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The Magnolia State


Long before Mississippi became a state there were three powerful Indian tribes living there. The Chickasaw lived in the north and east. The Chocktaw lived in the central area and the Natchez in the southwest. These tribes held power over the Chakchiuma, Tunica and Yazoo. Tribes that lived along the Yazoo River and the Biloxi and Pascagoula tribes of the Gulf Coast. There was between 25,000 and 30,000 Indians living in the Mississippi region when the first white explorers arrived.

In 1540 the Spanish explorer Hernando deSoto was the first European to enter Mississippi. He was searching for gold and this led him to the Mississippi River in 1541. He made no settlements there. In 1682, French explorer Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle, traveled down the great Mississippi River from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico, Cavelier claimed the entire Mississippi valley for France and named it Louisiana for King Louis XIV, the region included the land that today is Mississippi.

In 1699, Pierre le Moune, Sieur d'Iberville established the first French settlement in the region at old Biloxi, which today is known as Ocean Springs. In 1719, Jean Baptiste le Moyne, Sieur de Binville established another settlement, at Fort Rosalie, this area is now known as Natchez. Three years later, in 1719, they brought Negro slaves to the region from West Africa. The French Colonist brought them there to work in their rice and tobacco fields.

In 1722 the French made New Orleans the Capitol of the region. At that time Louisiana made up a vast territory which stretched from the Allegheny Mountains to the Rocky Mountains.

There were many difficulties, and development of the region was delayed. At first the Indians fought with the settlers, and then the British battled the French for possession. In 1730 the French stopped an uprising of the Natchez Indians. In 1736 British troops helped the Chickasaw Indians defeat the French in the northeastern part, which is present day Mississippi. This defeat stopped the French from gaining control of the Mississippi Valley. During the French and Indian war of 1754-1763, the British and the Chickasaw blocked the French in the lower Mississippi Valley, this prevented them from joining the French in the Ohio Valley.

Mississippi came under British rule when the treaty of Paris was signed after the war. This treaty gave the British all of the land East of the Mississippi River. The southern portion became part of the British province called West Florida. Almost all of the remaining area became part of the Georgia Colony.

During the Revolutionary War (1775-1783), most of the settlers of West Florida remained loyal to Great Britain. The Indians, Scouts, and Trappers supported the American Colonies. Spain was able to take over West Florida, and two years later Britain granted it to Spain. After the British lost the war, the Mississippi region north of the 32nd parallel was made part of the United States. In a treaty signed at Madrid in 1795, the Spanish government accepted the 31st parallel as the United States border.

In 1798 congress organized the Mississippi Territory, and Natchez was the Capitol. Winthrop Sergeant became the first governor of the territory. The 31st parallel bounded the south side, the Mississippi River bounded the West, and a line bound the north east from the mouth of the Yazoo River, and on the east by the Chattahoochee River. In 1803 the Mississippi River was made part of the United States by the Louisiana Purchase. The River made development of the area much easier, because ships could sail to the Gulf of Mexico.

Congress extended the Mississippi Territory north to the border of Tennessee in 1804. More land was added in 1812. In 1812 the land lying east of the Pearl River, which was known as West Florida Republic was added to the Mississippi Territory. The Republic was formed in 1812, after the American settlers took control of the land south of the 31st parallel between the Mississippi River and Perdido River.

During the War of 1812, the Choctaw Indians under Chief Pushmataha remained friendly. They joined the Mississippi militia and aided General Jefferson Davis in putting down the uprisings of the Creek Indians and defeated a British Army in the Battle of New Orleans.

In 1817, Congress divided the Mississippi Territory into the state of Mississippi and Alabama Territory. December 10, 1817, Mississippi was admitted to the union as the 20th state. The first Mississippi State governor was David Holmes; he had been territorial governor since 1809.

When Mississippi was a territory the Indian tribes had controlled almost two thirds of it. They gradually gave up their land to the United States Government. By 1832 most of the Indians had moved to the Indian Territory, which is now Oklahoma. The lands they left behind were opened for settlement. Many settlers came from the East to farm the fertile land. The main crop was cotton. The soil was so fertile that cotton flourished, and after Eli Whitney invented the Cotton Gin cotton production increased throughout the south.

In the 1850 levees were built in the Delta region to protect the land from the Mississippi River and Yazoo River when the overflowed. In 1858 the legislature set up a board of levee commissioners. Large areas of swampland were drained and made suitable for farming.

