Monday, January 12, 2009

Questions About Early Itawamba County Marriages

Located in the Itawamba County Chancery Court Clerk’s office in the county courthouse are thousands of marriage records bound in large red leather volumes. Itawamba County is fortunate to have all the volumes intact from the beginning to the present. The first recorded marriage record in the county was that of the marriage between William H. Toomer and Marilda Barnett. This marriage took place on February 23, 1837 (Marriage Book 1, Page 1). The license (click image for larger view) was granted by Itawamba County’s first probate clerk, Lewis H. Gideon and the marriage was performed by Justice of the Peace William Cooper. It is interesting to note this marriage took place a full year after Itawamba County was officially organized.

On February 9, 1836, the Mississippi Legislature divided the land secured from the Chickasaw into counties and five days later this body 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.

From reading early minutes of the county board of police, it is evident the first organizational meeting of that body was held in the home of James Spears Bourland in southwestern Itawamba County near the Tombigbee River during September of 1836 with an election to be held the following month for county officers. Lewis Gideon, who recorded the above Toomer-Barnett marriage was elected as the county’s first probate clerk during that October election, and probably didn’t take office until January 1837.

My question has always been: Were there any marriages in Itawamba County prior to this February 1837 marriage listed on Page 1 of Book 1? A full year had transpired between the time the county was officially created and this first recorded marriage. According to the 1836 state tax list for Itawamba County, there were approximately 280 families living in Itawamba County prior to 1837 and after the county’s creation during February of 1836. With no county official (probate clerk) to record such marriages, were marriages simply not recorded during this transitional period of nearly twelve months? Were marriage licenses obtained in older adjoining areas (Monroe County, Mississippi or Franklin and Marion counties in Alabama)? Or was the February 1837 Toomer-Barnett marriage, in fact, Itawamba County’s first marriage? There are lots of questions, but no apparent answers.

A Transcript of Itawamba County’s
First Recorded Marriage License

W.H. Toomer to Miss Marilda Barnett
The State of Mississippi
Itawamba County

To any regular ordained minister of the Gospel, Judge, Justice of the Police Court or acting Justice of the Peace in and for said county – Greeting.

You or either of you are hereby authorized to solemnize the rites of matrimony between William H. Toomer and Marilda Barnettt and join them together as man and wife in the holy estate of wedlock. Your official certificate whereof you are to return together with the License into the office of the register of the Orphans Court of said county within the time prescribed by law. Witness Joshua Toomer, Judge of the Probate of said county, this 23rd day of February 1837.
Test. L.H. Gideon, Clerk

The State of Mississippi
Itawamba County

I William Cooper, an acting Justice of the Peace in and for said County do certify that the within License was executed the 23rd day of February 1837.

William Cooper
Justice of Peace

The State of Mississippi
Itawamba County

I Lewis H. Gideon, clerk of the probate for said County do certify this the forgoing is true record.

November 28th, 1837
L.H. Gideon, Clerk


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