Site of the original log constructed courthouse and the second one that was built in 1840 for $25,000. Some citizens climbed up into the cupola and watched the Battle of Coffeeville.
Originally printed in the Coffeeville Courier, May 24, 1935.
"The courthouse stood where the colored Methodist Church now stands. It was surrounded by stores, hotels, and offices...I was about eleven years old when the war broke out. I remember very well much that occurred then. I remember the Battle of Coffeeville. It took place about two miles north of town. A number of whites and blacks went up into the dome of the old brick courthouse and watched the battle. I was with them. It was so far that we could not see the soldiers very well. A wagon looked like a wheel barrow. When a cannon would fire it shook the earth. We could see the flash and smoke of the big guns. The small guns sounded like popguns.
After we had been in the dome a while, Mr. Goring said the Yankees might see us, send a bomb shell and knock the dome off, so we scattered and got down. But the Yankees did not have a cannon as it was only a cavalry brigade that was in this fight. I went to the old battlefield later and saw graves where the killed were buried. Some were wounded. It was rather exciting times then."
The third courthouse was built in "new" Coffeeville, a few hundred yards down the hill from the original courthouse sites..
In 1889, Coffeeville's second courthouse (in old town) burned. It had been built in 1840 at a cost of $25,000. A new (third) courthouse, also costing $25,000, was built in it's current location in 1890. Originally, it had an steeple, but it had to be removed due to a fire in the early 1900's. A worker left a coal fire burning upstairs and it caught the wood on fire, burning the upper part of the courthouse, causing the town to have to remove the steeple due to its structural damage.
The Man Who Put the Steeple on the Second Courthouse*
Birth: Aug. 8, 1822, Jackson County, Alabama, USA
Death: Sep. 6, 1859, Coffeeville, Yalobusha County, Mississippi, USA
The Man Who Was Buried Standing Up
by Mark Scobey
[NOTE - Although the passage of time and numerous retellings have obscured the details of the story, no narrative, relevant to the courthouses of Coffeeville, is complete without the mention of Alabama native, Alexander Gilliland, "the man who was buried standing up."
In 1859, at the request of the citizens of Coffeeville, Mr. Gilliland, described as a "daring and competent steeplejack", was commissioned to install a weathervane on the spire of the courthouse. As he proceeded with the installation and testing of the weathervane, Gilliland attracted a large audience of townspeople, who watched anxiously until he concluded the project and began to celebrate as he descended from the roof of the building.
Shortly thereafter, Gilliland stumbled and fell from a platform that was positioned in front of the courthouse, but, before he reached the ground, he struck a wheelbarrow and broke his back. Despite the best efforts of the local doctor, Gilliland realized that he was dying and asked the people of the town to grant his final request, to bury him "standing up".
He told them that he had been active all of his life and could not bear the thoughts of lying down for eternity. A few days later, he died and the people of Coffeeville honored his request.
Gilliland's body was placed in an upright position in a grave that looks much like a small brick chimney, with a tombstone at the top of the two foot high structure, the only grave of its kind in the United States.
* The first courthouse was a log structure in old town. It was replaced with a nice brick courthouse. This is there the Alexander Gilliland fell, in old town. Here's an interesting video about the incident:
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