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).
Mississippi (pro slavery) seceded from the Union in 1861 and with eleven other states formed the upstart Confederate States of America, with Jefferson Davis (from Mississippi) as its President.
America's bloody war raged across the deep south, and after Union forces defeated confederates at the Battle of Vicksburg, the north now controlled the Mississippi River. Just two years later, in 1865, the war officially ended and all slaves were freed.
The southern states were placed under military control, and in Mississippi a revised constitution gave all of the former slaves the right to vote. Subsequently, in 1870, that action helped Mississippi rejoin the union.
Ravaged by war, the state's economy was devastated, and though white people and black people now worked together on the surface to solve their new-found economic, political and social problems, long-held racial attitudes and prejudices would soon begin to boil over.
In 1890 Mississippi's constitution was revised once again, but this time it took the right to vote (away) from black people; schools and public places were now segregated, and the Ku Klux Klan and others began provoking racial hatred and violence.
Still poor, but not yet down for the count, the state got a boost in the early 1900's as railroads helped develop its lumber resources, as well as cotton growing, and some mining and textile industries.
Then, in 1929, America's stock market crashed, the Great Depression took a strong hold, and Mississippi would suffer once again. During the Great Depression the price of cotton (almost unbelievably) bottomed-out at 5 cents a pound, thousands lost their farms.
World War II sparked an economic boom of sorts as war-related industries built new plants in Mississippi, and even though unemployment levels began to fall for blacks and whites, and things were looking up, debilitating racial tensions would bring it down again.
In the 1950's and 1960's racial problems peaked across the south; demonstrators were killed, civil rights workers murdered and schools remained totally segregated in Mississippi. After decades of tensions, integration was forced on the entire country in 1969 by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Certainly Mississippi still struggles with some areas of its economy, but with a low tax rate and desirable weather, new companies continue to arrive. In fact, gambling casinos along the Mississippi River and Gulf Coast have generated tens of thousands of new jobs, and tourism is certainly on the rise.
This beautiful, yet undiscovered (by many) "Magnolia State" has so much to offer. And here the causal, laid-back and welcoming southern lifestyle is very hard to resist for residents and visitors alike.