Latitude / Longitude:
33°46′19″N 91°5′9″W / 33.77194°N 91.08583°W / 33.77194
121 ft (37 m)
Central (CST) (UTC-6)
Prentiss is a town in Jefferson Davis County, Mississippi. The population was 1,158 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat. Prentiss is located on the Longleaf Trace, Mississippi’s first recreational rail trail. Originally part of Lawrence County, the town was first named “Blountville”, after William Blount, an early settler and merchant. Blountville High School was established in 1885 on 10 acres (4.0 ha) of land.
A depot was established in Blountville when the Pearl & Leaf Rivers Railroad (later Illinois Central Railroad) was completed in 1903. That same year the town was officially established and named “Prentiss”, possibly after Seargent Smith Prentiss, a member of the Mississippi House of Representatives and U.S. Representative from Mississippi, or after Prentiss Webb Berry, a prominent landowner in the area. When Jefferson Davis County was created in 1906, a special election determined that Prentiss would serve as the county seat.
Local attractions include: The Holloway-Polk house – the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in Jefferson Davis County. Lake Jeff Davis – a campground and picnic area southeast of Prentiss. Mt. Zion Church and Cemetery – the second-oldest African American church and cemetery in Jefferson Davis County. Spring Hill Missionary Baptist Church and Cemetery (c. 1847) – the oldest African American Baptist Church and cemetery in Jefferson Davis County.
In 1907, Jonas Edward Johnson and his wife Bertha LaBranche Johnson established the Prentiss Institute. Situated on 40 acres (16 ha) of land, with remnants of slave quarters on the property, it was considered one of the finest schools for African Americans in Mississippi. The school at first taught only the elementary grades, and began with 40 students whose tuition was often paid with chickens, eggs and produce. A Rosenwald classroom was built on the campus in 1926, and by 1953 the “Prentiss Normal and Industrial Institute” included a high school and junior college, had 44 faculty and more than 700 students, and included 24 buildings and 400 acres (160 ha) of farmland, pasture and forest. In 1955, Heifer International donated 15 pure-bred cows to the school with the intention that the offspring be donated to needy farm families. It is noteworthy that the school gave some of the animals to poor white families. The school closed in 1989 and was designated an official Mississippi landmark in 2002.