo of Marks Depot provided by Marks The Good Old Days at Facebook.
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