Brief History of Long Beach

Native Americans inhabited this area long before any records were kept and the creation of a British map in 1774 shows Bear Point, the first name of the village that would eventually become Long Beach.

See the Colorful Names Section for the history of other early names of the city shown on coast maps.

Europeans living on Cat Island for nearly forty years interacted with Native Americans during the 1700’s, years before moving to the mainland in 1788, where they built a home on Bear Bayou. Their remaining descendants would be joined by other settlers during the 1800’s.  Years later the same spot on Bear Point bayou was again chosen for a home site.

By the 1850’s, government records of the United States and the State of Mississippi both show postmasters for this area under the former names of the city beginning in 1854 and continuing on into the 1860’s, and 1870’s.

The town prospered with the advent of the railroad in 1870 when New Orleanians began coming over frequently for relaxation. Many of them moved in as permanent residents. Others also moved in from every direction and by the 1880’s the town began taking shape from its platting to its final renaming.  The first store and school were built and the shipping of vegetables by rail began the truck farming industry.

The first library was opened in 1895 by local ladies who had moral support and help from New Orleans visitors. Read more about the library….

In 1905, on July 1st, twelve residents formed an Artesian Well Company and incorporation was being looked into. The town scrambled to find the 900 residents required and one large family moved in to accomplish the dream.

In 1906, telephone service became available as did an electric power and light system provided by the Miss. Gulf Coast Traction Company along with an electric railway system which set off a real estate boom.

It wasn’t long before Long Beach became known as the Radish Capital of America and achieved a coast wide reputation as THE vegetable market area.  The farmers of the day were very successful and northern markets were ripe for our southern produce which was gleefully shipped to them. They were very fond of our “Long Reds”, radishes as long as carrots, which were in demand as an accompaniment to beer in drinking establishments.

During the 1920’s, Gulf Park College, an elite girls school opened on the site of the current Southern Miss campus on East Beach Blvd; a new City Hall was built along with waterworks and fire protection systems; the Long Beach School District was organized and a new school for all twelve grades was built. This decade also saw the building of the erosion preventing seawall

Much progress took place during the 1950’s. Many streets were paved and a new city hall was built. A new high school opened in September of 1959 for 8th-12th grades. During the 1960’s, a middle school opened which relieved space in the new high school. Two elementary schools and a new stadium were also built. The first shopping center opened in 1962 on the beach only to be destroyed by Hurricane Camille.

The University of Southern Mississippi opened a regional campus on the former Gulf Park site in 1971 and in 1974 the office of Mayor was made a full-time position. Annexation took place in 1981 with a nice increase in land area increasing the population to 20,000. By this time our school system had gained a superior reputation and new residents clamored to move into the city.

Devastation struck in the form of Hurricane Katrina on August 29, 2005 destroying most of Long Beach nearly a half mile back from the shoreline, further than any other hurricane. Recovery took several years and Jeff Davis Avenue, the main street, is the most beautiful it’s ever been, enhanced by all new buildings including a new city hall, and a town green on the former school location that includes many amenities for resident use and which includes a new WWII Memorial. Many festivals and celebrations have taken place at the lovely spot. The school that was destroyed on the property is now north of the railroad and out of harm’s way.

Read more about the library….