MISSISSIPPI, The Bayou State
Excerpt, Kings Handbook of the USA, Pub 1891

by Henry S. Foote

Copyright 2000 - MSGenWeb - All Rights Reserved
Prepared for Web by Ellen Pack

Early History and Settlement - According to tradition, the ancient inhabitants of Mississippi were the Alabama and Muscogee Indians, fleeing from Cortez in Mexico.  They had hardly become accustomed to the land of their exile when De Soto's army of hidalogoes, men-at-arms and monks entered their territory, and wintered in Pontotoc County.   After suffering the loss of 50 soldiers in a night attack by the Chickasaws, De Soto stormed the Indian town of Alibamo, on the Tallahatchie River, at the close of a hot and murderous battle.   Even after the Spanish army had turned southward from Arkansas, to retreat by boats to the Gulf, the gallant Mississippeans attacked their flotilla all along the river, in fleets of canoes, and inflicted serious losses upon them.

        More than a century passed before Marquette and Joliet (in 1673) visited these shores, passing from Quebec up to the Great Lakes, and descended the Wisconsin and Mississippi.  They were kindly received by the Chickasaws, and abode with them many days.  Nine years later La Salle followed the same route, and visited the Natchez Indians, taking possession of the country in the name of France;  and not long afterward a brave priest established a Catholic mission among the Tunicas.  In 1669, an expedition sent out by Louis XIV composed of 200 French-Canadians, and headed by Iberville and Bienville, occupied Ship and Cat Islands, and erected a fort at Biloxi.  Later, they laid out the town of Rosalie, on the side of the Natchez.  A settlement arose here in 1716;  and 13 years afterward the Indians massacred 200 of its citizens, and carried 500 into captivity.  French and Choctaw armies marched against the Natchez tribe, and in a serious of arduous campaigns entirely destroyed it, killing the bravest warriors, and sending hundreds of others to San Domingo, as slaves.  The Chickasaws dwelt in northern Mississippi, and repulsed two campaigns of Bienville.  In 1736 he led 550 French and Swiss soldiers and 600 Choctaws in boats up the Tombigbee River, to Cotton-Gin Port, and marched against Ackia, where the Chickasaws defeated the allies with terrible loss. At the same time D'Artaguette and 130 French soldiers, and many Miami and Iroquois Indians, advanced from Illinois to Chickasaw Bluffs and Pontotoc, and there suffered defeat at the hands of the Chickasaws, the commander, with his priest and 16 other officers and soldiers, being burned at the stake. In 1752 the Marquis de Vaudreuil was beaten by the same indomitable tribe, and threw his artillery into the river at Cotton-Gin Port, where cannon have since been found.

        Most of Mississippi was included in the vast cession of territory made by France to England by the Treaty of Paris, in 1763, and belonged to the Province of Illinois. The British province of West Florida at first included the region south of 31 degrees; and afterwards the region south of the latitude of the mouth of the Yazoo.  Willing's American detachment suffered a repulse at Natchez in 1778, and the Tory inhabitants rebuilt old Fort Panmure, and held it for England. In 1779 Don Bernardo de Galvez captured Natchez, at the head of a force of Spanish infantry and American volunteers.  After the Spaniards had held Mississippi for three years, Aliton, Lyman, Phelps and other New-England and Carolinian immigrants and royalists bombarded and captured Natchez and then, assailed by the Spaniards, retreated to Savannah in a five-months' march across the country, suffering terrible losses and hard-ships.  When West Florida was confirmed to Spain by treaty, and the United States occupied the eastern side of the Mississippi Valley down thus far, the two powers debated for years as to whether their frontiers lay at 31 degrees, or the Yazoo.   Spain yielded, in 1798, and Congress formed the disputed territory, extending from the Mississippi to the Chattahoochee, into the Mississippi Territory. In 1800 the present State lay in several jurisdictions; from the Gulf to 31 degrees, in Spanish Louisiana; from 31 degrees to the parallel of the Yazoo, in Mississippi Territory; and from the Yazoo northward nearly to Tennessee, in Georgia.  Congress bought out the claims of Georgia in the West in 1802, and added the domain to the South-Carolina cession naming the whole the Territory South of the River Ohio, and in 1804 adding it to Mississippi Territory.

