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DeSoto County courthouse in Hernando

DeSoto County, Mississippi
Court House Hernando MS.jpg
DeSoto County Courthouse
Map of Mississippi highlighting DeSoto County
Location in the state of Mississippi
Map of the U.S. highlighting Mississippi
Mississippi's location in the U.S.
Founded February 9, 1836
Named for Hernando de Soto
Seat Hernando
Largest city Southaven
 - Total
 - Land
 - Water

497 sq mi (1,287 km²)
476 sq mi (1,233 km²)
21 sq mi (54 km²), 4.2
 - (2020)
 - Density

Congressional district 1st
Time zone Central: UTC-6/-5

DeSoto County is a county located on the northwest border of the U.S. state of Mississippi. As of the 2020 census, the population was 185,314,[1] making it the third-most populous county in Mississippi. Its county seat is Hernando.[2]

DeSoto County is part of the Memphis, TN-MS-AR Metropolitan Statistical Area. It is the second-most populous county in the MSA. The county has lowland areas that were developed in the 19th century for cotton plantations, and hill country in the eastern part of the county.[3]


The county is named for Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto, the first European explorer known to reach the Mississippi River.[4] The county seat, Hernando, is also named in his honor. De Soto reportedly died in that area in May 1542, although some accounts suggest that he died near Lake Village, Arkansas. See here for a list of sites associated with the 16th-century De Soto Expedition.

Early history[]

Indian artifacts collected in DeSoto County link it with prehistoric groups of Woodland and Mississippian culture peoples. Members of the Mississippian culture, who built complex settlements and earthwork monuments throughout the Mississippi River Valley and its major tributaries, met Hernando DeSoto in the mid-16th century when he explored what is now North Mississippi. By tradition, he is believed to have traveled with his expedition through present-day DeSoto County. Some scholars speculate that DeSoto discovered the Mississippi River west of present-day Lake Cormorant, built rafts there, and crossed to present-day Crowley's Ridge, Arkansas. Based on records of the expedition and archeology, the National Park Service has designated a "DeSoto Corridor" from Coahoma County, Mississippi to the Chickasaw Bluff in Memphis.

The Mississippian culture declined and disappeared, and in most areas this preceded European contact. Scholars speculate this may have followed changes in the environment. The town named Chicasa, which De Soto visited, was probably the ancestral home of the historical Chickasaw, who are descended from the Mississippian culture. They had lived in the area for centuries before white settlers began arriving. Present-day Pontotoc, Mississippi developed near the Chickasaw "Long Town," which was composed of several villages near each other. The Chickasaw Nation regarded much of western present-day Tennessee and northern Mississippi as their traditional hunting grounds.

The Chickasaw traded furs for French goods, and the French established several small settlements among them. However, France ceded its claim to territories east of the Mississippi River to Britain in 1763, after having been defeated in the Seven Years' War. The United States acquired the area from the British as part of the treaty that ended the American Revolution.

19th and 20th centuries[]

The Chickasaw finally ceded most of their land to the United States under pressure during Indian Removal, and a treaty in 1832. They were forced to remove to Indian Territory west of the Mississippi River.

Negotiations began in September 1816 between the United States government and the Chickasaw nation and concluded with the signing of the Treaty of Pontotoc in October 1832. During those 16 years, federal officials pressed the Chickasaw for cessions of land to extinguish their land claims to enable white settlement in their territory. Congress passed the Indian Removal Act in 1830, authorizing forcible removal if necessary to extinguish Native American claims in the Southeast. From 1832 to 1836, government surveyors mapped the 6,442,000 acres (26,070 km2) of the Chickasaw domain and divided it into townships, ranges and sections. The Mississippi Legislature formed 10 new counties, including DeSoto, Tunica, Marshall, and Tate, from the territory.

By treaty, the land was assigned by sections of 640 acres (2.59 km2) to individual Indian households. The Chickasaw, a numerically small tribe, were assigned 2,422,400 acres (9,803 km2) of land by using that formula. The government declared the remainder as surplus and disposed of the remaining 400,000 acres (1,600 km2) at public sale. The Indians received at least $1.25 per acre for their land. The government land sold for 75 cents per acre or less.

