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Mississippi is a state of the southeast United States. It was admitted as the 20th state in 1817. The first settlers in the region (1699) were French, and the area became part of Louisiana. It passed to the British (1763-1779) and then to the Spanish before being ceded to the United States in 1783. The Mississippi Territory, organized in 1798 and enlarged in 1804 and 1813, also included the present state of Alabama. Jackson is the capital and the largest city. Population: 2,920,000.

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Mississippi Delta

Three major groups of Native Americans lived in the Mississippi region when European exploration of the area began. The Chickasaw lived in the north and east, the Choctaw in the central part, and the Natchez in the southwest.

First explored for Spain by Hernando De Soto, who discovered the Mississippi River in 1540, the region was later claimed by France. Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle, traveled down the Mississippi River in 1682. He claimed the entire Mississippi Valley, including present-day Mississippi, for France and named it Louisiana in honor of King Louis XIV.

In 1699 a French expedition led by Pierre le Moyne d'Iberville established France's claim to the lower Mississippi valley with the first permanent settlement, Old Biloxi, near present-day Ocean Springs. They saw it as a strategically-located area ripe for settlement and commercial value. French settlements were soon established at Fort Maurepas, Mobile, Biloxi, Fort Rosalie, and New Orleans.

During the early 1700s, thousands of settlers moved to Mississippi.

When the Natchez rose up against the colonists in 1729, France rallied to destroy most of the Indian tribe the following year. In 1736, the Chickasaw and British soldiers defeated the French in northeast Mississippi. This led to the French and Indian War (1754-1763). The Treaty of Paris, signed after the war, gave England all the land east of the Mississippi River. Mississippi was divided into two main parts; the southern section to a British province called West Florida and the remaining portion to the Georgia colony.

Following the French and Indian War, which ended in 1763, France ceded its possessions in the lower Mississippi valley, except New Orleans, to Great Britain, which also gained possession of Spanish Florida and divided that territory into two colonies. One of those was West Florida, which included the area between the Apalachicola and Mississippi rivers. The original northern boundary of West Florida was the 31 parallel, but it was extended in 1764 to the 3228' parallel. Fort Rosalie was renamed Fort Panmure, and the Natchez District was established as a subdivision of West Florida. Natchez flourished during the early 1770s. After the outbreak of the U.S. War of Independence, Spain regained possession of Florida and occupied Natchez.

This gave the Brits a huge presence in the area. 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 1783, 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.

The original Mississippi Territory created by the U.S. Congress in1798 was a strip of land extending about 100 miles north to south and from the Mississippi River to the Chattahoochee on the Georgia border. The territory was increased in 1804 and 1812 to reach from Tennessee to the Gulf. In 1817 the western part achieved statehood as Mississippi (the eastern part became the state of Alabama in 1819). Natchez, the first territorial capital, was replaced in 1802 by nearby Washington, which in turn was replaced by Jackson in 1822. This encouraged growth of the newly formed territory, because the river allowed Mississippi trading ships to sail to the Gulf of Mexico.

In 1817, Congress divided the Mississippi Territory into the state of Mississippi and the Alabama Territory. On Dec. 10, 1817, Mississippi joined the Union and became the 20th state. Its population had almost reached 60,000 people.

The 1820s and '30s were marked by the decline of the Jeffersonian Republicans, the ascendancy of the Jacksonian Democrats, and the removal of the Indians to Oklahoma and set the stage for the Civil War. Cotton continued to grow in importance with the invention of the cotton gin in 1793. The farmers used slave labor to operate the large cotton plantations. By 1860, Mississippi's black slaves outnumbered white people 437,000 to 354,000. Slavery had become an intense debate between the Northern and Southern states. When Abraham Lincoln was elected president of the U.S. in 1860, many southerners feared he would end slavery in the South. Mississippi seceded on Jan. 9, 1861, the second of eleven to secede and within a year the state was in the midst of war. . These states formed the Confederate States of America. Mississippian Jefferson Davis became the Confederacy's first and only president.

Many important battles were fought in or on the borders of Mississippi. The Battle of Vicksburg became a turning point in the war. For 47 days, Union forces fought the Confederate Army, both sides suffering many casualties. Food became scarce. Finally, the Confederates surrendered the city on July 4, 1863. This Union victory gave the North control of the Mississippi River. Two years later the war ended and all slaves were freed at the end of the war. Mississippi was placed under military control. In Dec. 1869, the state passed a new constitution granting black people the right to vote. On Feb. 23, 1870, Mississippi was allowed to return to the Union. For a time, blacks in the state voted and some held government positions.

