The flood plain of the Mississippi River has long been an area rich in vegetation and wildlife, feeding off the Mississippi and its numerous tributaries. Long before Europeans migrated to America, the Choctaw and Chickasaw Indian nations settled in the Delta's marsh and swampland. In 1830, the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek was signed by Choctaw Chief Greenwood Leflore, opening the swampland to European settlers.
The first settlement on the banks of the Yazoo River was a trading post founded by John Williams in 1830, and known as Williams Landing. The settlement quickly blossomed, and in 1844, was incorporated as Greenwood, named after Chief Greenwood Leflore. Growing into a strong cotton market, the key to the city's success was based on its strategic location in the heart of the Delta. The city prospered as a shipping point to New Orleans, Memphis, and St. Louis, Missouri until the latter part of the Civil War.
During that war, Greenwood played an important, if little-known, role in the famous Siege of Vicksburg. In early 1863, it was clear that the Union intended to attack the strategic port of Vicksburg on the Mississippi River. After failed attempts at a frontal assault of the city, General Ulysses S. Grant hatched a new plan to attack from the rear by way of the Tallahatchie and Yazoo Rivers. A hastily constructed Confederate fort was placed between the two rivers at Fort Pemberton. Here the Confederates met the oncoming Union flotilla with fierce resistance and the sinking of the paddle wheeler Star of the West in the channel of the Tallahatchie River, successfully stopping their advance. As a result, Grant abandoned the Yazoo Expedition and retreated north to the Mississippi River to assault Vicksburg by another route.
The end of the Civil War in the mid-1860s and the following year of reconstruction severely diminished the cotton industry and crippled the city's previously thriving economy. Greenwood saw very little growth during these years of hardship.
The arrival of railroads in the 1880s, saved the city - with two lines running to downtown Greenwood, close to the Yazoo River. Once again, Greenwood emerged as a prime shipping point for cotton. Downtown's Front Street bordering the Yazoo bustled with cotton factors and other related businesses, earning that section the name Cotton Row. The city continued to prosper in this way well into the 1940s. Recent years have seen a decline in cotton planting.
City of Oaks
Greenwood's Grand Boulevard was once named one of America's ten most beautiful streets by the U.S. Chambers of Commerce and the Garden Clubs of America. The 300 oak trees lining Grand Boulevard were planted in 1916, by Sally Humphreys Gwin, a charter member of the Greenwood Garden Club. In 1950, Gwin received a citation from the National Congress of the Daughters of the American Revolution in recognition of her work in the conservation of trees.
Civil Rights Movement
From 1962 through 1964, Greenwood was a center of protests and voter registration struggles during the Civil Rights Movement. Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Council of Federated Organizations (COFO), and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP), were all active in Greenwood. During this period hundreds were arrested on nonviolent protests, civil rights activists were subjected to repeated violence, blacks were denied the right to vote, and economic retaliation was used against African-Americans who attempted to register to vote.
In the 21st Century, Greenwood is experiencing a cultural renaissance. Its historic downtown boasts dozens of completed renovations with several others in progress. There are upscale shops, unique dining experiences, a boutique hotel, galleries and museums. All the while, Greenwood has retained its small-town beauty, Delta personality, and deep-South hospitality.