Located in north-central Mississippi, Grenada County is traversed from east to west by the Yalobusha River. A significant portion of Grenada Lake lies in the county’s northeastern corner. Grenada was established on 9 May 1870 from areas formerly included in Yalobusha, Tallahatchie, and Carroll Counties. These lands were originally acquired from the Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians under the 1830 Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek. Both the county and its seat, Grenada, are named for the Spanish province of Granada.
The 1870 census counted 10,571 Grenada residents, a number that grew to 12,071 (73 percent of them African American) ten years later. The county’s people worked primarily in agriculture, raising a mix of grains, cotton, and livestock. Only 44 percent of Grenada’s farms were cultivated by their owners, with tenants and sharecroppers tending the remaining farmland. Grenada also had a small manufacturing base, with twenty-three companies employing forty-five industrial workers. Germans comprised the largest share of the county’s sixty-five immigrants.
Influential Mississippians who called Grenada home in the late nineteenth century included activist Sallie Reneau, who campaigned to acquire funding for a state college for women. Former Confederate general Edward Cary Walthall moved to Grenada in 1871 and became a leading lawyer for the railroad companies that eventually dominated Mississippi’s transportation system. He also was a leading voice in the Democratic Party’s efforts to bring an end to Reconstruction.
At the turn of the century, Grenada remained largely a farming county, but most of the county’s white farmers owned their land, whereas most African American farmers did not. Grenada’s manufacturing sector supported a workforce of 133, including 6 women. The county was home to 14,122 people in 1900.
In 1916 Missionary Baptists were the largest religious denomination in Grenada County, followed by the African Methodist Episcopal Church and the Methodist Episcopal Church, South; the Southern Baptist Convention; and the Presbyterians. In 1922 the West Harmony Convention of shape-note singers began in Grenada County.
By 1930 Grenada had a population of 16,802, 9,987 of them African American. The county’s urban population had grown to 4,349, and its industrial sector employed almost 600 workers. The majority of Grenada’s farmers were tenants. Camp McCain, south of Grenada, became a major military training site for soldiers during World War II.
Several of Mississippi’s most important political figures have hailed from Grenada County. William Winter, who as governor made great efforts to address generations of inequitable education in the state, was born in Grenada in 1923. Delta-based civil rights activist Amzie Moore was born on a Grenada County plantation in 1911. Erle Johnston, head of the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission, was born in Grenada, as was Trent Lott, congressman, senator, and longtime Gulf Coast resident. In 1966 the town of Grenada was the site of a substantial civil rights boycott.
Donna Tartt, author of the novels The Secret History (1992), The Little Friend (2003), and The Goldfinch (2013) was born in 1963 in Greenwood but grew up Grenada.
By 1960 the county’s population, almost evenly divided between African Americans and whites, had grown to 18,409. Grenada’s industrial workforce comprised almost 2,000 people, a number that nearly doubled to 3,850 a decade later. Textile production, retail, and domestic work became the county’s largest employment sectors. By 1980, less than 2 percent of the county’s more than twenty thousand residents worked in agriculture, focusing on cotton, soybeans, winter wheat, and cattle.
Like many counties in northern Mississippi, Grenada’s population continued to grow in the early twenty-first century, reaching almost 22,000 in 2010. The county’s racial profile had shifted, with whites comprising a 57 percent majority. Hugh White State Park, home to a Corps of Engineers lake, park, and golf course, is in Grenada County. Grenada also hosts at least three annual festivals.
- Grenada County, Mississippi, Mississippi Genealogy and History Network website, http://grenada.sandysfamilytree.com/countyhistory.html
- Mississippi State Planning Commission, Progress Report on State Planning in Mississippi (1938)
- Mississippi Statistical Abstract, Mississippi State University (1952–2010)
- Charles Sydnor and Claude Bennett, Mississippi History (1939)
- University of Virginia Library, Historical Census Browser website, http://mapserver.lib.virginia.edu
- E. Nolan Waller and Dani A. Smith, Growth Profiles of Mississippi’s Counties, 1960–1980 (1985)