        The region south of 31 degrees  was annexed to the United States by the Louisiana Purchase.  In 1812 this coast-strip became a part of Mississippi Territory, which included also Alabama.  The latter was set apart five years later, leaving Mississippi with her present boundaries.

        The Choctaws of the south and the Chickasaws of the north were deported across the Mississippi River in 1832-4, and then a great influx of immigration occupied their deserted fields.

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Civil War Era - Mississippi was one of the first States to attempt secession, and as early as January, 1861, planted artillery at Vicksburg to command the river.  Late in 1861 United States naval expeditions captured Biloxi and Ship Island. In 1862 Beauregard's Confederates yielded Corinth to Halleck's National troops, after a long siege; and in October Gens. Price and Van Dorn assailed the town with 35,000 Confederates, and were terribly defeated by Rosecrans, sacrificing 9,000 men. At Iuka the two armies lost 1,000 men each. Vicksburg, on its high bluffs, was the key of the Mississippi, and bristled with fortifications and cannon, which foiled Farragut, in June, and Sherman in December, 1862. In April, 1863, Grant crossed the river at Bruinsburg; captured Grand Gulf and Jackson; defeated Pemberton's 25,000 troops at Champion Hills; and on July 4th received the surrender of Vicksburg, with 27,000 soldiers. In this campaign, which practically ended the war in Mississippi, Grant lost 5,000 men, and the Confederates lost 9,000. In 1865 Mississippi repealed the ordinance of secession, and abolished slavery.  It adopted a new con-stitution in 1869; and in 1870, having ratified the 14th and 15th Amendments, its representatives were admitted to Congress. The property valuation was lowered between 1860 and 1870, by the war and the liberation of the slaves, from $607,324,911 to $209,197,345.  It adopted a new constitution on November 1 1890.

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State Name - The Name of the State signifies “Great River.” It is an Algonquin compound word, originally spelled Meche' Sebe' changed by the Chevalier Tonty to Miche' Sepe' by Pere Laval to Michisepe by Pere Labatt to Misisipi and by Mar-quette to Mississippi. The popular names of Mississippi are The Bayou State, and The Border-Eagle State.  The Arms of Mississippi bear an American eagle, with outspread wings, holding arrows in one talon and an olive branch in the other, on a round silver field.

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List of Governors - The Governors of Mississippi have been:

Winthrop Sargent, 1798—1801
Wm. C. C. Claiborne, 1805-5
Robert Williams, 1805—9
David Holmes, 1809—17

David Holmes, 1817—19, and 1825—7
Geo. Poindexter, 1819—21
Walter Leake, 1822—5
Gerard C. Brandon, 1827—31
Abram M. Scott, 1832—3
Hiram G. Runnels, 1834—5
Chas. Lynch, 1835—7
Alex. G. McNutt, 1838—41
Tilghman M. Tucker, 1842—3
Albert G. Brown, 1844—8
Jos. W. Matthews, 1848—49
John A. Quitman, 1850-1
John I. Guion (acting), 1851
Jas. Whitefield (acting), 1851—2
Henry S. Foote, 1852—4
John J. McRae, 1854—7
Wm. McWillie, 1858—9
John J. Pettus, 1860—3
Chas. Clarke, 1864—5
Wm. L. Sharkey (appointed), 1865—6
Benj. G. Humphreys, 1866—70
Adelbert Ames (appointed), 1868—70
Jas. I. Alcorn, 1870
R. C. Powers (acting), 1870—4
Adelbert Ames, 1874—6
John Marshall Stone (acting), 1876—7
John M. Stone, 1878—81
Robert Lowry, 1882—9
John M. Stone, 1890—2

