M.D.L. Stephens and Calhoun County History

The more one delves into this work, which by any measure must be considered a significant document in the history of Calhoun County, Mississippi, the easier it becomes to understand why V.S. Naipaul, in his A Tour of the South, named his chapter on Mississippi “The Frontier,” and to appreciate more fully the gritty, violent world of Yoknapatawpha.

These writings of Col. Stephens were collected by Leon “Pappy” Burgess, who was born August 28, 1926, in Bruce, Mississippi. He attended the University of Mississippi, but like so many young men enlisted in the United States Army on August 26, 1944. He was honorably discharged from military service in 1947 at the rate of sergeant. He moved to the Mississippi Gulf Coast where he became a home builder and a collector of everything old and wonderful. In his lifetime, he was an avid historian, a genealogist, an author, and “a very wise and gentle man.” He died April 1, 2015, at his residence in Gardendale, Alabama.

Marquis DeLafayette Stephens was born Nov. 9, 1829 in Williamson Co., Tennessee. He came to Mississippi in 1838, and married Mary Jane Duff in Feb. 1856. He was a colonel in the Confederate army, was severely wounded at Franklin and did not recover until the close of the war.

He was elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives in Nov. 1863, to State Senate in 1865, and to the House again in 1879. In 1892, Stephens was appointed Deputy Clerk for Yalobusha County, and in 1894 was elected Chancery Clerk. Afterwards, he served as Court Recorder for four years, and was appointed (by the Governor, no less) as a notary public.

Stephens died on April 15, 1912.

Dennis Murphree called him a “grand old man of Calhoun and Yalobusha Counties.”

His sympathies were always with those whom Abraham Lincoln called “The Great Common People.” In his palmy days he was an eloquent speaker and in antebellum times practiced the profession of medicine in this country, riding often through the trackless wilds about the headwaters of Scoona River and mingling with the original pioneers and quaint characters of long ago.

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