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DeSoto County is a county located in the U.S. state of Mississippimarker. DeSoto County is part of the Metropolitan Memphis Statistical Area. Its county seat is Hernandomarker . As of 2000, the population was 107,199. By 2008 the county grew to an estimated population of 154,748. It is now the third most populous county in Mississippi and the second most populous county in metro Memphis.


The county seat, Hernando, is named in honor of Spanishmarker explorer Hernando de Soto, who allegedly died there in May 1542, although some believe that he died near Lake Villagemarker, Arkansasmarker.See here for a list of sites associated with the de Soto Expedition.

Early History

At its organization on February 9, 1836, DeSoto County stretched from the Tennessee state line on the north to the Panola County line on the south; from the Mississippi River and Tunica County on the west to Marshall County on the east. A mistake in surveying placed the state line at what is now Winchester Road in Shelby County, Tennessee. In 1838, the line was resurveyed and moved to its present location.

Indian artifacts collected in DeSoto County link it with prehistoric groups of Woodland and Mississippian Indians.

The Mississippian Indians met Hernando DeSoto when he explored North Mississippi and, traditionally, came through DeSoto County. Some scholars project that DeSoto discovered the Mississippi River west of present-day Lake Cormorant, built rafts there and crossed to Crowley's Ridge, Arkansas. The National Park Service declared a "DeSoto Corridor" from the Chickasaw Bluff (Memphis) to Coahoma County, Mississippi.

Over 200 years passed and the Mississippian Indian culture disappeared, devastated by disease, but the Indian town named Chicasa which De Soto visited was probably the ancestral home of the Chickasaws who still lived in the area when Anglo-Americans began showing up. Their "Long Town," several villages close to each other, was near present-day Pontotoc. The Chickasaws claimed much of western Tennessee and northern Mississippi as their hunting grounds.

Negotiations, begun September, 1816, between the United States government and the Chickasaw nation, concluded with the signing of the Treaty of Pontotoc in October 1832. During these 16 years government officials and Chickasaw tribesmen worked out and revised treaty details.

From 1832 to 1836, government surveyors mapped the of the Chickasaw domain, dividing it into townships, ranges and sections just as it remains today. The Mississippi Legislature formed 10 new counties, including DeSoto, Tunica, Marshall and Panola Counties, from this land.

By treaty the land was assigned by sections of to individual Indians. The Chickasaws, a numerically small tribe, were assigned of land using this formula. The government disposed of the remaining 400,000 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.

Modern History

Located adjacent to Memphismarker, Tennesseemarker, DeSoto County is now among the forty fastest growing counties in the United Statesmarker. This fast-paced growth is attributed to middle-class flight from Memphis. This has been most noticeable in the cities of Southavenmarker, Olive Branchmarker and Hernandomarker. Also fuelling development is the massive casino/resort complex located in neighboring Tunica Countymarker, Mississippimarker (the third largest gambling district in the United States).


DeSoto County is known for its variety of golf courses. Another popular attraction is the DeSoto County Museum located in Hernando. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday 10-5. There is no charge for admission but donations are accepted. Exhibits include displays on Hernando DeSoto, Civil War History, attebellum homes of the county, civil rights, and the history of each of the county's municipalities. Also located on the grounds of the museum is a log cabin from the 1850s.DeSoto County was also previously known as the home of Maywood Beach a Water park that closed in 2003. (It had been open more than seventy years.)


DeSoto County is the most northwestern of Mississippi's 82 counties, in a corner that borders Tennesseemarker and Arkansasmarker. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 497 square miles (1,287 km²), of which, 478 square miles (1,238 km²) of it is land and 19 square miles (49 km²) of it (3.81%) is water.

Geographic features

Major highways

I-55 recently underwent major widening from four lanes to ten lanes from the MS/TN state line south to Goodman Rd.
Eventual widening of the freeway from Goodman Rd. to Star Landing Rd. is believed to include the addition of new exits at Nail Rd. and Star Landing Rd.

I-269 is a planned metro Memphis outer loop connecting the cities of Hernandomarker and Olive Branchmarker in Mississippimarker with Colliervillemarker and Millingtonmarker in Tennesseemarker.
Expected to open within the next five to seven years.

Adjacent counties


As of the census of 2005 estimate, there were 137,004 people, 38,792 households, and 30,102 families residing in the county. The population density was 224 people per square mile (87/km²). There were 40,795 housing units at an average density of 85 per square mile (33/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 85.78% White, 11.40% Black or African American, 0.28% Native American, 0.62% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 1.13% from other races, and 0.76% from two or more races. 2.35% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 38,792 households out of which 39.40% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 61.70% were married couples living together, 11.60% had a female householder with no husband present, and 22.40% were non-families. 18.10% of all households were made up of individuals and 5.60% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.75 and the average family size was 3.11.

In the county the population was spread out with 28.20% under the age of 18, 8.20% from 18 to 24, 32.70% from 25 to 44, 22.10% from 45 to 64, and 8.90% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females there were 98.00 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 95.00 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $48,206, and the median income for a family was $53,590. Males had a median income of $38,032 versus $26,474 for females. The per capita income for the county was $20,468. 7.10% of the population and 5.60% of families were below the poverty line. 8.30% are under the age of 18 and 9.50% are 65 or older.

DeSoto County has the second highest per capita income in the State of Mississippi.



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)

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