…. Far more than in other state, is it in Mississippi, that the real Old South Character has remains apparent till today. Once the state was the very heart of plantation society, Mississippi remains the cotton producing leader of all the states that a given time were relying on an economy that was based on merely one crop….Consequently, Mississippi has not shown the effects yet of the kind of urbanization that has so drastically changed the neighboring states’ character….
Mississippi is the state where the boll weevil (a beetle) changed everything about their way of life. Up to the Civil War, the Mississippi planters lived the good life of plantation culture with their mansions and little ‘Cotton Kingdoms’. This life, though, was based on slave labor.
The state was suffering immensely during the Civil War, and in the brutal Reconstruction period, Mississippi suffered even more. One day, Mississippi housed large Indian populations, but brutal force made the Indians (respected for their modern and civil lifestyle) abandon their properties to travel westward over the horrendous ‘Trail of Tears’.
Mississippi has a truly well-deserved cultural reputation as it is the native land of several of America’s best known poets, authors, playwrights, and composers. The state has kept much of its Old South Character, and understands how to combine historic grandeur and rural character with cosmopolitan life.
Quick Facts about Mississippi
– First European settlement in Ocean Springs (southern Mississippi Valley).
– The state had an early and very good reforestation program.
– Natchez boasts over 500 recognized War mansions.
– Biloxi is the city where no less that eight flags ruled.
– Mississippi was the first state to celebrate ‘Decoration Day’ (now Memorial Day).
– In Columbus, the first U.S. state university for women was founded.
– Pioneer in state-run junior colleges system.
Mississippi Brief history
Hernando de Soto, together with his expedition, started to explore the region in 1540. They were entering the Mississippi area close to where is now Columbus, and his group of explorers could have been the first Europeans who laid eyes on the Mississippi River. The expedition is known for the cruelty and brutality they inflicted on Indians, and upon Hernando de Soto’s death, his followers feared the Indians so much that they secretly slipped his dead body into the Mississippi River at night near what is present-day Natchez.
Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, was claiming the entire Mississippi region in 1682 for the French King, and in 1699, French settlers (in particular Pierre Le Moyne, Sieur d’Iberville) founded Fort Maurepas, the first European settlement in the Mississippi Valley area at a site that’s now Ocean Springs.
King Louis XV sent John Law to the Pascagoula area in 1720 together with 200 troops, and though more settlers arrived, the ‘Mississippi Bubble’ of John Law burst, resulting almost in France’s financial collapse. In 1736, following many years of Indian attacks, French forces led by Sieur de Bienville got totally defeated by the Indian Chickasaw, which hastened the French to leave North America.
After the French had withdrawn in 1763, British rule was enforced and their headquarters was set up in what is now Natchez, and the greater portion of the Mississippi region became part of British West Florida. At the time of the American Revolution, Spanish troops started to attack the region, and by the year 1781 they had already captured British West Florida.
In 1798, following a lengthy dispute with the Spanish over ownership rights of the area, Spain finally left the upper portions, so Congress could create the Mississippi Territory, which included a large part of what now is Alabama. The territory’s capital was Natchez. In 1817, on December 10th, Mississippi became the 20th state in the Union. The last Indian tribes were robbed of their properties in 1832, and as they were forced to leave their lands, the Indians needed to travel westward in despair across the ‘Trail of Tears’.
Mississippi’s great plantations were heavily depending on slave labor, and the state decided to leave the Union in 1861, on January 9th. During the Civil War there was the critical Battle of Vicksburg which siege lasted 47 days and came to an end in 1863, on July 4th.
The success of the Union divided the Confederacy in two parts so the entire Mississippi area became open to the forces of the Union. Many Civil War fighting was raging through the state, to come to a conclusion at Tupelo (the Battle of Tupelo, early 1865). Mississippi lost in total around 60,000 soldiers during the Civil War.
In 1870, the state of Mississippi was admitted again to the Union, but the horrifying Reconstruction hardships went on until around 1875. In 1878, a horrible yellow fever epidemic hit Mississippi causing thousands of residents to loose their lives.
James K. Vardaman was elected Mississippi governor in 1904, and through the support of smaller farmers, he ended the ‘planter class’ control of the plantations. Some 66,000 Mississippi residents served in the armed forces in World War I and Camp Shelby had become a principal U.S. training center. In 1927, the state was hit hard again by the worst Mississippi floods the state had ever seen.