The University of Southern Mississippi -- McCain Library and Archives
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Collection Title: Hattiesburg Municipal Records
Collection Number: M208
Dates: ca. 1885-1991
Volume: 84.7 cu. ft.
Restrictions: Available for research use by the serious student and scholar.
Hattiesburg, a city of the new South, a railroad town that owes its existence to the post Civil War transportation revolution, is located in the Piney Woods region of southern Mississippi. Before the advent of railroads in the southern portion of the state, Hattiesburg was just a small community located in an area with vast timber resources, natural drainage, and adequate water supplies. Known first as Twin Forks and later as Gordonville (after one of its original settlers), it acquired its present designation after the Meridian-based lumber/railroad magnate, William Harris Hardy (1837-1917), selected the site for a station along a proposed Meridian to New Orleans route for the New Orleans and Northeastern Railroad. This line was completed in 1883 and the settlement, incorporated as a town in 1884, was renamed Hattiesburg in honor of Hardy's second wife, Hattie Lott Hardy (1848-1895)
The newly created town established an economic base dependent on the yellow pine lumber and turpentine industry and transportation. These industries helped fashion Hattiesburg into a thriving production and distribution center for southern Mississippi. The local transportation boom turned Hattiesburg into a hub for four railroads: the New Orleans and Northeastern (later part of the Southern Railroad System); the Gulf and Ship Island Railroad (sold to the Illinois Central Railroad in 1925); the Mississippi Central Railroad; and the Mobile, Jackson and Kansas City Railroad which later became the Bonhomie and Hattiesburg Southern Railway. Hattiesburg, or the "Hub City" as it became popularly known, grew slowly and steadily from 1884 to 1900, with a population of 400 in 1885, 1172 in 1890, and 4175 in 1900. Continued steady expansion enabled Hattiesburg to petition the Mississippi Legislature for a city charter in 1890, and as the largest community in the area, it subsequently became county seat for Forrest County when that county was created in 1908 from Perry County.
With the lumber and transportation industries firmly established by the turn of the century, coupled with fact that a site just south of the city was selected for Camp Shelby, the newly created city of Hattiesburg experienced rapid growth, and by 1930, it had attained a population of 18, 600.
By 1915 large areas of timber land had been clear-cut, and for lack of plentiful and accessible timber and lucrative timber-related business prospects and opportunities, many of the mills began to dismantle their operations. Industrial demands during World War I temporarily halted mill closures in the Hattiesburg area by creating an artificial stimulus for lumber and lumber-related products, thus prolonging the life of an ailing lumber industry. War demands, while creating steady but inflated income for Hattiesburg area residents, prevented the community from developing new industries to replace those becoming obsolete.
Following World War I, the dismantling of Camp Shelby, and the closure of uneconomical lumber mills, it became apparent that for the city to survive, a new way of life was necessary. Although hampered by a depression-induced capital shortage, efforts to expand and create new business and industry were sometimes innovative, as in the introduction of the Tung Oil industry.
World War II proved to be a watershed for Hattiesburg. It brought to a close the depression and initiated a slow process of commercializing Hattiesburg's economic base. Camp Shelby was revitalized as a National Guard Camp, and Hattiesburg evolved into a wholesale and retail trade, medical, and educational center for southern Mississippi. Again the city experienced a surge in population, expanding from 21,026 in 1940 to 34,989 in 1960, and 40,829 in 1980. Today, it is home to nearly 50,000 people.
Through the years, Hattiesburg has taken the initiative to alter and improve its form of government in order to accommodate growth cycles and the changing needs of industry and the community. Since its inception, Hattiesburg has operated under three different forms of government and two charters. The city was chartered as a town in 1884, and in 1890 as a city. According to existing records, the citizenry elected Oliver Hazzard Perry Jones as its first mayor in 1884. In the second election, held one year later, the city elected a mayor and a board of eight aldermen. The Mayor/Alderman form of government serviced Hattiesburg from 1885 to 1911, when Hattiesburg became the first city in Mississippi to adopt a City Commission form of government, calling for a mayor and two commissioners. Since 1985 Hattiesburg has operated under a Mayor/Council form of government.
