John Hancock was an American merchant, statesman, and prominent patriot of the Second Continental Congress and was the first and third Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He is remembered for his large and stylish signature on the United States Declaration of Independence, so much so that the term “John Hancock” has become a synonym in the United States for one’s signature.
He served more than two years in the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, and he was the first to sign the Declaration of Independence in his position as president of Congress. He returned to Massachusetts and was elected governor of the Commonwealth, serving in that role for most of his remaining years. He used his influence to ensure that Massachusetts ratified the United States Constitution in 1788.
Indigenous peoples first explored and inhabited Hancock County at the time of European colonization. Indians, settlers, pirates and soldiers shaped this part of Mississippi, which now hosts modern-day explorers at John C. Stennis Space Center.
Hancock County was founded in 1812 and named after John Hancock. The county seat is Bay St. Louis which is also the largest city in the county. The county covers 553 square miles and the estimated population in 2017 was 47,053.
Hancock County is part of the Gulfport-Biloxi-Pascagoula Mississippi Metropolitan Statistical Area. It is situated along the Gulf of Mexico and shares the state line with Louisiana. The county is home to the John C. Stennis Space Center, NASA’s largest rocket engine test facility.
In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, there was an old saying around the community. “If you want to go to the moon, you first have to go through Hancock County, Mississippi.”
The site known today as NASA’s John C. Stennis Space Center boasts a rich and colorful history dating as far back as 1699. In the decades before the space age arrived, the old towns of Gainesville, Napoleon, Santa Rosa, Logtown and Westonia formed a logging and shipping center along the scenic East Pearl River. In time, these settlements gave way to a more high-tech network involving space, oceans and Earth.
In October 1961, a historic announcement was made. The federal government chose Hancock County, Mississippi as the site of a static test facility for launch vehicles to be used in the Apollo manned lunar landing program.
The selection of the Mississippi site was a logical and practical one. The land offered water access which is essential for transporting large rocket stages and components and loads of propellants. It also provided the 13,800-acre test facility with an acoustical buffer zone of close to 125,000 acres.
Over the years, Stennis has evolved into a multidisciplinary facility comprised of NASA and more than 40 other resident agencies engaged in space and environmental programs and the national defense, including the U.S. Navy’s world-class oceanographic research community.
Stennis has undergone a number of name changes. Its original name, Mississippi Test Operations, was changed to Mississippi Test Facility in 1965. In 1974, the facility was named the National Space Technology Laboratories, reporting to NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.
In May 1988, it was renamed the John C. Stennis Space Center in honor of U.S. Senator John C. Stennis for his steadfast leadership and staunch support of the nation’s space program.
INFINITY Science Center, situated at the I-10 exit to John C. Stennis Space Center was established to be the place where the curious at any age can lose themselves in the depths of the ocean and the farthest reaches of space. INFINITY’s mission is to be a place where guests can explore our earth, oceans and space through deepening levels of involvement, ranging from walks through museum galleries, bus tour rides to historic sights, memorable videos and live presentations, engaging, unique citizen science programs and occasionally participating in world-class historic events.
INFINITY aspires to be in the life-changing business, for students, for teachers and the curious at any age. They seek to inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers and mathematicians by nurturing their innate curiosity. And since laying a foundation for a scientifically-literate workforce begins with outstanding teachers, INFINITY works hand-in-hand with the area’s front line, formal and home school education communities to help develop a stronger K–12 educator workforce.
Hancock County has had its share of challenges. In 2005, it was the scene of the final landfall of the eye of Hurricane Katrina. Its communities and infrastructure suffered some of the most intense damage inflicted by that storm. Over the entire 7-mile beach front, not one building or home was left intact. Just about the entire first block off the beach was destroyed for the entire 7-mile stretch.
Homes and businesses as far inland as 10 miles were flooded and/or destroyed by the force of Hurricane Katrina’s storm surge. Rivers and waterways were inundated by the surge. Highway 603 south from Interstate 10 was completely submerged, and the Highway 90 Bay St. Louis Bridge was totally destroyed.
The massive storm surge floated houses off their foundations. In Waveland and Bay St. Louis, some homes were stranded on top of the railroad tracks and others in the middle of streets. Towns like Pearlington, Waveland, Bay St. Louis, Diamondhead, and Kiln suffered catastrophic damage.
Thanks to the many churches, volunteers, neighbors, our government and others, Hancock County has fully recovered from one of the most catastrophic events in our nation’s history. We encourage everyone to visit The Ground Zero Hurricane Museum in Waveland where the most massive hurricane ever to hit our country made landfall. The museum is not a memorial to a disaster, but a tribute to the strength and beauty of the human spirit.
In addition to being the home to NASA’s Stennis Space Center, Naval Meteorology & Oceanography Command, Naval Research Laboratory and dozens of other state and federal agencies are located there.
The 3,600-acre Port Bienville Industrial Park is served by a short line railroad connected to CSX and is the home of numerous companies employing over 1,500 people. It is been said that the Port Bienville Industrial Park is the best deal for the dollar of any location around. There’s rail, barge, and highway access plus available land.
Hancock County, Mississippi is blessed with the Port Bienville on the Gulf of Mexico’s Intracoastal Waterway, Stennis International Airport and NASA’s John C. Stennis Space Center. In the heart of the I-10 Aerospace Corridor, just minutes from New Orleans, Hancock County is a certified Work Ready Community excelling in advanced manufacturing, aeronautics and defense, chemical and polymers, unmanned systems and advanced manufacturing. Whatever your business, the Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission is ready to help it take off.
The Hancock County School District is dedicated to the mission of ensuring quality educational opportunities for all students of the district. The school district is committed to strong instructional leadership, high expectations for student achievement, a safe and orderly school climate and a systematic evaluation of student achievement.
In partnership with parents and the community, the school district envisions all students as lifelong learners, problem solvers and responsible members of a global society.
We encourage everyone to explore all the many historical and interesting places, businesses, events, the great beaches and the educational venues that only Hancock County can provide.