Jones county, in the "piney woods," was inhabited in 1861 by a people, peaceable and inoffensive, who went to church, dressed as they saw fit, and needed few courts of justice. There were few negroes in the county. When the question of secession came up in 1860, they elected J. D. Powell* (see note below) an opponent of secession, to the convention, only 24 votes being cast for the secession candidate. Yet Jones county gave from her scant population three full companies for the Confederate army, and a great part of four more that were formed on her border. Some of those who enlisted left the army when the laws seemed to use them to protect slave property while slaveholders were to some extent exempt from military duty, under the "Twenty Negro law," as they called it. In the latter part of 1862, the famous Newt Dwight Company was formed, with Dwight (of Jasper county) as captain, Jasper Collins and W. W. Sumrall lieutenants. It grew to about 125 men, including a goodly proportion from other counties and States. They made their headquarters on an island in Leaf river, opened communications with the Union officers at Vicksburg, and fought battles with Confederate detachments at Tallahala creek, Ellisville, and Leaf river. Gen. Robert Lowry made a campaign against them, but because of the nature of the country could not do much beyond capturing a few of their men. The leader and most of the company remained at large. That there was a convention of the county which adopted resolutions of secession from the State and Confederacy, has been asserted in two articles in the Magazine of American History, 1886, and 1891, and denied after a careful investigation by Goode Montgomery, Miss. Hist. Publ., 1904, and by Prof. Bondurant, Vol. I, same publications. The legislature of October, 1865, received a petition signed by 106 citizens of Jones county, who "would respectfully represent that from occurrences that have transpired within the past two years the name of our county beyond its limits has become notorious if not infamous, at least to sensitive ears and the public spirited, the reproaches and vulgar comparisons are mortifying to those who occasionally travel beyond its limits, and have sacrificed much to sustain a higher reputation. We therefore would petition your honorable body to change the name of the county to that of Davis, and that of our county seat, Ellisville, to Leesburg," hoping that this would begin a new history, "and that its past history may be obliterated and buried so deep that the hand of time may never resurrect it, but if by chance posterity should learn that there was a Jones and the back part of its history," the petitioners asked that their names be spread on the journal to witness their non-participation "in any of its dark deeds." (House Journal, 1865, p. 351.) An act passed to make the change, and in the public documents of 1866-68 "Davis" county appears to the exclusion of Jones. But the constitutional convention of 1868 restored the old names by ordinance.
*Note from Sam Powell at SamsPAD@ca.rr.com.
The name J. D. Powell is incorrect. His name is John H. Powell.
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