Mississippi History Timeline

Important Dates, Events, and Milestones in Mississippi History

Offers a chronological timeline of important dates, events, and milestones in Mississippi history.

Mississippi joined the Union as the 20th state in 1817 and gets its name from the Mississippi River, which forms its western border. Before Europeans began to explore the area now known as Mississippi, three major Native American groups lived there. In the north and the eastern parts of the state were the Chickasaw. The Choctaw lived in the central part of territory and the Natchez lived in the southwest.

16th Century Mississippi History Timeline

1540-1541 - Hernando De Soto, Spanish explorer, becomes the first European to enter Mississippi. Wintering with the Chickasaws and discovers the Mississippi River in the spring.

17th Century Mississippi History Timeline

1673 -

  • Father Jacques Marquette, a French missionary, and fur trapper
  • Louis Joliet begin exploration of the Mississippi River on May 17. They reach Mississippi in July and explore as far south as the mouth of the Arkansas River, near the present location of Rosedale, before turning back.

1680 -

  • Father Louis Hennepin sees the Falls of St. Anthony, future site of Minneapolis.
  • Mississippi Valley in Minnesota is center of Dakota culture.

1682 - Robert Cavalier de La Salle navigates the Mississippi River to its mouth and claims for France all lands drained by the river.

1699 - Pierre LeMoyne, Sieur D'Iberville and brother, Jean Baptiste, Sieur D'Bienville, landed in what is now Ocean Springs. They built Fort Maurepas and established the first capital of the French colony in North American.

18th Century Mississippi History Timeline

1700s -

  • French fur trading era begins.
  • Ojibwe begin moving into area from Great Lakes, gradually pushing Dakota south and west

1716 - Fort Rosalie, the beginning of the town of Natchez, is established.

1718 - French officials establish rules to allow slave imports into the Biloxi area

1719 - First slave shipments arrive; most early slaves are Caribbean Creoles

1724 - Black Code is enacted and slavery is defined in the Mississippi territory

1729 - French settlers at Fort Rosalie are massacred by Natchez Indians in an effort to drive Europeans from Mississippi.

1732 -

  • French retaliate for the massacre at Fort Rosalie.
  • Natchez Indians cease to exist as a tribe.

1736 - Bienville battles Chickasaw Indians in present day Lee County. He is defeated at the battle of Ackia.

1763-1779 - English Dominion - British administer Natchez and Biloxi as the Province of West Florida; British slave traders bring large numbers of Jamaican-born African Caribbeans to the Natchez region

1763 Mississippi, along with all other French territory east of the Mississippi river, passes into English control at the end of the French and Indian War.

1779-1798 - Spanish Dominion - Natchez region is governed by the Spanish, who encourage the slave trade by offering land grant bonuses to settlers who transport slaves

1779 - Bernardo Galvez, governor of Spanish Louisiana, captures Natchez.

1781-1783 Under provisions of the Treaty of Paris, West Florida, which included the southern half of Mississippi, comes under Spanish control. America gains possession of Mississippi north of the 32 degree 28 minute parallel.

1795-1810 - Cotton replaces tobacco as the main cash crop; demand for slave field workers grows substantially

1795 - Pinckney Treaty with Spain transfers the territory along the eastern bank of the Mississippi River to the United States

1797 - Spain yields to America all land in Mississippi north of the 31st parallel, giving America control of Natchez.

1798-1817 - Mississippi Territory

1798 -

  • The Spanish withdrawal from Mississippi is completed.
  • Mississippi is organized as an American territory, and the first territorial governor, Winthrop Sargent, is appointed by President Thomas Jefferson.
  • United States begins to administer the Natchez region; attempts to limit the slave trade are thwarted by white settlers

19th Century Mississippi History Timeline

1801 - Mississippi advances to the second stage of territorial government.

1801-1837 - Various Indian land cessions lead to the removal of all Indians east of the Mississippi by 1837; opening of new lands resulting from each cession creates land rushes and increased demand for additional African American slaves

1801-1802 -

  • A treaty with the Indians allows the Natchez Trace to be developed as a mail route and major road.
  • Mississippi moves its territorial capital from Natchez to Washington, a small town near the Natchez Trace.

1803 -The Louisiana Purchase opens the Mississippi River for Commerce.

1805 - By the Treaty of Mount Dexter, the Choctaws sell 4.5 million acres of land to the US government. The area includes the Piney Woods region of the state.

1805 - Lt. Zebulon Pike explores Upper Mississippi, setting up posts in what will be Minnesota.

1810 - West Florida rebellion gives the United States control of Spanish West Florida.

1812 -

  • The War of 1812 begins.
  • Mississippi gains West Florida territory east of the Pearl River and south to the Gulf of Mexico.

1814-1815 The War of 1812 ends.

1816 - The Treaty of Fort Stephens with the Choctaws opens for settlement the area around the Tombigbee Prairie.

1817 - State of Mississippi

  • December 10 - Act of Congress admitted Mississippi to the Union as the twentieth state.
  • Indian lands in Mississippi were opened to white settlement after six major treaties with the Choctaws and the Chickasaws between 1805 and 1834.
  • The Mississippi territory is divided. The western half becomes the twentieth state, Mississippi.

