On February 9, 1836, the Mississippi Legislature divided the land secured from the Chickasaws into counties. On February 14, 1836, the Legislature appointed commissioners in each of the ten newly created counties to get the counties organized. The commissioners appointed for Itawamba County were James Rowland, William Coats, Lewis Gideon and David Walker. As instructed by the Legislature, these commissioners called for an election and five men were elected: James Spears Bourland, Alfred G. Lane, John Beene, S.S. Spearman and Eliba Allen. These men were known as the Board of Police.
The first Board of Police minute book has been missing for decades but thanks to the Works Progress Administration history project of Itawamba County, that question is easily answered. During the 1930’s, a transcription of the first entry in the first volume of Police Court records was published in those WPA records. These are valuable records from when Itawamba County was basically still a wilderness. Below is a transcript of the first entry from this long-missing first record book:
Itawamba County Board of Police
September Term 1836
September Term 1836
Present: Alfred G. Lane, James S. Bourland, John Beene and Samuel S. Spearman, all members of said board. It was thus ordered that the court do now proceed to its organization whereupon James S. Bourland, Esq., was elected president of said board. Ordered by the court than an election be held at the following place on the first Monday and Tuesday in November next to wit: at the store house of Elisha Thomas, at the store of Mr. Thomas for the purpose of electing elders to vote for president and vice-president of the U.S., a judge of probates, a sheriff, a circuit court clerk, coroner, county surveyor, county treasurer and county ranger, and one representative for the county. Ordered that Lewis H. Gideon be appointed clerk pro-tem of this court until there be a clerk election and on the third Monday in October next, meeting again at the house of James S. Bourland.
From reading this first entry it is evident that county business was taking place in the home of James Spears Bourland, west of the Tombigbee River below the yet to be established old river port town of Van Buren. The election mentioned in the above record was held in the store house of Elisha Thomas, who has been listed as one of the first merchants of Van Buren.
The Board of Police were empowered by the Legislature to select the site of county government, which was to be in the center of the county, if a suitable location, and to acquire this location either by purchase or donation.
A deed recorded in Deed Book 1, Page 53, shows that a Chickasaw sold Section 25, Township 9, Range 8 East to Kenneth Clark, John Miller and Robert Miller, land speculators living in adjoining Pontotoc County. They, in turn, donated 50 acres of this land to the Board of Police for the site of county government on July 17, 1837. The new site of county government was named Fulton and by 1838 lots were being sold in this new town and a log court house was built. From late 1837 to the present, Fulton has continously been the county seat of government.
Today the original county seat of government located in the Van Buren-Cardsville area of southwestern Itawamba County, also known as Peaceful Valley, has long been silent. It has been 172 years since the hammering gavel opening the first sessions of the county’s Police Court has been heard in this rural historic river community.