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Topical Description - The Mississippi lowlands cover 7,460 square miles, and the remaining five sixths of the State are divided between rolling and level uplands, with smooth prairies in the northeast. The streams descend gradually, and their valleys are bordered by hum-mocks or second bottoms, while in their lower reaches they often flood the country for miles. The elevation of the uplands varies from 150 to 500 feet, and they fall away very gradually to the south and southwest. The extreme south contains extensive marshes and immeasurable pineries. The Yazoo Delta, a great ellipsoid, 160 miles long, is one of the most fertile districts in the vast valley of the Mississippi. It lies between Vicksburg and Tennessee, covering 6,250 square miles, with swamps and lakes, bayous and prairies and great woods. The cultivated lands lie on the low ridges and along the lakes and rivers, the rest being cane-brakes and cypress swamps. The Delta would lie deep under water every spring but for the levees, protecting part of these wonderfully fertile lands. The two levee districts have efficient boards of commissioners to build and guard the levees, raising the funds by a tax on each bale of cotton.  The gray and white clays of the northeast and the region of long-leaf pine are unproductive; but the rest of Mississippi is of remarkable fertility, and half of it remains unused.

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Gulf Coast Region - The 90 miles of Mississippi coast lies on the Gulf of Mexico, whose waves beat along a range of low islands from ten to 30 miles off-shore.  Five light-houses rise from these lonely sand-bars.  Ship Island is a low bank of white sand, seven miles long, with groves at its eastern end, and on the west the best harbor of the Mississippi coast.  This was the headquarters of the West-Gulf Blockading Squadron and of Gen. Bader’s army, before the capture of Pensacola and New Orleans. Inside the islands lies the placid Mississippi Sound, in places deep enough for large ships, and bordered by low bluffs of shining white sand. The shallow harbors of Mississippi City, Biloxi and Bay St. Louis are mainly occupied by summer-resorts, among the water-oaks and live-oaks, magnolias and cedars, with the solemn pines on one side and the opalescent waters of the Sound on the other.  Pass Christian is a favorite pleasure-resort, with a fine hotel, two hours from New Orleans and three hours from Mobile.  Ancient Biloxi rambles over a sea-fronting line of sand-hills, with shell-roads leading inland; and is a happy haven for sufferers from consumption and asthma.  In the summer great excursion-parties from New Orleans crowd its hotels and restaurants, and go fishing among the shadowy islands off-shore. The oysters and oranges of Biloxi are equally celebrated for their flavors, and the place has canneries for oysters and shrimp. The waters out-side abound in red-fish, black-fish, red snappers, pom-pano, Spanish mackerel, sheepshead, trout, and other food-fish. Ocean Springs, half a mile from the sea-beach, is a resort much visited by the people of New Orleans and Mobile, who can enjoy in the same hour fine salt-water bathing and the medicinal virtues of saline-chalybeate waters. Mississippi also has several popular inland pleasure-resorts. Cooper’s Well is one of the 30 chief American springs described in the Encyclopedia Briticianna, where it ranks as an iron water, beneficial for dyspepsia, dropsy, anaemia and other diseases. Castalian Springs pours out red sulphur waters, strongly charged with carbonic-acid gas and suiphuretted hydrogen. Brown’s Wells, in Copiah County, are noted for their curative properties.

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The Rivers - The Mississippi River flows along the western frontier, held in its channel by immense and costly levees.  The Tennessee River forms the northwestern frontier for ten miles. The chief affluent of the Mississippi from this State is the Yazoo River, formed by the con-fluence of the Yalobusba and Tallahatchie, and flowing 264 miles southwest to the great river, seven miles above Vicksburg.  It is navigable throughout, and has a fleet of ten steamboats, with a yearly commerce of $3,500,000, including over 50,000 bales of cotton.  The Tallahatchie has a yearly commerce of $1, 500,000 in cotton, supporting nine steam-boats, running up 500 miles to Sharkey’s Landing, and sometimes to Coldwater, 165 miles. The Yalobusha has been ascended by steamboats to Grenada. Tchula Lake is a bayou of the Yazoo, 60 miles long, and sending out yearly 14,000 bales of cotton on its four steam-boats. The Big Black River, 400 miles long, enters the Mississippi at Grand Gulf. The Pearl River has had several Government parties at work for many years, from its mouth to Jackson (310 miles) and Edinburgh (440 miles), and the yearly commerce now amounts to $1,600,000 employing eleven steamboats. The Tombigbee River flows off into Alabama, the head of winter-navigation being at Aberdeen, and at favorable seasons steamboats may reach Fulton. Steamers ascend the Noxubee to Macon, 911/2 miles. The Pascagoula River is navigable 85 miles to the confluence of the Leaf and the Chicasaha, for light vessels.

