Long home to the Chickasaw, Choctaw and Natchez American Indians tribes, the first Spanish explorer to reach the area was Hernando De Soto, who discovered the mouth of the Mississippi River in the mid-1500's.
Mississippi lands were claimed for France in 1682 by Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle. In fact, after sailing down the Mississippi River he claimed all of the land within the Mississippi Valley, naming it Louisiana, in honor of his king, Louis XIV.
Soon French settlements were established along the Gulf of Mexico coastline from New Orleans to Mobile, including several in Mississippi. As word spread north about the value of this new territory, settlers by the thousands began to arrive.
When uninvited visitors entered their lands, the Natchez Indians were the first to rebel, but were over-matched by the military firepower of French forces.
When the French and Indian War ended in 1763, the French sway over Mississippi lands was over, the British took control, and turf battles with the Spanish continued for another 20 years, or so.
In 1783 the British (by treaty) gave their West Florida lands to Spain. Ironically, in 1783, the Treaty of Paris formally ended the American Revolutionary War, and in defeat, all British controlled lands (including most of Mississippi) were ceded to the U.S.
The Spanish kept their remaining lands for just a few short years as pressure from the fast-growing U.S. mounted, and by 1812, the United States controlled the entire Mississippi Territory, included all of Alabama, Mississippi and West Florida lands.
In 1817, the U.S. Congress divided this large territory into the State of Mississippi and the Alabama Territory. One year later Mississippi officially became the 20th U.S. State, and Alabama followed in 1819.
By the mid 1820's the majority Indian homelands were gone, and with the remaining Indian tribes forcibly moved to Oklahoma, tracts of fertile land were now available and large cotton plantations soon flourished.
Riches gained from the endless toil of black slaves in the south (over 400,000 in Mississippi alone) was a hot-button issue between North and South, and that debate was at the forefront of America's Civil War (1861-1865).
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