the Great Giovanni Belzoni
Rev. George Lee
’s change from a foreign controlled province to a territory of the
occurred in 1798.
became a state. On December 10, 1817,
was formally admitted to the
Every year more
counties were added in the state and
The present Belzoni area was at that time in the new
and was completely isolated from its county seat,
, and the rest of the county with no roads, no law, no name, no
organization of any kind, and very few settlers that we know of. This area
was known as the Dark Corner of Washington County, for it was too far away
for the county law enforcers to bother about.
became a state, the Indians were removed between 1830 and 1840, and about
7,500,000 acres of land were sold.
The wealthy aristocrats
were beginning to recognize the fact that this was rich land and began to
seek government land grants in this area by 1820 and 1830.
The corn was high, the
cotton was great, and there was no longer an Indian threat. Wild game was
plentiful and this was a land of opportunity for those willing to brave
the wild, uncleared and unhealthy territory.
The first large land
grant of this area was awarded in 1832 to William Hamer of
and probably from
Vicksburg, and Alvarez Fisk, a wealthy
aristocrat. Hamer must have been a land speculator, as his half of the
grant was sold immediately to Fisk. The first records refer to his
property as Fisk Plantation, and later it is recorded as Fisk or Belzoni
Mr. Fisk played a
prominent role in educational, philanthropic and religious activities. He
founded and donated the property for the library which was once called the
Fisk Library or the Natchez Public Library. Mr. Fisk also gave
property upon which to construct the Natchez Institute, a public school.
Mr. Fisk was a shrewd
business man and knew a good thing when he saw it. Such an opportunity
occurred in 1832 when he obtained a sizable portion of land which now
comprised the Belzoni area.
Government entry of the
Fisk-Hamer land grant is dated May 2, 1832. The consideration on the grant
was listed as $217.75.
Three years later we
find that Fisk gave a General Warranty Deed to A. T. McMurtray, Stephen
Castleman, and Oscar Ross. They were sold only a portion of the land (on
the east side of the river) for $80,000 described as a tract lying in
Washington County fronting on river, 60 miles above Manchester (the name
of Yazoo City then) consisting of 2,120 acres.
The Fisk family
retained the land on the west side of the
River, known as Fisk Landing or Belzoni Landing, a part of Belzoni Plantation,
and what is now the City of
Belzoni. Alvarez Fisk so admired The Great Belzoni that he named his plantation
for this Italian showman, engineer, and explorer of Egyptian antiquities.
The first settlement
was at Burtonia Landing, a little south of Fisk Landing, but due to the
area burning in 1888, the entire population moved farther up the river and
began to rebuild on the present site of the City of
First known as “Greasy Row” for the row of saloons along the river
front, it was in 1895 that Steve Castleman went to
to see Governor Stone and secured a charter of incorporation from the
state naming Belzoni a village. Steve Castleman was appointed the first
The first fight for
began as far back as 1870 when Col. James R. Powell, owner of Daybreak,
conceived the idea of forming a new county from parts of the other
counties. With Burtonia as the county seat, the new county was to be named
He had a survey and map
of the county made and went before the legislature that year. He fought
the battle practically alone, and went before every Legislature for
something like 12 years. When he died and efforts for the new county
seemed to have died with him, nothing more was done about it until ten
years later when Col. R. V. Powers of
caught the vision and undertook to renew the fight. He was unsuccessful in
his attempts. In 1912 the fight was renewed, but failed. In 1916 a new
administration was put in power and state politics again entered the
matter. In 1918 the fight was renewed proposing to name the
The facts and figures
published and scattered on the desks of the Senators and Representatives
were that the creation of the county would take from Washington County 155
square miles leaving that county 722 square miles. From Sharkey it would
take 18 square miles, leaving 2465; from Sunflower some 22 square miles
leaving 668; from Yazoo 143 Square miles leaving 895; and from Holmes 74
square miles leaving 760 - thus making Humphreys County 412 square miles.
In 1918, with the help
of lobbyists and a strong Belzoni delegation led by local
pharmacist/farmer O. J. Turner, Sr., and after many trips to Jackson, the
renewed effort to create Humphreys County was successful. Mr. Turner was
appointed by the Governor as the first sheriff of Humphreys County and was
the county's first registered voter.
was named for former Governor Benjamin Grubbs Humphreys, 1865-1868.