The University of Southern Mississippi -- McCain Library and Archives
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Collection Title: Gulf and Ship Island Railroad Minute Book
Collection Number: M284
Dates: March 4, 1887 - March 6, 1907
Volume: .25 Cubic Feet
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 company 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 Co. continued building 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 capital) 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 lumber. In 1924, the Gulf and Ship Island Railroad merged with the Illinois Central Railroad.
This collection consists of a one-volume Secretary's Record detailing the minutes of the Gulf and Ship Island Railroad Company from March 2, 1887 to March 6, 1907, and other company-related items. The Secretary's record begins the collection, and follows a standard format of providing the date the directors held their meetings, the members present and not present, and a listing of the resolutions approved by the Board. Pages 1-185 are handwritten by the designated secretary, while the rest of the volume is a combination of both handwritten and typed text. Typical of nineteenth century penmanship, the text is quite legible and elegantly written.
The minutes focus on the business activities of the railroad, rather than personalities. These activities took place at annual and special meetings held at a number of different locations, including Jackson, Gulfport and Meridian in Mississippi, as well as Chicago, Illinois; Bradford, Pennsylvania; and New York City, New York. Voting for directors, allocation of stock and dividends, contracts with other railroads (namely the New Orleans and Northeast Railroad, the Gulfport and Northwest Railroad, and the Lumberton and Gulf Railroad) comprise some of the more common business duties conducted by the company. The company bylaws, found on pages 138-143, is perhaps the most important section of the book. These laws detail the various positions within the company and the respective powers and obligations of officers and members of the Board of Directors.
In addition to providing brief summaries of the company's business dealings, the minute book serves as a general history of the Gulf and Ship Island Railroad. The more important events involve a meeting at Mississippi City in 1887 to discuss the location for the new railroad terminus (p. 94); conflict with the State Board of Control over the alleged abuse of the convict-lease system (pp. 113-114); J.T. Jones and the Bradford Construction Company joining the expansion effort in 1896 (pp. 154-155); purchase of the Laurel and Northwest Railroad (p. 198); the dredging of a channel between Gulfport and Ship Island (pp. 217-218); and subsequent contracts to build a pier and terminus at Gulfport (pp. 250-255). In addition, the minutes detail the acquisition of property in Hattiesburg for the building of a terminal in that city (p. 325).
Other items in the collection are three folders of documents relating to the Gulf and Ship Island Railroad. Folder one contains a twenty-seven page copy of the Indenture (or contract) between the Railroad and the Colonial Trust Company. This document describes the agreement between the two parties to allocate bonds to finance the expansion of both the main rail lines and the branch lines.
Folder two contains four copies of the settlement reached in a lawsuit filed in Federal District Court by James M. Ham against the Railroad, regarding the possession of disputed shares.
Folder three contains one letter and two memoranda, all of which appear to be connected. The letter is dated January 21, 1927 and is printed on stationary of the Great Southern Land Company. Addressed to W. T. Stewart and written by J. H. Beeman, the letter discusses a dispute involving ownership of certain Gulf and Ship Island Railroad Company stock certificates. The first memorandum is also written by Mr. Beeman, and its subject is old G.& S.I. corporate records. The second memorandum is three pages long and deals exclusively with the discovery of Gulf and Ship Island Railroad stock certificates 15 and 16, in 1926. The certificates were deemed worthless, but the memo makes numerous references to the minute book.
This collection should be of interest to researchers looking for information about the business activities of the Gulf and Ship Island Railroad Company, as well as late 19th or early 20th century railroads in general.