Happenings In and Around Shongalo, MS Before It Moved East and Became Vaiden
Links to Newspaper Articles
Shongalo’s primary Indian Village area was roughly within the red square, however parts of it extended to, and became, the area seen as Vaiden in the image above
Image from Google Earth – 06/14/2015
One origin of the name Shongalo is that it is a Choctaw Indian word, thought to mean “lark.” Another is that Shongalo was named by early pioneers from an Indian legend which claimed that a beautiful maiden, while singing one day, disappeared and soared away on a cloud. The Indians were so surprised at seeing her ascend in such manner that they used the word Shongalo to show their surprise. When the white people came here and were told the story, they used the word to name the village. Of course, the real meaning, if there is one, is lost to the annals of time.
Shongalo was incorporated on February 22, 1840. In the Articles of Incorporation, it is misspelled as “Shongola.” It was incorporated on the same day as Middleton, which was 11 miles north. Both were abandoned and moved to their present locations of Vaiden and Winona, respectfully, in 1859. Gerenton, MS was slightly southwest of Middleton. It only appeared on the 1850 census and was abandoned in 1859, as well. Gerenton’s businesses moved to Carrollton, Winona and Vaiden. These abandonments in 1859 were due to the opening of the railroad through Vaiden and Winona. For more detailed information on Shongalo, CLICK HERE.
Railroad Completion Timelines are, as follows:
May 13, 1853 – Location of railroad is decided - north of Canton, MS and across the Big Black River near the mouth of Doak’s Creek and will pass near Shongalo
August 6, 1857 – Completion of the railroad and beginnings of Vaiden
March 31, 1860 – Land for sale in and around Vaiden
Shongalo, which is in Carroll County, Mississippi, is not to be confused with Shongelo, MS (note the difference in spelling). Shongelo is located in Smith County and is on the same Highway 35 that runs past the location of Shongalo and Vaiden, except that Shongelo in Smith County is about 5 miles north of Raleigh, MS at latitude 32.103 and longitude -89.513.
The Shongalo Presbyterian Church building in Vaiden was originally built in 1874 or 1875, and was dedicated on October 15, 1875 by Dr. John Hunter of Jackson, MS. A Mississippi Historical Marker was erected in 1952 and is less than 100 yards from the church. It incorrectly states that the church was built in 1835.
Vaiden’s first courthouse was less than 50 feet south of this church, and was built in 1874. After the 1905 Courthouse was built, the 1874 Courthouse and the top floor of the Shongalo Presbyterian Church became meeting places for several groups, such as the De Witt Clinton Lodge No. 84 (Masons) and the Order of Eastern Star. Part of the 1874 Courthouse was later used as apartments, and the whole building eventually became the Sunday School Building for Shongalo Presbyterian Church, which was its last function. In October, 1989, this Courthouse exploded from a gas leak one Sunday morning and much of it collapsed. No one was injured as it happened before anyone had assembled for church services.
Vaiden’s second courthouse was built in 1905 and its interior courtroom and Sheriff’s Office scenes were used in the movie Mississippi Burning. In 1992-1993, the 1905 Courthouse was demolished due to structural instability. Articles HERE and HERE tell of its demise. In the humble opinion of this author, this building could have and should have been saved, but the other county seat always seems to receive preferential treatment wherever preservation of historical buildings and other artifacts are concerned.
Vaiden’s third and present courthouse was built in 1989. Vaiden had the distinction of having all three courthouses standing at the same time and within easy sight of each other. As of 2015, the 3rd Courthouse (1989) is the only courthouse left in Vaiden. The 1989 Courthouse was built on the original location of the building that was known as Crook’s Grocery on “Front Street” along Highway 51. This Photo was taken around late 1989, and shows the new 1989 Courthouse with part of the old 1905 courthouse in the background.
During the night of Wednesday, October 24, 2007 or early morning hours of Thursday, October 25, 2007, part of the southern wall of the Shongalo Presbyterian Church collapsed. No one was injured in the collapse. After analysis by engineers as to the cost, safety and feasibility of repairing the church, church officials decided that the old building was to be torn down and a new building rebuilt. CLICK HERE for a slideshow of the damage done by the collapse of the wall. The church was demolished and a new one built in its place in 2009. The Mississippi Historical Marker for the 1875 church is still in place, as of June 14, 2015.
Vaiden is the 2nd county seat of Carroll County. Vaiden became the 2nd county seat in the early 1870s, when the distance of 17 miles to Carrollton for legal business became an arduous task due to the condition of the roads and other factors, such as safety of the travelers and time involved in making the trip. It is rumored that Carrollton at first refused to form a second county seat and Vaiden threatened to secede from Carroll County. Thus far, such rumors have been unsubstantiated.
