COLUMBIA, MS (WDAM) - Columbia spent a small part of its 200-year history as the capital of Mississippi and played a determining role in where our permanent capital is today.
Back in 1821, the 5th session of the State Legislature met in Columbia and it was followed by a special session in June of 1822.
The meetings were held at a three-story hotel about three miles north of the current county courthouse called Stovall Springs.
The building no longer exists.
“The only building around here that was big enough to house all these representatives was Stovall Springs,” said Chris Watts, a teacher, and historian from Columbia. “This is a place where the landed gentry from the New Orleans and Natchez District would spend their summers. They would fish and they would advertise the finest spirits this side of New Orleans and it was a playground.”
It was a playground for the rich, perhaps, but it was there that several new laws were passed for the education of the poor.
Poindexter’s Code, Mississippi’s first legal code, was also adopted.
But, the most important thing that happened there is that Le Fleur’s Bluff, now known as Jackson, was approved as the state capital.
“They sent out a team of surveyors, one of the guy’s name was Thomas Hinds (for whom Hinds County is named) to find the location for the permanent capital of Mississippi and they ended up finding a place called Le Fleur’s Bluff,” Watts said.
“So, an argument can be made that Jackson, Mississippi, as the capital of Mississippi, would not exist, if it weren’t for a little backwoods hotel in Columbia.”
Walter Leake was also inaugurated as governor of Mississippi in Columbia, in January of 1822.
And Columbia was also home to a man who served two terms as governor of Mississippi.
Hugh White was governor from 1936-1940 and again from 1952-1956.
He also served as mayor of Columbia in the 1920′s.
During that time, he lived in a Spanish Colonial-style mansion that is now a historic landmark. Another historical marker near the White mansion recognizes a special event that happened in Columbia in the 1930′s.
A marker at Friendship Park stands on the spot where Mississippi’s first rodeo was held. And it wasn’t just the state’s first rodeo, it was also the first in the nation to be held outdoors under electric lights.
“There were some cowboys who were working here on a ranch nearby and they were really interested in rodeo and what not, so they decided to try and get one here," said Watts. “They used the lights from the baseball field, making it the first rodeo ever held at night, anywhere, that anybody knows of. They had to do it another night or two because so many people turned out.”
The marker commemorating the rodeo was unveiled in 2018.