Pascagoula is a city in Jackson County, Mississippi. It is the principal city of the Pascagoula, Mississippi Metropolitan Statistical Area, as a part of the Gulfport–Biloxi–Pascagoula, Mississippi Combined Statistical Area. The population was 26,200 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Jackson County. Pascagoula is a major industrial city of Mississippi, along the Gulf Coast. Prior to World War II, the town was a sleepy fishing village of only about 5,000. The population exploded with the war-driven shipbuilding industry.
Although the city's population seemed to peak in the late 1970s and early 1980s as Cold War defense spending was at its height, Pascagoula experienced some new growth and development in the years before Hurricane Katrina. Today, Pascagoula is home to the state’s largest employer, Ingalls Shipbuilding, owned by Huntington Ingalls Industries. Other major industries include one of the largest Chevron refineries in the country; Signal International, an oil platform builder; and Mississippi Phosphates.
The region changed hands over the next century, being occupied variously by the English, French, and Spanish until well after the American Revolutionary War. It did not come into the permanent possession of the United States until 1812, when it was added to the Mississippi Territory. At one point, for seventy-four days in 1810, Pascagoula was a part of what was known as The Republic of West Florida. Pascagoula was incorporated as a village in 1892 and obtained city status in 1901. Today's downtown Pascagoula used to be the town of Scranton, Mississippi (incorporated in 1870) until the two towns merged in 1912.
Pascagoula has been home or host to many notable people, including the pirate Jean Lafitte; the infamous Copeland Gang; “Old Hickory” Andrew Jackson; General (later President) Zachary Taylor; Confederate General and Congressman David Emanuel Twiggs; Union Admiral David Farragut; Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who is said to have penned "The Building of a Ship" while in Pascagoula (although his stay is more local folklore than truth); and Nobel Laureate in literature William Faulkner who is believed to have written "Mosquitoes" while summering in Pascagoula.
The world renowned rhythm and blues band, The Nite Riders, also got their start in Pascagoula in the 1950s. Many of the original members still perform together in local casinos. Pascagoula gained notoriety on October 11, 1973 when two local fishermen, Charles Hickson and Calvin Parker, claimed to have been abducted by aliens from a Pascagoula pier. The media frenzy that followed touched off national interest in UFOs and extraterrestrials unparalleled since the Roswell incident. In 1983, Hickson wrote a book about his ordeal entitled UFO Contact In Pascagoula.