Know Where You Go: History of Hattiesburg - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

Know Where You Go: History of Hattiesburg

Randy Bear goes exploring. Photo by Whitney Argenbright Randy Bear goes exploring. Photo by Whitney Argenbright
HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) -

For those who live in Hattiesburg, it means more than just a dot on a map. Many see the city as a go-to for surrounding cities because of the luxury of having all the big-city shops with the small town convenience.

Not only do residents have the Turtle Creek mall, The University of Southern Mississippi and over 200 restaurants to choose from, Hattiesburg also has a rich culture that has been forgotten through passing time.

Hattiesburg was initially inhabited by the Choctaw Native Americans until the Treaty of Mount Dexter was signed on Nov. 16, 1805. This treaty outlined limitations to which land that the United States could buy from the Choctaw, and what the compensation would be.

“This treaty shall take effect and become reciprocally obligatory so soon as the same shall have been ratified by the President of the United States, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate of the United States,” the treaty stated.

After the finalization of the treaty, new Americans began moving into the area.

Present day Hattiesburg was first known as Twin Forks and later as Gordonville, after one of its original settlers. William H. Hardy then concocted a plan to use the area for lumber and railroads, according to the Hattiesburg Municipal Records.

According to a monument constructed in Hardy's memory, in 1880 near the banks of Gordon Creek, Hardy, the lawyer, railroad builder, and Confederate veteran, selected the site for Hattiesburg.

Hardy named the city “Hattiesburg” after his wife, Hattie Lott, according to the Hattiesburg Area Historical Society.

Since the establishment of Hattiesburg, the city has been chartered as a town in 1884, and later became a city in 1890.

Being located between the Leaf and Bouie Rivers, Hattiesburg quickly became a hub for local commerce, according to Hattiesburg's official website.

By 1884, Hardy established the New Orleans and Northeastern railroad, according to Hattiesburg History. The railroad ran from Meridian through present day Hattiesburg to New Orleans.

“Before the advent of railroads in the southern portion of the state, Hattiesburg was just a small community located in an area with vast timber resources, natural drainage, and adequate water supplies,” according to the Hattiesburg Municipal Records.

Hattiesburg became the heart of south Mississippi's rolling piney woods, according to Hattiesburg's official website. Its location was the center of important railroad line crossings, and was quickly termed the “Hub City” because of it.

“Hattiesburg is known as the ‘Hub City' because it is located at the intersections of Interstate 59 and U.S. Highways 49, 98 and 11,” Hattiesburg's website states.

By the 20th century, Hattiesburg was booming. The city had major funding coming in from the founding of Camp Shelby, two major hospitals and universities, according to the Hattiesburg Municipal Records.

“Continued steady expansion enabled Hattiesburg to petition the Mississippi Legislature for a city charter in 1890, and as the largest community in the area, it subsequently became county seat for Forrest County when that county was created in 1908 from Perry County,” according to the Hattiesburg Municipal Records.

“With the lumber and transportation industries firmly established by the turn of the century, coupled with fact that a site just south of the city was selected for Camp Shelby, the newly created city of Hattiesburg experienced rapid growth, and by 1930, it had attained a population of 18, 600.”

According to the Hattiesburg Municipal Records, following World War I, lumber mills were closing and the city needed a new way of life to survive. This need for economics and new industry was fulfilled by the Tung Oil Industry.

After the war, Camp Shelby was set to be dismantled, but was later revitalized as a National Guard Camp for the local area, according to the Hattiesburg Municipal Records. Again the city experienced a surge in population, expanding from 21,026 in 1940 to 34,989 in 1960, and 40,829 in 1980.

“Through the years, Hattiesburg has taken the initiative to alter and improve its form of government in order to accommodate growth cycles and the changing needs of industry and the community,” according to Hattiesburg Municipal records.

Today Hattiesburg is home to 47,556 people, two major universities, and two major hospitals, according to the United States Census Bureau.

Though the streets may serve as ground beneath their feet for some, their culture and history are a forever home for many.

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