What do you know about the county where you live?
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.
PEARL RIVER COUNTY
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.
In 1904, J.E. North Lumber Co. was in Harrison County, but later it would be in newly formed Stone County.