A Kaleidoscope of History
Turn of the Century
By 1900, the turn into the twentieth century, Raymond was seventy-two years old and had a total population of 506. The mayor was P.J. Dolan. An old timer remembers the town as it was just after the turn of the century... "goodness, the town itself was almost nothing and the homes were just scattered here and about." The splendid courthouse, forty-one years old, was perhaps the only visible evidence of the opulence that Raymond had once known.
Turn of the century life in Raymond was exciting because there was a 'feeling of change' in the air. At the same time life was frustrating because 'the change' seemed so slow in coming! By 1890 Raymond, as well as many other towns in the state, had finally begun to show positive signs of economic recovery. A few of the large old homes in town were built during this time. One of the best example of late 19th century Victorian architecture is the Gillespie home located on Oak Street. It was built by Chalmer Williamson and later bought by Cade Gillespie Sr., a Confederate veteran and lawyer. The restored home is now owned by Robert and Martha Ferguson. Another large home built between 1885 and 1900 was the Armitage House. This spacious home, located on Main Street across from the Methodist Church, was built by Mr. Armitage, a prominent town citizen. It is now the home of Jim and Ouida Beall. The Catholic Church, built in 1885, is also a good example of late nineteenth century architecture. As tourists pass thru town they are immediately attracted to the hillside location of this small yet beautiful church.
Life in Raymond changed in many ways during the early part of the 20th century. Along with electricity and other modern inventions, the telephone was introduced! A few years prior to 1900 the Hinds County Gazette commented... "the telephone is proving to be of great use to the town." However, by 1903 the town was already complaining bitterly about the poor telephone service... "the stockholders of the telephone at this place are so dissatisfied with the poor service that they are considering the advisability of doing away with the line." (Gazette, Nov. 13, 1903)
The year 1903 must have been an active one for the new mayor, A.H. Silvey. Many new town ordinances were presented and approved by the town board. For example, after a board meeting in November of 1903, the Hinds County Gazette proclaimed that "the plank fence around the courthouse has been removed, preparatory to the erection of an iron fence." The installation of the iron fence, as well as the erection of the Confederate monument, gave the courthouse a distinguished and finished look.
Also, in 1903 an ordinance was issued giving citizens of Raymond the right to operate cars and to use gas or electricity. Twelve years later, in 1915, another City Ordinance, with reference to cars, was passed stating... "it is unlawful to run any automobile or motorcycle in town limits at a speed greater than 12 miles per hour on a straight run, and 6 miles per hour turning corners." It must not have taken long for those fortunate enough to own a car to learn the art of speeding!
One of the most important items on the town's agenda during that same year, 1903, was the purchase of a new water system to service the town. A large water tank, capable of holding 16,000 gallons of water, was ordered and installed in the middle of Town Square. Can you imagine the excitement of citizens as they watched this major undertaking!?
Local citizens also learned the fine art of complaining!! If anything offended them or broke the serenity of their peaceful little town, complaints were quickly made. One man was heavily fined for openly swearing on the sidewalk in the middle of town!
In 1905 a major complaint was taken to city hall regarding a loud and offensive noise made by the cotton gin whistle in town. When these loud whistles sounded -most any time of day - it must have scared the livestock and pets in town as well as the people! An ordinance was filed against the whistles saying... "whistles are declared a nuisance and it will be unlawful for large whistles to be blown more than three times a day, 6:00 morning, 12:00 noon and 6:00 in the evening. Each blowing of the whistle will not exceed one minute. There will be a fine imposed if this ordinances broken."
When the United States turned the corner into the 20th century many exciting and wonderful new things were happening. George Gershwin and Irving Berlin were in the process of creating a new American music. Medical and scientific technology was on the rise. Cars began to blanket the American scene. Just imagine the small town of Raymond turning its own corner into the 20th century! A small, yet determined town - a town almost swallowed up by its own turbulent past.
*Historical information from Ordinance Records, Office of the Mayor, Raymond, Mississippi.
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