What do you know about the county where you live?

The Sun Herald (Sunday) - - Your Life - BY KAT BERG­ERON

If I were to of­fer $10 as a re­ward to tell me, off the top of your head, the date of the for­ma­tion for the county you live in, would you be $10 richer? I sus­pect few peo­ple would.

Do you think we should know more about the places we call home? Do such his­tor­i­cal tid­bits en­rich our sense of be­long­ing to a re­gion? If you an­swered yes, read on.

If you an­swered no, I’ll un­der­stand if you forgo this re­peat mini Mis­sis­sippi Coast his­tory les­son about the state’s short and stubby pan­han­dle. To­day that land com­prises six coun­ties, in­clud­ing three bor­der­ing the Gulf of Mex­ico and three im­mersed in the inland piney­woods.

To make this les­son eas­ily di­gestible, we’ll gloss over the ear­lier his­to­ries of how Euro­pean na­tions once claimed much of this land and how wars, treaties and an­nex­a­tions brought Mis­sis­sippi un­der the wings of the United States. We be­came a state in De­cem­ber 1817, al­though the names of two of our coun­ties pre­date that.

These six pan­han­dle coun­ties to­day have a pop­u­la­tion of about 492,000 liv­ing on 3,507 square miles of land, but the peo­ple num­bers may be tweaked by an up­com­ing na­tional cen­sus. Here’s a bit on each:


This south­west­ern coastal county, named af­ter Dec­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence signer John Han­cock, formed Dec. 14, 1812, as part of Mis­sis­sippi Ter­ri­tory. To­day 47,053 peo­ple live on 474 square miles of land. The home own­er­ship rate is 72.89.


This east­ern­most coast- al county was also formed Dec. 14, 1812, and named for An­drew Jack­son, al­though mod­ern de­bate still sur­faces about that as­sump­tion. Jack­son was revered for open­ing up the Deep South to set­tle­ment but his treat­ment of Na­tive Amer­i­cans is crit­i­cized un­der a mod­ern mi­cro­scope. To­day, 142,152 peo­ple live in 723 square miles. Home own­er­ship rate is 70.2.


This cen­tral coastal county was formed Feb. 5, 1841, carved out of Han- cock County. It was named af­ter then pres­i­dent-elect Wil­liam Henry Har­ri­son, who died two months af­ter tak­ing of­fice. To­day, 205,027 peo­ple live on 574 square miles. Home own­er­ship rate is 56 per­cent.


This west­ern­most pinewoods county was also carved from Han­cock and south­ern Mar­ion coun­ties. Its name re­flects the im­por­tant river that sep­a­rates Mis­sis­sippi from Louisiana. To­day, 55,270 peo­ple live on 911 square miles. Home own­er­ship rate is 76.8


This east­ern­most piney­woods county formed Feb. 22, 1890, and was carved from Har­ri­son, Jack­son and Greene coun­ties. It’s named for James Zachariah Ge­orge, a key fig­ure in the 1890 state con­sti­tu­tional con­ven­tion, and he was a U.S. sen­a­tor and state supreme court jus­tice. To­day 24,094 peo­ple live on 479 square miles. Home own­er­ship is the high­est of all at 85.9 per­cent rate.


This cen­tral piney­woods county, formed Jan. 6, 1916, (that’s 103 years ago to­day) was carved from Har­ri­son County, with pop­u­lar rea­son­ing be­ing that it took too long to travel to the county seat near the beach. John Mar­shall Stone was state sen­a­tor and post-Re­con­struc­tion gov­er­nor. To­day, 18,112 peo­ple live on 446 square miles. Home own­er­ship rate is 77.6 per­cent.

Each county has fas­ci­nat­ing tales of how it came to be, but I’m keep­ing my prom­ise to be a his­tory min­i­mal­ist to­day.

Kat Berg­eron, a vet­eran fea­ture writer spe­cial­iz­ing in Gulf Coast his­tory and sense of place, is re­tired from the Sun Her­ald. She writes the Mis­sis­sippi Coast Chron­i­cles col­umn as a free­lance cor­re­spon­dent. Reach her at Berg­[email protected] or at South­ern Pos­sum Tales, P.O. Box 33, Bar­boursville, VA 22923.

WILLIS VAIL, 1904 From the Paul Jermyn Col­lec­tion

In 1904, J.E. North Lum­ber Co. was in Har­ri­son County, but later it would be in newly formed Stone County.

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