Hattiesburg Area Historical Society...preserving local history and heritage since 1970
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Hattiesburg Area History

The Beginning

William H. Hardy
William H. Hardy

Captain William Harris Hardy, founder of Hattiesburg, was born at Collerine, Alabama on February 12, 1837. He received training in education, law, and surveying. During the War Between the States, he served as Captain of Company H of the 16th Mississippi Regiment.

In 1868, he conceived the idea of building a railroad from Meridian to New Orleans. The preliminary survey was completed in 1872, and the next several years were spent in promotion and organization.

Captain Hardy, a widower with six children, met Hattie Lott on a visit to Mobile in April of 1873. He was so impressed with Hattie's kindness of heart that he cultivated the acquaintance, and they married on December 1, 1873. The couple was extremely happy and made a home in Meridian, Mississippi, where their two sons and a daughter were born.

Hattie L. Hardy
Hattie L. Hardy

In August of 1880, during a survey trip from Meridian to New Orleans, Captain Hardy stopped to rest and have lunch. This lunch spot was on the north side or Gordon Creek near a large oak tree and several hickory trees. This location is now in the downtown section of Hattiesburg, across the street from the United States Post Office.

While resting, Captain Hardy spread a map of Mississippi on the ground and studied the surveyed line of the New Orleans and North Eastern Railroad. He was familiar with the harbor at Gulfport and believed that a railroad from the Gulf Coast to Jackson would be beneficial and would help develop southern Mississippi.

He drew a line through the virgin pine forest and intersected the New Orleans and North Eastern Railroad where the city of Hattiesburg is now located. Hardy decided to locate a train station here and named it "Hattiesburg" in honor of his second wife, Hattie Lott Hardy.

Tragically, Hattie died in 1895 without ever visiting the city named for her. To make a fresh start, a grief-stricken and now Senator Hardy moved his law practice to Hattiesburg. In 1900, he married Ida Viola May. Three boys were born to the couple while they lived in Hattiesburg. The now Judge Hardy died on February 17, 1917, at 80 years of age. He is buried in Gulfport, terminus of the Gulf & Ship Island Railroad, which he founded in 1887.

A collection of William H. and Hattie L. Hardy papers is housed in the McCain Library Archives at The University of Southern Mississippi.

Historical Timeline

Index: 1880's 1890's 1900's 1910's 1920's 1930's 1940's 1950's 1960's 1970's 1980's 1990's 2000's 2010's 2020's

