In the early 1820’s the Steen family of South Carolina began a journey to settle in the new state of Mississippi. With Mr. And Mrs. Steen were their four sons: William, Elias, Robert and Silas. They made their way through Tennessee where they spent a year making a crop in order to have a food supply. While in Tennessee, the Steens awoke one morning and discovered that one of their mules was missing. Mrs Steen and the boys continued on the journey while Mr Steen went back to look for the mule. No one ever heard from or saw Mr. Steen or the mule. According to legend, an Indian war party arrived at a nearby camp a few days later with a fine mule!
Mrs. Steen and her sons continued on to Mississippi without incident. They settled in Rankin County near the present site of Florence, and since they were the first settlers, the community became known as Steen’s Creek.
The next settler to arrive in Steen’s Creek was John B. Lewis. He was the first postmaster and store keeper in Steen’s Creek. He ran a grocery store (a saloon as it was known in those days) and a race track. As a result Steen’s Creek became a Saturday afternoon resort where men would gather to drink, bet on horse races and have fights. Mr. Lewis was followed by another new settler to Steen’s Creek, Sam Ellis. Mr. Ellis eventually bought and ran the town grocery and race track.
In 1824 the Steen’s Creek Baptist Church was organized in a small log house on the plantation of Silas Steen. Sometime thereafter a new church building was built which was used until 1892. Today the church is still in existence and is known as the First Baptist Church of Florence. In 1878 a Methodist Church was organized and a building was constructed in 1879 which served the congregation until the present building was built in 1900. The church exists today and is known as Marvin Methodist Church.
Education in Florence originated with churches. The first school house was built in 1855. The second school building was completed in 1885, and three years of high school courses were offered from 1892 to 1898. The school principal was Henry Whitfield who later became governor of Mississippi.
By 1900 Steen’s Creek had become a thriving cotton center. There were several stores, a blacksmith shop, a grist mill, a steam cotton gin, and a hotel. In that year the Gulf and Ship Island Railroad built a line from Jackson to Gulfport and decided to run the tracks through Steen’s Creek. It was at this point that W. Ellis, Sr, son of Sam Ellis, took advantage of the opportunity to change the name of the town. He made a proposition to the railroad in which he offered to donate the land on which the depot would be built if the railroad in turn would name the depot after his wife Florence. The railroad agreed and thus Steen’s Creek became Florence.
The first train came through Florence on July 4, 1900. The railroad brought people and industry to Florence. On May 30, 1905 the town became incorporated as a municipality and had a population of approximately 600 people.
The first seventy years of the 1900’s were a period of stability and little-growth for Florence. Then with the overall growth in the Jackson Metropolitan area, Florence residential area was annexed into the corporate limits. A special census was made following the annexation that reported a population of 1002. The town at one time had three major industries including Appleton Mills, chloride Metals and Chloride Battery Marketing Group.
In 1979 the town built and opened the first Town Hall in the history of Florence. Other public facilities currently include a post office, library, health center and four public schools. The town also has an institution of higher education at Wesley College.
As of the year 2013, the City of Florence has four public schools, one private school, and many new businesses. A city hall was also built to accommodate this growing city! In 2004, a new street was dedicated, Earl Clark Drive, which gave Florence a true town square. Driving or walking the sidewalk along the square showcases the charm of this southern city. A person taking a walking tour around the square would see the City Hall and Police Department, U.S. Post Office, Florence Middle School, and many new businesses.
Florence, Mississippi is truly a city with a rich history and an exciting future!