The city’s history traces back to the Spanish colonies that once inhabited the Gulf Coast, as a picayune is the name of a Spanish coin. The town, however, got its name when the owner of the well-renowned New Orleans newspaper, The Times-Picayune, and prestigious resident of the town, Eliza Jane Poitevent Nicholson, was called on to name the area in the 1880s.
The area known as Picayune was long inhabited by the local Choctaw Native American tribe. The area was first claimed by French settlers and was a part of Louisiana. Many different European settlers wanted possession of the area because of its strategic location: near the Gulf of Mexico and near the Pearl County River. In 1763, the French surrendered all their assets, east of Mississippi, to the English. In 1799 the Spanish reasserted their claim by attacking British forts near the Gulf of Mexico. The area would be returned to French rule in 1800. Legend says that Napolean Bonaparte had placed French headquarters in Picayune. History tells us that Napolean sold the area to the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase.
During the 1800s, the area grew slowly. During the U.S. Civil War, many of the local men joined the Confederate Army and went away to war. Those left behind experienced their hardships at the hands of occupying Yankee soldiers and anti-slavery guerrilla fighters.
After the Civil Way, Picayune experienced an economic boom. In 1883 a railroad line from New Orleans, LA, to Cincinnati, OH, was constructed. This rail line brought with it businesses, jobs, and new citizens. The town of Picayune was incorporated as a city in 1922.
During the city’s early years, Mississippi’s Gulf area was experiencing a timber boom. Companies were quickly harvesting the area’s native pine. When local timber was depleted from the area, companies brought in tung trees to plant. These tree orchards, which were harvested for their oil, made Picayune the tung oil capital of the world. The tung oil industry was devastated after Hurricane Camille destroyed most of the local orchards in 1969.
Now, Picayune is a thriving city with around 12,000 citizens. The appeal of the area is its southern small town charm, excellent schools, and thriving small business.