Mr. & Mrs. Tatum
Mr. & Mrs. W.S.F. Tatum
  • 1880's
    • 1883
      • The first train runs from Meridian to Hattiesburg.
    • 1884
      • Hattiesburg is incorporated as a city.
      • The New Orleans & North Eastern Railroad track across Lake Ponchartrain is completed.
    • 1888
      • A yellow fever scare leads to an ordinance barring all trains from stopping inside the city limits; the quarantine is lifted later that year.
    • 1889
      • The Sullivan-Kilrain bare-knuckle boxing match is held in the Hattiesburg area near Richton.
  • 1890's
    • 1893
      • A massive fire destroys many downtown businesses; new building codes requiring brick construction follow.
      • W. S. F. Tatum opens his lumber business in Hattiesburg.
    • 1897
      • The Hattiesburg Progress newspaper (later renamed the Hattiesburg American) is founded.
    • 1899
      • Governor A. J. McLaurin proclaims Hattiesburg a "city" (population, approximately 3,600).
Mr. & Mrs. Kamper
Mr. & Mrs. John Kamper
  • 1900's
    • 1900
      • The first Gulf & Ship Island train runs from Jackson through Hattiesburg to Gulfport on July 4th.
    • 1903
      • Hattiesburg High School graduates its first class (3 students).
      • R. H. Hemphill purchases the first automobile in Hattiesburg.
      • The passage of city ordinance #183 creates the Hattiesburg Police Department; B. M. Moffet is police chief at the time.
      • Work begins on Kamper Park (the land originally deeded to the UDC by businessman John Kamper).
      • The Gulf & Ship Island Hospital (later to become Methodist Hospital) goes into service.
    • 1904
      • Hattiesburg's Volunteer Fire Department transitions to a paid, full-time branch of government with A. F. Potter as its first fire chief.
    • 1906
      • The city experiences a small pox epidemic.
    • 1908
      • Forrest County (named after Nathan Bedford Forrest) is created out of a portion of Perry County with Hattiesburg as the new county seat.
  • 1910's
    • 1910
      • The first PTA in Mississippi is established at Hattiesburg's Walthall School.
    • 1911
      • Mississippi Women's College (now William Carey University) opens its doors.
    • 1912
      • Mississippi Normal College (now The University of Southern Mississippi) is established.
      • R. R. Swittenburg wins a Commercial Club contest for coining Hattiesburg's nickname, "The Hub City."
      • The original downtown "Hub Sign" on the Ross (now The America) Building is activated on Thanksgiving Day.
    • 1915
      • The Hattiesburg Fire Department welcomes its first motorized fire truck.
    • 1917
      • General Leonard Wood arrives to begin plans for Camp Shelby (named in honor of Revolutionary War hero Isaac Shelby).
Trolley
Conductor William Buschman
& trolley car (c)1932
  • 1920's
    • 1922
      • The Forrest County Courthouse is built.
      • Hercules Powder Company begins its Hattiesburg operations.
    • 1924
      • WFOR (the oldest continuously operated radio station in Mississippi) begins broadcasting.
      • The Mystic Krewe of Zeus holds its first annual Carnival Ball.
    • 1925
      • Citizens vote to replace Hattiesburg's trolley car system with buses.
    • 1929
      • The Saenger Theater, the city's first air-conditioned building, opens on Thanksgiving day.
  • 1930's
    • 1930
      • The original library on Main Street (now the Hattiesburg Cultural Center) opens its doors.
      • The Forrest County Health Department is established.
      • The municipal airport (now The Bobby Chain Airport) is dedicated during this period.
    • 1932
      • The historic downtown post office on Pine Street is constructed.
      • Ethel Baylis becomes the first woman elected to a Forrest County office.
    • 1933
      • Reliance Manufacturing opens its garment production operations.
    • 1935
      • The Cleveland Indians and the New York Giants play exhibition games at the (then) Kamper Park ball field.
    • 1936
      • The Mississippi Jook Band performs in Hattiesburg and makes what is considered by many to be the first rock-and-roll recording.
    • 1939
      • Paul B. Johnson, Sr. of Hattiesburg is elected governor.
  • 1940's
    • 1940
      • Rural electric cooperatives bring "Light to the Forest."
    • 1941
      • Pearl Harbor is attacked; war-time rules are invoked at Camp Shelby.
    • 1942
      • Hattiesburg opens-up to soldiers training at Camp Shelby.
    • 1943
      • A fire at the central telephone office knocks out Hattiesburg and Camp Shelby service; most repairs are completed over a 10 day period.
    • 1945
      • Jack Lucas, a resident of Hattiesburg, becomes the youngest Medal of Honor recipient in the 20th century for his service in World War II.
Forrest General Hospital in 1952
Forrest General Hospital
in 1952
  • 1950's
    • 1952
      • Forrest General Hospital admits its first patient.
    • 1953
      • Dial telephones come to Hattiesburg.
      • March of Dimes fundraising activities are held in the city.
    • 1955
      • A dedication ceremony for The Boy Scouts' Camp Tiak is held at the Fruitland Park facility.
    • 1956
      • Hattiesburg's first television station, WDAM, named for its founding owner, David A. Matison, begins broadcasting.
  • 1960's
    • 1963
      • Hattiesburg native Paul B. Johnson, Jr. is elected governor.
      • Shelby State Park is restored and its name changed to Paul B. Johnson State Park.
      • Lake Shelby, originally built by German WWII prisoners housed at nearby Camp Shelby, is renamed Lake Geiger.
    • 1964
      • Freedom Summer in Hattiesburg sees groundbreaking civil rights activities.
    • 1965
      • Superintendent S. H. Blair announces initial integration plans for Hub City schools.
    • 1968
      • Lance Corporal Roy Wheat from neighboring Jones County becomes the only Mississipian to be awarded the Medal of Honor for his sacrifice in the Vietnam War.
    • 1969
      • Hurricane Camille hits Mississippi.
Evelyn Gandy
Evelyn Gandy
  • 1970's
    • 1970
      • The Hattiesburg Area Historical Society sponsors its first annual pilgrimage of historic homes.
    • 1973
      • The first annual Juneteenth celebration is held in Hattiesburg.
    • 1974
      • The neighboring city of Petal incorporates.
      • The Hattiesburg-Laurel Regional Airport (PIB) begins operations.
      • The Cloverleaf Mall holds its grand opening.
    • 1975
