Benton County Data Dashboard
After the 1955 murder of Emmett Till, several gentlemen of the Benton County area were lynched in association with Till’s death. Oliver Maxey, the Panam Brothers, John Henry Remmer, and Jones and Hugh Smith were lynched.
Hicks, Hervey O.
Benton County native, served in the House of Representatives in 1931 and from 1948 to 1976.
Rowland Cemetery also known as Smith’s Grove is an abandoned cemetery located on Highway 72 and Pottery Road. Within this cemetery lie the bodies of several Civil War heroes such as R. W. Smith and William T. Rowland. R.W., short for Robert William, was a wealthy man from Virginia and owned 67 slaves during the 1860s. This cemetery was in conjunction with the 1000 acres he owned. Robert’s son, John Waverly, was part of the Co. E 13th Tenn. Infantry in the previous year, but suffered a wound to his right shoulder. He later joined Forrest’s Cavalry of the 18th Mississippi Calvary becoming Lt. Col. Alongside his brothers, Richard Edward and Marion Skipwith, they all served as loyal subjects to the 18th Mississippi Calvary. Robert later joined, but was killed in battle at Yellow Rabbit Creek slightly south of Ashland and what is now the border of Benton and Tippah.
The Benton County Citizens Club
The Benton County Citizens Club objectives included the betterment of the members of the colored race, particularly from an educational standpoint. This club had been in existence for some time.
Church Burnings of Benton County
(1960s) In the summer of 1964, civil rights workers conducted their first meeting at Mt. Zion CME. Meetings took place at several churches in the area, and many churches were later burned or vandalized. Everett Chapel was one of the many churches burned. Vandalism did not stop civil rights activity in the county.
Farese, Orene E. and Farese, John
In 1938, Orene E. Farese became a high school English teacher in Ashland, MS, located in Benton County. In 1939, she married John Farese and moved to Benton County. With a forthcoming war, WWII, Gov. Paul Johnson, appointed Farese as the chief clerk of the Benton County Draft Board. In 1948, her husband was elected senator. Four years later, in 1952, both John and Orene ran and were elected into the Mississippi House of Representatives setting a new trend by becoming the first couple to be elected to a legislature. In 1956, Orene was elected to the Senate and her husband was re-elected to the House.
In addition to the remarkable works of the freedom school, the Citizen’s Club was launched. Their main focus was to help better the lives of the blacks. In regard to reaching others in the community the Citizen’s Club began to publish a newspaper entitled, The Benton County Freedom Train. The Citizen’s Club reign lasted for years, but they stopped publishing the newsletter after four successful years.
From an excerpt on the Mississippi Freedom School Curriculum website, it captures the words of a student which was written in the Benton County Freedom Train. “We work eight to nine hours each day and are paid daily after work is over. We get only $3.00 per day . . . and . . . chop cotton 81/2 hours to 9 hours each day. . . . The man whom we worked for is responsible for having fresh cold water handy in the field for the workers to drink. The whites also fail to take us to the store in time to eat dinner. . . . When it’s harvest Negroes pick cotton by hand at $2.00 for a hundred pounds and some places $3.00 per hundred.”In the Mt. Zion Freedom School’s “Freedom Press,”a girl states she comes to the Freedom School because “I want to become a part of history also.”
Economic Coercion in Benton County
(1960s) Following the church burnings, many were frightened because they feared for their lives as well as their jobs. It was said that if anyone was found attending meetings or associating with civil rights workers or organizations such as COFO, SNCC, or CORE, they would lose their jobs.
Freedom Schools in Benton County
The first Freedom School of Benton County, founded in late summer 1964, was held at Mt. Zion CME. Students were taught voter literacy, confidence, and political activism in addition to academic subjects including black history. In the beginning, attendance was low. As parents and civil rights workers began to talk to their children, the children decided to join in with others at the Freedom School. The numbers began to improve dramatically. In the fall, a college prep class was formed and met regularly at the home of Howard and Annie Evans.
In the Mt. Zion Freedom School’s “Freedom Press,”a girl states she comes to the Freedom School because “I want to become a part of history also.”
Mississippi Freedom School Curriculum Website, http://www.educationanddemocracy.org/ED_FSC.html