Oktibbeha County, Mississippi
|• Total||462 sq mi (1,200 km2)|
|• Land||458 sq mi (1,190 km2)|
|• Water||3.7 sq mi (10 km2) 0.8%|
| • Estimate |
|• Density||100/sq mi (40/km2)|
|Time zone||UTC−6 (Central)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC−5 (CDT)|
|Congressional districts||1st, 3rd|
Oktibbeha County is a county located in the east central portion of the U.S. state of Mississippi. As of the 2010 census the population was 47,671. The county seat is Starkville. The county's name is derived from a local Native American word meaning either "bloody water" or "icy creek". The Choctaw had long occupied much of this territory prior to European exploration and United States acquisition.
Oktibbeha County is conterminous with the Starkville, MS Micropolitian Statistical Area. The county is part of the Golden Triangle region of Mississippi, designated for joint regional development strategies.
The name Oktibbeha is a Native American word meaning either "bloody water" (because of a battle fought on the banks) or possibly "icy creek". Indian artifacts more than 2,000 years old have been found near ancient earthwork mounds located just east of Starkville, showing the area has been inhabited at least this long. The artifacts have been used to date the construction of the mounds to the Woodland period, ending about 1000 A.D. The Choctaw people, one of the Five Civilized Tribes of the Southeast, occupied extensive territory in this area for centuries prior to European encounter. European-American settlers named the Indian Mound Campground nearby for the earthwork monuments.
Artifacts in the form of clay pot fragments and artwork dating from that period have been found at the Herman Mound and Village site, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It can be accessed from the Indian Mound Campground. Shortly before the American Revolutionary War period, the area was inhabited by the Choccuma (or Chakchiuma) tribe. They were destroyed at a settlement known as Lyon's Bluff by a rare alliance between the Choctaw and Chickasaw, who were traditional rivals.
The modern early European-American settlement of the area was started formally in the 1830s during the period of Indian Removal initiated by President Andrew Jackson. The Choctaw of Oktibbeha County ceded their claims to land in the area to the United States in the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek in 1830. They were removed to other lands west of the Mississippi River, in Indian Territory, part of what became the state of Oklahoma.
Like the indigenous peoples before them, European Americans were drawn to the Starkville area because of two large natural springs. The Choctaw Agency was set up near what is now Sturgis, first to trade and manage relations with the Choctaw. What was originally a trading post was located on Old Robinson Road, about 1.5 mi (2.4 km) east of the Noxubee River. Later the Choctaw Agency organized the sale of the former Choctaw lands to migrants arriving from other areas of the United States.
A lumber mill was established southwest of town; it produced clapboards, from which the settlement took its original name of Boardtown. In 1835, Boardtown was established as the county seat of Oktibbeha County. Its name was changed to Starkville in honor of Revolutionary War hero General John Stark.
After the Civil War, three groups of the Ku Klux Klan arose in the county: in Starkville, at Choctaw Agency (Sturgis), and in Double Springs. They used violence against blacks to try to suppress their vote and maintain white supremacy. Freedmen had largely joined the Republican Party, headed by President Abraham Lincoln, who had gained their emancipation and supported constitutional amendments to grant them citizenship and the franchise. Every election cycle was accompanied by violence of white Democrats against the mostly black Republicans.
In 1876, for example, a group of 18 white men known as White-Liners, led by Dorsey Outlaw, surrounded the Republican Club in Chapel Hill near Choctaw Agency. They fired upon the black members from ambush, shooting several in the back. Charles Curry was killed instantly, and 36 blacks were wounded, four of them possibly mortally. Jeff Gregory died the following day. The same group of White-Liners traveled to Artesia the next day to intimidate black voters there, and on to Columbus the next day.
Following Reconstruction, white conservative Democrats dominated the state legislature; it founded Mississippi State University near Starkville in 1878 as a land-grant university. It has become a major research university.
20th century to present
Since the late 20th century, Oktibbeha, along with Clay and Lowndes counties, has been designated as the Golden Triangle in Mississippi. The three counties share a goal of collaborative economic development; they have had a history of rural and agricultural development.
In 1912 Mann Hamilton, a black man, was accused of assaulting June Bell, a white woman, at Bell's school house near Maben. Although Sheriff Nickles tried to gain custody of the suspect, he was directed to the wrong location. Hamilton was captured, lynched, and hanged by a white mob without any trial. This was one of six lynchings of African Americans committed by whites in the county in the post-Reconstruction period and extending into the early 20th century.
In 1960, seven black men from Little Rock, Arkansas used the only restroom at Weaver's Amoco in Osborn; it was designated for whites only. They were arrested at Mayhew Junction in Lowndes County, and required to pay a $200 per person bond. According to the law, they faced a maximum penalty of six months in jail and fines of $500 each. The case was widely anticipated as the first test of the state's sit-in law, but was settled when the defendants unexpectedly pleaded guilty and paid small fines at the county court in Starkville the next day.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 462 square miles (1,200 km2), of which 458 square miles (1,190 km2) is land and 3.7 square miles (9.6 km2) (0.8%) is water. The majority of the county lies within the Black Belt geological formation of fertile uplands, which had supported extensive cotton plantations, while portions of the county are in the Flatwoods region.
