There are two plausible ways Picayune was named
Published 7:00 am Tuesday, July 18, 2017
Last week the Pearl River County Historical Society held a presentation that was the result of four years worth of research.
The program was called “Do you know how Picayune got its name?” and was presented by Michael Fitzwilliam.
While conducting his research, Fitzwilliam said he spoke to various locals, searched newspaper articles and utilized any other credible source he could find to definitively determine the real story of how the city received its name.
What is widely known is there was a coin called a Picayune and its value was six and one quarter cents. A newspaper was established in the New Orleans area in January of 1837 called “The Picayune.” By November of that same year the name of the publication changed to “The Daily Picayune.”
In the first edition of “The Picayune,” Fitzwilliam said the paper stated it would “exchange our picayune for yours,” implying the cost of an issue was that of one picayune.
As legend has it, the first woman to be the publisher of a newspaper, Eliza Jane Poitevent, is somehow credited with not only naming the Mississippi town Picayune after her publication, but also the town of Nicholson after her husband. She wrote under the pen name “Pearl Rivers” and for a time lived in the home locally known as the Hermitage.
As the story goes, Poitevent became the first female publisher of a newspaper by inheriting The Daily Picayune from her late husband, Alva Holbrook, after his death in 1876. She would later become business partners and wife to George Nicholson, facts Fitzwilliam’s research proved to be true.
Fitzwilliam’s research showed a town by the name of Picayune was later listed in an issue of The Daily Picayune along the rail line from Meridian to New Orleans. The first mention of the town in the newspaper occurred in February of 1884; Nicholson was listed as a stop for the first time in January of 1884.
In a February 1884 edition of the newspaper it said, “Picayune is the name of a new flag station on the Northeastern Railroad, just above Nicholson Station. This is the nucleus of a thriving country town, and, as its name implies, is bound to flourish.”
Fitzwilliam also spoke to some locally known historians, but none could provide sources for the stories about how the town came to be named Picayune. The same was true for newspaper articles written by several people who claim to know how the town was named; none cited sources. From articles written by H. H. Ahrens and Arthur Ward Smith, to oral histories shared by John H. Napier, David Stockstill and “Grandpa” Thigpen, some version of all of the tales may be true, but Fitzwilliam said sources were hard to find in all accounts.
Ultimately, Fitzwilliam came to this conclusion as to how Picayune and Nicholson in Pearl River County were named, as quoted in his transcribed presentation.
“Based on the combination of all the documented and the anecdotal evidence that I have encountered, there seem to be only two reasonable conclusions that would explain the names: one is that the honor of naming her former hometown was granted to Eliza Jane Nicholson: the other is that the towns were named in homage to her by their residents. The odds against these two towns being named for someone or something other than the newspaper and its owners are astronomical.”