Panola County is a county located in the U.S. state of Mississippi. As of the 2010 census, the population was 34,707. Its county seats are Sardis and Batesville. Panola is a Cherokee word which means cotton. The county is located just east of the Mississippi Delta.
Panola County was established February 9, 1836, and is one of the twelve large northern Mississippi counties created in that year out of the Chickasaw Cession of 1832. The original act defined its limits as follows:
Beginning at the point where the line between ranges 9 and 10 strikes the center of section 6, and running thence south with the said range line, and from its termination in a direct line to the northern boundary of Tallahatchie County and thence along the northern boundary of Tallahatchie and Yalobusha counties, to the center of range 5 west; thence north through the center of range 5 west, according to the sectional lines, to the center of township six; thence west through the center of township six, according to the sectional lines, to the beginning.
On February 1, 1877, when Quitman County was created, Panola surrendered a small fraction of its southwestern area to assist in forming that county, which reduced Panola from an area of to its present land surface of . It had a population of 27,845, in 1920. Its inhabitants gradually increased in numbers from 1850 to 1910, from 11,444 to 31,274.
Two of the oldest settlements in the county were at Belmont and Panola, a few miles apart, and on opposite sides of the Tallahatchie River. For several years there was a spirited contest between these two towns over the location of the courthouse of Panola County. With the advent of the Mississippi and Tennessee (now the Illinois Central railroad) Belmont was absorbed by Sardis, and Panola was absorbed by Batesville. One result of the above contest is found in the two judicial districts of the county, Sardis being the seat of justice for the first judicial district, and Batesville for the second judicial district into which the county is divided.
Little emphasis was placed upon the area of teacher training or education during this early period of county formation. In fact, education remained primarily the responsibility of the family. This type of informal education consisted of basic math, basic reading and study of biblical concepts.
By 1840 serious consideration was being given to education. This is evident throughout the 1840 census which revealed that, during this period, four small schools existed with a combined student population of 92 pupils. The census did not list the schools, nor are there currently any known files or records concerning these early attempts at formal education.
During the early 1840s the first school‑related advertisements began to appear in the county newspapers. The ads attempted to present the virtues of these early schools.
During this period, Judge James S.B. Thacher, a highly educated Bostonian, devised a popular educational program for the state. The proposed scheme received considerable discussion and was finally incorporated by the state legislature (4 March 1846) into "An Act to establish a System of Common Schools." The act "provided for a board of five school commissioners in each county, to license teachers and have charge of schools, lease the school lands and have charge of the school funds in each county." To a large degree, this act was established because A.G. Brown, a candidate for Mississippi governor, decided to make the establishment of a general school system a campaign issue. By 1846, Governor Brown (1844‑48), succeeded in establishing the Act. Although a noble goal, schools established under this rule "had no uniformity since they differed as the counties differed in wealth and efficiency of management." Prior to this period, starting in 1803, sixteenth sections in each township in Mississippi were established for school purposes. These sections of land were to be used exclusively for school projects.
Although the Act had proved to be of little assistance in Panola County, progress was still being made. By 1850, the seventh census in Panola County listed 18 schools and a total student population of 439 pupils (approximately four times that of the 1840 census). This census (unpublished returns) also revealed that 18 individuals stated their occupation as educators or teachers. By the spring of 1854, several members of the local Shiloh community (Capt Thomas F. Wilson, Dr H. Mosely, and Mr Jesse Smith) constructed a small log cabin to be used as the community's school house. This school, known as the Jones' School, at first employed only one teacher but slowly grew in size and popularity. Several years later, the location of the teaching facility was moved to Peach Creek where the school was informally known as the "Greasy Smith Schoolhouse," being named for the local village blacksmith.