Mississippi is known as one big small town. It’s true. Countless charming communities are nestled in every nook and cranny of the Magnolia State, quietly going about their everyday lives, showing hospitality to busy patrons looking to escape for the weekend, or welcoming younger families seeking a slower-paced life. And while many small towns may come to mind, Bolton, Mississippi, often flies under the radar but is not to be overlooked.
Bolton is located in Hinds County, the county seat of Jackson. Built on the backs of early Italian immigrants, Bolton was organized in the year 1830. Like many small towns, Bolton was a prosperous farming community. Mississippi Highway 18, which stretches across central Mississippi to the Alabama state line, ran straight through downtown. Before I-20 redirected traffic, small mom and pop stores thrived, but most couldn’t survive without constant travelers.
Even if you’ve never heard of Bolton, Mississippi, you’ve undoubtedly heard of some of their notable natives: Bo Carter, blues singer and guitarist; Charley Patton, blues singer; Cleveland Green, former NFL player with the Miami Dolphins; Calvin Smith gold and bronze medal Olympian; Alan Huffman, writer; Lucille Jenkins Spann, singer vocalist and wife of musician Otis Spann; Walter Vinson jazz musician and guitarist. Representative Bennie Thompson, former Mayor of Bolton and chairperson of Homeland Security, is a native of Bolton, Mississippi. And a name to keep in mind while you’re at the movies is Bolton native Amia Edwards, an actress known for The Card Counter (2021) and Every Time a Bell Rings (2021).
Bolton’s current mayor, Lawrence Butler, holds an unofficial record for the longest-running mayor in Mississippi. First elected in 1980, Mayor Butler has served the Bolton community for over 40 years! Initially from Edwards, Mississippi, Mayor Butler met and fell in love with a woman from Bolton, and as they say, the rest is history.
Interstate 20 may have knocked the wind out of Bolton’s sails, but its people and one unique business are still going strong. Gaddis and McLaurin Mercantile has been smack dab in the center of downtown Bolton since 1871. In the beginning, Dr. John Gaddis and George C. McLaurin joined forces to supply local farmers with all necessities to grow their crops and other goods for life on the farm. The store adapted to a more modern general-purpose shopping venue as times changed. Today, the store offers seed, feed, lumber, clothing, hardware, etc. If you need it, they’ve got it, or they’ll get it for you.
It feels like taking a step back in time when you visit their store, the creaking sound from original floors, antique decor, old-fashioned customer service, and down-home pricing. The way shopping for goods should be, with a smile and a genuine concern for the products you need to get you back to work on the farm or check off your honey-do-list. Every small town has its’ heartbeat business, and for Bolton, that is Gaddis and McLaurin.
But if you’re not in the market for feed and seed, you should still go to Bolton for a steak dinner! B-Town Steakhouse opened downtown in 2021 and has rave reviews. It’s only open Thursday through Saturday, 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm, and reservations are welcomed but not needed. Make the trip and try Emily’s Famous Pimento Cheese and Buttery Crackers, and select a “Certified Angus Beef” steak seasoned to perfection, seared to your preference.
Next time you find yourself driving Interstate 20, take Exit 27. You’re only a spitting distance to downtown Bolton. Bolton is 18 miles from Jackson and 25 miles from Vicksburg. Pop into Gaddis and McLaurin for a general store experience, and support a local restaurant off the beaten path, providing good food to hungry people. Small town Mississippi needs more of us to stop by instead of passing on through.
Photos provided by Gaddis and McLaurin’s Facebook Page