Historic Sumrall jail, courthouse renovated
SUMRALL, Miss. - After three years and more than $100,000, renovations are finally completed at Sumrall's historic jail and courthouse.
A mannequin in a judge's robe sits at the bench in the courtroom where Mississippi's first all-female jury deliberated a case on Aug. 22, 1921 — a fact that played a big role in the jail being declared a Mississippi landmark in 1997.
It was built in 1907; the city stopped using it in 1960. Hurricane Katrina did significant damage to its roof in 2005.
Mayor Gerolene Rayborn said a previous administration had asked the Mississippi Department of Archives and History for a hurricane relief grant to refurbish the building before she took office three years ago, but nothing had been done.
"I did some research and realized if it was going to happen, we were going to have to make it happen," she told the Hattiesburg American (http://hatne.ws/10fEMzV).
The building now has a new roof. It's been sandblasted, painted, and the upstairs courthouse floor has been almost completely refabricated.
The historic jury heard a dispute between two other women, Rassy Reed and Laura Speed, about which owned a calf born to a cow that Reed had sold to Speed, according to a display about the building's records and folklore. C. Cox, a justice of the peace, presided over the trial.
"That was before women had the right to vote," said Charles Scruggs, Sumrall's unofficial historian.
He said the justice of the peace was a physician who backed women's suffrage. When a constable refused his order to find female jurors, the JP "deputized another gentleman who was there, and he went out and got him some women for the jury," Scruggs said.
After 45 minutes of deliberation, five women ruled that Speed got to keep the calf.
Information from: The Hattiesburg American, http://www.hattiesburgamerican.com
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