Copiah County Courthouse Centennial Celebration Is May 4

April 15, 2002

Copiah County will celebrate the centennial of its courthouse in Hazlehurst on May 4 with a music festival featuring local high school and college bands and a performance by the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra.

The Mississippi Symphony Orchestra will play at 2:30 p.m. from atop the Gallatin Street Bridge over the railroad in Hazlehurst. Illinois Central Railroad agreed to stop two scheduled freight trains to avoid interrupting the performance, said Chancery Clerk Steve Amos.

Admission is free. The symphony performance is made possible by a grant from the Mississippi Arts Commission and contributions from businesses.

High School band performances will begin at 11 a.m. on the courthouse lawn. Bands are from Copiah Academy, Crystal Springs High School, Hazlehurst High School, Wesson High School and Copiah-Lincoln Community College. The Dixon Singers, a local gospel group, will sing The Star-Spangled Banner, followed by remarks from Chancery Judge Edward E. Patten Jr. and Sen. Thad Cochran.

The Copiah-Jefferson Regional Library will exhibit photographs and other memorabilia from Hazlehurst, Crystal Springs and Wesson. The display will be in the courthouse.

Judge Patten said, "Any time something in the community reaches the 100-year milestone, a celebration is warranted. That's especially true if that 'something' is the courthouse where people do so many of the 'firsts' in their lives, such as getting their marriage license, recording the deed to their first home, buying their first car tag, or even, in my case, trying their first lawsuit as an attorney. The courthouse is part of many individual histories, and 100 years is worthy of celebration."

Amos, a third-generation Copiah countian and local history enthusiast, organized the festivities with the help of pharmacist Jacqui Patten, wife of Judge Patten, as a way to bring the community together to observe the courthouse centennial. Amos noted that the date, May 4, isn't the actual anniversary. Warm weather is needed for an outdoor gathering.

The Copiah County Board of Supervisors on Jan. 7, 1902, accepted a construction bid of $44,603 from G.T. Hallas & Co., according to board minutes penned in the clear, flowing handwriting of Chancery Clerk J. B. Mayes. Construction on the courthouse at 100 Caldwell Drive was completed in 1903.

The Neo-Classical Revival structure is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, said Paul Cartwright, director of the Copiah-Jefferson Regional Library.

Renovations have changed the face of the building and masked some of its beauty. The original structure had a third-floor dome and a clock. Leaks in the dome led to removal of the clock and dome in 1934, Amos said.

"Everybody in town is interested in what happened to the clocks. That would be an interesting mystery to solve," Cartwright said.

Two wings were annexed in the early 1950s. The jail was torn down in 1981.

The courthouse was once illuminated by a stained-glass window in the dome. The window is now sealed from view. Twenty-eight wooden columns inside the second-story courtroom are coated in industrial yellow paint. Brown paint on the stairway banisters has chipped to reveal the oak beneath.

Amos applied last year to the Department of Archives and History for a building restoration grant, but it was not approved. He plans to apply again.

Needs for extra space forced the Chancery Court and the Chancery Clerk's office to move across the street to the renovated Copiah County Chancery Complex.

Circuit Judge Lamar Pickard said, "It's a beautiful, wonderful old courthouse. The biggest problem we have is space. There is just not enough room to conduct the court's business."

For more information, contact Beverly Pettigrew Kraft, court public information officer, at 601-354-7452.

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