- Noxubee County (southeast)
- Winston County (south)
- Choctaw County (west)
- Webster County (northwest)
- Clay County (north)
- Lowndes County (east)
National protected areas
As can be seen on the population table, there was a marked decline from 1910 to 1920, a period when the Great Migration (African American) of African Americans out of the rural South began. Before 1940 a total of 1.5 million African Americans went to northern and Midwestern industrial cities to find work.
|U.S. Decennial Census|
As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 47,671 people living in the county. 59.2% were White, 36.6% Black or African American, 2.4% Asian, 0.2% Native American, 0.4% of some other race and 1.2% of two or more races. 1.4% were Hispanic or Latino (of any race).
As of the census of 2000, there were 42,902 people, 15,945 households, and 9,264 families living in the county. The population density was 94 people per square mile (36/km2). There were 17,344 housing units at an average density of 38 per square mile (15/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 58.66% White, 37.43% Black or African American, 0.16% Native American, 2.53% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 0.47% from other races, and 0.71% from two or more races. 1.07% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 15,945 households, out of which 28.20% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 39.90% were married couples living together, 14.80% had a female householder with no husband present, and 41.90% were non-families. 27.70% of all households were made up of individuals, and 6.70% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.42 and the average family size was 3.03.
In the county, the population was spread out, with 21.00% under the age of 18, 29.60% from 18 to 24, 24.80% from 25 to 44, 16.00% from 45 to 64, and 8.60% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 25 years. For every 100 females there were 99.90 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 99.20 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $24,899, and the median income for a family was $36,914. Males had a median income of $32,162 versus $20,622 for females. The per capita income for the county was $14,998. About 18.00% of families and 28.20% of the population were below the poverty line, including 30.30% of those under age 18 and 17.80% of those age 65 or over.
Government and politics
For much of the second half of the 20th century, Oktibbeha County was rather conservative for a county influenced by a college town. While most such counties trended Democratic in the 1990s, Oktibbeha County did not support the official Democratic candidate for president from 1956 to 2004. As in most of Mississippi, conservative white voters began moving away from their Solid South roots in the 1950s, when they started splitting their tickets at the national level and voting Republican.
In 2008, Democrat Barack Obama defeated Republican John McCain by 6 votes, becoming the first official Democratic candidate to win the county since 1956. By comparison, in 2004 Republican George Bush won Oktibbeha County over Democrat John Kerry 55% to 43%, as most of the majority whites still support Republicans at the national level. Obama carried the county again with an increased margin in 2012.
Two small portions of the county are included within the 1st congressional district. Most of the county, including the city of Starkville and the campus of Mississippi State University, are included in the 3rd district.
At one time, the county was served by a number of single-teacher schools. Gradually these were consolidated into larger schools, including Starkville High School, Longview High School, the Self Creek Consolidated School district, and many others.
By 1922, there were about twenty small public schools for African-American children across the rural county. The county maintained a segregated public school system until 1970, although the US Supreme Court had ruled in Brown v. Board of Education (1954) that such arrangements were unconstitutional. Schools for African-American students were historically underfunded.
In 1922, community groups arranged to match funds from the Rosenwald Foundation in order to build and operate improved rural schools for these children; the first two were erected in the communities of Trim Cane and in Turnpike. A total of eight Rosenwald Schools were built in the county between 1922 and 1927. The largest of these, Oktibbeha County Training School, was opened in 1926 at a cost of $127,000. Other schools included a three-teacher school in Longview, Maben Colored School with two teachers; Pleasant Grove, which had four teachers; True Vine school (3 teachers), and Rock Hill School, which also had four teachers.
Until 2013, Oktibbeha County was served by both the Oktibbeha County School District and the Starkville Public School District. Until 1970, the schools were segregated. From 1923 until 1970, African Americans attended schools that were located on US Highway 82, which is now known as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard. These schools, originally built with Rosenwald funds, were variously known as the Oktibbeha County Training School, Rosenwald School, and Henderson High School. In 1970 the schools were integrated. Henderson was designated as the junior high school. The Rosenwald School was destroyed in a fire. This site now hosts Henderson-Ward Stewart Elementary, which was built on the site of Ward Elementary in 2010 for a cost of $4.8 million.
In terms of higher education, Oktibbeha County is within the service area of the East Mississippi Community College system. The campus of Mississippi State University is located in Oktibbeha County, partially in Starkville and partially in an unincorporated area. Its growth has led the Starkville to become the largest city by population in the Golden Triangle.
The county also runs the Starkville-Oktibbeha County Public Library System.
- Starkville (county seat)
Other unincorporated communities
- Bell's Mill
- Cedar Grove
- Collier's Tanyard
- Double Springs
- Grab All
- Lincecum's Mill
- Muldrow Station
- Red Acre
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