During and after the Civil War, the area was developed as large plantations by planters for cultivation of cotton, a leading commodity crop. Before the Civil War, they had depended on the labor of thousands of enslaved African Americans. After the war and emancipation, many freedmen stayed in the area, but shaped their own lives by working on small plots as sharecroppers or tenant farmers, rather than on large labor gangs on the plantations. Reliance on agriculture meant that the area did not develop much economically well into the 20th century, and both whites and blacks suffered economically.

In 1890, the state legislature disenfranchised most blacks under the new constitution, which used poll taxes and literacy tests to raise barriers to voter registration. In the early 20th century, many people left the rural county for cities to gain other opportunities. Most blacks could not vote in Mississippi until the late 1960s, after the passage of federal legislation.

DeSoto County Co-op in Hernando, a sharecroppers' union, 1954

During the Great Depression, the Southern Tenant Farmers Union was organized in 1934. It was open to both black and white sharecroppers and worked to gain better deals and fair accounting from local white landowners. Whites in DeSoto County resisted the effort. In 1935, a white lynch mob attacked early union organizer and minister Reverend T. A. Allen, shot him, and threw him into the Coldwater River.[5] One account said that his body was weighted by chains and that authorities claimed it to be a suicide.[6]

In its 2015 report on Lynching in America (2015), the Equal Justice Institute documented 12 lynchings in the county from 1877 to 1950.

Since the late 20th century, DeSoto has had considerable suburban development related to the growth of Memphis.

21st century[]

As part of the Memphis, Tennessee metropolitan area, the early-21st-century DeSoto County has become one of the 40 fastest-growing counties in the United States. That is attributed to suburban development as middle-class and wealthier blacks leave Memphis to acquire newer housing and commute to Memphis for work. Some observers have characterized the shift as black flight, but it is also typical of the pattern of postwar suburban growth in which people who could afford it moved to newer housing in suburbs.[7]

Such suburban residential development in the county has been most noticeable in the Mississippi cities of Southaven, Olive Branch, and Horn Lake. Also stimulating development in the formerly rural area is the massive casino/resort complex, in the neighboring Tunica County, which is the third-largest gambling district in the United States.


The majority-white voters in DeSoto County increasingly favored Republican presidential candidates from 1980 to 2000, but changing demographics could affect that. White conservatives in the state had shifted from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party following passage of civil rights legislation in the mid-1960s. At the same time, given the increase in whites in the county and some outmigration by blacks, their number and percentage of population in the county declined. African Americans have generally supported the Democratic Party since passage of civil rights legislation. By 2000 they comprise 11% of the county population.

But beginning in 2004, the Democratic Party candidates have shown renewed strength in the county, attracting more votes than the percentage of African Americans in the population. During this period, the proportion of African Americans in the county has increased. The voting has continued to show racial polarization, with most whites voting for Republican candidates. As of 2013 census estimates, African Americans made up slightly more than 21% of the county population. In 2020, Joe Biden received the highest percentage of votes for a Democrat since 1980, although he still lost the county by a very wide margin.

