Wikinson County Courthouse in Woodville
Location of Woodville, Mississippi
|• Total||1.1 sq mi (2.8 km2)|
|• Land||1.1 sq mi (2.8 km2)|
|• Water||0.0 sq mi (0.0 km2)|
|Elevation||404 ft (123 m)|
|• Density||1,112.0/sq mi (429.3/km2)|
|Time zone||Central (CST) (UTC-6)|
|• Summer (DST)||CDT (UTC-5)|
|GNIS feature ID||0679870|
The Woodville Republican, a weekly newspaper founded in 1823, is the oldest surviving business (and thus the oldest newspaper) in Mississippi.
This unique, charming and historic town, one of the oldest in Mississippi, is set among the picturesque rolling hills and pastures of Wilkinson County, just North of the Louisiana-Mississippi border in the southwest corner of the state. It was incorporated in 1811, after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 and not long before Mississippi’s admission to the United States in 1817.
It stands along the historic corridor between St. Francisville, LA, 24 miles to the south and Natchez, MS, 34 miles to the north. Since pre-colonial times, communities within this corridor have been linked, first by the Lower Natchez Trace, a footpath and portage that served the east bank of the Mississippi River, and now by U. S. Highway 61, the “Blues Highway,.” where America’s music originated.
John James Audubon visited Woodville during his sojourn in St. Francisville in the 1820s. In the lush forests of this region he found more than 26 of the species which he documented and painted for his “Birds of America” series.
Woodville’s families date to the 18th century, and its diverse and marvelous architecture to the 19th century. The leadership of its residents distinguishes Woodville from many other small Southern towns that are its contemporaries, and accounts for a noteworthy group of cultural resources and activities: the Woodville Main Street Association; the Wilkinson County – Woodville Public Library; and the Wilkinson County Museum and the African American Museum, both restored and owned by the Woodville Civic Club. Among the Main Street Association’s initiatives are the much-heralded and newly opened Woodville Hospitality Station, providing a tourist information and rest stop to North-bound travelers on Highway 61, near the town boundary, and the annual Deer & Wildlife Festival, staged on and around the Courthouse Square, each October. The Civic Club has published three volumes of The Journal of Wilkinson County. A fourth book is in the works.
A public school system and a private alternative, the Wilkinson County Christian Academy, offer co-ed grades K – 12. WCCA is an educational anchor of the bi-state area.
The town claims distinguished forbearers in politics, commerce and the arts. Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy, lived here as a boy, and Rosemont (c. 1810), his home of that period, has been lovingly restored and is open to the public. Davis family descendents are among the town’s residents today. Woodville was home to one U.S. Senator, and a Lieutenant Governor and three Governors of the state, one of whom was author of the Mississippi Civil Code. William Grant Still, a descendant of abolitionists and the Dean of African-American composers, was born here.
The town boasts an excellent grocery and medical clinic, and churches with active Catholic, Episcopal, Methodist, Baptist and Presbyterian congregations.
Woodville owes its defining prosperity and unique ambience to two classic Southern commodities: cotton and timber; and in the town’s halcyon days, particularly cotton. Cotton brought the planters who built numerous Wilkinson County plantations, and the merchants who served the planters’ families and workers. The need to get cotton to market justified the construction of the West Feliciana Railroad, the oldest standard-gauge system in the country, which once extended from Woodville to Bayou Sera, on the Mississippi River, just south of St. Francisville.
The community thrived from the 1830s until the Civil War, and again from 1870 until 1920, by which time the boll weevil had pulled the economic rug from under Woodville, by decimating the cotton crop. In that second period of prosperity, the town was called “Little Jerusalem,” to acknowledge the Jewish businessmen who came for the economic opportunities and made significant contributions to its built environment and culture. Woodville’s synagogue burned in the 1930s, but its Jewish cemetery may still be visited.
The West Feliciana Railroad had a terminus on Depot St., where the railroad’s office was located.
Woodville remains notable for its role in a flourishing timber industry; the dedication and commitment of its proud and friendly residents, many of whom are third and fourth generation; its marvelous assemblage of 19th-century buildings in various classic styles; and its abundance of recreational availability, hunting and fishing in particular. Recently, a flurry of interest in oil and gas drilling, some of which is under way, has prompted speculation that additional commercial activity may be on the way.