Most Mississippians did not favor succession from the Union. But, when South Carolina threatened to do so in 1832 their feelings changed. The reason for the change included violations of the Fugitive Slave Law, the struggle over slavery in Kansas, the founding of the Republican Party, and economic differences between the north and south. Mississippi became a strong defender of state's rights.

January 9, 1861 a convention met in Jackson and adopted the Ordinance of Succession. Mississippi became the second state to secede from the union, they followed South Carolina. Several weeks later Jefferson Davis became President of the Confederacy. He had been a planter, soldier and U.S. Senator. He had also served as Secretary of War under President Franklin Pierce.

More than 80,000 Mississippi troops served in the Confederate armies. Union and Confederate forces clashed in Mississippi or on its borders. Important battles were fought at Corinth, Harrisburg (which is now Tupelo), Holly Springs, Iuka, Jackson, Meridian, and Port Gibson. General Nathan Bedford Forrest of Mississippi defeated a larger Union Cavalry force in June of 1864. He supposedly explained his military success by saying that he tried "to git thar fustest with the mostest men."

The battle at Vicksburg ranks as the most important military action in Mississippi. On July 4, 1863 General Ulysses S. Grant took the fort. This was a battle that lasted forty-seven days. And from all accounts was one of the bloodiest on record. Grants victory at Vicksburg gave the union control over the Mississippi River. The turning point of the Civil war came after the battles of Vicksburg and Gettysburg.

In 1867, after the Civil War, the United States placed Mississippi under military rule. Mississippi was re-admitted to the union in 1870 after adopting a new constitution and rectifying amendments 14 and 15. It took Mississippi many, many years to recover from the war losses.

The 1900' were better years for Mississippi. The lumber production reached a high peak just before World War I, which began in 1914. Mississippi entered WWI in 1917. Payne Field was established at West Point, Mississippi, as a training base for Army Pilots. Camp Shelby; near Hattiesburg became one of the Army's chief centers for preparing troops for overseas duty.

After WWI came WWII, and folks became more mobile and moved more that they ever had in their lives. The Port of Pascagoula became an assembly plant. After the war Mississippi became active in the work of the Atomic Energy Commission and National Aeronautics and Space Administration. In 1964 AEC scientist set off a nuclear device near Baxterville. This was the first nuclear test explosion east of the Mississippi River. In 1965 NASA began to test-fire engines for the Saturn 5 rocket near Gulf Port. The Saturn 5 rockets were used to launch U.S. Spacecraft to the moon.

Mississippi, like so many other states has had racial problems. The state's constitution had provided for segregated schools. The Supreme Court of the United States ruled, in 1954, that compulsory segregation of schools was unconstitutional. This did not come easy. Sometimes the civil rights groups were met with violence. Two people were lost their lives in 1962, when James Meredith enrolled as the first black student at the University of Mississippi. Medgar Evers, Field Secretary for Mississippi was shot and killed in 1963. Three civil rights workers were murdered in 1964, near Philadelphia. Both white and black leaders in Mississippi spoke out against the violence. The first public school began to desegregate in 1964. The U.S. Supreme Court ordered that all segregated public schools immediately end segregation in 1969. Many white people opened private segregated private schools. In 1969, Charles Evers, brother of Medgar, was elected mayor of Fayette. He became the first black mayor in Mississippi since reconstruction.

Mississippi became the 20th State, December 10, 1817. She ranks 32nd. in size, 47,689 square miles (123,515 km). There are 457 square miles of inland water, and 556 square miles Gulf of Mexico water. There are 44 miles of coastline, North to South is 352 miles and East to West is 188 miles. Elevation: Woodall Mountain in Tishomingo County is the highest, 806-ft. The lowest elevation is sea level along the coastline. The 1980 Census listed the population of 2,520,631 folks. It ranks 31st among the States, density, 53 persons per square mile. 53 percent is rural, and 47 percent is urban. 1970 census was 2,216,994 folks. The 1980 Census showed that thirty four percent of the population was black, this is about one of every three Mississippians. No other state has such a large population of Black Citizens. There was a time when blacks outnumbered whites. This change is due to both migration and immigration trends. The last one hundred years, more folks have moved from Mississippi than have moved to the state. This is due to the difficult farming conditions and the lack of industrial centers.

