Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Winston County Courthouse History Being Preserved

An important part of Winston County’s history is returning and will soon be on display near the place
of its origin. The cornerstone of the 1888 Winston County Courthouse will be on prominent display in the lobby of our current courthouse in November. The cornerstone was removed when the old courthouse was torn down in 1963 to allow for the construction of the current courthouse. The discovery, restoration and return of the 129 year-old cornerstone from the site where Winston Countians have sought and received justice under the laws of our state is a remarkable story. Its return will occur 54 years after it was carefully removed by construction workers of the new courthouse.

Several years ago while attending an estate sale on West Main Street in Louisville, Lennie Fulton discovered the old cornerstone in the backyard of the late Print and Billie Woodward. The cornerstone had been given to Mr. Woodward at the time it was removed since several of his relatives played a part in the construction of the old courthouse. Lennie inquired if the cornerstone was for sale and was told that it wasn’t, but was also told that if he wanted to take possession of it he could. A few hours later, Lennie returned with much needed help (the stone weighs approximately 300 pounds) and managed to get it dislodged from the ground and loaded into the back of his pickup truck. Lennie then began cleaning-up and restoring the cornerstone. After that was accomplished it was stored inside his garage/storage shed where it has rested unceremoniously until recent months.

While visiting with Lennie at a picnic earlier this summer, Giles Ward saw the interesting cornerstone and inquired about its history. Lennie quickly told him that it was the original cornerstone from the courthouse and suggested it needed to be on display somewhere. Giles and Lennie discussed the proposition and a decision was made to try and find an appropriate place and manner to put the significant artifact on display.

By statute, the sheriff of each county in Mississippi is responsible for the upkeep and utilization of the county’s courthouse. Winston County Sheriff Jason Pugh was contacted and immediately agreed the cornerstone should be on display and granted permission for that to happen in the courthouse lobby. Through the help of the Winston County Genealogical and Historical Society, the plan to put the cornerstone on display was announced on a Facebook posting. Mike Boyles was contacted and agreed to design an appropriate pedestal base for the stone to be displayed upon and Taylor Machine generously agreed to construct the frame. Mississippi Granite Works has ordered special granite panels which will be engraved with appropriate historical documentation about the cornerstone. An unveiling ceremony has been planned for Saturday, November 11 at approximately 11:15 a.m., immediately following the Veterans’ Day service held annually on the front lawn of the courthouse.

The cornerstone, however, is not the only piece of Winston County’s history that will be placed on permanent display in the lobby of the courthouse. Also in the old 1888 courthouse was a transom over the door that went into the Chancery Clerk’s records’ vault. Inscribed on the glass transom were the words, “The Pen is Mightier Than the Sword.” Realizing the significance of the transom, someone in authority presented it to the late J. Hoy Hathorn, a prominent Winston County attorney and banker. Upon learning of the historical display being planned for the lobby of the courthouse, Mr. Hathorn’s daughter, Janice Hunter, offered to have the transom (which is now in her possession) placed on display as well.

Many groups and individuals have contributed to the cost of materials for the historical display. “Each of us are passing through history as we live our lives,” said Giles Ward who is organizing the unveiling and display project. “It is has fallen upon us to preserve this significant part of our history. It is gratifying to see so many who have enthusiastically supported preserving these artifacts so that future generations can see and touch such important pieces of their county’s history .”