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By Sara Richardson and published May 8, 1985


One thing we have learned in our study of Rankin County’s past is that it is very easy to misinterpret what someone says in an interview. Apparently we made a mistake when we said that the community now known as Richland was once known as Plain. When we first came to Rankin County in 1935, we learned about Plain, a community a few miles south of us. We do not remember ever hearing it called Richland until the last few years. Of course, we know that the name Richland goes way back into Rankin County’s yesteryears. There was Richland Academy, which opened in 1861, also Richland Creek.

We have some information concerning the county’s postal history in which the postmaster at Brandon in 1869 had to locate his post office specifically, giving the name of the nearest creek, the nearest river, nearest post office to his office. The nearest creek, he said, to the Brandon post office, was Richland Creek. Still, we had the idea that the community now known as Richland was originally Plain. We are indebted to Mrs. Maggie Legett Smith, Richland native, for setting us straight. She wrote us about a name for the depot. Since the name Richland was already established, she says, everyone assumed that it would be chosen, but a Mr. Catron suggested Plain, and it was accepted. No one knew why unless it was because of a natural prairie between the old settlement Richmond and Highway 49.

Before Richmond burned, there was a mile-long race track there. There was only one tree, a beautiful, almost dwarf holly, which grew at the edge of the Highway 49 right-of-way. The railroad station had been gone many years before the incorporation of the City of Richland.

The way some names catch on and others fade away is strange, we have often thought. Take the name Pearson, for example. This village was once an important shipping center for the area. The late Milton Singletary told us that when he was young his family hauled their cotton to Pearson, also crossties, from his home at Florence. Using ox wagons, they had to spend the night somewhere on the way. Today it must be all of ten minutes from Florence to the site of old Pearson, but they could not make the trip in one day. Pearson had its depot, too. It was also the only voting precinct for this entire area. People who lived in what was once called East Jackson, near the old Pearl River bridge, came to Pearson to vote. Yet, we who live in this part of the county are residents of the City of Pearl, not the City of Pearson. The name Pearl caught on, while the name Pearson, in spite of the depot, the post office by that name, and the voting precinct, faded away. If you trace your ancestry far enough back, you may find that the spelling of your surname has changed considerably. Many of the Rankin County citizens named Rhodes are descendants of David, Henry, or John Rhode (no s) who appear in the 1830 census. In the Pearson Cemetery, there is a grave of a Confederate soldier, H.C. Childress, ancestor of Senator Mitch Childre. Somebody along the way dropped the letter ess, both of them. “What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Perhaps so. We are not sure. What’s in a name? For one thing, there is an enormous amount of history.


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