In the 1960 and 1970 Mississippi things began to change. Mississippi created new opportunities for jobs, education, the arts and politics. The state was determined to hold on to its most precious resource, its young people. Migration seemed to slow.

Even though Mississippi was loosing its young folk's right and left, immigration was changing the population. In the late 1960's Delta Plantation owners brought in numerous Chinese laborers, and to this date, Mississippi has more Chinese Americans than any other southern state. There are many other ethnic groups scattered throughout the state

The State Capitol is in Jackson, which became the capitol in 1822. Jackson is the largest city in Mississippi. Prior to that time the capitols were in Natchez, 1798-1802, Washington 1802-1817, Natchez 1817-1821 and Columbia 1821-1822.

The state bird is the Mockingbird, the state flower is the Magnolia and the State tree is the Magnolia.

Mississippi has 82 counties, and each county has five districts. The people from each district elect one of the five members of a county board of supervisors, which administer the county. Most cities have the mayor-council form of government. The Legislature controls the county and city governments. The county is the chief government in Mississippi

About 70 percent of the state government's income come from taxation, and most of the rest comes from federal grants and other U.S. Government programs. About half of the states revenue comes from sales tax. Other large sources of revenue income come from highway use taxes, individual and corporation income taxes, and profit taxes on alcoholic beverages. Other state government income comes from property taxes, tobacco, inheritances and gifts and license fees.

Chief Products; Agriculture-soybeans, cotton, beef cattle, broilers, milk, eggs, rice, and cottonseed. Fishing Industry: mendhaden, shrimp and red snapper. Mississippi is also one of the largest producers of that famous farm raised catfish. Manufacturing-transportation equipment, Electrical Machinery and equipment, lumber and wood products. Food products: clothing; chemicals; non-electric machinery; paper products; fabricated metal products; furniture and fixtures, stone, clay, and glass products. Mining petroleum, natural gas, sand and gravel and clays.

The State abbreviations are Miss. (traditional); and MS (postal).

State motto Virtute et Armis ( By Valor and Arms).

State song: "Go Mis-sis-sip-pi" by Houston Davis.

Mississippi has had four constitutions, 1817, 1832, 1869 and the present one adopted 1890.

The 1869 constitution was written so that Mississippi could qualify to reenter the Union after the Civil War. An amendment (change) to the Constitution must be approved by two-thirds of the members of each house of the State Legislature. Then the amendment must be approved by a majority of the people voting on the amendment in an election. The Constitution may also be amended by a constitutional convention called by a majority of each house.

The Governor of Mississippi is elected to a four year term, as is other executive officers, which includes the Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Treasurer, Auditor, Attorney General, Commissioners of Agriculture and Commerce, and Commissioners of Insurance. The Governor and treasurer may not serve two terms in a row.

Legislature of Mississippi consists of a Senate of 52 members and a House of Representatives of 122 members. State legislatures are elected to four-year terms. Regular legislative sessions begin on the Tuesday after the first Monday in January of each year. Most sessions last for 90 days. The Legislature may extend the sessions every fourth year. Regular session's 125 days, and the governor may call special sessions.

In 1960, 1970's and 1980's the legislative districts were re-divided to provide equal representation based on population.

The Supreme Court heads the courts in Mississippi. Nine justices of the Supreme Court are elected by the people to serve eight-year terms. Three of them are elected from each of the three districts that were set up for electing Supreme Court Justices. The justice who has served the longest acts as chief justice. All other judges are elected to a 4-year term. The chief trial courts in Mississippi are chancery and circuit courts. Chancery Court judges handle civil cases, while the circuit court judge handles both civil and criminal. Other courts include county and juvenile courts.

The Democratic Party has controlled Mississippi for most of the State's history. Most of her governors, state and local officials have been democrat since 1876. Prior to 1963 election, Republicans rarely nominated candidates for many state and local offices. As a result, nomination by the Democratic Party in primary elections almost always insured election to office.

In presidential elections since 1876, Mississippi has cast its electoral votes for the Democratic candidate in every election except six. In 1948, Mississippi voted Dixiecrat party. In 1960, the state chose electors who voted for Senator Harry F. Byrd of Virginia, rather than from the Democratic nominee Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts. In 1964, Senator Barry M. Goldwater of Arizona became the first Republican presidential candidate to win in Mississippi since 1872. In 1968 the State's electors voted for George C. Wallace, the nominee of the American Independent Party. In 1972 and 1980 Republican presidential candidates won in Mississippi.

