Jackson: History

City Named for "Old Hickory"

The earliest inhabitants of the Jackson area were of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Native American tribes. During the late eighteenth century, a French-Canadian named Louis LeFleur began operating a trading post on a high bluff along the west bank of the Pearl River. The subsequent settlement became known as LeFleur's Bluff. In October 1821 when the Choctaws ceded their land to the federal government as part of the Treaty of Doak's Stand, LeFleur's Bluff was recommended as the most suitable location for a seat of government. A November 1821 act of the U.S. Congress established Mississippi's state government at this site, renamed Jackson in honor of General Andrew "Old Hickory" Jackson. The city's development cannot be separated from its role as Mississippi's capital.

In little more than a year, a two-story brick statehouse was ready for the historic opening session of the Mississippi state legislature in December 1822. A second capitol, now known as the "Old Capitol," opened in 1840; that edifice, now a historical museum, was in turn replaced. Based on the design of the nation's capitol in Washington, Jackson's architecturally splendid New Capitol has, since its dedication in 1903, been the focus of Mississippi's government activities.

Jackson Rebuilds After Fires

The cotton industry had made Jackson the capital of a wealthy state, but during the Civil War, when Union forces occupied Jackson under the command of General George Sherman, the city suffered three major fires. Because brick chimneys were the most visible structures left standing, Jackson earned the nickname "Chimneyville." The City Hall was spared from burning, probably because it was used as a hospital. Jackson residents had to begin slowly rebuilding after 1865. Railroads radiating out from the city contributed to the growth of transportation and trade in Jackson.

While Jackson's population was less than 8,000 people at the close of the century, by 1905 it had nearly doubled. Natural gas fields near the city were opened in the 1930s, providing inexpensive fuel for factories. Abundant energy coupled with existing transportation systems began to attract industries to the Jackson area. Since the 1960s an active program for economic development has stimulated building of many kinds, spurred industrial expansion, and attracted new residents to Jackson.

Jackson's lingering reputation as a racially divided city changed in 1997, when Harvey Johnson was elected the city's first African American mayor. He won 70 percent of the vote with a campaign that transcended race. Continuing to reinvent itself as a diverse and progressive city, Jackson made a major foray into the automobile industry by enticing Nissan Motor Co. to construct a $930 million automotive plant in 2003.

Historical Information: Mississippi Department of Archives and History, 200 North St., PO Box 571, Jackson, MS 39205-0571; telephone (601)576-6850; email pubinfo@mdah.state.ms.us