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Geology - The Geology of Mississippi shows a small sub-carboniferous district -in the northeast, succeeded by Cretaceous formations.  Half of the State is Tertiary, lying between The Cretaceous and the Mississippi bottoms, and to within 20 miles of the Gulf.  Although contiguous to the rich metalliferous States of Alabama and Tennessee, Mississippi has no mines, and her limestones and sandstones, marls and fire-clays, have but little economic value.
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Climate - The Climate is almost sub-tropical, especially along the Gulf, where the freezing-point is rarely reached.  The summer season extends from May 1st to October 1st, with the thermometer from 60o to 95o (with a mean of 81o);  but the heat is tempered by variable winds, especially those from the Gulf.  The mean annual temperature of the Gulf towns is 68o;  of Vicksburg, 65o;  of the north, 61o.  The rainfall varies from 65 inches on the seaboard to 60 inches in the north, and mostly occurs in winter and spring.  The death-rate, 13 yearly in 1,000 is less than those of New York, Massachusetts, Virginia, and Pennsylvania.  The mortality of the whites is only 10 in 5,000.  Lung and throat diseases and catarrh never originate here, and are relieved when brought hither.  Diphtheria is almost unknown; and the yellow fever has not entered the State since 1878.

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Agriculture and Forrestry - Agriculture is pre-eminently the industry of Mississippi, whose responsive soil and stimulating climate yield a great profusion and variety of the fruits of the earth. More than four fifths of the working population are in farming pursuits. The great plantations have given way to small farms, the 43,000 estates enumerated in 1860 having become 125,000 in 1890. There are 1,000,000 acres of Government land, mostly in the long-leaf-pine region towards the Gulf; and the railways also have large tracts for sale, at low prices.

        The cotton crop of 1860 reached 1,200,000 bales, but the next five battle-years caused the product to fall off greatly. By 1880 it had reached 960,000 bales, worth $43,000,000, and the State stood foremost of all in this product. It is now second to Texas. One third of this great wealth-making crop is produced by white men’s labor, mainly in the upland counties, where the climate is salubrious; and the rest by negroes, mainly in the Delta; 28,000,000 bushels of cotton-seed are harvested each year.  The corn-crop is about 25,000,000 bushels.  Mississippi also yields yearly 3,500,000 bushels of oats, 2,000,000 of rice, 700,000 of potatoes, and 500,000 of wheat.  Figs, oranges, and Scuppernong grapes grow along the Gulf Coast;  blackberries overrun the wild lands everywhere;  and strawberries and melons and other fruits and vegetables are sent to the cities.  Over 1,200 car-loads have been shipped North on one railway, in a single season.  The planters long waged war on “General
Green,” as they called the grasses; but the un-profitableness of exclusive cotton-culture has turned their attention to pasturage.  The valuable Bermuda grass yields five tons of hay to the acre;  Japan clover has spread over the State with marvelous rapidity;  and crab-grass and broom-sedge also afford very good forage.  The yearly hay-crop is 60,000 tons.  The live stock includes 104,000 mules, 99,000 horses, 1,636,000 hogs, 440,000 cattle, and 200,000 sheep.  Here are the largest dairying interests in the Gulf States;  and many herds of valuable Jersey Short-Horn and Holstein cattle.

