A Brief History of Gulfport
On July 28, 1898, Gulfport was incorporated. In 1902, the harbor was completed, and the Port of Gulfport became a working seaport.
The Port of Gulfport has flourished over the years and today accounts for millions of dollars in annual sales and tax revenue for the state of Mississippi.
From its simple, humble beginnings as a lumber and port city, Gulfport has evolved into a diversified community. With about 6.7 miles of man-made white sandy beaches along the Gulf of Mexico, Gulfport is one of the fastest growing areas in the state, due in part to recent gaming activities. Home of the annual "Worlds Largest Fishing Rodeo," Gulfport is a residential community that is blessed with a strong business center.
The downtown area provides a strong mercantile center. Along the beach are historic home sites with several motels scattered throughout to accommodate the golfing and water tourist that make up a large part of the economy.
In December 1993 the City annexed 33 square miles north of Gulfport making it the second largest city in Mississippi with a land area of 62.37 square miles and a population in excess of 70,000.
Gulfport's Founding Fathers - William H. Hardy and Joseph T. Jones
William Harris Hardy (1837 - 1917)
Born near Colirene, Lowndes County Alabama, entered Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tennessee at the age of 16. He withdrew before graduating due to illness. Hardy taught school in Scott and Jasper counties in Mississippi for two terms while studying law at night. He passed the bar in 1858 and opened his own law practice in Raleigh, Mississippi. In 1860 he married Sallie Johnson who had six children for him and died in 1872.
In 1868 he became involved in a plan to build a railroad from Meridian to New Orleans. In 1870 the New Orleans and Northeastern Railroad was incorporated. He later became General Counsel for the company.
Hardy moved to Meridian in 1873 to expand his practice and push the railroad, but because of he depression the railroad company folded. In the meantime he built up his practice and married Hattie Lott of Mobile, AL. In 1880 he revived the railroad project and arranged financing through London bankers. While surveying the right-of-way for the New Orleans and Northeastern Railroad he came up with the idea of a north-south railroad from the coast of the Gulf of Mexico to Jackson, Tennessee to connect with the railroad to the northwest and midwest. Where the railroad intersected, Hardy founded the town of Hattiesburg named after his wife.
Hardy assumed the presidency of the Gulf and Ship Island Railroad in 1886. In January, 1887 he signed a contract with the G & SI Company to build and equip a railroad from a place on the coast to Hattiesburg. A commission was formed to select the southern terminus of the railroad. On May 3, 1887 the G & SI Board of Directors approved the commissions Section "G" for the new railroad line.
The site Hardy selected for his port on the Gulf was the most neglected area on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. It was perfectly situated to fulfill his dream of laying the foundation of a great commercial city that would rival New Orleans and Mobile.
Joseph Thomas Jones (1842-1916 )
Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with a natural interest toward construction after being raised by his uncle who was a building contractor.
Jones fought in the Civil War in 1861 at the age of 19. He was wounded in both feet and returned to Pennsylvania in 1865. After saving $2,500 of his army pay he headed for Oil City, Pennsylvania where he leased lots and began drilling for oil. He drilled several times and came up empty, refusing to quit he borrowed money and on his 13th try brought in a gusher. During the next 20 years he accumulated a large fortune from his oil.
As a kid he was fascinated by trains and how they operated so he decided to pursue his interest in the railroad industry. Captain Jones took over the bankrupt G & SI Railroad in 1895 and completed it to Jackson in 1900. Before arriving to the Gulf Coast, Jones requested that Congress authorize a study on dredging a channel to connect Ship Island harbor with a railroad pier at Gulfport. The study showed that the enormous cost would not justify his recommendation and that the most beneficial and feasible route would be the one leading to Biloxi. He arrived on the Mississippi Gulf Coast on February 14, 1897.
He became known as "The Grand Old Man of Gulfport", he invested millions of dollars by building the Gulfport Harbor, dredging the channel to Ship Island, and developing Gulfport.
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