MISSISSIPPI DIGITAL COURTHOUSE PROJECT
Phase 1 of "MDCP—Marion County," which is completed, involved scanning records court cases of the 1830s through Marion County's most famous murder trials. Examples of the collections featured in MDCP — Marion County include:
- Cases heard before the Marion County Circuit Court from 1830 through 1844. These covered issues of petty theft through murder, and offer insights into who was involved in crimes, sentencing practices, and day-to-day life in early nineteenth-century Marion County. Phase 2 researchers will transcribe these records and research the individuals in census and other local records.
- Records of the famous trial and conviction of Basel Rogers for the murder of Marion County Sheriff J. V. Polk in April 1960. Rogers and five other defendants tied to illegal alcohol production were tried for Polk’s murder. Polk's widow, Mrs. Ollie Polk, became Marion County's only woman sheriff immediately following her husband's murder. This case highlights Mississippi's days as a dry state, the complex and often dark history of bootleg whiskey in America, and it may inspire more research into Mrs. Ollie Polk's experiences as one of the early women pioneers of Mississippi law enforcement. Phase 2 researchers will work to study the backgrounds of those involved in the trial, and the case has already inspired several research projects.
- State Dockets and Execution Dockets for Marion County between 1866 and 1882, which include cases that range from larceny to assault and battery, and capture the upheaval that south Mississippians experienced in the years immediately following the American Civil War when slavery was abolished, Mississippi was under occupation by the U.S. Army, and the state began its effort to recover from the war.
Phase 2 of this project will focus on scanning a few more collections, but mostly on transcribing the digitized records and writing contextual descriptions to help site visitors understand the documents' significance. This work will be a collaborative effort of Southern Miss history graduate and undergraduate students and volunteers in Marion County and the greater Hattiesburg area. We will also be working with Mississippi teachers and teachers-in-training to create lesson plans that utilize these records to ensure that are incorporated into classrooms across the state to emphasize the value of local history, local government, and citizens' engagement with community leaders.
"MDCP—Marion County" is made possible through the work of the Marion County circuit and chancery clerks' offices, the Marion County Historical Museum & Archives, the Marion County Historical Society, the Mississippi Digital Library, and a University of Southern Mississippi History Department research team. We want to thank Marion County resident Ann Atkinson Simmons and Circuit Clerk Janette Nolan for their cooperation and enthusiastic support, the Marion County Board of Supervisors for approving the project, and the National Humanities Alliance, who sponsored Phase 1 of the project with a $2500 grant.