Jones County, Mississippi

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Jones County, Mississippi
Jones County Mississippi Courthouse.jpg
Jones County courthouse in Ellisville
Map of Mississippi highlighting Jones County
Location in the U.S. state of Mississippi
Map of the United States highlighting Mississippi
Mississippi's location in the U.S.
Founded 1826
Named for John Paul Jones
Seat Laurel and Ellisville
Largest city Laurel
 • Total 700 sq mi (1,813 km2)
 • Land 695 sq mi (1,800 km2)
 • Water 4.9 sq mi (13 km2), 0.7%
 • (2010) 67,761
 • Density 98/sq mi (38/km²)
Congressional district 4th
Time zone Central: UTC-6/-5

Jones County is a county located in the southeast portion of the U.S. state of Mississippi. As of the 2010 census, the population was 67,761.[1] Its county seats are Laurel and Ellisville.[2]

Jones County is part of the Laurel, MS Micropolitan Statistical Area.


Less than a decade after Mississippi became the country's 20th state, settlers organized this area of 700 sq mi (1,800 km2) of pine forests and swamps for a new county in 1826. They named it Jones County after John Paul Jones, the early American Naval hero who rose from humble Scottish origin to military success during the American Revolution.[3]

Ellisville, the county seat, was named for Powhatan Ellis, a member of the Mississippi Legislature who claimed to be a direct descendant of Pocahontas. During the economic hard times in the 1830s and 1840s, there was an exodus of population from Southeast Mississippi, both to western Mississippi and Louisiana in regions opened to white settlement after Indian Removal, and to Texas. The slogan "GTT" ("Gone to Texas") became widely used.[citation needed]

Jones County was in an area of mostly yeomen farmers and lumbermen, as the pine forests, swamp and soil were not easily cultivated for cotton. In 1860, the majority of white residents were not slaveholders. Slaves made up only 12% of the total population in Jones County in 1860, the smallest percentage of any county in the state.[4]

Civil War years[edit]

Soon after the election of Abraham Lincoln as United States president in November 1860, slave-owning planters led Mississippi to join South Carolina and secede from the Union in January 1861. These were the two states with the largest holdings of slaves. Other Southern states would follow suit.

As Mississippi debated the secession question, the inhabitants of Jones County voted overwhelmingly for the anti-secessionist John Hathorne Powell, Jr. In comparison to the pro-secessionist J.M. Bayliss, who received 24 votes, Powell received 374.[5] But, at the Secession Convention, Powell voted for secession. Legend has it that, for his vote, he was burned in effigy in Ellisville, the county seat.[5]

The reality is more complicated. The only choices possible at the Secession Convention were voting for immediate secession on the one hand, or for a more cautious, co-operative approach to secession among several Southern states on the other. Powell almost certainly voted for the more conservative approach to secession—the only position available to him that was consistent with the anti-secessionist views of his constituency.[5]

Mississippi’s Declaration of Secession reflected planters’ interests in its first sentence: “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery…” Jones County had mostly yeoman farmers and cattle herders, who were not slaveholders. They had little use for a war over a “state’s right” to maintain the institution of slavery.[4]

During the American Civil War, Jones County and neighboring counties, especially Covington County to its west, became a haven for Confederate deserters.[4] A number of factors prompted desertions. The lack of food and supplies was demoralizing, while reports of poor conditions back home made the men fear for their families' survival. Small farms deteriorated from neglect as women and children struggled to keep them up. Their limited stores and livestock were often taken by the Confederate tax-in-kind agents, who took excessive amounts of yeoman farmers’ goods. Many residents and soldiers were also outraged over the Confederate government's passing of the Twenty Negro Law, allowing wealthy plantation owners to avoid military service if they owned twenty slaves or more.[4] The Confederate government figured such planters were needed at home to keep the slaves in line and keep up cotton production, which still produced revenue for the government.

Free State of Jones[edit]

"Free State of Jones" redirects here. For the film, see Free State of Jones (film).

