Yalobusha County Courthouse in Coffeeville
Location within the U.S. state of Mississippi
Mississippi's location within the U.S.
|Founded||February 21, 1834|
|Seat||Coffeeville and Water Valley|
|Largest city||Water Valley|
|o Total||495 sq mi (1,280 km2)|
|o Land||467 sq mi (1,210 km2)|
|o Water||28 sq mi (70 km2) 5.6%|
| o Estimate |
|o Density||26/sq mi (9.9/km2)|
|Time zone||UTC-6 (Central)|
|o Summer (DST)||UTC-5 (CDT)|
In 1816, General Andrew Jackson ordered the surveying of the Choctaw-Chickasaw Line. The line as surveyed cut almost a perfect diagonal across the area of the present day Yalobusha County. In 1830, the Choctaws ceded their Mississippi lands to the United States in the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek. Two years later, the Chickasaw signed the Treaty of Pontotoc, ceding their lands to the United States. Both tribes moved west to new lands in present-day Oklahoma.
Yalobusha County was officially organized and its first officials elected on February 21, 1834. The first Board of Police (Supervisors) held its first meeting at Hendersonville, then the largest town in the county.
Hendersonville had been established in 1798 by John Henderson, a Presbyterian missionary, who was one of the first white men to settle in the area. Other early settlements included Elliot, Chocchuma, Tuscohoma, Pittsburg, Talahoma, Plummerville, Preston, Pharsalia, Sardinia, and Washington.
At its first meeting the Board of Police solicited donations of land for a county seat. At its second meeting, the Board selected the site, naming it Coffeeville in honor of General John Coffee, who had represented the United States in the treaties with the Choctaws and the Chickasaws. The next meeting was held in the new settlement, and in 1837 the first courthouse was built.
The same year, G. B. Ragsdale, one of the early settlers in the northeastern part of the county, established a stagecoach stand near what is now Water Valley. In 1848 the town of Oakland, Mississippi, was chartered on the site.
Yalobusha County had a population of 12,248 when its first census was taken in 1840. In 1844, a post office was opened at Ragsdale's Stand. Three years later, the post office and stagecoach stand were moved to land owned by William Carr, and the name was changed to Water Valley.
James K. Polk of Tennessee, president of the United States from 1845 to 1849, was prominent early Yalobusha County landowner. He purchased a plantation south of Coffeeville in 1835. After his death in 1849, Polk's wife managed the plantation successfully for a number of years before selling it.
The Illinois Central Railroad built a branch line from Jackson, Tennessee to Grenada, passing through Water Valley and Coffeeville, in the late 1850s. ICRR officials wanted to set up shops in Coffeeville, but could not obtain the property they wanted. Residents of the fledgling town of Water Valley offered to donate the needed land to the railroad; therefore, the shops were located there, and Water Valley quickly became the largest town in the county. It was officially chartered in 1858, and at that time had a population of 300.
In 1860, the county's population was 16,952. Water Valley had become a thriving community with two hotels and several churches. The first church in Water Valley was the Presbyterian Church, built in 1843. Two years later, the First Methodist Church was organized, followed in 1860 by the First Baptist Church of Water Valley.
In 1862, during Union General Ulysses S. Grant's overland attempt to capture Vicksburg, the men in blue captured Water Valley, but were defeated in battle by the Confederates north of Coffeeville, and Grant was forced to withdraw. Grant's men burned most of the town during their retreat.
After the war, the ICRR railroad shops were built at Water Valley, bringing a large influx of new residents to the town. In 1867, Yalobusha County's first manufacturing industry, Yacona Mills, was the world's largest manufacturer of twine.
The Reconstruction Legislature in Mississippi created a number of new counties. Grenada County was formed in 1870 and included nearly two tiers of townships which had formerly been the southern part of Yalobusha County.
In March, 1873, Yalobusha County was divided into two judicial districts, and Water Valley was named the county seat of the second judicial district. Because the town overlapped the Yalobusha-Lafayette County line, the legislature gave Yalobusha a two-mile strip of land from the southern portion of Lafayette County.
The town of Tillatoba was chartered in 1873. In 1880, Yalobusha County's population was 15,649.
In 1889, Coffeeville's second courthouse, which had been built in 1840 at a cost of $25,000, burned down. A new courthouse, also costing $25,000, was built in 1890. That year, the county population was 16,629.
Famed railroad engineer J. L. "Casey" Jones moved from Jackson, Tennessee to Water Valley in 1893. In 1896, four years before his death in a train wreck which brought him fame, Jones moved back to Jackson.
A new courthouse was built in Water Valley in 1896, but 16 years later it was destroyed by an accidental fire The second judicial district offices were moved to the Water Valley City Hall, but within a month, it too burned. The courthouse was restored after the fire, and a third floor was added but never completed.
Between 1926-1928, Yalobusha County suffered two tremendous economic setbacks. In April 1926, Yacona Twine Mill, which had employed approximately 450 people, was destroyed by fire. The following year, the ICRR began moving its railroad shops from Water Valley to Paducah, Kentucky. By the end of 1928, these shops, which had at one time employed over 800 people in Water Valley, were completely closed.
In 1931, the first Watermelon Carnival was held in Water Valley. It was a great success, bringing 20,000 visitors to Water Valley. The Watermelon Carnival became an annual event bringing national recognition to Water Valley, which in 1932 proclaimed itself the "Watermelon Capital of the World". The Watermelon Carnival was suspended at the beginning of World War II in December 1941 and was not resumed until 1980. Since then it has been an annual event the first Saturday in August.
Little industry remained in Yalobusha County after World War II, and by 1950 the county's population was down to 15,191. In the early 1950s the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began work on two flood control reservoirs in and around Yalobusha County, much to the distress of county farmers who lost thousands of acres of fertile bottom land. However, Enid Lake and Grenada Lake, both completed in 1955, are now popular recreation spots for locals and for visitors.
Yalobusha County's population was 12,502 in 1960, and in 1970, it bottomed out at 11,915. The following census showed the county gained some 1,200 new residents, giving it a 1980 population of 13,139.
Since the 1960s, Yalobusha County has attracted new industries to boost its economic growth. At present, its two largest employers have a combined total of more than 2,000 employees, and several other industries provide hundreds of additional jobs for county residents.
Geography According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 495 square miles (1,280 km2), of which 467 square miles (1,210 km2) is land and 28 square miles (73 km2) (5.6%) is water.
As of the census of 2000, there were 13,051 people, 5,260 households, and 3,597 families residing in the county. The population density was 28 people per square mile (11/km²). There were 6,224 housing units at an average density of 13 per square mile (5/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 60.46% White, 38.66% Black or African American, 0.21% Native American, 0.08% Asian, 0.08% Pacific Islander, 0.09% from other races, and 0.41% from two or more races. 0.97% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 5,260 households out of which 29.70% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 46.60% were married couples living together, 17.60% had a female householder with no husband present, and 31.60% were non-families. 28.70% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.00% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.46 and the average family size was 3.02.
In the county, the population was spread out with 25.60% under the age of 18, 8.90% from 18 to 24, 26.10% from 25 to 44, 23.80% from 45 to 64, and 15.70% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 91.30 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 86.20 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $26,315, and the median income for a family was $31,801. Males had a median income of $27,009 versus $20,236 for females. The per capita income for the county was $14,953. About 19.50% of families and 21.80% of the population were below the poverty line, including 30.10% of those under age 18 and 21.20% of those age 65 or over.