        Forests cover three fifths of Mississippi, and include oak, red cedar, black walnut, poplar, cottonwood, tupelo and other trees.  The long-leafed yellow-pine fills most of the country south of the Meridian-Vicksburg line.  The pine-woods alone are valued at $250,000,000.  The cypress and cane of the swamps; the chestnut and walnut, beech and hickory of the bluffs;  the red gum of the Yazoo; all have an economic value.

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Government - The governor and six executive officers are elected for four years. The legislature of 45 four-years’ senators and 133 four-years’ representatives, includes a number of colored members. The three Supreme-Court justices, nine circuit judges and twelve chancellors are appointed by the governor.  No atheist may hold office.  The State House is a dignified old classic building, with a fine portico. The militia, or National Guard, includes three regiments and two battalions of infantry and several light batteries, armed by the National Government.  The valuation of the State increased 50 per cent, between 1880 and 1890.  The State Lunatic Asylum, the Institute for the Deaf and Dumb, the Institute for the Blind, and the Penitentiary are all at Jackson. The East-Mississippi Insane Asylum is at Meridian.  The hospitals at Vicksburg and Natchez receive subsidies from the State.  The Penitentiary is kept only for sick or aged or life-time convicts, the others being leased to outside contractors.  A Board of Control, consisting of the three railroad commissioners, the Governor and Attorney-General, manage the Penitentiary, and lessees are held to strict account for the humane treatment of the convicts.  After 1894, the leasing system will be abolished.

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Education - Education is free to all children between five and 21, and is supervised by a State Board and appointed county superintendents and elected boards of trustees.  The State normal schools are at Holly Springs, and Tougaloo for colored students;  and there are private normal schools.  The University of Mississippi, chartered in 1844 has 250 students, a library of 52,000 volumes (in a handsome new Elizabethan building), and an endowment exceeding $500,000 on which the State pays interest.  There are undergraduate courses in art, science and philosophy;  post-graduate courses; and a law school.  The University is near Oxford, and has three dormitories, an observatory, gymnasium, and other buildings, with a domain of 640 acres.  Students (even of other States) receive tuition free, the expenses of the University being met by the State.  The Agricultural and Mechanical College, for white boys, supported also by the State, and on the military system, is at Starkville;  and with it is connected the United States Experimental Station; about 350 students. The Alcorn Agricultural and Mechanical College, in the southwest, has 240 colored students.  The Industrial Institute and College for the Education of White Girls of Mississippi was opened at Columbus, in 1885 and has upwards of 300 students in the usual branches, besides drawing and wood-carving, stenography and type-writing, book-keeping and telegraphy, printing and dress-making.  The State supports the college and gives free tuition to 300 students.  All the girls are uniformed in navy-blue dresses, sailor-hats and tan gloves.  Mississippi College, founded in 1830, at Clinton, is a Baptist institution.  The colored people send their young men and women to Alcorn College, to Rust University at Holly Springs, and to the normal schools at Holly Springs, Tougaloo and Jackson, and the Meridian Academy.

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Chief Cities and Cemeteries - The National cemeteries in Mississippi are sacred to the Union soldiers who died on her soil, while reclaiming her for the great Republic.  That at Vicksburg contains 16,618 graves; and the Corinth National Cemetery has 5,759.

        Vicksburg has enjoyed a large growth since her mournful siege left her in ruins, and possesses excellent foundries and machine-shops, and receives 60,000 bales of cotton yearly.  Except at high water, steamboats are obliged to land two miles below;  and a railroad runs thence to the city.  Here the Walnut Hills extend along the river for miles, with a height of 500 feet, affording the most picturesque scenery on the lower Mississippi.  Jackson, the capital, is on the Pearl River, in an undulating region of rich yellow loam, prolific in corn and cotton, vegetables and fruits.  Natchez is a pleasant city, with its public buildings and homes in Natchez-on-the-Hill, stretching along a bluff 200 feet high, with a park looking down upon the Mississippi, and its wharves below, in Natchez-under-the-Hill.   The railroads of Mississippi cost $60,000,000 and include several great lines.  Manufactures employ 6,000 persons, with a yearly product of 7,500,000.

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