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Collection Title: Mississippi. Office of the Secretary of State. A Memorial to Congress, For the request of Lands to aid the construction of the Gulf and Ship Island Railroad.

Collection Number: M103

Dates:December 1871.

Volume: 1 Folder

Provenance:Unknown.

Copyright:This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code).

Biographical/Historical Sketch:

The Mississippi State Legislature first chartered the Gulf and Ship Island Railroad Company on March 3, 1850, and again in 1856. The expiration of the second charter led to a thirty-one year period of inactivity before the legislature validated a third charter in February, 1887. Originally based at Jackson, Mississippi, the Board of Directors moved the company's headquarters to Mississippi City on the Gulf Coast in 1887.

Prisoners contracted through the State Penitentiary convict-lease system constructed the railroad until December, 1888, when the Board of Control revoked the lease, citing inhumane treatment of workers. Following the expiration of the lease, the Union Investment Company continued laying the rail lines for a short time before going bankrupt. In 1900, the Tobey Construction Company succeeded in building a substantial portion of the railroad, but the Bradford Construction Company of Pennsylvania, under the dynamic leadership of Captain J.T. Jones, constructed the largest part of the railroad. Captain Jones, along with Captain William H. Hardy, pioneered the development of the Gulf and Ship Island Railroad, and in the process created the cities of Hattiesburg and Gulfport.

Centered in the piney woods of southeast Mississippi, the Gulf and Ship Island Railroad operated exclusively in the State of Mississippi. Beginning at Gulfport, the primary rail lines extended northward to Jackson, the state capitol, with branch lines connected to Maxie, Mendenhall, Hattiesburg, and Laurel. Subsequent annexation of track included lines leading to Pontotoc, Ripley and territory adjacent to the Tennessee River in the northeast portion of the state. The company owned approximately one-hundred sixty miles of standard gauge main lines, about one-hundred forty-seven miles of branch lines and one-hundred six miles of track in Gulfport. In addition, the Company controlled a six mile channel connecting the railroad to Ship Island. A number of different logging and lumber companies used the railroad for transporting wood products to the plethora of sawmills located adjacent to the railroad's tracks.

In 1902, the S.S. Bullis Company successfully dredged the channel between Ship Island and the main terminal at Gulfport, and by 1907 Gulfport had become the Gulf Coast's leading exporter of yellow pine. In 1924, the Gulf and Ship Island Railroad merged with the Illinois Central Railroad.

Scope and Content:

This collection consists of a one page document drafted by the Mississippi Legislature entitled "A Memorial to Congress, For the request of Lands to aid the construction of the Gulf and Ship Island Railroad." Dated December 4, 1871, the letter begins by describing how Congress granted land to the Gulf and Ship Island Railroad for the purpose of creating a railroad from Mississippi City northward to Canton in August 1856. However, the railroad never reached completion because the ten year time limit expired due to the outbreak of the Civil War, and the land subsequently reverted to the United States government.

The letter continues by enumerating the benefits of completing the railroad. First, the railroad would allow access to the natural harbor at Ship Island. The document then discusses the value of Ship Island by pointing out that the British used it during the War of 1812 and the Union Army during the recent Civil War. Second, access to the harbor would enable companies to tap the vast resources of the piney woods region in South Mississippi, specifically the extensive stands of virgin timber. Furthermore, the railway would pass directly through a part of the state that was capable of sustaining a dense population.

The letter concludes with two resolutions. The first requests Congress to urge the passage of an act revising the grant of land to the Gulf and Ship Island Railroad originally made in 1856. The second is a request by the Governor to forward a copy of the memorial to each of the members of the House and Senate. The last portion of the letter is certification by Mississippi Secretary of State, James Lynch, that the document is a true and correct copy of the original on file.

This collection may be valuable to any researcher looking for information on the Gulf and Ship Island Railroad, or railroads in general.

Related Collections:

Railroad Collection, M 169

Gulf and Ship Island Railroad Minute Book, M 284

Hardy (William H. and Hattie L.) Papers, 1873-1929, M 182

Hoffman (Gilbert F.) Papers, M 272


Created by: Bobs M. Tusa
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Revised: February 24, 2010