HISTORY OF CANTON
Madison County, the 23rd county in Mississippi, was named for fourth President James Madison and was created in 1828 out of Yazoo and Hinds Counties. It incorporates lands between the Pearl and Big Black Rivers where General Andrew Jackson met with the Choctaw Chieftain, Pushmataha. That meeting resulted in the 1820 Treaty of Doak’s Stand.
This area attracted large numbers of settlers from Virginia and the Carolinas who came to farm the lush, rolling hills, and fertile soil.
In 1833, the Madison County Board of Police (a governing body similar to today’s supervisors) appointed surveyor John B. Peyton to select a geographical center for a new county seat and to lay it out in blocks. In 1834, 40 acres of land belonging to Killis and Margaret Walton were deeded to the county for $100. The land was divided into square parcels with the plot nearest the center reserved for the public square.
In 1836, the town was legally incorporated and boasted a population of 400. The first recorded ordinance made it a misdemeanor to gallop horse, mare, or mule on any street or alley.
By 1838, Canton boasted two banks, two hotels, ten dry goods stores, a drug store, three groceries, a bakery, a tin shop, three tailor shops, and two watchmakers. The public buildings were a courthouse, jail, church, and a female academy. The town enjoyed notoriety for having as visitors the celebrated original Siamese twins, Chang and Eng, who ordered two custom suits from Perlinsky’s Tailor Shop.
There are two stories concerning the naming of Canton, and both attribute the name to Chinese origin. One states that Canton, Mississippi is the exact opposite side of the world as Canton, China, and was thus named. The other story states that the daughter of a Chinese family died in the area and the sympathetic community named the town for the family. There is really no more proof for one over the other; it’s just which one you wish to believe.
In 1982, the Canton Courthouse Square District was officially entered into the National Register of Historic Places and declared one of three best examples in the State of Mississippi.
The Courthouse Square, still the focus of exciting activities, is the scene twice yearly of the nationally famous Canton Flea Market Arts & Crafts Show. The Market attracts up to 100,000 visitors annually from across the United States and beyond.