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Prentiss, Mississippi
The Jefferson Davis County Courthouse is one of four sites in Prentiss listed on the National Register of Historic Places
The Jefferson Davis County Courthouse is one of four sites in Prentiss listed on the National Register of Historic Places
Motto: The Natural Choice
Location of Prentiss, Mississippi
Location of Prentiss, Mississippi
Country United States
State Mississippi
County Jefferson Davis
 • Total 1.9 sq mi (4.9 km2)
 • Land 1.9 sq mi (4.9 km2)
 • Water 0.0 sq mi (0.0 km2)
Elevation 331 ft (101 m)
Population (2000)
 • Total 1,158
 • Density 617.8/sq mi (238.5/km2)
Time zone Central (CST) (UTC-6)
 • Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
ZIP code 39474
Area code(s) 601
FIPS code 28-59920
GNIS feature ID 0676320

Prentiss is a town in Jefferson Davis County, Mississippi. The population was 1,158 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat.

Prentiss is located on the Longleaf Trace, Mississippi's first recreational rail trail.


Originally part of Lawrence County, the town was first named "Blountville", after William Blount, an early settler and merchant.

Blountville High School was established in 1885 on 10 acres (4.0 ha) of land.

A depot was established in Blountville when the Pearl & Leaf Rivers Railroad (later Illinois Central Railroad) was completed in 1903. That same year the town was officially established and named "Prentiss", possibly after Seargent Smith Prentiss, a member of the Mississippi House of Representatives and U.S. Representative from Mississippi, or after Prentiss Webb Berry, a prominent landowner in the area. When Jefferson Davis County was created in 1906, a special election determined that Prentiss would serve as the county seat.

In 1907, Jonas Edward Johnson and his wife Bertha LaBranche Johnson established the Prentiss Institute. Situated on 40 acres (16 ha) of land, with remnants of slave quarters on the property, it was considered one of the finest schools for African Americans in Mississippi. The school at first taught only the elementary grades, and began with 40 students whose tuition was often paid with chickens, eggs and produce. A Rosenwald classroom was built on the campus in 1926, and by 1953 the "Prentiss Normal and Industrial Institute" included a high school and junior college, had 44 faculty and more than 700 students, and included 24 buildings and 400 acres (160 ha) of farmland, pasture and forest. In 1955, Heifer International donated 15 pure-bred cows to the school with the intention that the offspring be donated to needy farm families. It is noteworthy that the school gave some of the animals to poor white families. The school closed in 1989 and was designated an official Mississippi landmark in 2002.

Ralph Fults and Raymond Hamilton, members of the notorious Barrow Gang, robbed the bank in Prentiss in 1935.

In 1958, Rev. H.D. Darby of Prentiss filed a federal lawsuit challenging Mississippi's rigid voting eligibility laws for African Americans; the first lawsuit of its kind in Mississippi.

Prentiss police officer Ron Jones, Jr. was shot and killed by Cory Maye while executing a search warrant in 2001.


Prentiss is located at 31°35′49″N 89°52′11″W / 31.596990°N 89.869776°W / 31.596990; -89.869776.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 1.9 square miles (4.9 km2), all land.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1910 640
1920 468 −26.9%
1930 655 40.0%
1940 989 51.0%
1950 1,212 22.5%
1960 1,321 9.0%
1970 1,789 35.4%
1980 1,465 −18.1%
1990 1,487 1.5%
2000 1,158 −22.1%
2010 1,081 −6.6%
Est. 2015 1,002 −7.3%
U.S. Decennial Census

As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 1,081 people residing in the town. 60.3% were White, 37.3% African American, 0.6% Native American, 0.4% Asian, 0.5% from some other race and 0.9% of two or more races. 0.6% were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

As of the census of 2000, there were 1,158 people, 479 households, and 323 families residing in the town. The population density was 617.8 people per square mile (239.1/km²). There were 537 housing units at an average density of 286.5 per square mile (110.9/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 79.53% White, 19.17% African American, 0.60% Native American, 0.09% Asian, and 0.60% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.47% of the population.

There were 479 households out of which 24.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 50.9% were married couples living together, 13.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.4% were non-families. 30.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 18.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.26 and the average family size was 2.80.

In the town, the population was spread out with 19.9% under the age of 18, 7.0% from 18 to 24, 23.9% from 25 to 44, 25.7% from 45 to 64, and 23.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 44 years. For every 100 females there were 88.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 84.3 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $29,200, and the median income for a family was $38,571. Males had a median income of $31,875 versus $21,806 for females. The per capita income for the town was $18,486. About 17.2% of families and 22.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 47.6% of those under age 18 and 9.7% of those age 65 or over.

Arts and culture

Annual events

Prentiss hosts an annual "Run for the Roses 5K Run/Walk."


Local attractions include:

  • The Holloway-Polk house – the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in Jefferson Davis County.
  • Lake Jeff Davis – a campground and picnic area southeast of Prentiss.
  • Mt. Zion Church and Cemetery – the second-oldest African American church and cemetery in Jefferson Davis County.
  • Spring Hill Missionary Baptist Church and Cemetery (c. 1847) – the oldest African American Baptist Church and cemetery in Jefferson Davis County.

Parks and recreation

In 1993, the Canadian National Railway announced it would abandon the former Illinois Central line which ran through Prentiss. This enabled the construction of the Longleaf Trace, Mississippi's first recreational rail trail, located between Prentiss and Hattiesburg.

In popular culture

Blues musician Houston Stackhouse stated that fellow musician Tommy Johnson: "was stayin' over around Prentiss, Mississippi. I believe, I don't know how long he stayed there, but that was his hangout. It was out east of Crystal Springs, back there around Prentiss and Pinola, or somewhere back in there. Big piney thickets and like that."

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