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First decades of the 19th century


cotton plantations
Cotton plantations

During the first decades of the 19th century, thousands of farmers migrated westward in search of land for growing cotton. The population of the state grew from 7,600 in 1800 to 75,448 in 1820. Then settlement accelerated, and the state’s population rose to 136,621 by 1830. For the most part, the migrants settled in southern and west-central Mississippi. Northern Mississippi—two-thirds of the state’s total area—remained in the possession of the Choctaw and Chickasaw peoples.

By 1830 much of the good virgin land east of the Mississippi River was occupied by settlers, and the state legislature and courts put increasing pressure on the Choctaw and Chickasaw to give up their lands. Within the next three years the Choctaw and Chickasaw ceded their lands to the federal government and agreed to leave the state. Subsequently, settlers in unprecedented numbers migrated to Mississippi by river and road to settle on these vast newly ceded lands. By 1860 the state’s population rose to 791,305, of which about 45 percent were white settlers and the remainder black slaves, on whom the cotton economy depended. The state’s cotton production increased greatly. By 1860 Mississippi was the leading cotton-producing state in the nation, and cotton was the “king” of Mississippi’s agricultural products.

Although cotton was planted in almost every part of Mississippi, it was generally on the richest lands, such as those in the Black Belt or the Bluff Hills, that the large cotton plantations were concentrated. The rich alluvial lands of the Yazoo Basin, however, were initially shunned by settlers because of the danger of floods from the nearby Mississippi River. Then, in the 1850s, the state undertook an extensive program to build levees along the river, and these lands too were brought into cotton production. "Mississippi" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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