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 of 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

  • 1880's
    • 1883
      • The first train runs from Meridian to Hattiesburg.
    • 1884
      • Hattiesburg is incorporated as a city.
      • The NO&NE Railroad track across Lake Ponchartrain is completed.
    • 1888
      • A yellow fever scare leads to an ordinance that temporarily bars all trains from stopping inside the city limits.
    • 1889
      • The Sullivan-Kilrain bare-knuckle boxing match is held in the Hattiesburg area near Richton.
  • 1890's
    • 1893
      • A massive fire that starts at the Southern Hotel 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).
  • 1900's
    • 1900
      • The first G&SI train runs from Jackson through Hattiesburg to Gulfport on July 4th.
    • 1903
      • Hattiesburg High School graduates its first class (3 students).
      • City ordinance #183 creates the HPD; 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 G&SI Hospital (later to become Methodist Hospital) goes into service.
    • 1904
      • Hattiesburg's VFD transitions to a paid, full-time branch of government with A. F. Potter as its first fire chief.
    • 1906
      • R. H. Hemphill owns the only automobile in Hattiesburg.
      • The city experiences a small pox epidemic.
    • 1907
      • The first PTA in Mississippi is established at Hattiesburg's Walthall School.
    • 1908
      • Forrest County is created out of a portion of Perry County with Hattiesburg as the county seat.
      • Hattiesburg sends relief personnel and supplies by train to aid victims of a devastating tornado that hits the neighboring town of Purvis.
  • 1910's
    • 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 Building is activated on Thanksgiving Day.
    • 1915
      • The HFD welcomes its first motorized fire truck.
      • The original YMCA building is constructed.
    • 1917
      • General Leonard Wood arrives to begin plans for construction at Camp Shelby.
      • The Masonic Temple is built.
  • 1920's
    • 1922
      • The Forrest County Courthouse is built.
      • Hercules Powder Company begins its Hattiesburg operations.
    • 1924
      • WFOR (Mississippi's oldest continuously operated radio station) 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.
    • 1945
      • Hattiesburg resident Jack Lucas becomes the youngest Medal of Honor recipient in the 20th century for his service in World War II.
  • 1950's
    • 1950
      • Lake Shelby, originally built by German WWII prisoners housed at nearby Camp Shelby, is renamed Lake Geiger.
    • 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
      • Local Boy Scouts participate in the Camp Tiak dedication held at Fruitland Park.
    • 1956
      • The Hattiesburg area's first television station, WDAM, begins broadcasting.
  • 1960's
    • 1961
      • Hotel Hattiesburg (later renamed the Milner Hotel) is demolished
    • 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.
      • Pre-registration is held for the Optimist Club's new Dixie Boys Baseball Program.
    • 1964
      • Freedom Summer in Hattiesburg sees groundbreaking civil rights activities.
    • 1965
      • Superintendent S. H. Blair announces initial integration plans for Hub City schools.
    • 1968
      • Neighboring Jones County native Roy Wheat becomes the only Mississippian to be awarded the Medal of Honor for his sacrifice in the Vietnam War.
      • The first women to serve on juries in Forrest County are sworn in.
    • 1969
      • Vernon C. Floyd opens Hattiesburg's WORV-AM, Mississippi's first black-owned and operated radio station.
      • Hurricane Camille hits Mississippi.
  • 1970's
    • 1970
      • The HAHS 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.
      • The HHN 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 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 elects its first officials under the Mayor/Council form of government.
  • 1990's
    • 1991
      • Hattiesburg wins the top City Livability Award at the U. S. Conference of Mayors.
    • 1992
      • The city adopts an official flag.
    • 1993
      • The first downtown mural appears during this period.
    • 1994
      • Turtle Creek Mall holds its grand opening.
      • A prehistoric archeological site is discovered on the Marshall Durbin Company property on James Street.
    • 1995
      • Oseola McCarty gains national recognition through her philanthropy to USM.
      • The Tatum Park Recreational Complex opens.
    • 1996
      • The new public 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 receive national CALEA accreditation.
      • Fire destroys the historic Woods Guest House on Mobile Street.
    • 1999
      • The J. L. Cartlidge Forrest County Multi-Purpose Center hosts its first rodeo.
      • Hyett-Palmer consultants provide a blueprint for revitalizing downtown Hattiesburg.
      • The Rails-to-Trails district is renamed The Longleaf Trace.
  • 2000's
    • 2000
      • The newly restored Saenger Theater reopens.
      • The Forrest County Tax Collector's building is dedicated to the memory of Jesse L. Brown.
      • Hattiesburg joins the MMSA as part of the city's downtown revitalization efforts.
    • 2001
      • The new 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.
    • 2004
      • The historic downtown post office is named in honor of 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 neighboring town of Petal is destroyed by fire.
      • Historic Hattiesburg High on Main Street is severely damaged by fire.
    • 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 is held downtown.
  • 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 a railroad overpass to relieve downtown traffic 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 neighboring 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 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 HPD holds a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its new Public Safety Complex built on the original downtown site of Methodist Hospital.
      • The MHT recognizes Mobile Street's Smith Drug Co. restoration project.
    • 2023
      • City Hall is 100 years old.
      • The 10th Circuit Court rules that the 1925 B&HS Engine #300 can remain on display at Hattiesburg's historic train depot.
    • 2024
      • Terri Bell is elected as the first female president of the Forrest County Board of Supervisors.
      • Seregenti Water Park opens at Kamper Park over the Memorial Day weekend.
      • The neighboring city of Petal celebrates its 50th anniversary as an independent municipality.