The Port of Greenville is the seat of Washington County in west central Mississippi. The Port of Greenville is about 208 nautical miles downriver (213 kilometers of 132 miles southwest) of the Port of Memphis in Tennessee and almost 370 nautical miles upriver (396 kilometers or 246 miles north-northwest) of the Port of New Orleans. Located on the Mississippi-Yazoo River plain, the Port of Greenville is part of the Mississippi River System. The 2010 US Census reported a population of 34,400 in the Port of Greenville.
The Port of Greenville is the birthplace of Muppets creator Jim Henson. The Port of Greenville is also well known for the blues music style, and the city hosts the annual Mississippi Delta Blues Festival every September. The Port of Greenville is the biggest river port in Mississippi. Agriculture is important to the local economy, and manufacturing of clothing and chemicals also plays an economic role. Tourism is a growing economic sector, and there are several gambling casinos in the Port of Greenville.
The Tunica people inhabited the area of the future Port of Greenville before the 16th Century. Before contact with Europeans when they met the Hernando de Soto expedition in 1541, the Tunica inhabited the upper Mississippi River Valley. After white men entered the area, pressure from other tribes and the incoming settlers forced them to move to the Lower Mississippi River Valley. Eventually, they were forced west into Louisiana. Since the beginning of the 1800s, the Tunica have mixed and shared land with the Biloxi people. In 1981, the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana shares a reservation and is a federally recognized tribe.
There have been three Greenvilles in Mississippi's history. The first was located near Natchez, Mississippi. It lived a short time, being destroyed shortly after the American Revolution. The second Greenville, the modern city's precursor, was named for a good friend of George Washington, General Nathaniel Green. That city was located at the site of the modern city industrial fill about almost five kilometers (three miles) from the modern Greenville.
The second Greenville thrived before the American Civil War. Large cotton plantations surrounded the Port of Greenville, and it became a busy business and cultural center. During the Siege of Vicksburg, the town was destroyed by Union troops.
When Confederate veterans returned, their homes were gone, and their families had escaped across the area. The broken veterans finally decided to rebuild the Port of Greenville, but the new town was overrun by carpetbaggers during the Reconstruction era. Adding insult to injury, yellow fever broke out in the Port of Greenville in 1877, striking every family, but the town did not submit to the tragedy.
In 1886, the Port of Greenville received its first charter. In 1888, enterprising cotton-related businessmen organized the cotton exchange, bringing an era of economic growth to the Port of Greenville. Two years later, the first flood struck the city, and half of the Port of Greenville was deluged by "Old Man River." Flooding continued for the next forty years until flood control measures were established by the federal government.
During the years of flooding, the town grew slowly. The Mississippi River's caving banks destroyed streets, sidewalks, and the old business district. The business district was rebuilt, and the town saw the rebirth of schools, churches, hospitals, parks, and theaters. In 1927, the Mississippi once again overflowed its banks and brought growth to a halt when the river broke through the levee. Again, the Port of Greenville fought to survive, rising from the flooded ground.
Today, the Port of Greenville is the busiest river port in the State of Mississippi. Agriculture and industry flourish. The Port of Greenville's cultural life thrives with an Art Center and libraries, a Little Theater, a Symphony League and Choral Society, and a popular newspaper. The modern Port of Greenville covers an area of almost 21 square kilometers (8 square miles), and it maintains the same indomitable spirit that the returning Confederate veterans brought with them after the Civil War.