The school system in Mississippi was established by the Constitution in 1869. The State set up a board education and provided that every child should receive free education for four months each year. Since then there has been many changes. The school system was reorganized during the 1950's and 1960's. There are sixteen universities and colleges accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

In 1926 the Mississippi Library Commission was established. This commission gives assistance to local public library systems in the state. In 1818 a library was established at Port Gibson and is probably the first library to serve the public. The State library in Jackson was established in 1838.

Mississippi has one of the nation's finest historical museums, in the restored Old Capitol in Jackson. It is a division of the Department of Archives and History. Others are Old Courthouse Museum, Vicksburg, and the Jefferson Davis Shrine at Beauvoir House near Biloxi. Art museums include the Mississippi Museum of Art on Jackson, Mary Bui Museum in Oxford, and Museum of Art in Laurel. The Museum of Natural Science is located in Jackson and features many exhibits of natural history.

Visitors to this beautiful state will find many things to do. The Gulf Coast is one of our nation's most popular winter resort regions. This area has won fame for its large, sunny beaches and fine hotels. In other parts of the state, wooded areas and the many historic monuments are a chief attraction. One can get a good idea as to what life was like prior to the civil war by visiting the plantations and many old mansions. Florawood River Plantation is in the Delta near Greenwood. This state park and Museum has 22 buildings that show visitors what life was like on a cotton plantation before the Civil War.

Mount Locust is a restored inn along the Natchez Trace Parkway near Fayette. It was built in 1777 as a stopping place for travelers on the Natchez Trace. This was an important route used by travelers from Nashville Tenn., to Natchez Ms. near Flora Mississippi is a giant stone tree dating back 30 million years. There is a nature trail and a geological museum, rock and gem shop and picnic areas. In or near Natchez there are many stately old homes that give one a glimpse of life in the 1700' s and 1800's, these mansions are Auburn-1812, D'Evereux-1840, Denleith-1847, Edgewood-1860, Gloucester-1804, Linden-1789, Melrose-1840, Monteigne-1853, Richmond-1786, Rosalie-1820, and Stanton Hall-1857. Cedar Grove-1858, McRaven-1797 is in Vicksbsurg. Other homes include Waverly-1856, near Columbus, Gray Gables-1830- Holly Springs, and Hampton Hall-1832-Near Woodville. Jefferson Davis spent his boyhood at Rosemont, near Woodville. At Biloxi stands Beauvoir, Davis' last home. The building later became a home for Confederate veterans and their wives or widows. Beauvoir is now a shrine and a museum.

If you like to fish and hunt, then Mississippi is the state you want to visit. There are over 25 Wildlife Management areas, here a hunter can shoot, deer, dove, rabbit, quail, turkey, ducks, geese, and raccoon. Thousands of lakes and ponds provide fishing. In these lakes and ponds you will find, Crappies, Bass, and Bream, or if you prefer you can fish for catfish from the banks of the Mississippi River or pond. If this is not exciting enough you can fish for big game fish in the waters of the Gulf Coast.

Elvis Presley Birthplace is located at Tupelo. The house where he spent his early years still stands and is part of Elvis Presley Park.

More than half of Mississippians who belong to a church are Baptist and a fourth are Methodist. There are also many Roman Catholics, Presbyterians, and Episcopalians. The Jewish population is concentrated in several cities in the state; among them are Meridian, Greenville, Clarksdale and Jackson.

Today, Mississippi has the lowest per capita income in the nation. Incomes rose steadily during the 1970's. Several new industries moved to the state, and by the early 1980's, over one fourth of Mississippi workers were employed in manufacturing. Thousands of farm workers became jobless due to the increased use of machinery, and the inability of the farm operators to pay even minimum wages. So you can see why so many of the high school and college graduates leave the state to find employment.

Their goal is to develop its economic programs and keep their young folks from leaving the state to get jobs. To reach these goals many cities are working to attract such industries, and improved transportation and other services and to increase cultural and educational opportunities.

 Mississippi has been blessed with some of the most important people in our country. This list is not complete. You can find more in the library. I have listed only a few of those I have knowledge of.

Actor Dana Andrews-1912-, born in Collins.

Sherwood Bonner-1849-1883-born Katherine Sherwood-full name Katherine Sherwood Bonner McDowell, she lived in Holy Springs when she was a young Girl. She wrote short stories and in the novel "like Unto Like" she described the Civil War and reconstruction.

