Hill Country History is dedicated to preserving the history, culture and architecture of the North Mississippi Hill Country region. During prehistoric times, north Mississippi was occupied by the “Mound-Builders”, native tribes who left behind several ancient burial mounds, including the Beer Creek and Pharr Mounds. Sometime around 1300 CE, the Chickasaw Native American tribe migrated from the western United States, across the Mississippi River, and settled in the north Mississippi hills.
The Chickasaws first encountered Europeans during Hernando de Soto’s Spanish expedition in 1540. By 1640, the Chickasaws were trading with early British settlers. For the next hundred years, the Chickasaws were allies with the British against the French. After the Revolutionary War, the area that would become north Mississippi was ceded by the British to the newly-formed United States. American settlers slowly began migrating west of the original Thirteen Colonies into the wide-open lands of West Tennessee and north Mississippi, and the Federal government began discussing relocation with the Chickasaw Indians. Talks between the United States and the Chickasaws culminated in the Treaty of Pontotoc, in 1832. The Treaty of Pontotoc sold all of the Chickasaw lands of northern Mississippi to the Federal government, which began to map out this new “Chickasaw Cession”, creating ten new counties in north Mississippi.
As new white settlers began streaming into the newly-opened lands, communities began to form. These communities included Hernando (Desoto County), Holly Springs (Marshall County), Pontotoc (Pontotoc County), Oxford (Lafayette County), Ripley (Tippah County), and Jacinto (Tishomingo County), all founded between 1836 and 1837. For the next twenty years, the Mississippi Hill Country remained prosperous, supported by cotton and other crops and an increasingly-large enslaved labor force.
During the Civil War, North Mississippi was occupied by union forces for much of the War. Corinth saw one of the greatest sieges in modern history, and Holly Springs was the site of a cavalry raid led by Confederate Earl Van Dorn in 1862. After the Civil War, the Hill Country endured a decade of Reconstruction, during which several new counties in north Mississippi, including Tate, Benton, Union, Alcorn and Prentiss, were formed out of the original Cession counties. Soon after the end of Reconstruction, The Yellow Fever ravaged much of the area, especially Holly Springs and Batesville.
The Hill Country recovered from Reconstruction and the Yellow Fever, largely due to the prosperity brought by the Railroad which came through north Mississippi in the 1880s, resulting in many gorgeous Queen Anne and Italianate homes springing up throughout the region. The early 20th century saw even more prosperity for whites, while African-Americans suffered through decades of Jim Crow laws. Noted African-American activist Ida B. Wells-Barnett was born and raised in Holly Springs, and the region was a hotbed of the early Civil Rights Movement. Millions more African-Americans left the area in the Great Migration of the 1920s and 1930s.
Culturally, the Mississippi Hill Country has produced internationally-known figures, including authors William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams and John Grisham and singers Elvis Presley and Tammy Wynette.
The Mississippi Hills National Heritage Area, created by Congress in 2009, defines the Hill Country as the area bounded by the north and east boundaries of the State, Interstate 55 to the west, and Highway 14 to the south, covering 19 full counties and 11 partial counties. Hill Country History takes a more restrictive view of the Hill Country, limiting the area to the original Chickasaw Cession Counties (Desoto, Panola, Lafayette, Marshall, Tippah, Tishomingo, Itawamba, Pontotoc, Yalobusha and Chickasaw) and their progeny counties formed during Reconstruction (Tate, Benton, Union, Prentiss, Alcorn, Lee and Calhoun). The blog will also cover Monroe County, which was formed before the Chickasaw Cession but received large amounts of land from the Cession.