Made up mostly of small towns and rural communities, Mississippi may not be the first place that comes to mind when thinking of huge events. However, that way of thinking couldn’t be more wrong. Throughout the years, some of the state’s most inconspicuous locales have been the site of some epic events. Hosting everything from inventions to historic milestones, here are 11 unassuming places in Mississippi that changed the course of history.
1. The Crossroads of Highway 61 and 49
Located in Clarksdale, the crossroads of Highway 61 and 49 are considered the official "birthplace of the blues" – and that’s because it’s where Robert Johnson allegedly sold his soul to the devil in exchange for musical talent. It’s been said that Johnson’s unique style inspired a wide variety of artists, indirectly molding many genres of music.
2. Bryant’s Grocery
In August of 1955, 14 year old Emmett Till was visiting family in Money, MS. During his visit, he was reportedly seen flirting with a white woman – an act that ultimately resulted in his brutal slaying. While horrendous, the murder of the young teenager galvanized the emerging Civil Rights Movement.
3. The Gillsburg Community
On October 20, 1977, this unincorporated community in Amite County was the site of the infamous Lynyrd Skynyrd plane crash. The twin engine plane that was transporting the group crash landed in a swamp, killing three band members, a tour manager, and both pilots immediately.
4. Biloxi Artesian Bottling Works
In 1897, Edward Barq moved to Biloxi, MS. The following year he opened Biloxi Artesian Bottling Works and began producing what would come to be known as "Barq’s Root Beer."
5. Biedenharn Candy Company
In the summer of 1894, this Vicksburg based candy company did something no else at the time had done – bottled Coca Cola. When Asa Griggs Candler, the owner of the Coca Cola Company, was sent a case of the bottled soda he took no action, as he wanted to focus on fountain sales. Five years later, however, the Coca Cola Company entered into its first bottling agreement, and the rest is history.
On January 8, 1935, the city of Tupelo forever cemented its claim to fame when Elvis Presley was born there. Though he only lived in the city until the age of 13, Elvis’ early years in Tupelo definitely had a hand in molding the performer he became. In fact, it was in Tupelo, he was first exposed to gospel music, which influenced his musical style throughout his career.
7. Jones County
Shortly after the Siege of Vicksburg, Jones County resident Newton Knight formed the Knight Company and waged his own war on the Confederate Army. Refusing to fight a war they didn’t believe in, Knight and his company of 125 men evaded capture by the Confederate Army by utilizing guerilla war tactics. In 1864, the Natchez Courier reported that the Knight Company sent Union General Sherman a "declaration of independence." Although there is no official documentation, a lot has been written about whether the "Free State of Jones" actually seceded or not.
8. The Sawmill Community of Richburg
On July 8, 1889, this tiny community hosted the last heavyweight championship held under London Prize Ring Rules bare knuckles. Since bare knuckle boxing was illegal at the time, the location was kept somewhat of a secret. Nearly 3,000 people, who travelled by train under the "cover of night," attended the 75-round match, which is still considered one of the best boxing matches of all time.
9. Port Gibson
The 1863 Battle of Port Gibson was an essential part of the Vicksburg Campaign as well as a turning point for the Confederacy. The Union’s victory meant that occupying Vicksburg was a viable option, and it also signified the Confederate’s inability to defend the Mississippi River. Resulting in over 200 deaths of both Union and Confederate soldiers, the Port Gibson Battlefield is an important reminder of the sacrifices made during war.
Leland may be a small town, but it’s home to one of the country’s biggest celebrities – Kermit the Frog. Though Jim Henson was born in Greenville, his lovable green creation was born in this small town. And to commemorate America’s most beloved muppet, the Chamber of Commerce has an exhibit dedicated to Henson, Kermit the Frog, and the rest of the gang.
11. Prospect Hill Plantation
In 1834, Captain Isaac Ross freed slaves from his Lorman plantation and made arrangements for them to return to Africa. It was this group of slaves who founded Liberia.
Mississippi has a rich history, which means this least could easily go on and on. What unassuming place would you add? Tell us in the comments section.