      • Hattiesburg native Evelyn Gandy is the first woman elected as Mississippi's Lieutenant Governor.
    • 1976
      • The Hattiesburg Historic Neighborhood holds its first annual candlelight celebration of the Christmas season.
  • 1980's
    • 1980
      • The new Methodist Hospital in west Hattiesburg opens its doors.
    • 1981
      • The Greater Hattiesburg Park is officially renamed the W. P. "Smokie" Harrington Baseball Park.
    • 1983
      • D.R.E.A.M. of Hattiesburg is chartered in a grass-roots effort to develop a community-based drug prevention program.
    • 1984
      • Veterans Memorial Park opens.
      • The ADP (Area Development Partnership) sponsors its first annual Hub Fest.
    • 1985
      • The former USO building on Front Street (now a Community Center) is named in honor of Jackie Dole Sherrill, the city's first female police officer who was killed in the line of duty.
Oseola McCarty
Oseola McCarty
  • 1990's
    • 1991
      • Hattiesburg wins the top City Livability Award at the U. S. Conference of Mayors.
    • 1993
      • Hattiesburg sees its first downtown mural (a tree mosaic on the side of the city engineering department) during this period.
    • 1994
      • Turtle Creek Mall holds its grand opening.
      • A prehistoric archeological site with artifacts dating back to 4,000 B. C. is discovered on the Marshall Durbin Company property on James Street.
    • 1995
      • Oseola McCarty gains national recognition through her philantrophy to The University of Southern Mississippi.
      • The Tatum Park Recreational Complex opens.
    • 1996
      • The new library on Hardy Street opens.
      • Town Square Park in downtown is dedicated.
      • Olympic teams from Kenya and Malawi train in Hattiesburg.
    • 1997
      • Methodist Hospital is renamed Wesley Medical Center (known today as Merit Health Wesley).
      • A dedication ceremony is held for Veterans Memorial Drive.
      • Hattiesburg declares May 15th as Police Memorial Day.
    • 1998
      • The Lake Terrace Convention Center opens.
      • The HPD becomes the first law enforcement agency in Mississippi to become nationally accredited through the CALEA.
    • 1999
      • The J. L. Cartlidge Forrest County Multi-Purpose Center hosts its first rodeo.
      • HyettPalmer consultants provide a blueprint for revitalizing downtown Hattiesburg.
      • The Rails-to-Trails district (built on abandoned railroad tracks from Hattiesburg to Prentiss) is renamed The Longleaf Trace.
Restored depot
Restored depot
  • 2000's
    • 2000
      • The newly restored Saenger Theater reopens.
      • The Forrest County Tax Collector's building is dedicated to the memory of Korean War pilot Jesse L. Brown.
      • Hattiesburg joins the Mississippi Main Street Association as part of the city's downtown revitalization efforts.
    • 2001
      • The Armed Forces Museum dedication is held at Camp Shelby.
      • Johnny Dupree becomes the city's first black mayor.
    • 2002
      • The groundbreaking ceremony for Hattiesburg's 9-11 monument is held.
    • 2003
      • Plans are announced for the Freedom Summer Driving Trail (commerating Freedom Summer '64 civil rights activities).
    • 2004
      • The historic downtown post office is named in honor of Hattiesburg native and Korean War hero Henry Commiskey.
    • 2005
      • Hurricane Katrina hits Mississippi.
      • The first Historic Mobile Street Renaissance Festival is held.
    • 2006
      • The Coca Cola Bottling Company in Hattiesburg celebrates 100 years.
      • A ribbon-cutting ceremony officially opens the first portion of the Evelyn Gandy Parkway in Petal.
    • 2007
      • A gala opening is held for the newly restored downtown Historic Depot Intermodal Center.
      • The International Checker Hall of Fame in the city of Petal is destroyed by fire.
      • Historic Hattiesburg High on Main Street is severely damaged by fire.
      • The ADP announces "The Festival of Swans," an outdoor art project consisting of brightly painted swan sculptures; many can still be seen throughout the city.
    • 2008
      • Renovation begins on the former USO Club on 6th Street (to become the African-American Military History Museum).
      • The Mississippi Blues Trail "Roots of Rock & Roll" historic marker is unveiled on Mobile Street.
    • 2009
      • The first Festival South (the city's annual arts celebration) is held downtown.
Gold Star Monument
Gold Star Families
Monument at Camp Shelby
  • 2010's
    • 2010
      • The Beverly Drive-in, a local historical landmark, is destroyed by fire.
    • 2011
      • Hattiesburg sees its first annual Caerus Mardi Gras parade.
    • 2012
      • Forrest County's new jail is named in honor of (then) Sheriff Billy McGee.
      • Hattiesburg sees its first Halloween night parade.
    • 2013
      • Hattiesburg Clinic celebrates 50 years of service.
    • 2016
      • The results of a tourism contest are announced: Hattiesburg residents are "Hattiesburgers." :)
      • City leaders propose an overpass to relieve downtown railroad congestion.
    • 2017
      • Groundbreaking is held for "The District" at Midtown.
    • 2018
      • The Gold Star Families Memorial at Camp Shelby becomes a reality.
      • A new three-sided replica of the original "Hub Sign" ushers in the city's first annual New Year's Eve Celebration on Front Street.
    • 2019
      • Lawmakers announce funding allocation for a new bridge between Hattiesburg and Petal.
      • The Twin Forks Rising Community Development Corporation (redevelopment of Ward 2) holds a ribbon cutting ceremony.
  • 2020's
    • 2020
      • A statue of civil rights leader Vernon Dahmer is unveiled outside the Forrest County Courthouse.
      • Forrest County and Hattiesburg officials declare the response to COVID-19 a local emergency.
    • 2021
      • Preservation Crossing, an age-restricted apartment facility, moves into the renovated Hattiesburg High building on Main Street.
      • Peggy Sealy is the first woman officially named as the city's chief of police.
    • 2022
      • The Hattiesburg Police Department holds a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its new Public Safety Complex built on the original downtown site of Methodist Hospital.
      • The Mississippi Heritage Trust recognizes Mobile Street's Smith Drug Co. restoration project.
    • 2023
      • City Hall is 100 years old.