Magnolia City

Pike County, Mississippi

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Magnolia City Hall is located at 180 South Cherry Street, Magnolia, MS 39652.
Phone: 601‑783‑5211.


Beginnings [1]

The area around present-day Magnolia was settled as early as 1810, but it was Ansel Prewitt, a wealthy Pike County landowner and master of Prewitt Plantation, who founded the town of Magnolia on his lands in 1856. Prewitt assured the existence, if not the success, of his town when he deeded a right-of-way to the New Orleans, Jackson and Great Northern Railroad. A railroad line was built through Magnolia soon after and the town laid out accordingly. Residential settlement began in the northwest quadrant, while commercial settlement paralleled the railroad tracks. One of Magnolia's first residences was built by John Frederick Lieb, a Magnolia grocer. The modest Greek Revival cottage, noted for its raised basement and Doric frontispiece, was built in the commercial area east of the tracks, near the banks of the Tangipahoa River. The Lieb House is preserved today amid a new industrial environment. Other buildings were constructed during the brief settlement period prior to the Civil War. The town's resort popularity began in its earliest days, which prompted the construction of several buildings which no longer exist: "...from its very conception, Magnolia became a resort for the sick and in the wilds in the piney woods a hotel and sanitorium was erected in 1859" (Magnolia Gazette, June 11, 1892, p.1).

Although Magnolia was unscathed by the Civil War, it was not until the 1870s that it began a slow climb towards prosperity. As an 1892 news article described it: "About the year 1876, she [Magnolia] commenced to boom" (Magnolia Gazette, June 11, 1892, p.1). The first impetus to Magnolia's prosperity came in 1872 when Col. H.S. McComb, president of the New Orleans, Jackson and Great Northern Railroad transferred his railroad shops from New Orleans to the newly-created city of McComb, eight miles north of Magnolia. Although the potential economic side effects of McComb upon Magnolia were yet unforeseen, initially, Magnolia was quick to cultivate the new businesses and residential needs of the railroad workers.

Also in 1873, Magnolia was named the Pike County seat, and with construction of the new courthouse on Bay Street in 1876, the city began to expand into its southern streets. The courthouse was destroyed by fire in 1881 but reconstructed in 1883. It was significantly remodeled in 1917.

Finally, in 1878 Magnolia became a haven for the multitude of New Orleanians who fled their city during one of the worse yellow fever epidemics of the century. Because of Magnolia's propinquity to New Orleans and because of its curative sulphur and mineral springs, New Orleanians had retreated to Magnolia as early as 1867 in their efforts to escape the fever. Although the neighboring cities of McComb and Osyka were visited by the fever in 1878, Magnolia remained untainted by the saffron scourge. In later years, Magnolia became a popular summer health resort for many wealthy New Orleanians (Magnolia Gazette, June 11, 1892).

  1. P. Ana Gordon, Historian, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Magnolia Multiple Resource Area, nomination document, 1983, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

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