1818 - Elizabeth Female Academy is founded in Washington, the first girls' school chartered by the state and one of America's first women's colleges.

1819 - Fort Snelling established at confluence of Mississippi and Minnesota rivers, future site of Twin Cities.

1820 - The Treaty of Doak's Stand, the second Choctaw cession.

1821 - Mississippi's first public school is opened in Columbus.

1822 - The state capital is moved to Jackson. Built on the site of Lefleur's Bluff, Jackson was one of the first planned cities in the nation. It was named for Major General Andrew Jackson.

1826 - Mississippi College, then Hampstead Academy, is established.

1830 -

  • The Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek cedes all Choctaw territory east of the Mississippi River to the US Government. Most of the Choctaws leave the state.
  • The Treaty of Pontotoc Creek cedes north Mississippi Indian territory to the US Government. The Chickasaws leave the state for Oklahoma.
  • The Mississippi Constitutional Convention produces the Constitution of 1832.

1832 - Henry Schoolcraft is led to the headwaters of the Mississippi by an Ojibwe elder, Ozawindib.

1837 - First major commercial logging of white pine forests begins.

1838 - Pig's Eye settlement, forerunner of St. Paul, established upstream of Fort Snelling.

1842 - Governor Tilghman M. Tucker becomes the state's first chief executive to occupy the newly completed Governor's Mansion, still used today.

1844 - The University of Mississippi is established.

1848 - State government assumes operation of a private school for the blind. It becomes the Mississippi School for the Blind, the nation's first state-supported institution for the handicapped.

1850 -

  • The US Congress gives the state title to more than 3 million acres of swamp and overflow land. By this time, 310 miles of levees have been built along the banks of the Mississippi River. The Delta is drained, cleared, and becomes available for cultivation.
  • The Compromise of 1850 contains slavery to the South.

1854 -

  • Mississippi Institute for the Deaf and Dumb opens in Jackson.
  • Henry Hughes of Port Gibson publishes Treatise on Sociology, which later earns him the title "first American sociologist."

1861 -

  • January 9 - Mississippi became the second state to secede from the Union. More than 80,000 Mississippians served in the Confederate States Army.
  • July - Ship Island is captured by Union forces. The fall of Ship Island gives Union forces control of the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

1862 -

  • April - Battle of Shiloh gives Union forces control of the Tennessee River and opens the way to attack Corinth, a railroad center vital to the South.
  • May - Corinth falls

1863 - The Emancipation Proclamation abolishes slavery.

1865 - Robert E. Lee surrenders on April 9. The Civil War ends.

1867 - A military government is established in Mississippi after the reconstructed government of Mississippi is rejected by the US Congress.

1868 - Mississippi's first biracial constitutional convention - the "Black and Tan" Convention" - drafts a constitution protecting the rights of freedmen (ex-slaves) and punishing ex-Confederates. It is rejected by the voters.

1869 - Under the leadership of James L. Alcorn, Mississippi ratifies a constitution which does not punish ex-Confederate soldiers.

1870 -

  • February 23 - Mississippi is readmitted to the Union
  • Civil government is gradually restored under Governor Alcorn.
  • The state's first system of public education is established.
  • Senator Hiram R. Revels, a minister from Natchez, becomes the first black senator in US history, and serves as Mississippi's US Senator from January 1870 to March 1871.
  • Using power of river at St. Anthony Falls, milling expands into major Minneapolis industry.

1871 - Alcorn University, now Alcorn State University, is organized.

1877 -

  • The Mississippi State Board of Health is created through the influence of the State Medical Association.
  • Jackson College, a private college for blacks, is established at Natchez.

1878 - Agricultural and Technical School is established. In 1935, it becomes Mississippi State College and in 1958, Mississippi State University.

1884 - The Industrial Institute and College, today's Mississippi University for Women, is established.

1890 -

  • A new state constitution is adopted.
  • 1892 Millsaps College is opened.

20th Century Mississippi History Timeline

1903 - A new capitol building, constructed at a cost of $1 million, is dedicated in Jackson.

1907 -

  • The boll weevil arrives in Mississippi, destroying most of the state's cotton crop.
  • William H. Smith organizes the first of the state's "Com Clubs," which leads to the formation of the 4-H Clubs of America.

1908 - Mississippi adopts statewide prohibition.

1909 - Dr. Laurence C. Jones founds the Piney Woods Country Life School for the vocational and secondary education of black students.

1910 - Mississippi Normal College, now the University of Southern Mississippi, is organized.

1916 -

  • The Mississippi State Sanatorium for Tuberculosis is established.
  • Governor Theodore Bilbo establishes the state's first Highway Commission.

1922 - The State Legislature authorizes a system of junior colleges, the first in the nation.

1923 - Two women, Senator Belle Kearny and Representative Nellie Nugent Somerville, are elected to the State Legislature.

1924 - Delta State Teachers' College, now Delta State University, is established.

1927 - The Mississippi River floods 2,722,000 acres in the Delta. Thousands are left homeless.

