Named in memory of U.S. Naval Captain James Lawrence, who is best known for his dying words “Don’t Give Up the Ship,” Lawrence County was established on December 22, 1814 and was one of the fourteen territorial colonies prior to the founding of the State and was the twelfth county. During Lawrence County’s long, roller-coaster like history, there have been three (3) Mississippi Governors with strong Lawrence County ties. They were Charles Lynch, Hiram Runnels, and Andrew Longino. Other notable natives include Rod Paige, former Secretary of Education under President George W. Bush, the late bluesman J.B. Lenoir, as well as bluesman Byther Smith who continues to play.
The treaty of Mount Dexter in 1805 between the United States and the Choctaw Indians opened the floodgates for settlers in the Pearl River area—only the Gulf Coast and Natchez areas were settled prior to the Pearl River area. This new land offered fertile, river bottom land which was quickly bought by the more affluent in the region and served to draw settlers from all over the country. The Pearl River provided a quick and direct route to the New Orleans markets for cotton and other goods, while simultaneously providing a return corridor for much need supplies. Along with St. Stephens Road being built through Monticello, which was the main east-west corridor between Natchez and Fort St. Stephens (north of Mobile, AL), Lawrence County, for a time, was as prosperous as any other area in Mississippi.
Monticello, which was established on land purchased by Harmon Runnels in 1811, became the county seat and center of commerce in 1815 and was incorporated as a town in 1818. Runnels also donated the land for the town square on which the courthouse stands today—one of the oldest continuously used courthouses in the state.The town of Silver Creek would be settled around 1820, and incorporated in May of 1904, in what is now eastern Lawrence County. The town of New Hebron would be incorporated in November of 1905 in northeastern Lawrence County.
The Pearl River was the economic driver of the entire region and Monticello-Lawrence County were in the driver’s seat both economically and socially as a result. It was a grand time for the county, so much so that it was once written that Lawrence County’s “…hardy and vigorous pioneers contributed largely to the early beginnings of Mississippi.”
Many visual echoes remain whispering a reminder of our history, serving as a testament to who we once were and from where we have come, allowing us to turn a knowing and confident eye towards a future to which we confidently expect to be similarly successful commensurate with our hardy and vigorous effort to affect positive results.