Hattiesburg — a very brief history
After spending time in Louisianna we traveled north back into Mississippi to visit Hattiesburg. We were up in the air about visiting Hattiesburg but after a conversation with a former resident of Hattiesburg (that we met in Cleveland, Mississippi) we decided to invest a day and check out the town. Additionally, visiting Hattiesburg would provide an opportunity to ride the Longleaf Bike Trail.
Hattiesburg was founded in 1882 by William Hardy and named after his wife Hattie. The land that is now Hattiesburg became available after the Chicksaw and Choctaw peoples were forcibly removed under the Indian Removal Act which allowed the government to relocate the nations to land west of the Mississippi River.
The city thrived in its early days as part of the burgeoning lumber industry (Hattiesburg sits in the Pine Belt) and is known as the Hub City because of the confluence of rail lines running through the city. While the timber industry is not a major economic force today, the city is still a major rail hub with freight lines bisecting the city.
While Hattiesburg was not founded until well after the Civil War, the town nonetheless did its part to uphold the legacy of slavery and segregation. The Black residents of Hattiesburg were still largely unregistered to vote in 1962 due to the efforts of the municipal government to make it impossible for Blacks to qualify to vote. For more information about the Civil Rights Movement in Hattiesburg click on the link: https://mississippiencyclopedia.org/entries/hattiesburg-civil-rights-movement/
Hattiesburg — home of rock ‘n roll?
One facet of Hattiesburg that we were totally unaware of prior to our visit is the claim that Hattiesburg is the true home of Rock ’N Roll. Musicologists have traced the roots of the genre to the Graves brothers – Blind Roosevelt and Uaroy. The brothers started as Gospel singers but in 1936 joined with pianist Cooney Vaughn to form the Mississippi Jook Band. Two of their songs in particular are now viewed as very early Rock ’N Roll songs. These songs, Barbecue Bust and Dangerous Woman, were performed and recorded long before the genre was clearly defined and popular. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1pegm79r1zE
Today, many musicologists consider the roots of Rock ’N Roll began in the African American Churches in the South where the music was “rocking and reeling” and instruments other than the organ were used to accompany the singers (out of necessity as the congregations could not afford an organ). An excellent article on this subject: https://countryroadsmagazine.com/art-and-culture/visual-performing-arts/hattiesburg-birthplace-of-rock-n-roll/
The Longleaf Trail is a 45.5 mile paved rails-to-trails bikeway. The southern trailhead is in Hattiesburg and the trail runs in a northwest direction terminating in Prentis. We rode out and back on the southern half of the trail from Hattiesburg and the northern half of the trail from Sumral Station (west of Laurel).
Longleaf is a Hall of Fame trail and for good reason. The trail is paved, in excellent condition and passes through beautiful Southern scenery. Surprisingly, we encountered very few other riders on either of our rides. We highly recommend this trail. The round trip is 91 miles – beyond our current range – so we split the trail and enjoyed two rides.
Laurel is not our ”home Town” but it could be!
Laurel was added to our intinary once we decided to visit Hattiesburg. If you are a fan of the HGTV show Home Town you may recognize Laurel as the small town where husband and wife Ben and Erin Napier help folks renovate local homes. As a result of the popularity of the show, the town has attracted many visitors and new residents.
We visited their retail store and woodworking shop while in town, but there were unfortunately no celebrity sightings. We can tell you their two stores are doing a brisk trade! Good for them – the couple has done a lot to help bring back this former lumber industry town.
We arrived in Laurel on the day of the annual crawfish festival. The festival runs from 11AM to 3PM – all you can eat for $15- Classic Low Country Boil – crawfish, sausage, potatoes, sweet potatoes and corn. Live music to boot. Now that is Southern Hospitality!
Laurel has more than the CrawFest and the TV show to offer. There are several excellent restaurants (The Loft….our favorite) and several neigborhoods with streets lined with live oaks and stately homes. Lastly, the former town library was converted and expanded into an art museum with a very nice collection of paintings and sculptures. We have included several photogrpahs of our favorite paintings at the end of this post.
This post is our penultimate post on Mississippi as part of OTR 8.0. If you missed our previous posts you can find them at ctsprinterlife: OTR 8.0: Mississippi Part One and Ocean Springs, Mississippi at ontheroadwithmariastephen.net Our final post will cover our exploration of the Mississippi Delta.
Be seeing you!