The people suffered much privation, and the land underwent great devastation; by 1865 the state was in economic ruin. For 25 years following the Civil War, Mississippi's former slaves and their former owners grappled with the political, social, and economic consequences of emancipation. In Dec. 1869, the state passed a new constitution granting black people the right to vote. On Feb. 23, 1870, Mississippi was allowed to return to the Union. For a time, blacks in the state voted and some held government positions. The white minority could not or would not accept a biracial society based on equality of opportunity. And in 1890, a new state constitution was written that took away voting rights from most black people. Segregation began within schools, buses, and many public places. Groups like the Ku Klux Klan were organized to terrorize black people.

Although many suffered from poverty following the war, the early 1900s brought great progress in industry, agriculture, and education in Mississippi. The construction of railroads allowed access to forests in southeast Mississippi, creating a boom in the lumber industry. State projects to drain many of the swampy areas in Mississippi provided more suitable land for farming. An illiteracy commission, established in 1916, started education programs for adults who could not read or write.

During the 1920s, several legislative actions established a state commission of education, a state library commission, and a highway-building program. In 1927, a huge flood on the Mississippi River totaled over $204 million in damage and left thousands homeless. Congress then established the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers responsible for controlling floods on the Mississippi River.

During the Great Depression (1929-1939), thousands lost their farms in Mississippi. The price of cotton fell from twenty cents a pound in the 1920s, to five cents by 1931. State legislature created a program called Balancing Agriculture With Industry (BAWI) in 1936. These laws freed new businesses from paying certain taxes and provided bond money to build factories for new industries. The discovery of petroleum at Tinsley in 1939 and Vaughan in 1940 also helped the economy in Mississippi.

During World War II (1939-1945), several war plants opened in Mississippi. As machines replaced farm workers, industrial development was encouraged during the 1960s. In 1963, a huge oil refinery opened in Pascagoula. The following year, the Mississippi Research and Development Center was established. The center encourages new industries to come to the state, and helps those already established to expand. By 1966, more Mississippians worked in manufacturing than in agriculture.

Like other states, Mississippi had severe racial problems. But in 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that segregated public schools to be unconstitutional. James Meredith was the first black student to enroll in the University of Mississippi in 1962. The fight for civil rights was long and often met with violence. Two demonstrators were killed in 1962. Medgar Evers of the NAACP was shot and killed in 1963 and three civil rights workers were murdered near Philadelphia, Miss in 1964. Other schools, restaurants, and public places throughout the state did not begin integration until 1964. In 1969, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered an immediate end to all segregated public schools.

Since the 1980s, Mississippians have turned to industries other than agriculture. Catfish farming has boomed in Delta, one of the country's poorest regions. Furniture production has become a great Mississippi industry. In 1990, state lawmakers voted to allow dockside gambling, now found on the Gulf Coast and the Mississippi River. More than 30,000 now work in this new industry. Money spent in tourism doubled between 1990 and 1994. However, many high school and college graduates leave Mississippi to find better jobs. State leaders are still striving to attract industries that require greater skills and pay higher wages.


