Biloxi was ?discovered? in 1699 by Pierre Lemoyne, who was trying to locate the mouth of the Mississippi River. He was ordered to do so by Comte de Pontachartrain, French Minister of Marine. The original inhabitants of what is now Biloxi were Native Americans. Artifacts dating back to 8000 B.C. have been discovered, with the largest occupation of Native Americans occurring from 1200 A.D. to 1500 A.D. By 1719 European settlers were living along the Gulf Coast. Biloxi became the capital of the area in 1720. In 1723 the capital was moved to New Orleans. The French gave the territory east of the Mississippi to England in 1770. Families living in the area raised cattle and made pitch and tar. In 1779, the Mississippi Coast was given to Spain. Biloxi became the Republic of West Florida in 1810 due to the revolt of the Spaniards against white Americans.
When Mississippi became a state in 1817 there were about 500 people, mainly French and Creoles, living along the Mississippi Coast. Biloxi was incorporated as a township in 1838 and was already well known as a summer resort. Residents of Biloxi worked at the sawmills, boat yards, stores, and brickyards, in the turpentine industry or at the hotels.
During the Civil War, Biloxi?s infantry was made up of Gulf Coast men and boys. They surrendered to Union Naval Forces on December 31, 1861. Biloxi struggled for a time after the war. Eventually seafood canneries were established and Biloxi became the seafood capital of the world, shipping over 15 million cans of raw oysters. More than 40 seafood factories were located in the two cannery districts. The first Mardi Gras Parade took place in Biloxi in 1908. Other annual events were established, including the Blessing of the Shrimp Fleet.
Historic buildings stand in Biloxi as tributes to the people and events of the city?s historic past. Beauvoir, last home of Jefferson Davis, is one of its historic buildings. The house and grounds of the president of the Confederate States of America occupy 51 acres. The house, built in 1853, is furnished with original family pieces. The Confederate Museum contains uniforms, weapons and personal items belonging to Confederate soldiers. The cemetery has over 700 graves, including the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the Confederate States of America. The Pleasant Reed House was built in 1887 by an ex-slave. The Reed family moved to Biloxi after the Civil War. The sidehall camelback shotgun house is completely restored. The Redding House, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is a century old Colonial Revival with nine fireplaces and heart pine floors. St. Michael?s Catholic Church celebrates man?s close connection to the sea with seashell shaped domes and stained glass windows depicting the sea and fishermen. The Santini-Stewart House, built in 1837, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Historic Inns Network of the Civil War Preservation Trust. The house is an early example of American Cottage style and was the last home of Confederate General Alexander P. Stewart who was known as ?Old Straight.? In addition, one of the finest examples of the antebellum style is the Tullis-Toledano Manor, built in 1856. Chirstoval Toledano was a cotton broker who had the home built as a wedding gift for his wife.
Area museums include the JL Scott Marine Education Center and Aquarium. A 42,000- gallon aquarium holds sharks, sea turtles and eels. Smaller tanks showcase fish and sea life. Exhibits contain items related to Mississippi and Gulf Coast sea life. The Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum celebrates Biloxi?s fishing industry with antique tools, artwork, boats, and videos. The Ohr/O?Kefee Museum of Art contains over 250 works by George E. Ohr, who was known as the ?mad potter of Biloxi.?
Two replica schooners, the Glen L. Swetman and the Mike Sekul, were built to late 1800 and early 1900 specifications. The ships sail passengers in the Mississippi Sound and into the Gulf daily. Biloxi Bay Charter and Nature Tours provide a look at Back Bay sand bars and Deer Island aboard a 28-foot boat. Residents can experience the history and heritage of Biloxi aboard a shrimp boat on a shrimping expedition. Other tour companies offer train, bus, boat and walking tours of the city, beaches, bays and Gulf.
The famous Biloxi Lighthouse marks one end of the Main Street District. Built in 1847 in Baltimore, the lighthouse was transported to Biloxi in 1848. Now more than 100 yards from the shoreline, the lighthouse was originally surrounded by water on three sides.
There are 32 recreational facilities operated by the city?s parks department, including playgrounds, recreation centers, ball fields, the Biloxi Community Center, Point Cadet Plaza and the state?s only Olympic-size all-weather pool facility.