156 A BICENTENNIAL HISTORY OF MISSISSIPPI COOPERATIVE ENERGY Cooperative Energy, formerly known as South Mississippi Electric Power Association, powers the quality of life in fifty-five of the state’s eighty-two counties from the Coast to the Delta. Since its formation more than seventy-five years ago, the mission has been to bring reliable, affordable power to members. Today, despite many changes in the electric industry, that mission remains the same. Cooperative Energy serves as the only not-for-profit wholesale electric power provider headquartered in Mississippi. In this role, the company generates and transmits electricity for eleven member distribution systems located in the southern and western portions of the state. Cooperative Energy and these eleven member cooperatives, known as the Power of 12, provide power to more than 423,000 homes and businesses, ultimately serving approximately 1 million Mississippians. PHOTO COURTESY OF COOPERATIVE ENERGY™ powerful Mississippi politicians Powhatan Ellis and James Patton. Ellis, the namesake of the town of Ellisville in Jones County, was a United States senator twice, once from 1825 to 1826 and again from 1827 to 1832. Patton served as lieutenant governor from 1820 to 1822 and was a member of the three-member commission that selected Jackson as the location of the state capital. John McRae served as a United States senator from 1851 to 1852, as Mississippi governor from 1854 to 1857, and in the United States House of Repre-sentatives from 1858 to1861. Winchester’s days were numbered, however. By the time of John Francis Hamtramck Claiborne’s visit in 1841, he found “the town literally tumbling to pieces, and one finds only the skeleton of the flourishing Winchester which existed twenty years ago...” Sadly for its citizens, Winchester’s decline would continue. A decade later, as the Mobile and Ohio became the first railroad to lay tracks in the Piney Woods, it bypassed Winchester. The town…” Sadly for its citizens, Winchester’s decline would continue. Another factor in Winchester’s fall was the railroad. Railroads had yet to make much headway in the region, with the exception of the New Orleans, Jackson, and Great Northern in the far western Piney Woods and the Mobile and Ohio, which cut through Wayne County on its path from Mobile to Meridian. Unfortunately for Winchester, this new railroad passed by it. The once thriving community virtually disappeared after losing its status as county seat to the nascent railroad town of Waynesboro.