Tunica County was established in 1836. It is one of the northern-most counties of the Mississippi Delta – the alluvial plain that is said to “begin” in the lobby of the Peabody Hotel in Memphis, TN and end on Catfish Row in Vicksburg, MS. Located just 11 miles south of Memphis, TN, Tunica County is bounded on the west by the Mississippi River.
Tunica County was named for the tribe of Indians that had a settlement near the Mississippi River in the southwest corner of the county. The Tunicas, in contrast to the warlike Chickasaws, who inhabited the greater part of the county, were a peaceful, agricultural people. The word means “the people,” and was chosen by our pioneers because the Tunicas were a happy, peaceful and industrious people.
Tunica County claims to be the site of Hernando DeSoto’s discovery of the Mississippi River. This is a controversial topic as Coahoma County to the south and Memphis to the north also make this claim. Tunica’s flat land is dotted with a series of Indian mounds, some of the few remnants of an ancient civilization that once populated the area. Today, an extensive survey is under way in north Tunica County, at a site which state archeologists describe as a very significant Native American site.
Tunica County has had three county seats. Commerce was the first modern-day settlement in Tunica County. It was a river port that once rivaled Memphis as an economic center. However, it was destroyed more than 100 years ago when shifting river currents undermined parts of its downtown.
Following the demise of Commerce, Austin became the county seat. It was here that the federal troops burned the courthouse during the Civil War, destroying most of the county’s oldest records. The Town of Tunica became the county seat in 1885 following the completion of a rail line.
Civilization came slowly to Tunica County, as it did to much of the area around the Mississippi and Coldwater rivers. Prior to the 19th century, Tunica County was covered with thick hardwood stands and canebrakes. Until clearing of the hardwood bottoms began in the early 1800s, farming was impossible except on a very small scale. Clearing the land, however, made a commercial success of two ventures: the hardwood business in nearby Memphis, and cotton plantations in the Delta.
Agriculture remained the staple of the local economy until 1993, when gaming revenues began to equal and then surpass farming as the county’s biggest money-maker. Farming still dominates most of the land area of the county. In 2002, Tunica County ranked eighth statewide. The culture and living section is composed of the history of Tunica, average temperatures, the cost of living index, the housing market, and leisure and cultural offerings.
In 1992 Tunica County ‘s first casino, Splash, opened to record crowds and ushered in the community’s highly successful resort and tourism trade. In 2000, the county became the nation’s third largest gaming destination, trailing only Las Vegas and Atlantic City.