United States presidential election results for DeSoto County, Mississippi[8]
Year Republican Democratic Third party
No.  % No.  % No.  %
2020 46,462 61.03% 28,265 37.13% 1,397 1.84%
2016 43,089 65.13% 20,591 31.13% 2,475 3.74%
2012 43,559 66.21% 21,575 32.79% 660 1.00%
2008 44,222 68.75% 19,627 30.51% 474 0.74%
2004 36,306 72.30% 13,583 27.05% 326 0.65%
2000 24,879 71.21% 9,586 27.44% 471 1.35%
1996 18,135 53.53% 10,282 30.35% 5,464 16.13%
1992 16,104 58.40% 8,833 32.03% 2,638 9.57%
1988 14,681 72.50% 5,449 26.91% 120 0.59%
1984 12,576 73.88% 4,369 25.67% 77 0.45%
1980 9,655 58.80% 6,344 38.64% 420 2.56%
1976 6,240 43.60% 7,756 54.19% 316 2.21%
1972 7,917 80.88% 1,557 15.91% 315 3.22%
1968 1,092 13.10% 1,898 22.77% 5,346 64.13%
1964 2,928 86.40% 461 13.60% 0 0.00%
1960 553 26.56% 795 38.18% 734 35.25%
1956 398 21.56% 1,236 66.96% 212 11.48%
1952 754 36.92% 1,288 63.08% 0 0.00%
1948 14 0.97% 137 9.45% 1,299 89.59%
1944 123 7.30% 1,561 92.70% 0 0.00%
1940 40 2.61% 1,491 97.13% 4 0.26%
1936 13 0.96% 1,343 99.04% 0 0.00%
1932 13 0.92% 1,396 98.80% 4 0.28%
1928 64 4.50% 1,357 95.50% 0 0.00%
1924 17 1.57% 1,065 98.43% 0 0.00%
1920 27 3.20% 816 96.57% 2 0.24%
1916 12 1.37% 861 98.51% 1 0.11%
1912 10 1.73% 546 94.63% 21 3.64%
1900 51 6.46% 734 92.91% 5 0.63%
1896 58 5.99% 888 91.74% 22 2.27%
1892 18 2.93% 478 77.85% 118 19.22%

Public education[]

Public education in DeSoto County is provided by the DeSoto County School District, the state's largest. The district is responsible for the operation of eight high schools, eight middle schools, three intermediate (Grades 3–5) and numerous primary schools.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 497 square miles (1,290 km2), of which 476 square miles (1,230 km2) is land and 21 square miles (54 km2) (4.2%) is water.[9]

Geographic features[]

Major highways[]

  • I-55.svg Interstate 55

I-55 recently underwent major widening from four lanes to ten from the MS/TN state line south to Goodman Road. Eventual widening of the freeway from Goodman Rd. to Commerce St. will include the addition of a new exit at Star Landing Rd.

  • I-69.svg Interstate 69
  • I-269.svg Interstate 269

I-269 is a metro Memphis outer loop connecting the cities of Hernando and Olive Branch in Mississippi with Collierville and Millington in Tennessee.

  • US 51.svg U.S. Route 51
  • US 61.svg U.S. Route 61

Adjacent counties[]


Historical populations
Census Pop.
1840 7,002
1850 19,042 172.0%
1860 23,336 22.6%
1870 32,021 37.2%
1880 22,924 −28.4%
1890 24,183 5.5%
1900 24,751 2.3%
1910 23,130 −6.5%
1920 24,359 5.3%
1930 25,438 4.4%
1940 26,663 4.8%
1950 24,599 −7.7%
1960 23,891 −2.9%
1970 35,885 50.2%
1980 53,930 50.3%
1990 67,910 25.9%
2000 107,199 57.9%
2010 161,252 50.4%
U.S. Decennial Census[10]
1790-1960[11] 1900-1990[12]
1990-2000[13] 2010-2020[1]

2020 census[]

DeSoto County Racial Composition[14]
Race Num. Perc.
White 108,466 58.53%
Black or African American 55,972 30.2%
Native American 298 0.16%
Asian 3,023 1.63%
Pacific Islander 137 0.07%
Other/Mixed 7,257 3.92%
Hispanic or Latino 10,161 5.48%

As of the 2020 United States Census, there were 185,314 people, 65,220 households, and 47,230 families residing in the county.


As of the 2013 U.S.census estimates, there were 168,240 people living in the county. 70.3% were non-Hispanic White, 21.5% Black or African American, 1.6% Asian, 2.6% Native American, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 5.0% were Hispanic or Latino (of any race).[15] The median income for a family was $66,377 and the mean income was $75,875.[16] DeSoto County has the highest median income in Mississippi and the second highest mean income after Madison County.

2000 census[]

According to the 2000 census,[17] the largest self-identified ancestry groups in DeSoto County were English 53.1%, Scots-Irish 15.1%, African 11.4%, and Irish 4.5%. Since then the percentage of African-American population in the county has nearly doubled, as the total county population has also grown.


