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Antebellum Period

The earliest recorded inhabitants of the northeastern hill country of Mississippi were the Chickasaw people. They named the region now called Holly Springs “Suavatooky,” or watering place, after the area’s natural groundwater springs.

In 1832, the Chickasaw Nation ceded their land to the U.S. Government, thus opening the territory to settlement. The town of Holly Springs was founded three years later, and the area surrounding the town soon drew the attention of wealthy planters seeking access to Mississippi’s fertile soil and the high-quality cotton crops it produced.

Among those planters were the five sons of Edward Coxe and Charlotte Victoria James of Oglethorpe County, Georgia. The Coxe family boasted aristocratic lineage, with an English Lord and Carolina governor as ancestors. The third son of Edward and Victoria, William Henry Coxe, married Amelia Brailsford in 1842, at the age of 18. William Henry established their plantation that same year, roughly 10 miles southwest of Holly Springs. They named the plantation Galena, after a particular lead ore mineral said to be a Scottish symbol of peace.

Interestingly, William Henry’s brothers remain a subject of local folklore to this day and are remembered more for their daredevil exploits and tragic deaths than their legendary wealth and extravagance. The eldest son, Edward, threw himself from the deck of a Mississippi steamer and drowned, according to some. By other accounts, Edward drove his horse-drawn carriage off a high bluff in Memphis and into the river. Another brother, Bartley, was killed in an apparent hunting accident. His wife was later declared insane. The most notorious death belonged to Toby, the handsome youngest brother, who was said to be as beautiful as any woman. Two-and-a-half months into his marriage to Sally Wilson, Toby killed his wife while in a drunken fit and then killed himself with the same gun.

William Henry, in contrast, appears to have led a more sedate and dignified life, though it was short-lived. William and Amelia built a fine plantation home at Galena and made plans for a town home in Holly Springs, which is now known by the name Arliewood. The two traveled extensively, bringing back exquisite home furnishings from their travels. Though Amelia would die before their town house could be finished, the home was eventually completed and survives to this day as a splendid example of Gothic Revival architecture. Sadly, the original Galena Plantation house is no longer standing, having been demolished in the 1950s.