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Mississippi History and Facts

States of the USA Article Index

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Mississippi Facts

In 1540, Hernando de Soto led a large expedition into the area now known as Mississippi. The group camped for the winter along the Pontotoc River. When spring came, the group made it to the Mississippi River, but found none of the gold they were searching for. So, these Spanish explorers moved on.

In the late 1670s, a small band of French Canadians sailed down the Mississippi River and into the Mississippi area. They saw it as a strategically-located area ripe for settlement and commercial value. In 1699, Pierre le Moyne d'Iberville led a French expedition that laid France's claim to the lower Mississippi valley. French settlements then popped up at Biloxi, Fort Maurepas, Fort Rosalie, and New Orleans.

After the French and Indian War ended in 1763, France ceded its lower Mississippi Valley possessions—except New Orleans—to Great Britain. This gave the Brits a huge presence in the area, because they also obtained Florida from Spain. To better govern such a large geographic area, the Brits divided the  territory into two colonies.

One colony was West Florida, which included the area between the Apalachicola and Mississippi rivers. The original northern boundary of West Florida was the 31st parallel, but in 1764 this moved north to the 32.28' parallel. The Brits renamed Fort Rosalie Fort Panmure. They made the Natchez District a subdivision of West Florida. After the U.S. War of Independence broke out, Spain regained possession of Florida and occupied Natchez. In 173, the Treaty of Paris made the 31st parallel as the northern boundary between Spanish Florida and the United States. Despite this, Spain continued to occupy Natchez. The two countries settled the occupation dispute in 1798.

In 1798, the U.S. Congress created the Mississippi Territory. It was a thin strip of land that ran about 100 miles north to south and from the Mississippi River to the Chattahoochee River on the Georgia border.

Mississippi Trivia

  • Mississippi has more churches per capita than any other state.
  • The McCoy Federal Building in Jackson was the first U.S. federal building named for an African American.
  • The Mississippi Legislature passed one of the first laws in 1839 to protect the property rights of married women.
  • Alcorn State University in Lorman is the world's oldest black land grant college.
  • MCW in Columbus (est 1884) was the first state college for women in the U.S..
  • Mississippi was the first state to outlaw imprisoning debtors
  • The first PTA met in Crystal Springs.
  • The International Checkers Hall Of Fame is in Petal.
  • Cartoonist Rick London (London's Times) is from Lumberton.  
  • John Stetson learned hatmaking in Dunn's Falls.
  • The Vicksburg National Cemetery is the second oldest in the U.S.  
  • The oldest Holiday Inn is in Clarkesdale.
  • The King and Queen of the Gypsies are buried in Rose Hill Cemetery in Meridian.
  • The 4-H Club started in Holmes
  • Joseph A. Biedenharn founded    Coca Cola in Vicksburg.
  • Belzoni is the Catfish Capital of the world.
  • The company that makes Icee Drinks is in Edwards.
  • Peavey Electronics in Meridian is the world's largest manufacturer of musical amplification equipment.
  • Footballs Walter Peyton was from Columbia.
  • Elvis was born in Tupelo.
  •  County.
  • The Mississippi Gulf Coast has the world's longest man-made beach.
  • National Geographic is printed in Corinth.
  • Dr. Tichenor invented his antiseptic in Liberty.
  • Jackson is one of the four cities of the world sanctioned by The International Theater/Dance Committee.

 

In 1804, and then again in 1812, Congress increased the size of the territory, so it finally reached from Tennessee to the Gulf of Mexico. In 1817 the western part achieved statehood as Mississippi. In 1819, the eastern part achieved statehood as Alabama.

What about the capital of Mississippi? Natchez was the first territorial capital, then 802 by nearby Washington replaced it. But in 1822, the capital of the new state would turn out to be Jackson.

The United States underwent an enormous political change in the 1820s and 1830s, as the Jeffersonian Republicans lost both power and influence. The Jacksonian Democrats rose to power during this time and set the stage for the Civil War. Also during this time, the Army moved the native Indians out of the area and resettled those they didn’t butcher into reservations in Oklahoma.

As Mark Twain illustrated in his writings, the nation was characterized also by land speculation, steamboats, and the growth of slavery. However, slavery grew as large plantations grew. It really wasn’t a part of the lives of small planters. Even though small planters outnumbered large plantation owners, they had significantly less wealth and political influence. Thus, a natural divide occurred among the population. This, also, would be felt in the decades to follow.

By the late 1850s, pressure from centralists in the North was severe. The pressure from northern states that sought to force the southern states to sell them cotton at below-market prices created extreme ill will. In another vein, slavery abolitionists, mostly in the north, were calling for an end to slavery in the south. This meant an end to a way of life for rich southern plantation owners, but it would have happened anyway because of Eli Whitney’s cotton gin.

With political, trade, and economic issues all converging in such a way, southern leaders decided to take action. In January 1861, a convention adopted an ordinance of secession. Before the dawn of 1862, Mississippi was embroiled in a devastating war from which it still has not recovered.

For next 25 years after the Civil War, the former slaves and their former “owners” struggled to come to grips with the economic, political, and social consequences of emancipation. The change was something the white ruling class simply would not accept. In 1890 the ruling elite adopted a constitution that established a caste system of racial segregation and an economic order that kept blacks in a position of dependency. As late as the 1960s, southerners—notably Lyndon B. Johnson—were passing legislation to accomplish the same thing.

Today, Mississippi—like many other southern states—is an economic and, to and extent, cultural backwater struggling to remake itself. In the last quarter of the 20th Century, manufacturing plants located to small towns in the south to take advantage of cheap labor. Many such companies did so with a negative attitude toward southerners, and have further hurt the region. The “trailer trash” antics of the Clintons (one of whom was from Illinois, not the south) has further hurt the image—and the economies—of southern states.

Yet, there are bright spots on the horizon. Southern universities, free of some of the political baggage associated with other universities, have attracted outstanding researchers. Innovative companies, drawn by the favorable social and tax climate, have moved to the south—not to pillage it, but to embrace it and help it grow.

Mississippi has much to offer. A strategic location, quality of life, modernized cities, and low tax rates are among the factors that draw people. However, what makes them stay is something more valuable: the people. After 150 years of coping with adversity, strife, and political machinations designed to put them at a disadvantage, the people have developed a toughness of character combined with a sweetness of spirit. As they move forward into the 21st Century, this is a strength that gives them a competitive advantage.

Mississippi Facts

  • Statehood: Dec. 10, 1817; the 20th state.
  • Nickname: Magnolia State.
  • Bird: mockingbird.
  • Flower: Magnolia.
  • Tree: Magnolia.
  • Motto: Virtute et Armis ("By Valor and Arms").
  • Song: "Go Mississippi."
  • Area: 125,060 sq Km (48,286 sq mi); rank: 32d.
  • Capital and largest city: Jackson.
  • Counties: 82.
  • Elevations: highest:

Government

  • Electoral votes: 7.
  • State legislature: 52 senators, 122 representatives.

Check out these Mississippi posters:

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