Founded in 1916, Stone County is located in South Mississippi, near the Gulf Coast. In the early twentieth century, Stone County had one of the lowest populations in the state—just 5,704 people in 1930. Whites made up three-quarters of this total, and African Americans made up one quarter. Communities include the county seat, Wiggins, and Perkinston.
Unlike much of the rest of Mississippi, agriculture did not dominate the economy of Stone County, which had the second-lowest percentage of land in farms in the state. As in other areas along or near the Gulf Coast but unlike most counties in Mississippi, tenancy was only a small component of Stone County agriculture. Instead, owners operated 78 percent of the county’s 678 farms, more than twice the state average of 30 percent. It was one of the few counties in Mississippi with several canneries, and the timber industry was an important part of the economy.
According to the religious census reports of 1926 and 1936, Baptists and Methodists were the largest religious groups in Stone County, as in much of Mississippi. Uniquely, however, most of the county’s church members belonged to churches of the American Baptist Association, a group of Landmark Baptists who had rejected the Southern Baptist Convention.
Baseball Hall of Famer Dizzy Dean spent much of his life after baseball in Wiggins. Actor Anthony Herrera, known for his television work on As the World Turns, was born in Wiggins in 1944. Notable persons who studied at Perkinston Junior College include astronaut Fred Haise, labor leader Claude Ramsay, and Gulf Coast restaurateur Mary Mahoney.
By 1960 Stone County’s population had increased to 7,013. In addition to a low percentage of people involved in agriculture, Stone had a particularly low population density. A great deal of county land was commercial forestland, and a high percentage of its workers were employed either in timber or food processing.
Like many counties in southeast Mississippi, by 2010 Stone County had a large white majority. The population had topped 17,000 after increasing by more than 10 percent over each of the preceding five decades. Its overall 150 percent increase since 1960 represented one of the largest population expansions in the state.
- 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)