By Hank Wiesner/Southern Sentinel
RIPLEY – Tippah County Courthouse will celebrate its 175th birthday soon.
Since its organization in February 1836, the official historic structures have both witnessed and been a vital part of the legal activities, trade day ventures, war, parades, festivals, political campaigns, memorials, life and death, a legal execution and daily duties of the residents and visitors of Tippah County.
In 1836, the Mississippi Legislature created a number of counties, including Tippah, to place all the final Chickasaw Cession under an organized government.
A log structure was built on the northeast corner of the Square in Ripley and served as the official courthouse until 1838 when a larger more substantial building was constructed.
The life of the Tippah County Courthouse is similar to others in North Mississippi.
It houses the heart of county government.
It is in the county courthouse where people register to vote, where marriage licenses are sold, where the Tippah County Board of Supervisors once held meetings pertaining to county activities until supervisors relocated to the present Chancery Court building, where taxes are paid and where land transactions take place.
The land for the construction of the second courthouse was originally laid out in blocks on which the present courthouse stands today in the center of the square. It was built and stood until July 8, 1862, when federal troops burned it to the ground – not unlike others in the area.
History records that an early Ripley resident, W.W. Robinson, and a county official had learned that the federal troops were on the move and soon would be in the Ripley area. The two concerned men packed all the legal documents, deeds, papers and other materials in a large wooden box, hauled them in a wagon to the eastern part of the county and buried them in an old cotton house.
After the war, the papers were recovered and returned to Ripley, making Tippah one of the few counties in north Mississippi in which many of the records from 1836 still exist.
For several years there was no official courthouse. During this period the Baptist and the Presbyterian churches were used.
Later, plans were readied and the brick courthouse of 1870 was completed.
Porticos on the east and west ends were added, and much of the earlier materials were incorporated in the structure.
In 1928, the Board of Supervisors laid plans for a third Tippah County Courthouse on the same foundation and the present building stands today.
In the 1980s considerable renovations, including a new roof, were done. Later projects included landscaped areas, new and safer wiring, additional heating and cooling systems, and an elevator for seniors and handicapped residents.
Tippah County citizens and visitors have access to their heritage through records, books, historical organizations, and preservation. Early photographs, newspaper articles, and personal and family histories offer information that plays an important role in documenting cultural and legal activities of the past.