Sunday, March 18, 2012

The lost town of Middleton

Located just west of present day Winona was the town of Middleton, long since passed into history. In 1841, however, Middleton was one of several towns under consideration for the site of the University of Mississippi. In pre-Civil War days, Middleton was a busy town of several hundred residents, with a stage line carrying daily mail and passengers. The town boasted a flour mill and cotton mill, a newspaper, and any business establishment one might desire (whether desirable or not). Of course, there were also Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Christians and Episcopalians who established congregations at Middleton. In other words, Middleton had all the trappings of a thriving Mississippi town, and was even at one time known as “The Athens of Mississippi.” So what happened? Well, as was the fate of many other communities in Mississippi, what happened was the railroad. In 1858-59, the Mississippi Central Railroad located east of Middleton, and Winona sprang to life to take advantage of the railroad, and Middleton rapidly declined.

Today, nothing exists to remind anyone where Middleton was except the Middleton Cemetery. In 1992, the Winona Lions Club took on the task of cleaning up and restoring what was left of the Old Middleton Cemetery. Neglected for almost a century, the cemetery was covered in trees and briars and most of the grave markers had been broken and scattered. Needless to say, the effort to restore the cemetery was a monumental undertaking. Since many of the markers could not be repaired or associated with a grave site, the Lions Club made the unusual decision to erect a monument to all those buried in the cemetery and to place all of the markers that could be salvaged on the monument plaza. The result is a very moving tribube to a lost community and a visit to this unique cemetery is highly recommended (the sign for Middleton Cemetery is on the south side of Hwy. 82 immediately east of the I-55 interchange at the Winona exit).

In looking at the list of those known to be buried at Middleton, I found two of particular interest. The first is Magn.(?) John Brown. Although no birth or death dates were found on his grave stone, the marker states that he “fell by derangement.” The second, that of Noah Gregory Wright, indicates that he was “mortally wounded” at Shiloh. Normally, that would mean that he died soon after the battle. However, Wright died in 1866. If he was mortally wounded and lingered for four years, he must have lived in a terrible state all that time. By the way, according to various geneology sites, Noah Wright came to Mississippi from Donelson, Tennessee, and was perhaps an orphan. He went to school in Lebanon, Tennessee and married his first wife in Pulaski. In Mississippi, he lived approximately nine miles southeast of Carrollton, apparently with his second wife Sarah Curtis, and they owned at least one slave (according to the 1850 census). So far, I have not been able to find that he served in the army during the Civil War, but given time I’m sure someone will be able to track that down.


  1. Great store,Jim. Today "Middleton" has been rebuilt with many business thanks of I-55 and US 82. KFC, Huddle House,Exxon,Texaco, Sonic, McDonald's, Hwy 82 Truck Stop, Holiday Inn Express, just to name a few. All these are built in and around "Middleton".

  2. Jim and Mel,

    Just a quick side note on Middleton. Gary Pierce showed me a published diary written by a Union cavalryman who served in Mississippi. He mentioned that his brigade camped in or near Middleton while escorting Confederate prisoners to Memphis following the Battle of Egypt Station. Gary thinks the encampment was somewhere near where the restored cemetery is now. Just fyi....thanks for posting,Jim!

    1. Hmmm. That would have been during Grierson's raid in December 1864-January 1865. Some of those prisoner's may have been former Union soldiers who had agreed to fight for the Confederacy in exchange for release from Andersonville. There were quite a number captured at Egypt Station and they were later (at least some of them) tried for treason.