A Kaleidoscope of History
 
A series on the history of Raymond by Rebecca B. Drake,
originally published in the Hinds County Gazette

Railroads in Raymond
 

One of the Most interesting and important aspects concerning the development of Raymond, as well as America in general, was the advent of the railroad system. By 1830, when American transportation was limited to dirt roads, natural waterways and canals, Europeans had already found a new means of travel. It was referred to as the "rail system" and had proved to be efficient as well as beneficial. Large American industrial companies, located in the east, began to hear about the successful use of the steam engine and decided that the time had come for American engineers to explore the matter. In spite of popular opinion -that the railroad could never seriously rival the canals - rails soon began to emerge throughout the countryside and by 1840 the railroad was a permanent part of the American scene.

Raymond was not immune to the early "railroad fever" and several years prior to 1840 developed its own railroad company. The company was simply called The Raymond Railroad. Mr. John B. Peyton, one of the founders of Raymond, was president of the company. Not much is known about this early railroad except that it ran on an eight-mile track of wooden rails to the town of Bolton. The railroad grade - as it left Raymond - was located between the Gillespie (now Bob Ferguson property) and the Peyton property at the north end of town. Within a short distance of town the track ran directly behind Waverly, home of John B. Peyton.

Try to imagine what this early railroad must have looked like as it chugged along toward Bolton carrying its passengers! The engine, considered to be a wonderful and modern invention, burned wood. While in route to Bolton the train would have to stop along the way so that wood could be loaded into one of the cars located at the rear of the train. The speed of this early engine can be determined by an amusing story handed down in history. It seems that a black man was walking from Raymond to Bolton along the railroad track. The train stopped and the engineer asked... "would you like a ride to Bolton this morning... ?" With a wave of his hand the black man replied... "Naw Sir Boss... I'se in a hurry today.... !" The passenger coaches held about ten passengers but one would not have wanted to travel on a wet or cold day. The coaches did not have windows or shades! Basically they were just "open air coaches".

The RAYMOND RAILROAD was used until Civil War times primarily to transport agricultural supplies as well as passengers. After the war financial conditions were so bad that it was impossible to resume service. The Raymond Railroad Company was lost to history.

Another railroad line was built thru Raymond shortly after 1878. Mrs. Erwin Peyton remembers the date because it has been recorded in the Peyton family history. "Erwin's father was leaving on a trip to Texas back in the summer of 1878 - and - that same summer a group of men (Dutchmen) were digging the bed for the railroad track. They would dig - then - carry the dirt away in wheelbarrows." It must have been a few years later before the trains were actually running thru Raymond. "According to McLemore in his HISTORY OF MISSISSIPPI, Vol. 2 a railroad from Jackson to Natchez (passed thru Raymond) was completed Oct. 6th, 1882. The line was affectionately called the "Little J" to distinguish it from the old New Orleans, Jackson and Great Northern Railroads." This railroad - later bought by Illinois Central -serviced the town of Raymond and carried passengers, as well as freight, until 1945. Mrs. Mary Adams nostalgically remembers the train and the regular 12:00 noon stops in Raymond, "my grandfather, Sterling K. White, was the conductor of the Little J. Railroad in the 1930's. Often I would catch the 12:00 noon train going to Jackson so that I could ride with my grandfather. On the days that I didn't ride the train I would often go to the station just to wave hello."

The Railroad Depot, according to the National Register of Historic Places, was constructed around 1889. For approximately fifty years the Railroad Depot saw numerous passengers in its waiting room. This was the "magic time" - 1890 until 1940 - in American history when the train reached its height of success. In 1945 passenger cars were removed from the line and the Depot was used only for storage. In 1970 the Depot was closed permanently. Shortly after the closure artist Donnie Baggett and his wife Barbara bought the Depot and with their artistic talents converted the old structure into a home. Primarily, the Baggetts wanted to preserve as much of the original Depot as possible. The old Railroad Depot, along with the Courthouse, is one of Raymond's primary tourist attractions.

In Hinds County the older generation of people remember the "Little J." - or the Natchez-Jackson Railroad - quite well! For them it was as much a way of life as the airlines are to us today. One person commented "... I can still remember hearing the sound of the horn from the distance - and - then seeing the train as it came under the bridge... finally stopping at the railroad station to pick up the passengers..." Those days now seem a long time ago, but, they will never be forgotten.


Historical information taken from: National Register of Historic Places, History of Mississippi, McLemore and History and Raymond, Jane Brent.

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