The kingdom of cotton has yielded to the kingdom of timber, an industry in which Wilkinson and Amite counties are a bread basket of the U. S. Conducive climate, soil quality and drainage in these rolling hills offer an ecosystem unequalled for the cultivation, harvesting and processing of species as diverse as pine, red and white oak, cypress and ash. Here there is remarkable “sustainability” - conditions that foster the repetitive and efficient planting, harvesting and replanting of acreage without damage to the soil or to the landscape. The timber plantations of the county make for a clean and healthful environment with excellent air quality.
Netterville Lumber and Big River Timber, among the county’s major employers, produce finished lumber and ship their products world-wide. Area employers of significance are Georgia Pacific and KAPAQ Industries, major processors of pulpwood, situated in the Feliciana Parishes of Louisiana.
The town is home to the oldest newspaper in continuous existence in Mississippi, the Woodville Republican, founded by W. A. Chisholm in 1821, and still publishing each week under the management of a great-grandson of John South Lewis who settled here in 1810, and whose family acquired the publication in 1878. The grocery is Treppendahl’s Super Foods, operated by a great grandson of the first owner. The Treppendahls are now sixth generation Woodvillians.
Superimposed over its rolling terrain, Woodville enjoys an orderly and aesthetically pleasing town plan, centered on a square of ancient oaks where the spire of the turn-of-the century Beaux Arts courthouse rises, asserting the importance of the town as the seat of Wilkinson County.
In the inventory of over a hundred buildings significant to its National Register Historic District listing, Woodville structures date from the first quarter of the 19th century and include a rich diversity of examples of Federal, Eastlake, Arts and Crafts, Greek Revival, Beaux Arts and Neo-classical architecture. Fronting Courthouse Square are the monumental office and banking house of the West Feliciana Railroad (c. 1834), now the Wilkinson County Museum, and home to the area’s Main Street Program office; and the classic federal-style former Branch Banking House of the State of Mississippi (c. 1819), the state’s oldest existing bank building, now the African-American Museum. The former railroad office may be one of the oldest railroad office buildings in the U. S.
Excellent examples of noteworthy domestic architecture abound, including the Neo-classical Lewis house (c. 1832) at 458 Church St., the monumental Feltus-Catchings house (c. 1820) at the Southwest corner First South and Depot, the Greek Revival Carnot Posey House (c. 1845) at 432 Church St. and the John William Goddard house at 940 Main Street.
Woodville is located at (31.102705, -91.299827).
According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 1.1 square miles (2.8 km2), all land.
As of the census of 2000, there were 1,192 people, 474 households, and 322 families residing in the town. The population density was 1,112.0 people per square mile (430.1/km²). There were 569 housing units at an average density of 530.8 per square mile (205.3/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 74.58% African American, 24.50% White and 0.92% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.67% of the population.
There were 474 households out of which 34.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 32.3% were married couples living together, 29.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 31.9% were non-families. 30.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.50 and the average family size was 3.11.
In the town the population was spread out with 29.4% under the age of 18, 7.7% from 18 to 24, 25.3% from 25 to 44, 22.1% from 45 to 64, and 15.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 86.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 74.3 males.
The median income for a household in the town was $16,176, and the median income for a family was $19,000. Males had a median income of $32,292 versus $18,333 for females. The per capita income for the town was $13,590. About 38.0% of families and 37.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 47.0% of those under age 18 and 38.8% of those age 65 or over.
Wilkinson County School District serves Woodville. There are three education facilities near Woodville: Wilkinson County Elementary School, Wilkinson County High School, and the private school Wilkinson County Christian Academy.
- Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America
- Charles and Virginia deGravelles, a political couple from Louisiana, eloped and were married in Woodville on September 14, 1935.
- Rudolph Matthews, handball player
- J. H. Netterville (1879-1943), born near Woodville, manager of three area plantations for the Panola Company near Newellton, Louisiana; member of the Tensas Parish School Board
- Edward Grady Partin (1924-1990), Teamsters Union business agent from Baton Rouge whose testimony sent Jimmy Hoffa to prison, was born in Woodville.
- Carnot Posey, American Civil War Confederate general
- Dan Reneau, President of Louisiana Tech University
- William Grant Still, African American classical composer
- George W. Wheeler, Chief Justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court (1920–30)
- Lester Willis Young, American jazz musician
- Matt Tolbert, professional baseball infielder
- "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07.
- "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23.
- "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
- Frederick W. Williamson and George T. Goodman, eds. Eastern Louisiana: A History of the Watershed of the Ouachita River and the Florida Parishes, 3 vols. (Monroe: Historical Record Association, 1939), pp. 985-986