DeSoto led his conquering armies through DeSoto County nearly 478 years ago, stopping just long enough to discover one of the world’s largest inland waterways, the mighty Mississippi River.

DeSoto’s Conquistadors arrived on the bluffs overlooking the legendary Quiz Quiz village, home to the Woodland and Mississippian people, ancestors of the native Chickasaw people who once thrived in its plentiful wooded forests, high ridges, rolling hills and river bottomlands.

Carved from the North Mississippi wilderness nearly 183 years ago, DeSoto County was incorporated in 1836. Chickasaw Indian lands were ceded to the new settlers through the Chickasaw Cession of 1832.

History still abounds in DeSoto … wherever you chance to look.

Standing in the center of town and keeping watch over the historic DeSoto County seat for more than 90 years, the iconic Hernando Water Tower graced the cover of the Grammy-nominated North Mississippi AllStars self-titled “Hernando” album cover.

The 1925 water tower, rusted in places but its shiny steel skin glinting in the North Mississippi sun, joins two other Mississippi landmarks, the federal-style DeSoto County Courthouse, which dates from the 1940s and the Italianate 1860s-style Felix LaBauve home.

On the outskirts of Hernando is one of DeSoto County’s oldest residences, the 1849 Robertson-Yates Home where the wounded were brought following the June 1863 Civil War battle just down the road.

No less than three Civil War generals, including Nathan Bedford Forrest, Patton Anderson and General James Chalmers, called Hernando home.

The DeSoto County seat of Hernando has been celebrated as “Mississippi’s Healthiest Hometown” and is among the fastest-growing cities in the county.

Long before then, it was known as the “Marriage Capital of the World,” long before Las Vegas for its “quickie weddings.” Rocker Jerry Lee Lewis married his “child bride” here and Charlie Pride tied the knot inside the historic 1940 federal-style courthouse as well.

Other historic brick buildings, like the former Fong Brothers Grocery Store, now SoCo Apparel, join new landmarks like the city’s clock tower on the courthouse lawn, site of the ever-popular Hernando Farmer’s Market.

The Benjamin Wesson home, the residence of the city’s first mayor, is nestled in the heart of Olive Branch’s thriving Old Towne area. The handsome home is the site of many wedding receptions and corporate lunches, just footsteps away from quaint shops and stores.

In historic Horn Lake near the former railroad depot which took blues greats north to cities like Chicago and St. Louis, a Mississippi Blues Trail marker is dedicated to Big Walter “Shakey” Horton, one of the world’s foremost blues harmonica players.

A rejuvenation has taken place in the historic North Delta town of Walls, once a popular tourist destination for nearby Horn Lake, the horseshoe-shaped lake.

Many homes in the downtown part have been rehabilitated and restored to their former glory. New stores and businesses have sprung up in older areas of town. Four subdivisions ring the historic downtown area. Upscale homes dot the kudzu-cloaked bluffs above.

Lynda Austin and her later successor Patti Denison have made history as the county’s first elected women mayors.

The City of Southaven, the state’s third-largest city, continues to recreate itself.

Established in April of 1980, Southaven grew from a small circle of homes on the city’s northern edge to a sprawling city of nearly 55,000 and home to factories, stores and distribution centers.

The historic Snowden House anchors the sprawling Snowden Grove Park named in honor of a prominent Memphis family.

John Grisham’s former law office fronts Stateline Road, adjacent to the State Farm Insurance Agency, owned by Barry Bouchillon.

Whether you are a newcomer or a long-timer, please come and visit the DeSoto County Museum, located at 111 E. Commerce Street in Hernando, to learn more about your community’s rich and fascinating history.

ROBERT LONG   is the Director and Head Curator of the Desoto County Museum.

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