Hardy, William Harris. No Compromise With Principle. New York: American Book, 1946.
The Hattiesburg Municipal Records consist of materials that document the operation of the city from approximately 1885 to 1991. Included in the collection are surviving files of mayors' records, city commissioners' records, city clerks' files, Circuit Court cost allocation records, public school records, city engineers' and street foremen's records, marshals' reports, pound keepers' reports, city funds reports, petitions, lists of land sold for taxes, property tax evaluations, and water and sanitary reports. The collection also contains numerous photographs portraying city projects, various floods, and scenes of city life, as well as records on microfilm and sound recordings. The collection is divided into seven series.
Series I, Mayoral Records, contains the extant files of Hattiesburg's mayors from 1890 - 1989, and is arranged in ten subseries:
• Subseries 1. Early Mayors: Subject Files (1890-1953). This subseries includes records from the administrations of W. M. Conner, J. M. Williamson, Evans Hall, T. J. Mixon, C. W. Rich, J. D. Donald, T. E. Batson, W. S. F. Tatum, George M. Calhoun, D. W. Holmes, and E. J. Currie.
• Subseries 2. Mayor Moran M. Pope: Subject Files (1953-1957
• Subseries 3. Mayor Gary Sutherland: Subject Files (1957)
• Subseries 4. Mayor R. T. Carlisle: Subject Files (1957-1961)
• Subseries 5. Mayor Claude F. Pittman, Sr.: Subject Files (1961-1962)
• Subseries 6. Mayor Claude F. Pittman, Jr.: Subject Files (1962-1965)
• Subseries 7. Mayor Paul Grady: Subject Files (1965-1973)
• Subseries 8. Mayor A. L. "Bud" Gerrard: Subject Files (1973-1980)
• Subseries 9. Mayor Bobby L. Chain: Subject Files (1980-1985)
• Subseries 10. Mayor G. D. Williamson: Subject Files (1985-1989)
Series II, Records of City Commissioners, is comprised of existing records of Commissioners Hugh Batson, C. B. "Pat" Patterson, W. P. "Smokie" Harrington, Walter Parker, and G. D. Williamson (1958-1973). Records in this series relate to the various activities that fell under the purview of the office of commissioner.
Series III, Historical City Records, contains a plethora of materials pertaining to activities of various city departments, including, but not limited to: City Clerk, City Engineer, the Fire Department, public schools, sanitation, the Street Department, and the Water Department. Inclusive dates in this series are 1891-1990).
• Series A consists of 18 reels relating to such aspects of city government as zoning, planning, property ownership, property tax, cemetery lots, and city employee retirement funds, 1884-1987.
• Series M contains 70 reels which hold municipal minutes from 1885-1989.
• Series O is comprised of four reels containing city ordinances from 1892-1989.
• Series S consists of mayoral scrapbooks comprising eight reels.
• Series SC is one reel consisting of commissioners' scrapbooks, 1949-1953.
Series V, Municipal Records on Microfilm (16mm), is an assortment of files from various city departments, including mayors' files from 1967-1989. There are a total of 63 reels, and inclusive dates for this series are 1919-1989. Numbers run consecutively for reels 1 - 50. Thereafter, there are gaps in the numbers, indicating that many of the reels are missing.
Series VI, Municipal Records on Reel-to-Reel Sound Recordings, is comprised of 17 reels containing records of Planning Board meetings from 1965-1969.
Series VII, Photographs and Film. A significant portion of this series is comprised of images depicting flooding in the City of Hattiesburg in 1958, 1974, and 1983. Other images portray various downtown projects and scenes, primarily during the 1980s. In addition, there are several excellent photographs of the interior of the old Forrest Hotel (Box 82, Folder 6) and the interior of the Saenger Theatre (Box 61, Folder 25). The series also contains two reels of undated and unidentified 35mm film footage.