DeSoto County is known for its golf courses. Velvet Cream, known as 'The Dip' by locals, is a landmark restaurant in the county. Operating since 1947, it is the oldest continually running restaurant in the county. In 2010, it was awarded 'Best Ice Cream in Mississippi' by USA Today.[18] DeSoto County was also previously known as the home of Maywood Beach, a water park that closed in 2003 after more than 70 years of operation.

DeSoto County Museum[]

DeSoto County Museum and 18th-century French colonial-style log house

A popular attraction is the DeSoto County Museum located in the county seat of Hernando. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10–5. Admission is free but donations are encouraged. Exhibits include displays on Hernando DeSoto, Civil War history, French colonial and American antebellum homes of the county, civil rights, and the history of each of the county's municipalities.[19]

An eighteenth-century French colonial log house (see photo to the right) has been preserved from the time of French trading and settlement along the Mississippi. This house is similar in style to several French colonial houses preserved in Ste. Genevieve, Missouri, where many French settled after France ceded its territory east of the Mississippi to Great Britain following its defeat in the Seven Years' War.

Hernando DeSoto Park[]

Hernando DeSoto Park, located on Bass Road 6 mi (9.7 km) west of Walls, is a 41 acres (16.6 ha) park that features a hiking/walking trail, river overlook, picnic area, and boat launch. It is the only location in DeSoto County with public access to the Mississippi River.[20]




  • Walls

Census-designated places[]

  • Bridgetown
  • Eudora
  • Lake View
  • Lynchburg
  • Pleasant Hill

Unincorporated communities[]

  • Cedarview
  • Cockrum
  • Days
  • Handy Corner
  • Lake Cormorant
  • Lewisburg
  • Love
  • Mineral Wells
  • Nesbit
  • Norfolk
  • West Days

Former village[]

  • Memphis

Notable people[]

  • John Grisham, lawyer, writer.
  • Olivia Holt, actor, singer.


  • DeSoto Times-Tribune

See also[]

  • National Register of Historic Places listings in DeSoto County, Mississippi
  • Bill Hawks, agribusinessman and former state senator from DeSoto County


  1. ^ a b "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. 
  2. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. 
  3. ^ "Scenic Byways". 
  4. ^ Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. Govt. Print. Off.. pp. 105. 
  5. ^ R.L. Nave, "Report: Miss. No. 2 in Lynchings per Capita", Jackson Free Press, 11 February 2015; accessed 19 March 2017
  6. ^ [ Michael Newton, Unsolved Civil Rights Murder Cases, 1934-1970, McFarland, 2016, p. 102
  7. ^ Henry Bailey (February 4, 2011). "'Black flight' propels DeSoto County growth, census figures show". Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee). 
  8. ^ Leip, David. "Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections". 
  9. ^ "2010 Census Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. August 22, 2012. 
  10. ^ "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. 
  11. ^ "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. 
  12. ^ "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. 
  13. ^ "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000". United States Census Bureau. 
  14. ^ "Explore Census Data". 
  15. ^ Data Access and Dissemination Systems (DADS). "U.S. Census website". 
  16. ^ Data Access and Dissemination Systems (DADS). "American FactFinder - Results". 
  17. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. 
  18. ^ "The USA's best ice cream: Top parlors in 50 states". USA Today. August 29, 2010. 
  19. ^ Bryant, Josh. "DeSoto County Museum - Explore our heritage". 
  20. ^ "Hernando DeSoto Park". DeSoto County Greenways and Parks. 

Suggested reading[]

  • Map Guide to the U.S. Federal Censuses, 1790–1920, Thorndale, William, and Dollarhide, William; Copyright 1987. (Historic state maps including evolution of DeSoto County)

External links[]

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Coordinates: 34°53′N 89°59′W / 34.88, -89.99

This page uses content from the English language Wikipedia. The original content was at DeSoto County, Mississippi. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with this Familypedia wiki, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons License.