52 A BICENTENNIAL HISTORY OF MISSISSIPPI The selection of Gainesville as the county seat for Hancock County did not satisfy all of the citizens of the county. Those living in the eastern portion of the region were not content with the prospect of yet another county seat inaccessible to them. Early in the 1840s, advocacy among those citizens began for a new county in the central portion of the coastal region. As a result, on February 5, 1841, citizens in eastern Hancock County and western Jackson County voted to create a new county from portions of these two places. The area became Harrison County, named after William Henry Harrison, the ninth president of the United States. The new county ran from the Biloxi Bay and River to the Bay of St. Louis and north to the 31st parallel. These boundaries remained intact until June 5, 1916, when the citizens of the northern section of Harrison County voted to become Stone County. Mississippi City became the county seat of Harrison County in July 1841, and the new county government issued bonds in order to secure finances. The money collected from these bonds was to purchase necessary items such as paper, books, seals, and a seal press for the county clerk’s office. The first minutes of the Board of Supervisors reflect a racial atmosphere typical in antebellum Southern communities. Even though the coast of Mississippi did not have an extensive plantation economy, whites in the region often perceived enslaved people as a lurking threat. In 1842, the Harrison County minutes outlined that “there shall be established in the village of Biloxi, a night patrol, whose duty it shall be to preserve the peace of said village, and to arrest all free negroes and slaves who may be found out after nine o’clock at night, without a written permit from his or her master, mistress, or overseer, and to punish then as the law directs.” Another issue addressed by the Harrison County Board of Supervisors early in 1842 was the selling of liquor. Jacob Elmer of Biloxi petitioned for a license to sell “vinous and spirituous” liquor, and on April 11, the board approved his application. Elmer was from Switzerland and immigrated to Biloxi, where he lived for fifty-eight years. He maintained a business in Biloxi and had a wharf that stretched into the Gulf so that schooners and steamboats could dock and unload their goods in deep waters. Most store owners had such a wharf. Biloxians knew it as Elmer’s Wharf. Later, officials in Biloxi honored the Elmer family by naming a street after the family. Harrison County in the 1840s and 1850s was already becoming the “Riviera of the South.” During that time, steamboats plied the Gulf waters connecting New Orleans with Mobile. Pass Christian had already erected a lighthouse in 1831 to guide ships safely ashore. Biloxi had become a township in 1838. John Johnson McCaughan of Yazoo County had built his beautiful home, Rosalie, on the BEAUVOIR, THE JEFFERSON DAVIS HOME AND PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY Located on the Mississippi Gulf Coast approximately halfway between Gulfport and Biloxi, Beauvoir was built by Madison County planter James Brown in the 1850s as a summer home for his family. Brown strategically designed the building as a raised cottage structure so that flood waters would flow underneath the house, and with large, open windows to allow cool breeze inside during hot weather, making it the ideal summer getaway. The Brown family owned the home for about twenty-five years until 1873, when Sarah Ellis Dorsey, a famous and wealthy author from Natchez, purchased the house and named it Beauvoir, meaning “beautiful view.” Known for hosting fabulous parties, Dorsey resided at Beauvoir until 1879, when its most famous owner, former President of the Confederacy Jefferson Davis, took possession for his retirement home. Davis lived there with his wife, Varina Howell Davis, and their youngest daughter, Winnie. Davis spent his final years at Beauvoir, frequently entertaining guests and telling stories of his experiences during the Civil War. Shortly after Jefferson Davis’s death in 1889, Varina and Winnie left Beauvoir for New York City. In 1902, the Mississippi Division of the United Sons of Confederate Veterans purchased Beauvoir from Varina and transformed the property into a home for former Confederate soldiers. Over a span of more than five decades, thousands of soldiers and their families lived at Beauvoir. In 1941, operated by descendants of Confederate veterans with help from the state, the main home was opened to the public for tours. Beauvoir has been considered an official museum since 1956. The home has remained open to the public for the majority of time since, even surviving devastating hurricanes Camille in 1969 and Katrina in 2005, which required significant repair and restoration to the home. The Jefferson Davis Presidential Library, which houses many of Davis’s personal books and writings and serves as a learning and research center, was added in 1998. Today, Beauvoir, a Mississippi and National Historic Landmark, strives to preserve, promote, and educate patrons on the life and times of Jefferson Davis and the life of the Confederate soldier. PHOTO COURTESY OF MARTY RATCLIFF/BEAUVOIR, THE JEFFERSON DAVIS HOME & PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY