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Panola County
Panola County Courthouse
Panola County Courthouse
Map of Mississippi highlighting Panola County
Location within the U.S. state of Mississippi
Map of the United States highlighting Mississippi
Mississippi's location within the U.S.
Country  United States
State  Mississippi
Founded February 9, 1836
Seat Batesville and Sardis
Largest city Batesville
 • Total 705 sq mi (1,830 km2)
 • Land 685 sq mi (1,770 km2)
 • Water 20 sq mi (50 km2)  2.8%%
 • Total 34,707
 • Density 51/sq mi (20/km2)
Time zone UTC−6 (Central)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−5 (CDT)
Congressional district 2nd

Panola County is a county located in the U.S. state of Mississippi. As of the 2010 census, the population was 34,707. Its county seats are Sardis and Batesville. Panola is a Cherokee word which means cotton. The county is located just east of the Mississippi Delta and bisected by the Tallahatchie River flowing to the southwest, separating the two county seats.


Panola County was established February 9, 1836, and is one of the twelve large northern Mississippi counties created that year from the territory of the Chickasaw Cession of 1832. The original act defined its limits as follows:

Beginning at the point where the line between ranges 9 and 10 strikes the center of section 6, and running thence south with the said range line, and from its termination in a direct line to the northern boundary of Tallahatchie County and thence along the northern boundary of Tallahatchie and Yalobusha counties, to the center of range 5 west; thence north through the center of range 5 west, according to the sectional lines, to the center of township six; thence west through the center of township six, according to the sectional lines, to the beginning.

On February 1, 1877, when Quitman County was organized by the legislature, it took a small fraction of Panola's southwestern area, reducing Panola from an area of 756 square miles (1,960 km2) to its present land surface of 705 square miles (1,830 km2). The county had a population of 27,845, in 1920. Its inhabitants gradually increased in numbers from 1850 to 1910, from 11,444 to 31,274, reaching a peak of population in 1940. From then until 1980, population declined markedly, as many African Americans moved west and north in the second wave of the Great Migration, to take jobs on the West Coast in the burgeoning defense industry.

Two of the oldest settlements in the county were at Belmont and Panola, a few miles apart and located on opposite sides of the Tallahatchie River. For several years there was a spirited contest between these two towns to gain the county court of Panola County. With the advent of the Mississippi and Tennessee (now the Illinois Central railroad), Belmont was absorbed by Sardis, and Panola was absorbed by Batesville. The legislature authorized two judicial districts for the county, with Sardis designated as the seat of justice for the first judicial district, and Batesville for the second judicial district.

Early education

During the early period of county formation, most education was done at home; there was no public education, and only wealthier families hired tutors or sent their sons to seminaries or academies. The informal education consisted of basic math, basic reading and study of biblical concepts. Through the antebellum period, the state generally forbade education of slaves and free people of color.

By 1840 four small private schools with a combined student population of 92 pupils were operating in the county. Documentation has not survived about these schools. During the early 1840s the first school‑related advertisements began to appear in the county newspapers. The ads attempted to present the virtues of these early schools.

During this period, Judge James S.B. Thacher, a highly educated Bostonian, devised a popular educational program for the state of Mississippi. The proposed scheme received considerable discussion and was finally incorporated by the state legislature (4 March 1846) into "An Act to establish a System of Common Schools." The act "provided for a board of five school commissioners in each county, to license teachers and have charge of schools, lease the school lands and have charge of the school funds in each county." To a large degree, this act was established because A.G. Brown, a candidate for Mississippi governor, decided to make the establishment of a general school system a campaign issue. By 1846, Governor Brown (1844‑48), succeeded in getting the Act passed. Schools established under this rule "had no uniformity since they differed as the counties differed in wealth and efficiency of management." Starting in 1803, sixteenth sections in each township in Mississippi were established for school purposes. These sections of land were to be used exclusively for school projects.

Although the Act had proved to be of little assistance in Panola County, progress was still being made for wealthier white students. By 1850, the seventh census in Panola County listed 18 schools and a total student population of 439 pupils (approximately four times that of the 1840 census). This census (unpublished returns) also revealed that 18 individuals stated their occupation as educators or teachers. By the spring of 1854, several members of the local Shiloh community (Capt Thomas F. Wilson, Dr H. Moseley, and Mr Jesse Smith) constructed a small log cabin to be used as the community's school house. This school, known as the Jones' School, at first employed only one teacher but slowly grew in size and popularity. Several years later, the location of the teaching facility was moved to Peach Creek, where the school was informally known as the "Greasy Smith Schoolhouse," being named for the local village blacksmith.


Map of Panola County

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 705 square miles (1,830 km2), of which 685 square miles (1,770 km2) is land and 20 square miles (52 km2) (2.8%) is water.

Major highways

  • I-55.svg Interstate 55
  • US 51.svg U.S. Route 51
  • Circle sign 3.svg Mississippi Highway 3
  • Circle sign 6.svg Mississippi Highway 6
  • Circle sign 35.svg Mississippi Highway 35

Adjacent counties


Historical population
Census Pop.
1840 4,657
1850 11,444 145.7%
1860 13,794 20.5%
1870 20,754 50.5%
1880 28,352 36.6%
1890 26,977 −4.8%
1900 29,027 7.6%
1910 31,274 7.7%
1920 27,845 −11.0%
1930 28,648 2.9%
1940 34,421 20.2%
1950 31,271 −9.2%
1960 28,791 −7.9%
1970 26,829 −6.8%
1980 28,164 5.0%
1990 29,996 6.5%
2000 34,274 14.3%
2010 34,707 1.3%
Est. 2015 34,167 −1.6%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790-1960 1900-1990
1990-2000 2010-2013

As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 34,707 people residing in the county. 49.4% were White, 48.6% Black or African American, 0.2% Native American, 0.2% Asian, 0.6% of some other race and 0.9% of two or more races. 1.4% were Hispanic or Latino (of any race).

As of the census of 2000, there were 34,274 people, 12,232 households, and 9,014 families residing in the county. The population density was 50 people per square mile (19/km²). There were 13,736 housing units at an average density of 20 per square mile (8/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 50.48% White, 48.36% Black or African American, 0.16% Native American, 0.18% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 0.41% from other races, and 0.39% from two or more races. 1.12% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 12,232 households out of which 36.10% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 48.90% were married couples living together, 19.90% had a female householder with no husband present, and 26.30% were non-families. 23.20% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.10% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.75 and the average family size was 3.25.

In the county, the population was spread out with 29.40% under the age of 18, 10.40% from 18 to 24, 27.40% from 25 to 44, 20.80% from 45 to 64, and 12.10% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33 years. For every 100 females there were 91.80 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 86.50 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $26,785, and the median income for a family was $32,675. Males had a median income of $27,359 versus $19,088 for females. The per capita income for the county was $13,075. About 21.20% of families and 25.30% of the population were below the poverty line, including 32.30% of those under age 18 and 25.20% of those age 65 or over.


Panola County MS 001




Unincorporated communities

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