On October 13, 1863, a band of deserters from Jones County and adjacent counties organized to protect the area from Confederate authorities and the crippling tax collections.[6] The company, led by Newton Knight, fought a recorded 14 skirmishes with Confederate forces. They also raided Paulding, capturing five wagonloads of corn that had been collected for tax from area farms, which they distributed back among the local population.[7] The company harassed Confederate officials. Deaths believed to be at their hands were reported in 1864 among numerous tax collectors, conscript officers, and other officials.[4]

The governor was informed by the Jones County court clerk that deserters had made tax collections in the county impossible.[8] By the spring of 1864, the Knight company had taken effective control from the Confederate government in the county.[4] The followers of Knight raised an American flag over the courthouse in Ellisville, and sent a letter to Union General William T. Sherman declaring Jones County's independence from the Confederacy.[4] In July 1864, the Natchez Courier reported that Jones County had seceded from the Confederacy.[9]

Scholars have disputed whether the county truly seceded, with some concluding it did not. While there have been numerous attempts to study Knight and his followers, the lack of documentation during and after the war has made him an elusive figure. The rebellion in Jones County has been variously characterized as consisting of local skirmishes to being a full-fledged war of independence. It assumed legendary status among some county residents and Civil War historians, culminating in the release of a 2016 feature film, Free State of Jones.[10][11][12] The film is credited as "based on the books The Free State of Jones by Victoria E. Bynum and The State of Jones by Sally Jenkins and John Stauffer".[11]

Post-war years[edit]

After the end of the war, Knight joined the Republican Party and was active during Reconstruction. He returned to live in Jasper County, in Soso, Mississippi. He separated from his first wife and in 1875 married Rachel, a former slave, and they had several mixed-race children together. In addition, some of her grown children and his from his first marriage married in turn, with their families forming the basis of a mixed-race community. Before 1870 and after 1880, interracial marriages were officially illegal, but numerous relationships occurred across the state.

Jones County had a history typical of most Mississippi counties after the war, with whites attempting to restore white supremacy by law and intimidation. The KKK and other insurgent groups, such as the Red Shirts, attacked and oppressed freedmen, with the latter group rising in power from 1874. As freedmen were a small minority, white Democrats regained power in the county, and later in the state legislature, bringing an end to Reconstruction. The legislature passed racial segregation laws and in 1890, the state passed a new constitution that effectively disfranchised most blacks, a situation lasting into the late 1960s.


The economy of Jones County is still primarily rural and based on resources - timber and agriculture.

Representation in other media[edit]


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 700 square miles (1,800 km2), of which 695 square miles (1,800 km2) is land and 4.9 square miles (13 km2) (0.7%) is water.[13]

Adjacent counties[edit]

National protected area[edit]


Historical population
Census Pop.
1830 1,471
1840 1,258 −14.5%
1850 2,164 72.0%
1860 3,323 53.6%
1870 3,313 −0.3%
1880 3,828 15.5%
1890 8,333 117.7%
1900 17,846 114.2%
1910 29,885 67.5%
1920 32,919 10.2%
1930 41,492 26.0%
1940 49,227 18.6%
1950 57,235 16.3%
1960 59,542 4.0%
1970 56,357 −5.3%
1980 61,912 9.9%
1990 62,031 0.2%
2000 64,958 4.7%
2010 67,761 4.3%
Est. 2015 68,215 [14] 0.7%
U.S. Decennial Census[15]
1790-1960[16] 1900-1990[17]
1990-2000[18] 2010-2013[1]

As of the census[19] of 2000, there were 64,958 people, 24,275 households, and 17,550 families residing in the county. The population density was 94 people per square mile (36/km²). There were 26,921 housing units at an average density of 39 per square mile (15/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 71.11% White, 26.34% Black or African American, 0.39% Native American, 0.27% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 1.41% from other races, and 0.48% from two or more races. 1.96% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 24,275 households out of which 32.60% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 53.00% were married couples living together, 15.10% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.70% were non-families. 24.40% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.00% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.61 and the average family size was 3.08.

In the county the population was spread out with 25.80% under the age of 18, 10.50% from 18 to 24, 27.30% from 25 to 44, 22.20% from 45 to 64, and 14.20% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 93.70 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.10 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $28,786, and the median income for a family was $34,465. Males had a median income of $28,273 versus $19,405 for females. The per capita income for the county was $14,820. About 14.30% of families and 19.80% of the population were below the poverty line, including 25.00% of those under age 18 and 16.80% of those age 65 or over.


