Biloxi Port
Review and History

Biloxi Port is the co-seat of Harrison County, Mississippi, with Gulfport. Lying on a narrow peninsula between the Gulf of Mexico to the south and the Back Bay of Biloxi to the north, Biloxi Port is about 80 nautical miles (129 kilometers or 80 miles direct) northeast of the Port of New Orleans. Biloxi Port is also about 101 nautical miles (158 kilometers or 98 miles) west of the Port of Pensacola in Florida. Before Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Biloxi Port was Mississippi's third largest city. Post-Katrina Biloxi Port is now the fifth largest city in Mississippi. The 2010 US Census reported a population of over 44 thousand in Biloxi Port and almost 249 thousand people in the Gulfport-Biloxi metropolitan area.

In the late 20th Century, casino gambling became the major economic activity in Biloxi Port. Seafood processing and government services are also important to the local economy. Biloxi Port is home to the last place Confederate President Jefferson Davis lived, although Hurricane Katrina seriously damaged the property. Biloxi Port is also home to the 81st Training Wing and 403rd Wing of the United States Air Force Reserves and Keesler Air Force Base.

Port History

Biloxi Port has been inhabited for as long as ten thousand years. Artifacts found in the area suggest that indigenous people have populated Biloxi Port's peninsula during for major archaeological periods. Immediately before Europeans arrived in the future Biloxi Port area, the Choctaw (Biloxi) people inhabited the region that would become the State of Mississippi. They were hunter gatherers and farmers who had strong trade relations with other tribes in the Southeast. As white settlers became established, the Choctaw built a strong economy by selling their livestock and goods to the Europeans.

In 1801, the Choctaw ceded over 2.6 million acres of land to the United States with the Treaty of Fort Adams. The final cessation came in 1830 with the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek that included the terms of their removal to the west in Oklahoma. Of the 19 thousand Choctaw that lived in Mississippi in 1830, about 13 thousand were removed, and more Choctaw followed.

Members of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians are descendants of those who would not be removed to Oklahoma. Today, the Choctaw Indian Reservation of some 35 thousand acres is scattered over seven Mississippi counties. The almost 10 thousand members of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians live in eight reservation communities with the tribal headquarters in Pearl River.

In early 1699, Pierre Le Moyne, Sieur d'Iberville, arrived at Ship Island where he and his 14 men landed on the site of the future Biloxi Port. The Frenchmen made friends with the local Biloxi Indians who had recently arrived from the Northeast. The French held Biloxi Port until 1763 when France's territory east of the Mississippi River went to England after the French and Indian Wars. In 1779, the Mississippi Coast and Biloxi Port were ceded to Spain. Biloxi Port became part of the Republic of West Florida during its 90-day existence in 1810.

Mississippi became a state in 1817, and Biloxi Port began to grow as a popular summer resort until 1860 and the beginning of the American Civil War. Biloxi Port was incorporated as a town in 1838. In 1848, the symbol of the city, the Biloxi Lighthouse, was built. During the 1850s, Biloxi Port was home to several high-class hotels. Mississippi left the United States in 1861 to join the Confederate States of America. The 3rd Mississippi Infantry's Biloxi Rifles fought for the Confederacy, but Biloxi Port surrendered to the Union whose Naval Forces were operating from Ship Island to the south of Biloxi Port in December 1861.

In 1872, Seashore Camp Ground in Biloxi Port was established as a flag stop for the L&apm;N Railroad. The first seafood cannery, Elmer and Company, opened in 1881, and there were four more canneries in Biloxi Port by the end of that decade. In 1888, the first schooner races began in Biloxi Port, and they continued until 1933. By the beginning of the 20th Century, Biloxi Port was a prosperous world seafood capital, and over 40 seafood factories in two cannery districts were established by the 1920s.

Biloxi Port's seawall was built in 1927 to protect the coastline. The first Blessing of the Shrimp Fleet was held in Biloxi Port in 1929. There was a US Coast Guard Air Station at Biloxi Port's Point Cadet from 1934 until 1947. In 1941, the Army Air Corps had a technical training site at Biloxi Port. Today, Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi Port hosts many technical schools and is supported by many local workers.

Biloxi Port has been victim to many hurricanes over the centuries from 1722 until today. In late summer of 1969, Hurricane Camille did significant damage, but the people of Biloxi Port began to rebuild immediately. The local economy began to slowly recover, and it began to boom in 1992 when the State legalized dockside gambling in Mississippi. Unfortunately, Hurricane Katrina brought growth to a temporary halt in August 2005. The survivors of Katrina began rebuilding immediately.

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