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Situated in mid-northern Mississippi, near its border with Tennessee, the city of Holly Springs is the county seat of Marshall County. After the Chickasaws were removed from the region in the 1830s, several cotton plantations were developed in the region, which were heavily dependent upon slavery. Most of the early settlers in the area had come from Virginia, Georgia and the Carolinas. Founded in 1836, the city had forty lawyers by 1837 and six doctors by 1838. The Chalmers Institute, established in 1837, was later known as the University of Holly Springs, the oldest university in the state. During the American Civil War, sometimes referred to as the War of Northern Aggression, Holly Springs was used by Union General Ulysses S. Grant as a supply depot and headquarters as he mounted a major effort to take the city of Vicksburg. Confederate General Earl Van Dorn led a raid of the area in December of 1862, destroying most of the Union supplies at the Confederate Armory Site, which had been taken over by the Union, although Grant was eventually successful in his siege on Vicksburg. Following the war, many freedmen remained in the area to work as sharecroppers on former plantations, and there were tensions as the white population attempted to reimpose white supremacy. When the cotton industry was mechanized in the early 1900s, labor jobs declined and a quarter of the town’s population left. On top of the Great Depression, an invasion of boll weevils in the 1920s and 1930s destroyed the area’s cotton crops, causing great economic problems in Holly Springs and throughout the county. Since then, the city has developed some industry, but it never regained its former prosperity. Clifton DeBerry, the first black American nominated for President by a political party, was born in Holly Springs. Several Blues musicians have ties to Holly Springs, including Robert Belfour, R.L. Burnside, Syl Johnson, and Junior Kimbrough.


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