Sardis is located 50 miles south of Memphis, Tennessee, in Panola County, Mississippi. It is a short distance west of the Sardis exit on I-55.
Settlers arrived in this area of north Mississippi in the early 1840’s. The town of Sardis was originally named Danville. It was a tiny village five miles north of a town called Belmont on the Tallahatchie River.
W.H. Alexander and his family arrived in 1844 from Tennessee. He wrote, “The country around Sardis was settled up in large farms, owned by rich planters, and for a long time, I was the only poor man in the settlement.” (The Southern Reporter, April 3, 1975)
In 1850, Alexander applied for the position as the first postmaster in the Sardis area, and he had to select a name for the new post office. He is credited with changing the name of Danville to Sardis, which he selected from the New Testament of the Bible.
Main Street in Sardis was once the main road on which people and goods traveled between Belmont and Memphis. This busy thoroughfare gave a boost to Sardis’ growth.
Sardis saw even greater growth when the Mississippi and Tennessee Railroad’s “Jackson to Memphis” line was completed through the town in 1857.
The Civil War put a stop to the growth of Sardis. Despite this, after the war the town was incorporated on October 22, 1866.
It was not until around the time Andrew Johnson arrived in 1870 that the town saw real growth again.
By 1890 the population was 1,044 according to the census. It grew to 1,500 in 1902 and doubled in population by 1905 to nearly 3,000.
Recent populations are 2,391 in 1980, 2,038 in 2000, 1,703 in 2010 and 1,680 in 2012.
Como is located 45 miles south of Memphis. It, like all of Panola County, is on land that was purchased from the Chickasaw Indians for fifty-cents an acre in 1832 and 1834.
Dr. George Tait was one of the first settlers when he came on horseback from Georgia in 1832. He named the town Como after Lake Como in Italy.
The arrival of the Mississippi and Tennessee Railroad (now the Illinois Central) was influential on Como as well as Sardis. Como’s main street faces the train tracks. The Panola Star states that Col. N.R. Sledge was the first person to recognize the importance of the location of Como for business after the railroad was completed. The paper reports, “…he erected a store-house immediately upon the railroad [arriving] in 1866, there being but one other store in the place….” (November 16, 1872) After this, Como continued to attract businesses.
During World War II Camp Como was established to house POWs. It originally held 3,800 Italian soldiers, but later the Italians were replaced by a smaller number of Germans.
Judy Holland reported that there are more than 24 structures attributed to Johnson in Como. (“The Panola Story, Andrew Johnson’s Legacy to Panola County,” compiled from a research paper written by Judy Holland, 1982.)
Como has been home to several famous blues singers as well as writers and sculptors.
The population of Como has remained fairly stable since 1990. The population in 2000 was 1,310, and in 2012 it was 1,265.
Batesville is located 58 miles south of Memphis. It is about a mile southeast of the old town of Panola. Panola was located on the opposite side of the Tallahatchie River about six miles southwest of the old town of Belmont.
When the Mississippi and Tennessee Railroad came through the small town of Batesville, it became a more important city as rail transport replaced water transport.
Batesville was named for Mr. Jim Bates, who was a Methodist minister and a conductor on the Mississippi and Tennessee Railroad. Batesville received its charter in 1866.
Industry has long been what made Batesville prosper, dating back to a gun foundry established there during the Civil War and later a canning plant.
The population of Batesville in the 2010 census was 7,463, and in 2012 it was 7,427.
Byhalia is in Marshall County, Mississippi, about 17 miles southeast of the Memphis, Tennessee, airport.
Byhalia was founded in 1838 by C.W. Rains and Wash Poe. Byhalia is said to mean “Great White Oaks.” It was positioned on a route called the Chickasaw Trail (later Pigeon Roost Road and now Church Street), which had been used by DeSoto in his explorations in 1541. It was later used for the migration of the Chickasaw Indians when they were being moved to Oklahoma.
The location of the town contributed to its growth. Beginning in the late 1840’s, it was on the stagecoach line that ran from Memphis to Oxford and Pontotoc.
The Civil War brought hard times for Byhalia. By 1880, the population had only grown from 346 to 474 residents, but it was still a small town. It was not until the railroad was extended to the town in 1885 that it had a resurgence.
Around 1949 Dr. Leonard Wright opened Wright Sanatorium in Byhalia for the treatment of addictions and mild emotional disorders, which drew people from all over the south. Most notable was William Faulkner, who died of a heart attack at the sanatorium in 1962.
The 2010 census shows 1,302 residents.
Crenshaw is a small Mississippi town that is mostly in Panola County, but a small, western section is in Quitman County. It is located 45 miles south of Memphis, Tennessee.
In 2000 the population of Crenshaw was around 900.
Kosciusko was established in 1833. It is in Attala County, Mississippi, on the Natchez Trace Parkway, northeast of Jackson, Mississippi. The Natchez Trace Parkway was an important overland route in the early 1800’s between Natchez to the south and Nashville to the north. Kosciusko is also located along the Yockanookany River.
The Civil War took a toll on the town, and it was not until 1874 when the New Orleans, St. Louis & Chicago Railroad (which eventually became part of the Illinois Central) was built through the town that it began to prosper. The population was 7,402 in the 2010 census.
In April 2009, Kosciusko was selected as part of the Mississippi Blues Trail.