Ralph Boston-1939-, born in Laurel, he was a track and field star, he won a gold medal and set Olympic long-jump record for United States in 1960, he jumped 26',7 3/4".

William "Big Bill" Boonzy-1893-1958, a musician, born in Scott. Became one of the giants of the country-blues music, he influenced Peter Seeger, Sonny Terry, and Brownie McGee, some of the songs he wrote were, "Too Too Train Blues", and "Worrying you off my mind".

Albert Gallatin Brown 1813-1880, Politician, governor 1844-1848. He worked to make public schools free, and he was a popular election judge.

Blanche K. Bruce-1841-1898-first black to serve a full term as U.S. Senator-1875-1881.

Hodding Carter II-1907-1972, Journalist and novelist-won the Pulitzer Prize in 1946 as Publisher of the Delta Democrat-Times-for his editorials advocating religious and racial tolerance.

Will Clark-1964, Professional baseball player, all American baseball player at Mississippi State University in 1984.

Thad Cochran-1937, Born in Pontotoc, first Republican congressman-elected in 1972, and senate elected in 1978. He was the first republican to be elected in Mississippi since Reconstruction.

Charles Conley-1919, born in Clarksdale, professional football player, quarterback at University of Mississippi 1945-1947.He was elected to College Football Hall of Fame, and he led the New York Giants to four division titles between 1948 and 1961.

Mart Cowley-18808-1889-Army officer, politician. Commanded the first Mississippi regiment in Mexican War, U.S. Represenative-1845-1846, U.S. Ssenator-1847-1851, Secretary of War-1853-1857, President of the Confederate States of America-1861-1865, wrote "The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Gevernment-1881".

Hernando DeSoto-1500?-1542, Spanish Explorer who discovered the Mississippi River, and the first European to set foot in Mississippi.

Bo Diddley-1928, born Elias McDaniels in McComb, singer and guitar player who became one of the first rock-and-roll stars. He sang "Bo Diddley and Who Do You love?"

William Dunbar-1749-1810, Scientist and writer. He discovered cottonseed oil, improved the cotton gin, and explored Mississippi and wrote about the wild life there.

Mike Espy-1922, born in Decatur, civil-rights leader, mayor of Fayette-1969-1981, and the first black mayor elected to lead a racially mixed southern city.

Morgan Freeman, actor-Morgan is one of the best Black actors in our country today. He is very active in his community of Charleston Mississippi, Tallahatchie County. He has been instrumental in upgrading the schools in Charleston, and has donated an unknown amount of money to make the schools better for the children of that community. Movies, "Driving Miss Daisy", and Shaw Shank Redemption".

Jim Henson 1936-, born in Greenville, puppeteer, he created Bert, Ernie, Big Bird and other Sesame street Characters as well as Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, and the other Muppets.

Actor James Earl Jones-1931.

Musician B.B. King-1925.

Country Singer, Charlie Pride-1939-born in Sledge Mississippi. Charlie was the first successful Black country-and -western singer.

Elvis Presley-1935-1977-born in Tupelo--he was a combination Country Western and Rock-n-Roll, and rhythm-n-blues singer.

Jimmie Rodgers-1897-1933-born in Meredian, country musician, and known as the "Singing Brakeman" and Father of Country Music". He was one of the first to be inducted in the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Conway Twitty-1933-?, He was born Harold Lloyd Jenkins in Friar's Point. He was an outstanding country singer, and he owned the band, Conway Twitty and the Twitty Birds.

Jamie Whitten-1910-?, born in Cascilla Ms-Politician, congressman-1931-1933, senior member of U.S. House of Represenatives, Chairman of the House Appropriations committee, and widely respected for his knowledge of agriculture.

Oprah Winfrey-1945, born in Kosciusko, one of our countries most successful black women. She is an actress, owns her own show, and an academy award nominee for her roll in "The Color Purple".

Country singer, Tammy Wynette-1942-1998, born Wynette Pugh in Tupelo Ms. She was known as the Queen of Country.

All of this information has been taken from "World Book Encyclopedias and "America the Beautiful". Some of those contributing information to make this possible were: John Edwin Coffman, Porter L. Fortune, Jr., Bureau of Labor and Statistics, Charlotte Capers, T.M. Hederman, Jr., M.W.Myers, and Electorial Tables.

Updater: This page was last updated Friday, 24-Oct-2003 14:00:28 MDT


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