Friday, December 10, 2010

Not To Be Missed

Magnet # 413:  Mississippi Magnolias

Material:  Resin

Purchased By:  Me

On this day in 1817, Mississippi became the 20th state.  The first European to reach what would become Mississippi was Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto, who came looking for gold in 1540.  When he found none, he moved on, not interested in building any settlements there.  It was the French who would take true interest in the area.  Their explorer Robert Cavelier sailed down the Mississippi River from the Great Lakes region, all the way to the Gulf of Mexico, claiming the Mississippi River Valley for his nation and naming it Louisiana after Louis XIV.  And Pierre le Moyne  first developed the area in 1699, building Fort Maurepas on the coast at what would become Ocean Springs.  Within twenty years, Fort Rosalie had been constructed at the future site of Natchez and it became the center for trade in the area.  Thanks in part to its success, the British developed an interest in the area and were able to gain it with the Treaty of Paris at the end of the French and Indian War.  Of course, the newly formed United States was able to gain most of the territory at the end of the Revolutionary War.  And in 1810, when President James Madison asserted that the nearby West Florida region was part of the Louisiana Purchase and annexed it, the nation finished acquiring all of the land that would make up Mississippi.  Part of that land went to the Mississippi Territory, which had been founded in in 1798, and in less than a decade, it had achieved statehood.  Thanks to its lucrative cotton industry and slave labor, industry in the new state thrived.  In fact, Mississippi was the fifth-richest state in the nation before the Civil War.  But it struggled financially for many years after the conflict before the gambling industry and casinos help revitalize its economy.  Now, life seems to be looking a bit more positive for the state and its citizens.

Considering that it's located right next to my homestate of Alabama, I have spent a fair amount of time in the Magnolia State over the years.  But I have to admit, most of it's been passing through the state on the way to see family in Texas.  We didn't spend a whole lot of time vacationing in Mississippi when I was growing up, with the exception of when we met up with my Mom's side of the family there.  Natchez is about halfway between Montgomery and Dallas, so it was nice to have it as a gathering point.  We toured some of the lovely Antebellum homes for which it's known and stayed at a hotel overlooking the Natchez Bluff Park.  My Dad also spent some time in the state capitol, Jackson, when he was growing up and sometimes we stopped there on the way to Texas to eat at a favorite restaurant of his, the Old Tyme Deli, but it's no longer in business.  Once, we even drove by the home he once lived in there.  We've also frequented fast food restaurants in Meridian just across the Alabama border as a rest stop during our travels.  And when we were heading up to Memphis over the years, we'd pass through the northern part of the state, past places like Tupelo, where Elvis was born.  Still, I've been lacking on Mississippi magnets over the years, which was particularly odd given it's pretty close to home.  Luckily, I was able to obtain some earlier this year, when I made a brief stop at Biloxi on my way back from New Orleans and Baton Rogue.  I saw Jefferson Davis' final home there, Beauvior, and hit a few souvenir shops before continuing on my way.  And I was really pleased to find this magnet.  Not only does it have the magnolia blooms for which the state is famous, it also has the intertwined S's I've seen almost all of my life on Mississippi road maps, signs, license plates, and all other sorts of publications.  It certainly brings me back, and it's about time I post a Mississippi magnet here.  And I'm definitely not done traveling to the Magnolia State.  I have yet to tour the state capital in Jackson, and I'd like to visit Natchez again as an adult.  Really, there's plenty to be seen in this state and it's a shame I haven't spent more time there, but that should be pretty easy to fix.

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