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Preserve America is a national initiative in cooperation with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation; the U.S. Departments of Defense, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, and Education; the National Endowment for the Humanities; the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities; and the President's Council on Environmental Quality.

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Preserve America Community:
Sharkey County, Mississippi

Organized in 1876, Sharkey County, Mississippi, (population 6,580) is an agricultural community located in the state’s South Delta. The rich alluvial soil of the Mississippi Delta has attracted farmers from prehistoric Native Americans through antebellum plantation owners, from post-Civil War sharecroppers to today’s highly-mechanized farming operations.

Evidence of many prehistoric tribes can be found in the form of mounds, dating between 200 BC and 1000 AD, throughout the county. Some of these mounds were used as gun emplacements during the Steele’s Bayou Expedition of the Civil War. The magnificent Colonial Revival home, Mont Helena, built on a ceremonial mound in 1896, is the crown jewel among a number of historic homes located throughout the county.

The first acre of cotton cultivated in the county in 1828 was grown on the exact spot where the stately courthouse, built in 1902, stands today in the county seat of Rolling Fork. The economy of this small county has risen and fallen along with the price of agricultural commodities.

The natural bottomland habitats in Sharkey County have always attracted hunters. Most notable among them was President Theodore Roosevelt, who came to hunt black bear in 1902. The President did not get a trophy, but his refusal to shoot a captive bear led to the naming of stuffed toy bears as “Teddy Bears.” Sharkey County celebrates this event each year with the Great Delta Bear Affair, which includes a reenactment of the hunt as well as music, children’s activities, crafts, and a tour of area prehistoric Indian mounds. Each year, a local chainsaw woodcarver carves a bear for the community.

Sharkey County is also the birthplace of McKinley Morganfield, best known as blues great Muddy Waters. Each year, Rolling Fork hosts the Deep Delta Festival, a celebration of Sharkey County’s place in blues history.

For more information

Lower Delta Partnership: www.lowerdelta.org

Posted March 13, 2009

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