Cities & Towns
Historic Hardeman Communities
Hardeman County was officially opened to settlers in 1820. By the year 1830, ten mills were in operation on the banks of the Hatchie River and its tributaries, including three on Spring Creek, two on Clear Creek, (an offshoot of Clover Creek) and others on Pleasant Run Creek, Porter's Creek, Piney Creek and Mill Creek. Many of the early mills also served as river ports and settlers entering the county often settled and formed communities that later became the towns still thriving in the county.
Other settlers pushed inward, forming strong communities that banded together to fend off the bands of fierce Chickasaw warriors remaining in the wilderness. These warriors were reported to have been some of the finest and fiercest warriors in America.
Although many of these communities vanished, their legacies survived for years through their schools, churches and cemeteries. In 1935, 82 schools remained as testament to these communities throughout Hardeman County. Although unincorporated, the spirit of these communities remains strong and has been kept alive through active church congregations and local historians.
Founded in the early 1800's
The Cloverport Community on Highway 138, north of Toone, was established as a settlement before 1810, beside a port on Clover Creek where boats traveling up the Creek from the Hatchie River would unload their cargo. Cloverport settlers operated a variety of mills, including a mule-drawn sorghum mill. The community had one of the first steam-operated cotton gins. Several businesses in the area have remained in operation for more than 100 years, including Anderson Fruit Farm and Hooper Lumber Company. Five homes, built around the turn-of-the-century remain in Cloverport, including the Jim Little House, the J.M. Pipkin House, the McCauley House, the Chapman House and the McKissack House.
Birthplace of Freed-Hardeman University
Essary Springs was established on the banks of the Hatchie River south of Pocahontas, just below the Davis Bridge Battleground. The community was named for a mineral spring, thought to have medicinal powers, located on the farm of a pioneer family named Essary. The community had two general stores, a hotel, a boarding house, post office and school. Hundreds made journeys to the picturesque springs each year for medical purposes. In 1888, resident A.G Freed and D.S. Nelms established the Freed School, the predecessor of Freed-Hardeman College, in Henderson, Tennessee. Part of the old school is still in use today as the Essary Springs Church of Christ.
The settlement of Middleburg dates to 1825. It is located on Highway 18, 7 miles south of Bolivar, on the site of the old stage route between Bolivar and LaGrange. Middleburg incorporated in 1860, at which time the city limits extended outward more than a mile from its present location to include six large plantations, more than 20 businesses, several churches, taverns, a hotel, a school and a number of doctors.
During the Civil War in 1862, southern sympathizers burned the town shortly before it was captured by the 12th Michigan Infantry to prevent occupation by the north. It never recovered its former prominence.
Two battles were fought in Middleburg and are commemorated by a sign on Highway 18. Today, two Middleburg Baptist churches, several turn-of-the-century homes, old cemeteries and the century-old, Lax Country Store are all that remain of the once illustrious community.
The community of New Castle dates to the 1820's, when the Bowers plantation (later owned by the Chapleau's) was established at the intersection of Somerville and Newcastle Roads in west central Hardeman County and the 12,000-acre, Oscar Polk plantation was established on Hickory Valley Road. Both plantation houses still exist in the community and are beautifully restored. The town of New Castle sprang up approximately two miles north of these plantations, after J.J. Polk opened a store in the area during the 1840's. The store, as well as the town, was destroyed by a tornado in 1909. Wilson Well Company sits on the Polk Store site today. In addition to its businesses and churches New Castle had academies for both boys and girls.
Pine Top/Piney Grove
Prior to 1850, eighty farms bordered Piney Creek, in the beautiful hills of northeastern Hardeman County. The settlement thrived as Piney Grove until 1877, when a post office was established near Piney Grove Baptist Church and the community became known as Pine Top. A natural ground cover of wild peas and rich river bottom soil throughout the area supported the farming community. The farms were renowned for the high quality of their meat and produce. The goods of Piney were in such demand, that in 1877, a group of Toone businessmen paid for the building of a nine-mile road between the two communities to help the farmers transport their products across the Hatchie River bottom. Piney also had a clay pipe and two jug factories that shipped wares to markets in Brownsville.
The community of Rogers Springs is located in a heavily forested, hilly area in the southern portion of Hardeman County, several miles east of Saulsbury off of Highway 57. It has been known by a variety of names through the years, including "Sixty-Four" (for it's distance from Memphis on the railroad), "U-Bet", "Needmore" and "Hollywood", but is best known as the first "tourist attraction" in the county. In the 1890's, Gator Rogers purchased a farm just south of the community and constructed the Rustic Inn, an old log hotel, on a hillside above a reputedly medicinal spring. Rogers built a pavilion and bathing area in the spring and drew Memphians to his farm by staging elaborate balls and events at the Inn. Tourists came by train for years to bathe in the springs. The town was later named Rogers Springs in his honor. The Rustic Inn remained, largely untouched, with its original furnishings until the 1980's, when it burned to the ground after being struck by lightning. Jessie James is rumored to have stayed there briefly. In addition to the Inn, Rogers Springs had three general merchandise stores, two cotton gins and a full-time agent at the railroad depot. Today, Rogers Springs Lake is the biggest attraction in the area. The private lake community has a score of new homes and is developing each year.
An old iron railroad bridge across the Hatchie River in District 12 in central Hardeman County is virtually all that is left of the community of Serles. In addition to the bridge, three original houses, a small store and several barns are still standing. Serles grew briefly around the turn of the century, after the Gulf Mobile and Northern Railroad extended tracks through the area and built the iron bridge across the river in 1918. Shortly thereafter, the Morgan-Hitchcock Company, of Jackson, purchased the land by the bridge for its timber. The company built a number of small houses and a larger boarding house as living quarters for their lumber crews and dug an artesian well in the center of town to supply fresh water for the community. A grocery store, post office and one-room schoolhouse were also constructed. Large shipments of timber were transported by rail from the area. Wagon wheel spokes, made of red and white oak, were manufactures at Serles and shipped around the country. American Holly trees in the area were harvested for use in making spindles for mills.
In the 1820's settlers moving into Hardeman County crossed the Hatchie River by ferry a half-mile south of Hatchie Town, in an area that was once a trading post and ceremonial meeting grounds for the Choctaw Indians. After a Dutch family established a white trading post at the ferry crossing, settlers established a community in the area they named Vildo. The Vildo settlement was later moved away from the river because of the prevalence of malaria and other mosquito-born diseases. Vildo was laid out in town lots in the early 1900's, shortly after the railroad built tracks through the area. In its prime, the community contained more than 40 homes, 9 stores, a gristmill, a sawmill, a cotton gin, a school, a stockyard and five physicians. Residents exported native American Holly all over the country during the Christmas season and was known for its "traveling baseball team" prior to WWI. Little remains of the once thriving community today.