Giants in Mississippi

This information was first published in 1904.

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Publications The Mississippi Historical Society, Vol. VIII
Edited by Franklin L. Riley, Secretary
Published Oxford, Mississippi 1904 

Public Domain Material 
May not be reproduced for commercial purposes.
The Yazoo

The Choctaw

Spanish and French Forts

Early American Settlement

Dividing Yazoo Into Smaller Counties

Early Prominent Individuals

Epidemics and Disasters

Hiwaymen and Lawlessness

Return to Yazoo County



The Yazoo

Yazoo county and river derived their name from a tribe of Indians who inhabited that section. They were a brave, fierce, intrepid and warlike people. They fought always to the death, unless victorious. It is said that in the Indian vernacular Yazoo meant death. In conflict with other tribes it was to victory or death, and always victory until extinguished. By some it was thought that the name of Yazoo was given because of the sickly nature of the country along the river, but this was a mistake.

There is a tradition that the Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians came from the West over the Mississippi river and combining their forces, waged a war of extermination against the Yazoo and other tribes and that the Yazoos fought desperately until the last of their race was slain. By treaty between the Choctaws and Chickasaws the Coctaws took as their share of the conquest all the lands along the Yazoo river and many of the counties east of that river. The Choctaws were in possession of part of this country when it was first discovered by the white man, though the Yazoos were not exterminated, as their name appears on many of the earliest maps of this part of the country. According to Indian tradition there once inhabited Yazoo county and other lands on the Yazoo river a race of giants, who were a peaceable people, engaged in agriculture. They were annihilated by the fierce Yazoos, who invaded and took forcible possession of their lands.

The present site of Yazoo City, or at least a part of it, had originally large mounds on it. One of these extended from Main street about midway between Jefferson and Bridge street, beyond Mound street. Another from Main to Washington streets covered also a part of Jefferson. These mounds had a diameter of three or four hundred feet and were excavated and dug down as Yazoo City increased in population and the city expanded, it being absolutely necessary to do this in order to obtain passways or streets. When these mounds were dug down, tomahawks, bowls, cups, saucers were found in them. There was also found grave vaults exactly of the style and make of those made by the white people, but of larger dimensions, being ten or twelve feet long. No bones were found in them, but apparently cinders of burnt bones.

By what race of tribe these mounds were built seemed to have been unknown by any legend or tradition among the Choctaws. These large grave vaults might indicate that they were built by the so-called “giants” of Choctaw tradition. The Choctaws originally erected scaffolds upon which they laid the corpses of their dead, and underneath which they kindled bark fires. These were kept burning day and night until every vestige of the flesh was consumed or mouldered from the bones. These skeletons were kept until a number accumulated, when they were put in the ground. Over the graves of the dead they usually built pole houses a few feet high covered over with pucheons.

The dead and their burial ground were held sacred. For years after they had left and removed a long distance they would make in large numbers annual visits to the resting place of their dead and would spend about two or three days and nights celebrating funeral rites. A fire was kept constantly burning during this period of mourning and every once and a while dismal wails and shrieks would ascend from the lips of all who were congregated around the graves. All kept their heads covered with blankets or deerskins. There were besides those mentioned a few smaller mounds on the Yazoo river and a large one near Silver City or Palmetto Home. A gentleman who explored some of the mounds in Yazoo county informs me that in one of them he found several years ago some peach seeds which he planted. They came up and bore peaches.