By Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal
CORINTH – The crowds that gather on Thursday evenings on the Alcorn County Courthouse grounds for “Pickin’ On the Square” are unconcerned about the history behind their music gathering spot.
However, the current three-story neoclassical brick building has stood on Waldron Street between Franklin and Taylor streets since 1918, and is a Mississippi Landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
It replaced a building constructed in 1880 that burned in 1917.
Before 1880, Alcorn County’s seat of government was in a building shared by the city of Corinth, according to information compiled in a history of the county.
A statue of Civil War Col. W.P. Rogers stands on the southwest corner of the courthouse square, moved there in the 1920s when some street paving was under way and it had to be moved from its original 1895 site at Waldron and Franklin streets.
A monument at the northwest corner of the courthouse square is a war memorial dedicated to soldiers of World War I, World War II and the Korean War.
Alcorn County shares a close relationship with Prentiss and Tishomingo counties. In 1870, during the administration of Gov. James L. Alcorn, Old Tishomingo County was divided into three counties – Alcorn, Prentiss and Tishomingo. The original Tishomingo County was formed in 1836 from the territory acquired in the Chickasaw cession of 1832.
The county seat of Old Tishomingo County was Jacinto, and the courthouse there has been restored as a historical site.
However, when the three counties separated, records of Old Tishomingo County were sent to Alcorn, and the county courthouse receives a high volume of traffic from descendants of Alcorn, Prentiss and Tishomingo county natives seeking family history.
Recently, the Alcorn County Historical and Genealogical Society moved into space on the ground floor of the courthouse, where the group and its clients have easier access to old records.
Besides being able to pursue family history research at the courthouse, the daily business of county government is carried out there each day.
Housed in the building are the genealogy group on the first floor, the veterans services office, the county election commission and space for the county coroner.
On the second level is the circuit clerk’s office, where individuals register to vote and where records of civil and criminal court cases are held. The tax assessor, tax collector and Mississippi Department of Human Services Youth Services office also occupy this floor.
The third floor holds the courtroom where civil and criminal cases are tried, a jury room, judge’s chambers and courtroom administrative offices.
The courthouse’s busiest time was more than half a century ago, according to Circuit Clerk Joe Caldwell.
There was a time in the 1930s and 1940s when Corinth was called the “Marriage Capital of the United States,” he said.
“We get people coming now from all over the United States saying their parents or grandparents were married here,” Caldwell said. “There was a man here who rode a bicycle and sold newspapers, and he’d go to meet every train, then for a quarter he’d show couples where the courthouse was.”
Before getting the name Corinth, the city was named Cross City for the two major rail lines that crossed there. Couples arrived by train from the north, south, east and west to take their vows in Alcorn County.
It now takes three or four years to fill up one of the huge volumes of names for marriage licenses, said Crystal Starling, deputy Circuit Court clerk. The year with the largest number of marriages during that time has about 15 volumes, she said, with 500 names per book.