Eastport, Mississippi was one of the earliest trading posts and towns founded in northeast Mississippi. After the Chickasaw Cession of 1836, Tishomingo County was founded, covering all of today’s Tishomingo, Prentiss and Alcorn Counties. While the county seat was located at Jacinto, the primary trading post was founded on the west banks of the Tennessee River. This town, called Eastport, was an important crossroads of early settlement days, standing at the Natchez Trace and Tennessee River.
By 1838, the town of Eastport was officially chartered. Soon, steamboats from all points on the Tennessee, Mississippi and Ohio rivers docked at Eastport, carrying goods into and out of the new Chickasaw Cession counties. During the 1840s and early 1850s Eastport was one of the most prosperous towns in north Mississippi. The population rose as high as 2,000, and up to 20 stores and other buildings were located in the town, including a post office, a Masonic Lodge, a Baptist and Methodist church, a hotel, two newspapers and the Eastport Female Institute, a girls school. Up to six large steamboats a day came through Eastport in the 1850s.
Eastport’s decline began in 1857, when the town’s leaders rejected an offer by the Memphis and Charleston Railroad to build a rail-line through the town. Instead, the railway went through the new town of Iuka, just to the west of Eastport. Within a few years, most of Eastport’s population abandoned this town and moved to Iuka, following the lucrative railroad business. In fact, many of the buildings and homes in Eastport were transported 10 miles away to Iuka. By 1860, Iuka was prospering while Eastport was rapidly declining. Due to its position on the Tennessee River, Eastport saw some activity during the Civil War, including an attack by Union gunboats on Confederate trenches in 1862. A drawing of the town (seen above) taken around 1862 shows a small, depleted town, with only a few buildings remaining.
Eastport limped on until the late 1890s, when the last stores and post office closed. In the 1930s, when the nearby Pickwick Dam was built, the original location of Eastport was lost under Pickwick Lake. Today’s Eastport is a small village and marina, with a largely-forgotten grand history.