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Millington resident processes book on Mississippi Justice dating back to 1830s

By Thomas Sellers Jr.

Millington businessman Glenn Gossett displays the book that has been in his family for decades. The book documents Mississippi legal history from the 1800s.

Millington businessman Glenn Gossett displays the book that has been in his family for decades. The book documents Mississippi legal history from the 1800s.

Gossett bookk graphic

A recent trip to Georgia brought Tennessean Glenn Gossett closer to Mississippi history.
The local businessman recently visited his brother in the Peach State and returned back home to the Millington area with a worn book full of hand written passages dating back to the 1830s.
“My brother’s half brother found the book when he was tearing down an old courthouse in Mississippi I guess about 40 years ago or more because my brother has had the book more than 30 years,” Gossett recalled. “He brought the book to Georgia. I went to visit my brother on his 80th birthday. He gave the book to me to come back with. And he wanted to see if I could find out anything about it.”
Gossett gave the book to the staff of The Millington Star to research some of the authors of the passages. From the first written page to the last, the book is full of court cases from Memphis to Desoto County Mississippi from 1833 to 1908.
Some of the historic names to appear throughout the book are JB. Boothe, TR Maxwell, Sam Powel, JB Morgan, RH Johnston, TC Dockery, JM Stephens, Robert Atchison and JD Fogg.
Some of the court cases to appear in the book are Joseph Johnson vs. Murray Coleman and Samuel Johnson/William Johnson vs. Samuel B. Bryant/John B. Turner in 1839.
Online research of some of the names yielded information on Boothe, Maxwell and Dockery. Boothe served on the Mississippi Supreme Court and as a circuit court judge.
Maxwell was involved in a case of Mississippi Railroad Commission vs. Illinois Central Railroad Company in 1906.
A search of JD Fogg traced his family back to Hernando, Miss., and Madison, Tenn. The Tennessee Fogg was possibly in the 6th Tennessee Infantry or 51st infantry.
Several of the other names either writing about cases or involved in disputes were a part of the first families in Itawamba County, in Mississippi to pay personal property taxes. There names appeared on a tax list supplements the 1840 Federal Census, with the families living in Itawamba County well before 1840.
But most of the documents in the book were about Desoto County. The North Mississippi territory is part of the metropolitan Memphis area. Its county seat is Hernando and according to the 2010 Census is home to 161,252 residents.
The county is named for Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto. The county seat, Hernando, is also named in his honor. De Soto allegedly died in that area in May 1542.
At its organization by European Americans on February 9, 1836, after Indian Removal, Desoto County stretched from the Tennessee state line on the north to the Tate County line on the south; from the Mississippi River and Tunica County on the west to Marshall County on the east.
Congress passed the Indian Removal Act in 1830, authorizing forcible removal if necessary to extinguish Native American claims in the Southeast. From 1832 to 1836, government surveyors mapped the 6,442,000 acres of the Chickasaw domain, dividing it into townships, ranges and sections. The Mississippi Legislature formed 10 new counties, including Desoto, Tunica, Marshall and Tate, from this territory.
It was shortly after the passing of the Indian Removal Act the first passage was written in the book. The cursive writing at the top of the first page states, “Memphis, Tenn May 18, 1833.” That makes the origin of the book 180 years old.
Several opinions on court cases appear, settlements of disputes and how justice was ordered during that time. Sheriff TC Dockery appears later in the book around 1881. His name is signed along with RH Johnston in the same handwriting. Then another sheriff’s name, L.W. Williamson, comes up in cases around 1903.
Judges, chancellors and clerks were mention on cases from the 1880 to the conclusion of the book in July 1908. Gossett said the book has been in his family for three decades. And now he wants it to be shared with the world and maybe return it to its rightful place in the Magnolia State.
“I wanted to see what the worth is on the book and see if it’s important to the state of Mississippi,” he concluded. “If so, then I will give it to them to put into a museum.”

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