  • In 1963 the University of Mississippi Medical Center accomplished the world's first human lung transplant and, on January 23, 1964, Dr. James D. Hardy performed the world's first heart transplant surgery.
  • Borden's Condensed Milk was first canned in Liberty.
  • In 1902 while on a hunting expedition in Sharkey County, President Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt refused to shoot a captured bear. This act resulted in the creation of the world-famous teddy bear.
  • The world's largest shrimp is on display at the Old Spanish Fort Museum in Pascagoula.
  • The first bottle of Dr. Tichener's Antiseptic was produced in Liberty.
  • The world's largest cactus plantation is in Edwards.
  • Elvis Presley was born in Tupelo, on January 8, 1935.
  • H.T. Merrill from Luka performed the world's first round trip trans-oceanic flight in 1928.
  • In 1884 the concept of selling shoes in boxes in pairs (right foot and left foot) occurred in Vicksburg at Phil Gilbert's Shoe Parlor on Washington Street.
  • The first female rural mail carrier in the United States was Mrs. Mamie Thomas. She delivered mail by buggy to the area southeast of Vicksburg in 1914.
  • Historic Jefferson College, circa 1802, was the first preparatory school established in the Mississippi Territory. Located in Washington the educational institution is also the site where tradition holds Aaron Burr was arraigned for treason in 1807, beneath what became known as Burr Oaks.
  • William Grant Still of Woodville composed the Afro-American Symphony.
  • Burnita Shelton Mathews of Hazelhurst was the first woman federal judge in the United States and served in Washington, the District of Columbia.
  • Dr. Emmette F. Izard of Hazelhurst developed the first fibers of rayon. They became known as the first real synthetics.
  • The first nuclear submarine built in the south was produced in Mississippi.
  • In 1871 Liberty became the first town in the United States to erect a Confederate monument.
  • Mississippi was the first state in the nation to have a planned system of junior colleges.
  • Leontyne Price of Laurel performed with the New York Metropolitan Opera.
  • Mississippi is the birthplace of the Order of the Eastern Star.
  • The rarest of North American cranes lives in Mississippi in the grassy savannas of Jackson County. The Mississippi Sandhill Crane stands about 44 inches tall and has an eight-foot wingspan.
  • Guy Bush of Tupelo was one of the most valuable players with the Chicago Cubs. He was on the 1929 World Series team and Babe Ruth hit his last home run off a ball pitched by Bush.
  • S.B. Sam Vick of Oakland played for the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. He was the only man ever to pinch hit for the baseball great Babe Ruth.
  • Blazon-Flexible Flyer, Inc. in West Point is proclaimed to make the very best snow sled in the United States, which became an American tradition. It is called The Flexible Flyer.
  • Friendship Cemetery in Columbus has been called Where Flowers Healed a Nation. It was April 25, 1866, and the Civil War had been over for a year when the ladies of Columbus decided to decorate both Confederate and Union soldiers' graves with beautiful bouquets and garlands of flowers. As a direct result of this kind gesture, Americans celebrate what has come to be called Memorial Day each year, an annual observance of recognition of war dead.
  • The largest Bible-binding plant in the nation is Norris Bookbinding Company in Greenwood.
  • After the Civil War, famed hat maker John B. Stetson learned and practiced his trade at Dunn's Falls near Meridian.
  • In 1834 Captain Isaac Ross, whose plantation was in Lorman, freed his slaves and arranged for them to be sent to Africa, where they founded the country of Liberia. Recently, representatives of Liberia visited Lorman and placed a stone at the Captain's gravesite in honor of his kindness.
  • The world's largest cottonwood tree plantation is in Issaquena County.
  • David Harrison of Columbus owns the patent on the Soft Toilet Seat. Over 1,000,000 are sold every year.
  • The first football player on a Wheaties box was Walter Payton of Columbia.
  • Greenwood is the home of Cotton Row, which is the second largest cotton exchange in the nation and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • The oldest game in America is stickball. The Choctaw Indians of Mississippi played the game. Demonstrations can be seen every July at the Choctaw Indian Fair in Philadelphia.
  • The International Checkers Hall of Fame is in Petal.
  • Natchez was settled by the French in 1716 and is the oldest permanent settlement on the Mississippi River. Natchez once had 500 millionaires, more than any other city except New York City.
  • Natchez now has more than 500 buildings that are on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • The Natchez Trace Parkway, named an All American Road by the federal government, extends from Natchez to just south of Nashville, Tennessee. The Trace began as an Indian trail more than 8,000 years ago.
  • The Vicksburg National Cemetery is the second largest national cemetery in the country. Arlington National Cemetery is the largest.
  • D'Lo was featured in "Life Magazine" for sending proportionally more men to serve in World War II than any other town of its size. 38 percent of the men who lived in D'Lo served.
  • Mississippi suffered the largest percentage of people who died in the Civil War of any Confederate State. 78,000 Mississippians entered the Confederate military. By the end of the war 59,000 were either dead or wounded.
  • Pine Sol was invented in 1929 by Jackson native Harry A. Cole, Sr.
  • The world's largest pecan nursery is in Lumberton.
  • Greenwood is called the Cotton Capital of the World.
  • Belzoni is called the Catfish Capital of the World.
  • Vardaman is called the Sweet Potato Capital of the World.
  • Greenville is called the Towboat Capital of the World.
  • Root beer was invented in Biloxi in 1898 by Edward Adolf Barq, Sr.
  • Of Mississippi's 82 counties, Yazoo County is the largest and Alcorn County is the smallest.
  • The Mississippi River is the largest in the United States and is the nation's chief waterway. Its nickname is Old Man River.
  • At Vicksburg, the United States Army Corps of Engineers Waterways Experiment Station is the world's largest hydraulic research laboratory.
  • At Pascagoula the Ingalls Division of Litton Industries uses leading-edge construction techniques to build the United State Navy's most sophisticated ships. At the state's eight research centers programs are under way in acoustics, polymer science, electricity, microelectronics, hydrodynamics, and oceanography.

External links

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Mississippi United States MS US