1929 - The Depression begins.

1930 - Lock and dam system - to facilitate navigation and control flooding - authorized by Congress.

1932 -

  • The state's first sales tax becomes effective.
  • The Natchez Pilgrimage, a nationally-famous tour of that area's antebellum homes, becomes an annual event.

1936 - State Legislature passes an amendment to balance agriculture with industry (BAWI Program). The Industrial Commission and the Advertising Commission are created to implement the program, which includes adoption of the nation's first industrial revenue bond.

1939 - The state's first oil well is brought in near Tinsley, in Yazoo County.

1940 -

  • Jackson College, having earlier moved from Natchez to Jackson, becomes a state institution.
  • Lock and dam system completed

1941-1945 World War II promotes an industrial boom in the state.

1946 - Mississippi Vocational College, now Mississippi Valley State University, is established.

1954 - Brown vs. Board of Education, the Supreme Court's landmark ruling, lays groundwork for desegregation.

1962 - James Meredith, the first black registrant, enters the University of Mississippi - the beginning of the end to segregation in public universities and colleges.

1963 - Medgar Evers, NAACP field secretary, is assassinated.

1964 -

  • Congress passes the Civil Rights Act, outlawing segregation in public places.
  • Three civil-rights workers are murdered near Philadelphia, Miss

1965 - Governor Paul B. Johnson, Jr., announces that the BAWI Program has achieved its goal.

1968 -

  • Circuit Court judge 0. H. Barnett rules that Choctaw Indians are subject to their tribal laws, a reversal of an 1830's ruling that abolished tribal government.
  • Robert Clark begins serving his first term in the Mississippi House as its first modern-day black member.

1969 -

  • Unitary system of public education is mandated by federal courts, ending segregation in public schools.
  • Hurricane Camille wreaks havoc upon Mississippi's Gulf Coast and areas inland.

1970 - Mississippi Authority for Educational Television is established and begins broadcasting.

1972 -

  • Work begins on the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway.
  • Governor William Waller's administration aggressively involves blacks and women in government through key Cabinet, Board and judicial appointments.

1976 -

  • Governor Cliff Finch calls a special session of the Legislature to restructure the states savings and loan associations, averting a financial crisis.
  • Governor Finch succeeds in reuniting the long- separated Loyalist and Regular factions of the Mississippi Democratic Party.

1978 -

  • US Senator James 0. Eastland retires after 36 years of service.
  • Sixteenth Section Lands and Lieu Lands Act transfers control of Sixteenth Section Lands from county boards of supervisors to local boards of education and requires fair-market rental value on those lands.

1979 -

  • Mattie T. Consent Decree initiates procedures providing equal education for handicapped children in the states public schools.
  • Devastating flood inundates the city of Jackson and many towns south along the Pearl River.

1982 -

  • Governor William F. Winter calls a special legislative session, resulting in adoption of the historic Education Reform Act, pioneering nationwide school reform.
  • Jackson hosts the International Ballet Competition.

1983 - Judge Lenore Prather becomes Mississippi's first woman Supreme Court justice.

1984 -

  • Public Radio in Mississippi goes on the air.
  • Governor Bill Allain implements a massive program of governmental reorganization.

1985 - Justice Reuben Anderson becomes Mississippi's first black Supreme Court Justice.

1986 -

  • The Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway is completed.
  • Yazoo City lawyer Mike Espy is elected to the US House, the first black congressman from Mississippi since Reconstruction.

1987 -

  • Senator John C. Stennis, dean of US Senators serving 40 years, announces he will not seek reelection.
  • Ray Mabus is elected governor, the nation's youngest at 39.

1988 - A voluntary county unit system law is signed by Governor Mabus.

1989 -

  • Fifth District congressman Larkin Smith dies in a plane crash near Hattiesburg.
  • State Senator Gene Taylor of Bay St. Louis wins a spirited special election to succeed him.

1990 - Mississippi National Guard men and women play important roles in Operation Desert Storm for America in the Middle East.

1991 -

  • Mississippi becomes the nation's 21st state to allow its citizens to register to vote by mail.
  • Kirk Fordice becomes Mississippi's first Republican governor since Reconstruction.

1992 - Tornadoes hit Brandon and other parts of Mississippi killing fifteen and injuring about 300 others

1994 - One of the nation's strongest lobbying reform laws is passed by the Mississippi Legislature.

21st Century Mississippi History Timeline

2000 - David Ronald Musgrove becomes Mississippi's sixty-second Governor.

2004 - Voters banned same-sex marriage

2005 -

  • Hurricane Katrina caused severe, catastrophic damage along coast; 238 people died, 67 missing and billions of dollars in damages;
  • ex-Klansman convicted of manslaughter in 1964 killing of three civil rights workers

2006 -

  • Bureau of Economic Analysis estimated lowest per capita personal income of any state, also had nation's lowest living costs;
  • Sex offenders; names and faces placed on roadside billboards

2010 - Tornado struck southeastern Mississippi, killed ten, state of emergency declared in 17 counties

2012 - Before leaving office, Governor Haley Barbour issued full pardons to 208 inmates, including 14 convicted murderers

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