Tippah County's Early Years*
Tippah County is a diverse place, and at one time, incorporated an even larger area than it does now. It was organized in 1836, but white people had lived in the area before as trappers and traded with the Chickasaw Indians in the early 1830s. James Adair was one of those early trappers and wrote a book about his travels.
Settlers began pouring into the area from Tennessee to the north and from the east soon after the land was opened up for settling. Due to its central geographic location, Ripley became a center of trade. By the 1850s, much of the frontier quality of the town was replaced with the luxuries of city life. Several large mansions were built on Jackson Street just west of the town square and the town had a population of 464.
With the Civil War came change. Tippah County would never be the same. Ripley supplied some of the troops to Second Mississippi, Company B, for the first battles of the war. They fought in Virginia and were at the Battle of Manassas...many never saw home again.
Although Tippah County was never particularly rich, it was strategically located, being only 30 miles from the crossroads at Corinth and about 50 miles from Shiloh. The many roads leading to and from Ripley offered a gateway of routes.
During the war, Union troops occupied Ripley and several antebellum homes that were still standing were used as hospitals. Crops were confiscated, cattle stolen, and homes burned. Part of Ripley square was burned; it took many years to recover.
When the war was over, soldiers began to drift back home, returning to a ruined economy. It would be years before Tippah County prospered again. To add insult to injury, the reconstructionist government divided Tippah County in 1870 for political reasons. Much of what was once Tippah County is now Benton County. Other portions of Tippah County were separated to create Prentiss, Alcorn, and Union counties.
The years from 1880 until the First World War were properous times for Tippah County. At that time, Colonel W.C. Faulkner, great-grandfather of award-winning author William Faulkner, was a lawyer, legislator, politician, businessman and farmer in Tippah County and is generally credited with building the railroad through Tippah County. Unfortunately, he was shot and killed in Ripley Square in 1889, and the famous family left Ripley for New Albany.
Around 1900, New York millionaire Paul J. Rainey purchased large tracts of land in the Cotton Plant area and cultivated a large farm, built a lavish home, and entertained the social set of the day. Exotic animals were often housed at the Rainey estate. Mr. Rainey always seemed to be having a party. The train actually made a stop near his mansion, and a hotel was built in New Albany to house the overflow of guests of the farm.
Ripley's Early Years*
On May 9, 1837, the town of Ripley was incorporated by an act of the Legislature as the county seat for Tippah County. Ripley is believed to be named for General Eleazar Wheelock Ripley, a distinguished soldier and legislator, who was born in Hanover, New Hampshire in 1782.
A log courthouse 24 feet square was among the first structures erected, and in that little building the first term of court in Tippah County was held. In 1838, the original log courthouse was replaced by a brick building, erected by Peter Garland.
Until about 1850, Ripley was essentially a frontier community. By the time of the Civil War in 1864, it had become a tight-knit community of 700, and with increasing prosperity came a growing interest in culture, and Ripley's moral atmosphere improved over its frontier beginnings. Many of the wood-framed businesses and residences were built close to the new brick courthouse, and in 1903, Ripley suffered its last great fire, which destroyed the south side of the square.
Walnut's Early Years
Walnut (Hopkins) was established on November 6, 1872 and is located at the intersection of US Highway 72 and MS Highway 15 which was bought from the Chickasaw Indian Cession in 1836 by Henry Hopkins.
The town of Walnut was first incorporated in December of 1872 as Hopkins, and the name was changed to Walnut on July 10,1876 because of a mis-shipment of cargo. There was a settlement south of Hopkins called Hopkinsville (Frogtown), and because of the similarity of the town names, a train conductor had to stop his train and back it up one mile to Hopkins to recover and properly deliver his cargo. It was suggested that Hopkins be called "Walnut" after a huge grove of walnut trees located in the town.
A charter for the town of Walnut was recorded in the office of the Secretary of State and State Library on July 10,1936. Around 1932-33, the Ripley Utility Company put a Delco Light System in the town. This service was discontinued when the T.V.A. (Tennessee Valley Authority) was brought to Walnut in 1938.
* The information on this page was reprinted from or paraphrased from FYI-1998, printed by the Tippah County Development Foundation, 212 East Jefferson Street, Ripley, MS 38663, (662) 837-3353