According to the Economic Development Authority of Jones County,[20] the top employers in the county are:

# Employer # of Employees
1 Howard Industries 3,700
2 South Central Regional Medical Center 1,837
3 Ellisville State School 1,459
4 Jones County School District 1,162
5 Sanderson Farms 889
6 Wayne Farms 715
7 Laurel School District 600
8 Walmart 585
9 Masonite 556
10 Jones County 510
11 Sawmill Square Mall 450
12 Jones County Junior College 427
13 MS Industries for Individuals with Disabilities 415
14 Southern Hens 390
15 City of Laurel 317
16 Tanner Construction 185
17 Hudson's Salvage Center 153
18 Dunn Roadbuilders 145
19 Morgan Brothers Millwork 137
20 West Quality Food Service 135
21 Thermo-Kool 135
22 Laurel Machine & Foundry 131
23 The Essmueller Company 115
24 Howse Implement 113
25 Care Center of Laurel 107

Government and infrastructure[edit]

The Mississippi Department of Mental Health South Mississippi State Hospital Crisis Intervention Center is in Laurel and in Jones County.[21]


Major highways[edit]


Hattiesburg-Laurel Regional Airport is located in an unincorporated area in the county, near Moselle.[22][23]




Census-designated place[edit]

Unincorporated communities[edit]

Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved September 3, 2013. 
  2. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  3. ^ Jones County Mississippi Official Site
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Kelly Jr., James R. "Newton Knight and the Legend of the Free State of Jones". Mississippi History Now. Mississippi Historical Society
  5. ^ a b c Leverett, Rudy H., Legend of the Free State of Jones, University Press of Mississippi, 1984, pp. 38-41.
  6. ^ "The State of Jones," co-authored with Sally Jenkins, New York: Doubleday, 2009, page 378
  7. ^ Leverett (1984), Legend of the Free State of Jones, p. 64.
  8. ^ Leverett (1984), Legend of the Free State of Jones, p. 112
  9. ^ Leverett (1984), Legend of the Free State of Jones, pp. 17-29
  10. ^ Richard Grant, The True Story of the ‘Free State of Jones’, Smithsonian Magazine, March 2016
  11. ^ a b State of Jones (2016), History vs Hollywood (retrieved 26 August 2016)
  12. ^ Mick LaSalle, "Movies to look for (maybe) in 2016". San Francisco Chronicle, December 30, 2015.
  13. ^ "2010 Census Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. August 22, 2012. Retrieved November 4, 2014. 
  14. ^ "County Totals Dataset: Population, Population Change and Estimated Components of Population Change: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2015". Retrieved July 2, 2016. 
  15. ^ "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved November 4, 2014. 
  16. ^ "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved November 4, 2014. 
  17. ^ "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved November 4, 2014. 
  18. ^ "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. Retrieved November 4, 2014. 
  19. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  20. ^ Major Employers
  21. ^ "Contact Us." South Mississippi State Hospital. Retrieved on November 1, 2010. "SMSH Crisis Intervention Center 934 West Drive Laurel, MS 39440."
  22. ^ "Contact." Hattiesburg-Laurel Regional Airport. Retrieved on July 15, 2011. "Our Address Airport Director, 1002 Terminal Dr. Moselle, MS 39459"
  23. ^ "Hattiesburg city, Mississippi." U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved on July 16, 2011.

Further reading[edit]

  • Ballard, Michael B. and Mark R. Cheathem, Of Times and Race: Essays Inspired by John F. Marszalek, Oxford, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2013
  • Bynum, Victoria E. (2002). The Free State of Jones: Mississippi's Longest Civil War. The University of North Carolina Press.
  • Downing, David C. (2007). A South Divided: Portraits of Dissent in the Confederacy. Nashville: Cumberland House. ISBN 978-1-58182-587-9.
  • Galloway, G. Norton., Historian Sixth Army Corps. (November 1886). “A Confederacy within a Confederacy,” Magazine of American History 16.
  • Jenkins, Sally, and John Stauffer (2009). The State of Jones: The Small Southern County that Seceded from the Confederacy, New York: Random House. ISBN 978-0-385-52593-0.
  • Leverett, Rudy H. (1984, 2nd printing 2009). Legend of the Free State of Jones. University Press of Mississippi. ISBN 0-87805-227-5, ISBN 978-0-87805-227-1.
  • McLemore, Richard Aubrey. (1973) History of Mississippi (2 volumes), University & College Press of Mississippi.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 31°37′N 89°10′W / 31.62°N 89.17°W / 31.62; -89.17