Shongalo was a Mail Stop before it was incorporated on 02/22/1840. Some of the stagecoach routes of 1838 can be seen HERE and HERE and HERE. The Postmaster of Shongalo in 1857 was Charles Kopperl (09/18/1814 – 01/01/1865). He was a Veteran of the Mexican War (1846-1848) and was later a Major in the Confederate Army. Maj. Kopperl was killed by a renegade band of Colored Union soldiers during Col. Benjamin Grierson’s last raid through the area, for supposedly refusing to give up his watch. Grierson’s last raid started on December 19, 1864 in Memphis, TN, and, after coming through Vaiden on January 1, 1865, ended at Vicksburg, MS on January 5, 1865. Among many of his exploits, he had been a partner in the Vaiden, Kopperl & Hawkins General Store along what is now Highway 51 on the Front Street of Vaiden. Charles is buried in the Vaiden Cemetery.
One of the stops on the same mail route as Shongalo is named Ceralvo. Ceralvo was originally named Dark Corner until the early 1850s. In October of 1850, Dark Corner was still its name in the newspapers when tallying votes in Carroll County’s Senatorial Election. Absence any information to the contrary, it is thought to have been nothing more than a very small community. It was listed in the 5th Police District of Carroll County and its location can be found HERE. It did, however, have a Postmaster in 1857; Moses M. Liddell (10/17/1813 – 04/01/1889). Moses is buried in the Evergreen Cemetery in Carrollton, MS. Ceralvo’s physical location today (2015) is apparently lost to time, but maps indicate that it was due east of Coila, MS, but on the west side of the Big Black River, which would be in Montgomery County today. See the map HERE for comparison. The name “Dark Corner” was not found on any Census. “Ceralvo” is only listed on the 1860 Census.
The stagecoach era was apparently interrupted because of the Civil War. Due to the secession of Mississippi from the Union, payments to the contracted mail route drivers was postponed or delayed. For the contract term from 07/01/1858 to 06/30/1862, the driver for the Shongalo route is listed as Thomas Ely (08/12/1806 – 10/03/1883). After the war and during reconstruction, efforts were made to pay those that were never compensated because of the wartime interruption. Representative Hernando DeSoto Money (08/26/1839 - 09/18/1912) of Carrollton, MS, led the fight to make sure that these drivers, or their families, were paid. Thomas Wesley Ely is buried in Vaiden at the Ely Burying Ground. Hernando Desoto Money is buried at the Evergreen Cemetery in Carrollton, MS. Money, who served in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate was known as an “old school statesman” and “a very erudite man and scholarly.”
Previously, the earliest school in the Shongalo/Vaiden area was not thought to be in existence until around 1860. The Carroll County, Mississippi Census of 1860 (P.25), lists 21 white males and 19 white females, with 11 children attending school. Sources indicate that this building was east of the cemetery. In 1838, the only section of the current Vaiden Cemetery in existence was the Shongalo section. Earlier - in 1838 - newspaper advertisements for Richland Academy in Shongalo in the Columbus Democrat announced “A Male and Female Teacher Wanted,” and state that the academy is “…situated in beautiful, fertile, and healthy country….” This ad mentions a large two-story building “…46 by 26 feet, with three apartments, sufficiently large for the accommodation of one hundred pupils.” Verification, if possible, of the previous location of this 46’ x 26’ building is forthcoming. There were several academies named “Richland.” In 1842, Richland Male and Female Academy in Holmes County – 12 miles south of Lexington – announced its first 5-month session. In June 1872, a Jackson newspaper article told of an exhibition at Richland Academy in Rankin County.
Although Shongalo and the surrounding area was a hotbed of activity for a while, it was only an incorporated town from February 22, 1840 until February 10, 1860 (19 years, 11 months and 19 days) before Vaiden was incorporated. It was a thriving community with many events taking place. Below are a few of them.
07/11/1837 – Runaway Slave Notice
01/23/1841 – Administrator’s Sale
06/12/1841 – Shongalo 4th of July Barbeque
07/03/1841 – Political Discussions
08/05/1841 – Land Sale Notice
02/19/1842 – Sale of Slaves
09/05/1843 – Quite Appropriate
03/19/1845 – Democratic Meetings
03/26/1845 – Meeting at Shongalo
07/16/1845 – 4th of July Celebration at Loving’s Springs (.pdf file)
07/16/1845 – Ellwood English and Classical School – probably in the vicinity of present day (2015) Hendrix, MS in Montgomery County – on Lewis Creek
08/27/1845 – Barbeque at Shongalo
09/03/1845 – Revivals of Religion
09/24/1845 – Meeting and Barbeque at Shongalo
11/29/1845 – Valuable Land for Sale
01/07/1846 – Dr. Hull’s Vegetable Pills
01/21/1846 – Superior Cotton Seed
03/11/1846 – Dr. Spencer’s Vegetable Pills
06/17/1846 – Coming 4th of July Celebrations
10/14/1846 – Insolvent Notice
06/19/1850 – Interesting Letter from Panama
07/30/1851 – Signs of the Times
09/18/1852 – Candidates for Electors
12/15/1865 – A Bloody Affair in Carroll County
03/18/1869 – A Trip to the South
11/17/1870 – Tribute of Respect
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This site last updated: Wednesday, June 17, 2015